The Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation announced Thursday that its 2017 Legend of College Hockey recipient is Bill Riley, Jr.
Often referred to as the father of UMass Lowell hockey, Riley took over a fledgling program in 1969, built it into an NCAA Division II national power and ultimately, moved Lowell into Division I hockey as a charter member of Hockey East in 1984.
Starting from the humble beginnings on an outdoor practice rink in 1969, the then-Lowell Tech Terriers went 11-6 in their first season under Riley. Two years later, he had the renamed University of Lowell Chiefs in the ECAC Division II tournament. Within ten years, Riley’s impact was felt on the national stage as the Chiefs went on to win three national titles in four years beginning in 1979. Back-to-back Division II championships followed in 1981 and in 1982 with the 1981-82 season coming with a 31-win campaign.
After five consecutive seasons of at least 20 wins, four ECAC titles and three NCAA Division II championships, Riley saw one of his most enduring dreams fulfilled when the Lowell program elevated to Division I status for the 1983-84 season and was accepted as a charter member of Hockey East for the conference’s inaugural 1984-85 season.
It took Riley only five years as a Division I member to reach the NCAA tournament (1988). Riley stepped down from the bench following the 1990-91 season, having coached Lowell for 22 seasons, 14 in Division II hockey and eight in Division I. His overall record was 363-270-22, making him the winningest coach in program history.
Riley continued to serve in various capacities with the UMass Lowell department of athletics, including associate director of athletics and coordinator of events until his retirement from the university in 2008.
A native of Medford, Mass., Riley was a three-year player under coach Jack Kelley at Boston University. Graduating in 1968 with a degree in physical education, he earned his master’s degree in the same field in 1972 from BU and earned his doctorate in sports psychology in 1981. Riley was inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame along with his late father, Billy, Sr.
Riley will be honored along with this year’s Hobey Baker Award winner at the annual Hobey Baker Award banquet on Thursday, May 25, in St. Paul, Minn.