Cornell hockey icon Hughes passes away at 71; ‘his unique laugh will be missed by all’

John Hughes (middle) helped Cornell to a 29-0 season and national championship in 1969-70 (photo: Cornell Athletics).

John Hughes, a tri-captain of the national champion 1970 Cornell men’s hockey team and member of the Cornell Athletics Hall of Fame, passed away on Aug. 18.

He was 71. No cause of death is known.

Hughes was best known for being one of the leaders of the only hockey team to ever go undefeated and untied en route to an NCAA championship, with that improbable 29-0 run through the 1969-70 season punctuating a decorated collegiate career. Hughes was named to the NCAA tournament all-star team, and the first team for both the All-America East Region and All-Ivy teams that season, and he was also a co-recipient of team’s MVP award.

He was Inducted into the Cornell Athletics Hall of Fame in 1981.

“John Hughes is an icon of Cornell hockey,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer in a statement. “He set the standard for what it means to be a leader on and off the ice for future Cornell teams and players. He was a man of character and integrity and lived his life with passion and a great sense of humor. His unique laugh will be missed by all.”

In an era when freshmen were not eligible to compete on varsity teams, Hughes made the most of his three years as a center with the Big Red. He racked up 151 points on 68 goals and 83 assists, which is now tied for 11th in the program’s all-time scoring list and ninth in career goals scored.

He had points in 15 straight games during the 1969-70 season, including a hat trick in a January game at Yale and consecutive four-point efforts in lopsided victories over Dartmouth and Princeton in March. But even more memorable was his last goal – which came with 14 seconds left in the third period of a 3-2 win over Clarkson in the ECAC Hockey championship game in Boston.

Originally from Scarborough, Ont., Hughes moved to New York after graduating with a bachelor of science degree from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He obtained two more Cornell degrees – a master of business administration in 1971 and a juris doctor degree in 1974.

Hughes became a prominent tax and real estate attorney in New York.

Hughes is survived by his wife, Amy Pastarnack Hughes and their six children. Among them are Sarah Hughes – a 2002 Olympic gold medalist in figure skating at the age of 16 – and David Hughes, who played for the Cornell men’s hockey and football teams.