Sanford “Sandy” Sistare
Derided and mocked, girls’ hockey wasn’t taken seriously in the city of Concord. Of course, that all changed when Sandy Sistare took over the girls program at St. Paul’s School.
The school’s first girls’ hockey coach, Sandy poured everything he had into the program, grooming, shaping and nurturing it into the successful program that still stands tall today.
It all began in 1979, when two students approached then-Athletic Director Bud Blake with a proposal to develop a girls-only hockey team. Bud was excited about the idea and immediately thought of Sandy, who he believed would be “a super coach for the girls – right temperament, great personality (and a) go getter.”
The first official season began in 1980. A group of former figure skaters, sisters of hockey-playing brothers and recreational players joined forces to play a four-game schedule. The Big Red went 0-4, but the fact that the girls received time at the rink (like the boys) and not on the pond was a step in the right direction.
Cynthia Ferris, one of the first females to lace up her skates for St. Paul’s, remembers that “it was exciting to be part of the first wave” of girls hockey and was comforted by Sandy’s way of applying gentle, consistent pressure to see that the team got the necessary equipment and ice time, games scheduled and goalie coaching.
Suzanne Walker, who played for Sandy in 1985 and ’86, evoked memories of Sandy pulling her out of club hockey on the pond and into the rink, where she eventually played goalie and moved on to play for Bowdoin College.
During his time as bench boss, Sandy put together a pair of trips to Scandinavia, where his teams experienced European hockey along with the educational benefit of seeing and interacting with other cultures. He was also instrumental in beginning the St. Paul’s/Taft Tournament, a tourney for high school girls that takes place every year in December, and that is still being played almost 30 years later as the Patsy K. Odden Hockey Tournament.
In his decade-long run as the girls’ coach at St. Paul’s, Sandy coached roughly 80 girls, many of which went on to play Division I and Division III puck at college’s like Bowdoin, Brown, Harvard, Middlebury, Princeton and Yale.
In 1986, four years before Sandy would retire, St. Paul’s endowed a prize in his name called the Sanford R. Sistare Memorial Award, which is given every year to the player who distinguishes herself in individual and team play.
In his eight seasons as girls’ hockey coach (1980-1987), Sandy finished with a record of 59-29-3. The team won the ISL title in his final season and the leagues first girls’ hockey championship in 1987. A proud alumnus of Bowdoin College, Class of 1950, Sandy returned to Brunswick, Maine after retiring from St. Paul’s in 1990. He volunteered as an assistant coach with the Bowdoin women’s team, and played host to several visiting players on an annual basis. There is a plaque at the Bowdoin arena that reads: “In honor and memory of Sanford “Sandy” R. Sistare of the Class of 1950. His devotion to hockey, at St. Paul’s School and Bowdoin, was unparalleled.”
Sandy spent most of his professional life of 37 years as an educator. Twenty two of those years were spent at St. Paul’s School in Concord, where he taught, worked as an administrator and coached. Sandy died at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, Maine, three days before Christmas in 2008. His obituary noted that, “among the many accomplishments in his long career as an educator, he was most proud of starting the SPS girls’ hockey team and serving as head coach for many years.”