Charlie Holt: An Appreciation

black and white portrait photograph of Holt
Charlie Holt never considered himself great, but the people he came into contact with sure did.

He led by example, both professionally and in his private life. His players knew that if they gained half of the knowledge of the game that he had, or could be half the family man that he was, success in life would not be far behind. Charlie was always well-mannered and treated everyone with respect; when he was upset, the worst thing he would say was, “gosh darn it.” He made hockey fun for everyone around him, which might explain why so many of his former players and assistants are still working in the game today.

Charlie is best remembered as a player, coach, and innovator of the game of hockey. He was a student of the game, and some would say he was a visionary. It took decades for the professional ranks to adopt strategies that Holt had his UNH teams practicing in the 1970s. Charlie would brush away compliments about his coaching prowess because of his humility, and his belief that it was just as important to be a husband, father, and friend. He was always ready to lend a hand, help paint a neighbor’s house, or plant a garden. That work ethic followed Charlie to the rink.

During his coaching years, his day never ended with the final buzzer. He stayed behind to make sure that every tape ball and soda can left in the locker room had been picked up. He would help the players get their equipment into the locker room and would give rides to players in need. Charlie could be found sharpening a player’s skates and, on occasion, he could be spotted behind the wheel of the Zamboni. He was always the last guy off the bus, but his coaching hardly seemed like a job, because he enjoyed every minute of it.

After his retirement, Charlie would show up at the UNH practices just to watch. Head coach, Dick Umile, a former player under Holt, said, “The guys loved it when he came over. I’d have to drag him into the locker room because he didn’t want to interfere.” Charlie never looked for recognition and once questioned why everyone thought he was so great, given that he had never coached a championship team. The recognition came nonetheless. He won the Spencer T. Penrose Award, as the nation’s outstanding college hockey coach, three times. In 1997, he was also inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Charlie never won that elusive championship, but he won the hearts of everyone who came in contact with him. He touched many lives and left a legacy of stories and anecdotes. Chances are, the telling of even the most surprising tale would lead many former players or colleagues to respond: “Well, that’s Charlie.”

Rob Cutting (’03)