By Mike Dougherty
Whether he’s in the locker room getting Mamaroneck all fired up or leaning over the boards lobbying an official, nobody fits more raspy words in a single sentence than Mike Chiapparelli. The energetic Tigers hockey coach tramples punctuation marks, delivering breathless messages that always conclude with a gasp.
There’s only one person capable of getting a word in edgewise.
Art Bruno is on the other end of the personality scale, a man who can influence a situation with a simple look or a subtle gesture. The introspective Mamaroneck assistant hockey coach is largely responsible for the X’s and O’s, and when he leans into a conversation about strategy, Chiapparelli usually goes into silent mode.
They have piled up a lot of noteworthy Tigers wins over the years following that game plan.
“It’s like Felix and Oscar,” Mamaroneck athletic director Bari Suman said. “Artie is a quiet man of very few words. Chap is Chap, very animated and passionate. But they somehow have this amazing working relationship.”
Chiapparelli and Bruno are each celebrating his 25th season behind the bench.
They met at the school where they now coach and became close, spending hours together on the freshman football team.
“I was a cornerback, he was a safety,” Chiapparelli said. “He used to play hockey. I didn’t, but I used to go watch him play all the time. And then a couple years after I got the job, I asked, ‘Wanna come help me? You know the hockey part. Teach me.’ So he came, and it’s been a great tandem since.”
Chiapparelli moved up from the junior varsity, replacing Sandy Fletcher in 1985, and Bruno came aboard three years later.
“He’s the quiet, thinking guy,” said Chiapparelli, who took a three-year hiatus after his son, Dean, was born. “Artie used to be really quiet. He is actually more vocal with the kids the last five or six years. I’m definitely the motivator, and he’s always looking for little strategies that might help us.”
Bruno isn’t big on speeches or pasting newspaper articles on players’ lockers.
“Mike is an excellent motivator,” he said. “A big part of his coaching is finding a way that we can gain an edge mentally. He looks for every angle. He spends a lot of time doing it. Mike’s 110 percent in all the time.”
And it has made him famous around Section 1.
“Everyone knows who Chap is,” New Rochelle defenseman Kenny Belvin said. “Even the kids in the stands who really don’t know much about hockey know who Chap is. Does everyone like him? No, but he is a figure. He matters.”
Most of the current players on the varsity grew up with Chiapparelli, who spent 31 years working in town with the youth leagues.
“Chap is passionate,” Tigers defenseman Brian Schiff said. “He’s the most passionate coach I’ve ever played for. He’s the most passionate man I’ve ever seen. Chap loves what he does and puts everything into the job.”
And then some.
“I’m a Mamaroneck kid; my heart is here,” Chiapparelli said. “I bleed orange and black.”
Bruno is cut from the same cloth.
“I know what hockey’s done for me, so I try to bring that same experience to the kids,” he said. “I want to help them learn some lessons on the ice, and off the ice, too. It’s a big part of what we do as coaches.”
Chiapparelli has a career record of 383-204-26, and he’s won six Section 1 titles. And each time Chiapparelli has won a coach-of-the-year award, he’s presented Bruno with a duplicate plaque to honor the unsung contribution.
The game itself has changed drastically in 25 years.
“Back then, it used to be the best guy would take the puck and try to get through everybody and try to score,” Chiapparelli said. “You had like five good players, and the second group of five would try to keep you in the game. Then came all the youth programs. Now we have 15 good players. It’s more of a team game.”
Bruno normally oversees the defensemen in practice while Chiapparelli works with the forwards. They are both taskmasters.
Bruno plays the leading role when he sits down with Chiapparelli to develop the game plan.
“He complements Chap really well,” Schiff said. “He sees the game from a different perspective, so they’re always bouncing ideas off each other.”
There’s one caveat, though.
“It’s difficult to understand Mike when he’s on a cell phone,” Bruno said. “In person, I don’t have a problem. He’s always going 100 miles an hour and tends to run words together, which is why they invented that term ‘Chapanese.’ ”