Terry O’Reilly can be counted among the best players who ever donned a Boston Bruins uniform.
Over a distinguished 20-year career, he scored more than 2,000 points, captained the squad and later coached, before having his jersey retired.
So why would such a hockey icon entrust his son to Haverhill’s Don Wilson when he could have had his pick of any NHL All-Star who joined the coaching ranks?
Because, you see, O’Reilly trusted his friend, had great respect for his ability, and liked the manner in which he developed players. Living in nearby Georgetown at the time certainly helped Terry with the arrangement.
On any given day, you’d find O’Reilly and Wilson working with Terry’s son Connor in a program called STARS. Together, they brought the joy of skating to people with special needs at the Haverhill rink. Wilson worked this program to the hilt for 20 years and two more coaching decades elsewhere.
Wilson earned the name “Mr. Hockey” for conducting clinics, coaching high schoolers at Haverhill High and Timberlane Regional High, and running camps locally and at Salem State College. Forty years of it, with no plans to hang up the skates.
Wilson was among three honorees to earn a Distinguished Citizen Award May 22 given by the Yankee Clipper Boy Scouts. He was joined by two other spirited recipients: Tim Jordan, a financial/insurance consultant, and Ann Regan Flynn, a family-driven auto dealer.
All three have given this city homage and respect with their golden deeds. As for the awards they received, each of them would have preferred being under the radar.
“I’m not much for all this attention,” noted Wilson. “I’m a background type of guy.”
For years, his name was gushed to the forefront by good friend Ted Xenakis, only to have Wilson beg off politely. Finally, Ted caught Don in a weak moment and made him reconsider.