BURRILLVILLE – The man credited with creating – and later saving – the Burrillville High School hockey program and leading the team to six state championships will be inducted in the Rhode Island Hockey Hall of Fame this year.
Tom Eccleston coached three sports in Burrillville in the 1930s through 1950s, and served as a teacher and principal at Burrillville High School, eventually becoming the superintendent of schools for the Burrillville School District.
Eccleston was born in England, moving to the United States at the age of two. He graduated from Brown University in 1932 and soon after, began his career as a history teacher and football coach at BHS.
In 1934, he founded the Burrillville football team, which he would coach for more than two decades, winning 11 league championships. He coached baseball for nine years and won three state titles.
Eccleston founded the Burrillville hockey team in 1940 and coached it for 15 years, winning six state championships and finishing second three times in the New England High School Championships.
He took a coaching position at Providence College in 1956 and would lead the Friars for eight years, garnering the team’s first ECA title and NCAA final four in 1964. The achievement led him to be named the National Collegiate Athletic Coach of the Year that year.
Eccleston returned to Burrillville in his 70s when the program was in jeopardy and resumed coaching the hockey team from 1985 until 1990.
He was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1988 and the RI Interscholastic League Hall of Fame in 2007.
Eccleston’s inclusion in the Rhode Island Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2019 was announced at Friday’s game between the Providence Briuns and Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
Eccleston joins Brother Adelard Beaudet and Brian Boucher of Mount Saint Charles Academy, and Malcolm Greene Chase of Central Falls.
An Enshrinement Celebration and Dinner will be held of Friday, Sept. 6 at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln.