SCHENECTADY — Whatever needed to be done at Union College’s Messa Rink, no matter how big or small the task was, Jim Clark did it, and he did it with a smile knowing he was helping the men’s and women’s hockey teams toward their success.
“I know, just from my experiences, he’s always been here helping us at the rink with whatever we need,” Union College women’s hockey head coach Josh Sciba said. “There was never any project that was too big for him. He was always eager to help us. Whatever we needed, he was wonderful.”
Clark, who worked at Union for 31 years, died July 29 from cancer. He was 66.
“He always wanted what was best for this facility and our programs,” Sciba said. “You name it. He always was around to make sure that we could do what we needed to do. Whether there was an ice issue, whether there was locker room stuff, whether it was getting the water turned on in the showers downstairs because we had kids in multiple locker rooms during COVID, like simple things to big things, he was always available.”
Clark worked for the college on a number of jobs, including monitoring the HVAC systems on campus. But it was his love of hockey and devotion to Messa and the hockey programs that endeared him to the coaches and players.
“We all remember seeing him around the rink,” said Colin Stevens, the Niskayuna native who was Union’s goalie on the 2014 national championship team. “The contributions that he made to the program were huge. He brought a smile to your face every time you saw him around the rink. All of us looked forward to seeing him at the rink.”
Even when he wasn’t at the rink, Clark would monitor the ice conditions on his laptop computer from home. Clark would adjust the ice temperature from home when needed.
“He loved his job,” said Brianne Brinker, Union assistant director of athletics for facilities. “He didn’t want to leave. He liked being here, he liked working and definitely had a spot reserved in his heart for hockey. There’s no doubt about that.”
“We always felt like we had a huge home-ice advantage at Messa,” Stevens said. “Jim was a huge part of that.”
Clark spent 45 years in the military. He served in Vietnam, and then later with the Army National Guard. Clark was deployed to Ground Zero shortly after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I remember our daily interactions, just kind of talking hockey and talking just about the school and what’s going on around campus and what’s being fixed on his end,” Union men’s hockey head coach Rick Bennett said. “Even talking about his military experience was always interesting, which I found really impressive. First and foremost, that jumped out at me. … He would light up a bit when I asked him questions of what he went through and what he was currently doing. He could only tell me so much. In the same token, it was really interesting to kind of learn his history.”
Clark is survived by his wife, Victoria, two children, two step-children and 10 grandchildren.
A memorial service will take place at 10 a.m. Monday at Memorial Chapel on the Union campus. Facemasks will be required. Burial will be Tuesday at Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of James may be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (https://www.pancan.org) or Homes for Our Troops (https://www.hfotusa.org).
Clark’s death marks the third passing among the Union College hockey family over the past nine months. Rosemary Pryne, a longtime Union College season ticket holder, died Dec. 30. Union College employee and superfan Raymond Cook passed away on June 3.
“In hockey, they say a hat trick is a good thing,” Bennett said. “In this [case], when people pass on, with Ray Cook, Jimmy Clark and Rosemary Pryne, it’s been a tough year.”