Since NY State Hockey Hall of Fame Coach John Zegras (1974-1993) started the Varsity program, the Garnets have won 14 League Championships, 13 Section 1 Championships, 8 Regional Championships, 7 NY State Final Four appearances, and competed in 2 NY State Finals.
Peter Thomas became head coach in 2014. Prior to taking over as Head Coach, Thomas served as the Varsity Assistant Coach for the Rye Garnets for the prior ten seasons. As a player for the Garnets, under Coach John Zegras, Thomas was part of three Section 1 championships and one regional championship. In his time as Head Coach, Thomas was honored as Coach of the Year from the league in 2014 and has been recognized with two Howard Kosel Sportsmanship awards.
JOHN ZEGRAS - RHS AND SECTION ONE HOCKEY LEGEND
John Zegras served as head coach of the Rye Highs School Varsity hockey team from 1975-1992. In that time, Zegras amassed a record of 284-109-14, while leading the Garnets to 11 league titles, 10 Section 1 Championships, 5 New York State final fours, and 1 appearance in the state finals.
John grew up in Washington Heights, NY. It was here where John fell in love with the game of hockey, watching the New York Rangers of the 1950s and 60s and playing street hockey on the streets of New York City. John came to Rye High School in 1974 as a Mathematics teacher. Upon arriving at Rye, John was asked to coach the JV hockey team, which he did for the 1974-75 season, before assuming the role of varsity head coach, the very next season. While Zig, as he was affectionately known by his players, had success in his first few years coaching Rye, it was in 1978 when he took his coaching to the next level when he attended the NHL Symposium in Montreal, Canada. At the symposium, John met Gary Green who was the Head Coach and GM of the OHA Petersborough Petes and a long time student of Roger Nielsen. Gary taught Zegras a great deal about the game of hockey, namely, how to scout a game, team and use that information. When Green became head coach of the Hershey Bears in 1979 and later the Washington Capitals later that same season, he asked Zegras to work for him, which he did for 3 years as a scout. John Zegras used all of this experience and knowledge for the betterment of the Rye Hockey program.
John Zegras was one of the most influential forces behind the creation of the NY State tournament that we know today. Zegras helped lay the ground work for the state tournament in 1977 when as the Section 1 Champion, he played the first ever Regional Game in NY against the Section 9 Champion, Clarkstown South. Rye defeated Clarkstown South by a score of 5-4. The success continued for Zegras the following season when he began a NY state record of 59 consecutive league victories from January 1978 until December 1984. During this impressive hi run, Zegras led the Rye Garnets to their most successful season ever in 1982 when Rye defeated Mamaroneck to win the Section 1 Championship, defeated Suffern from Section 9 in the regional game and then defeated LaSalle in the NYS semifinals in front of a record crowd of 1,839 people at Playland Ice Casino. Rye went on to become the first ever team from Section 1 to make it to the State finals when they faced Section 10 power, Massena. While Rye ended up losing in the State Championship, it was that season that put Section 1 on the map with regard to NYS hockey and at the same time, making hockey the premier sport at Rye High School. Rye continued its impressive run while playing as a small school in the extremely competitive Division 1. Zegras brought Rye to the NYS final four in Division 1 three times over the next five years in 1983, 1986, and 1987. In 1989, Rye began competing in Division 2 while still maintaining their D1 schedule. Zegras continued to steer his team to success, winning the Section 1 championship in every year except one, and returning to the NYS Final Four in 1992, where Rye fell to Salmon River 4-2 in Zegras' final season as coach. After Zig’s last season coaching, Dr. Bernie Miller, Rye’s Athletic Director for 9 years had only high praises for John saying, “He has to be the best hockey coach in the southern part of the state, if not the whole state. It was a pleasure to support him because he’s done such a fabulous job. We’re working with a small student body, but he’s always maintained the status in the big leagues”.
John Zegras had a wonderful 17 years coaching at Rye High School, where he still holds legendary status. However, coaching was not out of his system and he returned to the bench from 1999 - 2003 when he assumed the head coaching responsibilities for the Rye Country Day School Girls Varsity, achieving a record of 46-5.
John Zegras is one of the pioneers of Section 1 hockey. John's commitment to Section 1 hockey was so deep that he served as the Section 1 Chairman from 1985-1993. Of Coach Zegras’ retirement Ed Witz, Pelham’s coach added that “It’s a loss not only to Rye, but to the whole section”. Through his success, he not only put Section 1 on the hockey map but also played a role in the creation of the state tournament.