NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – On August 25, 2017, the staff of the South Carolina Stingrays gathered at the office. It was a special day. Stingrays Director of Ticket Sales, Robert “Bob” McCaffrey, was scheduled to ring the bell signifying the end of his chemotherapy treatments and the Stingrays organization was turning out in force to be there to support Bob. The phone rang. The festive mood was shattered with the news that Bob had passed away that morning from complications from the chemotherapy.
Kyle Huckabee, Ticket Operations Manager for the Stingrays, remembers the day vividly.
“Normally when chemo is over the big thing is to ring a bell. So we had made the plan for Cool Ray (the Stingrays mascot) to be there, the office staff, it was a slow Friday in the summer. Right before we were to head out the door we got a phone call telling us what happened.”
Stingrays President Rob Concannon was out with then head coach Ryan Warsofsky getting some things to take to Bob.
“I was out with Ryan at a golf shop and we got a call to come back to the office immediately. We got the news and it was just shocking and devastating.”
Bob had been diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2017 after having a mass removed from his neck. It was determined that it was cancerous and he would need chemotherapy. He began eight weeks of chemotherapy after the season was over. He kept a positive spin on the situation. He called it his “summer camp of chemo.” All the reports and updates he was being given by the medical staff were positive. It was looking as if the chemotherapy, although taking a heavy toll on him, was successful. Unfortunately, a complication from the chemotherapy arose and he passed away the morning of his last treatment.
News of his passing swept not only through the hockey community in Charleston but across all the East Coast. Soon condolences were coming in from Georgia to New Hampshire and across the hockey world. He had worked in Atlanta with the Atlanta Knights of the International Hockey League and spent seven years with the Gwinnett Gladiators. He also worked with the Connecticut Whale and Manchester Monarchs (AHL). Where ever he had worked he had left a lasting positive memory not only with his co-workers but with the fans he interacted with as well.
“I remember hiring him,” said Concannon. “I had talked to (former President of the Manchester Monarchs) Darren Abbott about Bob. When I talked to (Bob) on the phone, I got the typical short ‘no, sir’ and ‘yes, sir’ answers that he had from his time in the military. He was coming in not too long after I had started and he had a wealth of knowledge about ticket sales and group sales. Things I wasn’t necessarily strong in at the time. He had worked in many organizations and he really helped out.”
The front office is similar in a way to the players on a team, relayed Concannon.
“You get young staff in and Bob was like the old veteran in the locker room. He was old school. So sometimes that clashed with some of the younger staff. But he wanted everything to be right. He took tremendous pride in what he did. He was a problem solver, he fixed things.”
“In all honesty, I probably would not have made it past year one had it not been for Bob,” said Huckabee. “Year one is tough for everybody. This is where young people come in to get their start and get the experience. He is one of the main reasons I stuck around. Here I am going into season seven and it’s because of Bob.”
On game nights, Bob always had a smile and time to talk with fans. He answered questions and did his best to fix issues that fans had. Many longtime season ticket holders would often joke with him and remind him “it’s all your fault Bob!” when they saw that he had dealt with a troublesome situation. He would always reward them with a smile and a wink. During games, he would pop into different sections to watch some hockey and talk with season ticket holders and friends. He developed a great reputation for finding fair fixes to issues for fans, having time to share great stories and generally making sure everyone around him had a brighter day. When not working in the office or at games, Bob supported the Charleston Youth Hockey Association, Relay for Life, the Jerry Zucker Ride for Hope and the Deputy Joe Matuskovic Memorial Hockey Game.
“He was determined to beat it. He was active with the Relay for Life folks here in Charleston,” said Concannon. “When he found out he had cancer, he told them he would be at the walk that fall, walking as a survivor. He wanted to work that summer. He wanted to beat it and get back to work.”
“There was a softer side of Bob that he didn’t want people to see. He would listen to all the away games at home wearing a Stingrays jersey,” said Huckabee. “He came across a little different than the way he was.”
Time stops for no organization. Since Bob’s passing, much has changed in the Stingrays organization. New ownership, a new head coach, new players and new office staff have all come in since last August. While there has been a lot of change, a lot has stayed the same, too. The player roster is being built, anticipation is growing for the upcoming season and soon the grinding sound of skates on ice will remind everyone that a new season is upon us. And with each new season comes the strange mix of nostalgia for the past and anticipation of the new memories yet to be made.
“It was great having his family here last year for opening night and dropping the puck. We had his Initials up on the boards behind the home goal,” said Concannon. “Bob will be and is missed.”
It’s been a year since Bob’s passing but his memory still lingers on in the North Charleston Coliseum and in the hearts of all that knew him.