Stephen D. Harris
September 24, 1951 – February 16, 2018
Stephen Harris, one of the longest tenured writers at the Herald, died Thursday due to complications from heart surgery. He was 66.
Harris traveled the globe to write on the Olympics, was a fixture at the Boston Marathon and did time with the Red Sox. But he was best known publicly for covering the Bruins and privately for his devotion to his family.
An old-school newspaper man, Steve eschewed self-aggrandizement. He had no interest in being a personality, though he had plenty of it. He simply did his job, breaking stories big and small and then moving on to the next day’s work.
Coach Bruce Cassidy began his post-practice media session yesterday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver by expressing his sympathies.
“I just want to pass along my condolences to all his colleagues at the Herald and his family obviously. I liked Steve. I enjoyed working with him for the short time I’ve been here. It’s a sad day for the Harris family,” said Cassidy.
Patrice Bergeron, who made the Bruins as an 18-year-old in 2003, got to know Steve pretty well. “It was always a good relationship,” said Bergeron. “Along with you guys, he’s been following my career with the Bruins since Day One. I always thought he was really fair and easy to talk to and always able to relate the facts of our team. You could tell he was passionate about the game. It’s a sad day. As players you don’t usually get involved on a personal level with reporters, but when it’s 15 years, you do create a bond. I do wish my sincere sympathies to his family and friends.”
Longtime Bruins executive Harry Sinden, who would agree and disagree with Harris on all things hockey and Bruins for over 30 years, was stunned to hear the news.
“Steve Harris exemplified what a hockey person in Boston was. He was knowledgeable about the sport and he was emotional about the sport. And I know he was so proud that his sons were playing hockey,” said Sinden. “Steve could be what a sportswriter has to be. He had his definite feelings about certain things. Sometimes it was at odds with the way we saw things, sometimes it wasn’t. Usually it wasn’t. It’s such a shock. That’s too young.”
One of Steve’s favorites to cover was Terry O’Reilly, both as a coach and a player. The feeling was mutual.
“I enjoyed his company. He was easy-going but very professional,” said O’Reilly. “He was very knowledgeable about the game and, when I was the coach, he would sometimes make me look at things a little differently just from some of the questions he would ask. As a coach you could get tunnel vision about a certain player or aspect of the game and his questions would often give me a different perspective. And the word that comes to mind with Steve was ‘trustworthy.’”
Former Bruins captain Ray Bourque recalled Harris as “always fair.”
“He was never looking for an angle or something that wasn’t there. He was always objective,” said Bourque. “You don’t really have a personal relationship with a lot of writers, if any, but he was there a long time. I really appreciated the way he covered us.”
Steve had a great feel for the game. Just last November, when almost everyone – this colleague included – thought the Bruins should turn to backup goalie Anton Khudobin to make a start over the then-struggling Tuukka Rask, Steve wrote it was time for coach Cassidy to show confidence in Rask. Cassidy gave the nod to Rask, who beat Tampa went on a 19-0-2 run that turned the season around.
Some might beat their chests for being so right, but that wasn’t Steve’s style. And he was respected for it. “It is hard to imagine the press corps that covers the Bruins without (Harris’) presence,” said Bruins president Cam Neely, whom Harris also covered as a player. “Over the years, the media landscape has gone through many changes, but Steve’s integrity as a journalist was always a constant.”
Said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, another executive Harris covered as a player, “He cared more about smaller details that would help shape a bigger picture and tell an accurate story, than just the headline.
“You could have a conversation with Steve about life or the game...both revealing him to be genuine.” Steve had a passion for the sport and the job, but never made it out to be rocket science. He wasn’t pretentious, coming from a time when you got into sportswriting because it was supposed to be fun. And though he bristled at the tightly-controlled message in today’s sports world, he managed to have his fun both recently and back in the day.
He broke into the business at the Record-American with the Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont.
“Part of the ritual of working on the Herald desk in the late ‘70s was a dash to Foley’s between editions. Steve was on the desk in those days with me, Bob Duffy, Don Skwar and others,” recalled Dupont. “In the ‘77 baseball offseason, we all made it back from the ‘corner store’ to tidy up the late edition. Harris, fresh from taking a peek in the wire room, tossed a New York Times story across the desk and muttered in disgust, ‘The pig defected.’ It was the story of Mike Torrez signing with the Red Sox after his one good year with the Yankees. Steve, as a native New Yorker, branded Torrez a pig out of loyalty to his old hometown. We scurried around and jammed it in the last edition. And I believe we beat the Globe.”
While times have certainly changed, Steve still found his enjoyable moments.
“We shared so many morning skate discussions on a vast spectrum of ideas, opinions, trivia, existential speculation and spirited debates,” NESN’s Jack Edwards said. “Mornings at the rink are sometimes a grind, sometimes foggy. But every time I turned and realized Steve had slipped in, sitting a couple of seats down from me in some far-flung arena, my spirits brightened and I knew I was in for some chuckles, some provocative thought and some enlightenment. We are all so lucky to have been alongside his path in life. It will never be the same without this fine man and friend.”
Steve was born in New York City to newsman Robin “Curly” Harris and the former Patricia Donnelly, who was Miss America in 1939. He attended Trinity School in Manhattan, the Kent School in Connecticut and Lake Forest College, where he quarterbacked the football team.
As dedicated as he was to the job – calling in sick was never an option, even as recently as three weeks ago when his condition was worsening – the job did not own him. He participated in triathlons. He ran the Boston Marathon. He was a licensed pilot. He loved scuba diving. And as a transplanted New Yorker, he found a home as a regular in the cozy confines of the Eliot Lounge, where he met his future wife, Kathy. Steve and Kathy were married 24 years and had two sons, Jack and Mat. As anyone who knew Steve understood, his family became the most important thing in his life. He beamed with pride over his boys’ accomplishments. Jack, now working in sales, played football at Merrimack College and Mat is currently a defenseman for the RPI hockey team.
Herald colleague Karen Guregian appreciated Harris’ guidance when she joined him on the Bruins beat in the 1980s. “He always told me to write what you see, and always be fair. I still live by those words,” she said.
She also recalled him juggling work and dad duties while in Colorado in 2001 to cover Bourque’s run to the Stanley Cup after being traded from the Bruins.
“One of Steve’s boys needed hockey equipment,” Guregian said. “So off we went, shopping in Denver during the day to get just the right stuff. Yes, we were working, but Steve still made sure he took care of his kids. I really admired that about him.”
Along with Kathy, Jack and Mat, Steve is survived by his sister Amanda. He also leaves behind thousands of faithful readers and a legion of friends from the business and beyond.
A visitation for Stephen Harris will be held Sunday from 4-8 p.m. at Duckett-J.S. Waterman & Sons Home of Memorial Tribute at 656 Boston Post Road in Sudbury. A memorial Mass will be held for him on Monday at Noon in Our Lady of Fatima Church, 160 Concord Road in Sudbury.
- Visitation Sunday, February 18, 2018
- Memorial Mass Monday, February 19, 2018
- Interment Private
Stephen D. Harris
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Chuck and Judy Rancourt
March 10, 2018
We were shocked and very sad to learn that Steve has passed away. Since sharing Thanksgiving Dinner with you (and Mat on the side) in Belfast, we felt we knew your family and the love there. We are so very sorry that you and your sons have this sorrow to bear, but know you will have the strength you need.
Chuck and Judy Rancourt
FROM THE FAMILY
IN THE CARE OF