Hockey In NH
It began in the spring of 2001 with a meeting of the minds - three of them to be exact: Jeff Eisenberg, President of the Manchester Monarchs AHL franchise; Dick Boucher, a former Berlin Maroons player and later business manager of the Manchester Blackhawks; and Francoise Elise, then Executive Director of the Franco-American Center in Manchester.
The three shared a love for hockey and they discussed the rich history and tradition of the game in New Hampshire. All agreed there should be a statewide hockey Hall of Fame that would honor the men and women who have made outstanding contributions by their participation as players, coaches, officials, owners, or worked in any other administrative capacity, plus as builders and media representatives.
The three also felt there should be an annual salute to one of the hockey teams that either once played or still plays in New Hampshire. The honored team's history would be celebrated, and the final salute would be made by the Manchester Monarchs, whose players, for one home game, would wear the jerseys of the team being honored by the Hall of Fame. The jerseys, after the game, then would be auctioned to benefit the Organization.
Other ideas at that first meeting were discussed and soon afterwards an effort was made to begin the writing of the sport's history in the state. It was discovered quickly that the history is vast and began November 17, 1883, when on the lower pond at St. Paul's School in Concord, the first organized game in the United States was played by St. Paul's students.
Twenty years later, in 1903, a youngster named Hobey Baker arrived at St. Paul's School from Pennsylvania and by 1909, when he graduated, he had written his own historical chapter, not only in the state but internationally, too. Baker was an outstanding skater and fashioned a reputation for high sportsmanship.
The history shows that three communities - Berlin, Concord, Manchester - were central to the early development of the sport in the state. In the 1910s, amateur hockey began in Berlin with the organization of mill teams. Additionally, numerous other communities had teams for short periods of time.
The Brown Paper Company, back between 1910 and 1920, guided the destiny of Berlin's many hockey players. D.B. Brown, of Dartmouth fame and also an owner of Brown Company, helped form a Mill League. All of the games were played on the outdoor rink directly in front of the old baseball grandstand behind home plate at the city ballpark. In 1920, Father Lauziere formed the "Canadiens." His team, among others, played against Maine's top teams from Lewiston and Waterville. In 1923, the Berlin Athletic Association (BAA) was formed and until 1928 was a major hockey force. From 1928 until the middle of 1930s, the Berlin Hockey Club was a power and in 1928 many games were played at the Boston Arena as part of New England competition. In 1937, the Berlin Maroons were formed and shortly thereafter were a dominant team, winning New England AAU championships in 1941, 1949 and 1951. The Maroons also played throughout North America and won the National AHA championships in 1954, 1967 and 1968, and continued to play competitively until the early 1990s.
In Concord, the hockey history began circa 1927 with the Concord Hockey Club (CHC) which played at the John Higgins rink on the site of the old Highway Hotel off Bridge Street. In 1939, the White Park team won the New Hampshire AAU championship and was runner-up in the 1939 New England AAU championships. Among the early teams, Sacred Heart Catholic parish and the Millville Bruins were two of the most prominent. Sacred Heart played at the rink on Pleasant Street. In fact, the United States Olympic team played two games there, one against Sacred Heart and the second against some masters from St. Paul's School. The Bruins played at Kimball Pond in Hopkinton, and in Concord at both Memorial Field and on Horseshoe Pond. The teams that later followed were the Concord Shamrocks (1962-1966), the Coachmen (1966-1968), the Eastern Olympics (1967-1973) who played in the New England Hockey League and the Can-Am. Finally, the Budmen started in the fall of 1975 and competed for twelve seasons in the New England Hockey League and later independently.
In Manchester, St. Jean (de Baptiste) Maple Leafs started things off in the late 1930s and played at the Kelly Street church grounds through the early 1960s. Beginning in 1958, the Manchester Beavers played on the Dorrs Pond Rink for five seasons. The Tam-O-Shanters and Alpine Club each started in 1962 and played outdoors for a couple seasons then when the JFK Coliseum opened for the winter of 1964 they moved into their new home. In the fall of 1966, the Blackhawks were formed and competed independently and then played in the New England Hockey League through the spring of 1970. The Monarchs then came into existence and played four seasons in the New England Hockey League and later independently. At the end of the 1973-1974 season, everything ceased. The Manchester Blackhawks came back in the late 1970's for a second go-round and competed against the Budmen and the Maroons among others, in New England Hockey League. The last organized men's team to compete out of Manchester was the Busch Blues. That team came on the scene in the fall of 1986 and competed for five seasons.
Today, the New Hampshire Legends of Hockey remains a self-governing, 501 (C)(3) non-profit organization incorporated with the State of New Hampshire. Our directors each year work to raise money to preserve the donated archives, including historical literature, records, photos, film, clothing, equipment, trophies, etc. Many of those artifacts are on display.
We continue to search for artifacts and film from the old days. Anyone wishing to donate either is encouraged to do so.
From that first meeting of three enthusiastic hockey buffs, the New Hampshire Hockey Hall of Fame was born and the inaugural class of twelve inductees was recognized and enshrined February 17, 2002 at the Puritan Backroom in Manchester. That evening, the Manchester Monarchs, in their AHL game, recognized the Manchester Blackhawks and wore replica uniforms from of the 1960s.
The following winter, a class of ten inductees was enshrined March 23, 2003 at the Wayfarer Inn in Bedford. Following the inductions, the Manchester Monarchs recognized the Berlin Maroons.
In the fall of 2003, the New Hampshire Legends of Hockey was formed and a new Board of Directors was elected and the Association's new name officially adopted.
The third year of inductions took place March 20, 2004 at the Wayfarer Inn. Nine persons were enshrined. That evening, the Manchester Monarchs recognized the Concord Budmen.
The fourth ceremony was held March 6, 2005 at the Wayfarer Inn and seven individuals were inducted. The University of New Hampshire Wildcats were honored and uniforms from the 1956-1961 seasons were worn by the Manchester Monarchs.
The fifth year of inductions were held on March 25, 2006 at the Executive Court Conference Center where nine individuals were inducted. St. Paul's School was honored and uniforms from the Hobey Baker era were worn by the Manchester Monarchs.
The sixth year of inductions were held on April 1, 2007 at the Event Center at C.R. Sparks where nine individuals were inducted. Dartmouth College was honored and uniforms recognizing Dartmouth were worn by the Manchester Monarchs.
The seventh year of inductions were held on March 2, 2008 at the Event Center at C.R. Sparks where eight individuals were inducted. Phillips Exeter Academy was honored and uniforms recognizing Exeter were worn by the Manchester Monarchs.
The eighth year of inductions were held on Octobr 18, 2009 at the Event Center at C.R. Sparks where seven individuals were inducted. The Notre Dame Rams were honored and the Manchester Monarchs wore jerseys recognizing Notre Dame against the Portland Pirates on September 27, 2009 in Berlin.
The ninth year of inductions are tentatively scheduled for November or December 2010. This year the Monarchs are celebrating their 10th year and the Monarchs and the NH Legends will recognize the original Monarchs team which began play during the 1970-71 season and continued through the 1973-74 season.
Yes, hockey is as strong as ever in New Hampshire. Beginning with youth hockey and up through high school and prep school, programs abound. Additionally, junior programs are strong. At the college and university levels, UNH and Dartmouth lead the way, along with New England College, Saint Anselm, Southern NH, Plymouth State University and Franklin Pierce.