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Belmont High Hockey, 1943-1950

Edition of  March 2011

A notable Belmont 'first' was noted on page 9 of the March 1991 Newsletter of the Belmont Historical Society;  "In 1928, the Belmont High hockey team was invited to play Newton in a game to precede the very first Boston Bruins hockey game in the new Boston Garden.  Centering that Belmont team was the late Howard "Heinie" King with Jim Murphy as a wing. Heinie won the opening face off, skated off to his right and took a tremendous hit from a defensemen. Just before crashing into the boards he got off a shot at the Newton goalie. The goalie stopped the shot but as it lay at the goal line, Jim Murphy who was following the play pushed the puck into the Newton net.  "Goal for Belmont by King", the loud speaker blared.  Amidst the cheers, "Heinie" King skated over to the announcer's table to say he had seen that his original shot had not gone in but that Jim Murphy following the play had actually scored the goal. After a short conference with the officials the loudspeaker blared, "Correction - - Belmont goal by Murphy, assist by King." So the first goal in a hockey game at the Boston Garden goes down as another first for Belmont.

My brother and I started going to Greater Boston Interscholastic Hockey League (GBI) games in about 1943. It was 'a great day' for an 11 and 14 yr old on the train, a Babe Ruth bar, a hotdog and taking in everything. We also went to some Bruins, Boston Olympics and college games. I can recall many years later telling Woody Dumart that I peered through the chicken wire risers on the boards when he was playing. He was in sales for one of the skate/equipment companies and I used to call him from S. California.

For Belmont in our first years watching I recall Jack Martin and Jack Kelley on the front line and Howie Cummings in the goal, the great Rindge Tech team with Briand, Gagnon and Messuri. A great line for Melrose who had been playing together on a backyard rink and  known as "The Green Street Reds". They were Seaver Peters , John Titus and Bob Marsolais. Peters and Titus went on to Dartmouth College. Newton never seemed to have any 'skaters'. There were the hustling Manley brothers from Stoneham. Rindge and Latin games were some of the best.

In November 2009 John Titus emailed me pages of the 1949 AHAUS Yearbook on the 1949 National Junior U.S. Championship of 1949. I excerpted below Belmont information from the article by Anthony Notagiacomo, Tournament Director.  The tournament had 25 entries playing 24 games in five days between March 29th and Sunday April 3rd. Most games were at the Boston Arena with a few at the Boston Garden. The Belmont Aces had defeated Arlington to win the 1948 Tournament.  In '49 Arlington defeated Belmont 7 to 4 to be the champions. 

Belmont;  Paul Kelley '49 goal, Bob Rousseau '47 and James Wycoff defense, Jack Martin '45, Gelotte and John Beeten '47 first line, Skip Viglirolo '49, Ed Robeson, Dick Meehan, Joe Kittridge, Ronnie Butt, Dick Sylvia '49 and Bill Keefe '47.   BHS class noted for those I could find.

For more team roster listings go to my Greater Boston Interscholastic Hockey League History

Notagiacomo wrote: "all the leagues were well represented, which are the Greater Boston Interscholastic, one of the oldest organized leagues in the world, excepting none: Bay State, Eastern, South Shore, North Shore and Catholic League plus the many schools that are not in any league.".  In those days the games were played in Boston Garden or Arena and had decent press coverage, I recall however that spares as with the AHAUS Yearbook were not listed unless they got a penalty or a point.

In the spring of '48, my sophmore year, Belmont High had a friends of hockey banquet at the end of the season. The speaker, Bruce Mather, a US Hockey Hall enshrinee left a lasting impression on me in relating his playing experience in the 1948 Olympic games.
 

BHS '48-'49
First Row. Bob Hanson, Red Marsh, Jack Jannoni, Skip Viglirolo and Paul Kelley Co-Captains, Owen Cote, Rick Sylvia.
Second Row. Coach Bennett, Roy Keefe, Roy Scammell, Jack McDougall, Roy LeBlanc, Wally Barnes, R. Crosby,
Third Row. Joe Busa, John Gurun, Bob MacMillan, J. Doyle, Joe Nix, Bill Kasper.

Jiggsie Mahaney supplied these excellent copies from the Class of '49 yearbook.

I was on the BHS '48-'49 team for the later part of the season. When we went on the ice for league games I tried always to be the first out there with Skippy Viglirolo and take some runs down the ice. I missed the first part of the season since our mind numbing  coach had awarded, as usual, a jersey to a football player who cared so little about the team he never showed up nor gave an excuse.  Skippy, a co-captain put pressure on the coach to get me the jersey. Over two weeks  after being told to turn in his uniform the football player had not to turned it in the Superintendent of Athletics.  Several times I had gone to Polly Harris office expecting to pick up the uniform. Meanwhile I was practising with the team.  I had to go to the house of the player and get it from his mother who apologized. That along with virtually no coaching from Frank Bennett  were my negative experiences with BHS hockey.  It did inspire me to get in a lot of skating and pickup hockey wherever I could find it, including  in the Boston Arena. In high school of those days we were just beginning hockey careers which in my case lasted 37 years.  If there had been organized midget or junior level hockey I would have gone with it.

Wally Flewelling emailed me his following experience. "The reason I remember Arlington so well is that they had a great team, Don Sennott, Jim Coveney, Goalie Ike Bevins, also an oversized defenseman by the name of Jim Fife. My sophomore year, my first on the varsity hockey team, Arlington was man-handling us pretty well, Frank Bennett called me over and said "I am putting you in to flatten that Fife guy."  Out I go hoping that with my red, white and blue stockings that no one would notice my knees knocking. Well I lined up poor old Jim and came flying at him from across the ice and I went at him full bore, I am sure you have seen a rubber ball bounce off a brick wall, that's what I did, much to my surprise the ref blew his whistle and sent me off for charging, of course as I skated by Jim, who was still upright, I gave him a snarl that let him know there was more where that came from. Of course I spent the rest of the game praying that Coach Bennett would not put me back in the game."

I would like to have more links, memories or records for all BHS hockey teams  

I also would appreciate more information on the Belmont team named as National Junior Champions in 1948. I discovered this on a website that has disappeared. But found that the US sent two teams to the  1948 Olympics at St. Moritz , one from the American Olympic Committee and one from the American Hockey Association. Neither was eligible for medals but the AHAUS team participated and finished fourth.

Our brief high school practices at 3 or 4 am in the morning, 10 miles or more from our homes were truncated, chaotic sessions in which the only purpose seemed to be to cut those who turned out to a 20 man roster. I can recall after some practices in '49 we went to a diner in Watertown for coffee and donuts before going to school.  I think it was the Deluxe Town Diner, 627 Mt. Auburn Street, Watertown, which has it's own website: http://www.deluxetowndiner.com/

I can recall our gym teacher and school basketball coach, the late Mel Wenner,  accurately stating that practising hockey at 3 am was not good for one's health. The 20 man roster was, of course, utterly absurd. In my days no minor hockey team in California was allowed to carry more than 14. It was difficult enough to get fair ice time for 14 kids. Normally a second team of decent calibre could have been formed in most high schools . With the vast proliferation of indoor ice rinks this has happened.

Often in eastern Massachusetts local hockey groups had learned all their hockey playing peers who later went to different high schools. From 'our peer group', Arlington, Medford, Belmont and Cambridge had five high school teams, Cambridge having two in the in the 8 team GBI league. In that same era there was also a Catholic high schools league with at least three of the schools drawing from the same area.  We often knew opposing players 'on the ice' better than many on our own team.

Why some coaches like Bennett couldn't figure out when to change lines or defense has always escaped me. We had it so bad in minor hockey I had to recommend that some of my friends not be allowed to coach another season. But you will see it even in the NHL, a player signaling or heading for the bench and other players waking the coach up.

WHY I REFUSED TO PLAY IN MY SENIOR YEAR
There were only a few returning veterans from the GBI second place team of '48-49 to come out for the 1949-50 team. Jack McDougall forgot to pick me up for one practice and I think my car would not start for another and I was late. At one point coach Bennett told me that I would have to earn my spot on the team. I have no idea why he said that. I should have put him on the spot for it. I was hustling, in fact outskating most of the players whom he did select. I honestly believe he could not see any need for speed in hockey. I'm not kidding. I can recall the guys welcoming me and I having some speed races after the practice with Malcolm Daly. I suspect he wanted to get back at me for his grotesque abuse of a coach's responsibility the year before. In addition to having to be pressured into giving me a jersey, he never let me set a foot on the ice in a league game so I did not letter. It seemed to me he had a team picked out that made no sense, other than political support throughout Belmont. 

I had decided to apply for Harvard and college board prep classes were coming up in the afternoons which would have conflicted with outdoor ice time.  Other considerations were I also always worked at the postoffice over the Christmas season, shovelled snow for my lawn customers, maintained my own '37 Chevy which was the family car and had found places and times to play pickup which fit my schedule and were above high school level.

I made a routine appointment to bring my skates to his house after I had decided, totally on my own not to play. After he had sharpened the skates I said, 'oh by the way I've decided not to go out for hockey this year.' I loved the shocked look on his face. He didn't have much to say. I elaborated that the College Board prep classes in the afternoon were more important.

I  recall in one of those practices taking the puck up the right side and I think it was Wally Flewelling  who threw a shoulder at me. Now it was easy to figure Bennet and some others figured I couldn't take a check since with my speed I avoided contact most of the time and had not played football. I took the check, held the puck and passed it off  somebody coming into the zone. Whomever the defenseman was he said afterwards that he was surprised, thought he had me decked.

I don't think Bennett had ever heard of backchecking so he couldn't understand the benefit of a fast two way forward on a line with a playmaking center like Skippy or Owen. I know in practice games I had no trouble scoring.

My mother went to one of my BHS games at the Garden. She went alone. Never had any interest in sports until much later in life. Whatever you boys want to do, do it was her attitude. She and my aunt had grown up with no brothers and a father who had litte interest in sports, other than some Bruins games in the 20's.

That night I asked my mother how she liked the game. It was a close one, Belmont was vying for GBI top dog and of course Bennett ignored me on the bench so I had done some fast skating on and off the ice.

"Oh, I saw you come out and sit on the bench and go off after the game." I said, "No mother, that was only the first period."

"Oh, I heard everyone cheering so I thought it was all over."

Those 20 player rosters in high school were totally absurd. 3 ten minute periods, not many games, exhibition games on weekdays between 1 and 5 am. Our teams in California of those age levels often had 9 to 11 players.  I can recall some hot midget games with maybe 6-7 players with another one or two arriving late. 3 fifteen minute stop time periods. We never carried more than 14, the league's roster limit. Also the amateur age classification has high school boys into two age brackets, midget and junior although that is changing to a new high school bracket  not necessarily run by a public school but all in attendance at some high school and I think no one over 17. As long as they don't insist on faculty coaches it may work out better.

With the rink ratting I did in my junior and senior high school years, plus the BHS and Harvard Frosh practices  I improved my indoor rink puck control.

If there had been junior hockey at that time I would have gone that route. If there was as much pro hockey then as there is now, I have no doubt I would have attempted to play minor pro but back then hockey was a distraction, a rebel's sport. Reluctantly I could not keep it up after about age 18 so I so I quit like most others. For those who continued they had to have accomodating jobs that enabled practicing and playing at odd hours, driving in all sorts of weather and hopefully some insurance if they got hurt.

I never saw another Massachusett's high school game until approximately 1968. I was astounded to see them still playing those high school rules, about passing and checking which we never had in Calif. One kid was always way up near the offensive blue line waiting for what to us was an offside pass. Talk about not forcing the kids to learn to stickhandle. We played CAHA red line at center ice, no two line pass rules from MIghty Mite on. We also let the refs call penalties by the book. I had parents scream at me, "what was that call?" I'd skate over and quietly say, "I'm the ref, that little kid never saw that hit coming. It's unnecessary roughness." If they didn't' shut up I wouldn't drop the puck with clock running I'd skate back over and say, "I''m not dropping the puck until you shut up." Most of the refs did the same.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS THROTTLE AND DESTROY MORE TALENT THAN THEY 'SHOWCASE'
After my bitter experiences with Belmont's non coach we had pleasurable experiences in Southern California with non-school sports and the standard bad experiences with school sports. My three sons participated in hockey, baseball, football, water polo, soccer and skiing, starting at ages 4 to 6.

Bill Underwood wrote the following to the Hockey History List in 1999:
"...............scholastic hockey, it would have NEVER worked!!!!! I can tell you, as a developer of talent, CLUB hockey is where kids tend to really develop more than high school. Remember, a club can be a regional all star team drawing from 5 or 10 high schools! This is why prep hockey has actually declined over the last ten years. We Americans are finally figuring out--the Canadians were right! But then again, we knew it in baseball years ago, the best leagues are Little League, Babe Ruth, and Legion ball, NONE of which are scholastic based. Hockey and baseball are sports that are developed by repetitive top caliber play unlike football and basketball where so much is rooted in physical growth!"
 

Nearly all of history is written to please "the powers that be" of the writer's historical era. That's never been my modus operandi.


Copyright, Joseph P. Nix, 1999-2013

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