Greenfield’s Pond Hockey Team, Part 2: First season blues

  • The 1931 Greenfield outdoor hockey team poses at Highland Park. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/24/2020 5:58:54 PM
Modified: 3/24/2020 5:58:51 PM

(NOTE: This is Part 2 in a series about the history of the Greenfield outdoor hockey team. Part 1 ran in Tuesday’s edition of the Recorder.)

Part 2: First season blues

As the end of 1926 draws near, James Hayes is a frantic man.

Hayes skates around the rink at Highland Park, keeping a watchful eye on the players before him. He’s not much older than this bunch of Greenfield skaters, but he’s familiar with them. A faculty member at the junior high school, Hayes is only weeks into his gig as the first-ever coach of the Greenfield hockey program. Time is running out before the first game in program history — Jan. 8 against Orange.

Greenfield skates through drills at Highland Park on Dec. 21, less than three weeks until the opener. The roster for the inaugural season includes: Kiernan Moylan, Bob Bell, Al Studer, Will Horrigan, Rich Hamilton, Win Pfersick, Stan Chichy, Charlie Nims, Cy Donovan, Joe Meehan, Rich Batty, John Dandin, Rich Dufraine, Fran Lawler (also team manager), Phil Moore and Art Burgess.

Time ticks by, and Greenfield settles on a lineup for the opening games with Orange. Donovan will center the team’s top line with Lawler on the left and Pfersick on the right. Bell and Nims are the two defensemen, with Hamilton penciled in as the team’s No. 1 goaltender. Studer is first off the bench as a defenseman, and Moore is the backup goalie.

Just one day after the first transatlantic telephone call is made via radio from New York City to London, the Greenfield outdoor hockey team plays its first game ever on the road against Orange on Jan. 8, 1927.

Greenfield plays well in its first outing, but the Greenies can’t get one past the Orange keeper. The boys from out east slip just one past Hamilton, and that stands up as the game’s lone strike in a 1-0 victory.

From there, the inaugural outdoor season takes a precarious turn. Poor weather postpones Greenfield’s next scheduled game at Highland Park against Springfield Tech, and the tilt after that with Orange is canceled when a January thaw causes soft ice.

Greenfield finally gets a break late in the month, when the team heads north after being invited to represent Massachusetts in a tournament played in Vermont. They tangle in exhibition games against Rutland, Vt., as well as Rumford, Maine, but the real treat comes before the game, when Donovan, Andy Smith and Moore are entered into snow carnival races. They represent Franklin County “with aplomb.”

Keene hands Greenfield another loss just before February, though the Greenies get on the board for the first time in program history in a 3-2 defeat in a game played in Bellows Falls, Vt. The paper credits Bell, Nims and Moore with strong play, though the forward line was “weak,” according to Hayes. The ice conditions were less than ideal, and the young head coach says his team displayed “too much etiquette and not enough fight.” The team drops to 0-2 in its regular season slate.

As it turned out, just one more game was all the Greenfield hockey team would have remaining in its season. A mere four days after the loss to Keene, the roster is decimated when mid-term grades are released.

“Forward line declared ineligible for season,” read a headline in the newspaper.

Indeed, with grades out, Greenfield loses the likes of Lawler, Donovan and Pfersick. In the blink of an eye, Hayes has just one substitute, and is forced to scramble with a new lineup ahead of the program’s first-ever home game.

“Crippled sextet to face Orange H.S.,” offers a headline previewing the big home clash.

Turns out, all it took was a little adversity to get the Greenies into the win column for the first time in program history. Moore, elevated into the starting goalie spot, pitches a shutout and stars between the pipes, while Hamilton, pressed out of the goal and into forward duty, found the back of the net. Bell also tallied, and Greenfield recorded a milestone 2-0 victory over Orange before a crowd of 200-plus fans in attendance at Highland Park on Feb. 5.

Sitting at 1-2 and with some spring in his step, Hayes smiled widely following the Orange victory. He could right the ship, give the program some momentum heading into next winter. The possibilities were endless.

But the first season of Greenfield hockey was not destined to end with momentum, however.

Just one week later, it was over.

The scheduled game against Springfield Tech was canceled. The teams’ captains were suspended after a vandalism claim following a basketball game at Keene the previous week. Details were scarce, but with more suspensions on the way, Greenfield’s roster was depleted. No substitutes remained, only a starting five and a goalie. That left Hayes with little option, and on Feb. 12, the first hockey season in school history came to an unexpected early conclusion with a 1-2 record.

Dealing with suspensions due to grades and disciplinary actions, on top of difficulty keeping games with unpredictable weather, the future of the hockey program is bleak. Hayes and administration have some hard decisions to make for 1927, with no guarantees that this run would be anything more than a one year experiment.

Check back for Part 3: “Steady as she goes” in Thursday’s Recorder.

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