Greenfield’s Pond Hockey Team, Part 3: Steady as she goes

  • The 1934 Greenfield hockey team, led by head coach Ken Stinson and captain Wallace Newton. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/25/2020 4:19:43 PM
Modified: 3/25/2020 4:19:38 PM

(NOTE: This is Part 3 in a series about the history of the Greenfield outdoor hockey team.)

Part 3: Steady as she goes

America is undergoing sweeping changes in 1927.

Baseball has captivated the nation, the men in pinstripes earning the Murderers’ Row moniker thanks to the top six hitters in their lineup putting together a dominant performance in the ’27 World Series – a 4-0 sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In film, “The Jazz Singer” opens to great success in October. Its release heralded the commercial ascendance of sound films and ended the silent film era.

The town of Greenfield is also seeing changes locally. The 1926-27 school year featured the debut of the Greenfield hockey team, which played just three games in a season marred by postponements and suspensions. When young head coach James Hayes decided to help start a hockey program at the high school, he certainly hadn’t imagined a tumultuous season like the one he experienced right off the bat.

But as the winter of 1927 rolled around, Hayes was back, and looking to get another crack at it on the pond rink at Highland Park. He just needed his school’s support.

That was hardly a guarantee, however.

The inaugural season came to an early conclusion when players were suspended for vandalizing property after a basketball game in Keene, and the team simply didn’t have a deep enough roster to play any more games. There was a need for assurances that if there was a second season, student-athletes would mind their P’s and Q’s.

Time was running out, though. As the calendar turned to December 1927, there had not yet been a commitment from administration and the school committee in Greenfield for another season of hockey.

But on Dec. 10, Hayes receives word that all systems are a ‘go.’ At the last minute, the school committee OK’s a season, despite the fact that finances and costs are an issue for the district. Hayes does his part, announcing he will coach the season for “gratis.” Only a handful of returning players are on the initial roster, and Hayes announces that Phil Moore will serve as team captain.

The squad skews young, and after a month of practice, Hayes cuts seven players to put his roster at 12 players: five juniors, three sophomores and four freshmen. Moore, Stan Cichy and Bill Pfersick are the returning vets, and John Baudin will serve as manager as well as backup goaltender.

In order to keep things rolling after a rocky first season, Hayes has laid the hammer down with his second-year crew. He tells the Recorder that he’s going to run a “tight ship” and will be “enforcing the rules.” He doesn’t want a repeat of his first season. Another undisciplined run could be the death of the program.

The opener is set for Jan. 7 against Bellows Falls at Highland Park. With no seniors on the team’s roster, Hayes is going young. Freshman Kiernan Moylan is expected to set the tone on the ice, and the youngster is providing plenty of exuberance.

Despite soft ice conditions, the opener goes off as scheduled. A crowd of 150 fans watch a “slow moving match” on soft ice, but Greenfield pots a pair of goals, including the game-winner from Pfersick with just 20 seconds remaining to take a 2-1 victory. John Trela also tallies in the win.

While the following weekend’s game with Brattleboro is postponed, Greenfield gets back in action with a tilt against the Greenfield Outing Club. The experienced club hands the high school side a 5-2 defeat, led by former Amherst puckster Sam Cameron.

From there, Greenfield skates to a 1-1 tie with Deerfield Academy. Despite allowing just the one goal, Hayes decides that defense is the need for focus in practice, and he pumps in extra drills to shore up the back end of his squad.

Sitting with a 1-1-1 mark through three games, Greenfield faces a two-week layoff due to poor ice conditions before finally getting back on the pond for a game against the Mass. Aggie (eventually UMass) JV team. On Jan. 28, the Greenfield puckmen score a 2-1 win over the squad, as Pfersick continues to pace the offense. He pots both goals on a “hard and fast ice surface.”

From there, a 6-2 “humbling” loss to the Mass. Aggie Freshman team follows. It was certainly one to forget, as the newspaper describes a rough game with poor refs and countless infractions.

“Frosh show skills over high school and outplay GHS,” the story reads. “Aggies get two shorthanded goals in over-matched skate.”

Another loss trips up the Greenies, as Bellows Falls exacts some revenge in a 3-2 win as part of the Bellows Falls Winter Carnival. Pfersick and Trela score, but Greenfield falls to 2-3-1 on the season.

That sets up what would be the season finale against Keene Normal School at Highland Park. It’s all Greenies in that one, with Trela scoring twice and Moylan and Pfersick also tallying in a tidy 4-0 shutout on Feb. 11.

Two more games are still on the slate, but postponements eventually signal the end of the 1927-28 campaign at 3-3-1. Hayes is praised throughout town for his efforts, and administration lauds his tireless work despite not being paid. The Marlborough native has many vets back next year, and with a three-win season under their belts, the hope is that Greenfield can put itself in the New England title race for ’28-’29.

Check back for Part 4: “Perennial powers” in Friday’s Recorder.

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