Dick Bradley’s record for 10 years as the head coach at Berlin High School was 84-87-7. Of the nine state championships the program would go on to win, he was behind the bench for just two of them.
But more than the wins and losses, the championships and runner-ups (six of them), was the foundation he built for a budding Mountaineers program, which would challenge, and then surpass, its cross-town rival, Notre Dame, for the label of best high school program in New Hampshire.
“Because Bradley eventually made his team winners, hockey flowed in the veins of thousands of young boys in Berlin,” said local author and historian Paul “Poof” Tardiff.
Bradley grew up in Watertown, Mass., starring as a high school goalie and going on to play at Boston University. He was the backup goalie on the first BU team to make the NCAA tournament, in 1949-50, and he was the starter as a senior a year later as the Terriers reached the NCAA semifinals, losing to Michigan.
“Richard Bradley was one of the founding fathers of BU hockey,” wrote current BU athletic director Mike Lynch, in endorsing him for induction to the Legends of Hockey Hall of Fame. “He was an integral part of beginning our tradition of NCAA success, which now includes five national titles and 31 appearances in the national tournament.”
After college, Bradley was selected for the 1952 U.S. Olympic team, but did not compete, because he’d signed a professional agreement. He later was offered the job of spare goalie for the Boston Bruins by then-Bruins owner Walter Brown. After a short stint there, he served 2 1/2years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
In 1954, after his service with the Marines concluded, Bradley took a physical education teaching position with the Berlin Public Schools, with an extra bonus of $100 to coach hockey. It turned out to be money well invested.
Notre Dame, being a parochial school, had the first crack at ice time at Notre Dame Arena, which was constructed in 1947. While NDHS was playing 20-plus games a year, including out-of-state ones against powers from Maine and Canada, Berlin had only 10 games on its schedule and limited ice time.
Bradley reached out to some of his old teammates for help – future UNH coach Charlie Holt, who was the coach and athletic director at the Northwood School in Lake Placid, N.Y., at the time; Bob Priestly at Norwich University and the staff at Hebron Academy in Maine all offered ice time.
Bradley continued to get the word out about the growing Berlin High School program. Within two years, he nearly doubled the number of games. The Mountaineers were still looking up at Notre Dame, which was in the midst of a stretch of annual state titles, but the games between the two programs were becoming famous across northern New England, leading to the city’s “Hockey Town USA” moniker.
Bradley coached the Mountaineers for the last time in 1964-65 season, finishing as the state runner-up, before accepting a position with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the regional accrediting agency. Berlin would go on to win the next four state titles after he left.
He served 30 years with the NEASC; the last 25 as its executive director before retiring.