The Manchester Blackhawk story was a Cinderella story and the team was a fairy tale team. They caught the attention of Manchester every Saturday and Sunday evening when they would meet an opposing team on home ice at the JFK Coliseum.
The story of the Blackhawks started in the summer of 1964, when former owner Claude Vaillancourt decided that Manchester needed something and the answer was a good hockey team. After much preliminary work the new team was ready to go for the 1965 season, sanctioned by the Amateur Hockey Association (AHA).
In the team’s peak of interest, the fans would fill the JFK to capacity and for most games it was standing room only. Management wanted to have an idea as to how strong the local team was and the Sherbrooke Beavers were contacted to come and play the newly formed club. The Blackhawks lost 7 to 4, but it was realized that they had strong potential.
The first series that the team had with the Berlin Maroons generated record crowds and growing interest in hockey.
When the Manchester Blackhawks were in their prime they were playing against Lewiston/Aurburn Twins, the Berlin Maroons, Concord Eastern Olympics, Lowell Chiefs, Framingham Pics, and the Braintree Hawks.
The hockey team was a generous organization and one of the groups that they helped was the Manchester Jaycee’s. Whenever the Jaycee’s winter carnival was scheduled, they could count on the Manchester Blackhawks to help raise funds for their treasury.
They attracted international attention at one point by hosting Olympic hockey teams from Austria and Sweden, who were sanctioned by the United States Ice Federation of Hockey.
The original owner sold the team to businessman Al Dupont, who kept the team for a short period of time in 1969. Then contractor Doris Patient took ownership ofthe team until the organization disbanded in the early 1970’s.
During the early 1960’s, Manchester was represented in hockey by the Manchester Beavers, a group of young (and a few old) men who used the Doors Pond rink as their home base. They played other teams in outdoor rinks throughout the state including Rochester, Concord, Wolfeboro (COLD), UNH (before Snively), Exeter and Amesbury and Ft. Devens in Massachusetts.
With the building of the JFK Coliseum in 1963, local hockey came -indoors. The Beavers, through the sponsorship of Peter Rosenberg of the Tam O’Shanter Company, became the Tam O’Shanter Hockey Club.
The six team Granite State Hockey League was formed consisting of Nashua, Concord, Rochester, Laconia-Wolfeboro, the Tams and the Alpine Club. Doubleheaders were played at the Coliseum before capacity crowds and when the Tams met the Alpines, the building was jammed. The Fire Department had to station personnel at the games to keep exit paths open. These games were the most popular events in town.
The Tams always wore tams (Scottish flat cap) on their heads during pre-game warm ups, so when the Alpines came to play them they wore toques (knitted winter caps.) Rosenberg would bring a detachment of bagpipers in full kilt regalia to play at the Tams-Alpines games, so the Alpine Club would send their Drum & Bugle Corps. Between the music and the crowd, the noise level was about a seven on the Richter Scale.
So it went for two to three years until the influx of players from Canada and Massachusetts threw the league so out of balance that it closed operations. In its place came the Monarchs who became the Blackhawks, who continued to pack the JFK by playing the best teams in New England and from Canada.
Semi-pro hockey in Manchester slowly saw its demise after a golden decade with the rise of hockey on television featuring Bobby Orr and the Big, Bad Bruins.
Hockey in its prime in Manchester brought much joy and excitement to the city. This Winter Carnival is a testimonial to what hockey meant to the loyal fans.