From its inception in 1948, to the three straight Granite State Hockey League championship series it played against the Manchester Tam O’Shanters, to young Bobby Sheehan, who would go on to play eight seasons in the National Hockey League, the Nashua Royals amateur team left a large mark on the state’s hockey landscape in its two decades of existence.
Shortly after the conclusion of World War II, Nashua High School and its athletic director, iconic football coach Buzz Harvey, explored the possibility of fielding a school hockey team. By 1948, other city leaders had planted the seeds to create a senior amateur team for players age 16 to 21 that would compete against other senior amateur teams in the region.
Nicknamed the “Royales,” the team turned to city ward alderman Tony Joyal as its coach and plans were underway to build a rink in the rear of the St. Francis Xavier church on Chandler Street.
Paul and Bob Dionne were chosen as captains of that inaugural team, and were joined by players like Renee Joyal, Gil Dumais, Roger Kerouac, John Lanoie, Jim Connor and Roland McLoud. But the weather didn’t cooperate that first season, with rains and some unseasonably warm weather conspiring to keep their outdoor sheet on Lock Street unplayable.
The next season saw Elmer F. Blakey, the city’s park and recreation commissioner, step in as head coach and the nickname altered to “Royals.”
By 1952, Joyal was back as coach and the Royals had established themselves on the state scene, meeting the Rye Sea Hawks for the New Hampshire Amateur Class B League championship. Behind 59 saves from goalie Berube, Nashua won the game, 8-4.
Beginning in 1963, the Royals were coached Ron Peters (Legends of Hockey Class of ’08), a former practice goaltender of the Boston Olympics of the EHL. He guided the team to the championship of the Granite State Hockey League in 1964, the first of three straight memorable championship series the Royals would play against the Tam O’Shanters.
The Tams got the better of it in 1965, sweeping the championship series in three games despite a four-goal game from George Marineau in Game 3, a game that finished 7-6. Nashua came back to win the title in 1966, closing out the Tams with a 14-8 win.
Some of the standout players included Marineau, Buzz Littell (Legends of Hockey Class of ’06), Pete Merrill, Mike Frigard, Joe Bellavance and Leo Gould (Legends of Hockey Class of ’06). Also featuring prominently was Sheehan, who would reach the NHL in 1969-70 with the Montreal Canadiens and play several seasons at that level, including the 1978-79 campaign with the New York Rangers, skating in 15 playoff games as the Rangers reached the Stanley Cup finals, losing to the Canadiens. Small in stature, he was listed at 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds in the NHL but was one of the fastest players in the league.
Member of the 1965-66 Championship Team included: Front Row left to right: Kevin Palanski, Joe Monahan, Coach Ron Peters, Captain Mike Frigard, Norm Charland,Bobby Sheehan (aka Bob Terry), Paul Joyal, Pete Maggio Back Row left to right: Guy Marcoux, Pete Merrill, unidentified, Buzz Littell, Bob Christy, Ed Ziflak, Leo Gould, Jean Brosseau, Ed Donahue, Jean Cote, unidentified, Dave Bellavance, George Marineau. Other Championship team members not in photo were. Goaltender Joe Bellavance, John Gilday, Ron Therrien, Dick Daigle,Ken Thompson, Dick Bordeleau, Paul Fisher, Den Cote and goaltender Connors.
The Nashua Royals concluded play after the 1966-67 season.