Norman ‘Fat’ Pinette
He was-and still is-known throughout New Hampshire’s North Country as “Fat,” a nickname hung on him during his middle high school years by revered sportswriter, the late Leo Cloutier.
“I was a little chunky back then,” “Fat” admits today.
His weight, though, never interfered with his skills as a goaltender. He was, in fact, exceptional with above-average puck-stopping abilities. For those lucky enough to have seen him play for Berlin High School and then for the Berlin Maroons, all of the memories remain robust.
“Fat’s” interest in the position was tweaked at age 13 or so, when he and his friends played pick-up games out on the frozen river. “I was very competitive,” he says. “I hated losing, and we were that day, by a lot of goals. So, I swapped positions and put on the pads. When we were finished playing, everyone said that I should be the goalie. So, I was.”
Back in the season of 1937-38, the Berlin High School hockey program, after several years in deep freeze, was resurrected, much to the liking of students and adults throughout the city.
“Fat,” then a sophomore, eagerly dragged his pads and gloves out of the closet and earned himself the top goaltending job.
By the time he was a senior that being the 1939-40 season he enjoyed a high reputation that was enhanced by his four shutouts and the team’s 11 wins.
Berlin went on to win the 1940 state hockey title. (Note: The title is considered unofficial due to the fact that the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association was not formed until after the 1945- 46 season.
Also that season, “Fat” added All State Goalie to his personal credentials. He graduated that June.
In 1996, Berlin High School honored him with induction into its Athletic Hall of Fame. In addition to hockey, he had played varsity football and baseball, and was voted as Berlin High School’s Best Athlete of the 1930- 40 Decade.
When the 1940-41 season rolled around, the Berlin Maroons were in the market for a dependable goaltender, and “Fat,” then 19, got the job, playing every minute of every game.
When America entered WWII in December of 1941, “Fat” hung up his pads and enlisted in the US Navy, serving three years aboard an anti-submarine bomber in the Pacific. By the time he was discharged in 1944, he had flown 28 missions.
When he returned home, his Maroons teammates eagerly awaited for him to put on the pads. He did and ended up playing for the seven seasons between 1944-45 and 1950-51.
Recently he wrote: “In all of those years, I never missed a game due to injury or illness. I may have missed a few periods, just to give our backup goaltender a chance to play, but never a whole game.”
The Maroons back then were an established force in the national Senior Amateur ranks and won three New England AHA titles while “Fat” was in the net: 1948 – 1949 – 1950.
He also was in the net when the Maroons played in the 1948 National AHA tournament in Toledo, OH, and again in 1949 in the National tournament in New York City.
His outstanding abilities as a netminder factored heavily in those consistent Maroons’ successes during that time.
After “Fat” hung up his pads in 1951, he turned to officiating and established himself a lustrous reputation as a fair, knowledgeable and incisive referee.
For the 1952-62 decade, he regularly worked as a NHIOA official, calling high school and college games, and also as an AHA referee, calling amateur games throughout New England.
Today, in the company of his dear friend, Alice, he splits his time between Ormand, FL and Chateauguay, Quebec. He confesses, though, “that a large part of me is still in Hockey Town USA, in good old Berlin.”