Ralph ‘Navy’ Labnon
Every hockey player in New Hampshire knows about the Berlin Maroons. It wouldn’t be that way if Navy Labnon hadn’t cared so much.
When the Berlin Maroons hockey team was first being organized back in the late 1930’s, finances and promotion presented major problems. In addition, the young hockey club needed someone who could present a positive image for the budding organization in order to encourage spectator attendance at the games. The team turned to Navy, then a young and imaginative businessman. With his guidance, success promoting the Berlin Maroons was almost meteoric .
In short order, the team began traveling far and wide to play games and eventually developed a reputation that became almost mythic. To nearly everyone’s disbelief, Navy soon had the Maroons practicing and playing at the Boston Garden. Navy helped take the band of devoted players from a sandlot team to a great hockey attraction.
Navy served as General Manager of the Berlin Maroons from 1938 to 1942. In 1941, the Maroons were New England Champions and runners-up in the National Championships. Navy later was named Sportsman of the Year by the Athletic Booster Club.
Throughout his tenure, he was recognized as a shrewd promoter as well a successful businessman. His contributions made it possible for the Maroons to become a national force.
In an anecdotal history of hockey in Berlin, Navy Labnon’s name will forever be linked with the two Catholic priests who conspired to help make the city widely known as Hockeytown USA. Monsignor Bousquet is the man who built the Notre Dame High School and arena. And it was Monsignor Lauzier who worked so hard with the youth of the city and also became the manger for the Maroons. Hockey in Berlin has the fingerprints of these men on it.
Between 1943 and 1945, Navy took timeout to serve his country in the military. He returned to the Maroons, though, for the 1946 and 1947 seasons. He couldn’t stay away.
Navy and his family have been proprietors of the Town and Country Inn in Shelburne, NH since 1956.