George ‘Fuzzy’ Thurston
Known as “Mr. Hockey” in Exeter, the late George “Fuzzy” Thurston played amateur hockey until he was 66 years old, and also contributed greatly to the sport as a coach and referee.
Born in 1903, Thurston learned to skate and play hockey on the Exeter River. A strong, hard-hitting defenseman despite his slight build and 5-foot-5 frame, he was a standout player for the Amesbury Maples senior team for decades, several times being honored as “Amateur Defensive Player of the Year” by the Amateur Hockey Association. He also played for the Nashua Hockey Club in 1930-1931. That Nashua team, called the West Pointers, went on to win the New England championship title in Providence R.I., and continued on to New York to become the runner up in the national tournament.
In 1932, after a tryout with the Boston Bruins “Cubs” team, he was invited to be part of a “Boston Olympic Team” that traveled to Europe for a two-month hockey tour that saw the team win 23 of 24 games against national teams across the continent, including Sweden, France, Germany, Switzerland and England. One of the games he played in Germany was played in front of future German chancellor Adolf Hitler.
He and his wife returned to New Hampshire for good in the late 1930s and resumed playing for the Amesbury Maples, helping lead the team to a New England amateur title in 1939-40. He would play for the Maples until 1969, playing his last game at the age of 66 at the Phillips Exeter Academy Rinks and getting named game MVP.
He served as the UNH varsity coach for one season in 1939 and began refereeing games in 1953, continuing for many years. Through his refereeing and coaching, he became known as “Mr. Hockey” in Exeter and was good friends with Jim Houston, who started the Exeter Youth Hockey program in 1961.
His family has continued his hockey legacy. Thurston’s sons, Donald and David, his six grandchildren and his two great-grandchildren all played and/or coached in Exeter, with several going on to play the sport in prep school or college.
Thurston passed away in 1987 at the age of 84.