James D. Houston

One of the pioneers of youth hockey in Exeter, the late Jim Houston served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and was a football and baseball standout at Nichols (Mass.) College – getting elected to that school’s Athletic Hall of Fame – before settling in New Hampshire, where he’d spend the rest of his life.

A native of Bronxville, N.Y., Houston moved to Exeter with his family in 1955 and immediately became part of the community, taking over the Curtain Shop from his father-in-law and joining the Chamber of Commerce, and later serving as a selectman and on the Planning Board in town.

He was one of the founders of the Exeter Youth Hockey Association in 1961, which developed a successful house league program and All-Star system and still exists today, and was also a driving force behind the formation of a team at Exeter High School.

Exeter High School’s first team was a club team in 1967-68. The NHIAA approved it as a varsity program the next year and its enjoyed great success at the Division I and II levels over the last five decades.

But youth hockey is where Houston, who is being inducted posthumously as a builder, left his greatest mark. He helped develop a model that stressed opportunity, participation and a level playing field for children of all skill levels to grow, advance and improve, a model that stayed in place for more than two decades.

Houston raised funds for the fledgling program, secured ice time for the teams and coached in the newly-formed EYHA.

“He had a love of life and sport, and ice hockey was at the center,” said Peter Maher, an Exeter native and (Legends Hall of Famer ’12).

A year after his death in 1970, then-Phillips Exeter Academy coach George Crowe (Legends Hall of Famer ’04), a friend, started the Jim Houston Tournament, which was originally made up of eight top-tier Bantam teams from the region and still exists, in a different format, today.