Manchester Monarchs

Forty years before the creation of our present-day Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, there was a highly skilled local bunch also known by the same name.

Those original Monarchs played in the six-team senior-amateur New England Hockey League, and every weekend local fans jammed the old JFK Coliseum to support “their boys of winter.”

That team sadly existed for just four hockey-mad seasons-1970-71 through 1973-74-and was a spin-off of the NEHL’s Manchester Blackhawks, an organization that had created a rich history with a zealous following.

The NEHL back then had two other New Hampshire entries: the Concord Eastern Olympics and the Nashua Maple Leafs. Massachusetts was home to the other clubs: the Braintree Hawks, Framingham Pics and Lowell Chiefs. There were many heated League rivalries but none burned more intensely than what always lived between the Monarchs and the Concord Eastern Olympics.

At the end of the 1969-70 season, the Blackhawks, for financial reasons, folded. That news, in Manchester’s many neighborhoods, was cause for great lamentation.

But on May 21, 1970, the city’s hockey fans threw off their grief and cheered mightily when the news broke that a quartet of businessmen, collectively calling themselves Queen City Hockey, Inc., had purchased the Blackhawks’ franchise. The promise was to put a team on the ice without missing a beat and the four rescuers who did that were: Al Corriveau (president), Leon Routhier (vice president), Gerard Fecteau (vice president) and Harvey Clement (treasurer.)

The new group then asked the public to help re-christen the team. The nickname of Monarchs by a wide margin was selected over Royals, Kings and Knights. Then uniform colors were decided on-black, gold, white, ala the Boston Bruins-and each jersey’s front was filled with a large gold crown emblematic of The Monarchy.

Next came the hiring of Jerry Paquette, who arrived in Manchester fresh from several seasons as head hockey coach at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. About that same time, management signed the first Monarchs’ player: Norm “Kangaroo” Hebert. A Canadian by birth, Hebert had settled in Manchester in 1962 and had played for the Blackhawks, endearing himself to local hockey fans for his on-ice speed and acrobatics, as well as his goal-scoring skills.¬† He returned to Canada in 1976 and in 2007 was inducted into the New Hampshire Legends of Hockey Hall of Fame.

The team compiled a 32-6-1 record and centerman Ray Champagne won the NEHL regular-season scoring title with 30 goals and 60 assists. Teammates Real St. Jean and Pete Belanger, respectively, scored 89 and 87 points, giving the
Monarchs the top three scorers in the League.

The team also posted a League best of 15 consecutive unbeaten games, plus League-leading streaks of 17 wins at home, and 15 wins on the road.

In the playoffs, the Monarchs swept Concord from contention in three straight games, and followed up with four straight wins over Braintree to take the title. The season’s overall record was 39-6-1.

The NEHL, with the financial dissolution of the Nashua franchise, had a minor re-alignment to make. The Fitchburg (MA) Hornets were invited to join the fold and accepted in plenty of time to begin the new season. Earlier, Monarchs’ head coach, Jerry Paquette, stepped down for work reasons. He was replaced by Ron Peters, former head coach of the Nashua Leafs. However, in early December, Peters was forced to resign due to his heavy work commitments.

The Monarchs then looked to longtime defenseman, Jacques LeClerc, who agreed to step off the ice and move in behind the bench. He coached the team to a 27-9-4 overall record and the Monarchs scored a League best 273 goals, while allowing just 169, the third fewest in the League.

In the playoff finals, Manchester beat Concord in five games to win its second straight League title.

Again under LeClerc, the Monarchs this time posted a 24-13-1 record to finish the regular season in third place.  Manchester then was ousted from the playoffs in the first round after four games against rival Concord. Two of those grinding match-ups went to overtime. The NEHL title went to Braintree.

Sadly, at season’s end, the financially weak NEHL dissolved.

With the League’s demise, Monarchs’ ownership sold the franchise to Claude Vaillancourt of Manchester.

Ultimately, the Canadian-American (Can-Am) League was created, with two Divisions: Southern and Northern.

The Southern grouping was comprised of the Manchester Monarchs, the Concord Eastern Olympics and the Framinghams Pics. The Northern grouping had four teams: the Montreal Police, St. Ignace, PQ, L’Assumption, PQ, and Boisclair, PQ.

Concord, after a three-team round-robin series, advanced to a best-of-five series against Framingham and in four outings won the Southern Division title. A League championship series was never played, though, due to scheduling difficulties and a lack of ice availability.

The League proved unprofitable and in July of 1974 it became a footnote in hockey history.

The following season of 1974-75 there was no senior hockey in Manchester, forcing local fans to turn their hockey eyes to other places.

As for the Monarchs players, some of them traveled north to Concord to skate that season with the newly formed Tri-City Coachmen. And the following season of 1975-76, many of those players skated with the Concord Budmen.

And now, 27 seasons after the original Manchester Monarchs became history, a new group is in town: the professional
Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League.

Affiliated with the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL, the team took up home-ice residence in the Verizon Wireless Arena and in 2001 debuted on the road October 6 and at home November 16.

It’s now 10 seasons later and the writing of this latest chapter in the Hockey History of Manchester, NH is still happily going on.

Here is a list of Monarch players from their four seasons of play.

Ken Abbott
Dean Anderson
Pierre Belanger
Willie Bibeau
Paul Blanchard
Dick Brace
Rich Brugman
Rollie Campeau
Ray Champagne
Leon Charron
Len Couture
Larry Davenport

Ron DiGregorio
Baine Donovan
Ron Dubreuil
Jean-Marc Dubreuil
Joe Fiddler
Andre Fortin
Jean-Guy Gagnon
Bob Grottalauria
Ed Grzywacz
Frank Haskell
Norm Hebert
Joe Jangro

Gary Jaquith
Woody Johnson
Steve Jones
Bob Kullen
Andy Lambert
Tom Labrecque
Jack LeClerc
Ken Martin
Mark McConnell
Joe McGilbrary
Andy McNulty

George McPhee
Charlie Morgan
Steve Murphy
Dave Murphy
Kevin Palanski
Andre Prefontaine
Bob Reardon
Bob Rowe
Larry Smith
Real St. Jean
Andy St. Laurent
Jack Wilkins

Compiled list may not be complete. Names were taken from available programs and news periodicals.