Paul ‘Pop’ Whalen

The beloved Paul Whalen, so the story goes, was christened Pop sometime in the middle 1950s, perhaps when he was 27 years old. He became a father figure to many of the teenage Brewster Academy hockey players he was coaching and they looked at him through reverent, admiring eyes. At first, they called him Dad. He felt, though, the name was inappropriate because each player already had a dad. Then someone offered up Pop as a substitute name and it stuck. To this day, just mention Paul Whalen to older New England hockey players and fans and you’ll hear, “Oh, you mean Pop!”

Paul Whalen was a player, a coach and mentor, a friend to many far and wide, and he greatly loved the game of hockey. He grew up in Massachusetts, in the cities of Somerville and Medford. At Medford High School, he played varsity hockey, graduating in 1945. He then served in the US Navy and in the fall of 1949 enrolled at Boston University as a 22-year-old freshman. A degree was on his mind but so, too, was hockey. Among other things, he played in the first Bean Pot Tournament in 1952, losing to Harvard, 7-4, in the final round. In 1953, BU won the Eastern College title and Pop was named an all-star center and an MVP. He also received the Ray Speare Award as an outstanding scholar-athlete before graduating in 1953. Later, he played with the Berlin Maroons and the Laconia Lakers of the Granite State Hockey League.

Pop arrived in Wolfeboro with his wife Wini in 1954 and for the next 17 years was Mister Everything at Brewster Academy. He taught physical education, history, psychology and accounting. Then he became Brewster’s first Athletic Director and later the Assistant Headmaster.

It was as hockey coach, though, that he left his most indelible mark. He first revived the hockey program for the 1956-57 season and then won the Lakes Region title 11 of his 16 coaching years.

In 1971, Pop moved across the state line to Maine to become a faculty member and coach at Berwick Academy. In 1973, he was named Athletic Director and Director of Admissions. Later, he was named Assistant Headmaster.

His Berwick Academy hockey teams became legendary. Notable nuggets: four Lakes Region League titles, two New England titles, a 1974 NE Junior A title with a #4 national ranking, a 4th-place finish in a National Junior AHA tournament, and a stellar tour of Scandanavia. Also, more than 50 graduates from Pop’s era went on to play college hockey. One of the more familiar names is Eruzione.

In 1980, Pop left Berwick Academy to become principal of Windsor High School and in 1990 retired, ending a stunning 36-year career in education. He died on October 10, 2008.

In 1977, the Skating Center in Wolfeboro was named in his honor.