Phillips Exeter Academy
Ice Hockey has a long and storied history at Phillips Exeter Academy. Reviewing that history makes it clear that the early years of hockey were heavily influenced by the struggle to sustain play on natural ice despite the vagaries of winter weather. This early era was succeeded by play on an outdoor rink with artificial ice. And finally, the modern era at the Academy is clearly demarked by the completion of indoor rinks.
“Tug” Tyler organized an informal hockey team in 1911, acting as coach and captain. Later, Tyler became a hockey captain at Dartmouth College.
In 1913, the Phillips Exeter Senior Council was responsible for starting the first hockey team. A flooded rink, 175 x 75 feet, was placed on the Academy’s Plimpton Playing Fields with little success. The first scheduled hockey game was in 1913 against the Boston Latin School, with Captain Winston’s team winning on the Water Works Pond in 1913.
In 1916, the game against Phillips Andover Academy was played in a heavy snowstorm on a flooded soccer field. An early picture shows the Exeter players wearing white pants, the boards were low, and the cages wooden. This game was in two twenty-minute periods. Class hockey (that is, intramural play) began in 1916 to accommodate the interest among the student body.
Mr. M.B. Perkins became the first official coach of hockey in 1917. Games were played on several areas of Fresh River. It’s easy to realize the difficulties which these early teams encountered playing on the river and ponds without boards.
Captain Dion, who had played with the champion Victorias of Canada and also with the McGill team, took over coaching in 1919. In 1920, Mr. Clarence Parker, who later became the Claremont High School Athletic Director, took over coaching. A severe winter that year permitted all games to be played.
In 1923, three rinks, one for the Academy squad and two for the class teams, were built adjacent to the playing fields. In 1926, in addition to poor ice conditions, a scarlet fever epidemic caused many contests to be cancelled.
This early era of PEA hockey was now overseen by the dominant figure of Percy Rogers, who coached the teams from 1924 through 1949. His teams played 208 regulation games, with a record of 115 wins, 75 losses, and 18 tied scores. He was also a Vice President of the Eastern Hockey Officials Association, and President of the Northern New England Hockey Officials Association. During his career, Coach Rogers’ varsity teams beat Andover 20 times, lost 11, tied 2, and won 8 out of 10 major tournaments. Highlights included:
1930: Hockey became a major sport at the Academy. Captain Frank Spain and Art Lane were outstanding on this year’s undefeated team.
1935: An Exeter hockey team met the Yale freshman for the first time in New Haven.
1937: The Northwood School sponsored a hockey tournament at Lake Placid in the Christmas vacation for eight eastern teams: Andover, Williston, Choate, Nichols, Morristown, Albany, Northwood, and Exeter.
By defeating Northwood and Nichols and playing to a 1-1 tie with Albany Academy, Exeter was declared a co-winner of the Whiting trophy.
1937: Completion of a new natural ice rink on the Exeter campus with the first permanent boards, rounded at the corners, a surface area as large as in standard arenas, and covered shelter nearby with arrangements for a fire during intermissions. Nearby were two rinks for the class teams.
Noteworthy players from this era were J.P. Chase ’24, D.K. Stuckey ’37, D. Whiston ’48, H.E. Bothfeld, ’49, all Olympic team selections. Bothfeld was the school’s leading scorer until 1997, with 71 goals and 50 assists for 121 points. In 1955, he played on the U.S. national hockey team in the World Championships.
Artificial Ice – Finally!
February 13, 1954 marked the inauguration of a new outdoor rink with artificial ice. The 200′ x 85′ regulation rink overcame once and for all the uncertainties of carrying on a hockey program in the face of changing weather conditions. Games on this day were scheduled against the Harvard freshmen (a win for the Exeter varsity) and the Percy Rogers Alumni All-Stars versus the Exeter JV (a win for the All-Stars). The new rink was described by Former Coach Percy Rogers as “perfect, well-lighted, with good boards, excellent ice-cleaning facilities, and spectator accommodations.”
The completion of the George H. Love Gymnasium in 1970 ushered in the modern hockey era at the Academy, with its overall area of 220,000 square feet, including two indoor hockey rinks. The capacity in hockey rink “A” is 600. It supports simultaneous play by the boys and girls teams.
Patrick Dennehy ’92, son of Coach Bill Dennehy, became the second highest all-time scorer in 1992 with 39 goals and 75 assists for 114 points. In 1991, he was a member of the New Hampshire hockey team that competed with 28 other state all-star teams and won the national title in Chicago. The current all-time leading scorer for the Exeter boys is Russell Bartlett ’97, who amassed 275 career points with 102 goals and 173 assists, and went on to play at St. Lawrence.
Geoff Koch ’98 (177 total career points) went from Exeter to win a national championship at Michigan in his freshman year and to later become Captain of the Wolverines before being picked in the second round of the NHL draft by the Nashville Predators.
A notable achievement was the success of the boys team, which won the 1999 New England Championship with a 30-3 overall record. This team was captained by Manchester, NH native, Greg Boucher ’99, who went on to play at Yale. Boucher was Co-MVP for the season, along with Josh Prudden ’99. Prudden was named Prep School Player of the Year, went on to play at UNH, and now plays in the AHL for the Worcester Sharks.
Also worth a mention is Tommy Cavanagh ’01, who scored 42 goals, the most in a season at Exeter. He went on to play at Harvard, and now plays alongside Prudden in the AHL for the Worcester Sharks.
Exeter’s boys hockey players have gone on to play at Division I and Division III programs such as Harvard, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Williams, and Boston College. There are at least four former players currently playing pro hockey in the AHL and the NHL. Exeter’s team is one of the strongest teams in New England and has been nationally ranked.
Girls Hockey Debuts
The Girls Hockey program started in 1974-75, one of the first prep schools to have a girls’ team. Charlie Pratt ’52 coached the team from 1980-85. Lee Young ’82 coached the team from 1987-2000. A strong girls team won the Division I New England Championship in 2000, matching the boys success the previous year. The team MVP that year was Kerri Sanders ’01. The co-captains were Kaitlin McGrath ’00 and Kathryn Koch ’00.
Exeter has placed its female athletes at Amherst, Brown, Bowdoin, Boston College, Colgate, Cornell, Harvard, Hamilton, Middlebury, Princeton, Williams, University of New Hampshire, University of Vermont, University of Wisconsin-SP, and Yale to name a few.
A Legacy Passed On
Exeter’s contribution to the sport of hockey extends beyond the play of individuals while at Exeter. Some examples of Exeter’s influence beyond its own program include:
Peter Bragdon ’54 coached hockey at the Kent School from 1967 through 1980 before going on to become the Headmaster at Governor’s Academy from 1983 to 1999.
George Crowe (Exeter hockey coach from 1969 to 1974) went on to coach at Dartmouth College. Along with at least five former players from Exeter, Crowe brought Dartmouth to the NCAA National Championships in 1979 and 1980, where they finished third both years.
Joe Marsh ’71 has been the head coach at St. Lawrence University since 1985. St. Lawrence earned a post-season berth in each of his seasons behind the bench. Marsh has taken two teams to the NCAA Frozen Four. He has been ECAC Coach of the Year three times and won his second Spencer Penrose Award as National Coach of the Year at the end of the 1999-2000 season.
Scott Borek ’81 is the Associate Head Coach at University of New Hampshire. He has coached at several different colleges, including Dartmouth, Providence, Brown, Lake Superior State, Colby and New England College.
Tim Pratt ’84 is the Head Coach at St. Pauls School in Concord, NH and former president of the New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association (NEPSIHA). His father Charles Pratt was a coach at Exeter.
Patrick Dennehy ’92 coached hockey for eight years at the Holderness School in Plymouth, NH and is now the coach at Choate.8