Sunday, April 03, 2016

Way Back When: My Old 1952-53 Stoneham High Ice Hockey Team Makes It Into the Stoneham High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Above is a photo of my old Stoneham High championship hockey team from 63 years ago. Seven have passed away. I am number 2 and, at 14, the youngest member of the team. The Stoneham High Athletic Hall of Fame calls the team "Stoneham's most determined and colorful team to ever lace-em-up and take the ice in Blue and White."

Stoneham High Athletic Director David Pignone showed up one day at Brothers Restaurant in Wakefield, Mass where I and a bunch of guy graduates -- girls not invited -- gather once in a while to have a bite and recall old, old times.  He was looking for  hockey players on the 1952-1953 team.

He found several: Butch Knight, Buddy Chambers, Phil Corbett, Gussie Fionda, Bob Matherson, and me, all in the old photo above. David told us that the entire team was going to be inducted into the Stoneham High Athletic Hall of Fame.

I didn't think much of it -- until I realized that this was not only legitimate but a big deal. Honorees would be inducted into  the Stoneham High Athletic Hall of Fame at the huge, luxurious, Montvale Plaza in Stoneham.  The induction took place on Saturday April 2 to a packed audience, below, treated to a delicious meal of salad, beef, roasted potatoes, and yummy desert.

Inductees were called to the podium one by one, praised for their accomplishments, and given a little Hall of Fame trophy to great applause. When our turn came, we all trooped to the front of the banquet hall where our spokesperson, Butch Knight, presided at the podium.

An earlier inductee, he was given his first pair of skates by the legendary Stoneham High coach Doc Gordon.  At 6.3 and 225 pounds and with immense power, Butch set scoring records.  A two-time G.B.I All-Star, Butch is a legend in high school hockey. Doc Gordon said that  "he makes all the right moves at the right times."

In the group photo of the Stoneham High 1952-53 team at the beginning of this story, Butch is number 10 at the bottom far right. The photo below shows what Butch looks like today. He's the giant.  I'm holding the 52-53 team photo between Bob Matherson, left, and Buddy Chambers.

Butch was a natural athlete and super competitive. As a  lineman in football, he  was a veritable stone wall protecting quarterback Johnny Lawrence from rushing opponents and opening up holes for running backs. As a defenseman  in ice hockey, he slapped shots like rockets. The Record American wrote that Butch had the "hardest slapshot in schoolboy hockey."

Butch went on to play both football and hockey at Boston University. He didn't stop there. He went on to play professional  football with the Boston Patriots for one year.

Let me now go two more truly great Stoneham High athletes at the Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony, Buddy Chambers, left, and Johnny Lawrence,  pictured below. Though Johnny was not a hockey player, he was a three-sport star in football(quarterback), basketball (forward), and baseball (catcher).

Buddy  and I lived near Dikes Pond in Stoneham where I learned to skate.  It was also where I witnessed Buddy's incredible stick handling skills. He could perform wonders with a puck; you see it, then you don't. I can't tell you how many times at Dikes he faked me out of my jock. The Boston Globe described him as "the Bob Cousy of schoolboy hockey."

In defeating Arlington 2-1 for the championship, Buddy took a centering pass in the closing minutes from Dick Heerter and stick-handled his way to the Arlington net. Faking the goalie out, "the Bob Cousy of schoolboy hockey" flipped the puck over the outstretched arm of the Arlington goalie.

The packed Boston Garden crowd erupted.   Stoneham was the G.B.I. champion!

Back to Johnny Lawrence. Not only was he a three-sport star, he was also easygoing, soft-spoken, and had a quick sense of humor. All the girls wanted him. He was easily the school's most popular all around athlete, though not with me.

Still struggling to find myself, I was jealous of Johnny. I have since gotten over it. At least I think so. Okay, maybe not.

In this blog exactly five years ago, I described Johnny as follows:

Guys at Stoneham High wanted to be like Johnny Lawrence. He was a three-sport star: football quarterback, basketball guard, and baseball catcher. He was also King of the Carnival Ball, with his Queen, Joan San Angelo. Together, they were voted Class Pair. In addition, Johnny got Best Natured, Best All Around, Most Popular, Class Athlete, and Class Sweetheart.

For more about Johnny and to get a sense of the 1950's at Stoneham High, click on this earlier story .

So long and keep moving.

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John Bracciotti wrote... 
Hi GP, Really enjoyed reading your account of the HOF induction. I said to myself I hope GP pauses and reflects on his life accomplishments , outstanding. Playing varsity for his high school team at 14 years old and no one in his life to take pleasure of the moment. I am blessed to have you as my friend. God bless you GP, John

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