December 1, 2012

HockeyTown: Concord, New Hampshire

By Mike Zhe


St. Paul’s School is widely credited for being the site of the first ice hockey game in America. (Photo: St. Paul's School)


Tara Mounsey owns an Olympic gold medal, degrees from Brown and Boston College, and a second career as a nurse practitioner. But even she had trouble with the math when asked how many hours she spent at Everett Arena growing up in her hometown of Concord, N.H.

“That would be frightening,” she said. “Throughout the winter we were probably there four times a week. I logged as much time at Everett Arena as I did at home.”

The riverside arena, which opened in 1965 and bears the name of Douglas N. Everett, a local standout who was good enough to play on the U.S. Olympic team in 1932, is a shared venue for any player from the area. But when it comes to hockey in Concord, the history stretches back even further.

Just a few minutes over the Merrimack River from the arena is historic St. Paul’s School, which is widely credited for being the site of the first ice hockey game in America, on the ponds on the school grounds in 1883, back when there were seven usable rinks.

“You’d go out and have your practice, and after practice you could find your own rink and have a shinny game until it got dark,” said Bill Matthews, the head of school who’s taught and coached there for more than 40 years. 

Tara Mounsey played three full seasons with the boys at Concord High, then struck gold in Nagano. (Getty Images)

Matthews skated for St. Paul’s in the late 1950s and early ’60s, back when Christmas break would begin with a game at Madison Square Garden and a large part of the student body would make the trip by train.

His 1983-84 team, led by future Boston Bruins defenseman Don Sweeney, became the first team to go undefeated and untied in Independent School League play. 

The school’s most famous alum, of course, is Hobey Baker, who’d go on to star at Princeton in hockey and football and whose name graces the highest individual honor in college hockey.

“There was a story about Hobey Baker, about how he would sneak out of the dormitory at night and skate on the Lower School ponds with no lights, just so he could get a feel for the puck,” said Matthews.

The history is evident all over campus, from the life-size picture of Baker near the pond to the old-time photos in the captain’s room in Gordon and Ingalls Rink.

“For me, the coolest feeling is knowing you’re part of something that’s much bigger,” said current St. Paul’s coach Mark Bozek (Manchester, N.H.), who played at the school in the mid-1990s. “Many people have come before you, better people than you, and you get to hand it down to the next generation.”

From the Concord Hockey Club, Millville Bruins and Sacred Heart Club, which trace their respective roots to the 1920s and ’30s, to the heyday of the Concord Budmen in the 1970s and ’80s, adult amateur hockey has thrived in the Capital City.

Nowhere in the state is the high school hockey landscape more lush. Former coaches like Dick Ryerson of Concord High School and the late Cecil “Bud” Luckern of Bishop Brady helped plant the seeds for success to this day.

Under coach Duncan Walsh (Concord, N.H.) — himself a standout across town at Bishop Brady in his playing days in the late 1970s — Concord has won six Division 1 championships in his 22 years behind the bench, most recently in 2010, and eight overall. 

CONCORD FACTS

Location: Ten miles north of Manchester, the state’s largest city, near the geographic center of the state.
Population: Roughly 42,000
About town: Incorporated in 1733 and is the capital of New Hampshire.
Rinks: Douglas N. Everett Arena, located at 15 Loudon Road, opened in 1965; St. Paul’s School has two enclosed rinks after a renovation project in 1999.
Sports history: Concord High School has won eight Division 1 championships in hockey. Bishop Brady has reached the championship game five times, losing each one. The 93,521-seat New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the site of two annual NASCAR/Sprint Cup races, is located in neighboring Loudon and is the largest sporting facility in New England. 
Local legends: Tara Mounsey won a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team in 1998. Matt Bonner is in his ninth season in the NBA and seventh with the San Antonio Spurs. Bob Tewskbury pitched for 13 seasons in the major leagues. Brian Sabean is the GM of the San Francisco Giants.

Bishop Brady has never won a state championship, losing in the finals five times: 1973, ’79 and ’80, and again in 2007 and ’08 during a recent resurgence under coach and alum Clint Edinger (Pembroke, N.H.).

Mounsey played three full seasons with the boys at Concord, missing one with an injury. As a senior in 1995-96, she led the Crimson Tide to the first of what would be four straight state championships and was named Player of the Year.

Two years later, she was an integral part of the U.S. team that would win the first women’s hockey gold medal, stunning Canada in the final in Nagano, Japan. She was named to the All-World teams in both 1998 and 2002 in Salt Lake City, where Team USA settled for silver.

Of course, the Olympic trail had already been blazed by Everett, whose name graces the arena where Mounsey and others spent so many hours growing up.

“It’s hard to compare eras,” said Jim Hayes, the executive director of the New Hampshire Legends of Hockey, “but (Everett) was one of the best players in that era and one of the best players to come out of Concord.”

Mounsey makes her home in the Boston area, where she is a nurse practitioner at New England Baptist Hospital and the mother of two young boys. But she has fond memories of her hockey childhood in Concord, skating with the Concord Capitals and Concord Selects.

The Concord Youth Hockey Association traces its roots to 1959, when it was founded by former University of New Hampshire player Russ Martin, who also served on the school board and played a big role reviving the varsity program at Concord High School.

“Not all towns have the programs that Concord has,” said Mounsey. “And to have it in your backyard was something special. I do appreciate it.”

This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Twitter: @MikeZhe603
Email: mzhe@hockeyjournal.com