Hockey is a game which U.S. boys want to play. For those who play football in the fall it becomes a natural body-contact sport in the winter." When he made that comment not long ago, Clarence Campbell, president of the National Hockey League, was hardly foreseeing that rosters of professional teams like the tough and polished Boston Bruins (pages 30 through 33) would soon be staffed by former American schoolboys. But he was reacting to the spectacular recent growth of hockey as a sport for boys in many parts of the country. For instance, 95 of 603 registered hockey teams in Minnesota are school teams. In Boston the Metropolitan District Commission plans to build three more rinks.
Nonetheless, most schoolboy and teen-age hockey in this country has been seriously handicapped because 1) basketball is so much easier and cheaper to organize, 2) inconsistent winter weather in most areas makes dependence on natural ice precarious, which in turn 3) forces any budding hockey program to depend almost wholly on the availability of artificial ice. And artificial ice doesn't come cheap. An open rink costs in the neighborhood of $100,000 to build and another $2,000 or so for annual maintenance. As a result most schoolboys get their hockey through municipal recreation departments or in leagues sponsored by commercial and fraternal organizations, and games are held on any available public ice.
Of all U.S. schools lucky enough to afford artificial rinks, none boasts the deep-rooted hockey tradition that is to be found on the beautiful 1,500-acre campus of St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H., where the photographs on the opposite and following pages were taken during last season's popular Midwinter Weekend. Although the first official hockey game involving St. Paul's students was played in 1896 (the artificial rink wasn't opened until 1954), the sport was introduced at the school—and quite possibly seen for the first time in this country—as far back as 1870, when masters and boys indulged in shinny games on Lower School Pond. By 1884 the school's own rules dictated that the leather-covered wooden puck in fashion in those days would be batted around by two teams of 11 boys to a side. Two Canadian students helped refine those rules in 1890, the first game was played six years later, and the SPS boys have been hard at it ever since. Today St. Paul's, with 350 of its 450 students playing hockey on 33 teams on six rinks, is recognized as not only the most hockey-minded American prep school but also the team with the best year-in-year-out record. In two of the three years it has entered, St. Paul's has captured the Lawrenceville Invitational Tournament. Over the years SPS has won 168 games while losing 92 and tying seven. Most of the losses, moreover, were to Ivy League college freshmen squads, whose stars, more often than not, were themselves former St. Paul's skaters.
Although St. Paul's has, from the beginning, led the prep school hockey movement in New England, the campus at Concord is by no means the sole eastern incubator for future college hockey players. Among other schools with artificial ice are Lawrenceville, Choate, Taft, Hill School, Andover, Exeter, Deerfield, St. George's, St. Mark's and Groton. Many others, in planning ahead, have listed hockey as a future must. Some schools are experimenting with a relatively inexpensive portable rink. Other schools with tight athletic budgets are also looking to developments which could lead to cheaper hockey programs. For the economics of the game alone prevent its popularity from being even greater.