Today's highlighted goalie is Bob Rodrique, who was "proud and happy to participate in my 'goaltenders' challenge.” He had some extensive and fond memories of those days between the pipes, that I have had to edit somewhat. Rita Dube at the Sun Office was instrumental in getting Bob's handwritten material typed up and emailed to me — thanks, Rita!
Bob's career began when he was 11 (in 1966) when his mother dropped him off at the Green St. "Arena" for practice with St. Joseph's School. As he explained, "I wasn't a very good skater but I had a strong desire to play, and the team's coach, Don Huot, gave me a shot at playing in the nets, and the fact I showed some promise, helped me fall in love with the position. I was eventually promoted to the starting goalie and we played every Saturday morning at the old Notre Dame Arena in the Berlin Grammar School League."
The legendary Husky Poirier got an "all-star" travel team together, which was the beginning of the Berlin Youth Hockey Program and Bob got to play some quality hockey with those teams.
"Husky felt it was best to compete against bigger and better teams if we were to improve our game and for us sprouting young hockey players, it was an exciting time,” he shared.
The next step for Bob was Notre Dame High School hockey and in the winter of 1972. Notre Dame was playing its last hockey, as the school would close in the spring and combine with Berlin High School that fall. Bob was the goalie for NDHS and led his team to a thrilling 2-1 win over the longtime rival Berlin High in the last regular-season home game played between those two teams at the NDA. Notre Dame later played BHS in the semifinal of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association’s playoffs and won 3-2, before beating Manchester Memorial also by a 3-2 score to win its 19th and final N.H. State Hockey Championship, a longstanding feat that will probably never be matched again.
Interesting too is that Bob's Dad played on the Notre Dame team that won their first state championship in 1947, and son, Bob in the final one, in a game he described as "the best game of my life." Note: If interested, Bob did donate his scrapbook highlighting that final run to the championship, to the Moffit House in Berlin.
Onto Berlin High where Bob tended their net during the 1972-73 season, one where BHS was ranked No. 4 in the nation for high school hockey, especially after combining the two schools. I am sure they could have furnished two quality teams in the NHIAA ranks but it was not to be. Can you imagine having to be the coach of that team and having to select from all of those talented players? There must have been some very disappointed players come roster revealing time!
Regardless of where they were ranked, they had a great regular season but lost 6-5 to Bishop Brady in the state semifinal game — as Bob said, "Very disappointing and there were plenty of tears and broken hearts after that loss."
From there Bob played for the Maroons, with "packed arenas wherever we went and where winning the Men's Senior Amateur Hockey Championship was special. Next, I played in the Monday night men's league until I reached my retirement age (40)." (Note: gee Bob, I am still "playing" hockey 30 years beyond that age — maybe I should have stopped when I was ahead of the game).
He added: "I had a great time stopping pucks (sometimes!) for all of those great teams. Coaches who guided me along the way, included Don Huot and Romeo Tremblay, who had the greatest influence on my career, as he instilled playing with heart and desire at all times. Huskey Poirier coached me as a young all-star then as a Maroon and Albie Brodeur at BHS."
As a goalie, Bob was spared any numerous and serious injuries, except a slap shot off the stick of Paul (Blueberry) Deblois that penetrated his mask, broke his nose and caused a deviated left side septum.
Bob listed some of the many talented guys he played with including goalies — Dodo Lacroix, Rod Blackburn, Ray Letourneau (Concord Budmen), Hog Nolan, Gump Nolin and Jason Poirier. Defense — Al Cayouette, Mitch Dumont, Marc Richard, Joey Martin, Allen Demers, Jamie Boucher. Forwards — DeDe Villeneuve, Carl Langlais, Danny Rooney, Roger Letourneau (BHS-Maroons), Ray St. Onge, Weasel Roy, Hank Leclerc, Johnny Normand, Frankie Roy, Ducky Martin, Butch Poirier and Denny Poulin. Now that is an all-star lineup for sure!
"Don't forget Red Gendron too, who started playing street hockey with us on 5th Avenue, on through junior Maroons, BHS, and right to winning the Lord Stanley Cup with the NJ Devils,” Bob said. “And then to top that off, he showed so much class by bringing the Cup to Berlin to celebrate and honor all who were part of his early hockey career."
The memories are extensive but some specific ones included, "Playing a Pee Wee game in Massachusetts and then going to see Berlin High win the New England Hockey Championship in Providence, R.I. Stopping a Johnny Normand penalty shot in our final game at the NDA against Berlin to preserve that 2-1 win. In the semifinals that year, having BHS' Bobby Dupuis' shot hit my post, only to have Buzz Beaudoin take it to the other end and score to give us that overtime win over Berlin and on our way to the finals. Being chosen for the all-tourney goalie was special, too.”
After high school Bob had some opportunities for bigger and better things relating to his hockey career but "I messed up in a few areas that I regret, but everything happens for a reason." He went on to say, "I saved and allowed many goals in the course of my career but what I cherish the most are my teammates, coaches, staff and those I was fortunate to meet along the way through hockey."
"It was very special to be part of the great rivalry between Notre Dame and Berlin High, with the packed Notre Dame Arena — exciting, incredible and indescribable experience, almost as thrilling as winning a Lord Stanley Cup, a dream that every young player has."
Thanks, Bob for sharing a part of your story with us-you have quite the memory and I hope and pray I have been sensitive and as inclusive as I could be with writing it.
Final note: Dick Perreault and I were talking hockey the other day and he mentioned back in the 1950s Notre Dame High had a goalie by the name on Ron Croteau, who in one game that Dick was playing in, took a slap shot in the teeth (no masks back then), which did quite a bit of facial damage. If anyone remembers Ron and his injury as well as his career at NDHS and would be willing to share it with me, send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text me at (603) 723-2903.
The Berlin-Gorham No.1 Babe Ruth team defeated Littleton on Tuesday 8-3 at Remick Park. Kolin Melanson pitched four innings of "no hit" ball with young Isaac Langlois pitching well over the final three innings. Kolin Melanson struck out six.
Anthony Pizzuto was the offensive star with two hits, including his first Babe Ruth home run, a 340-foot solo shot over the left-center field fence — he also had three RBI. Griffin Melanson had a pair of hits and two RBI.
Coach DJ Johnson felt the "game was a bit sloppy and the boys need to adjust better to average pitching and play with more confidence as we had a break for the holidays before getting into the ‘meat’ of our schedule. The real plus we have going right now is our pitching has been very good and we are very deep with a number of guys who can ‘bring it.’”
The next game is scheduled for Monday, July 6, the BG2 team will host Littleton at Memorial Field, 6 p.m.