This season represents a milestone for the Haverhill High School hockey team.
It was 50 years ago that the first Haverhill High Varsity team hit the ice. For those oldest enough to remember, Gerald Ford was sworn in as vice president in December, the film “The Exorcist” made its debut and Richard “Spike” Sprague scored the first goal for the Haverhill Hillies hockey team.
“I was fortunate enough to be on the ice for the first shift, and I got lucky enough to score the first goal, and the only thing that upset me the whole time was my coach said whoever scored the first goal would get a cigar. I never got the cigar,” he said.
Sprague told the story recently when he appeared on WHAV’s “Win for Breakfast” program. Following high school, Sprague went on to a long coaching career that included three stints with Haverhill High School and 11 years coaching Newburyport, eventually being inducted into the Massachusetts High School Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame. With all that ice time, he shared fond memories of his start as a Haverhill High School hockey player. Playing conditions were much different 50 years ago.
“Well, it’s kind of funny. They opened the Haverhill rink in 1971 or 72, I believe, and at the time there were intramurals from the high school. Then, they started the hockey program. We had no ice time at the rink, we had to practice in Amesbury, Andover, Billerica and actually the first Haverhill game against Lawrence was played at our home rink in Amesbury. Kind of comical that first year we had to travel every day after school for practice. We had a rink behind our high school but it was all tied up with gym classes and the intramurals.”
As for the 50th anniversary of the Haverhill High School hockey program, Sprague is hoping for a good turnout during a celebration in mid-February.
“Feb. 17, there’s a game—Haverhill vs. Shawsheen, and Shawsheen is coached by a former Hillie, Chuck Baker, at 4 o’clock that day. They’d like to have all alumni come to the game—they’ll be honoring that first hockey team, ’73-’74, and then afterward we are going to be having a celebration at the Legion farm in Haverhill, inviting any former Hillie who played, coaches, trainers, etcetera and let’s talk hockey,” he said.
The game takes place Saturday, Feb. 17, 4 p.m., at Veterans Memorial Rink, behind Haverhill High School, 137 Monument St. Following the game, around 6 p.m., a celebration takes place at American Legion Wilbur M. Comeau Post 4, 1314 N. Main St., Haverhill.
Those with questions may email Sprague at [email protected].
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