Hockey program celebrates half century of excellence

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The state’s winningest hockey program will celebrate its half century of excellence on Saturday night, before the 2019 Bobwhites face Stowe in a game that could determine home ice for a potential semifinal rematch.

BFA (12-3-3) leads the Raiders (12-4-2) only thanks to a fortunate 1-0 win last month, and Stowe — the only Vermont team to beat Division I leader Essex — would take second away from the Bobwhites by one point if the could even the score.

Before the contest, BFA will take time to honor a program with 18 championships since playing its first game Dec. 10, 1968, a 5-4 loss to Mt. Mansfield High School. Rival Essex is No. 2 on the championship list with 15. No one else has more than Spaulding’s six. Burlington and Champlain Valley Union each have won four, Rice two, and South Burlington one.

On Saturday night, players, coaches, and managers from the program’s first half century will gather for an alumni game at 5 p.m., followed by a recepti0on at 6 and a group photo at 6:20. BFA’s first coach, Peter Mallett, will drop the first puck before attention returns to the present and the battle for a top-two seed.

Current varsity coach Toby Ducolon, the first Bobwhite drafted by a National Hockey League team, is looking forward to the celebration.

“Saturday is a huge day,” he said. “You are going to have guys come out early at 4:30 and play in an alumni game 5 to 6, and then we are going to do pictures on the ice with one big monster picture. You have the first coach of BFA hockey, Peter Mallett, coming. You have Steve Lane coming. And we will have individual pictures of families with guys who have played here before.

“BFA hockey is very important. The hockey program is important to many guys who have played in it. It is important to the school and to the community. Saturday is going to be a big day. A lot of us will not see the next 50, so we want to have some fun and enjoy it on Saturday.”

“To think of the way BFA hockey, and the sport as a whole, has shaped our community over the last 50 years is amazing,” said Dustin Degree, one of many organizers of the event. “So, to have a chance to take a night, to pause and reflect on what this group of guys has been able to accomplish in that time, is something everyone’s really looking forward to. And when you do look back it’s pretty incredible.

“Guys my age were lucky. By the time we came along St. Albans was established as a hockey town, the hockey town in Vermont. That tradition, that brotherhood and the expectation of excellence, are an easy thing for a kid to cling to when you’re growing up. It makes all the practice, and travel, and early mornings a little easier when you’re doing it to be a part of something bigger, something special.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the people who’ve built and helped keep this program and tradition strong. Teammates and coaches, guys who came before us and those who came after. People like Doc Tulip and Bird (Jon Haynes) who really made being a hockey player special at BFA. We’ve heard from Bill Beany and Red Gendron, who after all their success after their time here, are still so proud to be a part of Bobwhite hockey. It should be a great night.”