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John Habib's City Sports: Hockey final recalls rivals' history

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 08. 2013 11:13PM
Wally Tafe, then head coach of Manchester Memorial, directs his team during a 2002 game against Manchester West at JFK Coliseum. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE)

There are nine NHIAA championship banners hanging at JFK Coliseum, and Wally Tafe is responsible for five of them.

The only man ever to serve as head ice hockey coach at all three Manchester public high schools, Tafe won back-to-back NHIAA titles with Central, in 1980 and '81, and won championships with Memorial in 1989, '91 and '95.

He also coached at West for two seasons, 1966-67 and '67-68, the prelude to 25-year run divided between Central and Memorial from 1979-2004 .

It should come as no surprise that he's a member of the New Hampshire Legends of Hockey Hall of Fame.

Tafe won't be a physical presence today at Verizon Wireless Arena when the two schools with whom he spent most of his career face each other for the Division I championship, but he'll be there in spirit.

"I wish I was there, but obviously I'm happy for both programs," he said in a phone conversation Thursday from his home in Florida. "It's a feather in the city's cap."

Tafe won the state title in his first season at Central in 1980. Now Brian Stone, who played for Tafe, has a chance to do the same thing.

"Brian is doing a heck of a job," Tafe said.

That's nothing new. Stone did a heck of a job as a player, too, Tafe said.

"Brian was small in size but played with a big heart. He was a clever player, an excellent skater who never got tired. He could skate forever," the former coach recalled. "He was a captain on my '84 team and one of the best players I've ever coached."

Tafe shied away from making a prediction on today's game.

"I'm not getting boxed into making one," he said. "I coached both programs, so I'm staying neutral."

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WHILE today's Division I championship will mark the first time two Manchester public-school teams face off for the title, there is precedent for an all-city final. Tafe's 1991 championship with Memorial came at the expense of cross-town rival Trinity, 4-1.

And there was a notable near-miss.

In 1980, the year Tafe won his first title, the semifinal between Memorial and Bishop Brady of Concord went to three overtimes at the University of New Hampshire's old Snively Arena before Brady scored with just more than a minute left in the third OT.

Hubie McDonough III, who would go on to play beside Wayne Gretzky in the NHL and become director of hockey operations for the Manchester Monarchs, was a junior forward on that Memorial team, playing for his father, Hubie Jr.

Under NHIAA rules at the time, the younger McDonough recalled, if a game wasn't decided at the end of three overtimes, the two teams had to play a new game the following day.

"We almost won that game, and we almost had to come back and play the whole game over again," he said. "We came down ice, and Jim Richardson slapped a shot that hit the post square - I mean the whole place heard it. Bishop Brady grabbed the rebound and came back and scored the game-winner."

The Brady player who put the puck in the net was current Concord High coach Duncan Walsh, forever remembered by some in Manchester as the villain who prevented an all-city final 33 years ago.

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McDONOUGH and George "Butch" Joseph, the former longtime director of athletics for the city's public school and now coordinator of the annual Manchester High School Christmas Hockey Classic, both believe the Central-Memorial game could draw at least 5,000 fans.

"It's because the game is being played in the city," said Joseph. "It's not in Durham; it's in the city, and I think many alumni will attend the game."

McDonough said that with the state championship on the line, people will come in droves.

"It wouldn't surprise me to see even 6,000 or 7,000," he said. "The Verizon is spacious, the seats are comfortable. It's a great atmosphere, especially for this type of game."

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THE BUZZ surrounding today's rematch is so strong, it's even recalled memories of a legendary Central-Memorial championship in another sport.

In 1971 Memorial defeated Central 64-58 in double overtime for the Class L basketball state championship at the University of New Hampshire's Lundholm Gym.

"That game will never be forgotten around here, just like Saturday's game will not be forgotten," said former Memorial forward Ron Beaurivage, who sank six free throws in the second overtime to beat Central. "Mike Flanagan fouled out of that game, and I remember Central thinking they had the game won when Mike left. It didn't turned out that way because Scotty Thompson and I made some clutch free throws to win it."

Beaurivage, a great baseball player who made it to the Triple-A level with the Oakland organization, said Memorial had a great basketball rivalries with against Nashua and Portsmouth in those days, "but nothing topped Central and Memorial.

"It was always a love-hate relationship when we played Central. We partied together, we grew up together, and you'd even have Central guys dating Memorial girls and vice versa," he said. "But when it came to playing each other, you never wanted to lose that game. I'm not a hockey buff, but I'm definitely going to (today's) game. It's going to be fun to watch."

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THE LURE of the first Central-Memorial hockey final is strong enough to draw Chris Tzianabos back to the Granite State.

A member of those 1980 and '81 Central champions, Tzianabos is now vice president and general manager of WLNE-TV, an ABC-affiliate in Providence R.I.

In an email to the New Hampshire Union Leader this week, he wrote, "I live south of Boston now and don't get up to Manchester to see the games. But I will definitely be there (Saturday) with my brother, Arthur, who was the captain of the 1981 squad."

Tzianabos said he's exchanged emails with Stone, a Central teammate in 1982 and '83, and wished him luck.

"He kindly invited me to stop by the locker room before the game," Tzianabos said. "I think it's great they're playing Memorial, as they were our arch rivals back then, too, with Hubie McDonough on the ice and his dad behind the bench."

"City Sports" appears Saturdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter John Habib at