However, the foundation of the Warde hockey program was constructed 36 years ago when Arnie Larsen, the school's first hockey coach, organized a team midway through the 1972 season.
This is the first of a five-part series on the early years of Andrew Warde High School's hockey program. Today we take a closer look at the first year, including the first team meeting, the first win, and how some of the players saved the life of a young girl.
Arnie Larsen looks like he could lace up his skates today and hit the ice. Mr. Larsen, now 80 years young, and his wife, Leah, stopped by my home to give me a scrapbook of the first few years of Warde hockey, complete with photos, stories, statistics, and anecdotes.
They had seen the story which appeared in this corner last week about this year's Fairfield Warde Mustangs and the 1976 Crimson Eagles' hockey teams, and they wanted to share the history of the team with me.
Mr. Larsen, the original coach of the Andrew Warde High School hockey team, is the person most responsible for getting the sport off the ground and onto the ice in 1972. The first year required many sacrifices, such as late-night practices, long road trips, and many fund-raising efforts, but the coach and his players succeeded because of their passion for hockey and their high school.
According to a typewritten letter dated Friday, February 25, 1972, Mr. Larsen wrote, "With the cooperation of the school, a hockey club will be formed this year. Practice sessions will start within the next week depending on ice availability."
Mr. Larsen added, "There is no question that this can be a successful venture, but it will take effort and cooperation from the parents and the students. We have the cooperation of the school, and Mr. Stone has indicated his full support for this activity."
The first club meeting was held that very same day with 19 boys in attendance. The first practice took place at Ridgefield on Monday, February 28, at 9:30 p.m. Although the Crimson Eagles dropped a 7-2 decision against Ridgefield in their first-ever hockey game on March 8, 1972, the team responded with a 6-1 victory over Katonah just two days later.
Defenseman Al Huebner played an excellent game for Warde as he scored two goals in the victory over Katonah. Center Ken Caplan, wingmen Bruce Lazar and John Grannis, and defenseman Bob Losch each netted a goal for the winners. The Eagles were aided by freshman defenseman Mike Pajolek, while junior Todd McEvily and freshman Bob Qunitiliani each turned in strong performances in the nets.
According to a Fairfield Citizen article, "Following in the footsteps of Roger Ludlowe High School, Andrew Warde successfuly launched its first hockey team this past season. Under the guidance and tutelage of Mr. A. W. Larsen, the team was formed and is playing on an independent basis.
"Their lone win was against a team from Katonah, New York, while their two defeats were at the hands of the Ridgefield and Bridgeport Bantams. Besides these games, though, a Spring hockey program is scheduled every week at the Harvey School in Katonah during the months of April, May, and June."
Trophies were presented at the awards ceremony at the end of the season to Ken Caplan and Andy Larsen as the team's leading scorers, John Grammis and Bob Losch for best defensemen, Bob Quintiliani as the top goaltender, and John Wagner as the most improved player.
As an independent club, the team was entirely self-supporting through fund drives, such as the selling of booster tickets and car washes. However, the biggest story of the year may have happened not "on the ice," but "in the ice." Team members, primarily freshmen and sophomore boys, received notoriety by saving the life of a young girl that year.
In an article published in the Lake Hills Pow Wow, one family wished to gratefully thank the two anonymous hockey players who saved an 11-year-old girl from a lake's icy water on February 5th. Without warning, the ice made a sudden crackling sound, and then opened, pluging the girl in over her head.
The Pow Wow article states, "These hockey players probably belonged to the team that Arnie Larsen iced for outdoor practice sessions on our lake this past month. They are the nucleus of the new Andrew Warde High School hockey club that Arnie has volunteered to form, coach, train, etc. Sounds like a big job, but the ex-St. Lawrence star has 1,000 booster bumper stickers and has vowed to stick one on every car in Lake Hills. We hope he does!"
Arnie Larsen and the 19 boys made tremendous sacrifices that first year due to their love of hockey. The team gelled quickly, and the Andrew Warde High School Crimson Eagles hockey team was born.
Please sign the AWHS Guest Book.
Visit the Andrew Warde High School Gift Shop.
Watch the AWHS 1976 vintage "film".