A Century of Hamilton College Hockey
Documenting the last 100 years of Hamilton College hockey is a daunting task. In the past, our narrative has been episodically covered when milestones were met, such as a coach’s retirement, or when a team or player had an outstanding achievement. The 1984 Alumni Review, for example, featured a detailed hockey history article by Frank Lorenz, in honor of the retirement of famed coach Greg Batt. Our goal is to assemble here what we can from the few written sources available, and to supplement those annals with stories and pictures from those who were involved with hockey on the Hill (and are willing to share their memories and memorabilia).
An enduring theme from the beginning has been an active town-gown hockey relationship between Hamilton College and Clinton. Albert Prettyman helped bring hockey to the Village early on, in part so his son could play the game. Although we are still counting the records, at least fifty Clintonians went on to play at Hamilton through the years. More recently, the wonderful grassroots program, “Breaking Bread”, connects Hamilton Continental players with Clinton youth hockey families for regular meals and shared practices.
In the shadow of WWII, the late 1930s and 1940s held seminal changes for the Hamilton team. Albert Prettyman had returned to his responsibilities as coach and Athletic Director following the USA’s Bronze Medal performance in 1936, and the team turned things around in the next few years. Many of Hamilton’s finest players were lost to the war, and the demand for soldiers significantly reduced the number of students at this all-male campus. Those years brought great players like Charlie Redmond, Gordy Hayes (a Clinton High School graduate), and Art Nichols (another local). With the shortage of men on campus, the college cobbled together a team that included players from the Clinton Club team and played on.
With his resignation as Athletic Director in 1946, AIbert Prettyman left behind a highly recognized sports program, carefully orchestrated around academic priorities. Under his guidance, the hockey team won 136 games, lost 76 and tied 6, playing against the best teams in the east. The end of the 1940s also saw the appointment of former Colgate great Greg Batt to his first of a legendary 36 seasons as Hamilton’s coach.
In looking over the last century, we have clearly had an amazing record of employing impactful hockey coaches. Notably, eighty-five of the last one hundred years have been coached by just three gentleman—Messrs. Prettyman, Batt, and Grady, all of whom had a tremendous influence on the Hamilton men they coached. Remarkably, in yet another reflection of our intertwined Town/Gown hockey relationship, each of those three coaches had a son play Clinton hockey, and later play for him on the Hamilton team; respectively, Burt Prettyman ‘31, Greg Batt Jr. ‘71, and Brian Grady ‘00. We guess no other hockey town can match that local father/son hat trick.
Our current coach, Rob Haberbusch, has made major headway recently, as he and three players were named to the 2017 NESCAC men’s all-conference team. In the 2016-17 season, coach Haberbusch guided Hamilton to one of its best seasons ever, gaining the first seed in the NESCAC playoffs for just the second time ever.
Interestingly, Hamilton has had tremendous fortune when it comes to capable, and at times colorful, goaltending. Whether it is Francis Baker ‘38 serving as back-up goalie to the USA 1936 Olympic hockey team, or Don Spencer’s ‘59 assistance in the development of the first form-fitted goalie mask (more on that later), we have had some highly gifted keepers. Guy Hebert ‘89 has been Hamilton’s most accomplished hockey player, having earned first-team All-American honors his senior year at Hamilton before playing NHL hockey for the St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, and N.Y Rangers; as well as in goal for numerous successful World USA teams and the 1998 Olympic team. More recently, goalie Evan Buitenhuis ‘18 was named NESCAC player of the year—the fourth Hamilton hockey player to earn that honor.
Other outstanding players will be recognized further on this web site, as we have time to build out our history (again, with your help). At this stage, however, we make mention of a few players who certainly made their hockey mark at Hamilton. Tom Wheeler ‘68, a Duluth, Minnesota native, in his ‘66-’67 season, had a 2.78 point scoring average, leading all American-born players in the E.C.A.C. Michael “Sparky” Marta ‘84 attained 209 record-breaking points as one of a handful of All-Americans to have played Hamilton hockey. Other All-Americans besides Marta and Hebert include Gus Katsuras ‘06 (twice!); Joe Baudo ‘97; Harry McCabe ‘89; C. Michael Thomas ‘71; and Kurt Ziemendorf ‘77.
Hamilton appeared in the Division III Top 10 coaches poll for the first time that season, and the Continentals won a team-record six straight games the following season. The team’s first postseason victory was a 6-1 win against Amherst in the first round of the 2004 NESCAC Championship at Sage Rink. The Continentals advanced to the conference semifinals in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
Women’s hockey came to Kirkland College, and later Hamilton, as an intramural effort when Hamilton hockey stars Shawn George ‘77 and Kurt Ziemendorf ‘77 organized practices and games with Lisa Mesinger Pontiuk ‘77 and other Kirkland women at Sage. Women’s hockey has been a varsity program at Hamilton since 1996-97, when the team won 12 games. Six players have finished their careers with more than 100 points. Zoe Baldwin ‘06 holds the team record, with 136 from 2002 to 2006. Baldwin set program records for most goals in a season (30) and a career (91). She was a three-time NESCAC all-conference selection, and the 2003 rookie of the year. Other 100-point scorers include Paula Dady ‘03 (133), Amy Williams ‘99 (117), Eden Self ‘04 (111), Marissa Halligan ‘05 (109), and Stephanie Miguel ‘11 (101). Currently coached by Emily McNamara, Hamilton’s women’s team has made it to post-season NESCAC play in 14 of the last 15 seasons.
Our aim with this web site is to do our best to document the past, and provide a venue for capturing the essence of the next 100 years of Hamilton’s legendary hockey teams and coaches. 1978 hockey captain Ted Molloy provided a terrific summary of Hamilton hockey in the 1940s, assisted greatly by personal interviews with Joe Anderson, Hamilton Class of 1944.
In a recent example, which Ted writes about, one story with Joe Anderson mentioned the fine goal-keeping of Ralph “Shorty” Nichols ‘40, who was born in Clinton roughly 100 years ago, and will be interviewed soon. How exciting it will be if Shorty attends the Centennial in February 2018 as a near-centenarian!
We greatly appreciate the first hand observations of Mr. Joe Anderson, who served as Vice President of Communication & Development from 1974-1992 and was a “Life Trustee” of the college. We regret to share the news of Joe’s passing just recently. Joe will always be remembered as a true Hamilton champion in all aspects of college life, among them our proud hockey history.*
We are discovering many wonderful stories as we venture into our hockey past. Help us complete our timeline by sharing your stories about Hamilton College hockey (from any time period in the last century) so we can include them in our narrative. Thanks!
*Joe Anderson’s life will be celebrated on the Hill on Saturday, October 21, 2017.