Wayne Hallee, Chief Hockey Nut
This is the blog post where I tell you my life story to show you where I have been, how I got here, and where I am going. If you don’t care to hear all of the details, feel free to skip this post…
OK, if you are still reading this, then you clearly want to learn more about me. Well, here it goes, my story:
Early childhood and my youth years
I was raised in a hockey crazed family. My mom is Canadian born, and grew up in northern New Brunswick, Canada. My dad is originally from the state of Maine, USA, and his grandparents immigrated to Maine from the Province of Quebec, Canada. My grandfather on my dad’s side got the hockey bug in his youth, who handed it down to my dad, who then handed it down to me. So, I am a third generation hockey nut, if you will. Many of my cousins are also big hockey fans and regularly play the sport as well.
I grew up in the 70s and 80s in the state of Vermont, USA. Winters back then were filled with the outdoor game. There was an outdoor rink about a 5 minute walk from my childhood home. My family was heavily involved in the local outing club, which maintained the rink, and most nights and weekends were spent “down at the rink”, either skating, playing hockey, or working on the rink itself. I started skating at the age of 3, and at the age of 9, I became eligible to play for the town youth team. We played in a local league involving all of the surrounding towns in the area. It was a league that played by it’s own rules, as USA Hockey didn’t exist yet (back then, it was actually known as AHAUS, and they presided over just travel programs that played in the indoor arenas). There were only 2 age groups in the NCYHL (North Country Youth Hockey League). Middle school kids were put on one team, and high school kids on the other. The younger division was known as “Juniors” and the older division was known as “Seniors”. Elementary school aged kids could play on the junior team, but this was rare unless they had the talent to “skate up”. I played in the NCYHL until the league disbanded after my first year on the Senior team.(mostly due to high insurance costs and lack of interest). My town team actually had decreasing participation the last 3 years of the league’s existence. During my final season of junior eligibility, our town could not field a full team, so I went and tried out and made the local travel team. This was to be my only season of “indoor” youth hockey prior to high school. The team I played on ended up finishing third in the state of Vermont that year. It was one of my fondest memories as a youth hockey player. My favorite memory as a youth player though was the year we won the NCYHL championship.
83-84 The championship season
Our town was known as the perennial cellar dwellers of the old NCYHL. This was due mostly in part to our town being by far the smallest town (in terms of population) in the league, so our teams tended to have much less depth than the other towns. Most years, while most towns fielded junior teams made up of mostly 6th, 7th, and 8th grade kids, with 3 full lines of players, our town only had one line, maybe a line and a half at best, of the older kids. The rest of the team was made up of 5th, 4th, and even 3rd graders. So, generally we lost most of our games. But in 83-84, things were different. We had an unusually high number of older kids on the team (for us, anyway), just enough to be able to compete with almost every team in the league. (I was only 10, so I was one of the young kids). We still lost all regular season games against the two largest towns, but we beat everyone else. So, going into the playoffs, we expected a third place finish, which still would have been the best finish ever for our team. We had the #3 seed, and easily made it to the semi-final, where we faced the #2 team. We had played close games with them in the regular season but came up short each time. This time, we played them to a 2-2 tie late in the third, and with just 21 seconds remaining in the third, our best player scored the game winner, and we won the game to advance to the championship against the #1 seed. Our opponent had a long history of regularly winning this league. They were the only town in the league that had an indoor arena just a few miles away. Consequently, many of their players also played on travel teams based in that arena. Well, the day of the championship game, that team was missing a few of their best players due to their travel commitments, and what would have been a likely 4-2 or 5-3 loss ended up being a 9-1 win for us, and we won the league championship! To this day, this team is the only hockey team based in our town ever to win a championship. And, below is our team photo, taken a few weeks after the win. We took the photo at our home rink, but because the ice melt was well underway, we had to wear our shoes. The rink was located next to the town paper mill, which is our backdrop:
A few years later, the core of this team went on to play again in the championship game in the Senior division of the NCYHL. But it wasn’t without some excitement. That season, there were only 4 teams left in the league in its final season, so they decided to do a round-robin in the playoffs, with the top 2 teams advancing to the championship. Well, with the way everything shook out, we ended up going into our final round-robin game having to win the game by at least 7 goals in order to advance to the final. The other team knew this too. This was a team we had beaten all year, but never by that many goals. So, we went into the game with the mindset that we were down 7-0 at the start of the game. We threw everything we had at them, and we ended up winning the game 8-1, earning 2nd place in pool play and a spot in the championship. This time around, we lost 4-1 to the same town that we had beat in our championship year of 83-84.
High School Hockey
My sophomore year of high school was the first and only year of my youth where I had no place to play. But that year, with the help of several parents and teachers, we began the process of organizing a hockey team at my high school, and in my junior year, we began play. My junior and senior year of high school was a lot of fun. We drew great crowds to the games, but we only saw moderate success on the ice. We were roughly a .500 team those years, which wasn’t bad for a startup team. The team was made up of kids who played in that travel program that I was a part of for one season. But that travel program fed two high school teams, so neither team could compete regularly at the state tournament level. But when the two schools played each other, it was the most fun and hardest games at the same time. The two schools have a fierce football rivalry that goes back over 120 years, and it carries over to other sports as well. But because we all played for the same youth program, we all knew each other. So, you can imagine the trash talk that went on during the games.
After high school, I went on to the University of Maine, but no, I was not going there to play for the school team. I did the next best thing. I got a part-time job working at Alfond Arena, where the school team played. I attended UMaine between 1991 and 1995, and they were a NCAA powerhouse under coach Shawn Walsh back in those days. The team was full of pro prospects. In 1992-1993, they went 42-1-2 on the season, winning their first of two Division I NCAA national championships. That team sent 7 players to the ’94 Olympics, the last season amateurs were used. Players from that team included Paul Kariya, Garth Snow, Mike Dunham, Jim Montgomery, Peter Ferarro, Chris Ferarro, and several other players that went on to pro careers. I worked every home game that season, and we traveled to Boston to support the team in the Hockey East Championships at the old Boston Garden. I was part of the ice crew, where I was assigned to one of the nets between periods of games. I even worked my way up to being a Zamboni driver! While at Maine, I played more hockey than I ever did in Vermont. I played every chance I got. I played pickup sessions, intramural leagues, and even late night after-hours sessions when I worked there. I even experienced playing summer hockey for the first time. At the time, I thought it was pretty unique and cool to play hockey in the summer. I do it all the time now.
Young adult years
During and after college, I got involved in coaching hockey, first, helping with friends’ kids’ teams, then coaching my own kids. At the same time, I got started officiating games. As my kids began to get involved in the game, I got involved with their youth hockey organization, but not just as a coach. I got elected to the local board of directors for my kid’s youth hockey organization. I served on the board until we moved from Maine to North Carolina.
So, today, I am still fairly involved in the local scene. My kids’ have decided to pursue other interests, so I am no longer involved in the local youth program, but I still play and officiate in the local adult leagues. I love the game more than ever, and I cannot seem to get enough of it, which is why I created this website. I know there are others out there like me, and my intention with this site is to inform and entertain other hockey nuts out there. In the future, I will be offering tons of information for folks who are fans of the game, who have been wanting to get involved at their local level, but don’t know where to start. Eventually, I will be building a resource site for youth hockey coaches out there, offering things like practice plans, drills, plays, and so on, in order to help volunteer hockey coaches maximize their time on and off the ice.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your answer, and I will respond to help you with your struggles as best I can. Oh, and to answer the inevitable question of who my favorite NHL team is… Of course, my favorite team is the Boston Bruins. Always has been since I attended my first Bruins game in ’83.