Harvey Smith, radio broadcaster, among Legends of Hockey inductees
Some played. Many watched. And for those who weren’t able to do either, there was always Harvey Smith on the radio.
For hockey fans in the capital region, Smith not only brought them the action over the airwaves, he brought them reaction, personalities and history. For a solid three decades, Smith was the friendly voice and familiar color man for WKXL radio, teaming with Jim Rivers for a vast majority of more than 1,000 games.
Tomorrow, he’ll enter the New Hampshire Legends of Hockey Hall of Fame. He’ll be inducted in the media category along with the late Bea Lambert of Berlin, players Mark Stuckey and the late Ted Rice, both from Concord, and Berlin’s Dick Bradley in the builder category. Concord High’s hockey programs also will be recognized.
For Smith, a former basketball and cross country coach at Bishop Brady and long-time tennis coach at Concord High, where he taught, moonlighting as a broadcaster turned into a labor of love.
He started out calling basketball games in 1972, when the station asked him to join its broadcast team for the Pembroke-Lebanon semifinal game after his Brady team had been knocked out in the quarterfinals.
“It was the first time that I remember in New Hampshire that a coach was asked to join a broadcast,” Smith recalled.
The next year, when he stopped coaching at Brady to take a teaching position at Concord, the radio station also was expanding to both AM and FM, and he joined one of their two basketball crews.
Hockey came along several years later, when a game was switched from evening to afternoon and the station needed an emergency fill-in. Smith stepped in, joining Dick Osborne in the booth that day, and “I fell in love with it.”
Along with being able to watch his nephews, who were playing at Concord, Smith wanted to challenge himself, calling a sport with which he was less familiar.
“I’d started to take myself seriously as a broadcaster, and I had to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted that challenge,” Smith said.
He threw himself into it wholeheartedly, picking the brains of head coaches like Concord’s Dunc Walsh and Trinity’s Doc Hurley. And learning on the job through Rivers.
“He encouraged me to be myself on the air, don’t try to copy anybody. Bring to the microphone what you see with your eyes. It’s the best advice I ever got,” Smith said. “We had a tremendous professional relationship.”
And Smith’s preparation – with color-coded file folders covered with rosters, stats, notes and history – was legendary.
“I set the bar high when I first started because of my inexperience with hockey,” said Smith, who’d spend between 5-8 hours preparing for each game. “I loved researching hockey. There’s something special about it. It’s why I like the Legends of Hockey, too, because they respect the history of hockey at all levels in the state.”
It’s hard to pinpoint his favorite memory from the booth, but several stand out:
The 15 championship games; calling the state’s first sanctioned girls’ high school game in 2007 between Concord and Lebanon; the year Tara Mounsey and Mick Mounsey teamed on the blue line for Concord – “That was an exceptional year,” he said – and the Tide’s lone loss that year in Manchester’s Coca Cola Classic Christmas tournament when Tara was away with the U.S. national team and the rematch with Trinity a few weeks later, when with Tara the Tide easily dispatched of the Pioneers; and the countless Concord-Brady showdowns, especially the 1989 tournament game when Concord, the No. 8 seed, upset top-ranked Brady.
Does he miss it?
“I do,” Smith said. “I miss the kids.”
Stuckey grew up on the St. Paul’s School campus, but he made a name for himself on the ice far from Concord.
A stellar career at Hotchkiss School and Princeton got him an invite to the U.S. Olympic team tryouts in 1975. And though he was one of the last players cut, he soon found himself playing overseas anyway, as a professional in the Italian “A” League. After five seasons in Italy, he switched to the Swiss “B” League for three seasons before returning to Italy, where he finished his two-decade pro career as both a player and coach.
No matter where he played, the speedy Stuckey found the net. He led Princeton in scoring as a senior; he twice led the Italian League in scoring and finished second one year while playing strictly defense; and he led the Swiss League in scoring his first year there.
Rice was part of hockey’s early heyday in Concord in the 1930s and ’40s, playing for all three of the city’s top amateur teams: the Concord Hockey Club, the Millville Bruins – whom he helped establish – and Sacred Heart.
An offensive-minded defenseman, Rice was considered by his peers to be one of the top players in Concord history.
He was granted a tryout with the Boston Bruins’ semipro team, and was invited to play for the top farm team of the New York Rangers, though he had to turn that down due to family responsibilities.
Lambert was a longtime secretary for the Berlin Maroons, deeply involved with the team’s publicity and fundraising that helped enable them to stay active during tough economic times and eventually win two national championships in the 1960s. She also helped with the building of a new arena in Berlin after Notre Dame Arena caved in in 1969.
Bradley starred at Boston University and played professionally for a short time before taking a teaching position in 1954 at Berlin High, where he’d become the head hockey coach for 10 years, helping the Mountaineers establish themselves as one of the top programs in the state along with their intra-city nemesis Notre Dame.
(The Legends of Hockey induction will be held tomorrow at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord. Olympic gold and silver medalist Tara Mounsey will be the keynote speaker. Visit nhlegendsofhockey.com.)