Duckler: UNH hockey fan loyal until the very end

  • Roger Quimby, known to family, friends and fellow fans as “Bump,” was a fervent follower of UNH hockey. Courtesy

  • Roger Quimby, known to family, friends and fellow fans as 'Bumpy,' was a fervent follower of UNH hockey.

Monitor staff
Published: 3/8/2018 11:21:21 PM

Sometimes, the timing is perfect, even when a person dies.

This is one of those times.

Roger “Bump” Quimby of Concord, the most loyal fan the University of New Hampshire hockey team has ever had, died Saturday at age 90, just hours before 69-year-old Dick Umile, the best coach the Wildcats have ever had, retired.

And if you know the backstory like Quimby’s daughter does, it’s impossible not to view these co-departures through a well-defined prism.

“This is not a coincidence,” Anne Quimby Hartshorn told me by phone Wednesday. “I get emotional about this. Last week, people at Presidential Oaks would ask if (Quimby) was waiting for someone to come before he goes. I think he was waiting for Dick’s last day. I chuckle about it.”

Her chuckle came with tears. But Umile’s exit certainly cushioned the blow for Hartshorn, because it put a neat little bow on a decades-old story, one that will end with visiting hours Friday at Waters Funeral Home, where Bump’s casket will include more UNH memorabilia than a Whittemore Center souvenir shop.

Start in the fall of 1967, when Hartshorn was a freshman at the University of New Hampshire. She dated a UNH hockey player named Bobby Davis, leading her father to endless trips along Route 4 to Durham.

“Even though my romance was short-lived,” Hartshorn said, “his relationship with that team wasn’t.”

Two years after Hartshorn’s arrival, Bump took an immediate shine toward a rugged 20-year-old forward named Dick Umile, who said by phone Wednesday, “When I came, he just started following my career. He turned out to be a big fan of mine.”

Hartshorn added: “He was just a devoted supporter. He always loved Dick and the way he played as a student and his desire and his hustle.”

Bump was a founding member of the Friends of UNH Hockey. Many of the UNH players back then were from Canada. They’d take the bus down to Concord, then have no way east to Durham.

So Bump drove them. By the time his nickname had morphed from Bumpa to Bumpy to Bump after his granddaughter had trouble saying “grandpa,” Bump was well-established within the UNH hockey community.

Umile joined the team as an assistant coach in 1988 and two years later was named head coach.

“Bump jumped for joy when Dick got the job,” Hartshorn said.

Bump’s love affair with UNH hockey came with a colorful personality. His demeanor at times could resemble a thunderous check at the blue line.

He could be stubborn, grouchy, irascible, so when Jim Bashios, owner of South Street Market, gave him a hard time near the cash register about Umile’s coaching, or flashed him the choke sign at the Whittemore Center on a bad night for the home team, Bump’s gravelly voice boomed, a big stogie jutting from his mouth.

“He’d come into the store and ask, ‘Why did you do that?’ ” Bashios said, laughing. “A great guy, a Umile fanatic. Great sports talk here. I miss him dearly already.”

Bump’s attachment to the Wildcats led to phone calls to the Monitor at odd hours. He’d call the Monitor sports department late, with deadline approaching like a wicked slap shot, and ask for a final score on the UNH game.

He called other people as well, like Mayor Jim Bouley or clerks at City Hall. He’d wonder why the hedges at the West-Street Ward House, next door to his home, were so tall.

“They would trim them too much and he’d call back and tell them they trimmed them too low,” Hartshorn said. “He lived next door to the Ward House for 60 years, and he thought it was his ward house.”

His Oscar the Grouch routine endeared him to many, as long as they knew what lay beneath the gruff exterior. Otherwise, you might have thought he was a “jerk,” Hartshorn noted.

Through it all, Bump’s name became synonymous with UNH hockey. He was an ally of Umile’s, and everyone knew it.

Bump went to all home games and lots of away games, sometimes driving on snowy Route 9 on Hogback Mountain in Vermont. He traveled to cruel winter places such as Detroit and Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., just to see his beloved Wildcats.

Bump often took Hartshorn’s son, Adam, to games. He paid for his grandson to fly to Anaheim, Calif., in 1999 so he could watch UNH play for the national title.

Umile finished with 596 wins, most in school history. He compiled a .615 winning percentage, made 18 trips to the national tournament and reached the final game twice, losing both times.

He took some heat for never bringing a national title to Durham. Not from Bump, though.

“You always have critics when you’re coaching,” Umile said, “and he was my biggest fan and supporter.”

Hartshorn compared her father to fans of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, saying Umile could do no wrong in his eyes, no matter how a game or season turned out.

“Even when some took shots at Dick with some of the losing seasons,” Hartshorn said, “he thought Dick walked on water.”

As age took its toll, Bump moved to the handicap section at the Whittemore Center and had his own seat, name tag and all.

Suffering from prostate cancer, he began slowing down last year and couldn’t attend as many games as he once had, so he’d listen on his tiny transistor radio.

In vintage Bump form, he checked himself out of Presidential Oaks retirement community last year against doctors’ wishes. His family brought him back in January.

Umile visited him there a few weeks ago, along with Mike Murphy and Allen Lessels, two staples in the state’s sports media community who now work at UNH. Umile said his friend’s “eyes lit up.”

“His health wasn’t great, but he could not stop telling stories,” Umile said. “There was no better storyteller than Roger Quimby.”

Bump died last Saturday at around 3 p.m., when the Wildcats were up in Orono, Maine, for the final game, a 7:30 p.m. start, in Umile’s 30-year career.

Hartshorn told Murphy, UNH’s associate athletic director for communications. Murphy boarded the team bus at the hotel to tell the coach, who was sitting in the front seat with his grandson Charlie, waiting for the drive to Alfond Arena for the last time.

“He winced and shook his head,” Murphy told me by phone. “He asked for (Hartshorn’s) number.”

“Just sadness,” Umile said. “I knew he wasn’t well, but it’s always sad when it happens.”

UNH lost that final game to Maine, 3-2, and finished with a 10-20-6 record, fewest wins in the Umile era.

Bump would have seen the bright side, and it’s possible his fire for the team would have cooled without Umile there.

We’ll never know.

Bump will be buried in a blue casket with white interior, and guess what the UNH team colors are? Hartshorn said Bump had six Rubbermaid tubs filled with UNH hockey yearbooks and media guides, and those will be buried with him, along with dozens of UNH pins and a can of Pepsi, his favorite drink.

Visiting hours at Waters Funeral Home are from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday.

The old coach will be there to say goodbye to the old fan.

“We both decided to leave at the same time,” Umile said.

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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