To paraphrase a great song by the Beatles, "it was thirty years ago today..."
On this date in 1983, Connecticut high school hockey history was made, and will likely never be duplicated. It was arguably the greatest day in the history of Enfield sports.
At the New Haven Coliseum, a crowd of 4,331 people watched sixth-seeded Fermi High School upset top-ranked rival South Windsor 8-5 to capture the Division II state championship. Not to be outdone, Enfield High School put its 36-game winning streak on the line against defending champion Notre Dame-West Haven, and went into a pair of overtimes before prevailing 5-4 to win the Division I title.
Enfield had won the Division II crown a year earlier, making it the only team in state history to win the two division championships in consecutive years. 1983 also marks the only year both divisions were won by schools from the same town.
With more and more hockey programs resorting to co-op status due to declining numbers, and the advent of the three-division system, that scenario is likely to never play out again.
In 1998, the two squads became the first team inductees into the Enfield Athletic Hall of Fame. Craig Janney, the Division I tournament Most Valuable Player, went on to an outstanding career in the National Hockey League with the Boston Bruins and several other clubs, and became a charter member of the Enfield Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996. Phil Clarkin, who coached Enfield to all three of its state titles (the third being in 1987), is also enshrined in the Enfield hall, inducted in 2002.
The New Haven Coliseum was demolished in 2007, but the memories of that historic day are still fresh three decades later.
Gaetan Letourneau, a Fermi tri-captain, recalled the sweet feeling of defeating South Windsor, after losing twice to the Bobcats earlier in the season.
"The second loss to South Windsor was in overtime, and we also lost twice to Enfield," he said. "The second Enfield game was very close, 4-2, and we even outshot them, but Craig Janney got all four of their goals - great game! That was the last game we lost; we just got better and better and won the next 10 games to win the states."
Rob Harmon, who made the Division II All-State team as a junior defenseman with the Falcons, said, "The only thing I always remember saying is Enfield was supposed to win that year. Fermi wasn't, but we just came together at the right time."
Fermi head coach Rich Miltz said, "About five weeks ago, in the process of cleaning a home office, I went back through all of the articles my wife saved during that wonderful season. It brought back a lot of fond memories. Phil Clarkin's team set such a high standard. I know how bad we wanted to beat them, but I also know how much we respected them. The Enfield team had two excellent coaches, with Phil as head coach and Bill Stone as assistant. I think my boys from Fermi raised the level of their game from just competing against Enfield. Those games were the most intense and highest quality of high school hockey I have ever been part of. What can you say about "Championship Saturday" - the pride, love and joy I have for each of my players remains deeply embedded in my heart for as long as I live. What made and continues to make it so special for players and coaches is the unique and exclusive understanding of the effort required to get to play on that Saturday, and then unbelievably, win it all. Simply stated, it bonded all of us for a lifetime."
In the Division I title game, Raider goaltender Dan Burnham tore cartilage in his leg and had to be carried from the ice on a stretcher. On a hunch, Clarkin replaced him with third-string netminder Scott Kokoszka, who kept the Raiders in the game.
"Scott came in as a backup and played a hell of a game," teammate Paul Grigely recalled. "He made some tremendous saves to keep the game close and allow our team to come back and tie the game."
"I think that may have been the best coaching move of the game," teammate Chris Rudolph said. "Scott played great and, consciously or subconsciously, we played harder."
Kevin Meunier slammed home the winning goal in the second overtime, giving the town of Enfield a clean sweep and the right to be called "the hockey capital of Connecticut."
Current Enfield Mayor Scott Kaupin was president of the senior class at Fermi at the time, and was present at the doubleheader.
"I remember the day very well," he said. "The stands were packed with fans for Fermi High and fans for Enfield High for both games. As a community, we were cheering on our teams in both games. High school rivalries were placed aside for a day as the community came out to support this truly remarkable event. Two teams from Enfield battling for two state championships in hockey on the same day at the same hockey rink. Quite an accomplishment for Enfield as our teams both won and came home to Enfield as champions. What a special day for hockey, our high schools and our town!"
Sadly, five members of those championship teams have passed away: Meunier, Kokoszka, Rob Hudson and Don Leitao of Enfield, and Chuck Sutherland of Fermi.
"For the players we have lost, God bless them all," Miltz said. "They were wonderful people who will never be forgotten."
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