Clinton to celebrate hockey heritage, puck patriarch

Published Feb 8, 2018 at 4:10pm

CLINTON — Hockey holds a long-standing history and tradition in the village — one that’s been around 100 years — and to celebrate, local officials and Hamilton College are teaming up to host the four-day “Thank You, Albert Prettyman” event.

From Thursday through Sunday, an array of special events and activities have been planned to commemorate hockey at several venues, including Clinton Arena, Kirkland Town Library, Clinton Historical Society, Burke Library, Kirkland Art Center, Alteri’s Restaurant and Sage Rink at Hamilton.

Albert Prettyman was the Hamilton College athletic director who iced over a tennis court in Clinton to introduce the first ever hockey game in the area in February 1918. The Feb. 8-11 event is meant to honor and pay tribute to Prettyman. There will be keynote speakers, college, high school and alumni hockey games, and more.

Limited parking will be available in the village. Alternative parking for the weekend is available at the designated lots. For more information, go online to https://www.clintonnychamber.org/thank-you-albert-prettym.html. Those who attend the events are asked to look for event parking lot signs.

Prettyman, 1883 to 1963, moved to central New York in 1917 to serve as Hamilton College’s athletic director. He started the Hamilton hockey program in 1918. The sport grew to have legendary status at Hamilton, as well as in the nearby Clinton area, at both the amateur and professional levels.

He also coached the medal-winning 1936 USA Olympic hockey team. Thanks to Coach Prettyman, Hamilton College is playing its 100th season of hockey.

In the 1920s and 30s, Coach Prettyman made a national name for himself as a serious student of the game of hockey. He founded the NCAA Hockey Rules committee in 1925, and was its chairman for 18 years. He served on three Olympic Committees. In recognition of his good works, Prettyman was named coach of the 1936 USA Olympic Hockey Team that played at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany during the February preceding the famous Summer Olympics in Berlin. It was during that time he was requested to speak personally with Adolph Hitler.

A series of campus magazine articles in Hamilton Life followed Prettyman’s quest for hockey. In October 1917, it was announced that a rink would be created on the tennis court located between Hamilton’s Chemistry Building and Carnegie Dormitory. It would be 140-by-90 feet and feature electric lights. In making his pitch to the college, Prettyman suggested that fans would take turns clearing the ice. The courts were first flooded after Thanksgiving in 1917, and 58 sections of 8-by-3-foot boards were ordered. The first skating took place on Dec. 11, 1917, when an ice scraper was ordered.

In early February of the next year, 30 inches of snow fell. Temperatures dropped to 33 degrees below zero on College Hill just prior to the first game against Nichols School, held on Feb. 9, 1918. The first-ever goal scorer for Hamilton was James B. White, Hamilton Class of 1919, while the first captain of a Hamilton hockey team was Richard M. Kaiser, Class of 1920. 

Interest in hockey at Hamilton was intense and immediate. On Jan. 18, 1921, Hamilton Life wrote that Hamilton beat Cornell on their lake in front of 3,000 winter carnival fans, and went on to be undefeated that year (11-0), including the defeat of Army once, and nearby Colgate twice. In 1922 the Russel Sage family donated funds for what is now the second-oldest covered collegiate hockey rink in the country — Hamilton’s Sage Rink.

Prettyman’s young son Burt, and other Clinton boys, were fascinated by Hamilton College hockey. They began playing on the frozen canal in the village using broken sticks pieced together after use at the college. Witnessing the enthusiasm, Coach Prettyman and fellow Clintonians Ed Stanley and Fred Goering worked together to open an outdoor rink in Clinton in the early 1920s, at the current location of the Calidonna family’s Clinton Tractor & Implement Co.

In 1924, the first Clinton High School team was established, marking the beginning of more than 90 years of continuous league play. Several Clinton High School players went on to play at Hamilton where, by the 1940s, some six captains of Hamilton hockey teams were Clinton natives. Through the years, other Clinton High School players played at Dartmouth, Yale, Princeton, University of Vermont, Boston College, Brown, Williams, Oswego, Geneseo, and several other highly competitive programs.

In 1928, a local competitive team was established by Ed Stanley, a graduate of both Clinton High School (1924) and Hamilton College (1928). In 1933, Stanley’s Clinton Hockey Club played in the National Amateur Championship at Madison Square Garden against the Hershey Bears. This team would later attract Colgate’s player/coach Greg Batt as not only a superstar Clinton Hockey Clubplayer, but also the ultimate successor to Prettyman as Hamilton’s second hockey coach.

After Coach Prettyman’s son Burt played Clinton High School hockey, he played for his father’s Hamilton team, graduating in 1931. He then played on the Clinton Hockey Club, garnering the achievement of a “Prettyman Hat Trick,” a distinction reserved for participants at all three local hockey levels: Clinton High School, Hamilton College, and The Clinton Hockey Club/Comets. Others earning Prettyman Hat Tricks through the years were Gordon Hayes; and Bernie, Jim, Nick, Red, and Jim Burns — among others.