VFC Celebrates 50 Years
A History of the Valley Forge Colonials
True to their name, the Valley Forge Colonials encountered some difficult times before becoming settled as one of the largest and oldest youth hockey organization in the DVHL. Originally skating as the “Generals” in 1964, the club faced all sorts of problems related to building a strong ice hockey program: lack of players, lack of ice time, and lack of a permanent home. It wasn’t easy developing an ice hockey program prior to the interest generated by the founding of the Philadelphia Flyers and their successful back to back Stanley Cup victories in 1974 & 1975. The Colonials persevered, however, and like Washington’s troops at Valley Forge, it was spirit, determination, and leadership which pulled them through.
The genesis of the organization started in the early 1960s at Radnor Rink in Radnor, Township (Formerly known as the Main Line Skating Rink, it turned into a roller rink in the late 1970s and today it’s a group of commercial properties including restaurants and even medical offices located on Lancaster Avenue, just past Villanova University). Ross Turnbull, an alumnus of the Philadelphia Ramblers (AHL team from 1935-1941), coached the Main Line Boys Hockey Club. From about 20 boys he fielded two teams: Peewees (up to 12), and Juveniles (up to 18). The two teams competed against teams from the Springfield Athletic Club and from the South Jersey Minor Hockey Association at Cherry Hill. The combined enrollment of all three clubs was about 100. In January 1965, the Main Line Rink (Radnor Rink) lost its ice due to mechanical failure. Turnbull suggested that they finish the season at the General Washington Country Club (Today Chadwick’s Restaurant in Audubon, PA). At that time Ike Pundt and Charles Evans were starting a Pee Wee team at the GW Rink. Ike and Charles, with Tom Lynch, Burke Horton and a few others expanded the club to include the Bantam, Midget, and Juvenile age divisions. The teams were known as the GW Generals. Except for the Pee Wees, who had about ten skaters, there were initially only 4 or 5 boys in each age group; however, that was considered an opportunity, rather than a handicap. The shortage of players was handled by letting most of the boys play up one or even two age brackets. In that way the rosters of the Bantam, Midget and Juvenile teams were raised to 9 or 10 players. Frequently it was necessary to play complete games with only 7 or 8 skaters. Everybody had plenty of ice time! Hoppy Hopkins was President during two outstanding seasons. In their most successful season 1966-67 the Generals took 1st place in the Pee Wee and Bantam divisions, and second place in the Midget and Juvenile Divisions. The various coaches and players knew each other fairly well in those days. The DVHL had grown to include five clubs at that point.
By 1970 the GW Generals program had grown to about 100 players. Unfortunately, the General Washington Country Club ownership and management changed suddenly. The new management emphasized golf, “singles club” activities and even let the rink go unused for one or two years. The Generals had to survive as a club without a home rink. They were able to go back to Radnor Rink where they played for two seasons. With no home rink, the Generals membership shrank to about 50, but the quality of play remained surprisingly high. In 1971 the Lafayette Rink was being planned and the management invited the Generals to make that their new home for the 1971-72 season. Unfortunately, construction was not completed until late January 1972, so the Generals had another season of gypsy existence. The following season, 1972-73, ran smoothly and club membership increased again to about 100 players. Then the Lafayette management’s interest shifted to figure skating and high school games and the Generals had to move again. Around this same time a group consisting of Joe Murphy, Al Pollard and Tom Arnold began construction of a new rink in Berwyn, called the Valley Forge Sports Garden (Originally known as Great Valley Sports Garden, today this is an indoor lacrosse facility/fitness club on Swedesford Road). After the club was invited to transfer to Berwyn, it was suggested that the Generals change their name to the Colonials as there was no longer any connection with their old rink. The name changing suggestion was adopted and the Club officially took the ice for the first time during the 1973-74 season as the Valley Forge Colonials. The Valley Forge Colonials name had been found to be particularly good one because of the national recognition of the Valley Forge area, especially on the eve of America’s bicentennial celebration in 1976. The first season at the Valley Forge Sports Garden was especially difficult because the new rink was not completed until the spring of 1974. To cover the Colonial ice needs in part, the rink management rented time at the partially reactivated GW rink. The Colonials had a fairly successful rebuilding year despite the handicaps. In 1975 the Colonials assumed all of the administrative and financial responsibilities associated with ice hockey and obtained a charter as a nonprofit Pennsylvania corporation which remained in place until 1997.
In 1979, VFC once again moved and went back to Lafayette Rink which had changed its name to the Upper Merion YMCA (This rink will later be sold and renamed Viking Rink in 1987, VFC remained there until the late 90s. Today it’s the Upper Merion Community Center.). Once their new home was established the Club continued to sustain and increase growth. They had teams at every level and developed talent that competed at the local and national levels. In fact, VFC hosted the AHAUS (USA Hockey Today) Junior C National Championships in 1981. The Colonial Junior C team (Ages 16-19) lost to eventual champion Royal Oaks, Michigan and placed 3rd in the country that year. That team continued to have success under legendary, long time VFC coach Bill Bradbury who will once again take the VFC Junior C team to the 1986 AHAUS National Championships in Seattle, Washington this time placing 4th in the nation. Junior C back then was the equivalent of U18 AAA today. During this time period Terry Wochuk was president of the Colonials. In the late 1980s Ed Herneisen became the president of VFC and held that post until Paul Masseri assumed the position of president. Next, Jim Gehring took over in the early 1990s. The club continued to have successful teams playing out of the Viking Rink in Upper Merion until 1997 when the new president of the Colonials Marty McCarthy moved the team to Center Ice in Oaks, Pa, which opened to the public in October 1997.
In 1999, Jake Geverd became the president of VFC and remains in that position today. Now in their 25th year at Center Ice, Oaks, the Colonials number over 445 skaters (including all Mite teams) this season, with 18 teams currently competing in the Atlantic Hockey Federation. The Colonials have come a long way since their “encampment” at the General Washington Country Club in Audubon, PA 45 years ago and currently represent one of the best organized, largest youth ice hockey organizations in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.
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