The Wallingford Hawks are the second oldest Youth Hockey Association in the United Sates. First organized in the winter of 1946-47 by the Choate Hockey Coach, Mr. William Pudvah Jr. for the children of the Choate Facility. The Hawks quickly spread out into the Wallingford Community as the players invited their local friends to join in the fun. Games were played against teams from New Haven Youth Hockey and other prep school youth teams such as Kent, Taft, and Loomis Chaffee.
Hawks players often had to shovel off the snow first from one of the 5 outdoor spring fed rinks, which were located on the entrance road to the current rink, where soccer fields are located today. Sweeping the surface with wide brooms and flooding it with an early version of the Zamboni made the ice. The unique design of the Zamboni consisted of a 55 - gallon drum of water, mounted on wheels with a sprinkler pipe attached to the bottom and trailed by a string of towels which smoothed out the water. It’s no wonder that scurrying around the rink pushing this primitive equipment earned the youngsters grooming the ice the nickname “Rink Rats”.
In 1953 Choate purchased the Town of Wallingford’s ice making plant and used its equipment to make the first artificial skating surface. Along with the artificial ice, a real Zamboni was purchased. Hawks skaters now only had to shovel the ice when it snowed, since the rink had no roof. That was not added until 1967.
The naturally frozen outdoor rinks remained in use as well, until the mid 1960’s. The New Haven Blades often practiced there. In fact, two Blades players, Ray Crew and Claude Beaulteu became Hawk Coaches.
The artificial surface was put down one week before Thanksgiving under the supervision of the rink operator, Mr. John Aston and assisted by Hawks players and Choate students.
Mr. Aston had little trouble getting a crew together to help. An abundance of food, provided by Mr. William Pudvah Sr., Head Chef for Choate School was always on hand to feed the workers.
In 1961 Mr. Robert Bennitt became involved with the Hawks when his son joined the team. Eventually, Rob took over the operations of the league when Bill Pudvah Jr. was promoted to Choate Athletic Director.
Starting with about 15 skaters and a budget of only $200.00, the league grew to include 160-170 skaters with full insurance and helmets that became mandatory during the 1970’s.
The leagues colors, originally blue and gold, were chosen because that was the color of the old hand-me-down jerseys Bill Pudvah Jr. was able to glean from the Choate Hockey Team. When Mr. Bennitt purchased the first new Hawks “sweaters”, he required each boy to pay $2.00 for their use and an additional $2.00 was required for use of the ice at Choate. That’s right…. the total skating fee for the 1961-62 season was only$4.00 a boy (at that time there were no girls in the league).
Although the costs have changed dramatically since then, the leagues goals have not. We still believe that every boy or girl who wants to play hockey has a place with the Hawks, regardless of age, race, talent, or financial status.
Our program currently encompasses learn-to-skate sessions, instructional clinics, in-house programs and travel teams comprised of Mite’s (age 6-8), Squirt’s (age 9-10), Pee Wee’s (age 11-12) , Bantams (age 13-14) and Midget (age 15 - 18). We also support 2 girls teams (U-12 and U14) who participate in the CT Girls Hockey League. Our learn-to-skate program begins as early as age 3. These early skating programs are the foundation that builds the Hawks travel teams and their success on and off the ice.
Today the Hawks manage a budget and revenues of just under $500,000.00. There are over 280 children skating for the Hawks. Fundraising programs are available to assist families to supplement and offset skating fees.
Over the years many people have reached out to help the Hawks. Individuals like Larry Hinnman, an EHL official who had 5 children that skated for with the Hawks and donated his time to referee most of the leagues home games.
There are many other people who have helped along the years with the Hawks program. It would be difficult to list all the volunteers responsible for positively impacting the lives of so many children. A special thanks to the Directors, Faculty and Staff of the Choate-Rosemary school for their years of commitment to the Wallingford Hawks. Without their help we would not be able to continue to provide the youth of our community with an opportunity to experience the great game of Hockey.
If you are interested in leaning more about or playing for the Hawks, please visit them at www.whawks.com