Ice hockey was very different in 1968 – not the game’s basics, but rather where and how it got played. Players wore headgear that only protected the sides of the head, and facemarks were unheard of. Indoor ice rinks were in existence, but pond ice was far more plentiful in the cold winter months.
The only indoor facility in central Massachusetts was fortunately only a few miles from Auburn in Webster Square. Locally known as the Worcester Arena, the Webster Square Rink or even the Ice Palace, this facility lacked much of what we expect today. Rather than glass above the boards protecting spectators, there was chicken wire; the ceiling was very low, possibly only 16 feet; adults sat at one end and students sat at the other with hanging cigarette smoke obscuring some of the view; and starting on each Saturday afternoon, all 8 teams in Central Mass would play their games.
1965 Auburn High Alumnus Rusty Turcotte told Auburn Mass Daily, “That was the only rink in the area. We were lucky that Coach Longueil also ran the Auburn youth hockey program and bought a lot of ice time. We got to practice right after school. The Ice Palace had great ice – hard and fast.”
The 1967-68 season was special for the Auburn Dandies, and they concluded with a State Championship and a 26-1 record. The team scored 141 goals and allowed only 30. The High School Hockey Yearbook 1968, written by Paul F.Burden, Jr. and Robert F. Peavey, Jr, gives a great account of boys hockey across the state along with details on the tournaments. While Auburn had been in the state final in 1960, they fell to Malden Catholic, 2-1.
Auburn was the first Central Mass team to capture the title, and this was also the first state title in the history of the school. Athletic Director Brian Davis said, “This really put Auburn on the map in high school sports.” He added that sports were different then since everybody played D1, and tournaments only ended with a goal, not a shoot out. Davis recalled a final game at the Boston Garden that was still tied after many overtimes. The teams left as the lights were being turned out at the rink; the kids went to school the next day; and the teams returned to Boston the next night to conclude the tournament.
During the ’68 final in front of 7,000 fans at the Boston Garden, Auburn and Arlington were tied, 2-2, at the end of regular play. About a minute into overtime, Phil Dumas secured the puck in a face-off at the Arlington end, and Ray Bylund buried the passed puck to give the Dandies a 3-2 victory.
The ensuing celebration was massive, and Davis said Drury Square was more like Times Square. Turcotte said the buses could barely turn onto Auburn St., so they parked in the middle of the road and let the players and fans off.
On January 27th, the 50th anniversary of the State Championship was celebrated at Horgan area. About half the original team was represented by the players themselves or relatives. After the recognition, the boys defeated Marlborough, 2-1, on goals by Jordan Bartlett with Drew Darger and Ryan Slade assisting and by Anthony List with Kyle Spurr and Jordan Bartlett assisting. The Rockets are now 10-5-3 in one of their best seasons in many years. The Lady Rockets unfortunately lost to Central Catholic, 4-2, in the next game.