New Hampshire (NH) is the third-largest state in New England and 44th in the United States. However, this tiny state with a population of 1.36 million (2021) has some of the countries deepest hockey roots.
Since NH, whose nickname is the Granite State, borders Quebec, many people migrated from Canada to work in various industries at the turn of the century, taking their love of the game to the many frozen surfaces across the state.
In the small town of Berlin, NH, the community’s citizens nicknamed themselves “Hockeytown, U.S.A.,” thanks to their high school teams dominating hockey from 1947 until 1970. The Notre Dame Rams set a national record with 16 consecutive state championships from 1947-1963. Their opponents in most of those title games were their cross-town rivals, the Berlin High School Mountaineers. It wasn’t until 1971 that a team outside of Berlin would win a state title.
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The state’s last professional hockey team was the Manchester Monarchs, an American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings. The franchise existed from 2001-15, winning the Calder Cup in their final season. The team name reappeared in the East Coast Hockey League the following season before the program folded in 2019, leaving the state with no professional hockey franchises. Today, the state’s top team is the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats, an NCAA Division I hockey program.
Young players who have aspirations to play professionally have sought opportunities outside of the borders, finding teams in neighboring states like Maine and Massachusetts. When you look at the small number of players who have accomplished their dreams of playing in the NHL, most of them ventured outside of NH to play junior or professional minor hockey and catch the eye of scouts.
Goaltender: Casey DeSmith
Rochester, New Hampshire
There have been three goalies in NHL history to come from the state of NH. DeSmith is the current leader of the group with 70 games under his belt.
Like many players who played hockey in the state, he had to venture to neighboring states to find elite competitive hockey. DeSmith played junior hockey with Berwick Academy in Maine before a brief stop at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and finally playing with the Indiana Ice in the United States Hockey League.
In 2011, DeSmith returned home to play with the UNH Wildcats. After three standout seasons, an off-ice incident cost him his senior season. He went undrafted and played in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) before finding his way to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the American Hockey League, where he caught the parent club’s eye, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
DeSmith made his NHL debut on Dec. 9, 2018. So far, his record is 32-22-6 with six shutouts, a 2.62 goals-against average, and a .916 save percentage.
Defense: Ben Lovejoy
Concord, New Hampshire
Lovejoy is the only player in league history from NH to win the Stanley Cup. Before embarking on a career in the NHL without being drafted, he played minor hockey at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. He then advanced with Deerfield Academy to play junior hockey.
When Lovejoy was undrafted by the NHL, he opted to pursue education at Boston College (BC) for one year. When his tenure ended there, he returned home to continue his Division I hockey career with Dartmouth College. After finishing school, he jumped right into the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals before signing his first professional contract with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2007.
In the summer of 2008, Lovejoy officially signed with the Penguins making his NHL debut on Dec. 7, 2008. Upon retirement in 2019, he was a veteran of 544 games, scoring 101 points with 20 goals and 81 assists. He was a member of the Penguins when they captured the 2016 Stanley Cup championship.
Defense: Deron Quint
Durham, New Hampshire
The Winnipeg Jets selected Quint with the 30th overall selection in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, the highest position for a drafted player from the Granite State. Although he enjoyed a pretty successful career in the league (463 games), Quint has found more success in European leagues than in North America.
Quint made his NHL debut as a 19-year-old on Oct. 7, 1995. (from ‘Quint inducted in N.H. Legends Hockey Hall of Fame,’ Conway Daily Sun, 10/21/2019) During his rookie campaign, he scored two goals in four seconds, tying a record that was 64 years old. Quint was a member of the team when they moved from Winnipeg to Phoenix in 1996. After a brief stint with the New Jersey Devils, he played with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks, and the New York Islanders.
After departing the NHL, Quint went on to win three league championships in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL), winning several awards that included Defenseman of the Year in 2008. He continued to play professionally in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), where he set records for defensemen and North America-born players. In 2016, Quint returned to play in Germany, finishing his pro career with another league championship.
In 463 NHL games, Quint scored 143 points with 46 goals and 97 assists. In 598 professional games outside of the league, he scored 343 points with 136 goals and 207 assists.
Wing: Jeff Giuliano
Nashua, New Hampshire
Giuliano is currently an assistant coach with the UNH Wildcats, the role he’s been in since 2018. He played high school hockey at St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH, before enrolling at Boston College, where he was named team captain in 2002. During his four seasons with the BC Eagles, Giuliano played for the national championship twice, winning it once in 2001.
After graduation, he played in the ECHL and then made his AHL debut with the Manchester Monarchs. His success at each level led to his promotion to the Los Angeles Kings in 2005-06. After 101 games in the league, he ventured to the KHL for one season before playing the final six seasons of his professional career in the DEL.
His NHL totals were 13 points with three goals and ten assists. In comparison, his professional numbers in other leagues were 290 games played with 116 points on 43 goals and 73 helpers.
Wing: Tim Schaller
Merrimack, New Hampshire
Schaller is another undrafted professional hockey player from NH. He played high school at Merrimack High School before embarking on a junior career with the New England Jr. Huskies in the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL). In 2009-10 Schaller started his college career with Providence College. During his time with the school, he attended several NHL prospect camps but did not earn a contract.
After winning the Hockey East Defensive Forward of the Year, he signed an entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres, playing with the Rochester Americans in the AHL. He made his NHL debut on Nov. 29, 2014, and scored his first goal against the Boston Bruins, who signed him to a contract in 2016.
The Vancouver Canucks liked what they saw in him while playing in Boston, signing him to a contract in 2018. Schaller was a player that the Canucks sent to Los Angeles in the Tyler Toffoli trade in 2020. In February 2021, he attended a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton try-out earning a one-year contract with the club.
Schaller’s NHL career totals throughout six seasons are 276 games with 57 points thanks to 29 goals and 28 assists.
Center: Hubie McDonough
Manchester, New Hampshire.
McDonough was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award (best college player) while playing Division II hockey with Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, NH. He went undrafted and started his professional career with the Flint Spirits in the International Hockey League (IHL).
After making his NHL debut with Los Angeles during the 1988-89 season, McDonough spent some time between the AHL and NHL before moving to the Islanders in 1989-90. During his first three full campaigns in the league, he received votes for the Frank J. Selke for best defensive forward.
He played one season with San Jose (1992-93) before returning to the IHL to finish his professional career. During his time in the NHL, McDonough played in 195 games, collecting 66 points on 40 goals and 26 assists. His IHL totals were 570 games played, 582 points, with 246 goals and 336 assists.
Honorable Mentions include the seven other NH players who made it to the NHL. Those names are defensemen Gavin Bayreuther (Canaan) 28 games, Kent Carlson (Concord) 113 games, Mark Fayne (Nashua) 389 games, Freddy Meyer (Sanbornville) 281 games, Jeff Serowik (Manchester) 28 games, and goalies Brian Foster (Pembroke) one game, and Jon Gillies (Concord) 12 games.
I grew up in Berlin, and playing hockey was how I spent my days as a kid in Hockeytown, USA. When I traveled out of town, there would be advertisements for Quint’s hockey school, the only player at the time I knew who had played in the NHL from my home state. I never knew who Carlson, McDonough, or Serowik were because they had stepped away from the game and were not active in the hockey community while I grew up.
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Since 2006, nine players from NH have debuted in the NHL, which doubles the number of players who played from 1984-1999. Despite not having the opportunity to play professionally in front of their hometown fans, these guys have sought opportunities that led them to their dreams. These players paved the way for the future stars of the game, which now include three 2021 Entry Draft selections Nate Beniot (Bow), Alex Gagne (Bedford), and Robert Flinton (Auburn).
Ryan Gagne is back for his second tour of duty with The Hockey Writers. In 2021 he wrote about the New York Islanders and now will embrace the challenge of covering the Calgary Flames. The best part of this new assignment is Ryan currently lives in Edmonton and will get to see both sides of the Battle of Alberta up close and personal. None of this will make much sense since he was born and raised in New England and the Boston Bruins are his still team.