WEST ORANGE, NJ – This winter is a special one for high school hockey teams and fans across New Jersey, because it’s the 60th year of league competition.
The North Jersey Scholastic Hockey League began in December of 1958, and the original members included West Orange, Livingston, Montclair, Morris Hills and Morristown-Beard. From 1959 through 1975, the Gordon Cup was considered the unofficial state championship. Then in the winter of 1976 the state tournament began. Leagues in Morris County and Bergen County complemented the N.J. Interscholastic Hockey League which took the place of the original circuit.
For the ice programs at West Orange, the magic season took place in 1960-61 as the team shared the Gordon Cup with Montclair. The two teams battled to a championship 2-2 tie in regulation time, and after three sudden death stanzas, the score remained the same.
Town neighbor Seton Hall Prep moved from South Orange to West Orange in the summer of 1985, and hockey continued to grow in popularity for the Pirates. SHP won Tournament of Champions crowns in 1998, 1999 and 2004. In addition, SHP captured numerous Gordon Cups.
Here’s a look back at the big seasons for both West Orange schools:
WEST ORANGE (1960-61): Under the coaching of John Hooper, who was best known for coaching some top football teams at Upsala College in East Orange, West Orange went 6-4-2 in the regular season. The team’s only lackluster effort was a 6-1 loss to Morris Hills. Against Montclair, Hooper’s team lost by a 4-3 count and also came up with a 2-2 tie.
In the playoff semifinals, West Orange stunned Morris Hills, 3-1. But that really wasn’t that big of an upset because in the final regular season tilt, West Orange beat its Morris County foe, 3-0.
In the championship, goalie Al Giordano was like a rock in the nets. Jeff Volker, Richie Schwab, George Galante and Jack Shiek sparkled on defense.
In the process of going 7-4-3 during the 60-61 campaign, West Orange scored 38 goals while only giving up 29. Hooper’s crew posted two shutouts.
Even though strong defense was the key for West Orange, the team also had some quality players up front. That group included Bill Clark, Mickey Friedberg and Tom Meravi on one line, and Haakon Bryhn, Lee Iden and either Jay Saunders or Lee Stettner on the other line.
For the Cowboys, Dave Harlow, Dave Sanford and Ken Schroll also contributed up front.
SETON HALL PREP (1997-98): The Pirates, coached by John Warchol, who won 506 games, won the Gordon Cup and beat archrival Brick in the TOC final, 3-2. SHP got ready for Brick by beating Delbarton, 3-1, in the Parochial Schools final. Seton Hall finished with a strong 25-2 mark. That club was probably the best in the history of Essex County, led by forward Brandon Doria.
SETON HALL PREP (1998-99): Brick won the Gordon Cup, but the Pirates again beat Brick in the TOC finals, 3-1. The memorable game for SHP came in the Parochial Schools finals against powerful Delbarton, as Brady Crooks scored in OT to give Warchol’s squad a dramatic 1-0 decision. SHP finished 24-2-1, again led by Doria.
SETON HALL PREP (2003-04): In the TOC contest, the Pirates crushed West Essex, 8-0. Seton Hall failed to win the Gordon Cup, but in the Parochial finals took care of St. Peter’s Prep, 3-1. Seton Hall ended the season with a record of 19-9-1, led by goalie Terry Robinson.
ICE CHIPS – Under Warchol, SHP won a record nine Gordon Cups to go along with four state Group titles and three TOC championships… West Orange forward Glenn Rosenberg and SHP forward Peter Herms were the top players for their respective schools. Herms later coached at SHP… While in South Orange, SHP won Gordon Cups in 1978 and 1983. Herms was a freshman in 1977-78… In 2011, Delbarton and St. Augustine tied 2-2 in the Cup final.