Central Bucks East Blazers Legendary Varsity Ice Hockey Head Coach
By Ross Porubski
Youth Hockey Info
THE PROTAGONIST OF CENTRAL BUCKS ICE HOCKEY
Andy Richards, or more commonly known as “Sarge” is one of the most notable figures in southeastern Pennsylvania youth ice hockey history, most well-known for his coaching tenure at the helm for Central Bucks East, Sarge was also involved with the Little Flyers and the Keystone Games, a prestigious Olympic-like hockey event held annually during the off-season. Aside from his coaching responsibilities, Richards was also the first commissioner of the SHSHL. Andy wasn’t originally a hockey fan, his main interest in sports throughout childhood and most of his adult life was basketball. It wasn’t until the Philadelphia Flyers popularity began to rise after their first Stanley Cup win when Richards became interested in the sport. Ice Hockey took the Delaware Valley by storm, and Richards’ interest spiked to the point where he became involved at virtually every level of youth ice hockey. Andy became one of the most well-known and highly respected individuals in southeastern Pennsylvania high school ice hockey history.
HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED
50 years ago, Ray Reinl, (the original owner of Wintersport Arena) had an idea, “why not start our own high school ice hockey league?” Ray and co-owners Richard Knoc, Tom Coval, and Walter Jewell were responsible for launching the Suburban High School Hockey League, (SHSHL) which originally started at “The Rink” at Old York Road. Wintersport Arena became the fourth local rink in conjunction with Old York Road, Melody Brook and Grundy, it was built in 1972. Ray Reinl was hosting SHSHL games when Andy became the President in year two. Old York Road hosted some games as well but most teams in the early years skated at one of these two rinks, specifically Upper & Lower Moreland, Abington, Cheltenham, and William Tennent. Plymouth Whitemarsh skated at Radnor and as new facilities were built such as Face Off Circle school teams started to form from those skating at their respective facilities. Grundy had their teams and the LBCSHL, the SHSHL had teams joining from New Jersey as well. Those who invested in rinks deserve much of the credit for the explosion and growth of our sport.
The Inter County Scholastic Ice Hockey League, (ICSHL) was already a successful endeavor, but their games were played in the outlying areas of Bucks and Montgomery Counties making it difficult for many to travel. With the advent of the newly built Wintersport Skating Arena in Willow Grove, Reinl’s vision came to life. The league, comprised of the original six teams, Upper Moreland Bears, Cheltenham Panthers, Abington Ghosts, Hatboro-Horsham Hatters, Central Bucks Blazers, and William Tennent Panthers came to fruition and was aptly named “The Suburban High School Hockey League, better known as “The SHSHL” in 1973. Reinl appointed Jamison resident, Andy Richards league president, and commissioner to oversee league management, and operations. The stage was set after a meeting at Upper Moreland High School where many ideas were shared, Glenn Tendler was one of those who attended these early meetings, and it just came to be that Andy was asked to consider serving as President/Commissioner which he did for 8 years. Wintersport Skating Rink opened in November 1972 and immediately began activities for all ages of youth ice sports interest that December and crowned the very first SHSHL league Champion in March 1973, the Abington Ghosts. Over the course of almost 20 years, Richards grew the league by leaps and bounds. The league has gone through many transformations of divisional alignments, and conference changes with as many as 20 participating High Schools involved at one time over the course of its illustrious history. This season the league has gone back to its original two division alignment with a National, (Class AA) and American, (Class A).
Sarge’s Blazers originally took the colors yellow from Central Bucks West and red from Central Bucks East. Their jersey had the buck on one shoulder and the Patriot on the other. When the league went pure a tough decision had to be made, but they really didn’t have much of a choice as most of the players were students at CB East therefore the combination of students from both schools being allowed to compete on one team ceased. The Central Bucks Blazers became the Central Bucks East Blazers and Central Bucks West started their own hockey program aptly named the Bucks’. Thankfully others put together a group from West and they continued to ice a team. Of course, today we now have Central Bucks South Titans as well.
The original Central Bucks Blazers uniforms
SIDE INTERESTS IN RADIO AND TV
WBUX broadcasting live from Faceoff
Circle in Warminster, PA!
Among other things Andy did a live radio game of the week at Faceoff Circle which had support from Frankenfield Buick in Doylestown as Mike Mullaney’s father owned the dealership and was an avid supporter of high school hockey. Frankenfield, in conjunction with Suburban Cable even did a commercial including the Blazers, (see below). Andy also did a show on public radio in Warminster on Sunday’s called Hockey Happenings and reviewed both High School and DVHL hockey activity. They had some really talented broadcasters do the coverage and Richards did a little color along with many other guests. In 1989 Sarge was instrumental in helping to get SHSHL games televised. Suburban Cables “Sports Network” was very interested in expanding their reach to local families, and especially the students. Richards provided a schedule of premiere games which the cable company aired live on the local municipal channels, and they sold VHS copies individually from their main office in Doylestown. Eventually Suburban Cable was also broadcasting the SHSHL playoffs and the championship games as well.
Central Bucks East Blazers tv commercial for Frankenfeld Buick in Doylestown”
FLYERS CUP AND KEYSTONE GAMES
As a league commissioner, Andy was invited to attend meetings at the Spectrum and other locations as Ed Snider, President of the Philadelphia Flyers really wanted to be involved in the community with youth hockey. Andy Abramson was the driving force, and everyone had full faith and confidence in what was being discussed with respect to how they wanted to involve themselves with club and high school ice hockey in the Delaware Valley. The SHSHL was the first league to commit to the initiative and before long all others followed suit in short order. As for the Keystone State Games many of those involved throughout the state in ice hockey were assembled and the idea was presented to us and accepted, the very first year the games were held in Happy Valley, (State College) with three districts plus an at large team, Bruce Craig, a Little Flyers and Germantown Academy coach invited Andy to participate and assist him with the Junior age group. Later the state was divided into four districts, Andy’s side was originally the east but is now considered South, and it keeps on rolling along with a great staff who work tirelessly to make sure the east stays at the top each year. One of Andy’s most satisfying moments in the game was when he was the first hockey coach elected to the Keystone State Games Hall of Fame.
In 1993, Andy was honored with, the “Joe Scott” award, given to a person who has shown dedication to scholastic hockey in the Delaware Valley. In retrospect, up to this point Andy was already involved in youth club, and High School hockey for over 20 years. he was coach of the Central Bucks East program for more than a decade and was president of the Suburban hockey league for an eight-year period. At the time he was head coach of the Little Flyers youth teams, was also coach of the eastern regional team in the Keystone Games for eleven years and was a member of the original Flyers Cup Tournament Committee in 1979. Andy also has two sons, Mark, a goalie who was with the Winnipeg Jets organization and Steve who was a student and player at Ohio State at the time. Both played pro in various leagues at one point or another.
Mark Richards Toledo Storm ECHL
Steve Richards Hampton Roads Admirals
CENTRAL BUCKS EAST BLAZERS BECOME SHSHL CHAMPIONS
Andy’s career in high school varsity ice hockey coaching spanned 3 decades, from 1972 to 2003. His career record is roughly 199-222-36 over 26 official seasons. Central Bucks did not become an SHSHL officially sanctioned program until 1978, and up until that point played independently. The Blazers won 2 Class AAA SHSHL titles in 1987, and 1989. They also won a Class A title as the Patriots in 2002.
- 2003 – Central Bucks – 4 – 11 – 3 – 9th place Liberty Division
- 2002 – Central Bucks – 6 – 5 – 3 – 3rd place Liberty Division * Class A SHSHL Champs
- 2001 – Central Bucks – 4 – 16 – 2 – Last place Liberty Division
- 2000 – Central Bucks – 8 – 11 – 1 – 3rd place National Division
- 1999 – No Stats
- 1998 – Central Bucks – 8 – 7 – 4 – 3rd place National Division
- 1997 – Central Bucks – 4 – 15 – 0 – Last place American Division
- 1996 – Central Bucks – 9 – 8 – 1 – 3rd place SHSHL
- 1995 – Central Bucks – 8 – 7 – 3 – 3rd place SHSHL
- 1994 – Central Bucks – 3 – 13 – 2 – Last place SHSHL
- 1993 – Central Bucks – 4 – 12 – 2 – 6th place SHSHL
- 1992 – Central Bucks – 7 – 8 – 0 – 4th place SHSHL
- 1991 – Central Bucks – 8 – 5 – 2 – 6th place SHSHL
- 1990 – Central Bucks – 11 – 3 – 1 – 3rd place Pennsylvania Conference
- 1989 – Central Bucks – 10 – 2 – 0 – 2nd place SHSHL * Class AAA SHSHL Champs
- 1988 – Central Bucks – 15 – 1 – 1 – 2nd place SHSHL
- 1987 – Central Bucks – 16 – 2 – 0 – Tie 1st place with CR * Class AAA SHSHL Champs
- 1986 – Central Bucks – 3 – 13 – 1 – Last place SHSHL
- 1985 – Central Bucks – 10 – 10 – 0 – 2nd place Freedom Conference
- 1984 – Central Bucks – 15 – 4 – 1 – 1st place Freedom Conference
- 1983 – Central Bucks – 7 – 12 – 1 – 4th place Freedom Conference
- 1982 – Central Bucks – 10 – 9 – 0 – 2nd place Liberty Conference North Division
- 1981 – Central Bucks – 8 – 9 – 2 – 4th place Freedom Conference
- 1980 – Central Bucks – 6 – 14 – 4 – 3rd place Freedom Conference
- 1979 – Central Bucks – 9 – 10 – 2 – 3rd place Freedom Conference
- 1978 – Central Bucks – 6 – 15 – 0 – 3rd place Liberty Conference South Division
OTHER ENDEAVORS AND HOCKEY CAREER ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Today Andy serves as the Vice-Commissioner of the Federal Prospects Hockey League from day one until present and is enjoying watching the transformation from small rinks to league arenas, from a small footprint in NY & CT to the much larger current footprint from Watertown, NY and Port Huron, MI in the far North, to Biloxi, MS in the far South with more expansion forthcoming, and they’ve have had sellouts of 9,000 plus. Where once they were happy to draw a 1,000, they now hope to be able to average around 3,000 per game.
THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER ACCOMPLISHMENTS ALONG THE WAY
- The distinguished honor of having an undefeated coaching record at the professional level with the Twin-City Cyclones of the SPHL, “Southern Professional Hockey League” in the mid 2000’s. Andy filled in for head coach, Mark Richards in his absence.
- Coached a Little Flyers midget team which had four NHL draft picks including Mark Carlson, (Coach of Cedar Rapids of the Tier I USHL, and just won his 350th game) who was a former player for both the Little Flyers, and Central Bucks East and was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mark Richards who was selected by the Winnepeg Jets, Jamie Leach, (son of Former Flyers winger, Reggie) who was also drafted by the Penguins, and Steve Scheifele, drafted by the Flyers, he also played in the World Juniors as did Mark Richards, and Jamie Leach.
- Andy was part of the founders who organized the Bucks-Mont Glaciers youth hockey club as members of the DVHL, and served on the Board of Directors.
- Founded the Bucks County Generals Junior hockey program along with Ed Gilbert, a former NHL player. The Generals competed in the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League.
- Founded the Buck-Mont Bandits both Junior B in the Empire League, and Junior C in the Continental Hockey Association. He also founded the CHA and served as Commissioner/President for many years, they later changed to the Eastern States Hockey League where he continues to serve as the Commissioner.
- Served on USAH, (USA Hockey) Junior Council for nearly a decade.
While serving as Commissioner of the CHA they hosted several National Championships, one at Grundy “America’s Cup” and one at the Flyers Skate Zone in Northeast Philadelphia.
- A Founding member of the Federal Hockey League which now is known as the Federal Pospects Hockey League where he continues to serve as the Vice-Commissioner.
“I have been blessed to have been surrounded by so many great people over the years who have supported me and helped me along the way. I marvel at how the sport has grown and the coverage it now merits. What you are doing for High School Hockey, (Youthhockeyinfo.com) is outstanding and should be acknowledged. People like you are what make people like me proud to have been a small part of it.”
~ Andy “Sarge” Richards
Historical content credit
- Don McKee | Philadelphia Inquirer
- Mike Missanelli | Philadelphia Inquirer
- Gary Miles | Philadelphia Inquirer
- Tim Panaccio | Philadelphia Inquirer
- Scott Huff | Philadelphia Inquirer
- Rick O’Brien | Philadelphia Inquirer
- Wayne Fish | Doylestown Intelligencer
- Jay Nagle | Doylestown Intelligencer
- Mike Gibson | Doylestown Intelligencer
- Bruce Beans | Doylestown Intelligencer
- Fran Blinebury | Doylestown Intelligencer
- Andy Abramson | Hockey Central
- Kenny Haas | SHSHL President
- Jim Young | Contributor
- Germantown Academy Alumni
- BREAKAWAY PUBLICATIONS Inc.
- PRISM Sports
- Suburban Cable Sports