True to their name, the Valley Forge Colonials fell on hard times before becoming one of the largest and oldest youth hockey organizations in the DVHL.
Originally skating as the “Generals” in 1964, the club faced all sorts of problems in creating a strong ice hockey program: lack of players, lack of ice time and lack of permanent residence.
It was not easy to develop an ice hockey program before interest aroused by the founding of the Philadelphia Flyers and their consecutive Stanley Cup victories in 1974 and 1975. The Colonials, however, persevered and, like the troops of Washington at Valley Forge, it was spirit, determination and leadership that carried them through.
The genesis of the organization began in the early 1960s at Radnor Rink in Radnor, Township (formerly known as Main Line Skating Rink, it evolved into a roller skating rink in the late 1970s and today it is a cluster of commercial properties including restaurants and even medical centers (offices located on Lancaster Avenue, just past Villanova University).
Ross Turnbull, a former Philadelphia Ramblers (AHL team from 1935 to 1941), coached the Main Line Boys Hockey Club. From about 20 boys, he fielded two teams: Peewees (up to 12) and Juveniles (up to 18). Both teams faced teams from the Springfield Athletic Club and the South Jersey Minor Hockey Association at Cherry Hill. The combined registration of the three clubs was around 100.
In January 1965, the Main Line Rink (Radnor Rink) lost its ice due to mechanical failure.
Turnbull suggested they end the season at the General Washington Country Club (Today Chadwick’s Restaurant in Audubon, PA). At that time, Ike Pundt and Charles Evans were forming a Pee Wee team at GW Rink.
Ike and Charles, along with Tom Lynch, Burke Horton and a few others expanded the club to include bantam, midget and juvenile age divisions.
The teams were known as the GW Generals. With the exception of the Pee Wees, which had about 10 skaters, there were initially only 4 or 5 boys in each age group; however, this was seen as an opportunity rather than a liability.
The shortage of players was managed by letting most boys play until one or even two age brackets. Thus, the Bantam, Midget and Juvenile team rosters have been increased to 9 or 10 players.
Often it was necessary to play full games with only seven or eight skaters. Everyone had lots of ice time!
Hoppy Hopkins served as president for two outstanding seasons. In their best 1966-67 season, the Generals took first place in the Pee Wee and Bantam divisions, and second place in the Midget and Juvenile divisions. The various coaches and players knew each other quite well at the time. The DVHL had grown to include five clubs by this time.
In 1970, the GW Generals program had approximately 100 players. Unfortunately, the ownership and management of the General Washington Country Club suddenly changed.
The new management emphasized golf, “singles club” activities, and even left the rink unused for a year or two. The Generals were to survive as a club without a rink.
They were able to return to Radnor Rink where they played for two seasons. Without a home rink, the Generals’ membership dropped to around 50, but the quality of play remained surprisingly high.
In 1971, the Lafayette Rink was being planned and management invited the Generals to make it their new home for the 1971-72 season. Unfortunately, the construction was not completed until the end of January 1972, so the generals had another season of gypsy existence.
The following season, 1972-73, went well and the membership of the club increased again to about 100 players. Then Lafayette management’s interest shifted to figure skating and high school games and the generals had to move on again.
Around the same time, a group consisting of Joe Murphy, Al Pollard and Tom Arnold began construction of a new ice rink in Berwyn, called the Valley Forge Sports Garden (originally known as the Great Valley Sports Garden, now a lacrosse hall/fitness club on Swedesford Road).
After the club was asked to move to Berwyn, it was suggested that the Generals change their name to Colonials as there was no longer any connection to their old rink.
The name change suggestion was adopted and the club officially took to the ice for the first time in the 1973–74 season as Valley Forge Colonials. The name Valley Forge Colonials has proven particularly good due to the national recognition of the Valley Forge area, especially on the eve of America’s Bicentennial celebration in 1976.
The first season at the Valley Forge Sports Garden was particularly difficult because the new rink was not completed until the spring of 1974. To partially cover the colony’s ice needs, the rink management rented time from the GW ice rink partially reactivated.
The Colonials have had a fairly successful year of rebuilding despite the handicaps. In 1975, the Colonials assumed all administrative and financial responsibilities associated with ice hockey and obtained a charter as a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation which remained in place until 1997.
In 1979 VFC moved again and returned to Lafayette Rink which had changed its name to Upper Merion YMCA (This rink would later be sold and renamed Viking Rink in 1987, VFC would remain there until the late 90s. Today this is Upper Merion Community Center.). Once their new home was established, the Club continued to sustain and increase growth.
They had teams at all levels and developed talent that competed locally and nationally. In fact, VFC hosted the Junior C AHAUS (USA Hockey Today) National Championships in 1981.
The Colonial Junior C team (ages 16-19) lost to eventual champion Royal Oaks, Michigan and placed 3rd in the nation that year. This team continued to be successful under legendary longtime VFC coach Bill Bradbury, who would again take the VFC Junior C team to the 1986 AHAUS National Championships in Seattle, Washington, this time placing 4th in the country.
The Junior C at the time was the equivalent of today’s U18 AAA.
During this period, Terry Wochuk was president of the Colonials. In the late 1980s, Ed Herneisen became president of VFC and held that position until Paul Masseri assumed the position of president. Then Jim Gehring took over in the early 1990s. The club continued to have successful teams playing at Viking Rink in Upper Merion until 1997 when new Colonials president Marty McCarthy moved the team to the Ice Center in Oaks, Pennsylvania, which opened to the public in October 1997.
In 1999, Jake Geverd became president of VFC and still holds that position today. Now in their 25th year at the Ice Centre, Oaks, the Colonials have over 445 skaters (including all Mite teams) this season, with 18 teams currently competing in the Atlantic Hockey Federation. The Colonials have come a long way since their “camp” at the General Washington Country Club in Audubon, Pennsylvania 45 years ago and currently represent one of the most organized and largest youth ice hockey organizations in the world. the Philadelphia metropolitan area.