Founded in 1931

The History of Rye Fhc

Although a few games had been played in early years under this name (perhaps as early as 1951), Rye Field Hockey Club was resurrected in 1954 with Bill Duker, John Greer, Dick Hulbert, Plant McCaw and Allan Woods, all recent graduates and who had been playing with Westchester among the organizers.

Allan Woods, currently living in Rowayton, CT and a regular chronicler of men’s hockey in the USA, was a member of Rye and recalls when it was decided to form a second team and then split the club to provide local opposition. This split produced Greenwich. Early games were played against Westchester, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Greenwich.

More details of the club are available from the late 70s on. In 1979, Rye FHC was playing in NEFHA, with home games held on a grass field behind a school in Rye. Rye won the NEFHA playoffs that year, when the top four teams in the regular season competed on an Astroturf field on the roof of a school in Philadelphia.

This was in the middle of the gas crisis. On the way back, there were long lines at all the service stations and gas sales were limited to three gallons. Unfortunately, nine of the Rye team were riding in a huge convertible which got about 7 miles to the gallon. The car twice ran out of gas before getting to the next station!

Peter Jones was a part of this team and provides a link to the most recent NEFHA playoff championship in 2009. Barthold de Haan, Bart von Paulthe and Bill Davidson were other members at that time. The main tournament of this era was the North Jersey Cup run by Henry Krohn. 16 to 20 men’s and women’s teams would compete over the Memorial Day weekend on four high quality grass fields at a school near Port Jervis, NJ.

By 1987, NEFHA was an all Astroturf league, one of the first in the world. (The 1986 World Cup in England was part held on grass!) NEFHA reached a high of 14 teams, with Rye 1 and 2, North Jersey, Greenwich 1 and 2, Zindabad and Nationals (Pakistani-based teams), New York 1 and 2, Islanders, CUSA, Outcasts and Wave (primarily West Indian teams) and Westchester (Dutch).

Rye were rejuvenated in 1987 under the leadership of Alex Rooks. A number of antipodeans and Europeans joined the club, and the joke of the day was that Alex would meet KLM and Lufthansa flights at JFK with a stick in his hand to recruit new players. Alex was an indefatigable organizer in an era before email.

The club had an inspired 3 year run from 1992 to 1994, winning the US club championship in each year. During 15 games over the 3 championships, Rye scored 118 goals and conceded only 9. The closest game it played during this run was a 5-1 defeat of Greenwich. Alex Rooks was one of only three players to play in all three championships, as the players continued to turn over. At one point, Rye had 16 players with passports from 15 different countries.

At another time, Rye had 11 players who had played international hockey within the past five years. Steve Wagner, Marq Mellor, Ahmed Elmagraby and Otto Steffers were 1996 US Olympians. Pat Burrows was a Canadian Olympian and perhaps Canada’s greatest ever player. Pepe Noche and Michael San Martin had represented Cuba and jumped the fence after a tournament at Drew University to get away from their “handlers” and stay in the US. Peter Jones represented the US outdoors and later captained the USA in the 2003 Indoor World Cup.

The top tournaments of this era were the JFK tournament in Washington and later Virginia Beach, and the Big Apple on Labor Day weekend. Spearheaded by Nigel Traverso, this tournament attracted a very strong field and offered a large cash prize. Rye tied for the first prize with Goa Reds, when a threatened tornado forced everyone inside and led to the cancellation of the final. Rye won this event several times thereafter. The other large event was the Big Apple Indoor, which Rye dominated in the early years, before Goa Reds entered a period of dominance and beat Rye in many close games.

Rye has been fortunate enough to have many great goalkeepers over the years. These have included Jon O’Haire (several Pan Ams for the USA), Steve Wagner (96 Olympics, 95 Pan Ams and named to the Americas all continent team), Eliot Winks (US international), Milan Tyburec (Czechoslovakia National team and USA Indoor Team at 2003 Indoor World Cup) and Oli Stubel (Bundesliga experience in Hamburg).

The 2000s saw a period of mixed fortunes for the club. One of the best internationals ever to play for the club, Patrick Stutz from Switzerland, moved to New York where he intended to quit playing hockey. He was tracked down through Peter Jones’ contacts with his old coach in Switzerland and had his arm twisted into playing “just a few games”.

It’s 2010 and he is still going strong. Patrick’s determination, speed and skill, combined with a wonderful nose for the goal has helped lift Rye to many great performances, especially a run of successes at JFK. Rye ceased operations for one year, when frustrations over poor turnouts for a few key games split the club. Many players went to TriState, while others went to Westchester, where Alex helped them to a surprising NEFHA playoffs win.

The next year the club reformed. Chris Cheetham joined the club in 2006 and together with Patrick drove the club to new heights. Alex Anich came to NYC to study in 2008 and put some Aussie intensity into the midfield. Rye won the playoffs in 2009 and came close to perfect league season in 2009-2010, losing the last game to Greenwich. The playoff final game also saw a disappointing defeat, again to Greenwich.

Recent years have seen the club go from strength to strength.  In 2009/10 Rye launched a second team under the leadership of Harry Labana, followed a year later by the launch of a ladies team under the stewardship of Kelly MacKinnon and Alex Anich.  Rye Men 1 won the playoff and league double in both 2011 and 2012, in the process finally achieving that elusive ’perfect season’ in the 2012 playoff final. Rye’s record that year was 16 – 0, 125 goals scored and only 11 conceded.   However, the success has not been limited to Rye’s first team exploits.

The 2012 to 2014 seasons were the strongest growth years for the club, with 2014 proving one of the greatest years in the club’s long history. Rye Men 2 built an excellent squad that was able to secure fifth place on the table, while both the men’s and women’s first teams finished top of the table for the first time in history.  Both teams advanced to the final of the playoff, with the ladies coming out victorious and the men only losing narrowly. Under the sterling leadership of Captain Desi Scherf, the ladies posted their first undefeated season, winning 14 games and drawing 2, taking home both the league and playoff trophies. In 2014, Rye FHC were able to win three of the four NEFHA trophies, a phenomenal achievement.

As ever, New York City remains a transient place.  People come for a few years as a step in their careers or to study meaning players continue to come and go with some regularity.  The challenge is to weld together strong teams, have fun and play competitive hockey is ongoing…

As ever, New York City remains a transient place.  People come for a few years as a step in their careers or to study meaning players continue to come and go with some regularity.  The challenge is to weld together strong teams, have fun and play competitive hockey is ongoing…


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