John Frederick Bernard, longtime insurance executive and ice hockey enthusiast, often described as “Mr. Hockey,” died on Friday, January 12, 2018 at University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro. He was 94 years old and a longtime Princeton resident.
Born in 1923 in Cambridge, MA, Mr. Bernard grew up in Wellesley Hills, MA where he enjoyed playing ice hockey and other sports. He attended Wellesley High School and graduated from Exeter Academy in 1943. He served in the U.S. Army with the 20th Armored Division in Europe for two years before attending Princeton University where he played varsity hockey and lacrosse and was a member of Tiger Inn.
After graduating from Princeton in 1949, MR. Bernard began working as a special agent for the Phoenix Insurance Company of Hartford, CT. After several years, he and Mel Dickenson, a Princeton classmate whom he had known at Exeter, decided to start their own firm, MP Dickenson, which began in Philadelphia and later moved to Princeton. In 1958 they merged it with the firm owned by H.C. (“Cobbles”) Sturhahn to become Sturhahn, Dickenson and Bernard or SDB.
Mr. Bernard was married in 1952 to Peggy Donahue, who grew up in Vermont. They lived in Montclair, NJ for several years before moving to Princeton in 1958. As his two sons reached the age at which they could skate, he founded Pee Wee Hockey, based at the University’s Baker Rink. Modeled on the Youth Hockey Program he sta11ed in Montclair in 1957, the program grew from 20 boys the first winter to nearly 200 and was the subject of feature stories in Boys Life magazine and the New York Times.
In addition to his administrative duties for the program, Mr. Bernard coached and served as a referee for 15 years. Later he wrote two stories about ice hockey for children, “The Mouse Who Lived at Baker Rink” and “Ballerina on Ice.”
Mr. Bernard served as a member of the board of the Lawrenceville School’s boy’s hockey tournament for many years. In 1973, having helped get the women’s hockey program started at Princeton, he was named the first coach of the University’s Women’s Hockey Team. As a hockey referee he was a member of the National Ice Hockey Officials Association. He also refereed lacrosse.
Mr. Bernard provided insurance coverage to USA Hockey and played a major role in its growth. He was founding director of the US Hockey Hall of Fame and host of the Swedish hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. He was also host to various Soviet Union hockey teams that visited America in the 1980s.
In 1987 he was co-director of the European Women’s Ice Hockey Tournament played in Russia. In 1989 he hosted the Norwegian Women’s ice hockey team in a series with USA women that was played in Princeton. He was also involved in the 2001 World’s Ice Hockey Championship held in Russia.
Mr. Bernard was inducted in the first class of honorees of the Atlantic District of the USA Hockey Hall of Fame. In addition, he received a certificate and trophy from USA Hockey for 30 years of service and was also honored at a dinner for his many years of service to the Lawrenceville Invitational Hockey Tournament.
John will be missed by many, especially in Princeton.