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Reunion to mark yard's 100th year; Coast Guard facility was once home to hockey champions


The Coast Guard Yard is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding this year, starting this weekend with a reunion of the Cutters, a hockey team formed at the Curtis Bay yard during World War II that captured East Coast and national titles in 1943 and 1944.

Several former members of the team, including its captain, Clifford MacLean, are expected to be at Curtis Bay and to take part in the Crab Pot Hockey Tournament at the Naval Academy.

MacLean and five of his teammates will be on the ice at Dahlgren Hall at 12: 30 p.m. Saturday for pre-game ceremonies, and the Coast Guard Academy team will compete in jerseys that are replicas of the ones the original Cutters wore.

Curtis Bay was one of three Coast Guard training stations on the East Coast during World War II, and many professional hockey players from New England and the Great Lakes states were sent there for training and duty assignments. They formed a team that played to packed houses in Baltimore and on the road.

The team won the Eastern Amateur League championship in 1943 and the U.S. amateur title in 1944. Two members are in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, and five are in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, Minn.

The celebration marks an important moment in the yard's history as it struggles to remain relevant.

Founded in 1899 on 112 acres on Curtis Creek, Curtis Bay once was a bustling shipyard that turned out new cutters and refurbished old ones, employing more than 1,000 civilians. Ships were anchored off the yard as they waited to get in for repairs, and orders to build ships were backing up.

The work dropped after World War II, and the yard faced closing in the 1980s when the Reagan administration cut $60 million from the Coast Guard's budget.

News of the possible closing rallied Maryland legislators, who pushed to save the yard and its 654 jobs. Many pointed to its citations for outstanding work.

The Coast Guard began sending much of the yard's work to private companies, including one in Norfolk, Va. The yard was saved at the 11th hour when the Norfolk company ran into problems and the Coast Guard sent ships back to Baltimore for repairs. The yard picked up smaller contracts in the 1990s.

In October, Decisive, the last of 210-foot cutters rebuilt at the yard, was recommissioned and headed for duty in the Caribbean Sea. The other 13 are used around the country in search-and-rescue missions and in chasing drug smugglers and keeping an eye on shipping in U.S. waters.

After the Decisive left the yard, officials said they expected the work to dwindle. But workers at the yard, some of whom have been there for 40 or 50 years, said threats of closings come and go.

The yard is rebuilding an old Navy salvage tug that will be recommissioned the USCGC Alex Haley after the award-winning author of "Roots," who was a career Coast Guardsman.

Sun staff writer TaNoah Morgan contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 2/05/99

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