Posted by: Rob | October 8, 2008

Hockey Memories

The weekend before last Ann was reading the Saturday Globe and Mail on Sunday morning.  She’d been looking at it the previous night and we had noted a picture of Maurice Richard, Henri Richard and Cec Hoekstra.  The picture accompanied an article about the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL.  It’s apparently the 100th anniversary of the club’s founding this year.

We had recently seen a preview for the biopic “The Rocket: The Maurice Richard Story“, so Ann was familiar with who he was.  I pointed out the crest emblem on their sweaters – the “C-H” – and commented that nearly all Canadiens players over the years were French-Canadian.  I also mentioned the “H”, which stands for “Les Habitants”, is the basis for one of the team’s nicknames “the Habs”.  She asked me where that came from but I didn’t really know.

While reading more of the article on Sunday morning she asked me, “Why was Richard suspended?”

Granted, it was before my time and I had heard bits and snippets about some riot in the ’50’s but, even having been a Habs fan myself for a few years, I did not know the background.

So, off to Wikipedia I went.

While reading up on Richard (and relaying the “facts” to Ann) I began to idly reflect on my own hockey history and some of the interesting figures who’ve been a part of it.

Looking at Maurice Richard’s career I was reminded of a coach I had while playing midget in Sundridge, Ontario.  “Bucko” McDonald was an NHL veteran whose glory days were with the Toronto Maple Leafs back in the ’40’s.  He was a big, bruising defenceman.  He was a member of the storied Leaf team who came back from a 3 games to 1 deficit in the Stanley Cup Finals to beat the Red Wings 4 games to 3 and claim the Stanley Cup.  In that series it was not uncommon for Bucko to play all sixty minutes of the game.

He was still a big guy when he coached us in the ’70’s, but it was hard to see that steely defenceman underneath the overcoat and trademark cap that our coach wore.  He used to tell us stories of the times when he coached a young Bobby Orr over in Parry Sound.

I played midget three years there in Sundridge.  The first two I was technically a bantam but the midgets were short of players.

The team was sponsored by Mac Lang Chrysler of Sundridge, Ontario.  Mac Lang had sponsored his boy’s team for years.  Back when the boys were around atom age, Mac got together with Ron Attwell and they drew talented kids from up and down highway 11 – from towns like Trout Creek, South River and Burk’s Falls as well as Sundridge – to put together what became a pretty kick ass ‘C’ Division* hockey team.  Year after year Mac Lang’s team won the All-Ontario ‘C’ Division.

I don’t know why it happened but for some reason the multi-town team was disbanded.**  The midget incarnation of Mac Lang’s team had to draw its talent from just Sundridge and the local surrounding area.  To say that the team’s overall skill and ability was significantly decreased by this move would be a colossal understatement.  The team dropped down into ‘E’ Division for the provincial playdowns.  The hunt for players expanded and opened the door for fellow bantam Pete Caldwell and I to join the midget team.

We were coached by Ron Attwell, veteran of a short NHL career himself, whose son Bob had been a charter member of the championship team.  After looking up Bucko on Wikipedia, I thought I’d see whether Ron warranted an entry as well.  And what do you know?  He does.

I don’t remember much about what kind of coach Ron was; I just remember him as being more of a quiet and brooding type most of the time.

His son Bob was a pretty good hockey player.   He played centre on a line with Mac Lang’s son, Billy, on left wing and John Forrington on right wing.  Together they were the “first” line and usually logged a significant amount of ice time.  As I was writing this, I wondered if Bob had ever realized his ambition*** to play in the NHL.  A quick perusal of Wikipedia’s page listing all known NHL hockey players confirmed that – yep – Bob did, in fact, make it to the big show.  Albeit, briefly.  Although he did match the number of games that his dad played.

If you’ve ever followed pro hockey or known hockey players who’ve gone beyond community minor hockey, then you’ll know that the game tends to be hard on dental work.  My most vivid memory of Bob Attwell from those years playing midget was when he lost his “chiclets” in an early round provinicial playoff game against Port Carling.  One second he was making a move, the next he was down on the ice.  As were his front teeth.

To wrap up this little reverie I’ll mention one more former pro hockey player.  He’s a relative and, although I’ve never met him, I do have an autographed black and white action photo of him.  He’s the brother of one of my uncles through marriage (his brother was married to my mom’s sister).

Being a Hall of Famer, Fernie Flaman warrants a slightly longer Wikipedia entry, it turns out.

* Divisional designation was based upon the population of the area from which the players on your team were drawn.  So, in this case, even though the players all hailed from smaller towns, the combined populations were analogous to that of a larger centre.

** That team was essentially later resurrected when the Almaguin Highlands Secondary School kicked off its high school hockey program.

*** It was probably his dad’s ambition for him.

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Responses

  1. Ah, hockey. Truly Canadian, and all male. Although I did know a nurse who moved her family down here from Montreal because she said if you weren’t a Francophone, you couldn’t get any play time. She was my boss, and I hope she took her Type-A personality back to Canada. No, I’m not fond of over-achievers.


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