About the Author

Ken Reid

Books by this Author
Hockey Card Stories

Hockey Card Stories

True Tales from Your Favourite Players
edition:Paperback
also available: Audiobook eBook
tagged : hockey
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Excerpt

DON CHERRY 1974-75 O-PEE-CHEE #161

 

No one tells Don Cherry how to dress. Well, okay, maybe someone does.

The man known as Grapes, who is beamed into television sets across Canada every Saturday night during the NHL season, can tell you exactly where he was when this fine photo was taken.

On June 13, 1974, the Boston Bruins held a press conference to announce that one Donald S. Cherry was the new head coach of Bobby Orr and the Bruins.

“It was a funny thing, Dick Williams was there. Remember Dick Williams the baseball guy? If ya took a picture of us, we looked alike. We both had the same mustache and the whole deal. So I always remember that as I had a nice blue suit on.” Yes, the blue suit went well with the ’stache. If you’re wondering about the ’stache, it didn’t last as long as the suit did.

“I had it for about two months and then I shaved it off. For luck,” says Cherry.

When it came to facial hair, Cherry could call his own shots. And as any living, breathing hockey fan knows, when it comes to style, Cherry also calls his own shots. Well, except when it came to his ’74–75 O-Pee-Chee; take a close look at the card—Cherry is dapper as always.

“It was a dark blue [suit] with a vest, and I wore a nice chain with it. The whole deal. So I looked pretty sharp.”

The hair is well groomed, as always. But as far as Cherry is concerned, one thing is not right on this card. It’s the tie. The tie still bothers Cherry after all these years. And it’s a double whammy.

Issue number one, the knot. “I cannot believe I had a knot that big in the tie!” But responsibility for the knot is all on Cherry. Let’s face it; big knots were in at the time.

It’s issue number two that’s the real kicker. Don Cherry says his tie was airbrushed. Imagine airbrushing a man who used ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” for his theme song when he hosted Grapevine? Cherry insists that’s what happened.

Nobody tells Don Cherry how to dress. “That’s right,” he says.

But the card makers did. When Don Cherry was introduced as the new head coach of the Boston Bruins, he says he showed up in a slick blue suit with a sharp blue tie. But that’s not how he is remembered on his ’74–75 OPC.

“One thing I remember when I look at the picture is that actually it was a blue tie. They painted a red tie, right? They changed it to the red tie,” says Cherry, who went on to coach 400 regular season games with the Bruins.

You can’t tell him how to dress, but you can change his clothes after the fact. But few can tell him what to say, and as Cherry recalls this card, he also recalls this press conference. As per usual, when he was on the mic, he rocked it from the start.

“You’re kind of nervous in the front of the Boston press and all that. And I remember the guy saying, ‘Do you think you’re ready for the Boston Bruins?’ and I said, ‘The question is, are the Boston Bruins ready for me?’” chuckles Cherry.

His relationship with the media in a different era is what comes to mind with this card. There were no 24-hour sports networks, no instant news via Twitter and the internet. It truly was a different time.

“That day I was hired I remember how good the Boston press was to a minor leaguer,” says Cherry, who was 40 years old the day the Bruins made him their head man. “They knew I was going to be good press for them. Somehow the writers and that know who’s going to be good when you go to a press conference, who’s going to be good material for them. And I remember they were kind to me right off the bat. And we kind of faltered in that first year and they still didn’t give it to me. That was the thing I remember.”

When Don Cherry was behind the Boston bench, he was in charge of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Wayne Cashman and a slew of other stars. Not bad for a guy who just a few years earlier was out of the game, looking for work. “I had no job or anything. And in three years I was coaching Bobby Orr. So I was always thank the Lord on that one.”

How life changed for Don Cherry that day is hard to describe. No, he never led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup, but what a time he had. Looking back now, he figures he’d change a few things.

“When I look at that card, I think, ‘You should have taken charge right off the bat.’”

But Cherry and his troops did bring one rough, tough style to the old Boston Garden. And the Bruins were good. Cherry took the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals twice during his five years in Boston. Cherry won the Jack Adams in 1975–76 as NHL’s coach of the year.

The rest, as they say, is history, and it’s his history and his old Bruins team that come to mind whenever Don Cherry sees this card. That, and the fact that someone changed the colour of his tie.

“The only thing I can think of when I look at that picture, to tell you the truth, is I look at that bloody tie . . . and they airbrushed it,” says Cherry, before conceding one final point. “Ya know, to tell you the truth, it looks better red. I have to admit.”

 

OREST KINDRACHUK 1977-78 O-PEE-CHEE #26

 

“They got a thousand pictures and they gotta use that one?”

That’s Orest Kindrachuk’s reaction when asked about this beauty. There are few cards like it. Kindrachuk’s gloves are off, his jersey is in a frazzled state and there’s blood under his left eye.

“I always say that blood was caused by a stick,” says the 5-foot10, 175-pound centre from the two-time Cup champion Broad Street Bullies. “I don’t know if it was or not. You know what, I don’t even remember who I fought in that game. For some reason I think it was against the Islanders. But as far as who I got in a fight with, I’m not sure I remember.”

A little detective work reveals that Kindrachuk was in five scraps during the ’76–77 season. Sure enough, one of them was against the Islanders’ André St. Laurent on Long Island.

“You know what, I think it was St. Laurent. He and I didn’t like each other,” recalls Kindrachuk. “On the ice there were players that I just hated . . . Win at all costs. Sorry, this is a living. This isn’t amateur. This is a living. You come into my house, you’re taking my mortgage.”

That attitude stayed with Kindrachuk during his entire 508 game NHL career. And it made for one fine specimen of a hockey card. Aside from his rough attitude, the card also shows off his splendid ’70s look.

“Back then everybody looked like a porn star. I mean, not just our team but take a look at the pictures back then: long hair, moustache, the whole bit.”

Kindrachuk famously revived his ’70s look at the 2012 Winter Classic. These days he is clean-shaven and has far less hair compared to back then. At the Winter Classic, Kindrachuk decided to give his old teammates, opponents and the Citizens Bank Park fans the “Back to the Future treatment” during the alumni game. His plan was to take to the ice looking like his 1970s self. All he needed to find was some hair and a moustache.

“My kids thought I was nuts; they came in for the game. They said, ‘Dad, you’re gonna really do that?’ I said, ‘Why not?’” Then Kindrachuk

delivers a classic line: “You know it’s not easy finding a wig. I’m not going to go spend 400 dollars on a wig for a gag.” Thankfully, there was no need to fork over that kind of cash. “I went into this store. I said to the guy this is what I need and he said I got something for ya. It was perfect; it was 20 bucks.”

“We were all getting ready to line up to go in to get introduced and I went into the can and put everything on and came walking out and it was pretty awesome.”

The gag was priceless. Kindrachuk exited his impromptu change room looking like a 1977 version of himself. The long hair and the beauty moustache worked oh-so-well. For some folks, it was a convincing look. “There are people that actually thought that was still my hair.” For the record, the hair for the moustache was trimmed off the wig and stuck on to Kindrachuk’s upper lip with double-sided tape.

“I was facing off against [Mark] Messier and he said, ‘That looked awesome.’”

The wig Kindrachuk sported on that January 2012 day in Philadelphia, just like the look on this card, recalls a magical time for the player: the days of the Broad Street Bullies, when the Flyers won two Cups in a row under the guidance of the legendary Fred Shero. Those were the days when Kindrachuk and the rest of the Flyers were Philadelphia royalty.

“In the ’70s, especially the early to mid-’70s, this city with the Flyers was rocking. It was just a great era for hockey in Philadelphia. The people were behind this. They saw a bunch of Canadian kids on a blue-collar team that would win at all costs. And nobody, I don’t believe, could ever out-work us. And I think that was what Philadelphia likes. It’s a blue-collar town and, boy, at the time we fit right into that mold. Freddie Shero used to have us on the ice at nine o’clock in the morning. He says, ‘You guys are going to work at nine just like everybody else.’ Nowadays how many practices do they have at nine o’clock on the ice? At nine o’clock in the morning?”

What the Flyers did on the ice was legendary. What the fans did off the ice was legendary as well. HBO did a fantastic job telling the story of the Flyers with their documentary Broad Street Bullies. The Stanley Cup parade scenes are incredible: hundreds of thousands of people lining the streets of Philly. Kindrachuk loved the documentary, but he says HBO did skip over one part of the two parades that he will never forget.

“They didn’t show any of the streakers,” laughs Kindrachuk. Like the rest of the players, he rode in cars during the Flyers’ first parade. After their second Cup win in ’75, the Flyers got a much better view of the madness of the parade, and the streaking around them. The Flyers traded in cars for flatbed trucks.

“The second year we had a good view, we were up a little higher. I don’t remember how many [streakers] there were, but then I don’t think there was anything you could do wrong in Philadelphia, as a person at the parade or as a player. The city was crazy wild, but yet there was no damage, no looting, no anything. It was just a fun, wild parade.”

Kindrachuk wasn’t necessarily wild on the ice. His stats reveal he didn’t fight much, but if you got in his way, it was go time, no matter who you were, or what his odds were when he went up against you. “You do what you gotta do. You don’t back down, I don’t care who it is. I had a couple of fights with Terry O’Reilly and that was nuts because the first time I fought him I didn’t know he was left-handed.” How long did it take Kindrachuk to realize he was up against a southpaw? “Immediately,” he says.

“As a player you want to be remembered that you gave it your all every night and you could do whatever it takes to win. And if you do whatever it takes to succeed, good things will happen. Even if you don’t win, good things will happen.”

So, on second thought, for Kindrachuk, this ’77–78 O-Pee-Chee card almost perfectly sums up his on ice attitude and the Broad Street Bullies on-ice persona. “I start thinking ‘Oh my God, haven’t they got any better photographs?’ But now that I look at it, you know what, I think that’s what we were all about.”

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Hockey Card Stories 2

Hockey Card Stories 2

59 More True Tales from Your Favourite Players
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : hockey, sports
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One Night Only

One Night Only

Conversations with the NHL’s One-Game Wonders
by Ken Reid
foreword by Jeff Marek
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : hockey
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Excerpt

Introduction This is a book for beer leaguers. For every kid who ever laced up their skates. It’s for everyone who had to pick up a net and move it when somebody else yelled, “Car!” This is a book for everyone who ever dreamed of making it — but didn’t — and for everyone who ever dreamed of hitting the NHL ice for just one night or just one shift. Like countless other Canadian kids, I dreamed of one day playing in the NHL. Those dreams quickly disappeared, when at the age of eight, I was assigned to a Novice 2 team instead of the uber-talented Novice 1 squad (at least I thought they were uber-talented). It was around that time that I decided to find a way to still be a part of the hockey world even though I wasn’t good enough to play in it. Luckily for me, I found my way into sports broadcasting.But that idea of strapping on the blades at the game’s highest level has never really left my imagination. As a kid, you dream of scoring the winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, but as you grow older reality begins to set in. Not everyone will get to do that. And then maybe you settle on just making it to the NHL for a few years. But not everyone can do that either. I’m sure there were many others who, like me, settled on this thought: “I’d give anything to play just one game in the NHL.” In fact, about 350 men, give or take, managed to do just that — play in a single NHL game, not one game more. One Night Only comprises the stories of men who made it all the way to the best league in the world — if only for the briefest hockey moment.So, was their one game a dream come true? Or did they feel more like Cinderella, their dreams cruelly snatched away? Were they bitter? Or were they simply satisfied to have defied the odds by making it to the sport’s pinnacle?Back in my minor-hockey days, a hockey school would visit my hometown in Nova Scotia at the start of each season. It was called Coach International. Every year, we were told an NHLer who had some Nova Scotian roots, Trevor Fahey, ran the school. I don’t remember ever seeing Mr. Fahey, but I’m sure he was there — he just didn’t stand out among the other instructors decked out in their maroon Coach International track suits. It wasn’t like it is now; after a session with the guys from Coach International, we couldn’t just head home and google the names of our instructors. I knew Bobby Heighton played for the Pictou Jr. C Mariners — but Trevor Fahey always remained a bit of a mystery. Many years later I learned that Trevor Fahey played in one contest for the New York Rangers in 1964–65. It was his only NHL game. He went on to play university hockey (imagine that, suiting up in university after making it all the way to the NHL) and was one of the first Canadians to head over to Russia to study how that country produced such great hockey players. Fast forward to just a couple of years ago. I was up late one night, racking my brain for ideas. Hockey Card Stories was in stores and I was rummaging through my past, looking for something else to write about. I had been debating between writing another hockey-card book (I’m going to, for those who have been asking) or taking a different path. I was thinking of some of the guys from my neck of the woods who had made it to the NHL, when I thought of Trevor Fahey again. Suddenly I wanted to know more about him. What was it like to make it all the way to the NHL for one game? A dream come true? Or was it heartbreaking? Could he even remember the actual game? Does it in any way define him all these years later? A quick online search showed me exactly how many men had played just a single game. I figured I was on to something. A few days later in our wardrobe room at Sportsnet, Jeff Marek asked me about my next book idea and I told him. He said he’d had exactly the same idea. The original plan was for Marek and I to write this book together, but that didn’t happen. Jeff’s a busy guy. Luckily for me he did write the foreword. (Thanks, “Palm Isle.”) It was good to find out that, like Jeff, I’m not the only freak out there who’s not only obsessed with the superstars of the game but also the super stories of the game.So I started making phone calls, tracking down the men who suited up in the world’s greatest hockey league for just a single night. Playing detective and finding out where these guys are now was a lot of fun, but the true thrill of putting together a book like this is getting to know the men who, if for only the briefest moment, fulfilled all of our childhood dreams. But does a dream really come true when it only lasts for a few hours, or, in some cases, a few seconds? Let’s find out. Chapter One: School Ties BOB RING: A Saving Grace The Boston Bruins, Acadia University and the Vietnam War. Those three things are part of Bob Ring’s amazing hockey journey. His hockey story is unlike any I’ve ever heard. And it goes like this . . . Bob Ring graduated from high school in Wakefield, Massachusetts, in 1964. Growing up, he used to watch the Bruins at the Boston Garden. Ring and his high school buddies would sit in some cheap seats right down by the ice, and on most nights, they’d watch the Bruins struggle. Then, in the summer of 1964, Bob Ring signed with the team as a goalie and became a part of the Bruins organization. His first assignment took him to the Ontario Hockey League to play junior with the Niagara Falls Flyers. They, along with the Oshawa Generals, were one of two Bruins-controlled teams. Boston was retooling. Actually, that’s putting things lightly. The team hadn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1941 and had finished sixth in the six-team NHL four seasons in a row. When Ring joined the organization, their junior system was ripe with future NHL stars like Jean Pronovost, Derek Sanderson and Bernie Parent on the Niagara Falls Flyers and Bobby Orr and Wayne Cashman on the Oshawa Generals. Ring spent the 1964–65 season playing mostly Junior A and Junior B in the Niagara Falls area. The next year, he was with the big club. But while the rest of Ring’s teammates, all Canadians, were just going about their business, something else was hanging over Bob Ring’s head: the Vietnam draft. “I had a slightly different situation going, because we had the draft in the U.S. at that time. Vietnam was going on so you really had to be in the top of your class in college to have a student deferment. So that sort of sets the stage.” In October 1965, Ring was in Niagara Falls when the team’s general manager, Hap Emms, called the young American into his office. “He said that they were sending me to Boston.” When Ring heard those words, he immediately thought the Flyers were sending him home and that his time with the team was over. No, when Emms said Boston, he meant the Bruins. A goalie was down with an injury, and Ring was on his way to the NHL. “So a year out of high school I was playing in the Garden, which was just a tremendous thrill.”Ring headed for home with a plan to surprise his parents with the big news. Unfortunately, the Boston papers got word of the local-boy-makes-good story first, and the Wakefield kid’s arrival in his hometown was already making headlines by the time he returned. Apparently the news didn’t make its way to the Garden’s security though: when the youthful-looking Ring arrived for his first NHL practice, he had a little trouble getting into the building. “I went into the Garden through the main gate and I had my equipment with me. And the guard at the gate informed me that the high school practice was not until four o’clock and that the Bruins were practising. And of course, I’m trying to convince him that I’m going to practise with them.” Security was having none of it but, luckily for Ring, along came a familiar face. It was Bruins centre Ron Schock, who Ring was more than familiar with from his time in the organization. “[Ronnie] sort of brushed me aside and said, ‘Excuse me, kid, high school doesn’t start until four.’ He threw me under the bus,” laughs Ring. “But I finally managed to talk my way in.”The Bruins’ plan was to go with their veteran goalie Eddie Johnston in the crease with Ring on the bench until Cheevers came back to play, but plans don’t always work out. On October 30, 1965, Johnston got the start against the New York Rangers. With the Bruins down, Ring got the word from Bruins head coach Milt Schmidt that he was going in. In those days, if you replaced a goaltender during the game the backup got a chance for a little warm-up. Ring loosened up. When the referee blew his whistle for the game to resume, Ring’s old buddy Ron Schock showed up again. “Shocker had three pucks about 15 feet out in front of the net, so he skates over and he shoots one into the lower corner and one into the upper corner and another to the other side. Boom, boom, boom and they’re in the net. He taps me on the pads and he says, ‘Good luck, rookie.’” A really nice guy, that Ron Schock.As play resumed, Bob Ring found himself in a surreal world. He was on the ice at the Gardens playing for the Bruins. He was now the guy that just a couple of years ago he had paid to watch. “I can remember it was like an out-of-body experience. You’re looking out into the stands and you’re seeing your old high school buddies that you used to sit with the year before. They’re watching the game and you’re sort of saying, ‘This is weird.’”It was Ring’s first NHL game and it was the first NHL game for the Rangers goalie as well. Future Hall of Famer Eddie Giacomin was at the other end of the ice. Before Ring knew it, another future member of the Hall came barrelling in on him. “Leo Boivin was a defenceman who used to throw some big hip checks in those days. The first goal that was scored on me was from Jean Ratelle. He came up the right wing and Boivin threw a hip check at him at the blue line and Ratelle sort of jumped over him, danced over him, skipped over him, and then came in on a breakaway and went to the upper-right-hand corner.”Bob Ring ended up making nine saves on 13 Rangers shots that night in an 8–2 home loss for the Bruins. The next day Ring was back at the Garden and was getting ready to join the Bruins for his first NHL road trip. That’s when Bob Ring got his first official NHL lecture. And it was from an unlikely source. “I had packed my bag to get ready for the trip, and the trainer went berserk. Because it was his responsibility to make sure that all of the equipment arrived at the city. It was his job to pack the bags. But you know, as a kid you always pack your own bag. You had no idea that somebody was supposed to pack it for you. You didn’t realize just where you were.” Bob Ring was in the NHL now — he didn’t need to pack his own gear; someone else would do it for him. And someone packed Ring’s bag for a while. He didn’t see any more action, but he practised with team for another month. The Bruins eventually made a move with Ring, but they didn’t send him back to Niagara Falls. Instead, he was off to hockey’s version of Siberia. Bob Ring was on his way to Springfield, Massachusetts, to play for Eddie Shore’s Springfield Indians. Needless to say, he picked up his fair share of stories while playing for the legendary Shore. Shore owned the team and he owned the players. And if you didn’t like his penny-pinching ways or the way he ran his team then it was too bad for you. “He basically gave you a contract and you either signed for what they were offering or you didn’t play.”As an example, Ring points to Bill Sweeney. Sweeney led the American Hockey League in scoring for three straight seasons in the early 1960s. “The year that I was there, he went to Shore, who was in his mid-’80s [actually 60s but it may have seemed like he was in his 80s] at that time and was really getting whacked. Sweeney was making $10,000 at the time and he wanted a $2,000 increase in his contract. Shore wouldn’t give it to him and he held out for two weeks at camp. Shore finally called him in and relented and gave him the $2,000 increase. So Sweeney went and started camp and then Shore fined him $1,000 a week for the next two consecutive weeks for lack of hustle in practice.”I’m sure you’re familiar with the hockey term “Black Aces.” It is always thrown around at playoff time. Teams load up on extra players in the postseason. These players practise with the team but rarely get into games. You can thank Shore for the term, says Ring. “He had to carry eight players that were known as the Black Aces on their team because there was no player in the American Hockey League that would want to jeopardize their career by going on loan to Shore to fill in and backfill for fear that Shore might make a deal for them. So he had to carry a group by the name of the Black Aces who did nothing but practise and fill in for spots.”Ring continues, “If Shore decided to reprimand a player and suspend him for lack of performance or hustle, in order for a player to collect his paycheque, and players in those days were starved, he was relegated to go into the stands to sell concessions. I mean, those days are just unbelievable. I was there for three months.”Once the season was over, Bob Ring had to think about the next stop on his hockey journey. It was a summer of indecision. And he had a monumental choice to make. This wasn’t simply about hockey. This was about his life. The Vietnam War raged and the draft beckoned. And we’re not talking about the hockey draft — Ring was worried about military conscription. Top college students might get a deferment, but a 19-year-old hockey player was out of luck. “There were no options for me,” Ring says. “I had to take advantage of going back to university. Which of course meant you had to walk away from the professional career and hope that in four years the opportunity to come back to the league would still be there for you.” It was pro hockey and the Vietnam draft or college and possibly an end to his professional hockey career. That’s pressure for a 19-year-old kid.Bob Ring started writing to big American schools like Boston University and the University of Michigan. He soon found out that he was out of luck: he was not considered to be an amateur under NCAA rules. He then focused on Canadian universities. He wrote to Acadia University, wondering if he was eligible to play in Canada. “I was very naive and I was hoping that maybe my background, not my scholastic achievement in high school by any means, would get me into Acadia.”September came, and Ring had a choice to make: he had received his draft notice and he had got the call from Acadia — he was accepted into the small Nova Scotia university. He had thought about this moment for the entire summer; now it was decision time. “It was really tough. In those days the war was just horrific.”Ring chose to go to school and not to war, even though it likely meant his chances for another crack at the NHL were slim. “Given the limited opportunity that you had in the league, you really suspected that after being out for four years, you wouldn’t get another opportunity.”Less than a year after playing for the Bruins, Bob Ring showed up at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, three weeks after classes had begun. He did not get off to a good start. “I’m walking down the hall on the Monday I registered, and I needed to enroll into a business school or whatever. I had just met with head of the school of commerce, who had looked at my transcripts from high school and had told me that the best advice he could give me is to pack my bags and go home — because I’d never be able to get through his school of business. So now I’m thinking, ‘Draft Board. I’m totally screwed.’” But as one door closed, another opened for Ring, literally, just a few steps away. “There is a fellow down there by the name of Ralph Winters. He was the head of the school of economics. Like most of the faculty, he was a hockey fan. I was about to go pack my bags when he called me into this office. And I met him for the first time and he asked me how I was doing and I told him, ‘Not so well.’ And he said, ‘What’s the problem?’ I said, ‘I’m not going to be accepted into the school of business and I really don’t know what I should do.’ He said, ‘Well, have you ever considered the school of economics?’ And I’m thinking, ‘Hmm . . . economics. Home economics. I can cook. Sure, why not.’”Just like that, Ring was in Acadia’s school of economics, but there wasn’t a lot of cooking going on. He studied and he played hockey. He was surprised to learn that Maritime universities were loaded with a lot of former junior and pro players. The play was top-notch. “The hockey was great and it was really very natural, and one of the best things about being in Canada is that the Canadian system allows you to get your amateur status back. And I was able to take advantage of that.”In his freshman year, Ring was named his conference’s All-Star netminder and Acadia’s MVP. The books were another story. “The first summer after my freshman year I had to stay and take two courses to make up for what I had failed.”The word “failed” would not sit well with the American military. Luckily for Ring, that particular word never came up when the Draft Board called Acadia or any other Canadian school to check up on American students. “The Draft Board was always going to the universities to determine whether you were in the top half of your class. And if you weren’t you’d lose your deferment. The Canadian universities would tell the Draft Boards only that you were a student in good standing. They really were supportive of their students — they helped me out tremendously. Without the support of the faculty I never would have made it.”By the end of his senior year at Acadia, the freshman student who had to take summer classes was on the dean’s list. Bob Ring graduated in 1970 with a degree in economics. “One of the most memorable experiences that I’ve ever had was when I had the opportunity to go back to Acadia some six or seven years later to be inducted into their Hall of Fame, and I was able to thank the people in the audience who had changed my life, who had done everything for me. Acadia had just 1,200 students at the time and if I had been accepted into a major university I would have just been a number and there would have been no one there to act as my support system. The faculty gave me such tremendous support and basically gave me the opportunity to catch up on all the education I didn’t get in high school. And it made all the difference in the world.” After graduation, Bob moved back to New England. He worked for a telephone company and played senior hockey in Concord, New Hampshire. The senior team paid $100 a game — in those days that was good money for a young guy in the working world. After a few years, he hung up the blades. He now lives in South Carolina and he still has a hint of a New England accent, but it’s been over 50 years since he played that one night at the Boston Garden for his hometown Bruins. “A lot of it happens so fast that you don’t have an opportunity to truly appreciate the moment. But it gets to be more important to you as time goes on. Looking back, it is obviously one of the wonderful things in my hockey career, but at the time it was just a natural progression. You don’t think that it’s the end of it. You think that it’s going to continue.” But then other things occur — things you’d never expect. Like playing for Eddie Shore and the Vietnam draft, and having to make a decision that no 19-year-old kid should ever have to make. Bob Ring chose to give up a professional career and head to a small Canadian school to pursue an education and avoid a war. “It changed my life,” he says, “and it was probably the best thing that I ever did.” SID VEYSEY: Mr. Comeback In the summer of 1978, Sid Veysey was back at home in New Brunswick. One day he found himself on first base in a New Brunswick Intermediate A baseball game. But Veysey didn’t want to stay on first base, he wanted to get to second base. He quickly made up his mind; he was going on a 90-foot trip to second. Veysey didn’t think of his plan to steal the second bag on the diamond as any sort of gamble. After all, Veysey, a pro hockey player in the winter, didn’t have anything in his contract about not playing baseball in the summer. “The only stipulation back then was no motorcycles. You weren’t supposed to drive motorcycles. But there wasn’t anything about baseball.”That’s too bad, because Veysey’s decision to steal second went horribly wrong for a guy who had missed the second half of the previous hockey season with a dislocated shoulder. “The second baseman was standing in front of the bag. It wasn’t very smart of me. I thought I would slide and take him out of the play. Well it didn’t work out so well — caught right above my ankle and snapped the bone back.” Veysey’s foot was dangling from his leg. His leg was broken in two places. “It was a pretty traumatic experience.”The timing could not have been any worse. The previous winter, Sid Veysey played in 54 games for the Tulsa Oilers and one game for their parent club, the Vancouver Canucks. But now, here he was, lying on his back on a baseball field in New Brunswick, with a broken leg and no contract. Veysey was a free agent that summer; he had yet to sign a deal with the Canucks when his leg snapped. “I did have the opportunity to keep playing, but I knew I couldn’t play so I had to let my agent know that I broke my leg,” Veysey remembers. “A broken leg — of course Vancouver wouldn’t re-sign me.”Just a few months before it all went wrong on the diamond, it was all going right on the ice. He started the 1977–78 season with the Vancouver Canucks. Veysey spent the first two years of his pro career averaging over a point per game with the Fort Wayne Komets and the Tulsa Oilers. The NHL was his for the taking. “The regular season started and we went on a three-game road trip. The first night I sat out — I think it was New York. The second game was in Colorado and I played. I remember I had a good chance to score. Missed a couple of passes — I’m normally a pretty good playmaker. I remember I missed my winger. I fed him a little too far and we got a couple of icing calls. It was a little faster paced than the exhibition games. Maybe I felt a little more pressure than in the exhibition games.”Veysey wasn’t overwhelmed by making his NHL debut. It was almost a been-there-done-that feeling. He had played in several preseason games with the Canucks, so he wasn’t floored by suiting up for his first regular-season tilt. A lot of us may think of a player’s NHL debut as some sort of magical moment, but that wasn’t the case for Veysey. “I’d played about 10 exhibition games the year before, and I think they played about 15 or 18 exhibition games that year and I’d played in all of them.” Veysey’s tenure in the NHL didn’t have a Hollywood ending. It wasn’t all feel good and sappy. As soon as the Canucks’ road trip was over, the 22-year-old got the news: he was going back to Tulsa. “I felt like I could play at that level, but we came back from the road trip and they said, ‘Well, we want you to get more ice time so we’re going to send you down to the farm.’” Veysey went down to Tulsa, determined to put on a good show and get back to Vancouver as soon as possible. “I was disappointed that they were sending me down, but they had made a trade. At the time, I was the third centreman on the team, and the team had four lines but we only had three centremen. So it was kind of like we have one guy double-shifting and playing on the second and fourth line, and I was kind of in there on the third line.” That trade that Veysey mentioned was on November 4, 1977. The Canucks picked up veteran centre Pit Martin from Chicago for futures. Suddenly Veysey moved down a spot on the Canucks’ depth chart. They never called him up again. Then things got even worse for Veysey. “I kind of had a streak of bad luck with injuries where I dislocated my shoulder. That was midway through the season — January, I guess. And then I missed the rest of the season because I needed surgery.”Combine that with a broken leg a few months later and Sid Veysey was in a world of hurt. Luckily though, he was just fine between the ears. Veysey had already been taking classes at the University of New Brunswick that summer, so with the help of a set of crutches, the man who had played for the Vancouver Canucks on October 14, 1977, was a full-time student at the University of New Brunswick in September 1978. Hockey, for now, was out of the question; it was time to hit the books. However, it wasn’t long before Veysey was itching to ditch the crutches and get back on the ice. “I had a good doctor. I was going to UNB and recuperating. It was painful, but Donnie MacAdam was the coach at UNB and he let me practise with the team.”The comeback didn’t last long. Remember, this was the late ’70s — it’s not like today, where rehab is serious business. Veysey’s leg was feeling better and he was doing fine on the ice. So one day he hit the slopes. “I decided to go skiing and re-fractured my leg. Went to the hospital to get it x-rayed and they said, ‘Well, you’ve got a broken leg,’ and I said, ‘I know. I broke it three or four months ago.’ They said, ‘Oh.’ But then I learned that I had re-fractured it. So I had to get another cast on.” This seems really funny to Veysey all these years later. Of course it wasn’t so funny in the winter of 1978.If there’s one thing I’m getting from Sid Veysey’s story it’s this: the man is a quick healer. The next fall, just a few months removed from re-breaking his leg, Sid Veysey was on the comeback trail again. He didn’t start the semester at UNB. Instead, he was at the Toronto Maple Leafs training camp, looking to crack a roster that featured Darryl Sittler, Walt McKechnie, Pat Boutette and Garry Monahan. “My agent said, ‘We have an opportunity for you to go to the Leafs camp.’ So I did that, but after sitting out a year I probably wasn’t in the best shape to make the Leafs. Actually, the Leafs were going to send me to the American Hockey League team and I said, ‘No that’s ok. I’m going to go back to the university.’”So it was back to school. Thanks to the three years of pro hockey that Veysey had played, he only had two years of university eligibility left. But his UNB hockey career could not have gone any better. He was back home racking up the points for UNB. He had 53 points in 27 games during his first year and another 37 points in 20 games during his second. Veysey was tearing up the league, and opponents definitely knew there was an NHLer in their midst. “Even though I had only played two years there, I was captain of the team and I was an AUAA [Atlantic Universities Athletic Association] All-Star. Actually I just saw something the other day. I was the third leading scorer in the CIAU [Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union].” Veysey was named to UNB’s all-decade team for the 1980s. Not bad for a guy who only played for one year in the ’80s.After two years at UNB, Veysey’s eligibility was up. He was on his way to earning a business degree, so he was back at UNB in the fall of 1981 to finish up his fourth year. He was playing a little bit of senior hockey but nothing too serious. That’s when yet another Sid Veysey comeback story took place. Veysey’s next hockey adventure begins in one of the strangest places you could imagine. He didn’t have his agent call anyone. He didn’t go knocking on any doors looking for a tryout. Sid Veysey was simply acting like a university student, studying at the UNB library. “The Fredericton Express, the farm team of the Quebec Nordiques, needed help at centre. Actually I was just studying in the library one night and the trainer, who used to be our trainer at UNB, came running over and said, ‘Sid, Jacques Demers wants you to play tonight.’ And I said, ‘Oh, shoot.’ I’m such a guy for routine, eh, like the pre-game meals and the pre-game nap. I said, ‘Oh, shoot. It’s 5:30. The game’s at 7:30 and he wants me to play tonight?’ So I went over and played and he said he wanted me to keep playing. It was fun.”And Veysey kept playing. The full-time student was a part-time AHLer. That’s a pretty good job for a college kid. But like any good student, Veysey didn’t let his part-time gig get in the way of school. “Actually they wanted me to go on a road trip for two weeks at Christmas time and I was in the middle of exams. And I said, ‘Well, if you want to sign me to a pro contract then I’ll go.’ But I already had the pro experience, so I wasn’t just going to leave my university exams to go on a road trip.”Soon enough, Veysey was the faceoff specialist for the AHL franchise — think of him as the David Steckel of the 1981–82 Fredericton Express. “It was funny. Jacques used to put me out for every faceoff. That was almost a little embarrassing. Because he didn’t have too many natural centremen. He’d say, ‘Okay, you go out and take the draw and then come right off.’ So he put me on every faceoff in the offensive and defensive zones.”Eventually, Veysey Comeback 3.0 was put on hold. Coach Demers had to deliver some news. “After I’d played 15 games or so, Jacques said, ‘Sid, listen. We’ve got our injured guys back and the Nordiques have sent a couple of guys down, so we don’t think we’ll need you anymore.’ I said, ‘Okay, that’s fine. Thanks, I enjoyed it.’”The news from Demers was anything but a big deal for Veysey. He put his head back in the books; one day he even went skiing. Luckily this time around he didn’t have an accident on the slopes. He got home after a long day at the hill feeling just fine. Now it’s time for Vesey Comeback 4.0, if my accounting is correct. “I went skiing one Sunday and we got back at suppertime and there was a message from Jacques. ‘Sid, I need you in the lineup tonight. I’m shorthanded.’ So after being on the ski hill all day I had to rush to the Aitken Centre again.” That’s a long day.Veysey played in a total of 17 games for the Express in 1981–82. The following year he entered the working world, played senior hockey in New Brunswick and started a family. Before he knew it, his pro hockey career was over and the one night he played for the Vancouver Canucks seemed a lifetime away. It’s not that suiting up in an NHL regular-season game wasn’t anything special, it’s just that the one game doesn’t really stand out from the rest of the time Veysey spent with the Canucks. “I’d scored a goal in an exhibition game, so that was more of a thrill. I scored a goal on Rogie Vachon playing for the L.A. Kings. It’s a funny story. I think I’m an answer to a trivia question. I scored the first-ever NHL goal in Tucson, Arizona. You know how the teams move around and play exhibition games at different locations? We played the Los Angeles Kings in Tucson, Arizona, and I got the first goal of the game. Anyway, everybody asks me if I kept the puck and I say, ‘No, no. I thought there would be a lot more of those.’” These days Vesey works as a business development manager in the consumer goods industry. He also spends a lot of time in rinks around Atlantic Canada. He is the Atlantic Canada head scout for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Veysey won a QMJHL President’s Cup with the Sherbrooke Castors in 1974–75 and two more as a scout with the Sea Dogs. “I was joking around with our old coach Turk — Gerrard Gallant — and he said, ‘I set a record now. I’ve won the President’s Cup more than anybody else.’ Gallant won it twice as a player and twice as a coach. I said, ‘Yeah, I’m right behind you, Turk. I won it once as a player and twice as a scout.’ He says, ‘Yeah, you’re second. I’m first.’”Sid Veysey’s one regular season game is just part of his hockey story. No more or no less than the rest. Sid Veysey loves looking back on his UNB days, his Sherbrooke days, his Tulsa days and his Vancouver days. “I tell the boys a few stories once in a while in the dressing room. You know, I put my winger in Tulsa in the NHL. I played with him for the first 20 games. He got 20 goals in the first 20 games and I assisted on every one of his goals. So they called him up to the Atlanta Flames and he got Rookie of the Year in the NHL. So I put him in the NHL.” That winger was Willi Plett. He played in 834 NHL games. His old centre in Tulsa played in one. For Sid Veysey, that one game was just part of a much bigger picture.“I can’t really say it was a huge thrill or anything because I felt like I was on the team for more than the one game. I had gone through three NHL training camps and played 25 exhibition games or so, so it was just being part of that whole process. I mean, it was great to be there and that was the thrill, the overall thrill, just playing at the level.” GLENN TOMALTY: House League Hero “I always thought if I wrote a book I’d call it From the House Leagues to the NHL,” says Glenn Tomalty. “Until I was about 14 I couldn’t skate.” Sounds like a great book and, bonus, it’s a true story. And while we won’t fill this entire book with his story, Glenn Tomalty’s one night in the NHL will easily fill the next few pages.These days we’d call Glenn Tomalty a late bloomer. Actually, these days we call anyone who starts hockey after age 10 a late bloomer. Glenn Tomalty’s story is a testament to hard work and perseverance. It also shows you just how much the game, and in particular the development of young players, has changed since Tomalty was a young boy. “I wasn’t a kid star,” he says. “I struggled to even make a rep team until I was about 17. That was the first time I really was a first liner on a team.”Glenn Tomalty took the long way to the world’s greatest hockey league, missing an entire season with an injury when he was 19 years old and playing Canadian university hockey at Concordia. It wasn’t a high-profile league for an up-and-comer, but it did provide one huge bonus. “I didn’t skate more than once a week until I was about 13. Going to college was good for me because it allowed me to practise every day to develop my skills. So when I got out of college at 22, I was somewhat ready.”Tomalty landed a tryout with the Toronto Maple Leafs after his final year at Concordia. In the fall of 1977, the kid who could hardly skate less than a decade earlier found himself surrounded by some of the biggest names in the game. “That’s in the days when the Leafs had a hockey team — Börje Salming, Lanny McDonald, Ian Turnbull, Errol Thompson, Tiger Williams. It was a strong team. I wasn’t in awe so much because I wasn’t 20 years old, I was 22. But I just knew there was no way I was making this team, this year or next.”The Leafs were so stacked that Tomalty couldn’t even cut it with Dallas, their top farm team. He hardly played any pro hockey at all that year but the following season he found himself in the old Eastern League. He had 47 points in 41 games. His play was good enough to catch the attention of the Winnipeg Jets. He signed on to play centre with the “new” NHL team. After hanging around for all three weeks of Jets training camp in 1979, the Jets sent Tomalty down to the Dayton Gems of the International Hockey League. He was a point-a-game guy. Meantime, the Jets were doing their thing in the NHL, but they were not doing it well. They were losing, a lot. Luckily for Tomalty, one night during the season, Winnipeg rookie Jimmy Mann did something that caught the attention of the league. “Jimmy Mann was kind of the enforcer for the Jets the first year, or he was supposed to be the enforcer. He was suspended for a couple of games, so I got called up to replace Jimmy.”Tomalty got the news in Dayton. He was going up to the Show. There was just one problem. He had to get to the Show now. He got the news in the morning and had to be in Washington that night for the Jets game against the Capitals. “They’d already made the flights. It was going to be tight. So I stopped at home and grabbed my shaving kit. I knew it would be at least overnight. The only equipment I took were sticks and my skates and I took a cab to the airport.”Tomalty literally grabbed just the essentials — he had no luggage when he arrived at the airport, no bag at all. He went through security and onto the plane with his skates and sticks in his hands. I can’t see that happening these days. But it happened in 1979. Even then, though, a guy with a large pair of blades in his hands was enough to catch the attention of one of the flight attendants. She got the captain. “The captain came out of the door. He asked, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m just going to Washington to play a hockey game.’ And he said, ‘Okay, fine. I was going to keep the skates up here with me, but it’s fine. You can just take them on.’ So I was fortunate enough to get on the plane.”With his unique carry-ons, Tomalty tried to relax as much as he could. But that wasn’t easy. He was running late and was wondering if he was going to make it to the game on time. The plane finally arrived in D.C. and Tomalty told the cab to get him to the arena as quick as possible. The cabbie made his way to Landover, Maryland, the home of the Caps. Tomalty showed up with absolutely no time to spare. “When I walked into the rink I knew it was kind of late. The players were all still sitting in the room and they were all pretty much dressed and the other team was out for the warm-up. Tommy McVie [the Jets head coach] said, ‘Get dressed as quick as you can because we’re all going out together.’ So they waited. I think it took me maybe six or seven minutes to get dressed. Also, when I was walking to my stall I noticed the trainer was sewing my name onto the back of a sweater. I thought that was pretty cool.”So, deep breath, Tomalty was in the lineup. He knew all of the Jets from training camp, but he was looking around for the Golden Jet. After all, who wouldn’t want to play with Bobby Hull. “I guess my biggest disappointment was Bobby Hull wasn’t on that road trip. He wasn’t even in training camp because I was at training camp the full three weeks or whatever it was. He’d only joined the team in late October and I never did meet him. I thought he might be on the road trip but he wasn’t on the road trip for some reason.” After putting aside his brief disappointment at a non–Bobby Hull sighting, it was time for Tomalty to focus on playing his first NHL game. Like most rookies, he took his usual spot when the game rolled around — on the bench. “From what I remember I would have been on the fourth line. You’re kind of watching the game and you’re sitting in an NHL rink. I’d played some exhibition games, but I hadn’t played a regular-season game. I was just wired and as full of energy as you could be getting in there for your first game. It’s something you’ve been working at, especially in the last four or five years in college and the minor leagues, getting ready to try to make it to the NHL, and all of a sudden you’re there.”Soon enough, though, it was time for Tomalty to hit the ice. This was real. The kid who played in the house leagues all those years was now in the NHL. “On my first shift I remember shooting the puck from outside the blue line in to the end. I shot it at the goalie, which you’re not supposed to do. You’re supposed to shoot it so he can’t handle it. But I was just wired. I just wanted to get the puck to the net and go. So probably skating around at 100 miles an hour, and what I got from the game is just this desire. I played with all these guys in training camp and exhibition games and I guess everyone feels like they belong and wants to contribute and you’re just hoping and working toward that chance.”That one shot that Glenn Tomalty dumped at the Capitals net is the only shot on goal he recorded in his NHL career. The Jets sent him back to Dayton the very next day. Tomalty continued to hum along in Dayton at a point-per-game pace, while the Jets stumbled their way to just 20 wins. If the Jets were looking for help, they were not looking to get it from Tomalty. He never got called up again. “I was hoping I would. I don’t know where I was on the depth chart. Fergie [Jets GM John Ferguson] had recognized me as a good, solid two-way player and defensive minded. I talked to him in training camp and I knew he liked me, so I thought if they needed someone they would call me up, but obviously they never did. In view of their plus-minus record that year, I don’t think I could have hurt them,” laughs Tomalty. He has a point. The Jets finished the season with a minus 100 goal differential. Tomalty spent the next season in the IHL and the CHL. After the 1980–81 campaign, it was decision time: give the NHL another crack, continue to live life in the minors or start a new adventure. “I didn’t get called up and didn’t really get any encouragement that I would be. At that time I was 25 or 26, so I kind of knew that I was probably done as far as being able to get back to the NHL. I was at the age where I’m not high on their depth chart coming into another training camp, so I took the opportunity to go to Europe.” Tomalty and his wife headed across the Atlantic. He spent his first European season in Belgium, followed by a year in France. The solid two-way North American forward was a European scoring star. Forget about being a point-per-game guy: in Belgium he was a four-point-per-game guy. “When you can produce in that mode, you’re treated like a king. That was an excellent way to finish off: we’re going through college, I played pro for four years, it was a good option and a good alternative to see Europe for a couple of years.”By the summer of 1983, Glenn Tomalty’s hockey career was over. A few years earlier he was skating in the NHL, but once he retired, the game took a back seat in his life for a long time. “It had to be 10 years where I really didn’t want to pay attention to hockey or think about pro hockey. I guess I wished I was still doing it. That kind of thing.”Eventually Tomalty came back to the game. He played beer league until his late 40s. These days he works for GE and is a Calgary Flames season ticket holder. He doesn’t dwell on his one game as a Jet. His NHL experience just seems to be part of his overall professional experience. “I don’t look at my time in the minor leagues as something you just had to go through to play an NHL game. I enjoyed playing hockey. And for a lot of guys who played in the minors, it was a way to keep doing something they loved to do long into their 20s versus having to get a job at 20 years old.“For me it was worth it to play in the minor leagues even if I hadn’t played a game in the NHL. I would have still done it. It certainly was worth it. It was a bonus for me to get the one game, to play at least one game in the NHL.”A remarkable bonus when you consider that Glenn Tomalty, a teenage house-leaguer, made it to the best league on the planet.

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Dennis Maruk

Dennis Maruk

The Unforgettable Story of Hockey’s Forgotten 60-Goal Man
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook
tagged : hockey
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