The very first time I went to Maple Leaf Gardens, Billy Reay was the guy I could see from my seat in the greys, and he wore a fedora as he stood behind the Leafs bench, coaching his Leafs and trying to beat the Habs.
Of course, lots of men wore fedora’s back then. But he was the only one standing behind the Leafs’ bench.
And I was surprised when I learned when I got a bit older that he had once been a solid player for the Montreal Canadiens.
Reay played left wing in Montreal from 1945 to 1953, winning two Stanley Cups with Montreal in 1946 and 1953. After that, he coached the Leafs from 1957 to 1959, but the interesting thing is, some of the Habs brass wanted to hire him as coach in Montreal in 1955 but decided to go with Toe Blake instead.
So he didn’t get the job with the Habs and ended up with the Leafs a couple of years later in 1957, and two years later was replaced by the feisty Punch Imlach, another guy with a fedora. In 1963 he began coaching the Chicago Blackhawks and remained there until 1977.
Billy Reay holds the honour of inventing one of hockey’s more cherished traditions – raising the arms and stick in celebration after scoring a goal.
But in my mind, he was the guy in the fedora standing behind the Leafs bench who I could see as I looked way down from the greys in Maple Leaf Gardens.
(For all the Brief Beehive Moments, with more in the future, just go to Brief Beehive Moments in categories and click away.)