Huntsville’s John MacWilliams Could’ve Been A Star

He wasn’t big, this John MacWilliams of Huntsville’s Squirt, then Peewee, and later, Bantam teams, all of which played Orillia on a regular basis in the early 1960’s. In fact, he was small. But regardless of his size. he looked like a hockey player. And did he ever play like one.

We were constantly told by our coaches to watch this MacWilliams, be careful with him, don’t let him get wound up because he’d be almost impossible to stop.

And he was. He was the most fantastic young hockey player I’d ever seen. Even on my own own team, my regular centreman John French went on to play for the Toronto Marlboros, was chosen by the Montreal Canadiens and played in the minors with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, and eventually ended up in the World Hockey Association with New England and Indianapolis.

But there was no one like John MacWilliams. He reminded me of Ralph Backstrom and Dave Keon, the way he skated and danced around the ice. He dazzled, and made the rest of us look quite ordinary.

And then, just like that, he was never seen again by any of us in Orillia.

This was a guy headed to the bigs with a bullet. We were all sure of that. But it never happened.

A few years ago I emailed national newspaper writer and acclaimed author Roy MacGregor, who’s roughly my age, and comes from Huntsville. I figured he might know about John MacWilliams.

MacGregor replied back, saying that yes indeed, he remembers John MacWilliams, and that the young fellow was probably the best he’d seen to. And then he told me what happened to him.

This young guy, with all the talent in the world, who skated and scored the way I wanted to, the way all of us wanted to, simply quit hockey completely and took up figure skating.

12 thoughts on “Huntsville’s John MacWilliams Could’ve Been A Star”

  1. While reading… I thought that maybe you were about to find out something tragic…. some accident or something…

    I guess it was tragic in a different sense.

    Great blog Dennis.

  2. Some Info about the guy.

    John MacWilliams has been teaching hockey skating for 25 years and has worked with NHL coaches and players alike.He has designed programs for minor hockey associations.John is a National Skating Gold Medallist, high performance athlete in hockey and figure skating, and an international touring and teaching professional.John is the owner/operator of The MacWilliams Hockey Skating Schools boasting a stable of 75 teams which they teach on a monthly basis during hockey season.

  3. Hi. But I was told about the skating instructor and contacted them and someone said that fellow’s from the maritimes, not Huntsville. Is it the same guy? Please let me know.

  4. He made some good result as a junior in the Canadian Championship

    1967 3d
    1968 3d
    1969 2nd

    After that, the only thing I can find about his guy is that he dressed for
    13 games in 1970. Scoring 7 goals and 4 assist for 11 points playing Lacrosse for HUNTSVILLE HAWKS

  5. He was my figure skating coach in the 1970s. What a remarkable skater he was. He could push you pretty hard as well.

  6. Great to hear, Jeff. What a fantastic hockey player he was as a kid, and he used his skating talent as an adult.

  7. Funny. I knew little about his hockey, only his figure skating past and he was my coach for years. Remember doing everything both ways on both feet with him forward and backward. Even today I find it funny when I talk to people who say they have a weak side skating or skate better forward. Didn’t happen when he was your coach. He created truly ambidextrous skaters.
    Cheers for the blog.

  8. He should have stuck with hockey. He was a bully, a misongynist, and had severe anger issues. Should never have been allowed around young girls. An embarassment to adult males involved in any sport

  9. Really? If I had known that I wouldn’t have written about him. I hope you’re being straight about this.

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