In looking at the CBC poll that shows Montreal leading as best sports city in Canada, followed by Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto etc, I’m wondering why Orillia isn’t mentioned as a serious player in this regard.
Rick Ley comes from Orillia. So does John French and the legendary Jake Gaudaur, and broadcaster and ex-Leaf executive Bill Watters. The Orillia Terriors won the Allan Cup in 1973, and my peewee baseball team almost won the All-Ontario championship once.
Four Orillia sisters, Bev, Barb, Brenda, and Bette Jean Clarke, were show waterskiers at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, and not only were they great waterskiers but they were also maybe the best-looking chicks in town and I didn’t stand a chance with any of them.
There was this red-headed guy at the Top Hat pool hall, Vern Smith was his name, whom I swear could give Minnesota Fats a run for his money.
Conn Smythe’s university football team lost to Orillia in an important game back in the 1920’s.
I saw Rick Ley hit a home run deep over the right field fence that bounced off the arena roof. And I’ve seen many an Orillian run faster than you can believe when chased by the cops. I personally have jumped fences higher than humanly possible.
I’ve never met Bill Watters but I played ball with his younger brother Rick, and it was either Bill or his dad who delivered the potato chips in the Hostess truck when we were on money-raising drives.
Parry Sound is only 60 miles away from Orillia, which means that Bobby Orr came that close to being an Orillian. But Orr made up for it when he and Mike Walton started a hockey camp there. I posted photos awhile back of Orr and Walton and others riding donkeys up at the arena. Bobby Orr Donkey Rider
Orillia is 90 miles north of Toronto, about 250 miles west of Ottawa, and about 400 from Montreal, which means, because of it’s perfect location, it should be considered for any future NHL expansion. It’d be a great place for Major League baseball too.
Rocket Richard came to Orillia once. He skated around the rink, dropped some faceoff pucks for little kids who buzzed around like whirling dervishes, and people applauded the great man like crazy, even though the majority probably cheered for the Leafs.
I’m not sure if Stephen Leacock, maybe Orillia’s most famous resident, was much of a sports guy. He was originally from England and had somehow managed to move to Orillia where he lived a mansion on the shores of Lake Couchiching. Leacock wrote the classic “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town” which was about life in Orillia around 1910 or so, although he renamed it Mariposa.
But maybe Leacock was very athletic. Maybe he played hockey on the lake in winter, and rowed on it in summer. Maybe he was a real jock who spent his youth spitting tobacco and winning ribbons. I’ve just never heard that.
Orillia, at least when I was there, always had high school football teams, with one school, ODCVI, annually kicking the shit out of Park St. Collegiate. And even though I went to Park Street, I rarely saw one these titanic struggles between the two schools because it was easy to slip away to the pool hall when the games were on.
Glen Drinkle is the only high school athlete that I’m aware of to win the an All Ontario gold metal. He won it in Toronto in the intermediate boys javelin around 1967.
Gordon Lightfoot went to ODCVI and I don’t know if played on the football team or not. He never mentioned it in any of his songs.
All of the above is why I feel Orillia should be in the running in this CBC poll of best sports city.