Tag Archives: John MacWilliams

The Old Phone Book, With Orr And….

My old Orillia and area phone book that I grabbed years ago, just before my old man threw it out.

Paging through the Orillia section, I see the GM Lightfoot household at 283 Harvey St., where young Gordon grew up. The singer would’ve been about 20 when this phone book came out, and had moved out of the house just the year before.

My good buddies Kerry Baker and Robin Metcalfe also lived on Harvey St, and my dad worked for awhile at a dry cleaners in Orillia with Gordon’s father.

You see the Lightfoot listing halfway down, and further up is former NHLer Rick Ley’s dad Norman at 47 Wyandotte.

The book also features the area surrounding Orillia, including Parry Sound, and I found Bobby Orr’s family home, listed as Douglas Orr, (his dad) at 21 Great North Road. And Bobby’s grandfather, Robert Orr, is at 67 River. Bobby was about 11 at the time of the phone book.

Searching further, I went into the Sundridge pages and found Bucko McDonald on Main St. Bucko had not only been a star in the NHL in the 1930’s and 40’s with Detroit, New York, and Toronto, but had also coached Bobby Orr in squirt and peewee in Parry Sound. Bucko decided to make the young fellow a defenceman even though Bobby was small and had great skills up front. When dad Doug questioned Bucko about this odd decision, Bucko told him “Bobby is born to play defence.”

Sundridge is also where my mother came from.

Also listed in the pages of this old phone book is the Roger Crozier household in Bracebridge, writer Paul Rimstead’s dad’s farm outside of Bracebridge, the family home of respected Canadian writer Roy MacGregor in Huntsville, (who played minor hockey against Orr and the Parry Sound team), and John MacWilliams’ home in Huntsville.

And finally, the old homestead at 5 Elmer Ave.

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Damn Fine Hockey Player

That’s me at the very top, resting my weary head on my hand and stick. But more importantly, over on the left with black toque with pointed end is John French, who was the best player in our age group in Orillia and in the top three in central Ontario. John MacWilliams in Huntsville and Steve Sly in Collingwood were the only ones who would give him a run for his money.

John went on to play junior with the Toronto Marlies and found himself drafted by Montreal. But after a year with the Canadiens’ AHL farm team Montreal Voyageurs (with Ken Dryden as a teammate), and then the Baltimore Clippers, he  bolted to the World Hockey Association (WHA)  and enjoyed a fine career with the New England Whalers, San Diego Mariners, and Indianapolis Racers before ending back in the AHL with the Springfield Indians.

In the late 1970’s my first wife and I bought an old desk in a second-hand store in Ottawa, and in the drawer was a John French hockey card.

You can see John’s very respectable pro career stats right here

Bobby Orr And The Phone Book

 

I came across this while rummaging through boxes in preparation for another contest I’m going to throw at you.

Years ago my dad had this old 1959 Orillia and area telephone book hanging around his house which he was planning on tossing out until I asked him if I could have it because I knew Gordon Lightfoot’s family home is listed in the pages. 

Turns out there are others too.

Paging through the Orillia section, I see the GM Lightfoot household at 283 Harvey St., and young Gordon, who would be about 20 when this phone book came out, had moved out of the house the year before. I used to have a couple of buddies who also lived on Harvie St, and my dad worked for awhile at a dry cleaners in Orillia with Gordon’s father.

The book also has listings of the area surrounding Orillia, which includes Parry Sound, and I found Bobby Orr’s family home which you can see at Doug Orr, (his dad) on 21 Great North Road. Bobby’s grandfather, Robert Orr is also listed at 67 River.  Bobby would be about 11 at the time of the phone book.

Searching further, I went into Sundridge and found Bucko McDonald on Main St. Bucko had not only been a star in the NHL in the 1930’s and 40’s with Detroit, New York, and Toronto, but also coached Bobby Orr in squirt and peewee in Parry Sound. Bucko decided to make the young fellow a defenceman even though Bobby was small and had great skills up front. When dad Doug questioned Bucko about this odd decision, Bucko told him “Bobby is born to play defence.”

Sundridge is also where my mother came from.

Also listed in the pages of this old phone book is the Roger Crozier household in Bracebridge, writer Paul Rimstead’s dad’s farm outside of Bracebridge, the family home of respected Canadian writer Roy MacGregor in Huntsville, (who played minor hockey against Orr and the Parry Sound team), and John MacWilliams’ home in Huntsville.

Huntsville’s John MacWilliams Could’ve Been A Star

I originally wrote this a year ago and I’m delighted that MacWilliams’ son emailed me and let me know about his dad. Here’s the original story and the email I received a couple of days ago.

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.

Email:

Hi Dennis, I’ve had the privilege of reading your blog and the article about my father. He has read it as well. He is the guy who has been teaching hockey skating on the east coast for the last 30+ years. We did it together. We lived in Saint John NB and the Dartmouth NS and next to Howie Meeker, nobody revolutionized the hockey school like my Dad. He was elite in both sports back in the 60’s and I think the decision to pursue the figure skating route was made because of his size.  He still runs hockey Schools in Ontario and the Maritimes and has taught several huge name NHL players, one just scored a pretty big goal in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago. He has two Granddaughters and loves to spend time with them and golf. He currently resides in Guelph, Ontario. If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.  Thx Jon MacWilliams