Tag Archives: Mike Walton

Orr Camp and Donkey Riding

As some of you already know, I’m from Orillia, Ont, and years ago my friends and I would sometimes see Bobby Orr and his pals enjoying cold ones at the Atherley Arms Hotel (aka The First) as we also enjoyed our own cold ones.

Apparently Orr wasn’t exactly hands-on with his hockey camp which was near Orillia. I know a guy who went there and he said the only time Orr showed up in the entire week was for a photo session (The guy showed me his photo of him and Bobby).

At one point, Orr and Mike Walton and the gang got together and held a baseball game and donkey race outside the Orillia arena, and my brother, who was about ten at the time, took these photos.

Orillia The Good

(Re-posting a previous post, for no particular reason)

I think you should include Orillia in your future travel plans.

Why would you not? It was the home of Gordon Lightfoot, Stephen Leacock, Rick Ley, and Dino’s pool hall for goodness sakes. It’s historic.

In Bobby Orr’s book “Orr, My Story”, he says his hockey school with Mike Walton was in the Muskokas. It wasn’t. It was just outside Orillia, which is below the Muskokas.

In fact, the only time he mentioned Orillia was when he said his former agent and ex-friend Alan Eagleson had a cottage near there.

It took Gordon Lightfoot about twenty years into his career before saying he was from Orillia and not Toronto.

Stephen Leacock changed the name from Orillia to Mariposa in his book “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town”.

Dino’s pool hall burned down.

Rick Ley has always seemed a proud Orillian, even though he hasn’t lived there since the 1960s..

My ongoing unofficial poll, which I’ve conducted for years, asks old friends who now live in places not called Orillia. “Could you ever live in Orillia again?”, to which about 98% say no.

I could, I think. But maybe not.

And about the Lightfoot thing, maybe it didn’t help that a guy I knew went in through an unlocked back door at a Lightfoot concert at Orillia’s Opera House and stole Gordon’s or one of the band member’s leather jacket. It must have put a sour taste in Gordon’s mouth, which is understandable.

Below, Gordon’s boyhood home in Orillia.



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Ticket To Orillia Please

I think it’s pretty darn important that you include Orillia in your future travel plans.

Why would you not? It was the home of Gordon Lightfoot, Stephen Leacock, and Dino’s pool hall for goodness sakes.

In Bobby Orr’s new book “Orr, My Story”, he says his hockey school with Mike Walton was in the Muskokas. It wasn’t. It was just outside Orillia, which is below the Muskokas.

In fact, the only time he mentioned Orillia was when he said his former agent and ex-friend Alan Eagleson had a cottage near there.

It took Gordon Lightfoot about twenty years into his fame to say he was from Orillia and not Toronto.

Stephen Leacock changed the name from Orillia to Mariposa in his book “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town”.

Dino’s pool hall burned down.

And my ongoing unofficial poll, which I’ve conducted for years, asks the question to old friends who now live in places not called Orillia. “Could you ever live in Orillia again?”, to which probably 98% say no.

I, on the other hand, could. And someday I think I might. I’ve dealt with my issues from when I was an older teen and into my 20s. I think.

See? It says on the pennant below that the Orr-Walton Camp was in Orillia, not Muskoka.

And about the Lightfoot thing, maybe it didn’t help that a guy I knew went in through an unlocked back door at a Lightfoot concert at Orillia’s Opera House and stole Gordon’s or one of the band member’s leather jacket.


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Cool Clear Watters

Bill Watters, Bobby Orr, Mike Walton, and Rob Street at the Orr-Walton Sports Camp in Orillia. (from the Orillia Packet and Times).

Orr Walton

Thanks to Ron Green, Mike Mohun, and Don McIsaac for sending a story from the Orillia Packet and Times about Bill Watters, which you can see right here.

Watters, from Orillia, was, among other things, a players agent with Alan Eagleson, Team Canada bigwig, assistant general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a TV analyst for Sportsnet. Quite a resume.

Don mentions that Rob Street, on the right, was one of two Orillians to ever hoist the Memorial Cup, the other being Rick Ley.

My Brother’s Coming

My brother’s coming to visit me. (He doesn’t like his name mentioned).

It’s the first time ever. He’s driving to Montreal from Orillia, it’ll take about seven hours, and wait till he gets into all the detours in Montreal. I wish I had the contract for making those orange detour signs. There’s about a million of them, so I suppose I’d be a millionaire. Maybe it’s not too late.

My brother’s screwed with all these detours he’s going to find himself in. But I have his Guinness ready for him and he’ll feel better in no time.

He’s a good guy, my brother. Very successful, with a great wife. He’s about thirteen years younger than me.

He used to be a Habs fan when he was young but somehow hockey never enters his mind now. When he told me what he wanted to do while in Montreal, it involved going to different liquor stores looking for bottles of scotch. He never mentioned the Forum.

He was also a Bobby Orr fan and took these pictures of Orr in Orillia riding donkeys outside the arena. Orr and Mike Walton owned a hockey camp near Orillia back then.

My brother should be here in a few hours. I suppose to pass the time I could start drinking his Guinness’.


The Infamous Orr Article

In my opinion, Bobby Orr is the best who ever played. At least the best I’ve ever seen. The way he controlled things by speeding up or slowing down, the way he’d take the puck end to end and swoop and circle and set up others, or simply score himself. All from a defenceman who would then rush back and help out in his own end until it was time to dazzle again.

It was new and fresh. It was genius.

Bobby Orr turned 65 today, and in thinking about him, I recalled an old magazine story from Oct. 1982, written by the late, great Earl McRae, and one that people still talk about. It wasn’t a normal sports story, it was in many ways a mean-spirited piece, and McRae seemed to go out of his way to show us that Orr wasn’t the saint that many thought.

I have this magazine, and I dug it out from a trunk and re-read it. Yes, it shows Orr in a poor light, as being moody and bad-tempered at times. And because I was such a big fan of Earl McRae’s Ottawa newspaper columns, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know whether he set out to do such a job but it wasn’t an overly-kind portrayal, and I’d like to believe McRae simply strove to write a story that wasn’t the same old jock thing we’d see time and time again.

It just came off as very unflattering to Orr and it’s too bad. McRae had the talent to do a much different type of story.

McRae passed away in October of 2011.

Below, photos from the magazine, and under those, some samplings from the article.

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“I met him at the airport a while ago, so we sat together on the plane. He seemed a very troubled and confused young man. The Bruins, the Hawks, Eagleson, the NHL. He had very little good to say. He was very down. I felt for him. To think what he gave hockey and what he gave us only to have fate deal him the queen of spades. It’s a goddam shame. We can only pray.” – Munson Campbell, former NHL governor.

“They echo his every laugh, every chuckle, mirror his every grin, every smile, every frown. That much hasn’t changed in the world of Bobby Orr: the fawning, the flattering, the toadying, the aphrodisiacs of stardom.” – Earl McRae

“I did a humorous takeoff on Orr’s endorsements. He was into everything then. It was a total fun thing, but a few nights later I’m called out of a banquet to take a phone call. It’s Orr. He called me every rotten name in the world. He didn’t see the humor in it. I couldn’t believe it. I learned one thing: you didn’t mess with Bobby Orr’s image. He hasn’t talked to me since.” – Eddie Anderson, Boston sports broadcaster.

He grits his teeth, looks around and draws me aside. “Now, listen,” he seethes. “You’re not going to my home, you’re not travelling with me. Is that clear? I’m starting to get a little pissed off. What’re you after, anyway? If you want to talk, you can see me me at my hotel. Between noon and 1 p.m. tomorrow. And that’s it. I’m very busy” He jots his room number on a piece of paper and thrusts it at me. And no photographer.” – Exchange between Orr and McRae.

“Poor Bobby. I can appreciate the trauma he’s suffered, but a lot of the problems he’s gone through are because of the way he’s been. He wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with, he could be demanding and moody. He used to call me up if he read where I had talked to certain reporters about him. “What the hell are you doing talking to that jerk for?” he’d scream.

“Bobby had trouble communicating with the players (in Chicago). He’d give them hell if they didn’t measure up to his standards. It got to where he wasn’t talking to them. Bobby seemed to forget that his talent was God given, that others had to work. It got to where the players were so uptight, they had trouble performing. One of the players went to Pully and said get that guy off the ice or there’ll be a full-scale riot. Pully took him off.” – Eagleson

“I used to be great friends with Bobby. I used to help at his hockey school, I golfed with him. But in Chicago he changed. I couldn’t do anything right as far as he was concerned. He began isolating himself from the players and a resentment built up toward him. He stopped talking to me. He hasn’t talked to me since.” – Dale Tallon, former Hawks defenceman.

Following a game in Chicago against the Vancouver Canucks, a number of players went to a bar called the Rusty Scupper. Orr joined them. One of the Canuck players was Hilliard Graves, a tough little winger with a reputation as a reckless body checker. “Bobby was giving the Vancouver players hell for not putting out,” says Graves. “He was very belligerent, very mean. Then he started on me. He said if he ever came back, he was going to get me. He was really mad. I said if he did, I’d take his knees right off. He punched me in the chest, knocked me off my stool. I threw him to the floor, but he jumped up and punched me under the eye. I nailed him twice, one on the nose and one on the eye and he went down. A few moment later I see him standing at the door to the washroom and he’s calling me over. Bobby was almost in tears. “I’m really glad you hit me,” he said. “I deserved it. I’ve been acting crazy lately. I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with me. I’m so frustrated. I’ve been looking for something, I don’t know what.”

“He was in trouble all the time in Chicago, couldn’t get along. Too much of a damn perfectionist. For a while after he quit, he was horrible to get along with, you could hardly talk to him. I imagine his wife had to put up with a lot.” – Doug Orr, Bobby’s father.

“I hope he grows up some day.” Harry Sinden

“He had no diplomacy. There was only one way: his. I guess when you’re used to getting your own way all your life, it’s hard to change. The Black Hawks are in my blood and as far as I’m concerned, Bobby Orr was an outsider.” – Don Murphy, Hawks publicity director.

“Bobby phoned me and tried to get me to support Bill against Al. I said no, they’re both friends, I know nothing about it and, besides, Al’s been very good to me. Bobby called me all sorts of names, hung up and hasn’t talked to me since. We used to be best friends.” – Mike Walton




Summit ’72 “Aftermath”

Immediately following their stunning game-eight victory, Team Canada had to hit the road to Prague to play the Czechoslovakian national team the next night. This should have been better thought out by Hockey Canada, with an escape clause written into the contract. The team was both emotionally and physically spent, and it was unfair to subject them to this. It was time to go home, not play a meaningless game. They also felt it might take some of the lustre off the Russian Series, and they had absolutely nothing to gain and much to lose.

But the Prague game had to go on whether the team wanted it to or not.

Czech-born Stan Mikita, who was sent to live with an aunt in Canada when he seven, was named captain of Team Canada on this night, which was a classy and loving touch from coach Harry Sinden and others. Mikita had played just two games during the Summit, but in Prague it was his night. He was king. His mom and brothers and sisters were at the game, and Stan was given a long standing ovation.

As far as the game went, Canada pulled another one out of that, as they had shown often recently, by tying the game at three with just four seconds remaining, when Serge Savard stuffed it home.

And then it was time to come home.

Fifteen years after the fact, Team Canada and the Soviets played two games in celebration of the Summit Series, in Ottawa and in Hamilton. I was at the Ottawa game, and I remember being disappointed that the Soviets didn’t wear the same type of sweater that they had worn originally. And although both teams had the majority of original players in their lineups, Canada added Bill Barber, Gordie Howe, Mike Walton, Reggie Leach, Jacques Lemaire, and Darryl Sittler to the squad.

Six players, three from each team, have passed away. Bill Goldsworthy in 1996, Gary Bergman in 2000, and Rick Martin in 2011. The Russian bear, Alexander “Rags” Ragulin passed in 2004, and fellow defenceman Valeri Vasiliev died recently, in April of 2012.

And of course the great Valeri Kharlamov, killed, along with his wife, in a car crash outside of Moscow in 1981.

The “Father of Russian Hockey” Anatoli Tarasov, who had to step aside for the Summit Series, passed away in 1995, and his successor Vsevolod Bobrov, who coached the ’72 squad, died in 1979. Bobrov’s bench assistant Boris Kulagin checked out in 1988.

Sadly, John Ferguson, who was a force to be reckoned with not only in 1972 but throughout his career on and off the ice, left us in 2007. Fergie stayed beside Harry Sinden throughout the pressure cooker, and was a true inspiration as assistant coach. Some folks, however, might not agree with that moment in time when he advised Bobby Clarke that maybe Kharlamov needed a tap on the ankle.

Foster Hewitt signed off permanently in 1985. Sure he butchered Yvan Cournoyer’s name in the beginning of the series, but he got it right as he went along, and he did a fine job of describing the games for us in his own Foster Hewittian-way. Foster was 69 years old, had come out of retirement to call this series, and what a way to cap off a 40-plus year career, one that included coming up with such iconic catch-phrases as “He shoots, he scores!” and “Henderson scores for Canada!”

Many of the Canadian and Russian players became friends over the years, although Boris Mikhailov still might not win any popularity contests.

And say what you want about Alan Eagleson, but without him, the Russians may have gotten their way way too often, and there might not have even been a series in the first place.. Eagleson took care of business, and was the guy who got it done off-ice. Unfortunately, Eagle was later discovered to have stolen from the players association and various clients, and ended up doing six months in prison for fraud and embezzlement. He was also kicked out of the Hockey Hall of Fame, which must have been a cruel blow for the disgraced lawyer and player agent.

But he was immeasurably important for the 1972 Summit Series.

Jacques’ Hockey School

Danno in Ottawa came across these brochures (below) for Jacques Martin’s hockey school in Rigaud and Hawkesbury. For just $425 for a 5 day session, you can learn from Jacques and return to your team in the fall new and improved and ready to go.

Jacques bills himself as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens so he might want to change the wording slightly.

Hockey schools were becoming the rage when I was a young teen, but I was never able to go because we just didn’t have the extra cash. But I had teammates who did, and I swear I never saw much improvement in them at all. And the common consensus seems to be that although hockey schools advertise all kinds of pros coming to teach, kids rarely see these stars and are mostly instructed by regular staff consisting of university and minor pro people and such.

At the Orr/Walton school in Orillia, Bobby Orr rarely showed up and when he did, it was mostly for photo sessions and the obligatory pat on the head.

There are many who feel that kids should stay away from hockey schools, that summer is a time to get away from rinks, where they had just spent the winter with coaches who yell and obnoxious and aggressive parents, and just hang out at the beach instead. I really don’t know. But like I said, the guys I know who went, didn’t come back new and improved.

But maybe Jacques’ place is different.

If anyone has ever been to one of these, I’d be interested to know how it went. Were you a much better player after going?


Orillia, City Of Stuff

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.