Tag Archives: Toronto Marlboros

Punch Played

It’s hard to picture Punch Imlach as anything but a hard-assed coach. But the guy who coached first the Quebec Aces of the Quebec Senior Hockey League, then the Springfield Indians in the AHL, and then became the notorious and egotistical taskmaster with the Leafs and Sabres, began as a really good player, the “best centre in the loop”, they said.

But it’s still hard not to think of him as the guy in the fedora behind the Leafs bench, playing cat and mouse with the Habs’ Toe Blake, and being so hard on Frank Mahovlich that the Big M was once hospitalized because of Punch’s daily pressure.

Although it doesn’t look like it in this picture. But things would deteriorate.

Big M

This is when he was playing for Cornwall in 1941-42.

Imlach best

Punch

Imlach

Another From The Old Trunk

I was going through an old program I have, from an Ottawa ’67s game I was at back in 1976, and I found my ticket stub inside! Such a bonus!

Here you’ll see Doug Wilson, general manager of the San Jose Sharks, when he looked like a white Jimi Hendrix. You can see Bruce Boudreau, now coaching the Anaheim Ducks, who had won the scoring championship the previous year, along with a bunch of guys who would also make the NHL, including Habs Doug Jarvis and Mark Napier.

And no, the picture of six Ottawa players isn’t a “Wanted” poster at the cop shop.

Peter Lee, on the cover and also in that one particular photo, would score 81 goals in this ’75-’76 season and was chosen by the Habs 12th overall. He’d go on to play for the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, but before he would ever wear the CH, he and Canadiens Peter Mahovlich were traded to Pittsburgh for Pierre Larouche.

Also included – Boudreau accepting the Memorial Cup, and Bobby Orr telling us about Yardley Black Label.

003

004

006

008

Boudreau

009

 

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

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

Steve Shutt Or Clark Gillies. Who Would You Take?

shutt_hallnhl_g_gillies_195 

They’re both Hall of Famers, both were left wingers, they both played 14 seasons, and both come from the same era.

One was a huge, tough player with great hands, and the other was smaller with great hands.

Both were extremely important players on their teams.

Who would you pick to play left wing on your team, Clark Gillies or Steve Shutt?

Shutt, 5’11”, 180 pounds, notched 424 goals and 393 assists for 817 points in 930 games. And he had only 410 minutes in penalties. In the playoffs, Shutt had 98 points in 99 games.

Gillies, 6’3″, 210 pounds, tallied 319 goals and 378 assists for 697 points in 958 games. He was sent to the penalty box for a total of 1023 minutes. In the playoffs, Gillies had 94 points in 164 games.

Gary Lupul told me once that of all the players he played against when he was with the Canucks, it was Gillies who frightened him the most. He was as strong as a bull who could also play the finesse game – a very lethal combination. Gillies also benefitted from playing alongside Brian Trottier and Mike Bossy and grabbing rebounds from a Denis Potvin slapshot.

Shutt on the other hand didn’t scare anybody except enemy goalies. He’d been a junior superstar with the Toronto Marlies, and continued his knack for scoring when he joined the Canadiens. Many times he simply cashed in after Lafleur or Lemaire had done much of the work, but regardless, if garbage goals were easy, then everyone would be scoring. Phil Esposito was the same sort of goal scorer as Shutt. And Shutt also grabbed rebounds from Robinson, Lapointe and Savard at the point.

Both were extremely valuable players on cup-winning teams, – Gillies with the Islanders, Shutt with the Habs. Their points are similiar, their size isn’t.

Who would you take?

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.

Things Were Slightly Cheaper In The 1940’s

This is an ad from a 1940’s newspaper I found years ago. As you can see, prices were somewhat less than they are today. 

Imagine, the Rocket, Elmer Lach, Toe Blake, Teeder Kennedy, Howie Meeker, Turk Broda – all the boys, for 75 cents.