Tag Archives: Western Hockey League

Beauty In An 11×14

Recently I wrote about Ray “Scotty” Morris, a photographer a few years back for the San Francisco Examiner, who took a photo of his then-girlfriend Vicki Ross at the old Cow Palace, with several San Francisco Seals from the professional Western Hockey League spraying snow on the poor lass. It was a photo judged by the Associate Press as one of the best hockey photos of 1965, something Scotty didn’t know about until he discovered my story on these pages.

The stories can be seen here – Who Is This Man, and the first one – Best From Then.

Scot and I have chatted often recently through the wonders of email, he’s a really interesting and friendly guy, and the other day a beautiful 11×14 print showed up from him, one which I’ll get framed soon. Just a really nice gesture on his part.

He also tells me he covered the Beatles during their visit to San Francisco in 1966, and with me being such a lifelong fan of the Fab Four (I saw them in Toronto that same summer, their final tour), I can only shake my head in awe.

 

Guyle Was At Home In The Minors

Last year I was in contact with a fellow named Gyle Konotopetz, who at one time was a terrific and ultra-creative sports columnist with the Calgary Herald before moving to the states, and now, I think, is up in Victoria. Gyle had done a piece in the Herald about Danny Gallivan, and when I wrote about Danny later on, I mentioned Gyle’s article. Lo and behold, Gyle emailed me just to say hi, which was really nice, and which also blew me away considering how talented the guy is and how I had admired him when I lived in Calgary.

Gyle told me he was working on a book about a legendary minor-league player named Guyle Fielder, whom everyone thought should have been a star in the NHL, but for some reason, stayed in the minors. Why would someone shun the limelight? Why would someone not want to play in the NHL and be a huge star? I wondered for years, as many, I’m sure, have.

So who better to ask than Gyle Konotopetz.

“Detroit didn’t want to release Fielder but he asked for his release anyway. In his six games on Howe’s line, the line didn’t have a single point. They both needed the puck to be effective and didn’t click together. Fielder thought he’d have been better off on another line. The year he was there, he was being touted as a rookie of the year candidate (he’s had 122 points in the Western League the previous year).

“He was an all-round athlete, scratch golfer, and pool shark. In Seattle, he had a better salary, he made a lot of money playing pool, and he was able to golf the year round. A couple of years after going back to Seattle, Punch Imlach flew to Seattle to offer him a contract with the Leafs and he wouldn’t take it because he was enjoying his lifestyle in Seattle. A lot of Western Leaguers in those days refused contracts from the NHL.

“Fielder should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Some players would go on his line and double or triple their goal scoring. He lives down in Mesa. Guyle’s uncle, Al Fielder, was president of the Western Hockey League and although Guyle hasn’t said so, I think his uncle used his influence to keep him in the WHL where he was a big draw everywhere.”

Guyle says his book is stalled at the moment, but if he ever gets it finished, be sure to check it out. This guy is a superstar journalist, and Guyle Fielder is a fascinating subject for sure.

And if you want to know more about Guyle Fielder while we wait for Gyle’s book, a couple of nice pieces can be found here at Greatest Hockey Legends and also Sportspress Northwest.

Pole Dancing

The Poles, for whatever reason, just haven’t been able to up their game and become a hockey powerhouse. I don’t know why – it can get cold and snowy in those parts during winter so skating and shooting should be a given.

You would think, anyway.

But there just doesn’t seem to be much going on in the way of hockey madness in Poland, and their national team is ranked way down around 21st. (I will say this, though – I was friends with a Polish couple in Calgary and the wife was one of the most beautiful  creatures I’ve ever seen. So the hockey might not be fantastic but some of the women are).

Poland did have one big moment of glory though, when they beat the powerhouse Soviets 6-4 in the 1976 World Championships. And yes, the Soviets in this game boasted Kharlamov, Mikhailov, Yakushev and all those others who gave the Canadians fits back then. It’s just weird, and you can read about this shocker right here – Poles Stun Soviets, if you’re not too busy swimming or playing croquet.

There’s also been several Poles who made it to the bigs, including Krzysztof Oliwa, Peter Sidorkiewicz, Woitek Wolski, and Mariusz Czerkawski, who saw less-than-memorable action as a Hab during the 2002-03 season.

Maybe it’s a good thing there’s not a lot of them, especially on the Habs. It would be an ongoing headache trying to spell their names.

Below, the Polish National squad takes on the New Westminster Royals of the old Pacific Coast Junior League in December of 1966. How they made out, I’ve no idea.

My Friend The World Junior

I can’t wait for tonight’s Canada-Russia battle. It’s payback time for the Canadians and they have the team to do it.

I was going through some old photos and found my friend Gary Lupul (below), who passed away in 2007 at just 48 years old, and who played in the 1979 World Juniors, when it was still club teams participating. Gary was playing in the Western Hockey League for the Victoria Cougars and was recruited by the New Westminster Bruins for the tournament, held in Sweden.

He showed me his jersey from the tourney one night when we were downstairs at his parents’ house playing pool. It was blue, with white lettering.

Gary would go on to play for the Canucks, but sadly his lifestyle derailed his career. But he made some serious noise as a player. He was a crowd favourite, and the Pacific Coliseum faithful used to chant ‘Loop, Loop, Loop’ thoughout the game. They loved him. He scored on his first NHL shot, against Rogie Vachon, and one night in Montreal, Gary beat Bunny Larocque twice in a game against the Habs.

He was a star from the beginning. In minor all-star, he once notched 70 points in 16 games. At 16 he was rookie of the year with the BC Hockey League Nanaimo Clippers. And he racked up 300 points in three years with the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League.

As a Canuck he was a force to be reckoned with in the 1981-82 Stanley Cup finals against the Islanders.

He played a total of 300 games, with 70 goals and 75 assists, and if he would’ve buckled down, it would have been so much more.

Mario Lemieux’s first fight in the NHL was against Gary.

Here’s Gary and myself and some friends, taken about 15 years ago. It looked like we were having a good day. He was a tremendously fun-loving guy, made us all laugh and kept things lively and upbeat, and was a great guy. (Gary’s in black shirt and sunglasses, I’m in white with the goatee.)

Wild Bill Hunter Should Be In The Hall

Bill Hunter deserves to to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In fact, Hunter, who passed away on December 16, 2002 at the age of 82, should have been enshrined years ago.

To say that Wild Bill shouldn’t be in the hallowed hall is a little like saying Lord Stanley, Conn Smythe, or Frank Selke shouldn’t be either. The man practically instilled the right to skate, shoot, and score in Western Canada.

Here’s a rundown of some his astonishing accomplishments. Then you decide whether he belongs.

He was either coach, general manager, president, chairman of the board, owner, or any combination of the above of the Regina Capitals Senior Club, Saskatoon Quakers, Medicine Hat Tigers, Moose Jaw Hockey Club, Yorkton Terriers, Edmonton Oil Kings Junior Club, San Diego Gulls, Alberta Oilers and Edmonton Oilers of the newly formed World Hockey Association (WHA). He was also general manager of Team Canada 1974.

And he almost single-handedly created the Western Hockey Junior League and was the mastermind behind the modern-day Memorial Cup format.

In 1982 he launched Saskatoon’s bid to acquire a franchise in the National Hockey League by purchasing the St. Louis Blues with the intent to move the club to Saskatoon, only to be turned down by the league. But from this, a world-class multipurpose sports and entertainment complex known as Saskatchewan Place was built.

He was awarded the Canadian Tourism Award, inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, Notre Dame (Saskatchewan) College Hall of Fame, City of Edmonton Hall of Fame, was an Honorary Life Member of Notre Dame, is in the Saskatoon Hall of Fame and was given the Order of Canada. It just goes on and on.

So why isn’t he already? Because Wild Bill rubbed some the wrong way. The NHL was never pleased that Hunter helped form the renegade WHA, which enticed players from the old-guard NHL, which led to a rise in salaries.

Has the NHL held a grudge till this day? If so, it’s time to get over it and do the right thing.

“You Know How I Am, Roll As You Go” Says Price

From the Tri-City Herald, the voice of Kennewick, Paco, and Richland Washington. Carey Price played for the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League from 2002 to 2007, and he was back for a golf tournament.

Price, Canadiens working on new deal

By Annie Fowler, Herald staff writer

RICHLAND — Carey Price was chatting up former Tri-City Americans teammate Dylan Stanley and watching the long drive competition Monday at the ninth annual Olie and Stu’s Desert Bash at Meadow Springs Country Club.

The Montreal Canadiens goaltender was getting in a couple of rounds of golf after a long season that saw Montreal lose in the Eastern Conference finals to the Philadelphia Flyers.

“It was pretty fun,” Price said of the experience. “When you get in the playoffs and get on a run, everyone is pulling on the same rope. I think what made the difference was everyone was enjoying themselves. When you get on a roll like we did last season, everyone was excited. It’s an electrifying city.”

During the regular season, Price shared time in goal with Jaroslav Halak, but by the time the playoffs rolled around, Halak had established himself as the starter and helped lead Montreal to upsets over the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins before running into the Flyers.

When the season ended, both goaltenders were restricted free agents.

The Canadiens opted to keep Price and on June 17, traded Halak to the St. Louis Blues for forwards Lars Eller and Ian Schultz.

“They had to make a decision and they did,” Price said. “I was just riding it out. I’m happy to still be there. Montreal is a great place to play and the fans are great.”

Price, 22, and the Canadiens still were in contract negotiations as of Monday.

“You know how I am, roll as you go,” Price said. “I’m a restricted free agent, it’s pretty much wait and see and come to an agreement that is fair to both sides.”

To fill Halak’s spot, Montreal signed veteran Alex Auld, 29, who split the 2009-10 NHL season with the Dallas Stars and the New York Rangers, playing a total of 24 games.

“It’s going to be a bit of a different look,” Price said. “There’s always been another guy to share the load with. Alex is a pretty good goaltender. I don’t really know him, but I’m looking forward to going back and meeting him.”

Price finished the regular season 13-20-5 with a 2.77 goals against average and a .912 save percentage. He saw action in just four playoff games.

Habs Wake Up In The Third. And A Whole Lot Of Other Stories

Talk about doing it the hard way. Sleepwalk through most of the game, fall behind 4-1, then storm back in the third period and shock everyone in the building by coming alive and winning the darn thing 5-4 by scoring four goals in seven plus minutes at the end of the game.

 

I was hoping for Alex Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec to have break-out games, and both guys produced two goals and two assists and basically pulled it out for the good guys.

 

The Habs won………even though they played lousy. This game must really piss off the Islanders.

 

Must have been a good Halloween party the boys were at the night before. Hangovers can really suck.

 

Moving on:

  

David Robinson of the Chilliwack Bruins of the Western Hockey league took a puck in the teeth Oct. 18th while playing against the Kootenay Ice.

A dentist in Cranbrook yanked his teeth back into position, then Robinson rode the team bus home for seven hours with his mouthguard in his mouth to hold everything together.

 

Is that impressive or what?

 

Rick DiPietro is in some people’s bad books, including the New York media. The Islanders goalie signed a 15 year, 67.5 million dollar contract in 2006, and since then, keeps getting hurt. Now he’s on the shelf again and he’s only got 13 years left on his contract.

 

Apparently, Rick DiPietro is no David Robinson. Geez, the media is hard on their players in New York. I’m sure glad the Montreal media isn’t like that.

 

Important thing to know about Habs defenceman Andrei Markov. “Markov” translated into english means “stamp”, as in stamp on an envelope.

So you can now call him Andy Stamp if you feel so inclined.

 

The Toronto Maple Leafs are doing so well I’m kind of embarrassed I called them dog excretement a while back.

 

My old hometown, Orillia, is famous for many things. Gordon Lightfoot and Rick Ley come from Orillia. Stephen Leacock spent most of his life there and wrote a book about it, titled ‘Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.’

A Toronto TV show in the 1960’s, Perry’s Probe, did some research and decided Orillia had more drug users per capita than any other place in Canada.

 

But most of all, Orillia has the following, documented in this video. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am.

We Lost Gary Lupul A Year Ago

  

A year ago today, July 17, 2007, Gary Lupul passed away. He was 48 years old.

Gary Lupul was an ex-Vancouver Canuck, a proud Powell Riverite, a friend to people from all walks of live, and a great friend of mine. He was a scout for the Canucks when he died, and his beat was Ontario and the northern US, and he would phone me from Kitchener or Ottawa or even while driving through my old birthplace, Orillia, just to check in, to ask how I’m doing, and to say all was well with him.

Gary had lived several lives. Along with being a great athlete, he also had personal demons which ended his career prematurely. He told me once that there were times when he’d get a couple of hours sleep after a big party at his house in Vancouver, get up, walk over a bunch of people sleeping on the floor, and go to his Canucks practices.

He was such a colourful character, and it seems like he was just here a few days ago, and now he’s gone forever.

When I heard the news that Gary had died, for a minute or so I thought it had to be another Gary Lupul. It was shocking. It’s still hard to sort out.

He was the friendliness guy I think I’ve ever met. He only wanted to talk about you, never himself. And he was always genuinely interested. And he could be best friends to the most down and out folks, all the way up to the movers and shakers. Everyone loved him, and he loved everyone.

I would just like you to know that Gary was a real hockey player, not just a fringe player. Drugs and alcohol hurt his career and he never really had a chance to show what he could do.

Here’s some examples;

He was a crowd favourite, and the Pacific Coliseum faithful used to chant ‘Loop, Loop, Loop’ thoughout the game. They loved him.

He was a star from the beginning. In minor all-star, he once notched 70 points in 16 games. At 16 he was rookie of the year with the BC Hockey League Nanaimo Clippers. And he racked up 300 points in three years with the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League.

He was a force to be reckoned with in the 1981-82 Stanley Cup finals against the Islanders.

He played a total of 300 games, with 70 goals and 75 assists. All while he did too much partying.

Mario Lemieux’s first fight in the NHL was against Gary.

Gary played for Canada in the 1979 World Juniors in Sweden.

Twice he was picked as a three star selection in an NHL game. And twice he was interviewed on Hockey Night in Canada.

In a game against the Montreal Canadiens during his first season, he scored twice against Bunny Larocque.

And he scored on his first shot in the NHL against Rogie Vachon.

Gary is missed by many people. He was a friend to all.