Tag Archives: WHL

Gary Lupul

Powell River, separated from Vancouver by two ferry rides and 120 long and winding kms, boasts a junior team, the Kings, who play in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), and at one time had one of the best senior squads in all of Canada, the Regals, a team that captured three Allan Cups between 1997 and 2006.

It’s serious hockey played in these parts. But on a Saturday night in 2010, the most important hockey game of the year was also a fun night, a great night, and a bittersweet night.

Because on that night, the town, players and fans honoured Gary Lupul.

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Gary Lupul was my friend, as I’ve mentioned here before. We used to have great all-night talks when both of lives weren’t exactly stable. He oozed personality and humour. A truly unique, one-of-a-kind guy.

Gary began as a huge star in the Western Hockey League with the Victoria Cougars and went on to play 293 games with the Vancouver Canucks, scoring 70 goals and 145 points. He played against Gretzky, Lemieux, Cheevers and Lafleur, and although slightly small, was a tough cookie who stood up to everyone.

But he had troubles off the ice. Drugs and alcohol ended up shortening his career and although he regretted it, he also probably knew he couldn’t change. He was a fun-loving fellow who drove his coaches crazy but was loved by his teammates, who always speak of him now with a smile on their faces.

Happily, at a time when he really needed some kind of a break, he became a scout for the Canucks and was able to stay in the sport he loved. He would phone me sometimes when he was on frozen roads that took him throughout Ontario from rink to rink – Kitchener one night, Huntsville or Ottawa or Cornwall the next, even my old hometown Orillia, and he would tell me about the snowstorms and young players he’d just seen, and you knew he was in his element.

More than ten years ago, on July 17, 2007, while watching television, Gary suffered a heart attack and died, and we mourned and still mourn. He was a great, kind, funny, generous guy who could relate to a street person as easily as he could to a millionaire. He’d been through some hard times, and he kept a special place in his heart for the down-and-out.

On that Saturday in 2010, the Vancouver Canucks alumni came to Powell River to take on the Regals alumni made up of players who had been part of those Allan Cups teams, and it was a fine game.

But it wasn’t really about the game on this night.

It was about Gary, our friend.

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Live, From The Edmonton Gardens

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Neat old 4-page program I came across years ago, featuring the visiting New York Rangers playing the minor pro WHL Edmonton Flyers in an exhibition game prior to the 1955-56 season.

It’s actually a yellow program, but my camera gives it a bluish tint.

The Rangers lineup is packed with familiar names, including future HOFers Gump Worsley, Harry Howell, Bill Gadsby, and Andy Bathgate.

But the Edmonton Flyers has its share of names too, with Al Arbour, Jerry Melnyk, Bill Dea and a handful of others, plus #17 Aggie Kukulowicz, who, along with playing four games with the Rangers between 1952 and ’54, acted as a translator for Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series.

The Flyers, which existed from 1940 to 1963, were a Detroit Red Wings farm club, and also shows Johnny McCormack, who played for the Canadiens from 1951 to ’54, in the lineup.

Players on the Rangers who would don the Canadiens sweater at one time or another include the Gumper from 1963-64 to 1969-70; Ivan Irvin, who skated with the Habs for 4 games in the 1952-53 season; Lou Fontinato, with117 Habs games under his belt in 1961-62 and ’62-63; Jean-Guy Gendron, who was a Canadien for 43 games in 1960-61; and Bronco Horvath, who wore the CH for one game in1956-57;

And coach Phil Watson, who laced ’em up with the Habs for 44 games during the 1943-44 campaign.

I hope I haven’t missed anybody.  If I have, feel free to mention it.

The Edmonton Gardens, where this game took place, was built in 1913 and demolished in 1982, although years before the demolition, in 1974, the WHA Oilers moved over to the new Northlands Coliseum.

 

Chick Webster

Yes, yes, he’s wearing a Rangers uniform. Please don’t hold that against him.

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Over the past few months I’ve chatted and exchanged emails with 93-year old John “Chick” Webster and his son Rob, both of whom live up in the North Bay area. Serious hockey country. Cold winters.

Chick played just 14 games in the NHL, all with the Rangers during the 1949-50 season, but was a solid minor leaguer in the EHL, AHL, PCHL, and WHL.

An example of a fine player who couldn’t crack the bigs because in those days, only 120 could.

Real nice fellow, who says he’s not like so many others of his generation who insist the game was better way back when. It’s great now and he enjoys watching, he says. But if he and others shot the puck in the way they do now, they’d be benched. “We had to carry it in, there was none of that”.

A guy who played hockey when the pay was low and you didn’t shoot it in.

Chick was playing for Baltimore in the Eastern Hockey League in 1940-41 and decided to enlist. “I figured the war would go on for a few months, maybe a year, and then I’d come right back and carry on.

Five years later he finally got back to Baltimore.

Chick also played for the notorious Eddie Shore while with Syracuse, and says he was a terrible boss, which is also what anyone who ever played for Shore says. “Shore said we should never take time off, and if there was no ice available, we were supposed to practice on the streets. I ended up quitting.”

He would soon have a cup of coffee with the Vancouver Canucks of the old Western Hockey League, and ended up playing senior hockey with Sault Ste. Marie of the Northern Ontario Hockey league.

It’s also a family affair. Chick’s brother Don played for the Leafs in 1943-44. Rob’s nephew Jason Lafreniere was a Nordiques, a Ranger, and a Tampa Bay Lightning. And Jason’s dad helped win the Memorial Cup for the Hamilton Red Wings back in 1962.

Good people, these Websters. I should ask Chick who he’s cheering for in the Habs-Rangers series.

 

John Kordic Fought To Play

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John Kordic, as you know, was a rough and tough enforcer for the Habs in the latter part of the 1980s, and would eventually die at just 27 years old from a drug overdose and a scuffle with nine police at a motel in the Quebec City suburb of L’Ancienne-Lorette.

A violent ending to a man who earned his living by being violent.

We’ve seen issues before with guys whose roles it was to mainly fight, such as Derek Boogaard, and Kordic, like Boogaard, had issues.

My banker was a friend of Kordic’s in Edmonton, from childhood through to adulthood, and he said that although Kordic had a dad who pushed him hard and always expected more, the real problems didn’t begin until Kordic made the NHL. Kordic admitted that it started when the Habs would go on road trips to Los Angeles, where parties and drugs can crop up at the snap of a finger, especially for young, rich, and famous athletes.

So unfortunately, it began with the Habs. My question is, how do Kings players avoid this type of thing?

Ultimately, Kordic became addicted to cocaine, and in the link I provide at the bottom of this page, Kordic revealed that cocaine was in use with some of the Habs back then, and if it’s true, it’s tremendously disturbing.

Kordic wasn’t blessed with an abundance of hockey talent, although he enjoyed a decent junior career, beginning as a defenceman in junior in Portland before switching to forward as the years went by, but the need for fighters, or goons, in the NHL, became his ticket to fame and fortune.

It also became crystal clear that if he wanted to stay gainfully employed in the bigs, he needed to be as strong and as fast as he possibly could, and so the pressure was on. Which meant drugs like cocaine to ease the mind, and steroids to thicken the muscles.

Kordic would come home to Edmonton in the off-season with stretch marks on his neck from steroid-induced rapid muscle growth.

I was told that Kordic drove a Corvette when he came back home to Edmonton, and when he would leave, he simply gave the keys to his buddies and they bombed around the city in the flashy car. Kordic also had no sense of money responsibilities, and would ask to borrow cash from his friends even though he earned so much more than them. “Really John?” they would ask, but that was the way it was.

Kordic won a Stanley Cup with the Habs in 1986, and also toiled for the Leafs, Capitals, and Nordiques during his rocky and violent career. He once told my banker that it was great when he was with Toronto because it meant he, “didn’t have to backcheck, or forecheck, he just had to cash cheques.

In the end, it all got away from him, and a man described as just a truly nice guy and a great friend to many, let it get the best of him.

An excellent and somewhat disturbing 1992 Sports Illustrated story about John Kordic and be seen here Death of a Goon.

Below, Kordic and Torrie Robertson go at it.

 

 

New Press Release

PRESS RELEASE

MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin announced Sunday the signing of defenseman Darren Dietz to a three-year contract (2013-14 to 2015-16). As per club policy, financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

In 72 games with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades this season, Dietz has collected 58 points (24 goals, 34 assists). He ranks first among the league defensemen in goals, and third among WHL rearguards in points. He shows 100 penalty minutes and a +9 plus/minus differential.

Dietz, 19, has recorded 131 points (48 goals, 83 assists) in 220 games since his junior debut with Saskatoon in 2009-10. The 6’01’’ and 195 lbs defenseman has served 288 penalty minutes and displays a +29 plus/minus differential.

A native of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Dietz was selected in the fifth round, 138th overall by the Canadiens at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He took part in his first training camp with the Canadiens in September 2011.

You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down

In 1987, Brad Hornung was a speedy 18 year old playmaker for the Western Hockey League Regina Pats, and all was right in his world. He had ambitions to make it to the pros, and he very well might have. He seemed to have the talent, he had the bloodlines (his dad Larry had a cup of coffee with the St. Louis Blues and spent 7 seasons in the WHA with the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, and San Diego Mariners), and the young fellow was getting better and better. His family were his biggest fans, he was a hometown hero, and things were going along in a splendid way.

Until one night.

It was the Moose Jaw Warriors in town on a winter night in March, and Brad had the puck and was speeding into the Warrior’s end. But before he could make his play, he was hit hard and he crashed into the boards. Blood came pouring out, the crowd was silent, and doctors came charging onto the ice where they messaged the fallen player’s heart and did an emergency tracheotomy then and there.

Brad was taken quickly to the hospital, his life hung by a thread for days and days, and somehow he would pull through. But tragically, the damage was done. He had suffered a broken neck, his spine cord severely damaged, and he was permanently paralysed from the neck down.

The on-ice hit had left Brad a quadriplegic, but it hadn’t weakened his spirit. He remained a rock, and never ever blamed the player who hit him, although the player lived with grief and guilt for years after. In fact, whenever this player, whom I won’t name, played after that, fans would yell and call him killer and paralyser and other such nastiness.

Brad, the one who should have been the angriest of them all, wasn’t. He simply said it wasn’t the player’s fault and it could have happened to anybody.

He’s in his early 40’s now, and from his wheelchair has scouted for the Chicago Black Hawks and remains a loyal Regina Pats alumni member. He’s a story of strength and heart, and when I read about him in Roy MacGregor’s great book “The Home Team – Fathers, Sons, & Hockey,” I was touched by what a fine man this guy is, and was amazed at how he got on with his life without being able to move almost every muscle in his body.

Not only that, with the help of a tube, he’a able to use the computer, and guess what, he has a blog! This amazing fellow talks about junior hockey on his site Hornung On Hockey and you can see that a life-changing thing like being paralyser can’t keep a good hockey man down.

Look Out Whitehorse

New Brunswick Minor Hockey Team Scores Big!

Team to travel to Whitehorse in February for Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada as winner of Scotiabank’s BIG SAVE contest

PETITCODIAC-SALISBURY, NB, Dec. 15 /CNW/ – The Petitcodiac-Salisbury Bantam “A” Flyers are preparing for the hockey journey of a lifetime as they travel to Whitehorse, Yukon, to participate in Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada on CBC, on February 12, 2011, a day that celebrates hockey’s birthday and Canada’s passion for the game.

The Flyers, made up of one girl and 17 boys, ages 13 and 14, learned yesterday, via a private broadcast from CBC’s Ron MacLean, that they are the winners of the Scotiabank BIG SAVE contest. The team will fly to Whitehorse in February with the Vancouver Giants and Kamloops Trailblazers from the Western Hockey League and have their arrival in Whitehorse filmed by CBC. This once-in-a-lifetime experience will give the Flyers the opportunity to meet NHL Alumni and lace up their skates to face-off against a local minor hockey team from the Yukon in the state-of-the-art 210,000 square foot Canada Games Centre..

Big Night In A Small Town. A Tribute To Gary Lupul

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Powell River, the little semi-isolated town up the coast from Vancouver, boasts a junior team, the Kings, in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), and one of the best senior squads in all of Canada, the Regals. It’s serious hockey played in these parts. But on Saturday night, the most important hockey game of the year will be a fun night, a great night, but also a bittersweet night.

Because on this night, the town, players and fans honour Gary Lupul.

Gary Lupul was my friend, as I’ve mentioned here before. We used to have great all-night talks. His mom, who recently passed away, was a lovely lady who oozed class and was the force behind the town getting a new arena. Whenever I see his dad at the mall or on the street, he always has something silly to say that makes me laugh. In fact, I just Vic at the mall a few days ago sitting with a bunch of women his age, and he had them all laughing and giggling.

The Lupul family is a family of warm and funny characters.

Gary began as a huge star in the Western Hockey League with the Victoria Cougars and went on to play 293 games with the Vancouver Canucks, scoring 70 goals and had 145 points. He played against Gretzky, Lemieux, Cheevers and Lafleur, and although slightly small, was a tough cookie who stood up to everyone.

But he had troubles off the ice. Drugs and alcohol ended up shortening his career and although he regretted it, he also probably knew he couldn’t change. He was a fun-loving fellow who drove his coaches crazy but was loved by his teammates, who always speak of him now with a smile on their faces.

Happily, at a time when he really needed a break, he became a scout for the Canucks and was able to stay in the sport he loved. He would phone me sometimes when he was on wintry roads that took him throughout Ontario from rink to rink – Kitchener one night, Huntsville or Ottawa or Cornwall the next, even my old hometown Orillia, and he would tell me about young players he’d just seen, and you could tell he was in his element.

Just over two years ago, on July 17, 2007, while watching television, Gary suffered a heart attack and died, and we mourned and still mourn. He was a great, kind, funny, generous guy who could relate to a street person as easily as he could to a millionaire. He’d been through some hard times, and he kept a special place in his heart for the down-and-out.

Saturday night, the Vancouver Canucks alumni are coming to Powell River to take on the Regals alumni made up of players who won three Allan Cups in the past fifteen years, and it should be a fun, entertaining night of great passes, slick plays, and smiling faces.

But it won’t really be about the game on this night. It will be about Gary, our friend, who we miss so much.

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