Monday, January 31, 2011

Junior All-Stars

On Friday, I wrote about the 1966-67 all-stars of the National Hockey League. The final All-Star Game related to the Original Six era was played on January 16, 1968 at Maple Leaf Gardens.

On January 31, 1968, the OHA Junior A All-Star Game took place in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Teams from the league were split into 2 factions - east and west. The east team was composed of players from Toronto, Montreal, Oshawa, Peterborough and Ottawa. The west incorporated clubs from Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Hamilton and London. Also, the Kitchener Rangers were shifted to the east to balance out the supply of players.

Gus Bodnar
 The line-ups for each all-star team contained many future NHLers. In the case of the eastern team, the potential line combinations read like an NHL squad, give or take a couple of years. Richie Bays-Terry Caffrey-Tom Martin / Lee Inglis-Walt Thaczuk-Jim Kruliciki / Paul Lessard-Andre Gaudette-Rejean Houle / Ron Dussiaume-Dave Tallon-Fred O'Donnell. The spare forwards were Don Luce, Rick MacLeish and Pierre Jarry. The defence core consisted of Norm Descouteau, Pierre Bouchard, Brad Park, Mike Robitaille, Jim Whittaker and Dick Redmond. The netminders were Gary Edwards and Gary Dole.

The coach of the eastern team was Gus Bodnar of the Toronto Marlboros. Bodnar, a native of Fort William, Ontario, played in the Original Six era with Toronto, Chicago and Boston. The 5'10" centre played in his first National Hockey League game on October 30, 1943 with the Maple Leafs. He would be named the winner of the Calder Trophy ('44) and capture 2 Stanley Cups with Toronto - 1945 and 1947.

The game was a typical all-star affair. The eastern team emerged from the first period with a 4-0 lead. In the second period, with Ottawa netminder Gary Dole replacing the Marlboros Gary Edwards, the west found their scoring touch. They netted 3 goals in the second and 2 early in the third. The winning goal was scored by future NHLer Tom Webster at 4:32 of the final frame, giving the west a 5-4 win. Edwards, who didn't give-up a single goal, replaced Doyle for the last 15 minutes of the game.

Many players participating in the Niagara Falls All-Star Game would graduate to the NHL. And eventually play in a National Hockey League All-Star Game.

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