Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Giving back to the Game

Last week, a newspaper feature detailed ex-NHL players who now coach teams their off-spring play for. The list included Wendel Clark, Tie Domi, Claude Lemieux, Tom Fergus, Andrew McBain, Michael Peca, Nick Kypreos, Paul Coffey Wayne Premeau. Not only are their own children receiving top-notch instruction, but the other players are also benefiting.

In the 1947-48 NHL season, it was the current players who were making a contribution in this regard. The coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs was the legendary Hap Day. In an era when there were no co-coaches, associate-coaches, assistant-coaches or goalie-coaches, Day found himself surrounded by coaches - all dressed in Blue & White. Although they were not involved in coaching the Leafs, many Toronto players were out in the community lending their time and skills to minor league hockey.

At the Inter-Faculty League at the University of Toronto, 3 Leafs were involved in coaching teams - Ted Kennedy (Knox College), Gus Mortson (Forestry) and Jimmy Thomson (Institute of Management). Maple Leaf great, Syl Apps, coached the team at Upper Canada College. Hard-nosed defenceman Bill Ezinicki coached a Bantam club. Also, coaching in this age category, was Max Bentley with the Mimico Bantams. Sid Smith was in charge of the Woodgreen Juveniles of the Toronto Hockey League. Howie Meeker helped in the coaching of a school team in New Toronto. Then, there was Johnny McCormack of the Sr. Marlboros. Not only did he assist in guiding the Leaside Lions of the T.H.L.(Bantam Division), but he coached a girls hockey team.

Of note, Howie Meeker became coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs in April 1956. During the 1956-57, he was behind the bench for 70 games and recorded 21 wins, 34 defeats and 15 ties. However, his greatest contribution towards teaching and instructing young players came in the 1970s. His Howie Meeker Hockey School, instructional books and TV features helped not only youngsters, but their coaches

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