Monday, August 17, 2015


There was a special birthday bash last Monday, when the Oldtimers luncheon celebrated Johnny McCormack's 90th. John Ronald "Goose" McCormack was born in Edmonton, Alberta on August 2, 1925.

The festivities began with the unveiling of Johnny's plated chair, an honour bestowed upon those in the group that reach the age of 90.

"John McCormack - Toronto Maple Leafs," Al Shaw declared as he read into the record the wording on the plaque affixed to Johnny's chair.

Then, a string of speakers made their way to the microphone to salute the guest of honour.

"A good husband, a good father, a good athlete, a good businessman and a good sense of humour," Ron Hurst said in summing up Johnny McCormack the man and hockey player.

"I loved playing with guy's like Johnny, and it was such a privilege to play with the NHL Oldtimers," Brian McFarlane told the room. "You and Wally (Stanowski) were two of my favourites."

"This is a great privilege because John is such a great guy," Ivan Irwin proclaimed. "We certainly welcomed him into our Oldtimers group. He had to be the one that forechecked."

Ivan explained how difficult it was to play against Johnny.

"You're going around the net with the puck, and BOOM, John was there. It looked like he was out by the blueline and there was enough room to get around him. Then, his arm would stretch out and you'd bring the puck back a bit, but John's arm kept coming out. I don't know how long that arm of his is. I had the puck between my skates. No wonder I couldn't get out of my end."

Former NHL referee, Bruce Hood, was the final individual to pay tribute to Johnny.

"Growing up in Milton, Ontario, we had a guy named Enio Sclisizzi," Hood said in reference to the former Detroit Red Wing and Chicago Black Hawk player. Enio, also a native of Milton, played 81 NHL games starting in 1946-47 and was a regular at the lunch right up until the time of his passing.

"All the old names like Wally Stanowski, Johnny McCormack and Ivan Irvin, these were the names I grew up with and listened to on the radio. I was so honoured in later years to be a part of what these people were. So, every time I come here, I feel humbled to be in the company of Johnny and the others."

Saving the best to last, Johnny McCormack had the last word.

"I played in Montreal for 3 years and in my middle year, I scored one goal," Johnny said of his season in 1952-53. "And that is a pretty good record if you can stay in the league by scoring one goal."

"I worked at Blue Bonnets Racetrack in the summer and some guys said everybody (on the Canadiens) was going to get a raise because we won the Stanley Cup in '53."

Not wanting to miss out, Johnny made a trip to the Montreal Forum.

"So, I went to see Mr. Selke (Montreal's GM) and I said, Mr. Selke I'd like a raise. He suppressed a laugh because I only scored one goal all season."

Sensing that he wasn't getting anywhere, Johnny tried a different pitch.

"I told him I had a toothache and needed some dental work. He said, 'smile,' and looked inside my mouth. Needless to say, I didn't get the raise, but I did get to play another year with Montreal."

Here is a timeline of Johnny McCormack's career as a player:

-In 1943, Johnny travelled east to play junior hockey for the Toronto St. Michael's Majors.

-In the spring of 1944, he was loaned to the Trail Smoke Eaters to play in the Memorial Cup. Trail lost hockey's junior championship to the Oshawa Generals.

-The next year, on April 23, 1945, Johnny was a key member of St. Mike's as they won the Memorial Cup by downing the Moose Jaw Canucks.

-While in junior, Johnny perfected his signature move - the poke check.

-In the fall of 1945, Johnny attended the Toronto Maple Leafs training camp, but was knocked out of action when he underwent an appendectomy. When he recovered, the Leafs assigned him to the Tulsa Oilers in the United States Hockey League.

-On October 3, 1946, an announcement was made that Johnny would leave hockey and return home to begin his studies to join the priesthood.

-Following a one-year absence, Johnny returned to the game in 1947-48 and played for the Senior Marlboros.

-In January 1948, Johnny was summoned by the Leafs for a three-game trial when Syl Apps suffered an injury.

-He played his first National Hockey League game on January 31, 1948 at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Leafs edged Detroit by a score of 3-2.

-After his trial period ended, Johnny returned to the Sr. Marlboros and went on to become the co-winner of the Robert "Moose" Ecclestone Trophy, which was awarded to league scoring champion.

-In 1948-49, John once again suited up the Sr. Marlboros and also, played one contest for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

-On January 12, 1950, John signed his first professional contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. At the time, he was up from the Sr. Marlboros on another three-game trial.

Johnny gets a royal tour of the Leafs hockey office by Hap Day after signing his contract
-During one of the trial games, on January 7, 1950, Johnny scored his first NHL goal when the Leafs hosted Chicago.

-The following year, 1950-51, Johnny divided his time between the Leafs and Pittsburgh Hornets (the Leafs primary farm team).

-On September 23, 1951, Johnny was traded to the Montreal Canadiens and in his second year with the Habs he won a Stanley Cup.

-The Stanley Cup victory resulted in Johnny playing in the 1953 All-Star Game.

-He played parts of the 1951-52 & 1953-54 seasons with Montreal's AHL farm club, the Buffalo Bisons.

-On September 15, 1954, the Chicago Black Hawks claimed Johnny off the waiver wire and he played 63 games with the Hawks.

-In the off-season, Johnny was shipped to Detroit in an 8-player deal.

-His final year in pro hockey was in 1955-56 with the WHL Edmonton Flyers.

-After he retired, Johnny performed with the NHL-Toronto Oldtimers hockey team.

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