Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Old Boys of St. Mike's

Yesterday, I wrote about the origins of Oldtimers hockey dating back to the early 1950s. Right from the outset, the purpose of these games was to raise funds for charities and community concerns. The charter members even went so far as to include this aspect into their constitution. Also, games of this nature were meant to be a fun experience for everyone involved. For the players, it was an opportunity to give something back to the fans who supported them in their playing days. For spectators attending a game in a non-NHL city, it was often their first chance to witness in person the greats of the game.

By the 1960s, the traditional Oldtimers format was still in operation and raising money for the needy within various communities. However, there was another version of the 'Oldtimers Game" which was becoming popular with players and fans. The Alumni Game.

In the fall of 1960, there was a big reason for a major celebration at St. Michael's College School in Toronto. For many years, the school's hockey team was partially sponsored by the Toronto Maple Leafs, who placed their prospects on the St. Michael's Majors. The Leafs other junior club was the Toronto Marlboros. Why the cause for celebration? Well, on the evening of November 7, 1960, the school officially opened their new arena. To christen the new facility, they decided that a contest featuring the old and new would be fitting. The current St. Mike's squad versus a roster composed of former players who attended the school and played hockey. In other words, the Majors would be playing an Alumni Team. They were named the "Old Boys".

Within the Old Boys, there was a further mix of old and new. Players such as Frank Mavolich, Dick Duff, Red Kelly and Dave Keon were active players still participating in National Hockey League action. Then, there were the retired stars who still had the game in their blood. Former Detroit Red Wing, Ted Lindsay, was available having just hung-up his skates. To the delight of Maple Leaf fans, defencemen Jimmy Thomson and Gus Mortson were reunited on the Old Boys blueline. It was Thomson's first venture on skates since he retired in 1958. Father Les Costello a former Leaf, who left hockey to enter the priesthood, was a popular member of the Old Boys. Father Costello was a founding member of the Flying Fathers. This team would tour the country and raise a ton of money for charity.

Jimmy Thomson

Gus Mortson

The game was officiated by two legends. Maurice "Rocket" Richard of Montreal fame and Toronto Maple Leaf icon King Clancy shared the duties. It was the Rocket who provided the best line of the night during his speech, which took place following the first period.

"Maybe you're giving me a good hand because I'm not playing against the Leafs. Anyway, I thank you for the way I've always been treated in Toronto. I hope St. Mike's is developing some good hockey players and that they will play for the Montreal Canadiens", Richard was quoted as saying.

As the above headline indicates, the game didn't go as planned for the Old Boys. The St. Michael's Majors got outstanding goaltending from Dave Dryden and coasted to a 5-2 win. Scoring for the Majors were Duncan MacDonald, Darryl Sly (an import), Larry Keenan, Bruce Draper and defenceman Arnie Brown. Of note, no active NHL player on the Old Boys was able to out maneuver Dryden, who's brilliant effort was one of the highlights of St. Mike's victory. The goals for the Old Boys were scored by Ted Lindsay and Bill Dineen of the Cleveland Barons.

Music for the opening ceremonies was provided courtesy of the school band. There appeared to be two ceremonial opening faceoffs. One included former player and coach Paul McNamara dropping the puck between Jack Aldridge (President of the Quarterback Club) and Peter D'Agostino (President of the Old Boys Association). The other faceoff was more traditional with Maurice Richard dropping the puck between the two captains - Terry O'Malley (St. Mike's) and Father Costello (Old Boys). There was even a trade after the first period. Father David Bauer, coach of the Majors, "sold" Dave Keon and Bob McNight to his counterpart on the Old Boys, Father Ted Flanigan.

The estimated crowd of 1,500 fans had come to see the new arena and watch an entertaining hockey game. There is little doubt that with names like Mahovlich, Keon, Kelly and Duff in the line-up, there was added incentive. Jimmy Thomson and Gus Mortson were icing on the cake.

Oldtimers wearing Old Boys uniforms.

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