Sit down with ex-NHL players to discuss life after hockey, living in Niagara and what they think of the game today.
Which teams did you play for in the NHL?
I played six years with the Philadelphia Flyers, three years with the Toronto Maple Leafs and three years with the Colorado Rockies. Back then there were only six teams in the NHL. They sponsored junior teams all over Canada and because I was born and raised in St. Catharines, I automatically belonged to the Chicago Black Hawks. During that time, I ended up playing Junior B in St. Catharines, and when it came time to try out for the juniors, I was in competition with four other goal tenders… there was another team in Niagara Falls at the time, the Niagara Falls Flyers, which was Boston’s team. I spent three years in Niagara Falls with the Flyers and in 1965, we won the Memorial Cup. Then I turned pro and belonged to Boston and ended up in Oklahoma City with Boston’s farm team. Played two years with Boston’s farm team and then in 1967, they had the first expansion draft – where they went from six to twelve teams. And I was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers – along with Bernie Parent. Then I was traded in 1973 to the Leafs.
What was it like playing in the NHL and with the Toronto Maple Leafs?
It was great – I lived in great cities and met great people. It was disappointing to leave Philadelphia because we were right on the verge of winning the cup. But if I had to go anywhere, it was great to come back close to home and play for the Leafs. I grew up watching the Leafs so it was great to play with them for three years. They traded me to Colorado and I spent three years there with the Rockies.
After retirement, did you leave hockey?
Not at first. I ended up staying in Colorado for nine years after the Rockies; I ended up coaching at Denver University for two years. In 1986, we decided to move back home [to Niagara]. I started coaching and managing the Thorold Junior B team. At the same time I was coaching the Brock University team … I coached two years. In 1987 when I came back, I was offered the goaltending coaching position in Buffalo with the Sabres. So I ended up four years with the Sabres. Then in 1991, I left hockey.
Why retire in Niagara?
I am an only child, so to my parents, my two children were their only grandchildren. So we decided to move back. My wife’s family was also here. I was happy to be back – we were all back where we belonged. It was time to play old-timers hockey and have fun.
The NHL has changed so much over the years; are you still interested in hockey?
I watch a little bit … I am interested, but I’m not a diehard. The game has changed a lot. But I enjoy it with my grandkids and my son. What do you think of goaltending today? It’s an entirely different game. It’s faster… It’s the speed of the game. I’m not a fan of it. The equipment is all too big and you’re just filling the net. These goaltenders, they are a lot more skilled than we were, because they are playing a different style. Their flexibility – the working out – that has all changed. And not only the big equipment, but the size of the guys. Back in the sixties and seventies, when we finished playing, we had to come home and work, because we didn’t make enough money playing. You didn’t spend your time working out, you actually had to work. I was a bigger than average guy and I’m 5’ 11” and was 170 lbs. These guys, now they’re 6’ 5”.
What was your biggest accomplishment during your time in the NHL?
Team-wise, probably winning the first series for the Flyers in 1972-1973. We beat Minnesota in the first round of the first series; the Flyers beat everyone in the playoffs. But there were a lot of personal highlights as well: my first game with the Leafs, winning games with the expansion teams. I didn’t quite get to the end, but I made a lot of friends and met a lot of great people along the way. I also ended up playing professional lacrosse as well as playing in the NHL — I was a forward. One of my highlights is I am the only man to ever win the Memorial Cup and the Minto Cup [Canadian Junior Lacrosse] in the same year in 1965. I am very proud of that fact. I also hold the record for the fastest three goals in the Minto Cup – three goals in 11 seconds. It’s never been broken.
What is one of your favourite memories of your time in the NHL?
I was the first goalie to paint my mask. Other goalies had painted details, like stitches, on theirs before, but I was the first to fully paint it. Today everybody does it.