Hockey's Historic Highlights

Did You Have a Good Summer? (Part One)

Hockey's Historic Highlights

Glen R. Goodhand

Did You Have a Good Summer? (Part One)

Posted October 16, 2015

Viewed 2770 times

  A little boy was asked what his favourite Bible story was. “Oh, I like the one about the crowd of people that loafs and fishes!”

   Typically summer is the time for loafing and fishing. When it comes to many NHL’ers they fall into that pattern of off-season activities too. Chris Philips likes nothing better than to spend July and August with his wife and three kids at their cottage. Dion Phaneuf and James van Riemsdyk might be mistaken for beach bums just enjoying some rays—with the latter picking PEI as the location for his lolling in the sunshine. Mark Scheifele goes a step further testing his balance on the wakeboard.

  As for fishing, Jake Allen made his way to Northwest Miramichi, where he snagged some prized sea trout. Pavel Datsyuk posed for a photo in his flashy new angler outfit in a different geographic location.

  Golf is the considered prototypical key to relaxation for countless pucksters, so it is superfluous to list players who lose themselves in this activity. Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon chose a more strenuous sport, taking the tennis courts during their precious little time off.  

  Jordan Eberle made sure that he could prove that his destination was Prague, and displayed his picture on Twitter for all to see. Nick Bonino instead decided to travel to the ancient city of Rome, while Tyler Seguin posed in front of the famous Eiffel Tower for his “making memories” outing.

   P.K. Subban joined with other members of the Habs to raise funds for the Montreal Children’s Hospital

Foundation. Torey Krug took more courses at MSU in his effort to earn his degree. Alex Ovechkin of all people got involved in karaoke. Some attended rock concerts or major league baseball games. Others got married or welcomed newborn members to their families.

   For the most part, modern skaters have the freedom to pass the time away from the game in whatever way they choose. But it has not always been so. During the first 60 years of the NHL’s existence very few puck chasers could manage to survive financially on their shinny stipends alone.

   Gordie Howe has rightfully been called “Mr. Hockey”—for a number of reasons—but mainly because he represents the kind of personality needed to survive in the world’s fastest game. But even though he ranks second to none in the hockey fame department, he often remembers that for the first 10 years of his career he had to work at a secular job during the summer to make ends meet. $2,500 was the sum total of his first pro hockey contract. So, he took a job with his father, who was foreman of a cement yard, slinging 85-pound bags of the stuff under each arm. He rode a bicycle to work and back home again. This was the rule rather than the exception for “Original 6” competitors.

   Esteemed author and SIHR member, Eric Zweig, featured this compilation of “spare time” activities dating back to the year 1927, in a recent blog regularly available to SIHR e-list members. It is taken from the Pittsburgh Press, November 16th.

 Clip from the Pittsburgh Press

   Going back to pre-NHL days, the eminent Lester Patrick used to speak of his off-season job with Dominion Rubber Company. Eddie Shore exchanged his lethal hockey stick for a shovel when the last game was over for the season, pitching coal into the bowels of those huge iron horses which dragged CNR trains across the open prairies.  Even the incomparable Howie Morenz enjoyed the confidence of having a machinist’s license to fall back on should the need arise.

     The avocations of some 90 NHL’ers (besides those in Mr. Zweig’s list) are readily available through diligent search, and they vary greatly both in their nature, and the time frame in which they were pursued.

   Bodies of water are common stamping grounds for those taking a breather from regular routines, and a number of puck chasers were involved in that venue during their off seasons.

One of the earliest examples was Jimmy “Sailor” Herbert (1920’s) who was a deck hand on the tankers on the Great Lakes. Goalie Harry Lumley followed suit three decades later in a similar duty. Andy Hebenton (1960’s) never got his feet wet, but instead labored in the ship yards in Vancouver when he toiled for the Victoria Maple Leafs. Larry Pleau (1970’s) is referred to as simply being employed on “deep sea boats”. It was reserved for the Esposito brothers to rate the most unique connection with sea-going vessels. They were hired as tourist guides on boat cruises between Canada and South America in the late 1960’s.

   Still with vehicles of transit, automobiles were popular choices of hockeyists over the years.  In a similar list to the one above, published in 1948 “Red” Carr is listed as a car mechanic. Dick Duff, Billy Reay, and “Teeder” Kennedy hung up their shingles as used car salesmen. When Jimmy Peters Sr. was traded to Detroit in 1949, he began to apprentice in the auto industry sales of a different kind. It involved welding systems used to assemble sheet metal for manufacturing cars. Bill Hicke’s interest in wheels was probably less profitable. He restored antique and classic cars—meaning money was going out, not coming in. Marc Boileau is probably better known as a coach than a player due to his bench boss days in Pittsburgh in the 1970’s. But before he made it to the Big Time with Detroit in 1961, he skated for Indianapolis of the AHL. There he became interested in stock car racing. By the time he retired he held the position as a “jackman” at the Michigan International Speedway, and occasionally got behind the wheel in different heats.

   Horse racing has long been an interest of shinny players, coaches, and managers. “Baldy” Cotton, Charlie Conacher, “King” Clancy, “Hooley” Smith (30’s and 40’s), Max Bentley (40’s), and Wayne Gretzky have all owned race horses. Some have named their steeds after buddies who played on the same team. “Doakie” and “Wayne Cashman” were tags Gerry Cheevers (60’s  & 70’s) had hung on his. Big Jim Norris thought enough of Sid Abel (50’s), that he called one filly from his several stable steeds, “Boot-nose”, after his Red Wing captain. Wayne Carleton (60’s) raised standard bred horses. Brad Maxwell (70’s & 80’s) trained some of the best known ponies in the Yonkers/Roosevelt circuit. Even more in the spotlight was part-time Ranger’s netminder, Gilles Villemure, who owned, trained, and drove trotters when he wasn’t stopping pucks.  In an interview about 1972 he spoke of the biggest prize he ever snagged, a $7,000 purse driving “Timely Knight”. In fact he freely admitted that the one thing he liked better than hockey was horses.

  A September 1978 Toronto Star sports page reported that Rod Seiling. Randy Carlyle, and John Ferguson were neck and neck down the home stretch in a harness racing heat at Greenwood Raceway in Toronto, with Carlyle coming in first and Ferguson second. None other than “King” Clancy was on hand to present the winner’s trophy to the future NHL pilot.

   Farming was second nature to several pucksters, especially those hailing from Canada’s western prairies. The Metz brothers (40’s) partnered in a 1200-acre wheat farm near Wilcox, Saskatchewan. Max Bentley (40’s) went back to his home-town Delisle in the same province to work out his season-long frustrations. Murph “Hard Rock” Chamberlain (50’s) is remembered for virtually dictating when he would turn up at the Canadiens’ practices because his summer pastime on his dairy farm in Quebec spilled over into the regular schedule.  Chuck Lefley and Bill Hajt (70’’s & 80’s) also returned to their rural roots once they hung up the blades for the season. Rick Blight (70’s) approached the agricultural bent from a little different angle. He was part of the family farm equipment business in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Of course the most famous shinny horticulturalist is Glenn Hall. It seemed every year at training camp time, he was either contemplating retirement, or painting the barn, and was inevitably late getting started for a new campaign. (And, oh yea, he DOES have barns on his bailiwick)

   Hat tricks are a coveted achievement at any level in Canada’s National Sport. An unusual one took place in November 1948, and involved Glen Harmon, whose avocation was business manager, agent, and delivery boy for his wife who operated a classy hat shop in the Mount Royal city. Big “Butch” Bouchard’s wife happened to be one lady who greatly admired Mrs. Harmon’s creations, and she let it be known to her defenseman husband. One night Glen brought a “sample” to the dressing room to show his rearguard partner. “It’s expensive”, he warned. “But if you score two goals tonight it’s yours for nothing!”

  Despite the fact that he had bulged the twine only four times the previous season, Emile potted the only two tallies in a 2-0 triumph over Detroit. Voilà! Hat trick!

   Alex Delvecchio (50’s) peddled chapeaus of a different kind. He sold “customer appreciation products” (meaning one could add his own name, logo, or graphic). Golf shirts, scratch pads, and caps were included in the wares available for sale.

  Eddie “The Entertainer” Shack (60’s) was uneducated, but he was an entrepreneur extraordinaire. He could turn a buck while sleeping in a lawn chair. One of his early ventures involved Biltmore hats. He would load up a used car with discarded models (slightly flawed), drive to Sudbury, sell them in his home town, turn a fine profit by also selling the car at higher northern prices, and take the bus back to Southern Ontario.

   At least four hockey mercenaries were involved in law enforcement. “Patsy” Callighen, whose tilt in the Big Time was with the Rangers in 1927-28, later moved to Cleveland. He traded his stick for a billy club during the summers in that city, wearing the uniform of the Cleveland Police Department. Adam “The Flying Scotsman” Brown (40’s) was a rugged individual, who might have been called a “policeman” if he had played in modern day NHL. But he was a cop during the off-season. Living in the Hamilton area he cruised the Lakeshore highways in the summer, keeping his eye out for traffic violations. Although July and August saw goalie Ed Chadwick involved in hockey schools after his retirement, during his days with the Maple Leafs in the 1960’s he donned gun and badge in Keswick, Ontario while his equipment was airing out in the warmer weather.

  Although he didn’t patrol the streets or highways in a cruiser, or walk a beat, Garry Peters (60’s) returned home to Regina after the season ended. There he served a jailer in the city’s lock-up.

Tim Horton

  Not many hockey players continued to take salaries from the owners of teams for which they played once the last puck was dropped for the season. But one exception was off-season employment with Conn Smythe when he was head honcho of the Maple Leafs. He also owned and operated C. Smythe Limited, a company which dealt in sand and gravel and construction. In his memories, “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em in the Alley” he recalls engaging “Hap” Day, who was a pharmacist graduate, to aid him in the administration of his operations one summer. His academic skills netted the “Little Major” $100,000 in the sale of sand and gravel in 1927, and he attributed much of the success to Day’s expertise. Four decades later, another skater, known more for his brawn than his brain, Tim Horton, was featured in an oft-published photograph—sitting in one of the company’s trucks, with his arm stuck out the window.


**In 1948 Johnny Bower, a native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, had a hamburger concession stand in Waskesiu, located in the Prince Albert National Park. He called his best seller the “big boy”, and it sold for 70 cents.

**Eddie “The Great Gabbo” Dorohoy, (40’s) who was more famous for his mouthing off than facing off, read gas metres in his hometown of Medicine Hat, Alberta.

**Bob Plager (70’s), was probably the envy of the his peers whose after the game activity involved tossing back a few, was a beer taster in Kapuskasing, Ontario, not far from his Kirkland Lake stamping grounds.

                                      In Two Weeks—Part 2

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