I LOVE THE HOCKEY

Eddie_Shore,_Melville_Millionaires

This is Eddie Shore, as a member of the Melville Millionaires. Shore was born in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan about 114 years ago. A brilliant, rugged and effective player, he became known as ‘The Edmonton Express’ and by 1926 was an emerging star for the Boston Bruins of the NHL. This weekend, folks are arguing about the top 100 players of all-time, and whether Connor McDavid is the fastest man alive (he is), I would like to go in another direction: Let’s talk about us.

EDMONTON

The city of Edmonton has produced a lot of NHL talent over the decades, most notably Mark Messier, Jarome Iginla and Johnny Bucyk. Norm Ullman, often mentioned as an Edmonton product, was born in the town of Provost, and small towns across the west have been sending hockey players to major North American cities for over 100 years. If you would like to know who comes from your hometown, check out Hockey-Reference.com.

FLORAL AND VAL MARIE

Val Marie has a population of less than 200, and Floral doesn’t exist anymore. However, NHL greats Bryan Trottier and Gordie Howe (respectively) come from those little places on the map. When I was a child, my Dad used to drive by ‘Floral’ which was basically a street sign at the time, and regale me with stories about Gordie playing ‘hardball’ in a league that had teams in and around Saskatoon. When we talk about our history, about the things we are proud of and pass down from one generation to another, our passion and our culture is on display. This is us.

ROUYN-NORANDA

Quebec has such an interesting place in our game’s history. The province gifted the game one of the all-time great goalies (Georges Vezina) right at the beginning of the NHL, but the scorers lagged behind. The first era of the NHL boasted Quebec scorers like Joe Malone and Odie Cleghorn, but the French names who could rip the puck arrived later.

Wildor Larochelle arrived in 1926, but Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard’s emergence in 1943 sparked a sense of pride in the province that propelled Richard to icon status—where he remains to this day. As Howe stories rule the prairies, so too Rocket Richard stories are passed down from parent to child all down the line.

Quebec’s presence in our game is glorious and impressive.

UPPER CANADA

Ontario. What an incredible story there is to tell. According to Hockey-Reference, there have been 560 NHL players born in Alberta, 504 in Saskatchewan, Manitoba 383 and British Columbia 374.

Ontario? 2,245. Even accounting for the initial expansion, that is an insane total. And the richness! From Newsy Lalonde and Cy Denneny to Dit Clapper to Charlie Conacher and Syd Howe and Busher Jackson and Milt Schmidt and we have barely reached 1950.

Bobby Orr to Wayne Gretzky to Joe Thornton to Connor McDavid to infinity and beyond! Wow. Ontario. You rock!

THE NATION

Where you from, son? I love the game of hockey, and the stories that surround it. I would like to leave you with one story, today, from the rich history of the game.

  • Peter Gzowski, December 1963: On the ice,
    though, Howe can be as cruel and vicious as he is personable and
    generous off it. He is not the most penalized player in the NHL —
    although only seven men had more penalties last year — but he is the
    acknowledged leader at getting away with things that would draw
    penalties if the referees saw them. His illegalities are as controlled
    as his play. He seems able to deal out punishment and pain with a
    complete lack of passion. In one game a couple of years ago, Howe and
    Carl Brewer of the Toronto Maple Leafs fell together in a tangle behind
    the Toronto goal just as play was stopped. Brewer was on top. “Okay,
    okay, Carl,” said Howe. “Play’s over.” Brewer resisted the temptation to
    give Howe a last one in the clinch, and rose. In the next period, the
    same two ended another play in another tangle. This time Howe was on
    top. When the whistle blew. Brewer, thinking a standard of
    gentlemanliness had been established for the evening, relaxed. Pow! Howe
    gave him one in the ribs.
  • Source

Sticks and pucks, and fresh air and a dream and a memory. I love you hockey, wish I had more than a lifetime with you.

  • Spydyr

    I have read both The Game of Our Lives
    by Peter Gzowski and The Game by Ken Dryden multiple times and every time there is something new that resonates with me.

    They are the two best hockey books ever written IMO.

  • Mark Letestu is from Lindbergh, Alberta and I find that fascinating. The story of a guy from a town of hundreds in Northern Alberta ultimately playing for an my team not too far away could be pretty interesting.

  • @Hallsy4

    Better make a trade or two before he deadline Pete. Don’t give up the farm for this year’s playoffs but I’m not ready sit and wait for another write off year. Pull the trigger PETE show us that you’re not a SISSY.

  • West

    Man the commentators are blowing Lil Johnny’s horn in the all star game. The only reason he is there is Calgary had to have a player there, not because of an all star year.

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      I may hate Calgary as much as the next guy but watching Johnny and CMD on team North America was pure magic. He is also very tough to stop 3 on 3

  • Bills Bills

    Considering the overall population comparison from Ontario and Quebec to the rest of the country. I would say the per capita contribution would have Saskatchewan and Alberta leading the way. Historically Ontario has had about 8 times the population as Saskatchewan and probably 5 times that of Alberta. It has started to even out over the years but Toronto alone has more people than Alberta and Saskatchewan combined. Bottom line? Good ole rough and tough farm boys make the best hockey players.

  • Jaxon

    Love this. I love the hockey culture of Saskatchewan. I grew up in LeRoy, Saskatchewan and our Senior team played in the Long Lake hockey league against Lanigan and Nokomis so Brian Propp and Elmer Lach were big names when I was growing up. We also occasionally played against Wynyard which is close to Foam Lake and we were always so excited to drive through Bernie Federko’s hometown. I played a few games on Oxbow’s Senior team in the early nineties, which was Theo Fluery’s hometown (that was rough hockey). I went to hockey school in Kelvington as a teen and Wendel Clark, Barry Melrose and some other Clarks and Kocur borthers and Kelly Chase taught there. I remember Melrose teaching me how to clear the net.

    Bob Woods’ family were some of our best family friends throughout our years in Leroy. My brother played with Bob (New Jersey draft pick and current assistant coach in Buffalo), and I played with Brad Woods (Wheat King) and their sister, Wendy. She was a good player until ringette came along and she switched sports. My dad went to Notre Dame (Wilcox) for grade 9 and fought Brad McCrimmon’s dad. Dad always told us about how the Bentley brothers were distant cousins of his somehow. I never have straightened just how, exactly. In Bantam, playing for Englefeld, we lost to Blaine Lake, and Tim Cheveldayoff (Winnipeg’s GM) was their best player. He was a beast, even at that young age. Yup, the love of hockey runs deep in Saskatchewan. And they punch way above their weight in NHL players per capita.

  • Harry2

    That was quite possibly the worst all-star weekend ive ever seen in my 29 years as a hockey fan.

    Don Cherry was absolutely right. Theyre being paid $90,000 and thats the effort the fans get for spending money on tickets?

    Subban is an absolute clown