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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.