66 Days Until The Season Begins — The 1966 Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings
By Zach Laing6 months ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane.
With 66 days to go until the regular season kicks off, let’s dial the clock back to 1966 when the Edmonton Oil Kings beat Bobby Orr’s Oshawa Generals for the Memorial Cup.
A May 16, 1966 Edmonton Journal article details the Edmonton Oil Kings winning the 1966 Memorial Cup.
The Edmonton Oil Kings were one of the powerhouse junior teams in Canada in the 1960s. Between 1960 and 1966, they played for Canada’s top junior hockey title, the Memorial Cup, winning it twice in that span.
The first came in 1963 at their home rink, the Edmonton Gardens, as the Bill Hunter-led organization took out the visiting Niagra Falls Flyers four games to two. The series was described by the Canadian Press as an “all-out war” between the sides, with more than enough drama, but ultimately, it was a game-winning goal scored by Gregg Pilling that launched the club coached by Buster Brayshaw to victory.
That team featured a plethora of legends that included Hall of Famers Pat Quinn and Glen Sather.
While Quinn, Sather and Brayshaw weren’t around three years later in 1966, the Oil Kings had continued to roll. They took out the Estevan Bruins in the Abbott Cup final to win the West championship and were ready for whoever stood in their way. That was Bobby Orr and his Oshawa Generals.
Out east, a 18-year-old named Bobby Orr was thrust into the spotlight. He had finished up a career year with the Oshawa Generals scoring 38 goals and 94 points in 47 games leading his team in each category. The Generals won along the way beat the St. Catharines Black Hawks, Montreal Canadiens and Kitchener Rangers to win their league, before toppling the North Bay Trappers and Shawiningan Bruins to earn their spot in the Memorial Cup.
“Generals made it past the tough OHA playoffs and past the Quebec champions on two strong points: hard work and Bobby Orr,” the Toronto Telegram’s Paul Dulmage wrote in a Memorial Cup preview on May 4, 1966, the night of game one. “Orr everybody knows about: he is everything you’ve heard he is.”
Dulmage went on to note a number of other contributors on the Generals, too: OHA all-star goaltender Ian Young, who had “but a handful of bad games all year.”
“A hitter who lurks at the blueline,” in Barry Wilkins and Danny O’Shea, “the class of the Oshawa sharpshooters, for centreman O’Shea knows where the net is.”
The Edmonton Journal’s Gord Fisher, meanwhile, looked at the Oil Kings who had a key goal in mind: “find a dent in the supposedly infallible armor of brilliant defenceman Bobby Orr,” noting the Kings had no plans for a special check on the “18-year-old sensation.”
There was controversy abounded before the series even kicked off in Toronto. Generals GM Wren Blair raised his ire over the fact that not only did the Oil Kings not compete in the junior circuit that year, but that they had picked up three forwards from the Bruins who they beat along the way: Ross Lonsberry, Jim Harrison and Ted Hodgson — oh, and netminder Don Caley, who was a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League all-star, to boot.
Hunter called the protests “ridiculous,” noting that the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association approved the Oil Kings to compete in the Alberta Senior Hockey League — the same league they had for three years prior.
Meanwhile, he told the Canadian Press’ Joe Dupuis “I’m sick and tired of having our boys come here and get so enthralled by the big buildings that they swoon and fall over deal. We’re not gonna do it this time.”
Hunter saw what he saw: an Oil Kings team who had been to the dance in each of their last seven seasons, walking away with the belle of the ball just once back in 1963. Couple that with all the hype around Orr and the fact the Oil Kings were considered 3-to-1 underdogs, and you had the makings of a hungry manager.
A May 4, 1966 edition of the Edmonton Journal previews the 1966 Memorial Cup.
But the Oil Kings wouldn’t be considered the underdogs for long.
In game one of the series, they punched the Generals square in the mouth with a triumphant 7-2 victory in thanks to a four goal first frame.
“Two years worth of well-worn myths were left to die Wednesday where they were born — on the ice of Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens,” Gord Fisher wrote in the May 5, 1966 edition of the Edmonton Journal. “Because everything the East has to offer isn’t unbeatable after all, and hte Ontario Hockey Association can’t consistently turn out the type of a team a hard-luck bunch of Edmonton Oil Kings ran into here in 1964, a year they bowed four straight.”
Ross Perkins led the way with two goals, each in the third, as Al Hamilton, Ace Bailey, Galen Head and two of the Estevan replacements — Lonsberry and Harrison — each added a tally. Orr made his impact, however, 4:04 into the game giving the Generals an early lead, their only of the game.
“Harrison also took part and triumphed in a third-period brawl which started when Oil King centre Dave Rochefort squared off with Orr — about whcihc started the only serious fireworks of the game,” Fisher wrote. “Although Rochefort and Orr struggled to a daw, Harrsion easily decision defenceman Bill White.
“At the same time, Oil King defender Doug Barrie showed his so-far unbeatable style by pummelling Ron Dussiaume.”
A May 5, 1966 Edmonton Journal photo shows Edmonton Oil Kings’ Dave Rochefort wrestling with Oshawa Generals defenceman Bobby Orr.
The Generals were quick to respond in the series with a drubbing of their own as they took down the Kings 7-1 in game two on May 6th. The affair was led by Generals center Danny O’Shea, who tallied three goals en route to the victory.
The Oil Kings admitted they were flat in the game as goaltender Don McLeod shouldered the blame.
“Just blame me for the four goals,” McLeod told the Journal’s Fisher. “I wasn’t in the game.”
But neither were any of his teammates, who mustered a meagre 17 shots on the Oshawa goal.
The superstore Orr, meanwhile, was dealing with an aggravated groin and notched just one assist.
Things didn’t get any better for the Oil Kings. In game three, held on Sunday, May 8th, saw them get drubbed again: this time 6-2.
“As in Friday’s loss, the Kings fell behind early because of poor checking and even poorer goaltending,” Fisher wrote. “Goaltender Ray Kinaswich was forced to pull netminder Don McLeod after the first period in favour of alternate Jim Knox.”
O’Shea continues his scoring ways with a two-goal performance, as Wayne Cashman, George Babcock, Bill Little and Ron Dussiaume added goals of their own. Ross Perkins and Ron Walters were Edmonton’s lone scorer.
After the two tough losses, McLeod came under fire. Alleged quotes from Kinasewich said “Don choked under pressure,” and another from Hunter called him “excess baggage on this trip.”
The quotes were written by the Toronto Telegram’s Paul Dulmage, and were denied by both members of the Kings. McLeod himself, however, admitted he needed to be better, and did just that in game four on May 11th.
Kinaswich contemplated starting backup netminder Jim Knox in the game, but instead opted to go with McLeod — a move that paid off with Edmonton evening up the series 2-2 with a 5-3 victory.
For the Kings, the game-winner came off the stick of Galen Head.
“While good moves were being counted, nobody forgot Galen Head, a rookie right-winger who scored the winning goal at 16:46 of the final period,” the Edmonton Journal’s Gord Fisher wrote in the May 12th edition of the paper. “It was actually defenceman Al Hamilton, however, who deserved most of the credit.
“Hamilton broke in on Oshawa netminder Ian Young after outmuscling two defenders, fired a hard shot and head just lifted home the rebound.”
The game was a back-and-forth affair, and one that was mired with the loss of Bobby Orr, still dealing with his groin issue, was forced from the game in the second period after re-aggravating it.
That came at the hands of Kings defenceman Doug Barrie, “a rocky defender who has issued a standing challenge to just about every Oshawa player,” by knocking Orr into the boards.
“He (Barrie) is getting away with murder out there,” Generals head coach Bep Guildolin told the Journal’s Fisher. “He deliberately slashed (Wayne) Cashman in the third period, yet the referee sent both of them to the penalty box.”
A May 12, 1966 article in the Edmonton Journal details game four of the 1966 Memorial Cup between the Edmonton Oil Kings and Oshawa Generals. Edmonton won 5-3.
Heading into an important game five, Kings coach Ray Kinsawich said he wanted his club to keep the Generals off the board in the first, and focus on a stronger defensive effort. It makes sense given they sacrificed 18 goals through four games.
That plan worked just fine for the Kings, who outscored the Generals 2-0 in the first en route to a 7-4 victory on Saturday night. “A farm boy” right winger Craig Cameron had the game of his life for Edmonton scoring three goals, including the winner, and chipping in another assist.
And with the series on the line Sunday night, the Oil Kings came out on top with a 2-1 victory to secure the Memorial Cup championship. It sure wasn’t easy, though.
Bill Heindl broke open the scoring for the Generals 9:10 into the game. Jim Harrison would tie it up in the second, however, and one of the other Estevan boys, Ted Hodgson, would score the game-winner in the third to crown the Kings.
On Monday, May 16th, the Oil Kings returned home with championship in tow as hundreds of fans defied the rain to welcome their winners at the airport.
For the players, their next plans were already being made. Captain Bob Falkenberg planned to stay in town hoping to work for the Edmonton Exhibition. Ron Anderson joked that it was time for “wine, women and song” for him, before making note he was heading home to Red Deer to work for the city.
Defenceman Al Hamilton, whose defensive efforts were never unnoticed, was described as a “promising baseball pitcher,” and noted he was looking forward to a well-deserved rest mixing in some golf and water skiing with his baseball.
Another defenceman, Doug Barrie had “plans to leave enemy forwards alone for the time being and direct his muscle towards knocking golf balls,” the Edmonton Journal’s Alex Hardy wrote. Goaltender McLeod was planing on returning to Trail, B.C. for a smelting job, while hopeful to head to the Detroit Red Wings training camp.
He played the following year for the Oil Kings before marking on an 11-year pro career that culminated with the Edmonton Oilers of the WHA in 1978.
Garnet (Ace) Bailey, who would be drafted by the Boston Bruins in the third round that year, went on to have an 11-year career of his own that, much like McLeod, culminated with his final pro season being played for the WHA Oilers in 1979.
Lastly, coach Kinsawich planned on giving his voice a rest.
“I’m speechless from yelling at the refs.”
A May 17, 1966 Edmonton Journal article talks about the Edmonton Oil Kings returning home Memorial Cup champions.
What none knew at the time was years later, the team — along with the 1963 club — would be honoured and inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame entering in 2011.
“This is such an honour … these kids just poured their hearts out all series,” Kinsawich said at the induction ceremony, who shared stories of the losses and trying to stop Orr. “I have never coached a bunch of kids in my life who were so attentive, and they performed well. They were all students of the game and they’re so deserving of this induction today. It’s just incredible.”
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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