When I was a kid in the 1950s, Don and Garth "Tee" Chambers were the main minor hockey coaches while also playing in the town league and for the Intermediate Huskies.
Olive (Schroeder) Card served as secretary-treasurer of the minor hockey association for more than 20 years, and was known as 'Mrs. Minor Hockey', a title she richly deserved for her years of dedication to minor hockey. She also became a member of Chapleau Township council, the second woman after Mrs. F.M. Hands, to be elected. Olive was deputy reeve for several years.
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Olive and Don would share news on up and coming hockey players and how teams were doing.
I learned about the players who would eventually become the 1966-67 Chapleau Junior 'B' Huskies, who under the guidance of Lorne Riley and Keith 'Buddy' Swanson, would win the International Junior 'B' Hockey League and Northern Ontario Hockey Association championships in 1966-67, their first year in the league. Except for John Loyst, the goaltender who came from Timmins, all the players were graduates of Chapleau minor hockey.
But Olive and Don would tell me over coffee in their kitchen about another group of players who were destined to make a very significant mark in the annals of Chapleau hockey history -- the players on the Senior Bantams between 1965 and 1968, first coached by David Mizuguchi who became the manager, and was succeeded by David Futhey.
Little did I know when I first heard about the Bantams across a kitchen table talking Chapleau hockey while visiting my mother Muriel E. (Hunt) Morris, family and friends, how huge a role many of these players would play in my life in years to come. When I first heard great things about them I was living in Saskatchewan working as a reporter, later editor at the Star-Phoenix in Saskatoon.
In fact, their success between 1965 and 1968 before many of them went on to play for the Junior 'B' Huskies has only struck me in the past year or so after being back in touch with David Mizuguchi on Facebook.
It all started in the 1965-66 season, just as the Chapleau Memorial Community Arena was getting artificial ice, and the team went to a hockey tournament in Lasarre, Quebec. They emerged as the Division B champions with David Mizuguchi as coach. They repeated this success in 1966-67 with David again as coach --- a year of champions for Chapleau hockey with the Junior 'B' Huskies winning too.
However, it was in the 1967-1968 hockey season, the last for most of them as Bantams, that they really excelled. They were moved into Division A at the Lasarre tournament but won the title and they also won the Northern Ontario Playground Hockey Association (NOPHA) 'A' championship in the Bantam category with David Mizuguchi as manager, David Futhey as coach and Doug Prusky who was now overage as trainer.
Chapleau minor hockey had a long history with the NOPHA founded in 1951 by Sam Jacks shortly after he became the first recreation director in North Bay. After the NOPHA was founded, the Manitoba Ensign reported in a story from North Bay that it was the "biggest hockey league in the world" and was supported by communities throughout Northern Ontario.
In the early 1950s I was on a Chapleau Bantam team in the NOPHA that played in Sudbury, making the trip on one occasion in our own railway car on the CPR singing 'Heart of My Heart' over and over and over again.
As I really had no future as a hockey player despite my love of the game, Tee, Don and Olive were instrumental in having me attend an NOPHA referees school in North Bay, and as a result, I refereed my first out of town games in North Bay and Sudbury. Mr. Jacks conducted the referees school.
In 2012 Lasarre will celebrate the 49th anniversary of its Bantam hockey tournament.
In 1969 when I started teaching at Chapleau High School, the Bantams were now the Juniors, attending the school, and over the next few years many of them would be in my classes. I came to know them well, and we also met at the Chapleau Memorial Community Arena on weekends where I would be refereeing games.
As I have been looking backward a bit while thinking about, and doing this piece, it struck me that many of these players defined Chapleau hockey for about 20 years, and deserve a vote of thanks for their contribution to many great hockey nights in Chapleau --- and on the road too. And yes, after playing their minor hockey and junior hockey for their home town, along with some from the championship Junior 'B' Huskies, and the others who joined us, they became part of the Intermediate 'A' Huskies for five years --- and that is a story for another day. Thanks guys!
Thanks to David Mizuguchi too.My email is email@example.com