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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Michael 'Pat' Swanson: "Go Huskies Go!"

Chapleau Int A Huskies
For more than 20 years, Michael 'Pat" Swanson was among the leading players who greatly defined Chapleau hockey at three different levels.

My first memory of Pat was watching him head behind the Chapleau goal, pick up the puck from Doug Prusky and be in full stride as he skated past goaltender David McAdam, with wingers Garry Prusky and Ernie Chambers in position for another Chapleau Huskies power play.

The crowd, likely over 1,000 in the Chapleau Memorial Arena started to chant "Go Huskies Go" and away these players from the Chapleau Junior "B" Huskies of the International Junior "B" Hockey League went, scoring another power play goal.

I was the referee that night in the Chapleau Memorial Arena, having recently returned to Chapleau and was teaching at Chapleau High School. 

Here is a quick glimpse from those years in which Pat was at the centre of the action.

 Pat and his fellow players really emerged on the Chapleau hockey scene in 1965-66 their first year as Bantams when they won the Division 'B' Championship in the popular Lasarre Tournament. They repeated in 1966-67 and in 1967-68 topped it off winning the Division 'A' title as well as the Nothern Ontario Playground Hockey Association championship. David Mizuguchi and David Futhey coached and managed these teams.

 I recall having coffee with Don and Olive Card in their kitchen when I would be home for a visit ands they would tell me these "kids are good". Don and Olive, who were involved in minor hockey for years, were right.

By the 1970-71 season in the International Junior 'B' Hockey league the  Huskies were off to a fast start with Earle Freeborn as coach, finding themselves "all alone in top spot" after two weeks of play, according to Keith 'Buddy' Swanson, who doubled as hockey writer for the Chapleau Sentinel and team manager at the time. 

Buddy, Pat's older brother  noted that the Huskies were "keyed up by their already high scoring trio of Pat Swanson, Ernie Chambers and Garry Prusky" who accounted for 10 of 12 goals. They defeated their archrivals the Wawa Travellers to gain first place.

Buddy was instrumental in founding the Junior 'B' Huskies of the International Junior 'B' League in 1966-67, with Tom Welch and Lorne Riley.

By 1974, the Bantams were now overage for Junior hockey, and some were away at  school and others were working.

A delegation visited me in 1974 and asked if I would assist them in reviving Intermediate hockey. In 1975, we attended the annual meeting of the recently formed Northland Intermediate Hockey League, and were accepted.

It was not supposed to be but in the beginning I was coach and manager.

Very few people know that the Chapleau Intermediate 'A' Huskies may have folded after their first game in Timmins against the Northstars, who became their archrivals, had it not been for Pat Swanson.

After being soundly defeated by the Northstars I sat on the bench alone thinking it all over, and Pat appeared.

Pat was attending Sheridan College at  the time, but had come home for the opening game.
"We need some players," he said, expressing the obvious, even though we had the core team. "I can get us some," Pat said. At that moment, Pat became chief scout and recruiter.

David McMillan and Paul 'RP' McDonald were the first to arrive, both of whom were attending college with Pat. The rest is history. Others came. The team lasted four years just long enough to defeat the Timmins Northstars in the semi finals, which was like winning the Stanley Cup.

Pat  and Paul also coached a minor hockey team in the 1978-79 season and it participated in a tournament in Senneterre. 
Pat, back top left with Senneterre team

In a recent exchange of emails with Danny Vaughan who joined the team, we were reminded of a trip to Florida several of us made at the end of one season, packed into Pat's International Jeep. This was long before GPS and texting, so my job was to talk with truckers on the CB Radio to get us through traffic jams. Danny also caught a shark and sea turtle.
In Florida, Pat "Huskies Hockey"

Throughout its history, Chapleau has had many outstanding hockey players and teams who warmed up many cold Winter nights in the first outdoor community rink to the old rink to the Chapleau Memorial Arena to the Mrs A.W. Moore Arena in the recreation centre. Pat and his generation were certainly among them

I had my last conversation with Pat in January 2012 when he sent me a message. Let me share a bit of it.

"How are things MJ", to which I replied fine and asked how he was.

Pat shared that he had some health issues but was recovering, adding that although some things were going slow, "I even went for a skate yesterday for the first time in four years."
Bill Scheer, Pat, Graham Bertrand playing(?) donkey baseball

He told me he couldn't find a puck but had a hockey stick so used a ball --- later he went and bought some pucks.

I teased him a bit about maybe we should start another Intermediate 'A' team to which he replied, "OK, can I be the captain?"  When I replied, "You can be captain", Pat said, "Thanks Chief".

He also shared that he had his children and grandchildren near him and commented, "They are priceless".

Our conversation ended with Pat's comment "Don't be a stranger Michael. Take care and talk at you later". We planned to meet at the Chapleau High School reunion in 2012 but it didn't happen.


Pat, my friend, you will never be a stranger to me or Chapleau hockey fans who watched you and your teammates from Bantam, to Junior to Intermediate bring great hockey to our community for over 20 years. Thanks for the memories and "Go Huskies Go!".

Michael 'Pat' Swanson died on July 2, 2014. He was 61.

My email is mj.morris@live.ca 

1 comment:

Juliaa &&kidds said...

Thank you for this. I miss him everyday.

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet

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