EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Hockey remains great Canadian unifier as nation plans to celebrate its 150th birthday in 2017

Tee Chambers, Butch Pellow, Aldee Martel
In 2017, Canada will celebrate its 150th birthday as a nation, and my thoughts turned recently to an anecdote shared in a classroom where I was taking a course in twentieth century European history more than 40 years ago now.It was at Waterloo Lutheran University, now Wilfrid Laurier University.

 Dr Jacques Goutor had arrived in Canada more than 40 years ago now, and the first thing I learned from him was that hockey kept Canada together. Well, he didn't actually come out and say that exactly, but on the first day of class he told us about his arrival in Canada from France.

Dr Goutor told us that upon arriving in Toronto, he went out and bought the newspapers and the headlines were LEAFS WIN STANLEY CUP! It was 1967, our Centennial year as a nation, and the Toronto Maple Leafs had defeated their arch rivals the Montreal Canadiens in six games. It was to be the last time the Leafs would win Lord Stanley's mug.

All so typically Canadian for our Centennial year -- a team from the heart of English Canada wins the Stanley Cup but the focus for the celebrations of the centennial is on Montreal, the major French Canadian city which hosted Expo '67, and the cup is named after an Englishman who was Governor General at one time. Trust me on this one! It is such as this that contributes to keeping the country together and safe-- the invisible hand of Canadian compromise!  Of course, the weather is the other great unifier.

Dr Goutor, who at the time had little knowledge of hockey and its importance to Canadians, said he decided to stay here because it had to be a safe place if the headlines were about a sporting event. He was raised in France and lived through the horrors of World War II and its aftermath.

To this day, I watch the headlines in Canadian newspapers, and headline writers are ecstatic on those days they can proclaim victory for their local hockey team when it wins a title or even a key game. 

They are beside themselves with joy when Canada wins internationally. But they know their audience. Hockey keeps it all together in this vast and magnificent land where we will travel great distances for a hockey game, and complain about the other great Canadian unifier, the weather.

In 1972, during the Canada-Russia series, for example, classes were cancelled at Chapleau High School, and students crowded around television sets to watch that key game which Canada won.

Our passion for hockey of course begins at the local level. Growing up in Chapleau, the  Huskies, in various incarnations were  the pride and joy for much longer than I have been around. Growing up there in the 1940s and 50s my hockey heroes were local, especially the late Garth ''Tee" Chambers, who to this day I believe was better than any NHL player who ever donned skates.

When I returned to Chapleau to teach, shortly thereafter I was "hired' by the 1970-71 Midgets to coach them. Yes, they actually "fired" their coach and I took over, and that is a story in itself. 

At that time though, the focus was on the Chapleau Junior "B" Huskies who played in the International  Junior "B"  League, and in 1967 won the league title, as well as NOHA title. It was their first year in the league too, and artificial ice had just been installed in the Chapleau Memorial Arena.
Chapleau Trappers 1949

The coaches of the day were the late Keith 'Buddy' Swanson, Lorne Riley, who had been an outstanding goalie, and Earle Freeborn, one real tough defenceman in his playing days who also served as the Mayor of Chapleau. Saturday nights were hockey night in Chapleau, and the great community unifier, especially when the Wawa Travellers were in town. 

A few years later, again after receiving a visit from hockey players, the Chapleau Intermediate "A" Huskies were born and our arch rivals in the Northland Intermediate Hockey league were the Timmins Northstars. 
Jr B Huskies 1966-67 Champions

For three years it was a struggle to beat them in the league semi-finals but in our fourth year we did, and it was like we had won the Stanley Cup. We won in Timmins but soon received reports that back in Chapleau, the celebration had begun with horns honking and a party underway.

And so, from local unheated hockey rinks, many of them called barns,which was surely the case in Chapleau until 1978, where rivalries among communities bring people together to cheer on their own team, to national and international championship series, Dr Goutor was right. It is a safe country in which to live.

At this Christmas time, in what often seems like a deeply troubled world, I hope we reflect on those things bringing Canadians together, yes. like hockey, rather than the things dividing us, and continue to make our nation the best place to live as we celebrate our 150th birthday.

It is likely too much to hope that the Leafs will win the Stanley Cup though. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

The Chapleau Trappers of 1949. a junior team sponsored by Mrs A.W. 'Hockey' Moore. Back from left H. Fortunato, Rev Howard Strapp, B. Collings, M.McAdam, C. McAdam, R. May, T. Godfrey, J. Dillon, F. Lucky, T. Collinson. Front from left R. Longchamps, Daddle Swanson, Tee Chambers, D. Chambers, R. Morin, Y. Morin, R. Burns.

Chapleau Jr B Huskies 1966-67  Back from l: Andre Rioux, Lorne Riley, Merrick Goldstein, John Babin, Ray Larcher, Mickey Jurynec, Greg Vaughan, Robert Morin, Reg Bouillon, Gerry Boucher, Jamie Broomhead; Front: Corky Bucci, Jean- Claude Cyr, George Swanson, Richard Morin, John Loyst, John Laframboise, Ted Swanson, Bud Swanson and missing Bruce Pellow, Bruce Fortin. 

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Michael J Morris

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


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