Ian (Andy) Anderson

Image Ian MacKenzie Anderson

Born: May 29, 1938 (Kirkland Lake, Ontario)
Died: November 20, 2013 (Kirkland, New York)

Member: Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame (2002)

Ian (Andy) Anderson’s five seasons with the Clinton Comets looked like deleted scenes from the movie “Slap Shot.” The fearsome 6-foot-1, 210-pound defenceman registered a long rap sheet as the Comets enforcer in the notoriously scofflaw Eastern Hockey League.

His penalty minute totals in those campaigns — as much wars as hockey seasons — read 212, 201, 172, 143 and 33. That’s more than 12 complete games watched from the vantage point of the penalty box. He was recovering from a knee injury in that last season of 1969-70 and only played 13 games, hence the low penalty total. He made up for it in the playoffs with a league-leading 73 penalty minutes in just 17 games.

“If you get yourself into trouble,” he would tell teammates, “just try to hang in there and tread a little water until I get there.”

ImageAnderson was more than a goon, receiving EHL First All-Star team honours in 1967-68 and 1968-69. He also skated for three consecutive Walker Cup championship teams in Clinton in 1968, 1969 and 1970.

The fearless defenceman understood hockey’s brutal code of a slash for a slash, a punch for a punch. His motto: “You have to have someone who is tougher than their toughest guy.”

Anderson was born in Kirkland Lake, Ont., to Florence and Ernest Anderson. An older brother, Brian, played varsity hockey at the University of Toronto before skating in a handful of games for professional teams. At the same time, Ian Anderson, three years younger, left Northern Ontario to play junior hockey for the Toronto Marlboros. In 1958, the Marlies were Eastern finalists in the Memorial Cup, eliminated by the Hull-Ottawa Junior Canadiens. Anderson belonged to a Marlies defensive corps that featured future NHL blue-line stalwarts Bill White and Carl Brewer.

The NHL Toronto Maple Leafs, who owned Anderson’s rights, traded him and cash to the minor-league Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League for veteran defenceman Steve Kraftcheck in the summer of 1958. Anderson played only 13 games for the Barons in 1958-59, spending most of the season with the Quebec Aces.

The rugged rearguard spent the next season wearing the sweaters of three teams — Trois-Rivieres (Que.) Lions, Sudbury (Ont.) Wolves and the Providence Reds of the AHL. He was a regular with the Reds until the end of the 1961-62 seasons. Anderson’s four years in and out of the AHL included 97 games played with four goals, 11 assists and only 113 penalty minutes.

In 1962, he played senior hockey with the revived Ottawa Montagnards of the Ottawa-St. Lawrence Senior Hockey League, who played host to a visiting Soviet squad for four exhibition games. A few years later, the Montagnards embarked on a tour of Europe. In January, 1965, the Monties, guided by playing coach Johnny Wilson, a former NHL ironman, rampaged through Western Europe look like a liberating army, brawling in Innsbruck, Austria, against the Eislaufverein team one day, then with West Germany champions E.V. Fuessen two days later. Anderson got tossed from the latter game, which featured a bench-clearing brawl with pushing and shoving that ended only after police separated the combatants. Such shenanigans outraged European hockey officials, but sparked interest at the box office.

Though it had seemed his career had peaked years earlier, Anderson was lured back to the pro minor leagues by an offer from the Clinton Comets. He asked playing coach Pat Kelly to team him on the blue-line with Len Speck, another Kirkland Lake native with a more peaceable style. Speck was a six-time EHL First Team All-Star. The duo provided the Comets with an impenetrable and intimidating presence in their own end.

In five seasons with the Comets, Anderson scored 33 goals and 212 assists in the regular season. He had nine goals and 37 assists in 63 playoff games.

In 1967, he was twice punished by the league for attacking officials, being levied a $50 fine in a January incident and a $100 fine and a three-game suspension in a December incident.

His career ended after he skated over a coin on the ice, shattering his knee. Anderson stayed in Central New York’s Mohawk Valley, promoting hockey and coaching youth teams. Born in Kirkland Lake, he settled in Kirkland, N.Y.

He leaves Robin (née Owen), his wife of 33 years, and their son, Jordan. He also leaves two sons and two daughters from a previous marriage, as well as a brother, Bevan. Another brother, Brian, who was also a hockey player, died 11 days after Ian.

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