Charlie Hodge

Charlie Hodge posed kick save

Charles Edward Hodge
Born: July 28, 1933 (Lachine, Québec)
Died: April 16, 2016 (Abbotsford, British Columbia)

The goaltender Charlie Hodge spent much of his hockey career as an understudy before becoming a castoff.

The diminutive goalie, whose hockey cards described him as the shortest player in the NHL, seemed unable to convince management of the Montreal Canadiens he was worthy of the No. 1 sweater he wore.

Despite doubts about his ability, the goalie managed to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup six times as a player. He also twice won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender.

1964 Charlie Hodge tall boy cardThe reward for his under-appreciated success was to be selected by the expansion Oakland Seals, a woeful club for whom he would see more rubber than a worker at a tire factory. Three seasons later, he was picked by another expansion team, the Vancouver Canucks, once again enduring the unenviable task of being the last defence on a roster staffed by rejects and discards.

Mr. Hodge, a longtime resident of the Vancouver suburb of Langley, died of heart failure on April 16 at Abbotsford Regional Hospital in suburban Vancouver. He was 82. He leaves his wife, Sheila; three sons; six grandchildren; and, three great-grandchildren.

Mr. Hodge had a long second career as a West Coast scout, known as a curmudgeonly figure at hockey rinks in British Columbia. In 2015, a plaque was placed on Seat 8, Row 1, Section 4 of the Pacific Coliseum, the arena that had once been his workplace and the home arena in recent years of the Vancouver Giants junor team. “Reserved for Charlie Hodge,” the plaque read, “Canucks Alumni and NHL scout.”

While there was some playacting in his crusty demeanour, Mr. Hodge nursed ancient resentments. As a young man, he had great success as a paddler and looked forward to competing at the 1956 Olympic Games as a canoe racer only to be rejected for losing his amateur status as a professional hockey player. The snub bothered him decades later.

“I’m still ticked off,” he told Ian MacDonald of the Montreal Gazette in 2004. “What’s the relationship between paddling and hockey?”

Charles Edward Hodge was born in Lachine, a Montreal suburb, on July 28, 1933, to the former Jeanie Bridges and John McLean Hodge, a welder from Scotland. He made his debut in junior hockey at age 16 in 1950, losing two playoff games as a fill-in goalie for the Junior Canadiens, who went on to win the Memorial Cup championship.

After three seasons, he turned professional with the Cincinnati Mohawks in 1953-54, leading the International Hockey League with the lowest goals-against average.

Mr. Hodge got a 14-game tryout with the Canadiens the following season. On Dec. 9, 1954, he blanked the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Montreal Forum for the first of his 24 regular-season NHL shutouts.

The 5-foot-6, 150-pound netminder had the misfortune of being the second-best goaltender in a system in which the great Jacques Plante held top spot. After nine seasons of pro hockey, Mr. Hodge had played only 63 games in Montreal’s famous red-white-and-blue sweater.

His long minor-league apprenticeship included stints with the Buffalo Bisons, Providence Reds, Seattle Americans, Shawinigan Cataracts, Montreal Royals, Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, and Quebec Aces.

Meanwhile, in summer, he wore the red-and-white, barber-pole striped singlet of the Lachine Racing Canoe Club. In 1955, he and partner Art (Herky) Jordan won the North American single blade tandem championship in a regatta at Rivière des Prairies, Que. The pair were also part of the gold medal-winning foursome in the kilometre paddle. Mr. Hodge’s dream to compete at the Olympics in Australia was thwarted by officials.

The Canadiens traded Mr. Plante to the New York Rangers in a seven-player trade in 1963, getting in exchange the roly-poly goalie Lorne (Gump) Worsley. A flopping goalie who guarded his net like a freshly-landed flounder, the Canadiens expected Mr. Worsley to be the club’s top goalie until he suffered a pulled hamstring.

Charlie Hodge with Oakland SealsMr. Hodge made the most of his opportunity, winning 33 games with a fine 2.26 goals-against average thanks in part to recording a league-best eight shutouts. He won the Vezina as top goalie, a trophy he would share two years later with Mr. Worsley.

Even after the formidable shadow of Mr. Plante had been moved, Mr. Hodge suffered the indignity of seeing management tout such prospects as Cesare Maniago and, later, Rogatien Vachon as the team’s goalies of the future.
With the NHL doubling in size to 12 teams for the 1967-68 season, the six established teams were only allowed to keep a single goalie on a protected list. The Canadiens opted to keep Mr. Worsley, exposing Mr. Hodge to the draft. He was taken in the first-round of the expansion draft, No. 6 overall, by the Seals. He provided a yeoman’s effort, but the woeful Seals were the worst team in the league. Mr. Hodge was credited with 13 of the team’s 15 wins. He also suffered an NHL worst 29 defeats.

When the NHL added two more teams in 1970, Mr. Hodge was again left unprotected and the Vancouver Canucks snapped him up. (The goalie had played for a Western Hockey League team of the same name two seasons earlier and was something of a crowd favourite.) Mr. Hodge backstopped the Canucks’ first NHL victory (a 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs) and ended what would be his final campaign with a winning record of 15 wins, 13 losses, 5 ties.

He coached a Vancouver junior hockey team and sold real estate for more than a decade. After the Winnipeg Jets entered the NHL, general manager John Ferguson, a former teammate of Hodge’s with the Canadiens in the 1960s, hired him as an amateur scout. He later filled the same role for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins. After the Penguins won a second consecutive Stanley Cup in 1992, the team’s scouts were included in the engraving. It marked the seventh and final time his name appeared on the Stanley Cup, a feat that eluded his more famous contemporaries — Mr. Plante, Mr. Worsley, Glenn Hall, Johnny Bower, Terry Sawchuk, all of whom wound up in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Charlie Hodge as boy goalie
Charlie Hodge as a boy goalie in his hometown of Lachine, Que.

Charlie Hodhe in Lachine canoe singlet
Charlie Hodge (far right) as a Lachine paddler in a newspaper clipping.

Charlie Hodge with goalie pads and sons
The goalie with his sons.

Charlie Hodge face mask game save

1955-56 stanley cup engravingStanley Cup engraving for 1955-56.

1968-69-o-pee-chee-78-charlie-hodge-backThe rear of Hodge’s 1968-69 O-Pee-Chee card.

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Ellison Kelly

Ellison Kelly All-Star

Ellison Lamar Kelly
Born: May 17, 1935 (Butler, Georgia)
Died: February 11, 2016 (Hamilton, Ontario)

Ellison Kelly, an ironman on the offensive line, helped his Hamilton Tiger-Cats win three Grey Cup football championships in the 1960s.

He never missed a game in his 13-season Canadian Football League career, suiting up for 175 consecutive games before retiring at the end of the 1972 season.

Mr. Kelly, who has died at 80, was known as a quiet, spiritual man both on the field and in the locker room. Away from the stadium, he worked as a substitute teacher in Hamilton during his playing days and later became athletic director at a jail.

He was a perennial all-star in the Eastern conference, winning honours eight times in 13 seasons. He was also named to the league’s all-star team three times.

The Ticats were a powerhouse during his tenure with the team, advancing to six Grey Cup games. The team was known for its stingy defence and the fearsome hitting of such stars as Angelo Mosca.

Kelly EllisonFootball’s offensive line is a front-line trench for large men whose job it is to protect the quarterback and open paths for runners. When guards and tackles fail, a quarterback is sacked, or a running back tackled.

When a play unfolds as planned, all eyes are on the attacking player, not on the anonymous behemoth who executed the perfect block. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Mr. Kelly was a stalwart as both a guard and a tackle with a reputation for having excellent technique. It was his burden that the better he was at his job the less he was noticed by fans.

Twenty years after he retired, Mr. Kelly was at last inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Ellison Lamar Kelly was born on May 17, 1935, in Butler, Ga. He was the first of five children and the only son born to Maggie (née Collier) and John West Kelly, a Baptist deacon. The family later moved to Lake City, Fla., where the boy enjoyed a bucolic childhood despite the lack of electricity and running water in the family home and the occasional run-in with central Florida’s exotic wildlife. One night while visiting the outhouse, he heard a rustling outside. Fearing an alligator, he hid within the outhouse until daybreak, only to emerge to discover his concerned parents had called the police to search for a missing son.

The Kelly family later moved to Sandusky, Ohio, where the father worked on the assembly line of a Ford factory before becoming a supervisor. Young Ellison starred at Sandusky High in the classroom and on the field, earning all-state honours as a tackle for the Blue Streaks. He was also a superb basketball player, boxer and track athlete in the discus and shot put, the latter in which he set a school record that would last 20 years.

A football scholarship took him to Michigan State University in East Lansing, where he played a key rule as a two-way player with the Spartans under coach Duffy Daugherty. He became a first stringer towards the end of his sophomore season before being named to Big Ten all-conference teams at guard in 1957 and 1958. Mr. Kelly also earned academic honours for combining scholarship with athleticism before graduating with a degree in business administration.

The New York Giants of the National Football League drafted the guard in the fifth round (No. 59 overall) of the 1959 draft. He signed an $8,000 US contract with a $1,000 signing bonus and saw spot duty in 12 games for the Giants that season. He roomed with Roosevelt (Rosey) Grier and enjoyed some of the entertainments available for a professional athlete in New York, attending shows at Manhattan night spots, where he met the likes of Tina Turner and Louis Armstrong. He also formed a friendship with the singer Sam Cooke, both men sharing a background as African-American PKs (preacher’s kids) from the South.

The Giants cut Mr. Kelly just before the start of the 1960 NFL season, a decision he felt unfair and the result of an unacknowledged quota on the number of black players on the roster. Four days later, he made his Canadian debut with the Ticats, who were midway through a rebuilding campaign. He became a fixture in the team’s bumblebee livery for the next decade.

“I bleed Black and Gold,” he said when his uniform No. 54 was added to the Wall of Honour at Ivor Wynne Stadium in a 1998 ceremony.

He was named to the league’s all-star team as a guard in 1964 and as a tackle in 1969 and 1970.

In May, 1971, he was traded to the Toronto Argonauts for linebacker Mike Blum. Mr. Kelly played in his seventh and final Grey Cup title game that fall, a contest settled in favour of the Calgary Stampeders after an untouched Leon McQuay slipped, fell and fumbled on the slick Vancouver turf.

Years later, Mr. Kelly testified in a lawsuit by a football player who alleged clubs encouraged drug use among players. He said coaching staffs looked the other way and that “pills were an invisible thing” in team clubhouses. In 1972, Mr. Kelly had told a reporter that benzedrine and dexedrine were common in the league in the 1960s, when “everybody was all bennied up.”

Even after retiring as a player, Mr. Kelly remained a fixture at home football games in Hamilton. He served for many years as one of the judges in the awarding of weekly CFL awards.

Mr. Kelly was a popular figure among inmates at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre, as he provided opportunities for recreation and exercise. He loved the job, as the prisoners dared not cross the recreational director for fear of losing their privileges. The former pro athlete spent his working days playing ping-pong with violent criminals while telling them stories about his playing days.

Mr. Kelly died of heart failure on Feb. 11. He leaves two sons, three daughters, a step-daughter, five grandchildren and four sisters. He was predeceased by his first wife Donna (née Bryant), whom he divorced and who died in 1989, and his second wife, Sheila (née Clarke), who died in 2014 at 71.

A memorial service for Mr. Kelly will be held at noon on Saturday at the Marlatt Funeral Home in Hamilton.

In 1964, Mr. Kelly was invited by Vince Lombardi to try out for the Green Bay Packers. Settled in Hamilton with his children in school, Mr. Kelly decided not to take the risk, a decision which haunted him for years. Only his induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame nearly three decades later at long last eased his mind. “The ghost had been released,” he said at the time.

Ian Bruce

Ian Bruce with a Laser

Ian Boyack Bruce 
Born: June 7, 1933 (Kingston, Jamaica)
Died: March 21, 2016 (Hamilton, Ontario)

Ian Bruce, an accidental sailor, built the original Laser, which became one of the world’s most popular racing sailboats.

Mr. Bruce, who has died of cancer at 82, was an industrial designer who became a boatbuilder after taking up dinghy racing as an adult.

The idea for what became the Laser percolated in Mr. Bruce’s head for several years in the carefree 1960s. He had in mind the creation of an affordable sailboat that could fit atop a vehicle roof rack, much as a surfboard atop a California woody.

One day, he talked through his brainstorm while on a telephone conversation with his friend, Bruce Kirby, a journalist and boat designer. Mr. Kirby sketched while Mr. Bruce talked. Danish-born yachtsman Hans Fogh later prepared a sail.

They called the boat the Weekender (Mr. Fogh, a six-time Olympian who died in 2014, had even placed the acronym TGIF in large block letters across the top of the sail) and the craft first raced at the inaugural America’s Teacup Regatta on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin in 1970. A student later suggested the name Laser. The boat was an immediate sensation and the global fleet now numbers more than 200,000 boats in use in 140 nations.

With Mr. Bruce in control of all production, the identical boats proved to be a perfect vehicle for racing, as success would depend on a sailor’s skill, not a craft’s modifications. The Laser was introduced into Olympic competition in 1996.

Ian Boyack Bruce was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on June 7, 1933, to Pamela (née Robison) and William Douglas Boyack Bruce, a chartered accountant. At age 12, Ian was sent to boarding school at Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ont. He was head prefect in his senior year, as well as serving as school cryer (his shout of “Ye feast-making is begun!” heralded the annual Christmas dinner), a villain in the dramatic society’s production of “The Ghost Train,” and president of the debating society. His vice-president was Charles Taylor, the future philosopher and political theorist. Young Mr. Bruce also played football, cricket and squash, among other sports.

Mr. Bruce was studying engineering at McGill University in Montreal when he received a call from Kirk Cooper, a Bermuda-born friend. As recounted in a story in the Kingston Whig-Standard in 2009, Mr. Cooper was in desperate search for a sailing hand.

“The crew is sick and can’t sail with me,” Mr. Cooper said. “You’re from the islands, you must know how to sail. Ever raced?”

“Kirk,” he replied, “I’m a hell of a spear fisherman.”

Bored by sailing as a boy, he found renewed purpose on the water as a young man, making his debut in an International 14 at a regatta in the Montreal suburb of Pointe-Claire.

“It changed my life,” he told the Whig-Standard. “I fell head over heels in love with the sport.”

In 1960, Mr. Bruce represented Canada at the Olympics, competing in a red Finn-class dinghy. He finished third in the opening race and won the seventh and concluding race to finish seventh overall.

He returned to the Olympics in 1972, finishing 12th in the two-man Star class with future business partner Peter Bjorn.

In 1958, he married into what his brother-in-law once described as a “minor establishment family in Ottawa.” The union with Barbara Elize Brittain made the society pages of the newspapers in Montreal and Ottawa (the bride wore a floor-length gown of Chantilly lace over nylon tulle and satin; the couple honeymooned in the Laurentians), and the brother-in-law was Donald Brittain, who would go on to become one of Canada’s greatest documentary filmmakers.

Mrs. Bruce accompanied her husband to Italy for the 1960 Olympics. The couple had met at a yacht club while Mr. Bruce trained on borrowed boats. They sold their household furniture to finance his studies in industrial design at Syracuse University in New York and they sold a 14-foot dinghy to cover fees for the second year. He managed to win scholarships for a third year of studies. “Just as well,” she said. “We haven’t anything left to sell.”

Though he failed to earn a spot on the Olympic podium, Mr. Bruce claimed the prestigious Prince of Wales Trophy in 1967 and 1968 in winning an International Fourteen regatta in Bermuda.

Mr. Bruce was a longtime member of the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club in the Montreal suburb of Dorval. He first tested his Laser prototype on a blustery day in the fall of 1970 on the chilly waters of Lake Saint-Louis adjacent to the club.

Over the years, Mr. Bruce helped designed and build several types of sailboats, including the Byte, which was designed for sailors weighing from 100 to 145 pounds (about 45 to 65 kilograms). The Byte was used in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010.
His Montreal-based company, called PS2000, built such sailboats as the Club 420, the Optimist, the 29er and the Byte. One of its divisions, Montreal Classic Boatworks, produced the Bruce 22, a 22-foot retro-styled 1940s launch.

Mr. Bruce was named to the Order of Canada in 2009 for his development of the Laser, as well as the Byte for younger sailors. He was inducted into Canada’s Boating Hall of Fame by the National Marine Manufacturers Association the following year.

Mr. Bruce died in Hamilton, Ont. He leaves two daughters, two grandsons, and a friend, Lynn Pyfrom Holowesko. He was predeceased by his wife, who died in 2006, aged 73.

Later this summer, Olympic sailors will compete on Guanabara Bay during the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. Women will compete aboard Laser Radials for the third Games, while men will compete in the Laser for the sixth consecutive Olympics, a quadrennial reminder of Mr. Bruce’s boatbuilding legacy.

Ian Bruce and Peter Bjorn at 1972 Olympics

Ian Bruce (top) and Peter Bjorn with their Star sailboat prior to the 1972 Olympic regatta at Kiel, Germany.

Vic Peters

Vic Peters

Victor Alvin Peters
Born: March 24, 1955 (Steinbach, Manitoba)
Died: March 27, 2016 (Winnipeg, Manitoba)

In a sport known for congeniality, the curler Vic Peters rarely allowed a fierce competitive spirit to trump sportsmanship.

The Manitoba skip, who hailed from a province which asserts its cordiality on license plates, was described as “pleasantly gruff,” “a classy competitor,” and an “all-around good guy.” Though he could not hide the occasional flash of anger on the ice, the gentleman curler maintained a reputation as a good sport, win or lose. He had plenty of experience at both.
Mr. Peters, who has died of cancer at 61, was one of Canada’s top curlers for more than a decade. He won the 1992 Brier in his first of three trips to the national championship.

A small-town curler who moved to Winnipeg to face tougher day-to-day competition, Mr. Peters needed a decade of seasoning at the highest level in his home province before he managed to win his first provincial Tankard in 1992. He repeated as Manitoba champion in 1993 and 1997.

A keen reader of ice and self-disciplined when it came to the tedious task of training, Mr. Peters’ preparations paid off at the 1992 Brier in Regina. On straight ice, he and favoured Russ Howard of Ontario played a dreary, conservative game of draw-peel, draw-peel. Their battle of attrition could have been settled on the final rock when Mr. Peters faced a basic hit and stick for the championship only to have his shooter roll just off the rings. When he faced a similar shot in an extra end, though, the Manitoba skip made it for a 4-3 victory.

His success on the curling sheet was all the more remarkable for his having recovered from a hockey injury that left him with impaired sight in one eye.

Victor Alvin Peters was born on March 24, 1955, at Steinbach, Man., to Margaret (née Klassen) and Jacob J. Peters. Both parents were Russian-born Mennonite immigrants who fled the Bolsheviks for sanctuary in Canada, his mother arriving aboard a coal freighter in 1923 and his father aboard an ocean liner two years later. His mother, a seamstress who was the oldest daughter of 11 children, taught for a year in a one-room schoolhouse in Rosengart, Man., before marrying Mr. Peters, who was also a teacher and who later became a principal and school superintendent in southeastern Manitoba.

Young Vic’s athletic exploits featured frequently in the coverage of his hometown newspaper, as he starred on the Little League baseball diamond and won ribbons in track and field as an elementary student. He later served as the starting shortstop for the Steinbach Steelers men’s softball team and played hockey for his Steinbach Collegiate Institute hockey team. As a quick, but slight 19-year-old centre with hockey’s junior Steinbach Millers, he suffered a bloody injury when he went to block a shot only to have his opponent’s stick shatter, leaving splinters embedded in his right eye. He suffered a detached retina and never regained full vision in the eye. His hockey career was over.

“I was too small anyway,” he told sports writer Randy Turner in 1997. “I got whacked around too much.”

Mr. Peters stayed on the ice, swapping the hockey arena for the curling rink. He got work as the icemaker in Steinbach, taking the chance to test the condition of the ice by throwing rocks. In time, he developed a daily regimen of throwing 64 rocks, honing his touch and ever improving his knowledge of ice.

“Sixteen back and forth twice,” he told the Winnipeg Free Press. “If you do that all winter, the strength in your legs really builds to the point four games a day isn’t any trouble.”
He found in the delivery of a curling stone a motion similar to the flow of a golf swing, a summertime sport at which he excelled. In short time, he became a force in Manitoba curling. After dominating local competition in rural Steinbach, he moved to Winnipeg to join the Granite Curling Club, the oldest in Western Canada.

The Peters rink twice lost provincial finals leading to a team shakeup. Childhood friend Chris Neufeld remained, while Don Carey and Don Rudd were added. The quartet’s victory in the Brier qualified them to represent Canada at the world championship at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where they claimed a bronze medal after being defeated in a semifinal by nervy shotmaking showing “circus originality” by Scotland’s Hammy McMillan. Despite the loss, Mr. Peters was named a tournament all-star skipper.

The Peters rink finished fourth at the 1993 Brier. Four years later, with Scott Grant replacing Mr. Rudd as lead, the team went 11-0 in round-robin play in Calgary before losing the championship game to Alberta’s Kevin Martin. Mr. Peters was presented the Ross Hartstone Trophy in a vote by his peers for best representing sportsmanship, exemplary conduct and curling ability.

Mr. Peters won the Manitoba senior men’s title in 2008.

In recent years, he curled alongside his son, Daley Peters, a two-time Manitoba junior champion.

The Peters’ rinks from 1992 and ’93 were inducted as a team into the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame in 2005.
Over the years, Mr. Peters worked as a curling icemaker in winter and as a golf greenskeeper in summer.

As a young man, he had a bout with skin cancer. In 2011, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. He died in Winnipeg on March 27, Easter Sunday. He leaves his wife, Debbie; son Daley Peters; and, daughters Kasandra Leafloor and Elizabeth (Liz) Fyfe.

Mr. Peters made what would be his final public appearance earlier this year at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts at Grande Prairie, Alta., when Ms. Fyfe curled second for Team Manitoba.

Bill Gadsby

Bill Gadsby (Red Wings)

William Alexander Gadsby
Born: August 8, 1927 (Calgary, Alberta)
Died: March 11, 2016 (Farmington Hills, Michigan)

Bill Gadsby broke numerous bones, suffered at least two concussions, and sported more stitches on his face than Frankenstein’s monster.

Though often injured, he rarely missed a game in a 20-season National Hockey League career. He endured all those aches and all that pain in pursuit of a goal that ultimately eluded him.

Mr. Gadsby, who has died at 88, is considered one of the greatest players to fail to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

It was not for lack of trying. The big defenceman survived in an era of bloody NHL vendettas, playing as though he was a Hatfield and all his opponents were McCoys.

Bill Gadsby (Black Hawks)The 6-foot, 180-pound defenceman was known for administering punishing body checks. He once left rival defenceman Tim Horton, a Toronto Maple Leafs player with his own deserved reputation for toughness, crumpled in a corner with a broken leg and a broken jaw.

Despite his intense and not always lawful pursuit of the puck (he spent the equivalent of more than 25 games in the penalty box), Mr. Gadsby had a reputation for a sunny disposition away from the rink. He attributed this to his great fortune in having survived two near disasters — the sinking of his ship by a Nazi submarine and a bout with polio at the height of his playing career.

William Alexander Gadsby was born on Aug. 8, 1927, in Calgary to English immigrants Elizabeth and Bill Gadsby. The boy played hockey on frozen ponds and sloughs, determining at a young age that he would earn his livelihood on ice.

In 1939, he accompanied his mother on an overseas trip to visit relatives in England. As Europe teetered towards war, the pair boarded the passenger liner Athenia for the return voyage to Canada on the very day Germany invaded Poland. They were at sea when Britain declared war. Hours later, a German U-boat struck the ship with a torpedo. Mother and son were rescued by a freighter after bobbing in a lifeboat in the icy waters of the North Atlantic for five hours. The attack killed 112 passengers and crew. The Gadsbys arrived safely in New York later in the month aboard the Mauretania.

Young Bill played junior hockey in Edmonton, where he was scouted by Bill Tobin of the Chicago Black Hawks. The rookie signed for the breathtaking sum of $7,500 (and a $3,000 signing bonus) and was assigned to the Kansas City Pla-Mors farm team. After just 12 games, the 19-year-old was called up to the woeful parent club.

In his first NHL game, he was clipped in the face by an errant stick. Twelve stitches were needed to close the gash, the first of what he concluded were more than 640 by the end of his playing career. He was nicknamed Scarface (as was teammate Ted Lindsay) for the amount of needlework he had undergone.

He had icy blue eyes set apart in a long, horsey face bracketed by large jug ears with a nose that showed all 11 of its breaks had come from a different direction.

In the summer of 1952, as training camp neared, Mr. Gadsby’s health took a precipitous decline. “Worst damn headache of my life,” he once told the New York Times. He had contracted polio and spent three weeks in hospital, being released in time to join the Black Hawks for an exhibition game.

A steady player more than a flashy one, Mr. Gadsby never scored more than 14 goals in a season, though he became an adept playmaker who accumulated many assists after being traded to the New York Rangers early in the 1954-55 season.

After 16 seasons, Mr. Gadsby had only skated in 23 playoff games and had never won a series to advance to the Cup finals. That changed after he was acquired by the Detroit Red Wings. Mr. Gadsby skated in the Stanley Cup finals in 1963, ’64 and ’66 on a team featuring the scoring prowess of the great Gordie Howe, who would become a lifelong friend. Still, a championship eluded Mr. Gadsby. He even suffered the indignity of being the goat in Game 6 of the 1964 finals when Toronto defenceman Bobby Baun, his ankle fractured earlier in the game, floated a shot towards the Detroit goal which deflected off Mr. Gadsby’s stick and into his own net. The Leafs defended their championship by winning the next game. It was the closest Mr. Gadsby got to winning the Cup.
He retired after the 1965-66 season as the all-time leading NHL defenceman in games played (1,248), points (130 goals and 438 assists for 568 points) and penalty minutes (1,539). He set an NHL record for assists in a season by a defenceman with 46 in 1958-59 (a mark Bobby Orr would smash a decade later).

In the summer of 1968, Mr. Gadsby was named coach of the Red Wings. He insisted he would emphasize more bodychecking by his defencemen.
“When the forwards can come up the ice with you with their heads down, they you’re in trouble,” he said.

The Red Wings went 33-31-12 and missed the playoffs. They began the following season with two victories only to have owner Bruce Norris fire the coach an hour before the start of the third game of the 1969-70 season. As the team went on to lose a game against the visiting Minnesota North Stars that evening, fans at the Olympia chanted, “We want Gadsby!”

Away from the arena, Mr. Gadsby operated several successful enterprises, including an insurance business and a golf centre in Howell, Mich.

Mr. Gadsby died March 11 in hospital in Farmington Hills, Mich. He had been diagnosed with throat cancer many years earlier. He leaves his wife, Edna, their four daughters, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A three-time First Team All-Star and a three-time Second Team All-Star, he was also a three-time runner-up for the James Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenceman. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1970, an honour acknowledging his consistency and perseverance.

The old player would accept no pity for his ill-fated pursuit of hockey’s holy grail. He titled his 2003 memoir, “The Grateful Gatsby.”

“After I beat that polio rap,” he once said, “I knew that everything else that ever happened to me would be pure bonus.”

Bert Olmstead

Bert Olmstead (Leafs)

Murray Albert Olmstead
Born: September 4, 1926 (Sceptre, Saskatchewan)
Died: November 17, 2015 (High Riverm Alberta)

 

Bert Olmstead was a hard-nosed forward who bulled his way into the Hockey Hall of Fame with a pugnacious style owing more to determination than ability.

Mr. Olmstead, who has died at 89, was a solid playmaker despite being a poor skater, his choppy strides betraying self-taught origins on chippy frozen sloughs in Saskatchewan.

From 1951 until 1960, he skated in 10 consecutive Stanley Cup final series, an incredibly rare feat even in the days of a six-team National Hockey League.

He had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup five times, four with the Montreal Canadiens and once with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also established a record for assists in a season, as well as tying the mark for most points in a game with eight. Both marks were eventually surpassed.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound left winger was a prototype of the power forward, an inelegant attacker as keen to throw a bodycheck at an opponent as he was to shovel the puck to flashier teammates.

Bert Olmstead hockey card (Habs).JPGAfter his playing career ended, he had a coaching stint with the expansion Oakland Seals that lasted less than a year, his unhappy tenure including a stick-swinging fight with a fan and a late-season resignation.

“If Olmstead did public relations for Santa Claus,” former player Eddie Dorohoy once said, “there wouldn’t be any Christmas.”

Mr. Olmstead attributed his own success on ice to lessons learned on a farm.

“You reap the rewards of what you put into it,” he told Ian MacDonald of the Montreal Gazette in 2004, “or you suffer at the other end.”

Murray Albert Olmstead was born on Sept. 4, 1926, to May Belle (née Dennis) and Cecil Clendon Olmstead, who ran a dealership for agricultural implements in the Saskatchewan village of Sceptre. The elder Mr. Olmstead had arrived in the province from Ontario, hiring a team of oxen to get from the railway line to an isolated homestead north of a barren expanse of sand and dunes known as the Great Sandhills. He married one of the daughters of the farmer across the road.

The boy played hockey and baseball in the village before moving to Moose Jaw to play junior hockey at age 18 in 1944. He helped lead the Canucks to the finals of the Memorial Cup championship in 1945 before losing to the St. Michael’s Majors of Toronto in five games.

The tough forward turned professional with the Kansas City Pla-Mors of the United States Hockey League, spending three seasons in the minors except for a nine game call-up to the NHL’s Chicago Black Hawks, during which he recorded just two assists.

In his first full NHL season, Mr. Olmstead played on a line with Bep Guidolin and Metro Prystai, another Saskatchewan-born player and a junior teammate. The trio were dubbed by sportswriters as the Boilermakers Line for their toughness and blue-collar work ethic. (They were also known as the Meatball Line.) Mr. Olmstead scored 20 goals in his inaugural campaign, tying for second in voting for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year, which was won by Boston Bruins goaltender Jack Gelineau.

An oddity of his career is that he would never again score as many goals in a campaign.

Late in 1950, Mr. Olmstead was traded to the Detroit Red Wings, who assigned him to the minor-league Milwaukee Seagulls. Seventeen days later, Detroit traded him to the Canadiens for Leo Gravelle.

Mr. Olmstead flourished under Montreal coaches Dick Irvin Sr. and, later, Toe Blake. He learned the importance of positional play and would scold teammates who joined him in the corners to battle for the puck. He wanted them in front of the enemy goal to receive his passes.

The forward benefited from playing alongside so elegant a player as Jean Beliveau, so flashy a sniper as Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, and so fiery a scorer as Maurice (Rocket) Richard.

The meaner Mr. Olmstead played, the more goals he helped produce. He led the league in assists with 48 in 1954-55, the same season in which he recorded a career high of 103 penalty minutes. The following season he set a new NHL record for assists in a season with 56, which would last five seasons before being surpassed by Mr. Beliveau.

On Jan. 9, 1954, Mr. Olmstead played one of the greatest games in NHL history when he recorded eight points in a 12-1 drubbing of Chicago at the Forum in Montreal. He fired four pucks past goalie Al Rollins and added four more assists (on two goals each by Ken Mosdell and Mr. Beliveau). The eight points tied the mark set by linemate Mr. Richard in a 1944 game. Darryl Sittler of Toronto broke their record by recording 10 points in a 1976 game. Mr. Olmstead’s performance is all the more remarkable for coming neither during wartime’s depleted lineups, nor with the dilution of talent following expansion.

Mr. Olmstead played a key role in helping a star-studded Montreal lineup win Stanley Cup championships in 1953, 1956, 1957 and 1958. He was often assigned to shadow the star player on rival teams, including Gordie Howe of Detroit. In the summer of 1958, though, he was left unprotected by the Canadiens, who suspected a knee injury would make him less effective, and the Maple Leafs claimed him, hoping the veteran would imbue a rebuilding club with a sense of how to win a championship.

Not long after he joined the team, the last-place Leafs fired coach Billy Reay. George (Punch) Imlach, the new general manager, coached the team behind the bench during games, but he placed Mr. Olmstead in charge of practices and the dressing room as an assistant playing coach.

“I’m sure he can instill a lot of fire in this club,” Mr. Imlach said. The Leafs squeaked into the playoffs on the last day of the season.

In 1962, a broken shoulder suffered late in the season caused Mr. Olmstead to miss the Maple Leafs’ opening eight playoff games. He returned to help the Leafs defeat the defending champion Black Hawks in six games. It was Toronto’s first Stanley Cup victory in 11 seasons.

The Maple Leafs left him unprotected in the offseason, and the New York Rangers claimed him, as general manager Muzz Patrick hoped he would become coach.

“(Muzz) Patrick wants me to fire up the Rangers, but that’s a lousy idea,” Mr. Olmstead told reporters at the time. “If I was capable of doing it I would, but I can’t. I can still play for a contending team, but I can’t carry a poor club anymore.”

Mr. Olmstead instead retired as a player. He had scored 181 goals with 421 assists in 848 games. He had another 16 goals and 43 assists in 115 playoff games. He played in four all-star games and was twice voted an NHL Second Team All-Star.

In summers, he returned to Saskatchewan where he played semiprofessional baseball at $400 per month with a barnstorming team from his home village.

A blemish on his record came in the summer of 1958, when he was fined $1,000 for assault causing bodily harm for an attack on a West Vancouver businessman following a trapshooting competition. (Mr. Olmstead was an eagle-eye shot on the ice and off.) Mr. Olmstead punched the man in a dispute over an auction, The man sued and Mr. Olmstead settled out of court for $5,250.

Mr. Olmstead had success as coach of the old Vancouver Canucks of the Western Hockey League. He was then hired as general manager and coach in Oakland, as the Seals were one of six expansion teams to join the NHL for the 1967-68 season. The club was woeful and quickly fell to the bottom of the standings. A fierce competitor as a player, Mr. Olmstead grew ever more grumpy and irascible.

“They’re just not trying,” he complained. “I’ve insulted and I’ve threatened. But they’ve just quit.”

He resigned as general manager late in the season and never again coached in the NHL.

Like his father before him, Mr. Olmstead worked the soil, operating a 170-acre grain farm outside Calgary. He also held an executive position with a Calgary realty firm.

Mr. Olmstead died on Nov. 17 at High River, Alta. He leaves his wife, the former Nora Moffatt, whom he married in 1952; a daughter, Bonnie; a son, Dennis, who won an American collegiate hockey championship with the University of Wisconsin Badgers in 1973; and, a granddaughter. He was predeceased by two brothers and three sisters.

In 1985, Mr. Olmstead was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, joining linemates Beliveau and Geoffrion who had earlier been honoured. He has also been inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame.

A proud man, Mr. Olmstead felt he had been overlooked for many years by the Hockey Hall of Fame. He liked to note he had played what would be his final game with the Canadiens as a Stanley Cup winner and his final game as a Maple Leaf as a Stanley Cup winner.

Bert Olmstead table hockey with familyBert Olmstead plays table hockey with his children.

Gus Mortson

Gus Mortson with St. Michael's.jpg

James Angus Gerald Mortson
Born: January 24, 1925 (New Liskeard, Ontario)
Died: August 8, 2015 (Timmins, Ontario)

Gus Mortson was an abrasive defenceman known as Old Hardrock for his punishing bodychecks and ability to absorb a punch while engaged in fisticuffs.

Mr. Mortson, who has died at 90, won four Stanley Cups in a five-season span while with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the post-war years. In those championship seasons, he was usually paired with Jim Thomson, a stay-at-home defenceman whose preferred style was to clutch and grab an opponent. The duo were dubbed the Gold Dust Twins for their effective protection of the Toronto goal.

A fine skater who enjoyed rushing with the puck, Mr. Mortson never scored more than seven goals in an NHL season. He was more effective as a hard-nosed defender often found in violation of the hockey rulebook.

He led the NHL in penalty minutes in four seasons, earning a reputation as a player not averse to employing nefarious means to prevent a rival from scoring. He contributed to many notorious melees, donnybrooks and bench-clearing brawls, including a notorious battle near the end of a playoff game in his rookie season, during which an outraged fan threw a folding chair and Mr. Mortson wrestled with a Detroit policeman. A misconduct penalty was assessed on the defenceman by the referee, but the player and the policeman later shook hands and there were no criminal charges.

James Angus Gerald Mortson was born on Jan. 24, 1925, in the Ontario agricultural and mining community of New Liskeard (now Temiskaming Shores) to Angela (née Pelangio) and Norman Mortson, a prospector. The boy was raised in Kirkland Lake, a gold-mining town also known for producing hockey players.

“From the time I was 10 years old, I was out staking property with my dad, who was always involved in claim staking and prospecting,” he told the Toronto Star in 1983. “I was staking property when I broke into the NHL and even in the off-season I would go out in the bush with my dad for a week or so hunting for ore.”

At 18, Mr. Mortson played for the Kirkland Lake Lakers along with teammate Ted Lindsay, a future member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The following season he and Mr. Lindsay joined the St. Michael’s Majors junior team in Toronto. Both were seconded to the Oshawa Generals for the finals of the Memorial Cup playoffs, where they helped the team sweep to the championship in four games against the junior Trail (B.C.) Smoke Eaters.
The defenceman repeated as a Memorial Cup champion in 1945 with St. Michael’s.

Gus Mortson typo on Stanley Cup 1950-51After a year of seasoning with Toronto’s Tulsa (Okla.) Oilers farm team, Mr. Mortson made his debut with the Maple Leafs. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound player wasted no time in exhibiting his pugnacious style. The 1946-47 season opened with an exhibition game pitting the Leafs against NHL all-stars and referee King Clancy thumbed Mr. Mortson for three minor penalties.

Mr. Mortson led the NHL in penalties in his rookie campaign with 133 minutes. In the Stanley Cup finals that year, he scored a goal and injured Rocket Richard with a check, as the Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens in six games.

The Leafs repeated as champions the following season by sweeping the Detroit Red Wings in four games. Mr. Mortson scored a goal and an assist in the opening game of the series, only to be removed from Maple Leaf Gardens on a stretcher after he and Mr. Thomson attempted to sandwich Detroit’s Black Jack Stewart with a double bodycheck.

“My skate turned in on me, stuck in the ice and when Stewart rode into us, my whole weight came down on my leg,” Mr. Mortson said after the game. “I could feel something go.”

He had suffered two breaks to his left leg — one just below the knee and another running six inches along the shinbone to the ankle. His playoffs were over, but he would return healthy at the start of the following season, during which the Maple Leafs would win their third consecutive Stanley Cup.

A fourth championship came in 1951 when the Leafs defeated the Canadiens in five games, all going to overtime. The Cup-winning goal was scored by fellow defenceman Bill Barilko, who would be killed in a plane crash four months later.

Despite Mr. Mortson’s notoriety and three previous titles, the Stanley Cup engraver mistakenly misspelled his name as Wortson on the section of the metal band for the 1951 championship.

The defenceman’s reputation for dirty play enraged his rivals. He was once accused of kicking Detroit’s Fred Glover with his skate after knocking him to the ice with a crushing check against the boards. In his defence, Mr. Mortson insisted his opponent had kicked first. In any case, the referee assessed only a minor penalty for roughing on the Leafs defenceman.

He was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks with Ray Hannigan, Cal Gardner and Al Rollins for goalie Harry Lumley just before the start of the 1952-53 season. He served as captain of the team for three seasons before being traded to Detroit in 1958.

In 797 NHL games, the defenceman scored 46 goals with 152 assists and 1,380 penalty minutes. He skated in eight All-Star Games.

After leaving the NHL, Mr. Mortson played for the minor-league Buffalo Bisons before being reinstated as an amateur so he could play senior hockey in Ontario with the Chatham Maroons and Oakville Oaks.

He coached junior-B hockey in the Toronto suburbs while operating a food-and-beverage distribution business. He sold pizzas and smoked meat sandwiches at the annual Canadian National Exhibition. He later worked as a stockbroker and a mining and manufacturer’s representative in a territory stretching along the vast Canadian Shield from Red Lake, Ont., to Chibougamau, Que.

Mr. Mortson died on Aug. 8 at the Golden Manor Home for the Aged in Timmins, Ont. He leaves Sheila (née Kennedy), his wife of 66 years. He also leaves three sons, three daughters, 17 grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son, John Angus Mortson, a retired police officer who died at age 55 in 2010.

Mr. Mortson was inducted into the Timmins Sports Heritage Hall of Fame in 2014.

Late in his playing career, Mr. Mortson became an advocate for a union of hockey players. This led to an infamous public exchange with Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe during a 1957 game in Toronto. Mr. Mortson was sent to the penalty box, where he yelled at the referee. This led Mr. Smythe to lean over to yell at his former employee about getting help from the lawyers who were assisting in establishing a player’s association. Mr. Mortson then shook his fist at Mr. Smythe, snapped off a military salute, and thumbed his nose.

“We had a nice, friendly conversation,” the player later told a reporter. “Covered 10 years in two minutes.”
Gus Mortson in action
Gus Mortson wheels away from his goal in pursuit of the puck.