Hockey's Historic Highlights

Did You Have a Good Summer? (Part Two)

Hockey's Historic Highlights

Glen R. Goodhand


Did You Have a Good Summer? (Part Two)

Posted November 01, 2015

Viewed 4270 times

Murph Chamberlain, whose off-season was taken up with dairy farming managed to take some time away from milking cows about 1952. Taking a leisurely drive through the Laurentian Mountains he was sideswiped by a car, amazingly enough, by his defense partner, Ray Getliffe.

“For the love Mike!”, he grumbled. “Here it is August and you’re still running into me!”

   And so, “How was your summer?” 

  As observed in part 1 of this missive, while modern NHL’ers are pretty well free to choose what they want to do during their weeks away from the grind of on-ice competition, for the first 50 plus years of the circuit’s existence very few shinny mercenaries were able to escape some means of earning money between the end of one season and the commencement of the next. Even superstars like Jean Beliveau supplemented his hockey stipend with casual earning.

  While Eddie Shore shoveled coal into a railway steam engine, Gordie Howe hoisted bags of cement, and Milan Marcetta pushed a lawn mower over miles of grass, there actually were some pucksters involved in contributing toward recreational activities.

   Charlie Conacher (30’s) owned a dance hall for several years, providing facilities for a very popular pastime during that era.  

    Joe Schmidt (40’s) may not have spent much time at the beach, but he was superintendent of a public swimming pool during the warm weather.

   Phil Samis left the NHL after the 1949-50 campaign to study dentistry. But up to that point he also felt at home around swimming pools—as a lifeguard.

  Hank Blade (40’s) was boss of a circus when he wasn’t chasing pucks.  300 employees were accountable to him. Apparently his services were is such demand that he barely pulled off his hockey sweater when the “three rings” were beckoning for his oversight.

  Edgar Laprade (1950’s) returned to Thunder Bay, Ontario during his off season and worked at a sporting goods store in Fort William. This laid the foundation for his retirement, when he owned one of his own.

  Marcel Pronovost (50’s & 60’s) enjoyed the outdoors, and was right at home as a fishing guide in the off season. It stood him in good stead one night when a live eel was tossed on the ice at a Red Wing game. Apparently he was not only skilled in locating and catching them, but knew a great deal about cooking the products of angling. He offered this advice about the slimy critter which made its appearance after a home-team tally: “They are really too fat…..but if you eliminate the oil they can be successfully brazed.” 

  Hall of famer rearguard Tom Johnson (50’s & 60’s) operated a trailer park.

  Tom Reid, who debuted in the NHL with the Blackhawks in the 1967 expansion, gravitated back home to Fort Erie, Ontario, where he was an employee of the city recreation department. 

  A host of hockeyists spent the bulk of their summers working towards improved education. Red Berenson (60’s & 70’s), already claimed an Arts degree when he joined the Canadiens. But he continued studies in the off-season working toward a Masters in Business Administration. 

  While the studious pivot was one of the earlier one of his cast to determine that higher learning was an efficient safety net into which to fall if one’s on-ice career hit a snag, he was not the earliest. The hulking Hugh Bolton (early 1950’s), who skated when brawl usually held sway over brains, patiently worked his way through to gain a degree in electrical engineering.

 Billy Harris (50’s), Ted Hampson (60’s), Garry Monahan and Rick Smith (both 1970’s) are a few others who pursued the trail of intellect between hockey campaigns.

  While faithful campaigners like Elmer Lach and Dick Duff, whom we mentioned last time,

sold used cars during the time off, others chose sales of another kind. Ian Turnbull and Bruce Affleck (60’s) were busy in the real estate field. Paul Ronty (50’s) Dollard St. Laurent (50’s) and John Tonelli (80’s) opted for the old reliable—peddling life insurance. Ed Sandford (50’s) gave counsel about the wisest investments in which to plant savings and earnings. 

   Jack Caffery and Pete Conacher (50’s), as well as Blake Dunlop (70’s & 80’s), were busy on the stock exchange.

   Reed Larson (70’s & 80’s) put a little spin on money matters—he was a loan officer.

 John Peirson and Jerry Toppazzini (50’s) found retail to their liking. The former was fortunate enough to find a job working for his father-in-law in the furniture business. Topper went a step further than Glen Harmon or Eddie Shack (hats), manning a clothing store in Sudbury.

  Eddie Bush (30’s & 40’s) set the pace in trades for future skaters. He was an electric welder. Warren Godfrey and Gus Bodnar (both 1950’s) were involved in the tool and die field.  

   The hot weather of July and August enhances the sale of beverages. Several NHL’ers were representatives of Breweries—Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Jean Guy Talbot, and J.C. Tremblay (50’s & 60’s) were among them—not surprisingly for Molson’s. Toronto’s Sid Smith (50’s) carried the banner for Labatt’s, while Danny Grant (70’s) flew the banner of another competitor, Moosehead Brewers. Larry Cahan (50’s & 60’s) got right down to the nitty gritty. He drove a beer truck on deliveries. Leo Labine (50’s) chose a milder refreshment, promoting a soft drink company in North Bay.

  Toe Blake (40’s), Dickie Moore and Henri Richard (both 1950’s) operated at the ultimate end of things—they owned and operated taverns.

   A handful of competitors got right down and dirty in carpentry and construction. Without a doubt goalie Roger Crozier (60’s & 70’s) is the best known expert with a hammer and saw. Always super sensitive concerning his responsibilities between the pipes, he worried himself into his first ulcer when he was in Junior hockey. Like Glenn Hall he “liked everything about hockey but the games!” It was in November of 1967 that he retired “because of the torture” of his profession. He went home to Bracebridge to be a carpenter. He played 10 more seasons after that, but his avocation was brought front and centre because of that incident.

  Two others netminders shared his practical talents; namely Roy Edwards and Cesare Maniago (both 60’s & 70’s). Edwards learned home repair and cabinet making from his father, and worked for his brother in the off-season. Maniago’s task was to estimate the cost of future projects for his brother’s construction company. Pete Goegan (50’s & 60’s), however, was a blueliner, whose assignment was also family related. He worked with his uncle in the Fort William/Port Arthur, Ontario area, building houses and apartments.

  We would be remiss to neglect those who spent their off-season on the fairways—and got paid for it. The old adage has it that players whose team missed the playoffs, or exited the semis in the early going, “trade sticks for golf clubs”. But a significant number were hired as golf pros. Doubtless Bill Ezinicki (40’s & 50’s), Andy Bathgate (50’s & 60’s), and Vic Hadfield (60’s & 70’s) most readily come to mind. However, Metro Prystai (40’s & 50’s), Jean-Guy Gendron (50’s & 60’s), and Gerry Hart (60’s & 70’s) also lucked out earning a pay-cheque for playing another game they enjoyed.

   As mentioned in part one, a remarkable variety existed in the list of summer sidelines necessarily pursued by many professional puck chasers during the pre-WHA era. They fit nicely under a heading like “odds and sods”—some being more odd than others.

   *Bill “Box Car” Juzda (40’s) shared Eddie Shore’s sweat-box existence as a fireman on the railroad in Western Canada—which eventually worked into a locomotive engineer’s license.

   *Cal Gardiner (50’s) drove a semi for the Denver-Chicago Company, an American-based trucking outfit which had a depot in Toronto.   

Johnny Bucyk trailed wheel of a different type. He was a tow truck driver when he wasn’t patrolling his left-wing corridor.

   *Bill Hay (60’s), another early graduate of college hockey to gain a spot in NHL lineups, spent his post-season time as a geologist for an oil company.

    *Claire Alexander (70’s) wasn’t nicknamed the “Orillia Milkman” for nothing. This moniker tells it all.

  *Jacques Plante (50’s, 60’s, & 70’s) owned a beauty parlour, and dabbled in raising chinchillas.

  *Maurice “Rocket” Richard (50’s & 60’s) refereed wrestling matches, where hog-tying, a hold of which he was often victim on the ice, was legal and part of the sport.

   *Alex Faulkner, the first Newfoundland native to make to the NHL, was a flash-in-the pan hero in the 1963 playoffs with Detroit. But when he returned to the “Rock” he sold flour.

   We’ve saved the best until last: Alf Pike (40’s) was nicknamed “The Embalmer” because that’s was he did as a sideline. He had a “partner in crime”, Cliff Thompson of the same era, who was also a mortician “putting people on ice” after the season was concluded. 

Alf "The Embalmer" Pike
Alf "The Embalmer" Pike

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