Orchids to Ottawa!
By Bill Fitsell
The 16th annual general meeting of the Society for International Hockey Research in Ottawa on May 19, 2007, will probably go down in history as one of its most memorable in recent years.
First, to have the Prime Minister of Canada attend the Friday night Hot Stove League "Meet and Greet" was a distinct honour and a great thrill. Stephen Harper came as a member, met and chatted easily with all 32 members and guests--including HOWIE MORENZ, JR. Jr. and his son Howard III--in the crowded room on the 12th floor of the Cooper Street Holiday Inn. It was no photo-op stop--although lots of pix were taken--the PM and his staff stayed from almost two hours, and mentioned his main interest, the early history of pro hockey in Toronto. When one of the four American members present expressed sympathy for his wife, he revealed he had help of "an excellent researcher" whose service are paid for by him.
Saturday's meeting was highlighted by the presence of Leo Gravelle, who broke into the Montreal Canadiens in the MAURICE RICHARD era (1946-1951) and scored 48 goals and earned 35 assists in 240 NHL games. He grew up in French-speaking Aylmer, Quebec, lost his mother when he was 15 and told a tale of 25 cent hockey sticks, hand-sewn shin paid, 35 below zero weather, receiving an apple and an orange for Christmas and making 35 cents a day as a caddy.
Recruited to play juvenile hockey in English-speaking Port Colborne, Ontario, Leo moved from the Junior B Lions there to the Memorial Cup-winning Toronto St. Michaels and on to the Montreal Royals and Stanley Cup holding Habs. Coach DICK IRVIN liked players from Western Canada, he said, and although the new Hab finished fourth in scoring, he found himself "on the wrong end of the bench." Leo was not invited to camp and was shuffled off to Buffalo in the AHL. The money contracts were clear: $5,000 in the NHL, $3,000 in the AHL or $2,500 in the USHL. He rated Richard, who earned $8,000 and worked up to $35,000 in 17 years, and Gordie Howe as "the two greatest players." Leo played centre for both of them.
The Rev. GLEN GOODHAND of Lindsay, Ont., was accorded the distinct pleasure of meeting the PM at 24 Sussex Street, making their own lunches together and talking about, what else?--hockey. "He's just a down-to-earth guy," he reported to SIHR members after delivering a paper on "The Big Ones That Got Away."
Three other presentations were made by members, two from the U.S.A. JIM MANCUSO of Utica, New York, gave an enthusiastic paper that was officially announced as "Shoring Up the Minor Leagues, Like Eddie Would Have Wanted It." A compiler of 40 minor leagues, James sought assistance in determining the ranking between amateur and minor pro teams. "An all encompassing definition of minor league hockey is overdue," he boomed. His aim is to list "The Greatest Minor League Hockey Players of All Time," which would be a timely project to be announced when SIHR moves into Eddie Shore Land--Springfield, Mass.--in the Fall of 2007. Jim and Springfield resident WHIT BACON will host the event.
BILL SPROULE, who hosted the 2004 Fall Meeting in Houghton, Mich. gave a FINE PowerPoint illustrated address on the Western Collegiate Hockey League. The WCHL, called "The Toughest College Hockey League in the World," has featured such coaches as JOHN MARIUCCI, MURRAY ARMSTRONG, BOB JOHNSON and HERB BROOKS. Attentive listeners, including his teen-age son, Davy Sproule, also got a pictorial view of the biggest hockey trophy in captivity, the WCHL's (James) McNaughton Cup, which cost $2,000 in 1920 (?) and is now valued at $50,000. Three foot high, the silver cup, named after the Canadian-born, Copper Country-raised JAMES McNAUGHTON, is estimated to hold two gallons of bubbly.
A THIRD PRESENTER (yours truly) delivered a Royal rant that offered evidence that British rulers and the vice-regals moved field hockey onto the ice in England, 22 years before Montrealers shifted the outdoor game into a covered rink in 1875. Governors General Lord Lansdowne, Lord Stanley and Lord Tweedsmuir and Viscount Alexander by their patronage and participation, played a unique role in popularizing the game in its early days. The paper was heard, appropriately, on the Victoria Day weekend, named in honour of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), whose husband, Prince Albert played in an early game. As LEFTY REID quipped: "What was Victoria's Secret!"
The business meeting, in two sessions, reached the following decisions:
1. Received a proposal to hold the May, 2008 AGM in Quebec City, during its 400th anniversary celebrations and the IIHF Centennial World Hockey Championships. J.P. MARTEL of Chambly, Quebec, who offered the organize the meeting, agreed to confirm arrangements at the 2007 Fall meeting.
2. Announced that the Brian McFarlane Award for excellence in research and writing, would go to MARTIN C. HARRIS, of Ealing, London, England, author of the "Homes of British Ice Hockey"--a comprehensive report on 52 arenas in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. His paper "Crossing the Link, The NHL and the British Hockey Leagues, 1935-60, appeared in the 1997 Journal. Martin attended the 8th annual AGM in Toronto in 1999, and hopefully will be present to receive the trophy at Springfield, Mass. or Quebec. Congrats to our first non-North American recipient!
3.Heard secretary Lloyd Davis (who co-ordinated the McFarlane Award) report 234 paid up members with 103 in arrears.
4. Accepted the Financial Report of Treasurer PAUL BRUNO, which showed healthy growth: a cash balance of $5,338.65, $8,544.83 collected in membership fees, $1,240 received in a Heritage Organization Development Grant and $5,940 expended for Journals and Newsletters.
5. Heard President LEN KOTYLO report on "a very significant SIHR presence" at the recent "Canada and The League of Hockey Nations Conference in Victoria, B.C. Earl Zukerman, VP Quebec, said our presence (15 per cent of the 60 delegates) "increased the society's awareness in the academic world."
6. Approved a Partnership Memorandum of Agreement from the Library and Archives of Canada, which provides available research space and public meeting rooms for special events "encouraging research into the history of hockey." Past President PAUL KITCHEN of Ottawa will continue to act as SIHR liaison.
7. Accepted the report of the E-List Moderator, Stu McMurray, who noted more than 8,200 messages exchanged by members since inception in September, 2001. Comments on the report about the advisability of posting "full text of newspaper articles" produced the only "touchy" situation during the meeting. "These articles are often protected by copyright and the terms of service of Yahoo!, which hosts the e-List, expressly prohibit such materials," he cautioned. Earl the Pearl compared the electronic distribution of hockey articles--"the quickest way to enhance the process"-- with sending newspaper clippings by mail or little difference than adding certain photos to the website. Despite a plea that the moderator was being "overly cautious" it was decided to err on the side of caution, investigate further and report.
8.Deferred debate on the adoption of an official logo for the Society. The original SIHR crest, with stick, pen/puck/ink well, introduced in 1991, was described as "too seventies." Two other logos have been used. The creation of JAMES MILKS, with two crossed sticks behind a SIHR shield, was prominently displayed on literature and folders at the Ottawa conference. James was complimented for the AGM arrangements, including lunch at the Learning Tree Centre, which set a new standard for facilities and accoutrements.Â
9. Confirmed the appointment of Ian Fyffe of Fredericton, N.B., as Editor of the Journal and extended thanks to outgoing editor Eric Zweig of Owen Sound , Ont. "for the tremendous job" in elevating the publication to the level of NHL publications. Eric will continue to contribute his make-up genius.
10. Newly-appointed Newsletter Editor WAYNE GEEN of Oshawa, Ont., was complimented (with one exception) on his first edition. He promised improvements and welcomed contributions.
11. Origins' committee chair PAUL KITCHEN said he was prepared to monitor "birthplace" claims (i.e. Deline, N.W.T.) and comment on reports such as "the oldest hockey stick in the world." There was a suggestion to "hold off on bringing out the heavy artillery" and to make "a balanced response" on any claim. The executive will appoint a replacement for Michel Vigneault on the seven-man committee.
12. Website guru ERNIE FITZSIMMONS reported 15,00 photos added in the last six months to bring the total to 75,000. He thanked several imputers including newcomer Kevin Shaw of Regina, Sask.
13. Adopted the nomination report of Past President Ernie electing the current vice-presidents and directors by acclamation.
14. Time did not permit an opportunity to deal with a few pro-active motions, including a proposal to investigate the erection of a commemorative marker at the graveside of hockey pioneer James George Aylwin Creighton (1850-1930), who rests in an unmarked grave at Ottawa's Beechwood Cemetery.
15. Thanks to arrangements made by host James Milks, several members took in the International League game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Ottawa Lynx. Others got caught up in the Sens Mile, where jubilant Ottawa fans celebrated the Senators' overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres.