SIHR Visits the Home of #4 Bobby Orr
Compiled by Greg Oliver with notes from Aubrey Ferguson
The Spring 2018 meeting of the Society for International Hockey Research was held in Parry Sound, Ontario, on the weekend of May 25-27, and featured a good variety of speakers, research presentations, food and drinks, and laughs.
About two and a half hours north of Toronto -- depending on traffic, Parry Sound, Ontario, is surrounded by beautiful lakes and rivers, the 400 highway having been carved out of imposing rock formations to get cottage-bound vacations to their destination. And for one weekend in May 2018, it was home to a collection of hockey historians and enthusiasts.
During the day, folks trickled in to the Parry Sound Inn & Suites, catching up and making new acquaintances. Word spread quickly that a gem of a used bookstore existed in "downtown" Parry Sound, with a shelf packed with sports books. (This writer scored four books, three hockey-related.)
Many also made their way down to the Bobby Orr Museum, which looks out onto Parry Sound (the waterway, a gateway to the larger Georgian Bay), with Parry Sound Harbour, its tour boats waiting for summer visitors, to its rear. At the home of #4, there's plenty to see, from Orr's early days in town, to championships in Boston, and post-hockey life. There were hockey games to play and merchandise to buy as well. Plus, the museum serves as a sports hall of fame for the town, and two of its inductees were on the docket for the weekend.
If you weren't Orr-ed out, the next stop wasn't the Bobby Orr Public School (which, as trivia buffs will know, is actually in Oshawa, Ontario), but the Bobby Orr Community Centre. It is both the community hockey rink, but also a facility with many meeting rooms, big and small, all named after trophies that Orr won. The Hart Room was just right for SIHR members in their jerseys/sweaters.
Thanks to SIHR's hard-working board, Lake of Bays Brewery donated a variety of frosty beverages, though the company's beers that honoured Jacques Plante and Johnny Bower, and proceeds going to the National Hockey League's Alumni Association, weren't on tap. Complimenting the brews was a lovely spread of cold food, including finger-licking good ribs.
The meeting and greeting complete, it was time for guest speakers. Up first was artist Mary Gair (marygairfineart.com) from nearby Muskoka. With her art on display as a backdrop, and wearing a vintage George Armstrong Maple Leafs jersey, she shared how she was inspired to create paintings based on small portions of photos from the 1972 Summit Series.
It's often discussed at SIHR meetings and through the email chain that every member should try to bring a friend out. Well, retired NHLer Dave Burrows did just that, letting SIHR President Wayne Geen know on Thursday night that he wanted to bring along an old teammate. Turns out it was "Battleship" Bob Kelly! So those in attendance got two real differing perspectives on hockey careers. Burrows, inducted into the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame in 2004, was a solid defenceman, reliable and a team player. Kelly was never destined to play hockey at all, dropping out early in his junior career before being dragged back in. Kelly found himself in a very physical role, bouncing around many teams, fighting countless foes.
President Wayne Geen opened the Saturday meeting, and the business portion flew by, with reports from the president, treasurer, Oral History Committee, Website Committee and membership manager. Wayne reminded attendees that we are commencing the third year under the new constitution which changed the organizationâ€™s structure such that business meeting can be abbreviated. Decisions taken by the board of Directors are posted on the bottom of the page of the SIHR website along with meeting minutes and the members directory. Wayne also reminded members to review and update their personal profile which appears in the directory.
Of note, Bryan Lawrence took over as treasurer for the retiring Iain Fyffe.
JP Martel reaffirmed that the path to charitable status was progressing as the referendum to change our objectives had been overwhelming approved. Further information on progress toward this objective will be forthcoming from Iain Fyffe. A new owner of the Hockey News means yet another delay in the online availability of its archives.
VP Bill Sproule urged members to get involved with the Oral History Committee.
SIHR awaits the NHL schedule for the 2018-19, so that our hosts, the Dallas Stars, can figure out which weekend will work best for the organization's fall meeting in 2018. The spring meeting in 2019 will be in Windsor, Ontario, and President Geen floated Lake Placid, NY, as a possibility for 2020, to mark 40 years since the Miracle on Ice. Watch the website and in the newsletter for more details.
The most significant improvement to the website was to obtain and install a security certificate, which ensures that all connections are secured using the HTTPS protocol. In addition to providing better security for visitors, this was required
because modern browsers now flag login and payment pages not using HTTPS as insecure, and search engines downgrade insecure sites in results.
New pages have been created to display the oldest living NHL and WHA players, which can also be filtered by team.
As of May 23, 2018, paid membership stood at 520, -14 members since the 2017 AGM; 80 new memberships have commenced and 364 have been renewed (68% of last year's total).
Wayne announced this year's award winners:
- President's Award to Ernie Fitzsimmons, who contributed a lifetime of statistics as the seed data for SIHRâ€™s robust payer profile and continues to supplement the database on an ongoing basis.
- The Paul Kitchen Award for the best research project produced during the past calendar year to Mike Commito, for his Sportsnet article "Big in Japan: The story of the 1954 Kenora Thistles" which examined the Kenora Thistles' goodwill hockey tour of Japan in 1954. Mike was recently named the official historian of the OHL Sudbury Wolves.
- The Brian McFarlane Award which recognizes SIHR members in good standing for continued outstanding research and writing in any media, to Stephen Smith for the publication of his excellent book Puckstruck: Distracted, Delighted and Distressed by Canada's Hockey Obsession in 2014 and continued postings on "the culture of hockey and vice versa" on his blog @ puckstruck.com.
For those who have been a part of some of the previous marathon Saturdays, the next bit of information may come as a shock -- the schedule for Saturday was shuffled around because the business meeting and the early presentations ran short, meaning five talks before the catered lunch in the Hart Room.
Up first was Denis Gibbons sharing his stories of international hockey, ranging from Eastern European encounters with secret police to encountering Don Cherry in a steam bath; his stories form the basis of his recently-released book, Hockey: My Door to Europe.
Andrew Caddell was next, and, as the first to use the audio-visual set-up, had to fight his way through a few technological hiccups before getting to his talk about his grandfather, Leonard Burton Ramsey, and his connections to hockey. Informative and touching, Caddell drew listeners in as he detailed a name few would ever be familiar with, and those seeking more information are pointed to his book, THE GOAL: Stories about Our National Passion.
Presenter Ed Norris, decked out in his Bruins swag, felt at home in Parry Sound. He shared details of the Boston Bruins' attempt to raise money for the Red Cross in 1942, including exhibition games.
Tom Mentrak's presentation -- The Greatest Hockey Team Nobody Ever Saw: Syracuse Braves EPHL, Fall of 1962 -- was as much an education as it was a request for help as he continues to try to uncover more about the short-lived team that moved to St. Louis. He shared a great story about knocking on the door of Phil Esposito's home to collect Espo's memories from that season.
A long time professor, new SIHR member David Ward was as thrilled to listen in to the others as he was to present his own talk: The Hockey Photos of Famed Photographer Arthur Rickerby. After detailing who Rickerby was, Ward shared his own story about how he came into possession of 300 of the photographer's hockey images. Ward also plugged his two books, The Lost 10 Point Night: Searching for My Hockey Hero ... Jim Harrison and Bay of Hope: Five Years in Newfoundland.
After lunch came the day's special attraction, guest speaker Bill Beagan, who is a former NHL linesman and minor pro referee, IHL commissioner, EHL commissioner, IHL Toledo Goaldiggers general manager/owner, and commissioner of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). Beagan also explained how his own early years in the Canadian military set the path for his career in hockey. Like Burrows, Beagan was inducted into the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame in 2004.
For those who relish statistics and analytics, Peter Kitchen and Lisa Kaida teamed up for a fascinating paper, titled The Changing Geography of Canadian National Hockey League Players' Hometowns. Armed with plenty of research and slides to explain their findings, Kitchen, who works for Statistics Canada, and Kaida, who is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, both proved to know their stuff, and left the 40+ members in attendance with a new perspective on the changing metrics.
The final presentation of the day was Fred Addis, who talked about Bronco Horvath, a rare breed of hockey player who was a part of all of the "Original Six" teams before expansion. Armed with information gleaned from Horvath himself, Addis shared many entertaining anecdotes.
Following the meeting, dinner was at the Wellington Grill and Pub, and merriment continued later into the evening for many.
On Sunday morning, the traditional ball hockey game was revived at the Bobby Orr Community Centre, its empty loneliness below the meeting room having teased attendees on Friday and Saturday.