Fifty years ago, players winding up their pro hockey careers had to be officially reinstated as amateurs if they wanted to continue to play with senior clubs in their hometowns or any burg that reached out to them for help.
In those computerless days, paperwork often got bogged down and delayed the process. And there were many strings attached.
After winning three Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Carl Brewer joined Father David Bauer’s Canadian national team for the 1967 World Championship in Vienna. But because he had been a pro, the IIHF ruled that he could play in the Worlds for only one year. At that time pros were not allowed to play.
Brewer starred in that tourney, making the all-star team and helping Canada win a bronze medal, but he eventually regained his professional status, making an NHL comeback with Detroit.
Nowadays, it’s much simpler. As long as a player is no longer under contract to his pro employers, he is free to sign with anybody in the amateur ranks.
So with six former NHL players in the lineup, the Dundas (Ont.) Real McCoys edged the Clarenville Caribous from Newfoundland 3-2 in overtime to win their first Allan Cup, emblematic of senior (amateur) hockey supremacy in Canada.
Randy Rowe, who had bounced around North America’s minor pro leagues for 12 years after starring in junior hockey with the Belleville Bulls, was the hero, scoring the game-winning goal 13:42 into the extra period.
Darryl Smith, a product of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Gatineau Olympiques, scored twice for the Real McCoys in regulation time and Cam Fergus netted both goals for the Caribous. Fergus is the nephew of former NHLer Tom Fergus, who played for the U.S. at the 1985 World Championship in Prague when the Americans got involved in a brawl with the Soviet Union.
Jay McKee, now 36, played 802 NHL games for Buffalo, St. Louis and Pittsburgh without winning anything and he never had a chance to play for Canada internationally.
“I haven’t won anything since I was 10 years old,” McKee said. “It doesn’t matter what level it is, it’s just a great feeling.”
McKee, who was drafted by Buffalo in the first round in 1995, said NHL players are bigger and the players are in better shape, but he was still exhausted after the overtime game.
“This was not easy,” he said. “There were some great teams in this tournament.”
Besides playing, McKee ran some of the team practices and chaired team meetings in which he outlined systems his NHL teams had used successfully.
McKee was coaxed out of retirement by former German League scoring champion Mark Jooris when the two were playing at the Christmas Cup in Minsk, Belarus, which is basically a tournament for oldtimers.
A first round pick of Montreal in 1997, Jason Ward was the star in the Real McCoys 4-0 shutout win over the Kenora Thistles in one of two semi-final games. He figured in all four goals, scoring the first and assisting on the other three.
Ward, 35, was named MVP in the American Hockey League with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the 2002-03 season. He also played a total of 336 NHL games for 4 different teams.
After suffering broken ribs earlier in the season Terry Ryan, a first round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 1995, missed the whole tournament with Clarenville, but managed to peddle his book ‘Tales of a First-Round Nothing’ in the lobby of the arena between periods. Ryan wound up playing only eight games lifetime for Montreal.
Don Robertson, a real estate broker who was a linesman in the 1977 Allan Cup championship game, is the man responsible for recruiting the players that took Dundas to the national championship.
“We developed a plan to win this thing, and we did it,” said Robertson, who had been trying for about a decade. “Now I’m satisfied.”
Besides the six NHL vets, the Real McCoys also had several grads of the AHL, OHL, university and European clubs in their lineup. Defenceman Kevin Bolibruck, 37, had previously played in Great Britain, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway and Italy. The average age of the Dundas defence brigade was 34.9.
It was the highlight of coach Ken Mann’s career, other than the one NHL game he played for the Detroit Red Wings in the 1975-76 season.
Both goalkeepers had exceptional games. Mike Mole of Dundas blocked 51 shots and was selected MVP of the tournament. Jason Churchill of Clarenville made 38 saves. Mole led all Allan Cup goalies with a 1.64 goals against average.
Fergus and Matt Quinn of Clarenville were named to the all-star team as forwards along with Dundas captain Ryan Christie, who played briefly with the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames before signing in Italy with the Milan Vipers. Luke Gallant of the Caribous and Simon Mangos of Dundas were named the allstar defencemen.
Clarenville beat the defending Allan Cup champion Bentley Generals from Alberta 5-1 in the other semifinal. Also taking part in the tournament were the Brantford (Ont.) Blast and the Southeast Prairie Thunder, representing the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
It was just the third Allan Cup championship game to go to overtime since the tournament went to a single-game final in 1992. Dundas also won the Gordon Renwick Cup, which goes to the all-Ontario champion. It is named after former IIHF Vice-President Gordon Renwick, who contributed a lot to the development of senior hockey.
The six-day tournament was held at the J.L. Grightmire Arena, which was officially opened by 1948 Olympic figure skating gold medallist Barbara Ann Scott in 1950. The building underwent renovations, thanks to a $100,000 grant Dundas was awarded in 2010 when it was named the best smalltown hockey arena in Canada in CBC Hockey Night In Canada’s Kraft Hockeyville nationwide competition.
The Allan Cup was donated in early 1909 by Montreal businessman and Montreal Amateur Athletic Association president Sir H. Montagu Allan to be presented to the amateur champions of Canada. It was first presented to the Ottawa Cliffsides in 1909.
Starting in 1920, the Allan Cup champion team represented Canada in amateur play at the Olympics and World Championships. This was discontinued in the 1960s with the introduction of the Canadian national team.
The Penticton, B.C., V’s, who won the Allan Cup exactly 60 years earlier in 1954, represented Canada at the 1955 World Championship in Germany and were the first Canadian team to beat the Soviet Union for the gold medal.
The 1955 Allan Cup Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen represented Canada at the 1956 Olympics. The Whitby Dunlops and Belleville McFarlands won gold medals for Canada at the 1958 and 1959 World Championships after winning the Allan Cup in 1957 and 1958, respectively. The Kenora Thistles had won the Stanley Cup in 1907, before the NHL even was born.
Ontario teams have won the Allan Cup 49 times. The closest to that is British Columbia with 11.
Clarenville will host the tournament next year