“Irish” eyes smiling again

St. Mike’s 1961 Memorial Cup champs honoured 50 years later

29.05.2011
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Memorial Cup champions with the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors, half-a-century ago in 1961, left to right: Paul Conlin, Terry Clancy, Bill MacMillan and Terry O’Malley display the school’s famous block ‘M’ jersey. Photo: Denis Gibbons

MISSISSAUGA, Canada – As he admired his 1961 Memorial Cup championship ring, Terry O’Malley reflected on a life shaped primarily by two remarkable men of the cloth.

O’Malley, 70, and teammates from the Toronto St. Michael’s team, which won the national junior championship of Canada 50 years ago, were honoured during the Memorial Cup week, receiving rings and replica jerseys with the school’s famous block ‘M’ inscribed on the front.

St. Mike’s was known affectionately by its many fans as “the Irish” and always took the ice on Sunday afternoons at Maple Leaf Gardens to the music of the old Irish tune “MacNamara’s Band”.

Father David Bauer, a Catholic priest who coached the St. Mike’s team and later the Canadian national team, O’Malley and Barry MacKenzie, also a Memorial Cup champion in 1961, all are members of the IIHF Hall of Fame. Between 1964 and 1969, O’Malley represented Canada in every Olympics and World Championship, except for 1967.

“I didn’t become rich, but I’ve had a rich life, mainly because of two people,” he said. “One was Father David Bauer, the other Father Athol Murray, who founded Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Saskatchewan.

“They were both heroes,” O’Malley said. “You know what heroes are – people who make something out of nothing!”

In the national team’s very early years at the University of British Columbia, before government funding arrived, players helped build their own dormitories and did some of the plumbing. Similarly, in the 1920s Father Murray built Notre Dame College on the basis of youths who desired an education, not their ability to pay. He often accepted a side of beef, a chicken or a bucket coal as boarding fees.

The national team was Father Bauer’s dream. His religious order, the Congregation of St. Basil, allowed him to pursue it in the national interest. The priest’s goals were aligned with those of Father Henry Carr, who founded St. Michael’s first hockey team in 1906. The school’s motto ‘Doce me bonitatem et disciplinam et scientiam’, translated from Latin, is “Teach me goodness, discipline and knowledge.”

After graduating from St. Mike’s, O’Malley thought seriously about becoming a priest himself and actually spent one year in the Basilian seminary before transferring to UBC.

“For that one year all I played was ball hockey on a tennis court,” O’Malley said.

He later spent seven years playing and coaching in Japan with the Seibu Bears and Kokudo Bunnies, through an arrangement made by Father Bauer, and came out of retirement at the age of 39 to play for Canada at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.

O’Malley was president and a hockey coach at what is now called the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame from 1978 to 2006. The school also has a strong hockey program that has turned out Canadian international players like Rod Brind’Amour, Wendel Clark and Curtis Joseph.

Today as a Citizenship Court Judge in the Province of Saskatchewan he presides over hearings for new Canadians and administers the oath of office to them at special ceremonies.

O’Malley believes Father Bauer’s insistence on combining hockey and education is a big reason the Canadian Hockey League now offers players university scholarships for years of service with the team.

“He is a Canadian legend,” O’Malley said.

MacKenzie served as principal and head hockey coach at Notre Dame, prior to O’Malley, and later became director of player development for the Minnesota Wild of the NHL.

Father Bauer’s national team placed fourth at the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, although 40 years later Hockey Canada made an appeal to the IIHF that the team deserved bronze medals.

With identical records of 5-2-0 and 10 points, Canada, Czechoslovakia and Sweden finished in a three-way tie for second place behind the gold-medallist Soviet Union. When the goal difference was calculated, the Swedes were awarded the silver medal and the Czechoslovaks the bronze.

Canada had a different view of the tie-breaking formula, as it had been outlined before the tournament, but no specific evidence could be found that would result in the Canadians receiving bronze medals after the fact. Canada had only been one goal away from a gold, losing 3-2 to the Soviets on the final day.

In 1968, Father Bauer’s team finally won an Olympic bronze medal outright in Grenoble, France.

In 1969 Canada petitioned the IIHF to allow the use of professionals in the World Championship, but lost its case. As an experiment, the IIHF was willing to allow all teams the use of nine pros, as long as they were not from NHL teams. But International Olympic Committee chairman Avery Brundage was opposed to it and it never happened.

As a result, Canada decided to withdraw from the 1970 World Championship it was supposed to host, and did not return to World Championship play until 1977, one year after the tournament was declared wide open to pros.

Paul Conlin, a Memorial Cup champion with St. Mike’s in 1961 and now an Ottawa lawyer, was himself involved in negotiations to get the Canadian players medals.

Up against Soviet stars like Anatoli Firsov, Veniamin Alexandrov and Vyacheslav Starshinov, the Canadians failed to beat the Soviets in Olympic and World Championship play between 1964 and 1969, but winger Billy MacMillan recalls that winning a major tournament in Winnipeg in 1967, Canada’s Centennial year, was a great consolation prize.

“That, to us, was another world tournament,” said MacMillan, who scored the winning goal in a 5-4 upset win over the Soviet Union.

“Towards the end of the game, pockets of fans began to sing ‘O Canada’ and it just spread throughout the arena, similar to what happened at the Olympics in Vancouver.”

O’Malley recalls fondly presenting the game puck to Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson when it was all over.

“Carl Brewer (former Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup winner) got reinstated as an amateur and it gave us the extra little punch on defence,” he said.

MacMillan graduated from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, where the national team later was based, and taught school there. He now manages a liquor store in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, the province where he was born.

He believes the Soviet team of the 1960s was even stronger than the current Russian squad, which was embarrassed 7-3 by Canada at the 2010 Olympics and lost five out of nine games at the recent World Championship.

Former members of the Canadian national team of the 1960s still meet to touch base every two years.

From the 1961 Memorial Cup championship team, Rod Seiling, Terry Clancy and Gary Dineen also followed Father Bauer to the national team.

Seiling, who also played for Team Canada in the historic Summit Series against the Soviet Union in 1972, now is chair of the Ontario Racing Commission, supervising horse racing in the entire province.

Clancy earned a degree at Laurier University and became an insurance broker in Toronto.

Dineen died in of cancer in 2006. But in his short career as a coach, he groomed a lot of young hockey talent in Springfield, Mass., including future NHL star Billy Guerin.

“Gary didn’t teach hockey lessons; he taught life lessons,” said Matt Anderson, who became a standout centre at the University of Massachusetts. “His principles were in order: family, academics and then hockey.”

Bruce Draper, the ’61 team’s best player, died at the age of 27 from leukemia. His twin brother Dave, also a Memorial Cup champion that year, was director of scouting for Canada’s gold medal-winning teams at the World U20 Championships of 1988 and 1991.

For the last 105 years, St. Michael’s also has graduated over 184 players to the NHL – a number unmatched by any other school in the world.

The best known are goalie Gerry Cheevers, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Boston Bruins; defencemen Rod Seiling and Arnie Brown who played 979 and 681 NHL games, respectively, mostly with the New York Rangers.

Altogether, 13 St. Mike’s alumni are enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame – players Frank Rankin, Reg Noble, Joe Primeau, Ted Lindsay, Red Kelly, Tim Horton, Frank Mahovlich, Dave Keon, Bobby Bauer, Dick Duff and Cheevers, along with Father David Bauer and Murray Costello as builders. Costello is a council member and vice-president of the IIHF.

DENIS GIBBONS

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