Fifty years ago Parry Sound was a hockey mad town with a reputation for great teams and incredible community support. The Intermediate Shamrock teams once led by the likes of Doug Orr and the Ryder Brothers filled the arena with fans. In 1961, Parry Sound became part of the Boston Bruins Farm System and professional coach Bucko McDonald was retained for another year by an astute Minor Hockey executive. Bucko was a former Detroit Red Wing ‘Hall of Fame’ blue liner, twice a Stanley Cup winner in Detroit and once in Toronto. Managing the team that special year was former early era hockey player Tony Gilchrist.
“Haven’t I seen you here already?””
Home games were played at the Memorial Arena. It was often colder inside than out and to get warm between periods you jammed into a small smoke filled snack bar area where after a half hour of freezing you could get a very hot chocolate destined to regularly burn your tongue raw. The excitement grew as our year progressed, and the community began to recognize that they had a hot team on their proud hands.
Undefeated as we were, at the end of the regular season, everyone looked confidently forward to challenging Midland in a three game District series playoffs. The first game turned out to be much less of a challenge than we had anticipated and we routed Midland so badly they forfeited the series. We next took on a much tougherHuntsville team but on February 26th after winning two games straight came out victorious. Victory in the Parry Sound – Muskoka District Championship set the town all-a-buzz as we headed off to the All Ontario OMHA quarter finals against Uxbridge. We won the second game without them mounting a serious callenge and knocked them out. By then, we had a cluster of dedicated fans following us to out of town games. No small feat given the challenge twisting two lane winter roads could be in those days.
Nearly two thousand loud and wildly supportive fans filled the Parry Sound arena as
Napanee rolled into town for the OMHA semi-final series. And on April 7th, we confidently cavalcaded off to Napanee where we championed the semi-final series. The final series would not be a cake walk. We defeated a very good Milton team on their own ice then returned to Parry Sound the following weekend for game two and the opportunity to win the
All-Ontario Bantam “B” Championship. The town was out in full force for this home game. A capacity crowd of wildly boisterous fans squeezed into the Memorial Arena and filled it to the rafters. We did not let them down and in another tough game we notched championship trophy number two, our undefeated record intact.
The next hill to climb was the District Little NHL tournament in Gravenhurst where we made the finals, and would have to face our nemesis Huntsville. Or, perhaps more accurately, Huntsville would have to meet its old nemesis Parry Sound. Hard fought though it was, the outcome was a defeated Huntsville team, and our third Championship Trophy. We still retained a perfect record.
With the smell of spring in the air, we packed our gear and headed off to Cobourg for the Provincial Little NHL tournament. The tournament was a three day event with players being billeted with Cobourg families. Coach McDonald, Roy Bloomfield (who was filling in for Tony) and our supporters took over the old hotel while the
second floor served as our meeting place.
Our first game was against Winona which we won 3-1. The next game was uncomfortably tight against a determined Milton team that we had defeated in the OMHA finals. We, perhaps, took them for granted but we prevailed and won 4-3.
The final game would be on Saturday night against Cobourg, the home town team. Cobourg had not earned into the tournament as they had been given a bye as host town. Due to the luck of the draw and some inspired play they had made the finals. The town was alive with excitement and the local radio station broadcasted the game. We were advised by Bucko that NHL scouts would be in the audience. The arena was jammed and the noise deafening but it was a predictable bout. We won the game coasting to a 6-0 victory and ended the season undefeated and winning our fourth championship.
On Sunday, we car pooled home and gathered at the Whitfield Hotel where the police and fire truck met us. We climbed on board and with sirens blaring we circled around town ending this amazing season at the Memorial Arena.
Later in the summer we were treated with a large banquet where Bucko declared, in his opinion, that this was the best Bantam team in Canada. It may have been, we can find no other Ontario minor hockey team before or since to have had such a decisive and unblemished hockey season. It was a privilege for all of us to play with a budding hockey legend and to be on a team with the overall talent and character exemplified in the members of the 1961/62 Parry Sound All Star Team.
The Bobby Orr Hall of Fame is pleased to honour the 1961/62 Bantam All Stars:
Bruce Abbott Wayne McKenna
Jim Beatty Gaye Norrie
Roger Bloomfield Bobby Orr
Roddy Bloomfield Ron Orr
Bob Cardy Cliff Shurr
Randy Crisp Simon Stanley
Wayne Gignac Ron Vankoughnett
Gregg Holmes Jim Whittaker
Braith Howes Wayne Wood