On Wed November 7th, 2017, a very rare occurrence took place at Mike Wilson's ( The Ultimate Leaf Fan) home. A reunion of the Memorial Cup winners from 1955 and 1956. Not only is it rare that a Junior hockey club can win back to back Memorial Cups, but to be able to bring together this many of those players, from around North America, in one place 62 years after the fact is stunning.
Sadly, 17 members of these 2 teams have passed away, but that is expected when the men you are dealing with are around the age of 80 years old.
But for these old timers that are still getting around, this was an unbelievable time to get together and reminisce about their days together with the Marlboros, Weston Dukes, minor hockey and grade school or high school. There are those that have kept in touch over the past 6 decadres. Bob Baun and Ken Girard are still great friends and travel together with their wives, Lloyd Quance and Bob McAleese are brothers-in-law and friends since they were kids. Mike Nykoluk and Bobby Baun played high school football together and joined the Weston Dukes together.
But for most of these men, it was time to renew old acquaintances and tell those great stories of the days when life was simpler. The stories facts may have changed in 62 years , but the glee they shared in retelling these stories made for a wonderful evening.
As stated earlier, these guys came from near and far . Mike Nykoluk flew in from Florida, Len Broderick from South Carolina, Jim Crocket from Nova Scotia and the always entertaining Harry Neale came from Buffalo.
Ken Girard drove in from the London area, Don Kendall from Kitchener and a very special guest, Jake Smola, confined to a wheelchair, came in a handi- van with his son and a PSW from Kitchener. The rest of the boys lived in the Greater Toronto Area. (Gus Badali, Lloyd Quance, Bobby Baun, Bob and John Nevin, and Gary Collins)
It was great to see the sons of Kendall, Smola and Crocket watch their fathers talk to their old teammates and reconnect over these championship teams.
Another sad part was that some of the alumni from these teams could not make it due to health reasons, travel issues or previous commitments. Gerry James, Charlie Burns, Wally Boyer, Ron Farnfield, Bob Pulford, Al MacNeil, Glen Cressman and Gary Aldcorn were unavailable for the event.
There were also some special guests who dropped by to see these ex-Marlboros. Paul Coffey, Joe Bowen, Jimmy Devellano, John Nevin to name a few.
I was fortunate enough to be an organizer of this reunion, along with Paul Patskou and of course, Mike Wilson and his partner Debra who generously allowed their home to be used for this momentous event. My role was to track down all the players. These players were all such a pleasure to deal with. Each call lasted an average of 20-30 minutes as the stories poured out, one story would lead to another memory and another story. As a hockey historian and researcher, these tales were so entertaining and educational.
As former goalie Jim Crocket, now living in Nova Scotia, said "After 60 some years, you never dream of seeing some of the players you played with, especially living in the Maritimes"