Barry MacKenzie was the first coach hired, and the first coach fired, during the Sudbury Wolves tenure in the Ontario Hockey Association (now the OHL).
A key member involved with the launch of the Canadian National Team Men’s Hockey program in the early 1960s, MacKenzie played in both the 1964 Innsbruck and 1968 Grenoble Olympics.
As principal and coach at Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Sask., he helped guide a hockey institute that would produce future NHLers Rod Brind’Amour, Wendel Clark, Russ Courtnall, Curtis Joseph and James Patrick, just to name a few.
It’s been quite a ride for the Toronto-born educator, whose life was heavily influenced at various crossroads by his involvement with legendary hockey gentleman, the late Father David Bauer.
“I played everything growing up — football, basketball, baseball, hockey — and I had a degree of competence in all of them,” MacKenzie said recently.
It quickly became apparent that hockey was his calling card. At the age of 15, MacKenzie was playing for the Weston Dukes, an affiliate of the Toronto Marlies, and seemed likely to make the jump the following year.
“I was prepared to play for the Marlies, but got a call from Father Bauer during the summer, asking me to consider attending St. Michael’s College,” he said.
In 1960-61, MacKenzie steadied the blue line of the team — a collection of players that included the likes of goaltender Gerry Cheevers and North Bay native Larry Keenan — and captured the Memorial Cup that year.
But change, it seemed, was constant for both MacKenzie and his friends.
I wasn’t really a good coach with the Wolves. I might have been thrown into the fire a little too soon.
former coach, Sudbury Wolves
“Father Bauer had a dream of a national team, so four of us moved out to play with the University of British Columbia in what was the start of the national team program.”
Following his stint in two sets of Olympic Games, MacKenzie turned pro, albeit briefly, playing six games with the Minnesota North Stars.
“It really did turn out for the best,” the 69-year-old man said with a laugh.
MacKenzie became part of the ownership group that oversaw the Sudbury Wolves' early years in the OHL. He lasted roughly half a season behind the bench, eventually moving into player development. “I wasn’t really a good coach with the Wolves. I might have been thrown into the fire a little too soon.”
By 1975, he was back in the coaching saddle, heading to Japan as a player coach for three years. It was upon his return to Canada when he decided to undertake the stewardship of the Notre Dame program, where MacKenzie really left his mark.
The fit seemed natural for MacKenzie, who drew heavily on the teachings of Father Bauer and a true belief in the ability to combine academics, athletics and spirituality.
Along with the help of incoming president Martin Kenney and long-time friend Terry O’Malley, MacKenzie and company quickly transformed the private school.
In his second year at Notre Dame, MacKenzie guided the Hounds to the Air Canada Cup Championship, symbolic of midget hockey supremacy in Canada.
“We became on option to major junior hockey,” MacKenzie said. “A lot of our kids went on to play junior, but a lot went to the States on scholarships.”
In 1999, MacKenzie was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Despite a schedule that is dotted with treks to the hospital to replace and renew body parts worn down through years of athletic involvement, MacKenzie still remains active.
If not catching his grand-children’s games, he can be found taking in many of the Sudbury Jr. Wolves’ encounters, providing some mentoring for young hockey hopefuls.