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Then & Now: More local hockey heroes who laced up for the NHL

Our May 20 piece on local hockey heroes omitted a bunch of names (because there are just so many local pro hockey players over the past century, so Vicki Gilhula is back with a follow-up
030621_Body_checking_lesson
Young hockey players learning the proper method of body checking in this 1956 photo taken in Arnprior, Ontario.

Predictably, the story about Sudbury NHLers on May 20 received responses from readers regarding players not mentioned. Sudbury is, after all, the hockey town.

This follow-up article includes details about other Sudbury sports heroes who wore NHL sweaters (with apologies for leaving out some players, including those who were born here but who moved away before they started minor hockey).

Sudbury's hockey history began in 1892 when Martin’s Rink was built just six years after the town was established. A team of men got together to play during the winter carnival. 

The first inter-town hockey game played in Sudbury was March 13, 1893, against Chapleau. Sudbury won the match with a score of 2-1.

In 1903, the Sudbury Hockey Club along with teams from Sturgeon Falls and North Bay joined the Ontario Hockey Association’s Intermediate League. 

In 1904, women organized their own teams. Sudbury lost its first game to Copper Cliff 3-0.

That same year, businessmen James Orr and James Purvis built The Palace, an indoor curling/skating rink on Durham Street, near Memorial Park. It was destroyed by fire in 1910, but rebuilt and served the town for several decades until it was demolished in the late 1930s.

During that same decade, Copper Cliff was one of the few towns in the province with an indoor artificial ice rink. Stanley Stadium opened in January 1935. During the 1940s, Sudbury's hockey teams had to travel to play in Copper Cliff.

Sudbury Community Arena, built in 1951 on the site of the former Central Public School, was constructed for $700,000. The original design included an auditorium for special events with 800 removable seats. There would be room for banquets, a dance floor for 500 couples, and a stage for theatrical productions.

The combined cost of the arena and auditorium was $1.2 million. The city had OK’d $700,000. The champions of the project, including Mayor Bill Beaton, hoped to get 9,000 citizens to contribute $500,000 by donating $1 for 36 months or $360 in one lump sum.

The citizenry said no to the auditorium.

Over the years, some folks have suggested Sudbury should have a museum dedicated to Sudbury NHLers and sports champions. 

The Sports Guy, Randy Pascal, has said he thinks there must be at least 100 Sudbury NHLers, and the list gets a little longer with every draft.

The website QuantHockey.com lists 67 players born in Greater Sudbury who have worn NHL sweaters, but it is not a complete list. 

Some Sudbury NHLers include:

Larry Aurie played 11 seasons with Detroit. He was born in Sudbury in 1905 and died in Detroit in 1952.

John George Baby Jr. (born 1957) played defence two seasons in the NHL for the Cleveland Barons and Minnesota North Stars. Baby played with the Wolves and finished his career in the International Hockey League. His father, John Sr., was a member of the Wolves when they won the Allan Cup in 1954.

Cumming ‘Cummy’ Burton signed with the Detroit Red Wings in 1959 and played for three seasons before his career was ended by an injury. Later, he was a sports broadcaster for CKSO-TV. 

Fred Boimistruck grew up in Capreol. Drafted by Toronto in 1980, he played two seasons with the Leafs before being sent to the minors. The defence player retired from hockey when he was 25 and became a locomotive engineer with CN.

Bryan Albert Campbell (born 1944) played 260 games in the NHL for Los Angeles, Chicago, and Edmonton Oilers. He also played 433 games in the World Hockey Association. 

Wayne Carleton (born 1946) played in the NHL and WHA in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a member of the 1970 Boston Bruins Stanley Cup champions.

D’Arcy Coulson is the son of the original owner of the Coulson Hotel. In 1930, the defenceman played one season in the NHL for the Philadelphia Quakers. After hockey, he made a fortune in the hotel industry and owned a golf course. He died in 1996.

Gary Croteau (born 1946) played most of his pro career with the Colorado Rockies. He played university hockey in the United States and was signed as a free agent by the Maple Leafs in 1968, then traded to the Los Angeles Kings. He scored five goals in 11 games with the Kings during playoff games. After a couple more trades, he landed in Denver with the Colorado Rockies in 1976. 

Goalie Marc D’Amour (born 1961) played junior hockey in Sault. Ste. Marie. He signed a contract with Calgary in 1982, played 16 games for the Flames and later played with the Philadelphia Flyers. He spent the rest of his career in the minors and retired in 1992.

Craig Duncanson grew up in Walden and played junior hockey with the Wolves. The left winger was drafted in the first round by Los Angeles in 1985. During his career, he played for the Kings, Winnipeg and New York.

Jack Egers (born 1949) was drafted in 1966 by the New York Rangers. He also played for St. Louis and Washington. He scored the first game-winning goal for the Capitals in the 4-3 win over Chicago in October 1974.

John Flesch (born 1953) played the 1971-1972 season with the Wolves. He was drafted by the Atlanta Flames in 1973. He played 124 NHL games with the Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Colorado Rockies.

Bob Fitchner (born 1952) played 414 games in the WHL and eight games in the NHL. He played for the Indianapolis Racers, Quebec Nordiques, and Edmonton Oilers.

Eddie Giacomin (born 1939) was a goaltender for New York and Detroit and retired in 1978. 

James Hofford (born 1964) was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1983. He played 18 games in the NHL: 17 with the Sabres and one with the Los Angeles Kings.

Ryan Johnston (born 1992), the younger brother of Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Johnston, played his first NHL game for the Canadiens on April 5, 2016.  He played in 10 games with the team over the span of two seasons.

Marc Laforge (born 1968 ) played defence for the Wolves during the 1987-88 season. He was drafted by Hartford in 1986. He played nine games with the Whalers before being traded to Edmonton in 1990. He would play five games with the Oilers during the 1993-94 season. 

Kevin LaVallee (born 1961) played eight seasons in the NHL with Calgary, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

Derek MacKenzie (born 1981) is a former Wolves player who played with the Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers. He is now assistant coach of the Panthers.

Troy Mallette was born in Levack in 1970. Mallette played in New York, Edmonton, New Jersey, Ottawa Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay.

Bernie MacNeil (born 1950) played four games in the NHL for the St. Louis Blues.

Dale McCourt played for Detroit, Buffalo and Toronto. The former Wolves player scored 18 points for Team Canada during the 1977 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. His brother, Dan, was an NHL linesman. His uncle is fellow Sudburian George Armstrong, one of the first players of Indigenous descent to play pro hockey.

Bob Sabourin (born 1933) played one game in the NHL with Toronto during the 1951-52 season. The left-winger played in the minor leagues, eventually joining the Jacksonville Rockets of the Eastern Hockey League in the 1960s. He became their head coach and general manager.

Defenceman Irv Spencer (born 1937)  played 230 games in the NHL for the Philadelphia Blazers, Vancouver Blazers, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins. He died in 1999.

Don Sylvestri (born 1961), a former Wolves player, played three games with the Boston Bruins in the 1984-1985 season.

Bob Sykes (born 1951) played with the Sudbury Cub Wolves and was drafted by Toronto in 1971. He played for the Leafs during the 1974-1975 season.

Frank St. Marseille was born in Levack in 1939. The right-winger made it to the NHL when he was 27 playing from 1967 to 1977, first with the St. Louis Blues and then with the Los Angeles Kings. After retiring, he became an OPP officer in the Sudbury detachment. In 1988, St. Marseille was inducted in the Valley East Hall of Fame.

Dave Tataryn (born 1950) tended goal for two games with the New York Rangers during the 1976-1977 season.

Floyd Thomson was born in Capreol in 1949. He played in the NOJHA for the Garson Eagles and the Falcons. In September 1970, he signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Blues and played 411 games.

Jim Wiemer (born 1961) played for Buffalo, New York, Edmonton, Los Angeles and Boston before retiring in 1995.

Roger Wilson (born 1946) played seven games for Chicago in 1975.

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer. She is a former editor of Northern Life and Sudbury Living magazine, and has a special interest in local history. Then and Now is made possible by our Community Leaders Program