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Then & Now: You might be surprised at the sheer number of players from Sudbury who played pro hockey

No doubt about it, the Nickel City isn’t a hockey town, the Nickel City is THE hockey town
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George Armstrong and his sister, Lillian, at the unveiling of his statue on Legends’ Row at the then Air Canada Centre in 2015.

Editor's note: Sudbury.com has received quite a number of messages regarding players not included on this list. We opted not to include everybody, but we are planning a followup article to highlight the dozens of other players from the city who played in the big leagues.

Every Canadian community considers itself a hockey town. But Sudbury is the real deal.

Sudburians are crazy about hockey. Players from age two to 82 play on backyard rinks and frozen lakes as well as at the city’s 14 community arenas. 

Hundreds, probably thousands, of young Sudbury athletes, have played in the Ontario Hockey League or headed to American colleges on scholarships. Native sons and daughters have played for Team Canada.

Greater Sudbury is a breeding ground for professional hockey players. There should be a city welcome sign that boldly states our contribution to the national game. 

The website QuantHockey.com lists 67 players from Greater Sudbury who have worn NHL sweaters, but it is not a complete list, and does not include players who were drafted but spent their careers on farm teams or played in the World Hockey Association in the 1970s.

The list also does not include, for example, Robert Alexander McKinnon, who was born in Sault Ste. Marie but can still be considered a home-grown talent. A contemporary of Sudbury NHLers Shorty and Red Green, McKinnon played several years with the Sudbury Wolves before signing on for five seasons in the NHL with the Hamilton Tigers, New York Americans and Chicago Black Hawks between 1924 and 1929. When he retired from playing, he became a coach of the Wolves.

Dave Taylor from Levack is also not on the list. Born in 1955, he played hockey while attending Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, and was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the 1975 amateur draft. 

From 1983 to 1986, Taylor represented Canada at three world championships. He registered his 1,000th point in the NHL Feb. 15, 1991, at the Philadelphia Spectrum. He retired from the Kings in 1994 and spent a decade in the team's front office.

To give all of Sudbury's hockey talent their due, it would take a book as long as “War and Peace”, but some of home-grown NHLers heroes include the following incredible players.

Al Arbour, born in Sudbury in 1932, played in the NHL from 1954 to 1970 (Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Black Hawks, Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues). Arbour coached the New York Islanders from 1973 to 1986 and led them to four Stanley Cup victories. He died in Florida in 2015.

George Armstrong, born in Skead in 1930, played 21 seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs. and was team captain for four Stanley Cup championships. Armstrong played on seven NHL All-Star teams. 

After retiring as a player in 1971, he coached the Toronto Marlboros to two Memorial Cup championships. He also worked as a scout for the Quebec Nordiques, as an assistant general manager for the Leafs, and as Leafs coach for part of the 1988-89 season. He died in January of this year at the age of 90. As chronicled by Sudbury.com back in January, Armstrong was known as ‘Chief’ by fellow players, and was one of the first players of Indigenous descent to play pro hockey.

Joseph Hector "Toe" Blake was born in Victoria Mines in 1912 and grew up in Coniston. He was a member of the Sudbury Cub Wolves when the team became the 1932 Memorial Cup champions.

He played for the Montreal Maroons in 1934 when they won the Stanley Cup. From 1935 to 1948, he played for the Canadiens and coached the team from 1955 to 1968. The arena in Coniston is named in his honour.

Ron Duguay played minor hockey with the Valley East Minor Hockey Association and was drafted by the Wolves in 1973 when he was 16. He was the New York Rangers second choice in the 1977 amateur draft and went on to play for Detroit, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. 

Duguay scored 274 goals and 620 points in 860 career NHL games. In 2009, Duguay competed on CBC Television's Battle of the Blades skating competition partnered with Barbara Underhill. 

Wilfred “Shorty” Green was born in Sudbury in 1896. His hockey career began when he graduated from Sudbury High School and joined the Northern Ontario senior title winning team in 1915. 

He played in the finals for the Allen Cup with the 27th Battalion team in 1917. Green spent 30 months in the army during the First World War. After he was discharged, he returned to hockey, winning the 1919 Allen Cup with the Hamilton Tigers prior to returning home to play with Wolves. 

He turned professional in 1923 with the Hamilton Tigers and was captain of the team when they went on strike for more money in 1925 prior to the playoffs. After the strike, the Tigers moved to New York to become the Americans. 

Green scored the first goal in the new Madison Square Gardens. He retired from playing hockey in 1927 and coached the Americans during the 1927-1928 season before becoming coach of the Duluth Hornets of the American Hockey Association for the 1928-29 season. 

He came home to Sudbury and opened a men’s clothing store. In 1937, he founded the Sudbury Golf Club with two partners. He ran the club until his death in 1960. Green was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963. The green water fountains installed in the 1920s in Hamilton are called Shorty Greens.

Red Green, (Shorty's brother) born in 1899, was a left-winger who played six seasons in the NHL for Hamilton, New York and Boston.

Sam Rothschild, born in Sudbury in 1899, played 102 NHL games with the Montreal Maroons, Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Americans. The Maroons won the Stanley Cup in 1926. Following his retirement, Rothschild coached the Wolves to the 1932 Memorial Cup championship. He was the first Jewish player in the NHL.

Eddie Shack was born in Sudbury in 1937. He played for six NHL teams: New York, Toronto, Boston, Los Angeles, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. He was on winning Stanley Cup teams in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967. (He scored the cup-winning goal for Toronto in 1963.) 

After retirement from hockey, Shack was an advertising spokesman for The Pop Shoppe. He died at the age 83 in 2020.

Todd Bertuzzi, born and raised in Sudbury, played for the New York Islanders, Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames and Detroit Red Wings. Bertuzzi’s nephew, Tyler, plays for the Detroit Red Wings.

Andrew Brunette from Valley East played with the Owen Sound Platters and was a Washington Capitals draft pick in 1993. He played with Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota and Colorado. After knee-surgery, he played his last season with Chicago. He is now assistant coach with the Florida Panthers.

Randy Carlyle grew up in Azilda and is a former Wolves player. He played defence for Toronto and was captain in Pittsburgh and Winnipeg. He is a former head coach of the Anaheim Ducks and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Terry Crisp was born in Parry Sound and attended school in Capreol. The St. Louis Blues picked Crisp in the eighth round of the 1967 expansion draft. With the Blues, he went to the Stanley Cup finals for three straight seasons from 1967-68 to 1969-70. He played for the Philadelphia Flyers in 1973-1974 and 1974-1975 when they won the Stanley Cup. As a coach, he led the Soo Greyhounds to an undefeated season at home in 1985. Crisp was named head coach of the Calgary Flames and later became coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning from 1992 to 1997.

Troy Crowder was born 1968 in Walden. Drafted into the NHL in 1986, he played parts of seven seasons with the New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks. For two seasons, Crowder was the Calgary Flames player development coach.

Lively native Andrew Desjardins brought the Stanley Cup home in July 2015 after his team, the Chicago Blackhawks, won the championship.

Mike Foligno played minor and junior career in his hometown. A scorer for the Sudbury Wolves, he played 15 seasons in the NHL including 10 in Buffalo. He ended his career in 1993-1994 playing for the Florida Panthers. His son, Nick, was signed by the Ottawa Senators in 2007. He played for the Columbus Blue Jackets and was recently traded to Toronto. Son Marcus currently plays for the Minnesota Wild.

David Fortier, born in 1951, played minor hockey in Garson. Fortier appeared in 205 NHL games with the Leafs, the Islanders and the Canucks.

Dave Hannan from Onaping Falls, played junior hockey in Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie and Brantford. The left-winger was drafted in 1981 by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He also played for Buffalo, Edmonton, Toronto. Colorado and Ottawa. He was a member of Team Canada in 1992 when it won an Olympic silver medal. He played on two Stanley Cup winning teams: Edmonton Oilers in 1988 and Colorado Avalanche in 1996. His final season was in Ottawa in 1997.

George “Shorty” Horne, born in Sudbury in 1904, was a right-winger who played three seasons in the NHL from 1925 to 1929 for the Montreal Maroons and Toronto Maple Leafs. Horne died in the off-season in 1929 when he drowned while on a canoe with some friends.

Yvon Labre, born in 1949, played junior hockey with the Toronto Marlboros. He was drafted by Pittsburgh and played 37 games for the Penguins before being selected by the Washington Capitals in the 1974 expansion draft. A hard-nosed defenceman, Labre was team captain from 1976 to 1978. He remained in the Capitals organization after his playing career ended. His jersey (No. 7) was retired by the Capitals in 1981. 

Doug Mohns grew up in Capreol, where his father worked for CN. The Barrie Flyers won two Memorial Cups with Mohns on left wing. Scouted by Boston, he played 11 years with the Bruins before being traded to Chicago. He ended his career on expansion teams: Minnesota, Atlanta and Washington. Mohns was a seven-time NHL All-Star and the first Bruins defenceman to score 20 goals in a season. He died in 2014 at the age of 80.

Jim Pappin was born in Copper Cliff in 1939. The right-winger played 14 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs (1963-68), Chicago Blackhawks (1968-75), California Golden Seals (1975-76) and Cleveland Barons (1976-77). He was on the Leafs when the team won the Stanley Cup in 1964 and 1967. He played in five NHL All-Star games.

Art Ross, born in Naughton in 1885, played professional hockey in Kenora and Montreal, retiring as a player in 1918, the year after the NHL was created. In 1924, he became the first coach and general manager of the Boston Bruins. In 1947, he donated the Art Ross Trophy, which is awarded to the leading scorer of the NHL regular season. Ross was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1949. He died in Boston in 1964.

Brian Savage, born in 1971, is an alumnus of Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School. He played 12 seasons with Montreal, St. Louis, Phoenix and Philadelphia. He played for Team Canada in 1994. He retired as a player in 2006 and appeared on CBC Television's Battle of the Blades in 2013.

Jerry Toppazzini left Copper Cliff in 1948 to play for St. Catharines of the OHA. His career spanned 12 years with Boston, Chicago and Detroit. In 1975, he returned to Sudbury to coach Wolves players such as Mike Foligno, Randy Carlyle, Rod Schutt and Ron Duguay. In 1977, he purchased the Beef ‘n’ Bird. He died in 2012 at the age of 81.

Zellio Toppazzini, Jerry’s brother, played 123 games in the NHL with the Rangers, Bruins and Black Hawks. Born in 1930, he died in 2001 at the age of 71.

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