Gore Bay senior hockey players and coaches reunite to celebrate the past

A total of 29 former Gore Bay Senior hockey team members took part in a reunion held recently at the Gore Bay arena. The players in photo at the event included Greg McLean, Blair Simms, Bob Prior, Terry Orford, Larry Hunter, Bill Clark, Don Wright, Jim Wright, Howard Linley, Don Lloyd, Doug Smith, Mike Gibbs, Jim McDonald, Art Hinds, Stan Gordon, Shelley Thibault, Bob Third, Pee Wee Oliver, Jim Thibault, Rob Porter, Mike Boyd, Jed Graham, Don McDonald, Don Carter, Randy Noble, Willis Campbell, Dan Hone, Arran Campbell and Dougal Campbell.

GORE BAY—Some of the rich and colourful tradition of Gore Bay hockey was celebrated earlier this month as 29 former players from the local team in the former Manitoulin Senior Hockey League gathered for a reunion organized by Jim McDonald.

Many of the players were donning Gore Bay uniforms, including the catchy ‘Gore Bay-ers’ jerseys, jackets, and brought with them photo albums and pictures of past glories.

The stories and memories were incredible as former players talked about players, coaches, teams and games they had played or seen in the past in the senior league.

Mike Gibbs told of the finals held in 1970-1971 in which Gore Bay tangled with Wikwemikong in the finals of the playoffs. “It was a best four of seven series but eight games were played (one being called because it had gone to overtime in the wee hours of the morning without a winner decided). Five of the games went into overtime while the other three were one goal games with Wiky winning the series.”

“Senior hockey in the 1950s was really big on the Island,” said Mr. Gibbs.

“I can remember Bill Dinsmore, Cliff Beange and I were called up in 1945 to the Gore Bay Senior league team because everyone else was gone to war at the time,” stated Stan Gordon who, along with his teammates, were on the Gore Bay high school team.

“I would like to thank everyone for coming out—we had no idea how many of you could show up here today,” said Mr. McDonald, a former Gore Bay senior hockey team player who had organized the reunion. “If we had held this 15 years ago we might have been full.”

“The main reason I wanted to hold this reunion is that there is no more senior hockey and probably never will be again,” said Mr. McDonald. “I would like to thank all the players I had as teammates and the coaches who coached me over the years,” he said.

Mr. McDonald praised the coaches he played for moving up the ranks in hockey and their efforts in helping him become a better player, including Godfrey Porter, Ted Jackson and Platt Purvis in high school hockey.

“Then came the Manitoulin Senior Hockey League and the Gore Bay Senior Hockey team. To put it in perspective, Saturday nights were filled with Hockey Night in Canada and Foster Hewitt broadcasting the game while Tuesday was Gore Bay hockey in the arena,” said Mr. McDonald. “Prior to my playing with the senior team I was part of the crowd that would fill the arena. People would be hanging off the rafters because they couldn’t find a seat in the building. They would come from Kagawong, Ice Lake, Gordon, Spring Bay, Poplar, Silver Water and Meldrum Bay, which was a very long way to travel in from in the winter time.”

Mr. McDonald said one forward line that played for the Gore Bay senior team that he really enjoyed watching over the years was one made up of Shelley Thibault, Ken Graham and Greg McLean. “They were so good that at the end of one year when normally one player in the league is given the most valuable player award, the MVP award was given to the members of this line.”

Dougal Campbell shared a story of a game in which Gore Bay was not playing very well and the players were getting heck from coach Mike Gibbs. “He told everyone that they should slow down the play like Dougal is doing, but I was skating as fast as I could!” he told the gathering.

“Then there was the time I blew out the cartilage in my knee in a game and Terry Orford was trying to ‘straighten out’ my leg while Don Carter sat on my chest and poured some kind of amber liquid down my throat,” said Mr. Campbell. “When the doctor got to me he said when you blow out your knee you really know how to do it.”

Stan Gordon told a story of being in a store in Espanola one day, “and telling Porky Lockyer ‘next time you put your skates on I’ll be giving you a check.’ He said, ‘you’ll have to catch me.’ All I know is he hasn’t put his skates on since.”

“I can remember one series in the early 1950s between us (Gore Bay) and Little Current in this arena,” said Pee Wee Oliver. “Little Current had a good team but we had won all our games the whole year. They had Deedles Eade who was originally from Little Current but was living in Thunder Bay play for them along with two other guys from Thunder Bay and they beat us in the finals. It was the best series ever seen on Manitoulin and nobody could get in the arenas they were just packed. Between periods the teams couldn’t get to their dressing rooms.”

“When I played the crowds were lined up as far down the street as the liquor store to get in,” said Mr. McDonald. “I’m not sure why they started lining up there, but it was sure good hockey.”

Bill Clark said, “I played a lot of years. When I started Dougal Campbell Sr. and Ab Purvis were the coaches. I remember I almost quit because I had to wear a helmet.”

“I remember Ross McDougall, Brad Campbell, Dave Purvis and I were all picked for an all-star team in minor hockey one year,” said Mr. Clark. “And I remember Ronnie Peltier. Any of you who played against him know how hard he could hit. So we were in the senior league and he was coming from one direction around the net and I was coming from the other way. We both suddenly stopped and he asked me if I had any kids and I said two so we ended up skating in the opposite direction from each other.”

“He (Ronnie Peltier) could certainly hit hard—it was like running into a wall,” stated Mr. McDonald.

“The last coach I played for was Hal Kewley, who really wanted to be here today,” said Mr. McDonald, “but about a week ago his wife took sick and he couldn’t come. He really wanted to be here.” Mr. Kewley had been brought in by the Gore Bay team in 1955, from Preston, to be a player/coach. He brought a different attitude, knowledge, hockey training methods and the will to win through hard work and sweat.”

“He coached the Gore Bay senior team to championships in 1955-1956 and 1956-1957,” said Mr. McDonald, pointing out that Jim Thibault, Howard Linley, Don Lloyd and Doug Smith, who were all in attendance at the arena, played on the championship team. Gore Bay also won the Pearson Trophy in 1962-1963 and in 1963-1964.

“A lot of people would remember we won the senior championship in 1956 and the high school championship as well,” said Don Lloyd. “Our high school team won everything on Manitoulin Island and the North Shore. Preston opened a new area in April 1956, and our high school team went down there for a tournament.”

“We won the B championship 2-1 over Preston,” said Mr. Lloyd. He said the team had one really talented line made up of brothers Blake and Jim Thibault and Johnny Walker. “They were the hottest line in high school hockey and were on the third line in senior hockey. I remember when our team got back there was a big dinner held at Gordon’s Lodge and a reception was held for the team at the community hall.”

“Everyone, especially those that played for him, know that Hal Kewley was a great coach,” said Mr. McDonald. “In recognition I took it upon myself to order a trophy which reads, ‘Gore Bay Senior Hockey Coach of the Century. 1956-1957 Champions,’ and I would like Jim Thibault, captain of the team at that time, to come up and accept on behalf of the team.”