A quiet, soft-spoken man, Gerry Taylor prefers not to talk of his achievements in hockey, wishing instead to let his track record speak for itself.
And quite a sporting resume it is.
Now 81, Taylor is Mr. Junior Hockey, not only in his adopted hometown of Mount Pearl but across the province, and it’s one of the reasons Hockey Canada will be honouring him with an outstanding volunteer award in the spring.
That’s not the first award Taylor’s received from Hockey Canada; he was presented the organization’s Order of Merit in 2006. There’s also a junior recognition award he’s received from Hockey Canada.
Of course, Taylor will be the first to point out he’s never been in hockey for the awards or the glory.
“It’s been a love affair, I suppose,” he said. “I’ve loved staying involved all the way through. The game has been part of my life for a long time.”
Taylor has scaled it back a bit these days, though he’s still involved in the St. John’s Junior Hockey League as statistician.
The junior league is in its 37th year, and Taylor was head of the circuit for 17 of those years, though not all in consecutive years.
He was first elected as league president in 1984 and would serve another term later on. Most recently, he was Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s Junior Council chairman. He also served as chairman of HNL’s Hall of Fame selection committee.
But his involvement in the game started as a player.
A proud Bell Islander, Taylor played high school hockey on the island and later joined the junior team under Msgr. George Bartlett, who was to Bell Island hockey what Fr. David Bauer was to the national hockey team.
Under Bartlett, Bell Island won the 1955 Veitch Memorial Trophy and the provincial junior hockey championship, beating Grand Falls in the brand new Memorial Stadium in St. John’s.
Taylor eventually moved up to the senior ranks on Bell Island, but by the early 1960s, the mines were closing and some of Bell Island’s best players were moving on.
“We were playing senior B, but we had a weak team,” he said. “We played Corner Brook, Grand Falls, Buchans … but we got beat a lot.”
By that time, Taylor was living in Mount Pearl, which was rural country in those days.
“You didn’t have to go far to look for rabbits in the woods,” he said.
And when his oldest boy started playing minor hockey in the early 70s — with the Tony Murray Tigers atom team — Gerry Taylor got his start in administration and coaching.
He’s never looked back.
“Mount Pearl didn’t have a rink then, so we played at Feildian Gardens,” he recalls. “When the Smallwood Arena (in Mount Pearl) was built in 1976, I started a junior team there.”
There was a short-lived local junior circuit in the early 70s, but that folded in 1976. In 1977, Taylor and a few others formed a metro junior league involving Mount Pearl, Kilbride, Petty Harbour and a Mount Pearl midget squad.
That league lasted two years, but another was about to start up.
“Danny Williams called me and asked me to come to a meeting at the Newfoundland Brewery. He wanted to start a new junior league,” Taylor recalls.
“That was in spring of 1979. We kept at it all summer and in January, 1980, Danny was elected first president of the St. John’s Junior Hockey League.
“The league started the following fall and Mount Pearl and Bro. Rice Junior Celtics played the first game on Oct. 20, 1980 at Bro. O’Hehir Arena.
“I remember like it was yesterday.”