Newfoundland’s George Faulkner among those gathering of those who were part of Canadian team program in its earliest days
If you happen to see a bunch of 70-plus men — most of whom are beefy and probably sporting scars from decades-long hockey careers at the game’s highest levels — strolling around St. John’s this week, snapping photos and doing the touristy thing, know that they are veterans of Canada’s national teams, and world championships and the Olympics.
Some 17 former players from Canadian national hockey teams ranging from 1964-80 — the Fr. David Bauer era — are gathered in St. John’s for a 14th reunion.
“We’ve been doing it for years,” said Rick Noonan, one of the key organizers. “We’ve lost a few guys along the way.
“A lot of the players are from the ’64 team (which finished fourth at the Innsbruck Olympics),” Noonan said. “We’ve got a couple from 1980 (when Canada was sixth at the Lake Placid Games, famous for the U.S. Miracle on Ice.)”
Of course, one player who will be front and centre, and entertaining everyone with the guitar, is George Faulkner, the Bishop’s Falls native who’s been living in St. John’s for ages.
"They didn’t make any money — they had to go begging a lot — but they got a lot out of playing for Canada. It shows you the spirit of the program.” — Rick Noonan
Faulkner was one of the stars on the 1966 team, leading Canada in scoring at that year’s world championship in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, where he registered seven goals and 10 points in seven games.
Canada won bronze at the event. Keep in mind that performance came against the best players the Russians and the Czechs could ice.
It was Fr. Bauer, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989, who came up with the idea of gathering the top amateur hockey players in Canada to comprise a national team to represent the country in international competition.
The early national teams were based out of the University of British Columbia.
“They never even had a rink,” said Noonan, who served as an executive on several national teams, including as general manager for the 1980 Olympic squad. “They’d practise at 11 o’clock in the night at some suburban rink.
“But Fr. Bauer convinced some very good players to go to school at UBC and play for Canada. They didn’t make any money — they had to go begging a lot — but they got a lot out of playing for Canada. It shows you the spirit of the program.”
At the 1969 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) congress, a provision was approved allowing world championship A pool teams to use nine professionals beginning in 1970, when the tournament would be held in Canada for the first time.
The prospect of using pros did not sit well with the International Olympic Committee, which began making waves about countries — particularly the Soviet Union — losing their amateur status if they played in the world hockey championship.
So the decision was reversed, sparking outrage within some quarters of Canada and murmurs of this country's withdrawal from the 1970 world championship to be held in Montreal and Winnipeg.
Canada did withdraw and remained on the sidelines for another five years.
That changed at the 1975 IIHF Congress in Switzerland, where the late Don Johnson of St. John’s was Canada’s delegate. Germany’s Guenther Sabetzki was running against Bunny Ahearne of Great Britain for the IIHF's top post and the Canadians cooked a deal with Sabetzki to support him in exchange for Canada getting its pros.
“Us getting back in was like a snowball going downhill,” Johnson told The Telegram 10 years ago. “I quietly take a lot of credit for Canada going out, but the snowball started going and by '75 in Switzerland, no one could stop that, including the Russians.
“But they were all happy to have us back. We could help the IIHF and a lot of countries make a lot of money."
“I quietly take a lot of credit for Canada going out, but the snowball started going and by '75 in Switzerland, no one could stop that, including the Russians." – The late Don Johnson
Canada re-emerged at the world hockey championship in 1977 in Vienna with a roster full of NHLers, among them Phil and Tony Esposito, Ron Ellis, Rod Gilbert, Jean Pronovost and a young Pierre Larouche, who led the team in scoring with 15 points.
Canada finished fourth, behind the Czechs, Sweden and the Soviets.
Bauer was opposed to NHLers playing in the world championship, but he remained with the Hockey Canada program as national teams were still used to compete in events such as the Izvestia Tournament in Moscow, the Spengler Cup in Switzerland, and, of course, the Olympics.
He was appointed vice-president of Hockey Canada in 1981, and chairman of Canada’s Olympic program.
Fr. Bauer died in 1988.
It’s not the first time national team alumni have gathered in St. John’s for a reunion. They were here years ago, but because it was mid-summer, many players couldn’t make it, leaving only a handful in town.
“We basically had it at George’s house,” Noonan said. “But we had a great time.”
The players gathered for a barbeque Tuesday and tonight will visit City Hall for a reception. In between will be a few tours and a few stops at hospitality lounges.
They’re teaming up again in St. John’s
Players from Fr. Bauer's Canadian national men’s hockey team program who played from 1964 to 1970, and with Canada during the 1980 Olympic year, who are in St. John’s for their annual reunion:
Jim Irving — 1968-70
Corby Adams — 1969-70
Doug Buchannan — 1980
Marshall Johnston — 1964-68
Barry MacKenzie — 1964-68 and 1970
Terry O'Malley — 1964-70, and 1980
Ray Cadieux — 1964-67
Morris Mott — 1965-70
Roger Bourbonnais — 1964-69
Grant Moore — 1970
Paul Conlin — 1964-69
Steve King — 1968-70
Bill MacMillan — 1966-70
Wayne Freitag — 1967-69
Derek Holmes — 1967-69
Ron Paterson — 1980
Ross Parke — 1965
George Faulkner — 1966