CFLer Lamb remembers his hockey days

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

Jack Lamb never became as famous as his childhood teammates, but he did pretty well for himself.

Lamb's rugged play on the ice led to a career in the Canadian Football League where he played eight years with the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders and appeared in two Grey Cup games.

Taking a stroll down memory lane, Lamb's hockey-playing days began in the blue and white of the Maple Leaf Athletic Club on the city's north side.

Back then, Lamb's teammates were just popular young athletes like him, although some would go on to quite prominent careers. With future Hall of Famers Norm Ullman and Johnny Bucyk in the lineup, the Maple Leafs had likely assembled one of the greatest youth teams ever. The group also included another player who would go on to more success in football and politics rather than hockey - former Edmonton mayor Bill Smith.

SO MANY GOOD PLAYERS

"I remember one bantam game when Norm (Ullman) scored 15 goals. And another we won 45-0. It was unbelievable how good their skills were," said Lamb as he looked back on some of the names who will be on hand for the Maple Leaf Athletic Club's 75th anniversary, beginning June 2.

''We had so many good players, and a lot of kids who were with Southside or Canadian (Athletic Clubs) would talk our coaches into letting them play for us. We became the dominant team in Alberta hockey.''

Lamb's name doesn't measure up in the category of instant notoriety quite like Smith's, Ullman's and Bucyk's, but the 70-year-old did well for himself after getting into the real estate business in the mid '60s. His drive to succeed in life after sports was sparked by the same messages he received from his coaches with the Maple Leafs.

"The thing was, they gave me a chance and we had good coaches and managers who were dedicated people," said Lamb, who later helped the 1953-54 edition of the Edmonton Oil Kings reach the Memorial Cup final. "The result of their dedication developed my personality, which made me a skillful salesman. Things worked out well for me financially because they gave me the confidence in myself.

"I played on some super teams, and that's a good thing for a kid to develop his ego. When you play for a winner you develop a certain personality, and when you're on a winning team for a number of years that carries over into your personal life. You have to work hard and practice to win at what you want to do."

Garry Valk worked for whatever he got with the Leafs.

"I was kind of small, so every year I was on the bubble. That's why when I made it I was so proud," said the former NHLer, now a Sportsnet analyst for Canucks games.

Valk will be the guest speaker at the "Smoker" following the anniversary golf tournament. Only a month away from the event, he was just starting to recollect some of his favourite stories.

"I remember going to the bantam 'AAA' tournament in Kamloops - 12 hours on the bus with the dads in the front and the guys at the back. You got to spend some real quality time with your dad," said Valk. "The funny thing is as I moved on in my career I'd run into a lot of those guys again. I remember meeting up with Dean Kolstad when he was with San Jose.

"And I'd always see (former NHL referee) Lance Roberts. He always seemed to stick it to me. Maybe he forgot who I was or maybe it was that he couldn't skate as well and was behind the play."

KUDOS REMAIN THE SAME

While the faces behind the bench changed from decade to decade - from Lamb's era to Valk's - the kudos remain the same. Much of the players' success is a direct result of the instruction received from their coaches.

"None of them got paid and they'd have to leave work early to get to practice. They did all their homework and there was never any politics in the room," said Valk.

"The north-east side was not the richest area. It was a blue-collar area where the people had to work hard and that quality was the same with the coaches."

"The foundation of the program was the coaching," added another MLAC grad Gary Yaremchuk.

"They were dedicated, so everybody on the team was dedicated. "

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A WHO'S WHO OF MLAC GRADS ...

Dave and Wayne Babych - 1,714 NHL games combined.

Brian and Jim Benning - 1,173 NHL games combined.

Tom Bladon - Two Stanley Cups with the ''Broad Street Bullies.''

Keith Brown - 14 years with the Chicago Blackhawks.

John Bucyk - The ''Chief'' won two Stanley Cups with the Bruins.

Bruce MacGregor - Former assistant GM of the Oilers.

Gerry Melnyk - Appeared in Stanley Cup finals for Red Wings and Blues.

Harold Snepsts - 1,033 NHL games, including 12 years with Vancouver.

Sheldon Souray - All-star defenceman with the Canadiens.

Norm Ullman - Detroit legend was an 11-time all-star with 1,229 career points.

Garry Valk - Former Duck, Canuck and Maple Leaf.

Gary and Ken Yaremchuk - Brothers played for Maple Leafs.


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