Stampeders well stocked with talent

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:30 PM ET

When Doug Barkley was an up-and-coming defenceman, destined for the NHL, his minor-league options came down to two. They were the Calgary Stampeders of the Western Hockey League, or the AHL's Buffalo Bandits, since both were affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Barkley's choice was obvious.

"I preferred playing in Calgary. Being from out here, I wanted to," said Barkley, 68, who hailed from Lethbridge.

"You played where they wanted you and had no control where you played.

"If you raised too much of a stink, they'd send you to Trois Rivieres or Chicoutimi where you'd really be in the wilderness.

"If you said you wanted to go to Buffalo, they'd send you to Calgary. I'd say, 'I hope I go back to Buffalo,' so they'd send me to Calgary."

It's where he plied his trade for all or parts of seasons from

1956-57 through 1961-62.

For almost 20 seasons, the Stampeders were the hockey team in the Stampede City, competing with fellow Western Canada clubs in Vancouver, Edmonton, Victoria, Saskatoon and Winnipeg through the various incarnations of leagues -- the Western Canada Hockey League, the Pacific Coast Hockey League and finally the Western Hockey League.

Through the years, a litany of players skated at the Stampede Corral, working their way up to the NHL, down from the big league or happily playing at the minor pro level while working another part-time job.

"There was only six NHL teams, so it was an awfully good league," said Barkley.

This list of players who came through Calgary alone is impressive.

Among the goalies who skated here were Hank Bassen, Emile (The Cat) Francis, Roy Edwards and Al Rollins.

Defencemen include Barkley, Lee Fogolin Sr., Tommy Anderson and Ed Van Impe.

Forwards who also made a mark on the NHL include Gerry Couture, Jim McFadden, John McKenzie, Lou Jankowski and Bill Hay.

Then there's the list of players who were on the cusp of the NHL but known more for their success in the minors, such as Sid Finney, Sandy Hucul and Art Michaluk.

"You had the young players coming out of junior and the veterans on the way out. They couldn't still play in the National Hockey League but were still awful good players, so playing with them, you learned a lot," said Barkley, who used the Stampeders as a stepping stone to his NHL career that went through Chicago and Detroit.

"They were all great guys. They didn't feel you were trying to steal their job, you were helping their hockey team, so they were pretty friendly.

"They got involved in the city and jobs and a lot just continued to play here and made their whole life in the city.

"Those days in the National league, you were fighting for your job and a young guy who'd come in didn't get helped because guys didn't want to lose their jobs."

The team also drew plenty of fans.

"Sold-out all the time. It was great crowds," recalled Barkley.

"A lot of great memories. Taking the ferry to Victoria, play the next night there, and then the next night in Vancouver, then the train for two days to get to Winnipeg to play another game. You travelled together and really got to know each other and had a lot fun."

- - -

R.I.P.

1945-63

HOME -- Corral.

FAMOUS ALUMNI -- Jim McFadden (NHL rookie of the year in 1948); Al Rollins (Hart Trophy winner in 1954); Bill Hay (Calder Trophy winner in 1959-60, Flames president and CEO); Hank Bassen (played with Chicago and Detroit).

SUCCESSES -- Won the Allan Cup in 1946.


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