Mem Cup memories

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:27 PM ET

He still wears the original gold ring rather proudly.

Although the insignia is worn and faded, it is a symbol of the last Manitoba team to win the prestigious Memorial Cup 50 years ago.

Although both the rings and the Winnipeg Braves players still with us may be a little worse for wear, the memories are still as clear as ice.

"It was 50 years ago now, I tell ya," Bob (Scotty) Wales said recently. "Where did that time go? It seems like it was yesterday."

Actually, it was 1959 when the Braves beat the high and mighty Peterborough TPT Petes 4-1 in a best-of-seven final played in both Winnipeg and Brandon (yes, it was a different format from the one that wraps up today).

"That was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Wales, now 70. "I don't think anybody expected that during the year."

Nor did anyone expect it down East.

"The favourite memory I have of that series was the arrogance of the Eastern team we faced," recalled former Braves forward Laurie Langrell, who is preparing for the victory's golden anniversary celebration. "The Eastern writers said before they came West -- and they (Petes) were a juggernaut -- that they were in a roll and said they would beat the West in five games. Well, it did go five games, but we won. I really enjoyed that."

Peterborough boasted such future NHLers as Wayne Connelly, Barclay Plager, Jim Roberts and Denis DeJordy, and were coached by some guy named Scotty Bowman.

"Of course, we had a great team, too, and a wonderful coach (Bill Allum), good management (Bill Addison) and good ownership with the Perrin family," Langrell said.

And they had some future NHLers of their own -- such as Ted Green, Gary Bergman, Ernie Wakely, Howie Hughes and Bob Leiter.

"They were a pretty solid team and we were just happy to be there," said Langrell. "They beat us (5-4) in the first game but after seeing them play, we thought we could beat them."

Setting the stage

The Braves then won 5-2, 5-2 and 5-3 in Winnipeg, setting the stage for Game 5, which had to be played in Brandon because the Shrine Circus had moved into the Winnipeg Arena. During those three losses, Bowman was getting more and more agitated with the officiating and his frustrations came to a boil in the fifth match.

"I guess Bowman had had enough and got kicked out," said Wales.

Bowman reportedly opened his wallet as if to offer the referee a bribe. Once he got the boot, GM Sam Pollock replaced him behind the bench (the Petes were a Montreal Canadiens farm team).

The Braves won the deciding game 6-2, leaving no doubt as to who deserved to be the Junior A champs.

The Braves also had some great players who never made it to the NHL. Their captain, Wayne Larkin, died of a heart attack at a New York Rangers tryout camp when he was only 29.

"Lew Mueller could have played pro but he decided to go back to Manitou to help his brother with their hardware store instead," Langrell said.

About 14 of those members of the team still with us will reunite in Winnipeg to celebrate the golden anniversary on June 12-13. On the 12th, they will head out to Assiniboia Downs where one race will be named in their honour.

The next day, they will golf at the Transcona Golf and Country Club, then enjoy a dinner and swap tales there afterward.

Although Brandon will host next year's Memorial Cup, the Braves have not been invited -- yet.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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