SUN Hockey Pool

Hockey (and Lorna) were his life

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

He has won Stanley Cups with two NHL teams. He has played in the Canadian Open golf championship and was a member of the Ontario Willingdon Cup champions.

He even gave Montreal Canadiens hockey legend Maurice Richard the nickname "Rocket."

Later this week he will be officially inducted in London's Sports Hall of Fame.

So with all that, what does Ray Getliffe consider to be his most memorable moment?

". . . When I came home from Winnipeg on the Monday (he was 20), picked up my gal friend (and) said we ought to get married because I'm leaving Saturday for the East Coast," says Getliffe.

"She said yes."

Getliffe and his "gal friend" are still together, having just celebrated their 70th anniversary.

"I met Lorna in the bank. It was the best thing the bank ever did for me."

Getliffe, 90, is one of those individuals you never tire of hearing. He has great spirit and is in tune with what's happening around him.

He was a south London boy. He played high school football and hockey at South. He played junior hockey in Stratford and senior hockey in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Getliffe played nine seasons in the NHL with the Canadiens and Boston Bruins, scoring 145 goals and 147 assists. He also refereed in the NHL for two years.

He played in the Canadian Open in 1936 and 1939 and was president of the Quebec Golf Association, Royal Canadian Golf Association and a director of the Canadian Open in 1969-70. Despite failing eyesight he still plays the game.

"But hockey was my life, let's face it," he says. "I played in the Bank League in London. I went to work at the bank when I was 17. I left school so I could play in the league.

"I stayed for 10 months and then went to Stratford to play junior. In my days there was very little hockey. London was not a hockey town. They had the professional team, the London Tecumsehs. The only artificial ice they had around was the old arena on Ridout and Horton, across from the PUC building. Most of the hockey was pond hockey."

He eventually got a crack at the New York Rangers training camp in Winnipeg.

It was on his way back from that camp that he proposed to Lorna.

"If it wasn't for hockey, we wouldn't have gotten married because it was the height of the Depression and there wasn't much money around.

"Hockey paid, at least.

"The $400 a year the bank paid wasn't much to get started on, so hockey money looked pretty good. It was a lot more money than other people starting families had. That was 70 years ago. That's seven- oh. I can't see very well, so she's still my driver."

So how did he tag the handle on the Rocket?

"It's the same as you've read and heard so many times," Getliffe laughs.

"During a practice, (Erwin) Murph Chamberlain and I were on a line with Phil Watson and we sitting out while he was on the ice.

"Elmer Lach threw a pass to him and I was sitting right there. He took off and I turned to Murph and I said, 'Look at that kid. He took off just like a rocket.'

"Dink Carroll, a Montreal Gazette sports guy, heard it and it's how it all got started."

Getliffe isn't sure how the hockey's changed from then to now. "I couldn't tell you, I'm not playing now," he says. But he believes it was a lot more enjoyable when he played.

"We'd grown up with all these guys and got to know each other. We only had 14 players on a team. You knew everybody well.

"You didn't have to get a guy tonight. If he got you, you could get him next week. Now they only play one another once or twice a year. The rivalry and camaraderie was likely better than it was today and it wasn't as commercial."

There's no question about times changing, and one need look no further than Getliffe's short-lived NHL refereeing career.

"I refereed 10 or 15 games a years when the other referees weren't wanted. I refereed home-and-home Toronto-Detroit games because they couldn't get along with the officials, so I went in to work those games. There were no referee unions then."

One thing that hasn't changed is the marriage between golf and hockey players. They love it now and loved it then.

"But we played a lot in the summer," Getliffe said. "When we won the Stanley Cup in Boston in 1939, we were home in the middle of April. The season was five months long.

"Now it's 10 months."

Getliffe was gone from London for 50 years. He has been back for the last 15 and he is honoured to be going into the Hall of Fame.

"Lorna and I were raised here, our two children were born here.

"We were in Montreal for 50 years, our daughter was in Oakville for 37 years and now has moved back here. Other than a grandchild in Mississauga and one in Oakville, we're all back. We came back here 15 years ago and feel like we've always been here.

"This is a great city."

SPIRIT OF SPORT

The London Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony and volunteer recognition dinner.

When: Thursday. Induction at 3 p.m. at JLC, dinner at 6 p.m. at Four Points Sheraton.

Hall inductees: 1970 TV Cable fastball team, Sue Hilton, Glen Weir and Ray Getliffe

Tickets: 451-6401


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