A stroke has made Dunc Wilson's voice a bit slower, but he can still laugh heartily about his days with the Maple Leafs and five National Hockey League teams.
"I'm glad to be on this side of the grass," the former goaltender says from his home in Rossland, B.C., where he continues to recover from the 2003 heart-related ailment. "I'm taking it easy, trying not to get too excited about things."
It was a relaxed approach that either helped or hindered Wilson's pro career, depending on your view.
He remembers the stir he and fellow Niagara Falls Flyer goalie grad Doug Favell caused at the 1973 Leafs' camp when they showed up to the first team meeting in shorts and t-shirts.
"(General manager) Jim Gregory spotted us and he was pretty angry," Wilson said. "He told us 'this is the NHL and you always wear a shirt, tie and cut your hair'.
"We walked into the Gardens and sure enough, everyone had shirt and ties, even (well-known rebel) Jim McKenny had a Western lariat around his collar. But they took one look at us and said 'if the goalies can dress like that, why can't we?' By the end of the season, we even had Dave Keon wearing jeans and Kodiak work boots."
Wilson soon had more to worry about as Gregory and coach Red Kelly adopted an unconventional three-goalie rotation with veteran Ed Johnston.
"You played, you backed up and you sat," Wilson said. "The three of us got along, but the problem was that you lose a tenth of a second reaction time when you sit that long."
Wilson was something of a good-time Charlie and avid golfer, which the layoffs didn't help.
Before being claimed by the Rangers the next season, Wilson compiled a record of 17-22-7, with a 3.29 goals against average.
Wilson went from the Rangers to Pittsburgh, where he won a career high 18 games in 1976-77, but he never enjoyed a winning season in the NHL and his club's never made the playoffs.
He did contribute one of the more distinct masks in Leaf and league history, two stripes that formed an 'X' in the front.
He and designer Greg Harrison later decorated the bars and added some red when Wilson joined the New York Rangers, making it look like a crude Confederate battle flag.
"They loved it in the south in Atlanta, but not many other places," Wilson said. "I even had a death threat phoned into the team."
Though born in Toronto and brought up through the MTHL, Wilson eventually settled in Vancouver, his first full-time team and his last NHL stop in 1978-79.
He was a longshoreman and later moved to Rossland in the B.C. interior, where he was a heavy equipment operator, bartender and finally, a ski-run groomer at Red Mountain Resort.
He turned 57 earlier this week.
"I'm not working now, just taking my heart pills, trying to figure my way around things," Wilson said.
"I went golfing and shot an 80 the other day and getting back out there is a big thing for me."
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