SUN Hockey Pool

When Quinn was a King

Oilers' Head Coach Pat Quinn smiles during a press conference in Edmonton. (Jason Franson/Edmonton...

Oilers' Head Coach Pat Quinn smiles during a press conference in Edmonton. (Jason Franson/Edmonton Sun/SUN MEDIA)

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

EDMONTON - Pat Quinn has thought more about the 1963 Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings in the last few days than in any span during the last 46 years.

"It's reawakened all those memories, just so many great memories" said the new head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

"It's how I got there in the first place. It was such an important year in my life. The people I met there as a 19-year- old made a huge impact on me as a person.

"It's about people like Mrs. Knox. I guess that's who I think about first - Mrs. Knox and her family.

"One of her sons was our stick boy."

You may have heard of him. Swede Knox would end up working 1,983 games as an NHL linesman, 665 more than Pat Quinn has coached.

"Swede was 14 when I arrived as a 19-year-old kid from Hamilton and the only Easterner on the team. When I arrived I found out the people at the place I was supposed to stay had decided they didn't want to take in boarders after all. Swede took me to his house and asked his mom to take me in.

"It was a small house, about five or six blocks from the old Edmonton Gardens. Mrs. Knox and her husband and four of her kids lived there. But she said 'Okay, I'll take him in.'

"It was a major break. To be in and around that family was a great start for me. We became lifelong friends.

"Swede was like my little brother for a while. Then he showed up in the league as a linesman.

"In my opinion he was a terrific linesman. Swede was one of the few officials I never hassled. Well, there was the one time. I said 'Swede, I'm going to tell your mother!'

"I was the first Oil King Mrs. Knox took in. Over the years she took in 12 or 13 kids - Bob and Ted McAneeley, Ron Jones, Darcy Rota and a whole bunch more."

Swede's older brother Don was the best man at Quinn's wedding and Quinn flew back to give the eulogy for their mom's funeral.

"When I first came to town it was after I lost a scholarship at Michigan Tech. because in those pre-draft years I'd signed a form and was paid $40 a week in Hamilton.

"I missed my second-last year in junior hockey. I didn't play. Detroit asked me to go spend my last year in Edmonton. My parents were happy with that. But when you show up, you're the stranger. You're the guy from the East. I sure appreciated that we had that group of guys. And I sure appreciated Mrs. Knox and that family."

If Mrs. Knox was the mother figure for Pat Quinn in 1962-63, Leo LeClerc was the father figure.

"He was a special man. Those were his kids," Quinn said of the Kings GM. "Education was important to him with the Oil Kings. Remember, that was a different time. It wasn't like that in hockey back then.

"Jimmy Skinner ran the team in Hamilton and he didn't want anybody to go to school. Everybody was urged not to go to school.

"Leo was everything to those players. He helped you grow up. He talked to you about money. When you turned pro he'd do the negotiations for a lot of the guys.

"He was such a great influence.

"When Sandra and I decided to get married, he set it up.

"We got married the day before the Memorial Cup started.

"He said 'If you're going to do it, do it now and get it out of the way.' So we got married in a Catholic church right there on 118 Avenue."

The next night he was part of an 8-0 loss in Game 1.

Understand that the Oil Kings had been there before. In 1960. In 1961. And again in 1962. They lost all three of those Memorials Cups, then an East-West best-of-seven series.

After Game 1 it looked like 'Been there, done that, doing it again' against the Niagara Falls Flyers led by Terry Crisp and Gary Dornhoefer.

The Oil Kings would scratch out a win in Game 2, but the series turned in Game 3 when Quinn nailed Dornhoefer with a bodycheck that broke his leg.

"We were losing by a big score in Game 1 and they were laughing.

"Dornhoefer liked to hit. Throughout his entire NHL career he played a hard game. Earlier in that first game I caught Terry Crisp pretty good.

"Dornhoefer ended up smacking me pretty good. I hit him back with a closed glove. I got the penalty. He came by the box laughing.

"Now it's game 3. He just came through the middle of the ice and wasn't paying attention.

"He was on the red line and I caught him. I was a stand up bodychecker, not a hip-checker. I caught half his body and broke his leg. That seemed to have an effect.

"After that we started taking the series over and a lot of guys made big contributions."

Being an Oil King then was like being an Oiler is now.

There was a pro team in town - the Edmonton Flyers that guys like Glenn Hall, Johnny Bucyk, Norm Ullman and Al Arbour used to play for, and with Barclay Plager, Sid Finney, Forbes Kennedy and Mark Messier's dad Doug in the lineup that season.

"That was a special time and a special place.

"It's amazing the number of Edmonton people who still come up to me and talk about those days and tell how they remember putting 25 cents in the basket for silver collection. And I tell most of them 'You were one of the guys who waved your hand over the basket.' "

It might be hard to comprehend now, but back then it was against the law to charge admission to a sports event on Sunday. The Oil Kings played home games almost every Sunday afternoon and held a church-style silver collection.

It also might be hard to envision now but the Oil Kings, while they were a junior hockey team, didn't play junior hockey.

They played senior hockey in a league with the Lacombe Rockets, Drumheller Miners, Olds Elks, Red Deer Rustlers and Ponoka Stampeders.

"We were playing against older guys, guys who had been pros, some of them really good pros. It was still the time of the original six back then, remember. And that was one of the best senior leagues in the country.

"It was a good testing ground, not only in maturity, but we had to deal with men. Our youngest guy was Bob Falkenberg. He was 16. He was just a baby.

"We were playing against 30 year olds. That's where I helped. I was 19 and I could probably go with anybody. I grew up on the tough end of Hamilton."

In Lacombe there was a young man in the stands about to begin a sportswriting career covering the Rockets for the Lacombe Globe and then the Red Deer Advocate, a kid the same age as Oil King stick boy Knox.

The columnist remembers almost all of those guys.

* Glen Sather, of course.

* Gregg Pilling, the CHED account executive who would become a friend. Falkenberg who would return from years as a Detroit Red Wings defenceman to finish his career as a WHA Oiler, rodeo executive and man about sport.

* Max Mestinsek, a player who's career was cut short by a car accident and a man who is around the press box in Vancouver as an off-ice official. Butch Paul, who played with Pilling and Quinn in the minors in Memphis when he was killed in a car accident.

* Captain Roger Bourbonnais who became a successful lawyer. (Quinn would get a law degree after his career.)

* Ron Anderson who scored the first goal in the history of the WHA.

* Quinn's defence partner Butch Barber. Bert Marshall, who played 16 years in the NHL.

* Goalies Tom Bend and Russ Kirk. Jim Brown. Rich Bullock. Jim Chase. Vince Downey. Jim Eagle. Doug Fox. Harold Fleming. Dave Rochefort.

* And a young man by the name of Reg Taschuk who would go on to play for the Johnstown Jets and become the model for the character Reggie Dunlop played by Paul Newman in the classic movie Slap Shot.

Taschuk's left winger in Johnstown was Ned Dowd, whose sister was Nancy Dowd who wrote the screenplay for the movie and gave the name Reggie and his No. 7 to the lead character played by Newman.

Sather or Pilling were more likely guys to go on to be Reggie Dunlops suggests Quinn.

"Sather was a real up spirit. Everything was positive. He had a real fun loving side to him even as a junior. He was a moth glowing brightly.

"That was a heck of a line, Butch Paul, Max Mestensik and Sather. They stayed together another year. Glen really worked.

"I was kind of surprised how Glen developed into a real shift disturber. And loved doing it. He was good at being that sort of guy. I didn't see that developing in him.

"As a 19-year-old kid and an 18-year-old kid, we didn't form our real solid friendship until later in the pros.

"Pilling, he had the wick lit at both ends. He was an adventurer. He was irrepressible and sometimes irresponsible, too.

"He was going hard. Boy, was he going hard.

"Roger Bourbonais was clearly our best player. He was magic with the puck.

"He killed penalties, played the power play and was our quiet leader. He was going to college and the rest were in high school. Leo really loved him. He loved all of us. But they had a great connection."

But Quinn believes Butch Paul would have been the best.

"I happened to be on that Memphis team. I don't even think Butch drank.

"He met a family he went to visit and he was driving under the sort of tunnel below a train track when a woman came through the wrong way on the other side and he had nowhere to go. It was a head-on collision and he didn't make it.

"Butch probably would have been the best NHLer of the works of us. He had grit. He was a real competitor.

"He could handle the puck. He could shoot and skate and would go into traffic."

All these years later the real study on that team might be the coach, Buster Brayshaw, a man who would have tough times ahead with substance abuse problems.

It is said that coaches take pieces of every coach they played for and it's interesting now for Quinn to be back in Edmonton and look back at his first real influence as a coach right here.

"Buster, fortunately for me then, was clean. He did a heck of a job that year.

"We only had five last-year juniors. Some of them were real young like Falkie.

"The thing I remember was Buster was always organized and he really understood skill development.

"In an era when a lot of practices were drop-the-puck-and-scrimmage affairs, he had creative practices. He had a plan to develop individual skills, a good rapport and really understood the team game. He was a tough old guy. But you knew he liked you and that he wanted you to get better."

Hmmm ...

Old tough guy. Knew he liked you and wanted you to get better ... Quinn said the 1963 nostalgia kick isn't just coming back to coach in Edmonton.

"First it was finding out that our team had been elected to the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame and then finding out how many of our guys are going to be there in Red Deer," he said of the June 13 induction.

Quinn says he wouldn't miss it.

"It's the people. It's the memories."

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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