Serving their country on the rink

GLEN DAWKINS -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

Until his retirement a few years ago, Ray Cadieux had a long and successful career as a Winnipeg chartered accountant. But for those who were around in the 1960s, the 64-year-old is remembered as a right-winger with the Winnipeg-based Canadian national men's hockey team.

"Even now, people remember that I played with the national team," recalled Cadieux. "It was a pretty big thing for Winnipeg. Every year, we had the tournament at Christmas and we pretty well sold out the (Winnipeg Arena). Every year, the Russians and the Swedes (would come to play in Winnipeg)."

This weekend, the "Nats" are holding a reunion in Winnipeg with 30 members returning, some for the first time in almost four decades.

"That was really Winnipeg's team," said Cadieux, who is organizing this weekend's reunion which includes a golf outing, two dinners and a tour of the MTS Centre. "We were the only team playing out of the old Winnipeg Arena."

From fall of 1964 until the program was disbanded in 1970, the national team was an important fixture in the Winnipeg sports scene. In addition to their games against other national teams, they played against minor pro teams from across the United States and Western Canada. They even played exhibition games against the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers.

"Other than the Bombers, this was the only team in town," said Cadieux.

Under the direction of the late Father David Bauer, the national team was formed in 1963 and trained at the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver. Following the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, the team moved to Winnipeg. While in Winnipeg, the Nats won bronze medals at the 1966 and 1967 world championships and the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France.

A highlight of the national team's time in Winnipeg was the 1967 Centennial Tournament where they upset the Soviet National Team. For many, it was the first glimpse at the Soviet squad which would soon become famous through the 1972 Summit Series.

"The Russians would come over to Canada and they'd do a tour and we'd play them in Winnipeg and other locales," said Cadieux, who left the national team after the 1968 Olympics but returned to Winnipeg when he was transferred back in 1969 by his firm.

The team folded in 1970 after Hockey Canada withdrew from all international hockey due to a dispute with the International Ice Hockey Federation over the use of professional players.

One result from that decision was the cancellation of the 1970 world championships which would have been held in Montreal and Winnipeg.

Among those coming in for the reunion is Carolina Hurricanes director of professional scouting and former Ottawa Senators general manager Marshall Johnston, Minnesota Wild director of player development Barry MacKenzie and former NHLer and WHA Winnipeg Jet Fran Huck.

The last reunion was held three years ago in Ottawa.

"This turnout is as good if not better than in Ottawa and I think that's because it's Winnipeg," said Cadieux.


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