Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Hocket as it Was in the Near North

Lest you had lived up to this point thinking that Timmins and Schumacher were one and the same, let me dispel that notion right now. Schumacher is tough, and Timmins? Well, let me continue.

First of all, the Under 17 World Hockey Championships were recently held in the McIntyre Arena in Schumacher. It was promoted as a Timmins event, and they do lie beside each other---Timmins and Schumacher, I mean.

The “Mac”, as it is called in the north, has been the home of hockey in that area for more than seventy years. I caught up with one local resident who opened the doors of history to me upstairs at the tournament.

Lou Battochio was there when they opened the Mac in December, 1938. He was eleven years old. “I watched them building it,” he told me. “The mine employees did much of the work. The electrical, the steel work, all of the carpentry. I was a student at Schumacher Public School.

The day that they opened the arena was really special for us kids at the school. We assembled in the auditorium and the entire Toronto Maple Leafs team came to visit us. I remember that like it was yesterday. Gord Drillon, Syl Apps, Wally Stanowski, the entire team. They signed autographs for us. They shook hands with us. I swore I would never wash my hands.”

Lou has lived his entire life in Schumacher. He taught school, served on council, did all of the community activities that make Canadian communities vibrant. He told me that the coffee shop at the Mac was open twenty-four hours a day when it opened. “The miners would come here for breakfast after finishing their shifts. We practiced here with the school team before school started.”

But the Mac was also home to world class figure skating as well. “They ran the Schumacher Skating School here in the small separate arena. Barbara Ann Scott, Canada’s Olympic Gold Medallist in 1948 skated and coached here. She stayed in the mine manager’s office.”

The Leafs played a “Blue and White” exhibition game for the fans at the Mac on opening night, on December 8, 1938. The arena was advertised as a replica of Maple Leaf Gardens. J. P. Bickell, the president of McIntyre Mines, was the driving force behind the construction of the arena. He was also a director of the Maple Leafs for many years.

The evening began with a concert by the Lions Boys Band at the eastern end of the arena. Prior to the game, a reception was held in the auditorium, where “J. P.” met the guests. The Croation Orchestra, under the direction of Joseph Begovich provided the tunes at the reception. The Timmins Daily Press reported that there was even “a dial phone, and a dumb waiter in the kitchen”.

Mrs. E Gooderham, runner-up to Sonja Henie at the World Championships, was one of many figure skaters performing for the crowd. Brunet and Joly, World pairs champions from Paris performed.

In the past seventy years, the Mac has seen more than a few hockey stars come and go. Likely the most famous were the Mahovlich brothers. But there is a very long list of fine hockey players who honed their skills in the Mac.

The tournament wound down with the Americans squeaking out a 2-1 victory over the Ontario team to take the gold. Belleville Bulls’ assistant coach Jake Grimes was behind the bench, and took the loss hard. He told me after the game that he knew that his players will “realize in time that they are better players for being here”. He was proud of the fact that they “overcame the adversity from their first game loss to get to the final.”

And yes, it was minus forty Celsius in the area. I did not get the full report on the brass monkey.

James Hurst.

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