Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Season's Greetings 2012!

Ron Hurst and Pete Conacher 

Last Monday I attended the annual Christmas luncheon of the National Hockey League Players’ Association. There is a monthly luncheon, held at a dear old Shopsy’s north of the 401 in Toronto; however, the December meeting is always special for a variety of reasons.



At the past few December meetings, a member of the group has taken to the makeshift stage to share a few tunes with the gathering. Michael Burgess has always known how to captivate an audience. This group is special to him, as he has played with the Legends of Hockey for several years. He loves the game, and he makes it clear that it is his honour to be there amongst the old pros.



Michael brings along an accompanist, and strolls around the room, warming the crowd with some of his personal favourites, and a few Christmas carols. He began with Love, then added You Raise Me Up. He sang Music of the Night from the Phantom of the Opera, and quipped, “Not a bad tune!”.


He had to contend with carts full of rattling plates, and noisy patrons at the back of the restaurant. Always the consummate act, he was never fazed by the interruptions. He finished with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, O Holy Night, and Silent Night, encouraging the rabble to join him in song.



I met “Bo” Elik for the second time in my life. As kids, playing street hockey and a variety of other sports, we all had nicknames. On the football field, I was “Spider”, as in Spider Lockhart, a defensive back who played for the Giants. Another one of the crew was “Bo”, taken from “Bo” Elik. He was likely the original “Bo”, predating Bo Jackson and all the other Bos.

                                                              With "Bo" Elik

In the 1960s, many of us took to the roads, and dangled our thumbs for transportation. We hitched rides up and down the 401 for years. On one occasion, I hopped in and introduced myself to the driver. He told me his name was “Bo” Elik. I then explained to him why I was impressed. He thought little of it.  When I explained that to him at the luncheon, he was equally nonchalant about the whole situation.


                                           James Hurst, Frank Mahovlich, and Sue Foster
I also met Sue Foster, the tiny yet powerful pen behind the undoing of Alan Eagleson. She wrote the book, “The Power of Two-Carl Brewer’s Battle with Hockey’s Power Brokers”. Belleville’s Stevie Cameron assisted in that effort.



Frank Mahovlich does not often attend the functions. It was like a great homecoming for him. Many of the other NHL players naturally played for the Leafs, as did Frank. He was able to renew acquaintances with many of them.


We lined up for lunch, and I was directly in front of Frank. I turned to give my pal Will his twenty dollars for the meal, and Frank stuck out his hand. “I will be out of work soon,” he pleaded. I remembered that he was about to turn 75. Senators in Canada have a mandatory retirement age of 75. So he was telling the truth.



Needless to say, I felt sorry for Frank, but not that sorry. I put the $ 20 back in my pocket. I made the mistake of discussing Frank’s junior career in Toronto. I almost used the word “Marlies”. He glared at me and said, “You know I played for St. Mike’s”. Ah, yes. That’s quite correct.



To his credit, he has experienced a fine life. Many of the group at the luncheon remember the Mahovlich kids at the Leaside arena, where his dad sharpened skates. His brother Peter also enjoyed a wonderful NHL career, and now works with the Panthers in Florida.



At no time was there mention of a lockout or labour negotiations. That was a good thing.


                                                                 Kent Douglas


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