Tuesday, May 17, 2016


The Puck

The Puck

                                                   Danny Lewicki and Daniel Donohue

It was on April 21st, in 1951. The Canadiens and the Leafs battled in the Stanley Cup final at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. The game went into overtime. One of the stalwarts on the Leafs blueline, “Bashin Bill” Barilko creased the twine behind Gerry McNeil to win the game, and the Cup.

                                                                 Gerry McNeil

Old hockey fans, myself included, know the rest of the story. That was the last goal Barilko ever scored, his last time on that sheet of ice. In late August, Barilko headed out to Quebec in a single engine plane with his dentist, Henry Hudson. On the return trip, the plane went down, and was lost for almost 11 years. It was discovered by a helicopter pilot, about 35 miles off course north of Cochrane, Ontario.

At least two books have been written about the tragedy: Kevin Shea’s Without a Trace, and John Melady’s The Bill Barilko Story. Kingston’ Tragically Hip recorded a song in 1992 about Barilko’s fate: Fifty Mission Cup.

                                                                     Bill Barilko

Barilko played his first game for the Leafs in 1947. He had been with the Hollywood Wolves in the Pacific Coast Hockey League. He was good enough to play in the All Star games in 1947, 1948, and 1949. and he won four Cups with the Leafs. He wore # 5 in his last year with the Leafs, and that number was subsequently retired.

Daniel Donohue’s father and grandfather were at that game when Barilko scored. His grandfather had season tickets, which he used occasionally. He often doled them out to his patrons at his bar near Hamilton. They were good seats, not far from the ice. Harken back with me to the arenas in those days.

There was no glass around the arena. Patrons sitting behind the net were protected: otherwise, those seated at ice level paid attention during the play. Pucks flew over the boards easily, as did players, on occasion.

Naturally, there was mayhem on the ice when Barilko scored. Daniel Donohue’s father sized up the situation, got his grandfather’s permission, and went into action. He jumped over the boards, raced to the Montreal net, and dove into the net to get the puck. That puck has remained with the family since that game.

Donohue told that story recently at the monthly gathering of NHL Alumni and friends at the Shopsy’s in Markham. Several members of the Society for International Hockey Research were in attendance. Paul Patskou, noted hockey historian from the Hockey Hall of Fame also heard the address. After all was said and done, no one doubted Donohue, a partner in a Toronto consulting firm.

                                                                Danny Lewicki

Danny Lewicki was impressed with the story. He played for the Leafs in that game. It was Lewicki’s first year with the Leafs. Both he and Barilko were of Ukranian descent, both from Timmins. Lewicki spent nine years in the NHL, and finished his career with the Quebec Aces.

There was some discussion as to the value of the puck, once its authentication is confirmed. Your guess is as good as mine. But if it were the ball that won the World Series for the New York Yankees that either Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle drove into the stands, there would be a bidding war. Likely nothing short of a million.

Another fine tale from the monthly Monday luncheons.

James Hurst

May 17, 2016.

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