Chat with Kurceba a real treat for me

It’s not very often you get the chance to talk with someone who was a member of a championship squad from 60 years ago, let alone from the most celebrated team in Fort Frances hockey history.
So when I found out that former Fort Frances Canadians’ blueliner, and 1952 Allan Cup champion, Alex Kurceba was coming to town this past weekend from Winnipeg, I jumped at the opportunity to sit down and chat with him.
Even though I didn’t grow up in Fort Frances, the fact this town produced an Allan Cup-winning squad back when the tournament featured players who arguably could be playing in the professional ranks is something to behold.
And to be able to find out firsthand about what that was like, let alone from someone who had come from out-of-town originally, surely had to be something that was worth listening to.
Even though I was a little bit nervous going into the interview, Alex and his son, Sandy, made me feel welcome right away and I was at ease once I began to ask Alex about what it was like to play here during the Canadians’ run.
Among the things that amazed me most during our half-hour interview (and trust me, there was an awful lot that had me amazed) was the local fan support as the Canadians went on their Allan Cup quest.
Being someone from a generation used to travelling across the country by automobile or airplane, I can’t imagine what it would have been like to travel by train over thousands of miles to watch your favourite team play.
But as Kurceba himself said, the fans would come out in support of the Canadians wherever they were, whether it be in Regina or Owen Sound.
And even after winning the Allan Cup on home ice back in 1952, that support continued on.
“A few days after the tournament, we had a parade that went through downtown Fort Frances, into International Falls, and back again,” Kurceba recalled.
“Then as the week continued on, we had banquet after banquet to celebrate our accomplishment,” he added.
In today’s world, where it seems less and less support is given to community-driven events and where people seemingly are trapped into materialistic items, that type of support is something I wish was still evident today—no matter where someone is living.
Even after the tape recorder was turned off, Alex, Sandy, and I continued to chat about stories from that era—some of which we joked might not be suitable for print.
One of my favourites, though, had to be a road trip the Canadians took to my hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, where they got to play at the now demolished Sault Memorial Gardens, which remains my all-time favourite hockey venue to this day.
After that game, the Canadians continued their road trip by playing across the river in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., before traveling to Houghton, Mich., where they would play against Michigan Tech.
“It was right at the end of the road trip and I remember that we were all basically tired out, so I can’t even remember how we finished that game,” Kurceba smiled.
In addition to that, I also got to learn about one of Alex’s old roommates when he was playing in the minors—namely hall-of-fame goalie Terry Sawchuk.
“We grew up together in Winnipeg actually, and we were actually both goaltenders at one point before I switched over to being a defenceman,” Kurceba noted.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but he was just as good a ballplayer on the diamond as he was a goalie,” he added.
All in all, it was a splendid couple of hours with the Kurcebas as I got to learn a lot about what it was like to play hockey six decades ago, and about what it was like to live here then.
Personally, I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to chat with both Alex and Sandy, and I hope I’ll have the chance to do so once again.

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