Rinks are for reminiscing also!

Whenever I pass our pair of ultra-modern artificial ice rinks—with the new junior model sitting so proudly alongside our hard-earned 50-year-old rink like an offspring—my thoughts go back to what we called our Nelson Street “barn” and all the great action that went on in there!
We were preparing to challenge all of Canada for the Allan Cup, which it helped win for our fully local lineup!
So I remember the imported players needed to give us good hockey in the old wooden building neighboured by the Zucchiattis and Dittaros, with Ray S. Holmes just across the street and old Wilfred Christie trying to keep the kids from sneaking in without paying.
And how he would even patrol the back wall, where there was a moveable cover on a hole leading to the ice, and how rough old Wilfred could be as rink enforcer or “bouncer.”
I’m not sure whether all our imported senior players went over to our Victoria Avenue ballpark to perform between hockey seasons, but I remember the Puharski brothers first as hockey stars and Sammy Giglotti as a ballplayer.
And I believe that Pido Corriveau, who became a wheel in our papermill management, came here as a ballplayer, possibly alongside our star pitcher, Dave Brockie.
We managed to raise our hockey town stars eventually, starting with our juniors as the Shevlin Pines, Kaycees, and Jaycees who developed into the finest senior lineup seen anywhere across Canada.
Meanwhile, Joe Murray served as our first rink manager and secretary of our Allan Cup campaigners. With Pat Alton as secretary, Joe always had lots of business going on in his old rink office.
While I don’t remember every seeing Joe on ice skates, he was a standout basketball player—using a floor-length pass and bounce that kept the other side off guard.
When the artificial ice palace came along, our senior pucksters were ready to contest everybody—coast to coast!
A key figure in their progress was manager Glen Steele, who had to keep on finding out-of-town coaches such as Bud Jarvis and Bob Kinnear until our own Joe Bolzan stepped into the picture for our final year of triumph, 1952, then the rest of Canada realized it was at last beaten!
And there was nary an import left in that Allan Cup lineup except for goaltender Bill Cleaveley, an eastern college star who followed Harry Barefoot. Then Bill had a rough time with his health or the Allan Cup conquests might have continued.
But our seniors gradually were getting beyond all that jumping around the country every spring. Our locals would never admit it, but some knew they were now “over the hill” and tremendously popular and the Canadians had “had their day.”
Now it’s the turn of the juniors and my son-in-law, Dave Allison, to hold the crowds’ attention. And like the Canadians of yore, they’re doing just that!
The wheel of time has turned, but the teams of Fort Frances never allow themselves to be ignored!
Reminiscing on hockey of old here always brings up such stars as John Coward and Minthy Warren, who helped start an old-timers’ league, and also such luminaries as Frankie Pearson.
John skated in the Olympics while Frank was one of our great juniors. He probably could attract a crowd on his own merit despite being so heavily overweight.
I questioned Bruce Murray, one of Frank’s peers, and Frank’s weight seems to have been 285 pounds (well managed on his 5’7” frame when he played defence here). Someone else said Frank loved to gorge on sandwiches between periods.
Pearson continued his schooling in California and I can remember while playing high school football in our regular clothing, having only enough uniforms for one lineup, when suddenly a big box of used orange uniforms arrived from California.
Frank had been remembering our needs. We learned he had been enlisted as trainer of his university team down there—and got us all better dressed while at it.
Frank’s father operated an electrical shop on Scott Street.

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