A recent excursion to London allowed me the opportunity to meet up with my old friend Mark Locken, who was a standout Ontario Hockey League goalie from 1975 to 1978. Locken won a Memorial Cup as a rookie with the Hamilton Fincups before playing for the Soo Greyhounds and the Niagara Falls Flyers in the OHL.
Originally from Burlington, Locken — who will turn 62 years of age next month — now resides in London. Retired from a long career in food sales and marketing, the likeable Locken has stayed in hockey as a part-time goalie instructor.
One of the nicest and most intelligent guys who I have ever met in 45 years as a sportswriter and sportscaster, I first got to know Locken when interviewing him on radio after he joined the Greyhounds via trade with the Fincups midway through the 1976-1977 season.
The Greyhounds were struggling at the time and in need of a starting goalie, they dealt hard-nosed left winger Tim Coulis (who would later become a first-round National Hockey League draft pick of the Washington Capitals) to the Fincups in exchange for Locken and forward Brian Anderson.
Locken, who had back-stopped Hamilton to the OHL and Memorial Cup championships as a first-year goalie the season before, immediately stepped in and became the no. 1 goalie for coach Muzz MacPherson’s Greyhounds. With Locken a sensation between the pipes, the Greyhounds upset the heavily-favoured Peterborough Petes in the first round of the playoffs in the spring of 1977.
The following season, the 1977-1978 campaign, the Greyhounds were able to acquire future NHL goalie Greg Millen from Peterborough as an overage and thus dealt the 19-year old Locken to the Niagara Falls Flyers in exchange for defenseman Ian Bedford.
That summer, Locken became an NHL draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks. He attended their training camp but instead of reporting to the minors, Locken instead chose to attend Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and play for the Huskies of the Atlantic University Athletic Union.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Locken — who was a butterfly-style goalie before his time — would become a legend at Saint Mary’s and just a few years ago, in 2018, he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.
As much as he was a star goalie in the OHL, Locken — after recovering from shoulder issues that hampered him while he was playing for the Greyhounds — took his game to another level while playing Canadian university hockey at Saint Mary’s.
He was the most valuable player in the AUAA on two occasions, made the AUAA all-star team four times, made the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union all-star team three times and was CIAU national player of the year once.
And during his final season at Saint Mary’s, he joined the Canadian Olympic Team during the Christmas break and suited up against the Soviet Union.
While at Saint Mary’s, Locken twice had the opportunity to turn pro but he chose to remain in school and then receive his Bachelor of Commerce degree.
As we caught up and chatted extensively while in London recently, Locken spoke fondly of his time in the Soo, playing for the Greyhounds, living with his billet parents, (the late) John and Barbara Reynolds, and attending high school at Sir James Dunn.
“I loved the Soo … I am going to try to get up there, maybe this spring or summer. I have great memories of the Soo and playing for the Greyhounds and with guys like (Wayne) Gretzky and (Craig) Hartsburg,” Locken told me.
He recalled hanging out with Gretzky and visiting Peachy’s Pizza with no. 99 on a few occasions — and he especially enjoyed playing with Hartsburg, who was the Greyhounds captain at the time.
“Wayne was a nice kid and Hartsy was a great guy and a great teammate and a born leader,” Locken added.
“Whenever I think of the Soo, it brings back good memories,” he summed up.