It was 1972. I was still in high school at Sir James Dunn. I was also working 36 hours a week — 6 p.m. to midnight Monday to Friday and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday — in the men’s bar at the Windsor Hotel. (Um, not being the scholarly type, I definitely preferred working and making money over attending regular classes at SJD.) 1972 was also the year that the Soo Greyhounds became members of the Ontario Hockey League as an expansion team.
Along with the Sudbury Wolves, the Greyhounds departed the junior A Northern Ontario Hockey Association for the major junior OHL, which back then was known as the Ontario Hockey Association. And while the Greyhounds were perennial powerhouses in the NOHA, they would get a rude welcome into the OHA back in 1972.
Still, the Greyhounds were fun to follow that 1972-1973 season, mainly because of the novelty of them being one of 10 teams in the OHA. (Teams played one another seven times over a 63-game regular season schedule in ’72-73.)
Coached by local product Abbie Carricato, the Greyhounds would finish with a record of 11-42-10 in their first season at the major junior level.
And part of the enjoyment of following the Greyhounds by listening to the games on CKCY Radio and reading about them in the Sault Daily Star — despite them being a lowly, last place team — was the number of local area players on that first-year squad that included forwards John Campbell, Cary Farelli, Lorne Jarrett, Donny Gagnon, Greg Keating and John Simon and goalie Billy Thompson.
Also on that team was center Paul Woods, who would go on to a long career of more than 500 games in the National Hockey League with the Detroit Red Wings, later becoming a legendary broadcaster with them. As for his OHA career, Woods would play three full seasons with the Greyhounds and total 84 goals, 150 assists, 234 points.
But I was also keen on following the other teams of the OHA, which besides the Soo and Sudbury, included the Toronto Marlboros, Peterborough Petes, Ottawa 67’s, London Knights, St. Catharines Black Hawks, Oshawa Generals, Kitchener Rangers and Hamilton Red Wings.
The Marlboros of ’72-73 were coached by NHL legend George Armstrong and would win the OHA championship that season. Among the Marlboro stars of that season was high scoring forward Bruce Boudreau, who would go on to a lengthy, successful NHL career as a coach.
At any rate, the Greyhounds of ’72-73 would show some improvement over the ’73-74 and ’74-75 seasons, posting respective records of 24-40-6 and 25-36-9. But a playoff spot would elude the Greyhounds until the ’75-76 season.
Besides the aforementioned players, other notables from the first three seasons of the Soo’s OHA history included goalies Bob Besner, Doug Nowels, Lou Moore and David Legree, defensemen Bill Reed, Mike Boland, Reid Bailey, Mike Hordy, Mike Rusin, Bill Stephenson and Dave Mancuso and forwards David Maciuk, Charlie Simmer, Jack Valiquette, Gary Gill, Doug Patey, Bruce O’Grady, Tony Cuomo, Romano Carlucci and Ed Smith.
Hordy (Thunder Bay), Rusin (Sudbury), Mancuso (Sault Ste. Marie), Maciuk (Sault Ste. Marie), Simmer (Terrace Bay) and Cuomo (Levack) were all northern Ontario products.
Valiquette would win the OHA scoring championship in ’73-74 with 63 goals, 72 assists, 135 points in his one and only season of junior before going on to become a first round NHL draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs. And Simmer would score 45 goals as a 19-year old rookie before going on to rifle 346 goals in 712 NHL games and earn star status as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
There are timeless memories galore from those first three seasons of the Greyhounds in the OHA, ones that I followed as a high school and Sault College student and Windsor Hotel bartender before going on to begin my media career in 1975.
PHOTO: The 1972-1973 Soo Greyhounds.