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Before the WHA and NHL, we had ‘the Nats’
Before Winnipeg hockey fans gave their hearts to the WHA Jets, their favourite team was Canada’s national hockey team. Known as ‘the Nats,’ the team called the city home in the mid-to-late 1960s and played at the Winnipeg Arena.
Most of the players had chosen to get an education and play for the Nats rather than chase a pro career in the days before NHL expansion.
Starting in the 1965-66 season, crowds at the arena enjoyed many exciting games between the Nats and top European and minor pro teams. The tough competition prepared the team for the 1966 and 1967 World Championships, where Canada finished third both years.
In the 1968 Winter Olympics that were held Feb. 6-17 in Grenoble, France, the top eight teams played a round-robin to determine who would win the medals.
Canada beat West Germany but lost to Finland 5-2. The team than ran off four victories over East Germany, USA, the Czechs and Sweden.
The world champion USSR team easily won its first four games before edging Sweden 3-2 and losing to Czechoslovakia 5-4. That left Canada and the USSR with a record of 5-1 going into the final game.
A win meant a gold medal,but it wasn’t to be for Canada as Russia’s best shut out the Nats 5-0.
The Czechs tied Sweden in the final round to finish 5-1-1 and earn the silver medals. Canada brought home bronze.
When the 1965-1969 national team was honoured by the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009, retired Brandon University professor Morris Mott was involved in tracking down the players.
Now, some 46 years after the team’s Olympic experience, Mott, who led the team in France with five goals, did his best to answer a "Where are they now?" request.
His centre Fran Huck, who was the Nats’ top scorer with nine points, is a lawyer in Kelowna, lawyer Roger Bourbonnais practices in Vancouver and Paul Conlin and Steve Monteith, who are in Ontario, also earned law degrees. A chartered accountant, Ray Cadieux remained in Winnipeg where he has been a long-time volunteer for CAA Manitoba and Misericordia Health Centre.
Marshall Johnston, who scouts for the Carolina Hurricanes, lives in Bemidji, Minn. Defencemen Terry O’Malley, who is retired in Regina, and Barry McKenzie, now retired in Sudbury, both served as president of Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Sask.
The Pinder brothers, Gerry and Herb, who was a prominent player agent, are both back home in Saskatoon, as is coach Jackie McLeod. Billy MacMillan owns a liquor store in Charlottetown and Mott described Jean Cusson as "a sausage magnate" in Quebec. Goalie Ken Broderick, Brian Glennie and Danny O’Shea live in southern Ontario and Gary Begg, who didn’t play in the Olympics due to an injury, calls the Caribbean home.
Father David Bauer, the architect of the national team, and players Gary Dineen, former Jet Ted Hargreaves and goalie Wayne Stephenson, a product of River Heights Community Club, are deceased. Assistant trainer Ken Esdale occasionally filled in as a goalie for the team and the former Breezy Bend Country Club manager is still stopping pucks with a 65+ group that plays Wednesdays at Keith Bodley Arena.
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Like his rise ball from the pitcher’s rubber, Greg Bouchard’s educational career is on the rise. In a story in our Jan. 22 column about the Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame 2014 induction class, the outstanding pitcher was identified as a vice-principal at Grant Park High School. Morris Glimcher, executive director of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association, wasted no time in suggesting that Greg’s school odyssey be updated.
It turns out that Greg moved from Grant Park to become Sisler High School vice principal in the fall of 2012 and remained there until June 2013. In September he took over as principal at Andrew Mynarski on Machray Ave.
Memories of Sport appears every second week in the Canstar Community News weeklies. Kent Morgan can be contacted at 204-489-6641 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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