Snubbed by O-Pee-Chee?
Let’s play a little trivia with hardcore Manitoba hockey fans and sports memorabilia collectors.
Name the Winnipeg Jets and players with a connection to our province who played at least 200 in the World Hockey Association, but never had a WHA O-Pee-Chee hockey card. (For goalies it’s at least 66 games.)
To get you started, there are six Winnipeg Jets and eight others.
In the latest issue of The Hockey Research Journal, Benoit Clairoux, a member of the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR), has written an article titled “66 Forgotten WHA players,” with short bios of the players accompanied by mug shots that would have looked good on an O-Pee-Chee card.
O-Pee-Chee was a Canadian company that produced WHA sets from 1974-75 until 1977-78. The first-year and final-year sets had 66 cards each, while 132 cards made up the sets in 1975-76 and 1976-77. No WHA set was produced in 1978-79, the final year of the league, so Clairoux did not include players who began their WHA careers in 1976-77 or later.
Alphabetically, the forgotten Jets begin with Freeman (Duke) Asmundson, who played junior for the Winnipeg Monarchs and 260 games with the WHA Jets. Kim Clackson, who played a season of junior with the Flin Flon Bombers, saw action in 271 games with the Indianapolis Racers and the Jets. Winnipegosis native Danny Johnson played his junior hockey with the Bombers and then Fort Frances Royals and Brandon Wheat Kings in the MJHL. His three seasons with the Jets totaled 232 games. Steve Cuddie played 221 games with the Jets and the Toronto Toros. His junior days were with the Toronto Marlboros. An Edmonton Oiler junior, Dan Spring skated in 201 games for the Jets and Edmonton. Curt Larsson from Sweden played 68 games in the Jets net.
Fort Garry product and Winnipeg Ranger junior Terry Ball played 305 games with four WHA teams. Former junior Monarch and Club Paul Baxter played 290 games with the Cleveland Crusaders and Quebec Nordiques. A River Heights minor player and junior Brave, Ray Clearwater got into 214 games with the Crusaders and Minnesota Fighting Saints. A St. James Canadians, Jets and Clubs junior, Barry Legge played 345 games for six WHA franchises.
Rural Manitoba is represented by Brian Coates, Bob Fitchner, Tom Gilmore and Chris Worthy. A left winger from Carman, Coates played junior for the Monarchs and the Wheat Kings and 202 WHA games with Chicago, Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
After two seasons with the Wheaties, Fitchner spent six seasons and 414 games with Edmonton, Indianapolis and Quebec. After playing NCAA hockey with Denver University, the Flin Flon-born Gilmore played 201 WHA games with Los Angeles and Edmonton. A former Bombers goalie, Worthy saw action in 82 WHA games over three years with Edmonton.
The objective of SIHR is to record and preserve the history of hockey by collecting, cataloguing and preserving historical information and records. Its Manitoba members include former NHL player and Brandon sports historian Morris Mott, Cathie Eliasson, author of the 2022 book about the Winnipeg Falcons titled Falcons Forever, and Ty Dilello, who has written several books about Manitoba hockey. SIHR holds annual and semi-annual meetings at hockey locations across North America. Brandon hosted the annual meeting in 2010 at the same time the Memorial Cup was played in the Western Manitoba city. Information on SIHR membership can be found at www.sihrhockey.org.
☐ ☐ ☐
In our “Those We Have Lost in 2022” columns, the death of Manitoba Lacrosse Hall of Fame member Bill Welligan on May 3 was overlooked. A 2018 inductee, Welligan played for a city midget championship team from Isaac Brock and juvenile champion from West End Memorials and for the 1951 Manitoba junior all-star team that was inducted in 2012.
T. Kent Morgan
Memories of Sport
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