Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 2/2/2018 (1609 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The World Hockey Association couldn't have started at a better time for goaltender Joe Daley.
Daley, who grew up in East Kildonan, had just finished the 1971-72 season with the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and he had no intention on returning to The Motor City.
"I left Detroit on very poor terms," recalls Daley, who had a 11-10-5 record in his lone season as a Red Wing. "The laughing matter of it all was they thought they'd like to keep me and said they'd like to sign me to a longer-term contract at the end of the season. Previous to that, I told them that I would never play another game for the organization for as long as I lived, and I didn't."
Daley's relationship with the Red Wings soured when the team didn't dress him for a Sunday afternoon game that he was originally promised he would be starting. On the day of the game, with his wife and two little boys in the crowd expecting to see their father play, Daley found out there was a change of plans. When he walked into the locker-room, he saw Al Smith and Andy Brown, the other two goalies in the organization, getting dressed for the game. Daley left the locker room to meet with coach Johnny Wilson and general manager Ned Harkness, where he told them that they had lied to him and that he would not be a Red Wing moving forward.
"I didn't play another game for them that season," said Daley, who also played for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres during his five-year NHL career.
Daley returned home that off-season with no idea where he'd be playing next. He was aware of the WHA starting up, but had no idea that his hometown would be one of the teams in the league until he got a phone call from Billy Robinson, who was the original director of player personnel for the Winnipeg Jets. It didn't take long for Robinson and Daley to negotiate a deal to keep the goalie at home.
"If somebody would have told me as a kid growing up in East Kildonan that one day I'd play my pro career in Winnipeg, I wouldn't have believed them," said Daley, who grew up idolizing Terry Sawchuk. "It just didn't seem like something that was very possible."
Daley was changing leagues, but he wasn't changing his look. Daley was notorious for not wearing a goalie mask during his career and according to him, he was the second-last goalie to start wearing one. Brown, Daley's friend and former teammate, carries the distinction of being the last professional goalie to play without a mask.
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"It wasn't me trying to show my manhood or anything. I was very uncomfortable for many years trying to wear one," said Daley, who is now 74. "I tried a few versions — I tried wearing a cage with the helmet and that was no good because I perspired so much that the sweat was rolling in my eyes. I would have needed a Kelly Hrudey headband."
Daley never rocked the headband, but he did eventually don a mask. Daley wore one for his final five seasons after being convinced by his goalie partner and fellow Manitoban, Ernie Wakely.
"Ernie jokingly said 'Hey Joe, when it's my night off, it's my night off. I don't want to have to replace you because you get injured,'' Daley said.
Daley, who has owned a sports memorabillia and custom framing store — Joe Daley's Sports and Framing for nearly 30 years since retiring, still lights up when he thinks about his decision to sign with Winnipeg in the summer of '72. After seven seasons, three Avco Cup championships and inductions into the WHA Hall of Fame and Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, it's safe to say Daley doesn't regret signing that contract 46 years ago.
"To this day, I have people coming into my little shop and telling me how much they enjoyed watching our team play," Daley said. "For many years, I just thought they were being nice to me, but now I think I really realize that they mean it."
Taylor Allen Reporter
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...
Hall Call is a weekly podcast series hosted by Taylor Allen that shares the stories of local sport icons by interviewing members of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.
Taylor will talk to a new member every week, with a story featured in the Saturday edition of the Winnipeg Free Press and an hour-long podcast interview. The series can be found online at wfp.to/hallcall. You can also visit the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame inside the Sport for Life Centre building located at 145 Pacific Ave.
To hear more about Joe Daley's career — including playing against Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky, winning the Avco Cup for his hometown, playing pro hockey without a mask, beating the Soviet Union in '78 and much more — listen to the podcast above.