Oldtimers celebrate their history
HUNTSVILLE - It was an evening of backslaps, handshakes, memories and long-lost friends.
The 15-year legacy of the former Huntsville Oldtimers’ hockey team was celebrated at the upper lobby of the Canada Summit Centre on Feb. 19, as players, wives and well-wishers gathered to enjoy the unveiling of the team’s memorabilia in its display case, located near the far entranceway into the Don Lough Arena.
The Town officially opened the sports memorabilia project in December of last year. It showcases a variety of displays throughout the Canada Summit Centre of sporting and recreational activities in the region, featuring clubs and individuals.
The 1974 to 1989 edition of the Huntsville Oldtimers was a celebrated team, with names of Jack Bionda, Jack McKenzie, player/coach Bill Colvin, Don Thompson and Randy Ellis leading the way.
The team started from modest beginnings as a group of 35-year players, and older, who borrowed some sweaters from the local minor hockey association so they could attend a tournament in Peterborough in 1974.
However, the team that was thrown together for that tournament started to show some unique promise, so much so that they journeyed to Holland in 1976 and won the world D oldtimers hockey championship.
That was the start of an international odyssey for the club, and the team would represent the town in such places as Denmark, Switzerland, Florida and San Diego during its tenure. They would also play closer to home in cities such as Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver.
They were such a dominant force in the Ontario oldtimers’ scene that they often won or at least reached the finals of many of the weekend tournaments they competed in, and were able to capture the Ontario championship in 1984.
“Huntsville was always the team to beat at tournaments,” said Lyle Payne, who was a member of the very first Oldtimers’ team that went to the Peterborough tournament. “We moved up to the A division in
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Oldtimers celebrate their history
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the tournaments right away. At every tournament, they had their guns aimed at us.”
The team was also a force off the ice, raising thousands of dollars for local charities through its annual tournament. Groups like minor hockey and lacrosse, the hospital foundation and the Salvation Army received funds from the event throughout the years.
Marty Cormack was one of the first players with the Huntsville Oldtimers, and was the organizer of the Feb. 19 celebration party at the summit centre.
“I have been thinking about a night like this for a number of years now,” he said. “We finally got our display put up and I thought we could have a night to show off our memorabilia. I got a couple of the guys together and they said we should do it, so tonight is just a collection of all our activities.”
Most of the players, according to Cormack, have since died and he felt their contribution to the town should be remembered.
“There was never anything in the arena about the contribution by the Oldtimers, so that’s why with this memorabilia I put together, we put names to all the faces and got it all together,” he said. “A lot of the pictures, taken through our trips to various centres, such as Holland and Zurich and Copenhagen, are on the wall here as a donation to the town and the centre. We also have pictures of our team playing in local centres, I thought that it was about time we had something permanent in the arena where we spent so much time and we did so much for the town,” said Cormack.