FIFTY YEARS AGO, PEEWEE HOCKEY CHAMPS PUT STIRLING ON THE MAP

FIFTY YEARS AGO, PEEWEE HOCKEY CHAMPS PUT STIRLING ON THE MAP

By Paul Svoboda – Total Sports

Fifty years ago, on April 6, 1970, you could hear the sounds of a fire truck siren wailing through the streets of Stirling which in those days would’ve included such downtown fixtures as Bird’s IGA, Noble’s Drug Store, Bernie’s Barber Shop (“where the elite meet to look neat”) and Hatton’s Hardware.

No, none of those places were on fire. In fact, there was no fire. Anywhere.

But there were a bunch of deliriously happy kids clinging to the village fire truck, waving to a cheering crowd of townsfolk and celebrating Stirling’s first-ever OMHA All-Ontario minor hockey championship victory.

The Stirling Legion Branch 228 peewees had just defeated Six Nations, with a thrilling series-clinching victory on the road in Waterford, and returned to the village to ride the fire truck late that same night. Kevin Solmes, a member of that 1969-70 Stirling shinny squad, remembers the celebration like it was yesterday.

“I recall the outdoor thermometer dipped well below the freezing mark that night, but as a group we could’ve cared less,” said Solmes, a nifty playmaking forward.

Later, in the summer of ’70, former Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Bruce Gamble was guest speaker at a banquet upstairs at Stirling Theatre. The team dinner capped a wonderful season that Solmes says none of his teammates will soon forget.

Playing out of the old, cold, tin-roofed Stirling Rink just off the main drag and hard by Rawdon Creek (pronounced ‘crick,’ by the way) — now, long gone — the local peewee team played in front of leather-lunged family members, friends, classmates, neighbours and sponsors literally hanging from the wooden rafters when the club drove deep into the OMHA D playoffs and the promise of a provincial banner began to look very real. Accustomed to riding in cars with coaches and parents to road games, Solmes says he and his teammates “felt like pros” when the team hired a bus to deliver them to distant western Ontario outposts as the path to an OMHA title took them farther and farther from Stirling and the local league.

“We felt like professional hockey heroes,” said Solmes. “We thought we were being transported like the guys we admired on Saturday night NHL telecasts.”

Even the ‘aroma’ from the outdated exhaust systems on those 1970 buses couldn’t dampen team spirit, said Solmes, as the Stirling club eventually rumbled its way aboard the iron lung through Madoc, Havelock, Nobleton, then Waterford and its destiny with minor hockey glory.

The tight-knit core of that Stirling peewee team would stick together for future success at the OMHA level, culminating with an all-Ontario juvenile DD crown in 1976 when most of the players were bidding goodbye to high school and preparing for life in the real world. Still, 50 years later, Solmes says the 1970 title was special.

“It’s truly overwhelming to realize that an entire half-century has passed since then,” said Solmes. “From a personal perspective, it was an amazing experience that cemented many fond memories and solid friendships that have lasted a lifetime.”

There’s no word yet coming out of Stirling regarding a 50th anniversary reunion. But, if there is, Solmes and his teammates definitely need to ride that fire truck. Again.

Members of the 1969-70 Stirling Legion Branch 228 peewee D all-Ontario OMHA champions included: Glen Detlor, Paul Munro, Terry Bailey, Jeff (Boom) Farrell, Cliff Reid, Gary Utman, Doug Bastedo, Stan Myers, Terry Bush, Rob De Jong, John Bush, Dave Jeffs, Mark Dobson and Kevin Solmes. Coaches were Bert Bastedo and Ted Dobson; Legion Branch 228 president was Wieger De Jong.

• Need to know: In the OMHA championship series-clinching 4-2 victory in Waterford, Stirling scorers were Kevin Solmes, Rob De Jong, Mark Dobson and Glen Detlor. Dobson went on to play college hockey in the U.S. and is now pro scout for the Winnipeg Jets.

WELL DONE, WOLFIE

Wolf Tausendfreund recently hung up his judicial robe for the last time. Right beside his rugby boots.

As captain of the Belleville Bulldogs in the late 1970s, Tausendfreund was as uncompromising on the field as he was in the courtroom. He led, in the rugby vernacular, ‘from the front.’

Later in his law career, Tausendfreund became a respected judge. A sterling professional career has now ended with the former Belleville barrister stepping away from the bench at the age of 75.

For those of us who learned the game of rugby some 40-plus years ago, Wolfram Ulrich Tausendfreund was a tremendous mentor, teammate and friend.

Enjoy your retirement, Wolfie. You earned it.

(paul.svoboda58@gmail.com)

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