JIM DOREY WON TWO WHA CHAMPIONSHIPS
Growing up in Kingston's north end in the 1950s, Jim Dorey would lace up his skates every day after school and play shinny in what is now Ron Lavallee Kiwanis Memorial Park. "The kids were all ages. As one of the younger ones, I learned to handle the puck, skate fast and get out of the way of the big guys," he recalls over the phone from his Kingston home.
Almost every Kingston boy dreamed of playing with the Maple Leafs in those days. The Toronto team had a string of Stanley Cup victories, with the most recent comi
ng in 1951. Sure, a few of the Kingston lads were Montreal or Boston fans, but most - including young Jim - had Toronto blue in their blood.
Only a handful saw their dream of playing in the NHL come true. Dorey was one of them. He played four seasons with the storied Toronto squad before eventually moving to the WHA and winning two championships there. Asked to name the highlights of his lengthy hockey career, Dorey ignores the WHA titles and zeroes in on attending the Leafs training camp and making the team.
The other highlight? As a youth, he was named to the all-star team in the Church Athletic League and got to play before a cheering crowd at the Kingston Memorial Centre.
In Kingston, Dorey had the opportunity to skate under coaches who later became legendary. His bantam squad won the city championship - at the helm was Garry Young who went on to the NHL as a scout with Boston and coach in California and St. Louis.
In midget, Dorey's team won the city title under Don "Pete" Petersen, sports organizer extraordinaire.
When Jim was 16 years old, the Boston Bruins invited him to attend training camp in Niagara Falls. He went down on the train with Chris Roberts and future Boston star Wayne Cashman. From there, Boston asked him to join its OHA affiliate, the Niagara Falls Flyers. He then shifted to the Ingersoll Marlands.
One day, the Marlands were playing the London Nationals, whose roster included Brent Imlach, the son of Punch Imlach, coach of the Leafs. Imlach came to London to watch his son play. Apparently, Punch was not the only person in the family with hockey smarts. During the game, his wife Dorothy nudged him and pointed to Dorey and his Ingersoll teammates: "You're looking at the wrong team - you should be watching them."
Fortunately for Dorey, Punch was paying attention. Dorey joined the London Nationals and played with them for two years. In the 1966-67 season, he notched 49 points, hitting the point-a-game mark.
In the 1967 draft, the team selected the Kingston youngster 23rd overall and he joined the Leafs farm teams. He was bounced around between Rochester, Tulsa and Phoenix - not an easy life, especially for his new bride from Kingston, Dale.
An NHL record for penalties - in his first game
In 1968, he attended the Leafs training camp in Peterborough and made the team. His first game was on Oct. 1 in Toronto against the Pittsburgh Penguins - and what an inauspicious debut it was.
In the opening period, he was given two minor penalties. In the second, he got into altercations with four different Pittsburgh players.
"One guy wanted to fight me and then another would go after me," he recalls. "Next thing you know I was fighting everyone."
His tally of 48 penalty minutes - including two fighting majors, two misconducts and a game misconduct - set an NHL record at the time. And he only made it through most of the second period.
He was sent to the dressing room and sat by himself with his head in his hands. "What the hell happened," he thought at the time. He was sure that he would be sent down to Rochester and that his NHL career was over.
Moments later, General Manager King Clancy came into the dressing room and slapped him on the shoulder. "That's the kind of hockey we want to see. If you keep that up, you'll be with the Leafs a long time."
Then Punch Imlach arrived. The notoriously tightwad coach pulled out his wallet and gave Dorey $100 and told him to go out and have a night on the town.
As a result, his Leafs career was solid. However, so was his reputation as a fighter. In those days, fisticuffs were a big part of the game with one-on-one battles occasionally leading to bench-clearing brawls. The 1967 NHL expansion from six to 12 teams meant several franchises were weak on talent - so some players relied on their fists. The Philadelphia Flyers, known at the time as the Broad Street Bullies, come to mind.
"It was definitely a different era than today," Dorey notes. "I never went after anybody to fight, but I didn't run away from anyone either."
Unfortunately, Dorey's pugilistic prowess obscured the fact that he was a strong playmaker and skillful defender. That year he notched eight goals and 22 assists.
He remained with the Leafs for four years but there were rumours that he was about to jump to the fledgling World Hockey Association. The Leafs decided to trade him to the New York Rangers in 1972 rather than risk losing a player to the WHA. However, Dorey suffered a separated shoulder in his first game and only returned for the last game of the Stanley Cup finals, which saw the Bruins defeat the Rangers for the Cup.
At the time, the WHA had established 12 teams and that sent the demand for skilled players - and their salaries - soaring.
"The New York Rangers offered me $86,000 to play. However, the New England Whalers (of the WHA) gave me $100,000 to sign and $100,000 per year for three years."
When he jumped at the opportunity with the Whalers, the Rangers realized that they had to raise the salaries of their stars. "I made many of the Rangers millionaires," Dorey recalls.
In New England, Dorey had a great opportunity to shine. In 1973, he tallied seven goals and 56 assists. That year, he was one of the team leaders as the Whalers captured the league championship - and the uninspiringly named Avco Cup, which was sponsored by a consumer
After a short stint with the Toronto Toros, he joined the Quebec Nordiques in 1976. The separatist Parti Quebecois had just been elected and the province was in turmoil. "I spoke some French but it was not a good place for an English-speaking player at the time," he says.
Despite the political fisticuffs in Quebec, the team thrived. Dorey captured his second Avco Cup in 1977 as the Nordiques defeated the Winnipeg Jets. He played with the Nordiques until the WHA folded in 1979.
In 1981, the New York Rangers asked him to serve as a player-coach at their New Haven affiliate. After 21 games there, he called it quits. "I knew that wasn't what I wanted to do for a living," he says.
He headed back to Kingston to settle with his family. Despite his vow to avoid coaching, he signed on as an assistant coach with the Kingston Canadians for a brief period in 1984. In 1988, he and Don Gilmour (Doug Gilmour's father) filled in as head coaches when Jacques Tremblay quit after a feud with owner Lou Kazowski. However, he says those stints merit an asterisk. "They were aware that I didn't want to coach and that I was just filling in until they could find someone permanent."
Instead, he went on to a successful career as an insurance agent in Kingston. Now 73, he's retired and enjoys spending time with his wife Dale, his children and grandchildren.