Kingston's Golden Era of Hockey
The 1950's and 60's was the Golden Era for hockey in Kingston, as local teams won numerous Ontario championships. The pinnacle was in 1967 when Kingston captured three Ontario championships. The Senior A Aces and the Senior B Merchants won provincial hockey crowns, while the Kingston Centennials capped off the local Triple Crown by winning the Ontario Senior A baseball title.
Fifty years later, the Aces are remembered as one of the greatest teams in Kingston's storied hockey history. A late season 15-game winning streak carried them to a first-place regular season finish and ultimately the league title.
Young players and veterans
"We owed our success to great coaching from Major Danny McLeod and a powerful combination of young players and veterans," says Ron Earl, who recently helped organize a team reunion.
On the road to the Ontario championship, the Aces got great goaltending from Tom Mercer, named the league's top goalie and a first team all-star. Captain Bill Burega was also an all-star and finished second in the league MVP voting. The team's leading scorer, Davey Jones, the only 'import' on the team who was from Belleville, finished second in league scoring and was named an all-star.
Earl says the fact that almost all the players were from Kingston played in the team's favour. "We all knew each other well and everyone worked hard together." The players would do their day jobs or attend Queen's during the week and then hit the road on the weekend, often playing three games in as many days.
Incredible Kingston fan support
Teammate Tom Carty credits the fan support for motivating the Aces on to victory. "For regular season games we would get 1,500 to 2,500 fans at the Memorial Centre and you knew many of them personally," he says.
In the playoffs, the toughest opponent for the Aces was the Galt Hornets. Galt led the series and Kingston was forced to win Game Six on the road and Game Seven back home in front of 4,300 fans at the Memorial Centre. They beat Woodstock in the league final to advance to the Allan Cup play downs. After eliminating Morrisburg to win the Ontario championship, Kingston lost to Drummondville, Quebec, the eventual Allan Cup champs.
The following season the Aces were chosen to represent Canada at the Spengler Cup tournament in Switzerland. Earl describes the tournament as an exciting opportunity, although he says there wasn't much time for sightseeing - they played 17 games in 21 days. The Aces captured a silver medal in the tournament.
The Senior B Merchants
The Senior B Merchants were champions in their own right. Their rugged captain, Gary Lavallee, was the heart and soul of the team on and off the ice. The Merchants swept Wallaceburg in three straight to capture the Ontario title. Jim Stinson, Paul O'Sullivan and Pete Robertson were among the top forwards. Bud Stewart, Len Coyle and Dennis O'Donnell anchored the blue line with Lavallee, and Wayne Nichols was solid in goal. The following year the Merchants won a second Ontario championship, capturing the Ontario Intermediate A title.