On Saturday, February 22nd in Toronto and on Hockey Night in Canada, a 42-year old Zamboni driver became the oldest goaltender in National Hockey League history to win his first NHL start. It was a night to remember for David Ayres who was thrown into emergency duty when both of Carolina’s goaltenders were injured in the game, forcing Ayres who sometimes practices with the Maple Leafs, to suit up mid-way through the second period.
The night started poorly for Ayres who gave up two quick Toronto goals, but the Leafs couldn’t beat him in the third period as Carolina celebrated a 6-3 win over Toronto, on a night that former Pembroke Lumber Kings coach and current Leafs coach, Sheldon Keefe, would rather forget. To say the whole thing was surreal would be an understatement, but it had us thinking about a few bizarre games in Lumber Kings history.
We’ll start our reflection with the 1973 Centennial Cup national championship series between the Lumber Kings and Portage La Prairie Terriers. After the Kings had dropped the first two games to the Terriers, they were shortchanged in game three played in Brandon, Manitoba. Trailing 3-1 with just over six minutes left in the third period and frustrated by a slew of penalties his team had been assessed, Kings coach Mac MacLean went ballistic when two of his players were penalized on the same play. When his players protested the calls, referee Bill Chapple abruptly dropped the puck and issued a delay of game penalty against the Kings. That was too much for MacLean who levied a string of insults at the official who promptly called the game off, leading to an official protest by the Kings.
While MacLean argued the official had “choked,” under pressure, Chapple’s decision was upheld resulting in the only game in Centennial Cup history to be stopped by an official before a full sixty minutes of regular play had been completed. Portage la Prairie went on to win the series in five games denying the Lumber Kings their first national championship.
In that same season, the Lumber Kings were involved in one of the craziest games in the history of the Central Canada Hockey League, however they weren’t playing in the game. During the 1972-73 campaign, Pembroke had a powerhouse team that no one wanted to face in the playoffs. The Smiths Falls Bears and Brockville Braves were separated by only one point in the league standings and were desperately trying to avoid meeting Pembroke so they intentionally tried to throw a game against each other late in the season.
The teams were actually scoring on their own nets making a travesty of the game in one of the most embarrassing episodes in league history. While the league and Ottawa District Hockey Association acted quickly by issuing lengthy suspensions against both coaches, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association went a step further, barring both teams from competing in the playoffs. That left Pembroke to play Gloucester in a best of nine league final, which Pembroke swept on its way to the Centennial Cup championship series.
There have been plenty of fisticuffs and verbal battles over the decades involving the Lumber Kings and their opponents, but on November 6, 1988 Kings coach Jim Farelli took it a bit too far when he head butted Kanata coach Archie Mulligan near centre ice at the Pembroke Memorial Centre. Farelli was livid after he felt the Lasers were crashing the Lumber Kings net, and as the second period ended he challenged Mulligan to a fist fight, taking a walk across the ice and meeting Mulligan near the Lasers bench.
As the two coaches prepared to battle, Farelli surged forward, driving his forehead into Mulligan’s nose. The crowd was stunned. Fortunately, the encounter didn’t go any further and remarkably both coaches received only a one game suspension for their actions. All these years later, the head butt remains a favoured story of long time Lumber Kings season ticket holders.
Opening night at the Pembroke Memorial Centre on November 14, 1951 was also a memorable experience for the packed audience that watched the Pembroke Senior Lumber Kings take on the Montreal Canadiens. The new building was having some challenges, particularly with electricity. The lights kept going out and the Habs who had already started their regular season were annoyed, particularly Rocket Richard.
Trying to find a quick solution to the problem, rink manager Morris Snyder found a young rink rat and handed him a hockey stick, telling Barty Ball, to wedge the stick against the breakers that kept tripping. It worked and the game was played. That story didn’t surface until years later when Snyder shared it with long time Lumber Kings radio voice Art Gallagher.
And speaking of opening nights to remember, the 2019 home opener for the Lumber Kings was called midway through the second period because fog in the nearly 70 year old PMC made the playing conditions too dangerous to play in. The game was replayed in its entirety a few days later, but it started with Smiths Falls leading Pembroke 2-1, the score when the game was called by the officials.
Bizarre things sometimes happen in hockey, but only a few fans get to say they were at the game when something out of this world takes place. If you’re lucky enough to be there, it’s a memory you will keep for the rest of your life.