Over a hundred plus years of Pembroke Lumber Kings hockey, the team has produced many great players, but only a few made it to the top hockey league in the world. Here’s a look back at some Lumber King alumni who spent time in the National Hockey League. It’s not an all-time list of the best players who played for the Kings, but it is an opportunity to acknowledge how good these players were as they developed into professional hockey players.
Let’s start with the captain of the Pembroke Little Lumber Kings in the 1935-36 season. Roy Giesebrecht had led the Lumber Kings to the Eastern Canadian Memorial Cup Final in his last junior season and his playing prowess had caught the attention of the Detroit Red Wings. Giesebrecht came from a family of hockey players from Petawawa. Of the six boys in the family, four of them played professionally, but it was Roy who made it to the NHL. Playing for the powerhouse Red Wings, Giesebrecht suited up in 135 games with Detroit from 1938 to 1942.
Giesebrecht cut short a promising NHL career to join Canada’s war effort at the conclusion of the 1941-42 season. His NHL totals were solid with 27 goals and 51 assists in 78 games. He cracked the Detroit line-up at a time when there were only six teams in the NHL. After the war he finished up his playing career with the Pembroke Senior Lumber Kings, leading the team to several runs at an Allan Cup championship, before retiring from the game following the 1951-52 season, the opening year for the Pembroke Memorial Centre.
In the early 1970’s the Lumber Kings produced a pair of NHL’ers who had solid professional careers. Both Tim Young and Rod Schutt were youngsters when they helped the Lumber Kings advance to the Centennial Cup championship series against the Portage La Prairie Terriers in the spring of 1973. The Kings were loaded with talent but the two teenagers made the line-up before moving on to the Ontario Hockey League where both continued to be scoring leaders, resulting in Young being drafted by the Los Angeles Kings and Schutt by the Montreal Canadiens.
Young was a first round pick of Los Angeles, sixteenth overall in the 1975 NHL draft, but was quickly traded to the Minnesota North Stars where he played most of his career. His numbers are impressive. He suited up for 629 games, scoring 195 goals and adding 341 assists for 536 points in a decade long career that spanned from 1975 to 1985.
Schutt had a shorter career in the NHL. The thirteenth overall pick in the 1976 NHL amateur draft, he had a hard time cracking a Montreal line-up that was filled with hall of famers and was in the midst of winning four consecutive Stanley Cups. He managed to break into the NHL for two games with the Habs in the 1977-78 season before they dealt him to the Pittsburgh Penguins where he earned a regular shift.
Schutt ended up playing 286 games in the NHL, scoring 77 goals and 92 assists for 169 points. His last stop in the big league was in 1985-86 when he played six games with the Toronto Maple Leafs before retiring.
Dainius Zubrus had a very short stay with the Lumber Kings, but he may also offer the most interesting story of Lumber Kings alumni who have graduated to the NHL. Zubrus had a long NHL career that included 1293 games, 228 goals, 363 assists and 591 points. He played for several NHL teams over his career, but what makes his story so compelling is that he advanced from playing junior A hockey with the Lumber Kings to the best league on the planet when he was chosen fifteenth overall in the 1996 amateur draft by the Philadelphia Flyers.
As a young boy, Zubrus had left his home in the Ukraine to pursue his hockey dreams. His agent had looked for the right fit to help him develop his skills and get noticed by pro scouts. He landed in Pembroke in the 1995-96 season where he played 28 games and picked up 32 points, including 19 goals. From Pembroke he moved to the city of brotherly love where he had 21 points in his rookie season, having completed an incredible jump over several leagues to go from Junior A to the National Hockey League.
There are so many more players who had stops with the Lumber Kings and eventually made it the NHL. The list includes Peter White who re-wrote the Central Canada Hockey League record books in the 1980’s when he put up a mind-boggling 226 points. White played 220 games in the NHL.
Then there’s PJ Stock who says he learned how to fight during his days in Pembroke, and despite being undersized, used his toughness to make it to the pros. Stock spent two years in the early 1990’s with the Lumber Kings before playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He got into 235 NHL games picking up 26 points and 523 penalty minutes.
The list also includes Jim Montgomery and Mike Eastwood, two players who developed under the tutelage of Lumber Kings legendary coach Jim Farelli in the 1980’s and Mathew Peca who was a late draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning after he helped the Lumber Kings win their only national junior A championship in 2011 with Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe behind the bench.
There are of course more players who came through Pembroke on their road to the NHL. This is just a small sample of why it’s fun to look back at some of the young men who played junior hockey in Pembroke and celebrate their accomplishments. You just never know who the next Lumber King will be who makes it to the National Hockey League.