When Lionel Barber was 20 years old he was the youngest player on the Pembroke Senior Lumber Kings roster when he took the ice at the brand new Pembroke Memorial Centre. It was November 14, 1951 and the fresh smell of paint was all through the arena as the players skated in front of a sell out crowd of more than 2,400 people. The Lumber Kings were hosting the Montreal Canadiens in an exhibition game and Barber’s job was to watch the most prolific scorer the NHL had ever seen, Maurice “Rocket” Richard.
Lumber Kings Coach Cully Simon had given Barber the assignment because he was young and Simon figured Barber would be the best bet to stay on top of Richard, but he was wrong. After the Lumber Kings jumped to a 2-0 lead, the Rocket took over. With the Habs in possession of the puck in the Lumber Kings zone, Richard skated out to centre ice. Barber followed him because that’s what Simon had told him to do. “Wherever the Rocket goes, you stick with him,” the coach had told the kid who a year earlier had won a Memorial Cup with the Barrie Flyers.
So, Barber followed Richard to centre, even though he felt foolish. Then it happened. The Rocket roared into the Lumber Kings zone taking a pass from Elmer Lach who was in the corner and beat Lumber Kings netminder Fred Murphy with a quick shot that got the Canadiens rolling. Barber had been hoodwinked by the Rocket, who went on to score two goals in the game as Montreal spoiled the Lumber Kings party with a 6-3 win.
(Photo: 1951-52 Pembroke Senior Lumber Kings. Lionel Barber is middle row-left wearing number 18. Cully Simon is in front row-centre wearing number 2.)
Decades later, Barber’s eyes lit up as he shared the story of how he chased the Rocket during an interview with Your TV cable television. The Canadiens came back to Pembroke a few more times in the 1950’s for exhibition games but none of those contests were as special as opening night at the PMC so many years ago. It’s another great chapter in Pembroke Lumber Kings history.
Come cheer on the Lumber Kings at their home opener on Sunday, September 22nd at 7 p.m. when they face the Smiths Falls Bears. Make it a special opening night for your family.