Over the decades, the Pembroke Lumber Kings have produced a lot of great hockey players. Many of them are recognized on the Lumber Kings Wall of Honour in the Pembroke Memorial Centre, but only two former players have had their numbers retired.
In the case of Gale Linton and Ben Reinhardt’s retired sweaters, one is a story of tragedy and the other is an incredible junior hockey career that culminated with a national championship. Linton was a 18-year old forward who had produced a 42 point campaign in his rookie season with the Lumber Kings in 1971-72. He had received permission from the club to show up at training camp for the 1972-73 season a few days late because he was working in Western Canada, but on the evening of September 30, 1972 Linton was involved in a late night head on car crash near his Bancroft home. He died a few hours later.
Linton was to have played in an exhibition game against the Nepean Raiders on the day of his death, October 1, 1972. That night, coach Mac MacLean, shared the tragic news with his team just a few hours before they took to the ice. The players wore black arm bands and Lumber Kings President, Jack Minns, announced Linton’s number 11 jersey would become the first retired number in the storied history of the junior A franchise. Two days later, Linton’s teammates traveled to Bancroft for his funeral, many of the players acting as honorary pallbearers.
Ben Reinhardt grew up playing minor hockey in Arnprior. He made the Lumber Kings roster as a 16 year old defenceman in the 2006-07 season. That was the same year that Sheldon Keefe, the owner of the club retired as a professional hockey player and decided to try coaching. It was an incredible journey for both men as they put together a string of five consecutive championships, ending with Reinhardt captaining the Lumber Kings to their only national championship in the spring of 2011, a 2-0 win over Vernon, British Columbia in the RBC Cup title game in Camrose, Alberta.
Reinhardt went on to play college hockey in the United States and to his credit, Keefe made the decision to retire Reinhardt’s number 8 jersey acknowledging that the quiet leader of his team had done something that no other player in the history of the Central Canada Hockey League has achieved, win five consecutive championships. The banner raising in January of 2012 for Reinhardt’s retired jersey was special, but it also brought into question why Linton did not have a banner as well in the rafters of the Pembroke Memorial Centre. In March of 2019, 46 years after his passing, the Linton family attended a banner raising ceremony for the first Lumber King to have his sweater retired.
An argument can be made that there are several other players who deserve to have their numbers retired such as Luc Chabot who set a league record with 101 goals in a season or Peter While who holds the single season record for points with 226 points. There is also Roy Giesebrecht who starred with the Pembroke Little Lumber Kings in the 1930’s, leading to a career in the National Hockey League with the Detroit Red Wings. All of these players are on the Lumber Kings Wall of Honour, but only the numbers 8 and 11 worn by Reinhardt and Linton hang atop the historic Pembroke Memorial Centre, a lasting tribute to two players who will always be remembered by Lumber Kings fans.