Bob Sneddon….Memories flow at WMHA celebration
They came to give thanks and to trade stories during Saturday’s 50th anniversary celebration of the Windsor Minor Hockey Association, and for the NHL players who were among the WMHA’s pioneers, it quickly became apparent what was the fondest memory from those days that they treasured.
Taking it indoors.
“Going from the outdoor rinks and finally getting to play in the arena,” former NHL goaltender Bob Sneddon recalled as his biggest WMHA thrill, a memory shared by ex-NHLer Rick Kehoe.
“I thought that Windsor Arena was so big when I was a kid,” Kehoe recalled. “ When you got to Windsor Arena, that was it.” Kehoe’s impressions lost some of their lustre when he returned to skate at the barn as a pro. “When I was with Pittsburgh, we came back and played Detroit in an (NHL) exhibition game at Windsor Arena. It just so happened that year, Pat Boutette was in Pittsburgh and Ted Bulley came to Pittsburgh, so you’ve got three Windsor-area guys on the team. We go in there and in the warm-up I’m skating around and I said, ‘Man, this place is small. There’s no room out here.’”
Like Sneddon, Kehoe cut his hockey teeth while they chattered on an outdoor ice surface. “I played at Optimist Park on the outdoor rink,” he said. “We just came over the tracks from where I grew up in Remington Park. A good friend of mine, Al Dade, he said, ‘Let’s go over and try out.’ It was peewee hockey and we ended up making the team. In bantam I played at Lanspeary Park and I played for Anderson Funeral Home. At my age (59), I remember that name a little more.”
Sneddon described his biggest Windsor hockey memory as one that came at Windsor Arena. “Getting called up (from junior B) by the (Windsor) Bulldogs (seniors) to play against the Russians,” Sneddon said. “I played one period against the Russian team, and I think we were the first team to beat them. I was playing my last year of junior B then, so I would have been 17 or 18.”
For the more modern players, different recollections came to the fore. “In peewee, going to the Quebec tournament – we didn’t end up winning it, but we went a pretty long way,” remembered Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski of his WMHA days. “It’s always been run first-class and it’s always good to come back and see the people.” Jovanovski first played with the WMHA when he was 11. “When it came down to hockey, a couple of years into it, I knew this was something that I wanted to do.”
For Columbus Blue Jackets assistant coach and Windsor Spitfires co-owner Bob Boughner, his rewind button doesn’t stop at one WMHA moment. “It’s not so much one memory,” Boughner said. “A lot of the guys I played with in Windsor minor hockey, I still keep in touch with those guys today. There’s some friendships I’ve had for a long time. I had a couple of their kids last week at the Spitfires hockey school.
“The biggest honour was when (WMHA) dedicated the dressing room to me at Adie Knox Herman Arena. They called it the Bob Boughner dressing room and put some of my pictures up. It was a great thing for them to do.”
Kehoe launched his WMHA career in 1961. “At that time it was growing, it was just starting out, and the people in it, I remember they had a lot of passion for the game,” he said. “I can remember going down to Windsor Arena. I got to know Sedo Martinello really well. I used to go into his office and the guys would be sitting around telling stories about the Bulldogs winning the Allan Cup. I thought that was great.”
Mostly, when he comes to Windsor and sees those who impacted his hockey career as a youth, Kehoe has one goal in mind. “You run into them now, you know that they spent their time coaching us, or organizing something for us, and you just want to thank them,” he said. “It’s good memories.”
Memories that have lasted a lifetime. “All the early mornings that my parents had to take me to the rink with my sisters in tow,” Sneddon remembered. “It was just a fun time. It was fun and that’s what it was all about.”
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