Mac Haig's childhood hockey scrapbooks
now in Hall of Fame
By Bruce Huff,
Whats this? A Londoner in the Hockey Hall of Fame?
Well, not really. But his prized childhood scrapbooks and
a stick signed by the 1948-49 Montreal Canadians are now enshrined
in the mecca of hockey in downtown Toronto.
Credit Hockey Hall of Fame resource centre curator Phil Pritchard
for engineering the collection of scrapbooks and memorabilia
that Londons Mac Haig put together while growing up in
his native Belleville.
Haig, a retired London Free Press reporter, could hardly
wait for the Belleville Intelligencer to arrive every day so
he could clip the activities of the Original Six NHL teams and
paste them into his scrapbooks.
Articles and pictures of anything hockey from other publications
such as the Toronto Star and its iconic Star Weekly magazine
also made their way into Haigs scrapbooks.
Of particular interest to the Hockey Hall were the bulging
scrapbooks that chronicled the career of the Canadiens
colourful and often explosive Maurice (Rocket) Richard whom Haig
And then there were the scrapbooks filled with clippings
relating to Haigs hometown Belleville McFarlands of Allan
Cup and World championship fame during the late 1950s.
It was at the Celebration of Senior Hockey last
August at ex-New York Ranger Walt Tkaczuks River Valley
Golf Club near St. Marys where the Haig collection caught Pritchards
eye. Pritchard had brought the Allan Cup, awarded to the winner
of the national senior hockey championship, and many of yesterdays
heroes were on hand to relive senior hockeys golden era
of the 1950s through the 80s.
There were scores of artifacts and other scrapbooks, but
it was the Haig collection that grabbed Pritchards attention.
Then he learned of Haigs post-war clippings of the Rocket
and the Original Six.
Haig, along with colleague and pal George Hutchison, a retired
newspaper and political correspondent who at one time toiled
for the Free Press, was a guest of Pritchard back in the fall.
Hutch recorded the visit with his trusty camera and some of the
photos accompany this epistle.
There are gems
between the tattered Haig scrapbook covers, Hutchison wrote.
One is a glossy photograph of a young goalie, Gordie Bell,
in a Maple Leaf sweater, later to backstop the McFarlands to
international fame. There is the full statement by then-NHL president
Clarence Campbell on the suspension of the Rocket that triggered
the famed St. Patricks Day riot in 1955 and almost caused
Campbell grievous harm.
The Rocket was Haigs idol and on a sports celebrity
swing through London, the retired Habs star was introduced to
the scrapbooks. Haig and Richard pored over the yellowing clippings
that marked some of the high points of a career unlike any other
in hockey history.
The Rocket pulled out a pen and autographed a number
of photographs, which were taken when he was one of the most
feared forwards on ice. The signatures are a further enhancement
of the collection.
It was a labour of love, Haig said of his scrapbook
project. It spanned 12 years, from the 1946-47 season to 1957-58,
the heydays of the likes of Richard and Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe.
And then - just as I was out-growing my extensive scrapbooks
- up popped the Belleville McFarlands. Two more years and another
two scrapbooks ensured as the proceeded to win the Allan Cup
in 1958 and the World Hockey Championship a year later.
Im thrilled that these old treasures of mine
have a home in perpetuity and may well serve some useful purpose,
Along with other scrapbooks and artifacts within the archives
of the Hall of Fame, they will help sports historians and descendents
of former greats relive the excitement of the forties and fifties
Pritchard said the collection offers a special perspective
Macs scrapbooks on the McFarlands and the NHL
add to the story of hockey in the 50s, he said. I
think what is the unique about it, is you get a fans perspective
on the games and tournaments. Anybody can read the stats, but
with scrapbooks you truly get a feel of how the game was played.
The aforementioned Gordie Bell was a journeyman minor league
goalie who played eight games with Toronto in 1945-46 and two
with the New York Rangers in 1955-56. Born in Portage la Prairie
on March 13, 1925, he died in Belleville on Nov. 3, 1980. He
is a member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame.
As an aside, it
was a Londoner, the late Ray Getliffe who gave Richard his nickname
Rocket. Getliffe, inducted into the London Sports Hall of Fame
in 2004, was a teammate of Richard when the Habs won the Stanley
Cup in 1944.
It was at a practice when Getliffe and linemates Murph Chamberlain
and Phil Watson were getting ready to replace the Punch Line
of Toe Blake, Elmer Lach and Richard on the ice. Getliffe happened
to remark, as Richard sped past the bench: Geez, look at
that Richard. Just like a rocket!
Some enterprising writers were sitting within earshot and
the next days editions bore the headlines Le Comet
and the Rocket. Of course, there are conflicting
stories of who wrote the story first.
Hutchison put a nice finishing touch on the Hall of Fame
saga by saying it might have been the extensive cutting and pasting
of newspaper and magazine clippings as a youth that drew Haig
into the news game. Now in retirement in London, he was a senior
reporter and editorial writer with the Free Press for 32 years.
1 - Mac Haig's chronicled exploits of hometown Belleville
MacFarlands. (George Hutchison photo).
2 - Gordie Bell backstopped Belleville title drives. (Maple
3 - Mac Haig, left, and Hall of Fame curator Phil Pritchard
with Rocket Richard jersey. (George Hutchison photo)
Bruce Huff is a former sports columnist/editor with the
London Free Press, Toronto Sun and Toronto Star. He is a member
and chairman emeritus of the London Sports Hall of Fame, one
of six halls of fame where he has been honoured.