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Minor Hockey, Southern California 60's-'70's

November 2007 Edition

1966, SPRING PRACTICE, NORWALK, CALIFORNIA

Before I accepted North American Aviation's offer to move to Southern California I checked Los Angeles phone books to determine if there were ice rinks in the area. I lived in Downey 6 weeks or so before my family arrived so  I skated at Paramount Iceland a couple of times. The moving van arrived in Anaheim in January 1963 at a new house we had bought for a few hundred down. It was 2 years before I looked up the area hockey programs for my boys.  Anne and the kids had gone back to Massachusetts for her grandfather's funeral in about February 1965 so I got out my folder on 'things to look into in Southern California'. I went to the Norwalk Ice Rink and learned the times for youth hockey. I can recall clearly going to the rink on a saturday morning and asking who was coach of the little kids. I was directed to Ernie Rucks in the snack bar. He was taking his skates off after  a practice.  He was delighted to have some one with two boys who was also volunteering to help. I watched some rather loose practice session. Ernie told me that it was very close to the end of their season and invited me to come to their hockey banquet in a few weeks to meet the other kids and parents.

I have never forgotten driving to Whittier on a Sunday afternoon in the Spring of '66 with my two boys dressed in suits. The other kids were spiffed up but not in suits. Joe was six years and a few months old and Ben was nearing 4 and 1/2 years old. We were invited to join what was called 'spring practice' which started in a few weeks. I went to the few skate and hockey shops in the area and bought the boys their first skates. We promptly went skating in the mountains at an artificial rink, outdoors at Lake Arrowhead and probably some other places. Joe took off on his own, sort of walking around the ice which we have on film. Ben would skate a little but only if I held his hand. Spring practice required some equipment so I bought them hockey helmets, the old fashioned open kind but of plastic, a red one and a blue one, shin guards and gloves. I made pants, shoulder and elbow pads from football equipment I bought at Goodwill type stores. Later I found Goodman's for equipment in downtown L.A. and befriended Dick Ecker.
Joe III 6 yrs and  me, Spring '66, Norwalk. Ben,Spring '66 4 yrs 4 mths  Laura Sloan advising Kevin with the C on his jersey.
Proud papa, Lynnfield MA with the boys equipment so they could play at HockeyTown Melrose and pond hockey in Lynn and Lincoln.

The first practices were loose and informal and the boys liked it. Ben still wouldn't skate unless I held his hand so we would go round and round. Willard Nelson brought out a small chair for the little guys and Ben pushed that around until he was able to skate on his own.  Like some others I observed later in coaching, once he took off, he 'really took off'. It turned out he barely needed to touch the ice.

At some point in those early practices I can recall talking with Fred Barrett, Ab Kennedy, Pete Lambert and others about how to keep spring practice going. After the season's last playoff games, the older boys dropped out and I think we had a small meeting in the rink office and somehow I was designated Vice President or something to organize spring practice. Dave Barros and Willard Nelson had their sons  Bruce Barros and Wade Nelson in my son's age bracket and we shared the duties of not only running the practices on saturday mornings but maintaining the rink. Willard was also a member of the curler's association. The owner of the rink was an older Italian, 'Old Joe',  who lived next door in a house surrounded by a garden. He had built the rink years before for a place 'the kids could go to'. It was falling into serious disrepair and we made efforts to buy it but instead accepted a low rental rate with the understanding we would make repairs. The first big item was an early model Zamboni, jeep mounted which Dave Barros worked on every week until he got it working ok. There were broken windows. The place needed paint among other things. Gradually we fixed it up, mainly by a few fathers, like Willard Nelson and Orville Sloan who lived near the rink. With the exception of myself and Orville all mentioned so far were Canadian. Orville was from Van Buren, Arkansas.


MIGHTY MITE Division, 1966-67

I can recall Dave and I realizing the kids weren't learning much, playing mostly free for all with older boys mixed in so I got some coaching books and made up some practice sheets. I think we played until June and started in again in September. By then the league, the Greater Los Angeles Minor Hockey Association had decided to form a Mighty Mite Division. I believe they had only formed a sketchy Squirt division the year before. I know that just two years before Peewee was the youngest division and chaos reigned as younger boys made trips across L.A., 20-30 miles and barely got on the ice for games. The group had also been playing at the Paramount rink but hockey had once again been expelled from there due to breakage from pucks and I believe non payment for ice rental. The first jerseys the kids inherited were those of the Paramount teams, red, white and blue, vaguely resembling the Montreal Canadians uniforms.

The Greater Los Angeles Minor Hockey Association, GLAMHA, had been formed in about 1959 with four teams with Carl Adams as a primary founder. By 1973 when I wrote a summary letter to the parents it had 130 teams with 2300 boys playing.  At that time the teams associations and their home rinks were;

Bay Harbor Red Wings, Olympic Arena, Western Ave, Harbor City next to Torrance
Burbank had the Pickwick ice and recreation center
Culver City was called 'Coast Cities'
Norwalk, Shoemaker Ave, Southeastern Maroons then Southeastern Blues
North Hollywood
Ontario had a tiny rink with railings along the sides
Pasadena Maple Leafs had played in 'the old rink', iron rails on one side, till it was torn down for a postoffice. They 'scrambled' around for ice time till a new rink was up in '73.
Santa Monica had a converted low ceiling store for awhile
South Coast Sabers, Ice Capades Chalet, Costa Mesa.
Tarzana rink's club was called 'West Valley'
Topanga Plaza had an Ice Capades Chalet
Van Nuys Hawks played in a small, shabby rink near the courthouse in Van Nuys.
Whittier/La Habra Polar Kings, rink new in about '69
West Covina also had an 'old rink' doing 'yeoman' duty for many years.

That mix changed as did GLAMHA split it's schedule into 'north and south'. My sons had dropped out before that so someone else will have to write up that transition period.

Back to 1966; I was designated Mighty Mite team manager and Dave Barros the coach. There were I think only three other Mighty Mite teams that first year, Pasadena, Culver City and Bay Harbor. I can recall driving my '56 Ford Custom 2 door with my  two boys, Kevin Sloan and Bruce Barros to the old Pasadena Winter Gardens rink for an exhibition game. We were loaned the orange jerseys you can see in the picture below.  A notable event that day was Peggy Fleming and her mother watching what was probably their first 'mite' game.Peggy also practiced some at Norwalk close to our ice times.

Norwalk Mites '66 1967 Anaheim Bulletin article GLAMHA kids, circa '67-'68
Dick Ecker's card
I made up 'lesson plans' for practices with homework sheets for the kids to fill out. They were assigned to color in areas on the ice which were their 'zones/lanes' given what position they were playing. I still have some of those sheets.Others showed the offside rules very clearly in 'kid talk'. I ran them on a mimeo machine the club dug up somewhere which we set up in my garage.

That first year, 'bunching up' after the puck was our biggest problem and I can still hear Dave bellow, 'you're bunching up'. It took some more sophisticated practices with cones and sticks on the ice to get the 'zone' concept across.

I openly expressed my need to know more about coaching so some great Canadians, the Costello's and Flanagans from Cornwall helped out. They had been into minor hockey there and they gave me addresses to write to for cases of books of rules, how to coach, etc, and some came up with program covers from Coca Cola. We played by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association rulebooks of which we had enough for every player, parent with many leftover.

In those first two years Mike Flanagan refereed and coaching the older boys. Mike Costello later coached my son Ben for a couple of years.

Our immediate practice session surprise was that our 'natural', Kevin Sloan who lived quite near the rink could demonstrate what we asked him to for the kids better than Dave, myself or MacDougall, our assistant coach from Sarnia, Ontario . He was such a natural the L.A. Kings had him as their mascot before he was a second year Squirt. He would come out for the Kings first warmup skate in a minature Kings uniform. We had kids who could barely skate on the same team with Kevin and my son Joe when they won the Mighty Mite league championship.


State Champs, Norwalk Mites '68

The next year, the 'league championship' proved to Dave and I that winning 'championships' was not worth hearing the parents scream and hear pressure being put on the kids. A memorable example was in the Ice Capades Chalet in the Topanga Plaza.  I went outside the ice area and stood watching through the glass with some parents to prove my point. Dave later also left the bench and had Orval Sloan open the door for line changes. The kids knew who 'was next'. The parents 'got my point'.  After the game the kids from both teams in the same dressing room, asked, 'Who won, anyway?' and went on comparing toys they had brought in their bags.

ORGANIZING AND PROMOTING IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
In L.A. we faced 'commercial' value of land versus 'recreational ice rinks'.  We had to prove to many rink owners that  year round hockey programs were a reliable income base. In the '60's I very likely set some sort of record promoting minor and open hockey via community newspapers, bulletin boards and free ads in every 'shopper' rag in the basin. My area code was 714 (Orange County), the phone company had to discontinue my number, 776- 2281 in the 213 (L.A) area due to the volume of calls with the wrong prefix. And I did it at my minimal expense other than 'time'.  Organizations with profit motives expanded the number of players in the late '70's with 'adult beginner leagues'. Just in time to keep some rinks open but too late for a few which closed when hardly 'broken in'.  I knew every figure skating 'mogul' also and between our organizations we aided several rinks.

Our fast, center red line, full checking calibre of play shocked many emigres from 'hockey country'.  A well established  doubt raising comment to us by a new  parent was that their boy had been an 'allstar' from where they had moved.  We gave him a fair chance but over 50% of them would drop out.


COACHING tips, cultural anecdotes, organizational ideas, etc.

I had some books, Jack Riley's for one and got some others from the Anaheim Library, but our biggest 'revelation' was watching the pros at their practices or when we hired them to run summer schools and clinics. Most impressive practice I ever saw was Quebec Nordiques in the mid '80's at the Brea Mall. Most impressive school for my son Ben, was Eddie Shack's.

I had a good reunion with Jack Kelley from my hometown Belmont Massachusetts at the Peewee Nationals in S. California in 1968.  In a long career starting with our high school Jack has been at Colby College, Boston University and the NE Whalers. I was tournament chair for the day the Norwood Nuggets played our local team. Jack was funny. He said no hockey had ever made him as nervous as watching his own son. Jack was amazed at how our boys could skate in California. I told him how hard we had driven them for our one hour per week practices. We ran practices exactly like the pros who helped us. whistles, stop, start, kids could hardly move when it was over and that's what the parents wanted. We held back pucks for over half of many sessions. We taught them to skate backwards, pivot on defense and how to take a check. After the kids watched the pros practice and went to their summer schools they caught on more easily. I had fathers who gave me permission to pick up their sons by the shoulder pads and dump them over the wall if they disrupted practices. I've never forgotten the expression on one kid's face when I did what his parents permitted. He behaved after that.

We had interesting backgrounds. Dave's parents were missionaries in Argentina and he and his brother as teenagers had gone back to Toronto where they had been born. Dave had played in 'biff-bang' industrial leagues. MacDougall had grown up in Sarnia, Ontario and played amateur hockey there up to junior level. He was an engineer with Fluor and got transferred to Saudi Arabia.

Well over half the parents were Canadians and they had a great fear that minor hockey in S. California would be spoiled by 'yanks' who did not understand the game.  From memory I'd say nearly all officers, coaches, referees, that is 'the principals' including supportive parents were originally from Canada. They already had some bad experiences so I was watched very carefully. I knew what they meant when I heard 'yanks' spout out their ideas on changing the game. The local Canadians bad experiences had caused them not to open up the peewee leagues to the general public. We all decided however that we had to expand in order to maintain a decent amount of reliable ice time at respectable hours. As a 'reward' for speaking out on these ideas I was voted in as club president for '66-67 and also was Mighty Mite VP for the league. I had an excellent board and with team work we vastly improved organization, the appearance of the rink and were quickly a 'shining example' for the league. Some other club's officers told me the league had considered expelling the club  for chaos and rough play in previous years.

Later I realized I had come along at just the right time for the club since a few top rank hockey coaches were close to burnout from having to fight organizational battles. One team was nearly a year behind in dues. My ex, Anne, showed up at 6 am for that team's practice and would not let anyone on the ice until they paid up. The sight of a 5'2", 115 lb woman blocking their way sent all of them scurrying for money. It seems books of trading stamps were also acceptable. Some drove back home for money.

The most significant difference from my Massachusetts homestate hockey was the use of 'pro' rules as written by the CAHA, Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, adopted in full by the Greater Los Angeles Minor Hockey Association. All controversies were rightfully judged as referee decisions. A shove in the Mite division might get two minutes where as in the Bantams it would hardly be noticed. We had enough rule books to give to every kid with extras for the parents.

I refereed for a few years and enjoyed it more with the little kids. I stopped more than one game until coaches stopped screaming or some kid calmed down and stopped crying 'cause the coach told me I had to get the faceoff and score'. My own boys took penalties along with anyone else. I had to tell some referees not to let them get away with what I knew they were doing. Joe III set the whole rink roaring laughing in San Diego one saturday by punching away at a much taller kid in the stomach. He was on the  Squirt Los Angeles Hockey Club team the first year they played a peewee schedule. They had 9-10 players for the whole season.  The San Diego peewee apparently 'took him for granted'. They both got penalties. The team defeated the Northern California champs Berkeley 32 to 1 in a two game series at the Culver rink. Despite the score it was a fun game and the Berkeley parents feted us after the game at the rink.


Los Angeles Hockey Club Squirts 1969-70
Back: Rob O'Rourke, Bruce Barros, Mark Gibson, Joe Nix, Mitch Chetchick
Front: George Lawes, Kevin Sloan, Tim Tremblay, David Moorhead, Brian Stripsky

The league covered a wide area, Topanga, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Culver City, Norwalk, Torrance, Tarzana and Van Nuys. The San Diego games were 'exhibition'. In the early '70's the league split, sort of 'north and south' to reduce travel.

I had quite a desire to coach kids but until I got back playing I realized I was too tense. Despite focusing on the whole team, I couldn't teach one son to lift the puck with a hard shot although dozens of others caught on quickly. We fathers realized our sons often played better when we were not with them so we had 'tradeoffs' which I needed since my boys were on different teams after the first two years. Luckily the Buterbaughs near us in Anaheim also got into the league. Interesting side note; I 'caught up' with Randy and Cary Buterbaugh in February 1999 when briefly we were in the same league in Springdale Arkansas.

After 6 years I realized I had become 'too involved', putting a strain on myself so I backed off and later coached our youngest son in soccer. Also my boys decided when they were Peewee age that they wanted to quit so I let them.

Joe's last team Bay Harbor Peewee Gold.     Front row, from left: Darryl Carlbom, Brian Stripsky, Brian Harris, Dale Hayes, Chet Carlbom. Back row, from left: Ben Cardas, Coach , Assistant Coach Riley (?), ?, ?, Chris Coates, Nigel Freight, Robert Cejka, Hugh Elder, Randy Martin, Howie Lobb, Greg Ayres, Scott Cejka, Manager Herb Carlbom, Assistant Coach Jim Ford.,  Mrs. Elder was team rep. Herb  and I helped run practices.. 
Joe's BMHA Peewee Gold '70-'71  pic

My sons had also played football, baseball and some basketball from age 6 to 13. Joe III was on his high school water polo team a couple of years, Andy the football team and Ben could have been on the baseball team but opted to work.

Our concept of expanding the program was successful. My ex and I brought a lot of kids back into hockey who had quit because of careless coaches and club management. I still have the 3 by 5 cards we got from the club on 'former players'. We would call them, usually they lived 10 to 30 miles from us. With more players the club had to decide how to have two teams in several divisions. I proposed they be nearly equal and that was accepted, although with some grumbling. Prior to that expansion ranks had thinned drastically at the Bantam level.

Expansion supported some championships later on, including Junior B National Champions in 1977. Jerry Wilhite of the Bay Harbor Minor Hockey Association emailed that the Bay Harbor Jr Kings went to the Jr B National championships  in '76 and '77. They finished in third place in '76 and first in '77, being the first team from California to win a National Championship.   Chet Carlbom was on those teams and coached for BMHA in 2003-04.  They were listed as 'Los Angeles' on the USA Hockey National Championship, All Time Winners by Division webpage listing.  Craig Carroll was the last goaltender cut for that team and reports that Ludi Graf was head coach with help from Guy Le Page (ex Whittier Polar Kings.) and Whitey Scherer, trainer and associate coach from the San Diego area. Scherer also coached the Jr Kings in the 1978 championship game, losing 5 to 3 to the New Jersey Rockets, despite outshooting the Rockets something like 53 to 21. Bruce Barros and Craig Carroll were on the LA team, Bob Barich goaltender for New Jersey went on to Boston University. Brian Foster of the New Jersey team is currently (2002), athletic director for Trinity Pawling.

Merrit Maddux emailed on May 19, 2006

"You have a wonderful web-site that has brought back some great memories.  I am writing to let you know that your SoCal Hockey Alumni in the NHL page should include Chris Chelios.
 
He was a teammate on the '78-79 LAHA Midget AAA team that placed #3 in the AHAUS nationals, losing in the semi-finals to eventual champion Grosse Pointe, MI.
 
The 1st line center on that team was Paul Matthews, who was the team's leading scorer. Jack Erickson coached the team that included players from Pasadena to San Diego. Chris played 2nd line center.
 
Although from Chicago, Chris Chelios moved to San Diego and played for the San Diego midget team in '77-'78 and the LAHA Midget AAA team in '78-'79. Home ice for the team was the Klondike rink in Costa Mesa."
  

GLAMA History Timeline
 


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