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The Red Kelly Story by Leonard "Red" Kelly

The life and times of the eight-time Stanley Cup winner

When Boston coach Lynn Patrick was asked who he’d pick between Rocket Richard or Gordie Howe he answered, “Neither! I’ll take Red Kelly!” The only player to have won eight Stanley Cups without playing for Montreal, Red began his life in hockey on the cedar swamps near Port Dover, Ontario, and went on to win accolades and championships as a Detroit Red Wing and Toronto Maple Leaf.

Go back in time with Red as he reminisces about his childhood: the time he nearly drowned; when he brought St. Michael’s College to three provincial championships; and his jump into a career with the NHL where sportsmanlike conduct won him multiple Lady Byng trophies. While playing with the Leafs, he served as member of parliament in Lester Pearson’s government. After retiring in 1967 as a player, Red coached for a decade in the NHL with Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Toronto. This is a fascinating biography of a life well lived — on and off the ice.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781770413153
Publisher: ECW Press
Publication date: 10/11/2016
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 1,299,237
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)
Lexile: 1010L (what's this?)

About the Author

Leonard “Red” Kelly played 20 seasons in the NHL. He became a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969 and the Order of Canada in 2002. He and his wife, figure skating champion Andra McLaughlin, live in Toronto, Ontario. L. Waxy Gregoire is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research, and author of three books on hockey legends. He lives in Penetanguishene, Ontario. David M. Dupuis, a former goaltender and coach, is also a member of SIHR, and the author of Sawchuk: The Troubles and Triumphs of the World’s Greatest Goalie. He lives in Toanche, Ontario. Waxy and David co-authored Heart of the Blackhawks: The Pierre Pilote Story.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter Eleven: Casey, Stanley and Mike

Keenly aware that parenthood was just a labour pain away, Red decided to join a foursome for a quick round of golf at the Kingsville Golf and Country Club, only 10 minutes from the cottage, on Labour Day weekend.

“I was in the middle of the absolute best golf game I had ever played,” Red recalled. “Everything was going perfect, I was hot ... then the yell came from the clubhouse — Andra was having labour pains. Holy, man! I dropped the clubs right then, right out of my hands, and rushed to the car and sped back to the cottage!”

“Red came right away and loaded me and my carry bags into the car,” Andra recalled. “We raced towards the Ambassador Bridge, and when we got to customs Red was frantic.”

“Quick, quick, let us through! Let us through!” Red yelled excitedly to the border guard. “She’s going to have a baby!” They were waved through quickly.

“I had to get Andra over to New Grace Hospital in Detroit,” Red remembered. “It was about an hour away. I didn’t know how close her delivery had progressed. I thought the baby might be coming right there and then. Little did I know that sometimes these things take time.”

It was a long labour, a situation Andra attributed to being fit and athletic. Dr.Jack Ronayne kept a careful eye on her. “He was the obstetrician for several of the Red Wings’ wives. He had 12 children of his own,” Andra recalled. “He was an elderly man but wonderful, with a wonderful family. I had taught some of his children skating, so we knew each other well. That’s why I had the baby in Detroit with him. I trusted him.”

Two full nights later, on September 5, 1960, Andra Catherine “Casey” Kelly came into the world, weighing seven pounds, two ounces. As avid baseball fans, Red and Andra had given her the unisex nickname even before the birth, a tribute to the famous baseball man, Casey Stengel.

“Andra got through the long ordeal and birth without any problems,” Red recalled. “We were very fortunate that everything went all right. Casey and Andra were healthy, and I was ecstatic!”

Casey allowed Andra to reconnect with her parents.

“The birth of Casey was a joyous time,” recalled Andra. “It was the first grandchild in my family, my parents’ very first. Casey was named after my mother, Andra Catherine, so that was nice too. They drove up from the farm in Connecticut after Casey was born. My mother was just so happy to see Casey and us. It was a very emotional reunion, for sure.”

Things became even more hectic a few days later, when Red left the cottage for the Maple Leafs training camp in Peterborough, Ontario. “It was a race to see whether I got to camp or not,” Red joked to Toronto Star reporter Gordon Campbell. He wasn’t there very long before Punch Imlach had him in for the annual contract negotiation. They quickly came to an amicable agreement.

“He is a big guy, and it’s great to have him signed,” Imlach said of Red’s inking. “We may have trouble with a lot of lesser guys.”

Imlach eventually got everybody signed, and the Leafs started the season with only three losses in their first 14 games. A big part of their success was that Kelly and Mahovlich started where they had left off the previous season. While “the Big M” was being feted for his scoring achievements — he had scored four goals against the Rangers on November 5, bringing his season total to 11 — Toronto Star sports writer Milt Dunnell sought out the person he felt was responsible for Mahovlich’s prolific production. “Red Kelly isn’t claiming the credit as suggested by some,” wrote Dunnell. “All the redhead knows is that when Mahovlich cranks up in his own end of the rink, and throws in the clutch, it’s time for Kelly to take off for the far net.”

“I block out a man or two to sort of clear the way for Frank,” Kelly told Dunnell. “Then I drop into a hole and wait for the puck to come out. If he can’t get through, the chances are I may get a shot. I don’t think Frank is much faster than he always has been but he didn’t always take off as frequently as he does now.”

For Red, starting the season with the Leafs was an absolute pleasure. “It was like a new life,” he recalled. “I thought I was out of hockey, and it ended up that I wasn’t. It was like pulling on a light switch, from darkness to light.”

Andra, Red and Casey moved into a small two-story house in Leaside, northeast of downtown Toronto. They had decided to rent for this season, until they could scout out a nicer, more permanent home to purchase. The area was an instant fit, and the proximity to the local Leaside Arena allowed Andra to resume teaching skating.

“Dr.Sidney Soanes, a respected person in figure skating circles, lived in Toronto,” Andra recalled. “I remembered him and my mother corresponding for many years. I gave him a call, saying I was moving up the street from him. He got me a job right away.”

Despite the Leafs’ early success, Imlach was not satisfied with the team’s production and moved young right winger Bob Nevin onto Kelly and Mahovlich’s line. “We fit together like a glove,” Red recalled. “Nevin was a great player on the right wing, and we just worked together. The three of us just clicked as a line. I knew where Frank would be, and if I could get the puck to him, I knew the puck would be in the net. The same with Bob.”

In early December, Imlach was asked to rate NHL players. “I used to think that Jean Béliveau was the greatest,” Imlach told Red Burnett:

But Kelly has convinced me with his work since joining Leafs. I have the evidence to back my opinion that Kelly is the most valuable player in this league and should be the leading candidate for the Hart Trophy. He has played centre, defence and left wing like an all-star. Howe is a great forward but he can’t play defence. Doug Harvey is a great defenceman but he couldn’t play forward. He [Red] rates as top contender for the Lady Byng as well.

“He has amazed us with his all-around ability. I never realized what a complete performer he was. Kelly does everything well both on attack and on defence. He has been a major factor in the success of our club from the day he joined us and besides his abundance of natural ability and competitive fire, he is a great team man. When we got Kelly from the Red Wings was the luckiest day of my life and hockey’s best deal.

Though the Leafs started December with a humiliating 6–3 loss in Montreal, they went on a tear, winning 14 of the 20 subsequent games against only four losses, which vaulted them to second place.

By January 26, Red was seventh in league scoring with 48 points and had accumulated a mere 10 minutes in penalties. The Big M was in third place with 56 points, only six back of league-leader Boom Boom Geoffrion of Montreal. When Red finished January with a flourish, getting three goals and four assists in four games, the Hockey News selected him as player of the week. In a 6–3 home win against Boston on February 11, Red moved into the Maple Leafs record book when his 44th assist surpassed the team record set by Teeder Kennedy 10 years earlier.

But Toronto was much more than Red and his linemates. Imlach had assembled quite an array of hockey talent that was just blossoming. In goal was Johnny Bower, protected by defencemen Tim Horton, Carl Brewer, Allan Stanley, Bob Baun and Kent Douglas. Up front, besides Red, Mahovlich and Nevin, were captain George Armstrong, Dave Keon, Bob Pulford, Dick Duff, Billy Harris, Ron Stewart, Eddie Litzenberger and Eddie Shack. They would be a force to be reckoned with.

By March 4, the Leafs had pulled ahead of the Canadiens and were in first place. That night, against the Rangers, Red garnered an amazing 50th assist. But then, in the final minutes, he tore a groin muscle. He went to hospital, where doctors confirmed the muscle tear and prescribed rest with daily treatments. They were hoping he could return in a week, but there was really no rushing a groin tear. The best treatment was rest and time.

With the Habs breathing down the Leafs’ necks and only six games left in the season, the absence of Kelly had Imlach in a tizzy about his team’s chances of finishing first. “I think first place will be decided on either the 69th or 70th game,” he predicted, “and we always win the squeakers.”

Red Burnett noted a key missing figure. “The length of Red Kelly’s absence due to a groin injury may have a large bearing on the race and also presents a problem for Imlach,” wrote Burnett. “He can rush Kelly back in an effort to clinch first place and risk having him on the limp for the playoffs or keep him out at the risk of losing first place in order to ensure a healthy Kelly for the Stanley Cup battles.”

Red’s injury was very slow to heal, and during his absence the Leafs sputtered, losing first place to the Canadiens and winning only twice in their final six games. Mahovlich’s goal-scoring stalled at 48, two shy of the magic 50. Red found it very frustrating to watch. “I remember going down to the dressing room to talk to Frank,” he recalled. “He was so close to 50, and I thought if I could only encourage him. I went down and told him, ‘Frank you never know ... you may never get another chance to get 50. Get out there and get it! You can do it!’ I tried to pump him up, but ...”

With the Leafs in freefall, Red was desperately needed back on the team. On Sunday, March 12, with the team away in Boston, he went for a light skate. For an hour he took it easy, skating around gently, testing out the injury.

“After a while, I decided to push it a little bit more and give it a stronger go around, a little harder, to see how it would respond, but as soon as I cranked it up, the muscle gave out on me,” Red recalled. “I fell on the ice, and the Gardens maintenance staff came out to help get me off the ice. I had hurt it again. I had tried too fast. The playoffs were coming and I wanted to be there.”

With Red out of the lineup, the Leafs met the fourth-place Red Wings in the semifinal. Toronto won the opener but dropped their next two. The pressure was on for Red to return — and he did for Game 4, another loss.

“I hated to lose, but there was not much I could do,” Red recalled. “That groin was still affecting me. My stride was only two-thirds of what it should have been. My play was compromised, no question. I couldn’t give that extra push.”

Detroit eliminated the Leafs, winning the series in five games. In the Stanley Cup Final, the Wings were outclassed by a young, powerful Black Hawks squad that won Chicago’s first Stanley Cup in 23 years.

In a year-end interview, Canadiens top man Frank Selke had a chat with the Detroit News. He discussed a variety of topics, but when he was asked which player had had the best season in the league, he was quick and unequivocal in his answer: “Red Kelly, until he was hurt late in the year. He made a scoring star out of Frank Mahovlich. If Kelly hadn’t been hurt, Mahovlich would have scored 60 goals. But when Red wasn’t there to pass to him, he became just an average hockey player.”

There was no denying Red’s influence on the Big M’s play. The year before Red’s arrival, Mahovlich had registered only 39 points, but with Red as his centreman, his points more than doubled to 84, with 48 goals and 36 assists, good for second in league scoring.

If there were any balm to soothe Red’s playoff disappointment and still-tender thigh, it came in the form of winning his fourth Lady Byng Trophy.

A month later, he was advised of a special award via a letter dated June 28, 1961:

Dear Red,

As President of Maple Leaf Gardens, I congratulate you on winning the J.P. Bickell Memorial Trophy ... I can’t tell you how happy we are to have you on our club. This award is named after a past Maple Leaf president and one of the finest citizens we have ever had in Canada. It is nice to know that it has been won by someone very worthy of the honour.

Sincerely yours,
Conn Smythe

The J.P. Bickell Memorial Cup was not an annual award; it was presented only when the Maple Leaf Gardens directors believed a player deserved the special recognition.

The first order of domestic business for Red and Andra was to find a more permanent home. “We purchased a lovely house on Airdrie Road in Leaside and we moved there,” recalled Andra. “Quite a few hockey players lived in the area. I was so excited; we had bought our first house.”

Another person had come into their lives that would have a very direct influence on Red and Andra’s future — Keith Davey. “When I first came to Toronto in the winter of 1960, I was staying at the Westbury Hotel,” Red recalled. “Keith Davey worked at Foster Hewitt’s radio station, CKFH, which was right across the road, and he used to come into the restaurant for breakfast and would see me there. He was a big hockey fan, and so he introduced himself to me, and we often ate breakfast together and got to know each other quite well. In 1961, he became the Liberal Party national campaign director. We kept in touch. We often talked politics, the Liberal Party, and about Canada, a subject I felt strongly about.”

Red’s patriotic interest was so piqued that he accompanied Davey to a few Liberal events, where his presence created a stir. Davey told Red that he would make an excellent Liberal candidate for the federal election in June 1962. But every time Davey broached the subject, Red humbly balked.

The Progressive Conservative Party, under prime minister John Diefenbaker, had run the country for four years, and the Liberals were led by Lester B. Pearson, a Toronto-born statesman who had been a key diplomat on the international scene for years. Pearson had won the Nobel Peace Prize, and many felt the time was right for a new federal government.

Davey kept at Red. “No doubt you are aware of the not inconsiderable press publicity you are receiving as a ‘potential’ Liberal candidate,” wrote Davey to Red on September 27, 1961. “I trust that this publicity neither embarrasses you nor gives you cause for consternation. This is one of the penalties you must pay for being my friend. Everyone in the party, including Mr.Pearson, would be delighted to have you as a candidate. ‘Mike’ himself has expressed the desire to talk to you about this possibility at your earliest convenience.” A meeting with Pearson was arranged for Friday, October 13, in Toronto.

“Keith Davey took me over, and I met Mr.Pearson at a hotel at Bloor Street and Avenue Road,” Red recalled. “Lester Pearson, they called him Mike, was very friendly and congenial, and I had great respect for him. I told him honestly that I had been pondering the offer to run, but that I didn’t think I could do both effectively — play hockey and be a Member of Parliament. I expected him to really twist my arm, you know, but instead he understood and agreed with me totally. I thought Keith Davey was going to fall off his chair. Pearson’s respect for me and my situation had just the opposite effect on me, and the more we talked that day, the more I found myself really entertaining the idea of wanting to run for him and the party. I respected him so much, and the fact that he didn’t push me.”

The Leafs’ 1961–62 season started as it always did, with the 48th Highlanders Pipes and Drums performing on the ice at Maple Leaf Gardens. Former Liberal prime minister Louis St.Laurent came to ice level and presented the J.P. Bickell Memorial Cup to Red, who received a huge round of applause.

Through October and November, Toronto did not lose a single game at home, while on the road they played slightly less than .500 hockey. On November 23, Red scored two goals during the second period and notched another in the third against Glenn Hall in Chicago Stadium to get his second career hat-trick in a 5–2 win.

Andra’s skating lessons started to gain traction when she was featured in a story by the Toronto Star’s Joe Taylor. As she put a few of her students through their paces at the Leaside Arena, she talked of her joy in teaching and the inspiration of her old coach Edi Scholdan, who had been killed in a plane crash in Prague nine months prior, along with the entire U.S. figure skating team.

“I hope that I would be able to continue with his teaching methods,” Andra said of Scholdan’s tutoring. “He was able to develop within a person a great joy for skating which is so important. He made it fun, rather than a grind — you couldn’t help loving it. I hope I can do the same.”

Her priorities were clear when asked about teaching full time. “Red and Casey come first,” she said. “The rink is only a couple of blocks from our home, so I can slip home for supper and it requires only three days a week. If I had three or four pupils with the talent and the desire to work — and I think maybe I have — then perhaps I might, but right now the family comes first.”

For Red, talk of an approaching milestone started to pop up after he scored goal number 199 on December 9 against Boston. He would have to wait five more games before getting his Christmas Day present in Chicago Stadium, when he scored at 4:39 of the first period to hit the 200-goal milestone. The puck was retrieved from behind Hall as a souvenir of the accomplishment.

Knee, shoulder and leg injuries forced Red to miss a total of 12 games in January, but that didn’t stop him from garnering the First All-Star Team centreman slot at the season’s halfway point, with Henri Richard, Stan Mikita, Dave Keon and Ralph Backstrom right behind him in the voting. Teammates Brewer and Mahovlich joined him on the First Team, and Bower as the goalie on the Second Team.

In the January edition of Liberty Magazine, Red was featured in an article titled “Hockey’s Gentle Destroyer.” It not only summarized his career but also delved into his home life with Andra and 16-month-old Casey.

“Red’s a great reader and ... can play the piano and sings a fine tenor — songs like ‘Peg O’ My Heart’,” Andra told writer Tom Alderman. “He doesn’t like me to mention it. He thinks people will think he’s cutting in on Boom Boom Geoffrion’s territory.”

Red detailed his game day regimen: he awoke at 8:30 a.m. and exercised before having a breakfast of pineapple juice, coffee, toast with honey from a Simcoe farm and a bowl of Corn Flakes. After reading the paper and doing the crossword, he headed to the Gardens for a team meeting, then returned home at 1:30, laden with fan mail — approximately 400 letters a week. “I sign all those who ask for autographs. Why Not? Kelly’s a short name. I sympathize with Mahovlich though,” Red told Alderman. Red’s lunch was a T-bone steak, baked potato and fruit salad, along with more pineapple juice, and was followed by a three-hour nap. Andra’s “Hockey Whip” concoction was described: orange juice, a raw egg, three teaspoons of sugar and part of a squeezed lemon.

“Sure I’m a little slower than I used to be,” Red told Alderman. “I was at my peak at 28 and 29 — but I’ll quit the day I can’t keep up with Nevin and Mahovlich!”

The article also described Red as he watched Casey playing in the living room playpen. “I can’t understand it,” he told the reporter. “Five months ago she could say Mommy and Daddy, but she hasn’t picked up a single new word since!”

In early March, the Leafs went on a winning streak, and Red scored his 20th goal for the second time in his career as the Leafs beat the Bruins 5–1 in Boston on March 4.

Amid the Leafs’ short winning streak, and after much cajoling, Red finally threw his hat into the political ring on March 14, when he announced he would seek the Liberal nomination in York West. His local candidacy would be unopposed within the party and much heralded.

“The Liberals offered me five ridings to run in, to take my pick: York West, York Centre, Parkdale and two others. I looked at them all and I thought York West had been Conservative for most of its existence. It didn’t have much of a local team in place, and so I selected it because I thought that if I lost the election, I haven’t hurt them any, given a Liberal had not been elected in the riding for quite a while. It was the largest riding population-wise in Canada at the time.”

While Red went off to play for the Leafs, his Liberal team, led by Clem Nieman, went to work putting his campaign together, knowing that an election call was imminent. The normally small York West organization grew — excited at the prospect of having a star candidate, new members came out of the woodwork.

Back on the ice, injuries hampered Imlach’s squad in the last half as they limped towards the playoffs, going winless in their final five games. They finished second, 13 points behind Montreal but 21 points ahead of their first-round opponents, the fourth-place Rangers.

It started as a homer series, with each team winning two games on home ice before the series switched back to Maple Leaf Gardens. Red was the hero in Game 5, with assists on the first two goals. The game went into a second overtime; goalies Bower and Gump Worsley were sensational. Finally, at the four-minute mark, a scramble developed around the New York net, and the puck lay on the ice just behind Worsley’s outstretched body. Red saw the loose puck, reached in from the side and tapped it in for the winner to send the Gardens crowd into a frenzy. New York argued vehemently that Worsley had smothered the puck, but referee Eddie Powers disagreed, having been right on top of the play.

“I knew Frank [Mahovlich] had the puck inside the blue line,” Red explained to reporters after the game. “I was just hustling to get back into the play when the puck came loose from under Gump and I shoved it in. Gump had the puck under his arm above the elbow with about one third of it showing. He moved a little and it squirted loose. He thought he had it smothered.”

“Red could probably win an election tomorrow running in the Communist party ticket after that goal,” joked Harold Ballard, chairman of the Leafs board of directors. During the celebration on the ice, Bower skated two-thirds the length of the ice to shake hands with the dejected Worsley. “I told him he was great,” explained Bower afterwards. “He grabbed my hand, looked at that wildly cheering crowd and said, ‘John, you were as good or we would have won. We sure as heck gave them their money’s worth!’”

The Leafs eliminated the pesky Rangers in the next game with a 7–1 rout. Red finished the series with seven points. Their next opponents would be the defending champion Black Hawks, who had defeated the Canadiens.

The 1962 final opened in Toronto on April 10. Red assisted on the second goal as the Leafs won the first game 4–1. They took the second 3–1. The Hawks won the next two back at Chicago Stadium, 3–0 and 4–1. In Game 4, Bower injured his left leg and backup Don Simmons was summoned out of the stands and pressed into action. The Hawks thought they’d caught a break, but Simmons was more than up to the task as he and the Leafs won Game 5, 8–4.

From the puck drop of Game 6 back in Chicago Stadium, the Leafs were on their game, outhitting and outshooting the Hawks 13–4 in a scoreless first period. Toronto again outshot Chicago, 14–8, in the second, but the goalies were again flawless. The Hawks tallied first thanks to Bobby Hull, but the Leafs stormed back two minutes later on a goal by Bob Nevin. When Dick Duff scored the go-ahead goal at the 14:14 mark, the coveted hockey prize was within sight.

As time wound down, Chicago came at Toronto full bore, but Simmons held his ground, and the Cup was Toronto’s. The team poured onto the ice to celebrate. Despite the hour, more than 2,000 cheering fans, including an exuberant Andra and Casey, greeted the returning champions at Toronto International Airport at 3:30 in the morning.

“It wouldn’t have been nearly the same if we’d have won it at the Gardens Tuesday,” Red told Toronto Star reporter Jim Proudfoot after disembarking from the plane. “By taking it on the road in Chicago’s rink, we proved we deserved to be champions.” Proudfoot wrote that the series was won by all of Toronto’s centremen, who outplayed Chicago’s. It was Red’s fifth Stanley Cup.

The next day, April 24, the champions were feted with a tickertape parade through the downtown core. More than 60,000 fans crushed in on the line of convertibles carrying the Leafs and the Stanley Cup to City Hall, where Mayor Nathan Phillips declared, “You’ve had the greatest reception in Toronto’s history!”

“It was fantastic,” recalled Red. “It was my second [championship parade] in Toronto, as it happened to us at St.Mike’s when we won the Memorial Cup, but for the Leafs organization it was the first in a while. It was such a sharp contrast to Detroit, which didn’t ever really have anything. It was so exciting to be part of such a thrilling, happy moment.”

A week later, Red formally accepted the federal Liberal nomination in the riding of York West. To add weight to his candidacy, Red greeted Lester Pearson as he landed at Malton Airport on May 1. Pearson had just attended a dinner at the White House in Washington for Nobel Prize–winners given by U.S. president John F. Kennedy. He and Red went to Red’s nomination meeting that evening at Etobicoke Collegiate.

Liberals packed the auditorium. They were standing three deep on all sides, cheering and stomping. Pearson fired up the crowd with an attack on Prime Minister Diefenbaker and his government’s cancellation of the Avro Arrow fighter plane that had been built in the riding, resulting in the loss of 14,000 local jobs. Miles ahead in speed and technology of any other fighter, the Arrow had put Canada at the front of the aerospace class. Its cancellation not only put thousands out of work and killed a national dream; it also ensured a mass exodus of scientists and technicians to the United States to work at NASA and its space program.

The crowd reserved its loudest cheers for their new candidate, chanting, “Go Kelly go! Go Kelly go!” As Red made his way to the platform, “The Irish Washerwoman” was played by a guitarist and accordionist. “The Leafs have asked me to play another year,” Red told them. “And I think I can do it and represent you in Ottawa too.”

“Go Kelly go! Go Kelly go!”

“I figure a political party is like a hockey team, it needs legs as well as brains!”

“Go Kelly go! Go Kelly go!”

“I can help do the legwork while men with experience such as Mr.Pearson can help restore Canada’s prestige overseas.”

“Go Kelly go! Go Kelly go!”

“I’ve gotta work for you and you gotta work for me,” Red declared. “I have a lot to learn, but I’ll give you all I have!”

“Go Kelly go! Go Kelly go!”

Pearson said it was a much more exciting gathering than the dinner he’d just attended with Kennedy. “I am delighted with my new teammate!” he yelled to the crowd. “Red is typical of the men and women of all kinds of backgrounds, experience and qualifications who are flocking to the Liberal Party.”

The event gave Red a huge emotional boost, but he knew it was going to take a strong team effort to oust his Progressive Conservative opponent. “We were running against John Hamilton,” Red recalled. “He had been one of the top guys in Diefenbaker’s cabinet at one point, but he had run afoul with Dief for some reason or other and was out of cabinet. But he was a class guy. He had won the riding by 19,000 votes in the last election. He was very well liked. Even I liked him!”

Attempting to counter his opponent’s popularity in the sports world, Hamilton circulated a photo of himself with former Leaf Sid Smith and current Leaf Allan Stanley.

“I told my campaign team I was a rookie but that I would do whatever they wanted me to do, go wherever they wanted me to go,” Red said. “At my first all-candidates meeting we drew lots to decide speaking order, and John Hamilton spoke last. The other candidates had papers in their hands and were waving them around — though I never saw anything on the papers, they looked important. So I’m sitting there and thinking, Holy, man.

“I made a very low-key speech, and when it was over I thought I had done poorly and even apologized to my campaign manager, Clem Nieman, for letting him down. Then Hamilton, an experienced and eloquent speaker, got up, and with his cue cards, political knowledge and practised sense of timing, he gave a very impressive performance. But there was no time for post-mortems, because we had to get to another candidate’s meeting that same night. I made a better impression at that one, as I stepped it up a bit.”

Red was coached into becoming a better speaker.

“I got a little help in practices, standing behind a podium at a local church,” he said. “My [political] team made notes, suggestions and comments and gave me some good pointers. I just tried to be myself, and I went to every event that my team wanted me to go to. I was on street corners, shaking hands at factories and knocking on doors — well, kind of.

“One time my campaign team had me up in Rexdale, and I’m driving back and I think, Gosh, I’ve never knocked on a door! So I stopped, got out and knocked on a door. A woman came to the door, and I introduced myself that I was the Liberal candidate here, and she says, ‘I’ve just moved here from Saskatchewan. You must know Metro Prystai?’ I said, ‘Well, yes! We were teammates in Detroit!’ And she says, ‘Well, then I’m gonna vote for you!’ I said, ‘Well, that’s great!’

“So I knock on the next door, and a lady came to the door and she said she was going to vote for me too. So I decided, That’s it! I’m not knocking on another door. I was two for two. And I didn’t knock on any more doors!”

Red found himself in high demand to help other Liberal campaigns in other ridings, and it was sometimes troublesome as voters flocked to him to talk hockey and get his autograph while sometimes forgetting the local Liberal candidate he was supposed to be promoting.

“The big election wind-up event was at Maple Leaf Gardens,” Red recalled. “Pearson and everyone were there and we Liberal candidates were to come in from ridings all over Toronto, 17 or 18 of us. My organization had me meeting with a local group that night, which I attended. Now I’m late getting to the Gardens. I go to the Wood Street entrance and they stopped me. ‘It’s too late to go in,’ they said, ‘Mr.Pearson has just started his entrance to the stage. You would disrupt everything if you went in now.’

“So the overflow crowd was down at Massey Hall. ‘We’ll take you down there,’ they said. Massey Hall was jammed; they’re hanging from the rafters there. They brought me to the front and shoved me onto the stage. Then they say to me, ‘Say something!’ I don’t know what I said, but they were hollering and stomping, gung-ho! No matter what I said, they cheered.”

He credited his campaign team. “They were just unbelievable! I couldn’t have asked for a more dedicated team — campaign workers and volunteers, leadership. I worked hard for them because they worked so darn hard for me. And I believed in Mr.Pearson so much. I really ran because I wanted to get him elected prime minister. I knew he would be good for the country.”

Election day was June 18, 1962. It had been a long, gruelling campaign for both the Liberal candidate in York West and his pregnant wife, who was due any day. Andra made as many appearances as she could, but she ended up hospitalized for a week as a precaution. Everything was fine, they were assured, but the baby had decided to wait — maybe until after election day.

“I was completely exhausted at the end of the day,” recalled Andra. “I was just bushed. I remember lying on the bed, catching a breath, lying there looking at the ceiling, kind of in a tired daze. We were going down to Red’s headquarters later to watch the election results. Red walked into the bedroom and I looked up at him. He had just come in from last-minute campaigning, but he had a kind of funny, disbelieving, concerned look on his face. I looked at him.”

Table of Contents

Introduction — 1
One: Growing up Red — 7
Two: The Lessons of St. Michael’s — 24
Three: A Red Wing Takes Flight — 43
Four: Them’s the Breaks! — 65
Five: Season of Their Discontent — 83
Six: The Greatest All Around — 98
Seven: A Patriotic Season — 113
Eight: Unravelling of a Dynasty — 135
Nine: Love and Betrayal in Detroit — 151
Ten: Toronto Metamorphosis — 167
Eleven: Casey, Stanley and Mike — 178
Twelve: Play It Again, Red! — 196
Thirteen: Stanley, Conn and the Maple Leaf — 210
Fourteen: O Canada! — 227
Fifteen: A Walk Through the Valley — 240
Sixteen: The Last Hurrah — 250
Seventeen: Bright Lights of Hollywood — 266
Eighteen: Dance with the Penguins — 288
Nineteen: Coaching the Leafs — 305
Twenty: Kate Smith Vs. Pyramid Power — 325
Twenty-one: Negative Ions — 341
Twenty-two: Airplanes, Accolades and the Answer to Why — 354
Selected Bibliography — 375
Acknowledgements — 378

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