A Flyers Alumni Story
By Bill Sanford
Looking back in history with the Flyers, I had so many great memories it is hard to remember all the special ones. I will note the ones that really stand out in my mind after all these years of Leamington Flyers history.
I played with the Flyers for six years from the 1951-52 season to the 1956-57 season and coached three years – 1965-66 and 1967-68. After Marc Reaume and Al Plouffe resigned as the Flyer coaches before the first of this year I took over coaching – a very long year – we played 54 games and won only 7. During my six years as a player, I was left wing and wore numbers 11 and 6 for three years each.
I played with the original Flyers, which started out as the Myles Meteors in 51-52. We played in the Windsor Industrial league that first year before we had our arena. In 1952, we played in the ORHA play downs as the BLytheswood Flyers. This was the start of the Leamington Flyers hockey club. We went to the finals against Sutton and they beat us in the third game in the Aylmer arena. This was the only arena with ice so late in the season and it served as our home rink. Prior to these play downs we on the Southern Ontario ORHA play downs. Our coach was Bill Burgess who organized this original team – Murray Miles was our sponsor and he had a school bus take the team to Windsor.
In May of 1952, Jack Adams came to our windup banquet at the First Baptist church and stated that when we did get our arena, he would bring the Detroit Red Wings to Leamington to play the Flyers. We practiced in Blenheim, Chatham and Windsor. Prior to that season, many of us played at the Hones and Wigle outdoor rinks, Hillman Marsh, and various ponds around Leamington.
In December 1954, Jim Mackenzie and I were very fortunate to be the first to skate in our new Recreation and Agriculture Centre. We returned to the new arena from our Flyers practice in Blenheim and our Erie Shores Golf Pro John Moffat, the first arena manager, asked us if we would like to try out the new ice. This was a very special memory. In December of the following year, the Flyers played their first game at the new arena. We played Glencoe and won 8-2. Eric Mackenzie scored the very first goal in the arena.
The Detroit Red Wings came to Leamington to play the Leamington Flyers as Jack Adams had promised, and they brought 90% of their team twice in 1955 and 1956. I have never heard of an NHL team playing two exhibition games with minor teams such as the Leamington Flyers, before or after. Over the years, the Detroit organization helped the Flyers and our original Pee Wee Hockey Tournaments many times. The Wings recognized we had a strong minor hockey program as they sent two of our special Flyers on their way to the NHL – Brad Selwood and Randy Manery.
My best memory of the Flyers was the fact that management of the Wings and the Flyers split out teams up for the games. Since I was such a Red Wing nut, they played me between Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe and I scored a good goal assisted by Mr. Hockey and Ted Lindsay. This is without a doubt my biggest thrill in all of my sporting activities. Both games were total sell outs. What a special thrill for this old Leamington Flyer!
July 31, 1997
North Vancouver, BC