Monday, July 16, 2012

Bob Gillson, Goaltender, EHL Washington Presidents & Johnstown Jets, 1958-59

Bob Gillson - Owen Sound Mercurys
Bob Gillson was the regular netminder for the Owen Sound Mercurys for the ten years of their existence in the Senior Ontario Hockey Association. (SOHA) from 1947  to 1957. As a boy, Bob had ”rickets” and it was feared he would not be able to walk. His strong determination got him beyond this problem. Bob became part of the Toronto Maple Leaf system but was 4th or 5th on the depth chart. The Leafs wanted to send Bob to one of their western teams for development, but he opted to jump ship in 1947 and go to Owen Sound, where he had a very successful career. He was regarded as one of the top senior hockey goaltenders in Canada. Owen Sound won the Allan Cup (senior hockey supremacy of Canada) largely due to Bob in 1951. (On a side note: Les Binkley (Baltimore and Charlotte Clippers) played in an Allan Cup playoff game for the injured Gillson. Binkley had just turned 16 and the Sarnia Sailors overwhelmed him that night, scoring 8 goals.)  Bob Gillson was voted into the Owen Sound Sports Hall of Fame and still lives there. He is one of two surviving members of that Allan Cup winning team.
‘Mr. Gillson goes to Washington’ His boss Jim Keeling owner of the Owen Sound Mercurys and the then Collingwood Mercurys told Bobby to go to Washington – they had goaltender problems and needed help to get in the playoffs. Keeling was an owner of a Ford dealership in Owen Sound, hence the Owen Sound and Collingwood Mercurys. Jim was a long time friend of Lou Pieri, owner of the Providence Reds, and for this season, also the Washington Presidents as a farm team for Providence. Gillson had also signed a “C” contract with Providence in 1948 which might still have been in force in 1958. At any rate it seems the call to Washington came through Pieri. Several players who played with the Mercurys were one time Providence property - Tom Burlington, Pat McReavy, Bill McComb and Andy McCallum. Another Providence connection - it seems Pieri sent old Providence hockey equipment up to Owen Sound. Bob still has the pants which had been in a museum in Southampton Ont. but discarded and returned to Gillson via Doug Gillespie (former teammate) a few years ago.

Bob Gillson
Toronto Staffords 1946-47
Gillson flew from Toronto to New York. He took a cab from the airport to the railroad station in New York He took the train to New Haven and met the Washington team there. He is uncertain if he played that night or the next. Bob was carrying his goal pads and equipment for the entire journey.(everything but the hockey stick.). In Washington he stayed at the Dodds Hotel. He was the only hockey player staying there. Washington did not make the playoffs. Bob says he is not sure if Georges Vezina or Terry Sawchuk could have got them in (with a good-natured laugh).

Here's 8 games I can verify he played with Washington, as per the Washington Post:
Jan 29, 1959 Washington 3 at New Haven 5
Jan 31, 1959 Washington 6 at Charlotte 5 (OT)
Feb 5, 1959 Washington 1 at Charlotte 4
Feb 7, 1959 Washington 6 at Charlotte 4
Feb 10, 1959 Washington 1 at Philadelphia 5, Gillson 31 Saves
Feb 11, 1959 Washington 1 at Clinton 3, Gillson 31 Saves
Feb 14, 1959 Charlotte 3 at Washington 6, Gillson 25 Saves
Feb 15, 1959 Charlotte 13 at Washington 2
Totals: 8 Games, 42 Goals against. 3 Wins 5 Losses.

Feb 17, 1959 Nipper O'Hearn brought in by the Presidents to replace an ailing Gillson.
Feb 21, 1959 Goaltender Harvey Bennett acquired by the Presidents from the Providence Reds.
Feb 25, 1959 The Washington Presidents will use their 6th goalie of the season tonight, Ed Giacomin.
Bob Gillson - October 2010

EHL history is not cut and dried as it may seem. The 1959-60 EHL Yearbook says that Bob Gillson played 9 games giving up 44 goals for Washington and Johnstown combined. If we subtract out the Washington stats above, then Gillson would have given up 2 goals in 1 game for Johnstown. Bob himself is "absolutely sure" that he played a game for Johnstown, replacing an injured goalie, possibly even in a playoff game. Johnstown used a slew of replacement goaltenders at the end of the season and throughout the playoffs.

However, the book Slap Shots and Snapshots, which has extensive game by game stats for the Jets does not show Gillson having played for Johnstown. I contacted Mike Piskuric who did stats for the Slap Shots and Snapshots. He verified that he found no record of Gillson playing for Johnstown. However, he does show Frazer Gleason, Jets backup goalie having played 33 minutes, and giving up 2 goals, as a replacement on Feb. 27, 1959. (The EHL Yearbook does not show Gleason having played.) Is it possible that Gillson actually played, and the statistician or newspaper sports reporter just assumed that it was Gleason who played? We have no way of knowing for sure. Which is why EHL stats, like any hockey stats that were kept on type written pages, are not as cut and dried as things are in today's computer age.

Bob Gillson Stats from 1959-60 Eastern Hockey League Yearbook:
Games: 9 (Washington-Johnstown)
Goals Against: 44
Shutouts: 0
Goals Against Average: 4.89
(In case you're wondering, 9 full games divided by 44 goals would come to 4.89, so it's probable that the GAA is not taking into account Overtime or any partial games played.)

Note: This article is written from e-mails from Charlie MacDougall hockey historian from Owen Sound, about his discussions with Bob Gillson. The photos were also sent by Charlie.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

EHL Roadtrip 2010 - Day 1 (Part 4) - Syracuse War Memorial Arena

It's almost exactly a year since I last blogged my 2010 EHL Roadtrip. To catch up...
and on to Syracuse...

By the time I got to Syracuse I had decided to postpone the Syracuse State Fairground Coliseum part of the trip until morning. Better to conserve and recharge the camera battery.

Of the 8 restaurants that Google Maps had listed about a block beyond the arena, I had already decided on "Komachi". I made sure to get to the arena plenty early to take pictures and have a nice Japanese dinner.

Top Photo: Front Entrance to the War Memorial. Just above the marquis you can see "Onandaga County War Memorial" in aluminum.

I used the Arena's directions, and exited off of West Street off of I-690. From there, the signs are pretty good to get you to the arena. Especially, if like me, you've somewhat memorized the streets. I parked at a lot that was catty-corner from the main entrance of the War Memorial for $7.

The noticeable external feature on the limestone and aluminum building is the use of words in a "severe blocky font", as the National Register of Historic Places calls it, around the outside of the building.

The main entrance proclaims "SPORTS MUSIC ARTS SCIENCE" in stone above the marquis which has "ONONDAGA COUNTY WAR MEMORIAL" in aluminum. Along the bottom of the arena, are the names of World War I and WWII battles, served by county residents. Unlike a lot of venues that are memorial in name, this building is truly a War Memorial.

I strolled down Harrison Street past the arena, and couldn't find Komachi (turns out it had moved 4 blocks away.) In fact only 3 of the 8 restaurants listed on Google Maps were actually there. One of them was closed. Another was clearly out of business. The Ale and Angus Pub was the only one open, and it was packed. I decided I'd just wait, take photos, and chance it on arena food.

I had picked this weekend to make the trip, partially because it was pre-snow season, but also because of the opponents. Tonight was the Hershey Bears, once of the old EAHL, and top farm-team of the Washington Capitals. I was a Caps season ticket holder during the Langway years in the 1980s. The following night, Franklin Pierce University (which is about an hour from my home in New Hampshire) was playing Utica College in the Clinton Comets' second home, Utica Memorial Auditorium.

The light was fading, and it was getting cold. It was still a half hour before the gates opened, but I went inside and bought my ticket. I was just going to get a cheap seat in the corner, figuring I'd be strolling a lot. I was here for the arena and the history more than the game. However, the woman behind the window pointed to a really nice seat about 10 rows back on the blue line, which is one of the places I like to sit, so I ponied up for the $25 ticket.

Hardly anyone was there yet, so I began looking around.

One of the first things I saw was this sign prohibiting cameras.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Eastern Hockey League News - December 2011

Here's your Eastern Hockey League News for December 2011...

Here's a proposed "AA" hockey league with Johnstown, Greensboro & Roanoke on its "wish-list". Chuck Harrison from Johnstown, educated in hockey by EHL GM Ray Myron, is the commissioner.

Toot Cahoun of the 1972-73 New England Blades is coach at UMass. Check out item 4 in the Bakers Dozen below...

Scott Osbourne created "Gold Record" a DVD on the history of hockey in Nashville, with a great section on the EHL Nashville Dixie Flyers. The second half of this interview is Scott discussion how the project came together...

Salem Rebels mention by Dave Schultz...