Warkworth Juveniles: Team champions 1972-73
Image from the 1973 issue of The Journal
Public Invited to Join Celebrations for 1972-73 Juvenile Team
WHEN: Sat., Aug. 12 at 1 p.m.
Article by Terry English, Special to News Now Network
Warkworth – Mon., July 31, 2923 – The hockey team that provided the village of Warkworth with one of its most improbable and memorable sporting achievements is reuniting one more time and is inviting the public to join in the celebrations.
The 1972-73 Juvenile team, which capped a storybook season by winning Warkworth’s first-ever all-Ontario hockey championship, will be gathering at the local Legion on Saturday, Aug. 12 for a special 50th anniversary event that reunites the players for the first time in 30 years.
The afternoon event, which is almost sold out, will be steep in nostalgia and certain to evoke plenty of fond memories for those attending.
Festivities begin at 1 p.m. at the Warkworth Legion and will include a social hour, a programme featuring player introductions, speeches, lots of reminiscing and a few light-hearted moments. The afternoon concludes with a catered meal and refreshments.
In addition, there will be numerous photos and newspaper articles detailing the championship season shown on a video screen and a display of team memorabilia. The organizing committee also plans to have a team photo taken with the fire truck on which the players rode around the village – with the siren blaring — in the wee hours of the morning after winning the provincial title in Alvinston (near London) in April of ‘73.
“I will be very happy to see everybody and renew old acquaintances,” says Bryce Allen, who coached the team along with manager Lorne Watson. Allen says 15 players are expected to attend the reunion, with some making the trip home from as far away as the United States, Edmonton, and Toronto.
Plans for the reunion originated over a year ago when Allen and team captain Garry Hutchinson talked about the upcoming 50th anniversary and whether plans should be made for a celebration. After agreeing it would be a good idea, Allen and Hutchinson formed an organizing committee that included former players Rick Denike, Stuart Watson, John Calnan, Sandy Jones, Peter Greenly, Doug Carlaw and Paul Lackey. They’ve spent the past several months putting things together.
“It maybe hasn’t affected everybody like it has me, but I’m very pro-Warkworth and what this team accomplished was a light in the middle of the night,” Allen says. “It was a turning point and a very proud moment for the village, the community, and particularly for the boys because they did an excellent job.”
For those not familiar with the fascinating story of the team’s championship season, it has all the makings of a Hollywood-type movie. Before the team played its first game, there were several obstacles and challenges to overcome.
For starters, the team didn’t know if it would even have enough players to enter a league and was thrown together a few weeks before the start of the regular season. The players, 17 and 18 years of age, came from different small towns (Warkworth, Morganston and Norham) and different backgrounds. Some of the players had never even played organized hockey at a competitive level, and they were playing in an Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) league with teams from larger communities (Trenton, Stirling, Campbellford, Brighton, Frankford, Picton, Tweed, Marmora and Madoc). Most of those teams had a larger pool of players and talent from which to draw and had been playing organized hockey much longer.
Oh, and just to make things even more difficult, toss in the fact that Warkworth didn’t have a home arena in which to practice and play. (The local rink, the antiquated “Cow Palace,” with no artificial ice, heated by two wood stoves, an outhouse in the far end of the building and pigeons making permanent residence in the rafters, may have been useful in the 1920s, but was terribly outdated in the 1970s.) Therefore, Warkworth was forced to play all its home games in another town – Colborne – and find ice time for practices wherever it could, which wasn’t always easy.
Despite the challenges and adversity, Warkworth stunned the rest of the league by finishing the regular season in second place – just one point behind Stirling. The regular-season success carried into the playoffs, and after two hard-fought series against Minden and Guthrie in rounds two and three, respectively, Warkworth finally captured its first all-Ontario championship with a 4-1 series win over Alvinston.
“It was a Cinderella story all the way,” Allen says. “We achieved goals we never anticipated we would ever do. We did things that little towns without arenas aren’t supposed to do.”
Hutchinson, a talented forward with great shooting and playmaking skills, admits he didn’t know what to expect when the team started the season.
“I wasn’t sure how we were going to do because we had some different types of players that hadn’t played real organized hockey in a higher division,” Hutchinson says. “We played together as a team. There was no superstar that we had to feed the puck to – we all pulled our own weight and realized what we could do. And we had two good goalies (Lackey and James Massey) that were equal.
“When we beat Campbellford twice (in the regular season), we knew we had something special. And Bryce kept telling us that.”
The people of Warkworth got swept up in the excitement of the team’s success and it reached fever pitch for the final series against Alvinston. Attendance at the “home” games in Colborne for the final attracted crowds between 700-800 people. Not bad for a village with a population of 600 at the time.
According to Allen, winning the championship had a profound impact on the village and provided a much-needed boost at the time because the spirit of the community was waning.
“Your village is only as strong as your main street, and this (championship) was one of those things that enabled the main street to stay strong,” Allen says. “Everyone became invigorated and rejuvenated.
“Warkworth wasn’t as progressive as it could have been and this win kind of opened the gates and showed that this little town can be something to be recognized for. That was my proud moment as far as the community is concerned.”
Another thing the success of the team did for the village was gain momentum towards plans for a new arena. The initial proposal for a new facility was voted down by council in November of 1973. But thanks to the tremendous fundraising efforts by the Warkworth Kinsmen and Kinettes club (which were granted charters in 1975), four years after the Juveniles’ historic championship win, the new Warkworth Arena and Community Centre officially opened.
“The children and grandchildren of that era are still reaping the benefits of (the ’72-’73) hockey team,” Allen says.
There are a few tickets left for the reunion and anyone interested in purchasing one can do so by contacting Amy McKeown at Allen Insurance (705-924-2632). Tickets are $20 each.