How Jeff Saved the '76 ATC Hockey Tournament
You can thank Ed LeSage (UL/VR) for this page. A while ago he sent me a photo of a fellow who used to work
in Montreal and asked me if I could identify him. Of course I rose to the challenge and quickly replied that is
was non other than JT, Jean-Claude Tremblay, a B-Stand in Dorval tower in the ’60s and ‘70s – a great guy and
a lot of fun to work with. I went on and on, basically to show off my great memory. It was Jeff Gallant.
So much for my amazing memory, more like amazing BS… And then I received a good email from Judy Curran who remembered the early ATC hockey tournaments and the Grand Hotel on Cote de Liesse, but I digress.
|Time passes and if we’re not careful many of our best stories and legends will pass from memory, or at least be relegated to those old codger stories where the younger members of the audience says; “Yah, sure pops”, return to their lite beers while the old farts lean forward and pretend to remember… So let me set the stage, so to speak, for one of those stories and provide a little history. Here’s what Judy Curran had to say; "… the best story ever is the great snow fall of either '71 or '72, when Boston was in Montreal for the tournament - we were stuck in my apartment in Dollard, snow everywhere my car abondoned on Sources Rd., but somehow we made it to the Grand and the hockey game. Eric St Denis will kill me about this, but somehow I remember him sleeping in full uniform in someone's hotel room (bathtub) at the Grand, and then he was poured on the rink in the AM and scored I don't know how many goals to win the game. I will, and I'm sure many others will never forget that weekend. Just too much fun to be had by all. … and thank heavens road checks were not even thought of at that time!!!"|
By now everybody in ATC and likely every country that has ATC has heard of or participated in Canadian Air Traffic
Control Hockey tournaments. Al Yeadon (AJ) believes that international ATC hockey tournaments actually began in 1966
or 1967 (before my time…) when Montreal ACC and Boston ARTCC got together in the winter for a weekend of hockey and
comradeship. Everyone must have had a great time because a tradition was borne. The location alternated each year,
Montreal then Boston then Montreal, etc. Actually Boston ARTCC was located in Nashua New Hampshire, which was probably
a good thing as it kept the celebration more or less low key for a few years. Eventually other ACCs and ARTCCs got
tired of listening to UL & BOS bragging so they joined. The tournament Judy mentioned above was in 1972 (I hope…) and
there were several teams in the tournament that almost wasn’t because of a bloody great Montreal snowstorm. I know
Toronto and Gander were there because I played goal for Toronto as their goalie caught a puck in the face and they
needed someone foolish enough to stand between the pipes. YZ beat QX but I seem to remember that Montreal won the
tournament. It would be their last title for a while as more and more teams joined; Moncton, Chicago, New York,
Minneapolis. Eventually the West joined and many ACCs and ARTCCs sent several players and new teams were created.
However, in 1972 Chicago must have sent a team or at least a few players because a central character of the title
story was fast becoming a legend – the Waz.
Roy Wasilkowski was the Waz (correct surname spelling - thanks Rod). He worked in ZAU (Chicago ARTCC) and travelled
to many ATC hockey tournaments with his sidekick “Wounded Knee”. I never did know WK’s real name but I knew
to stay clear unless the Waz said you were OK – one tough customer. And on this particular tournament, the Chicago
team included a fellow nicknamed "Zamboni", but I digress.
The Waz was a force to be reckoned with, he could barely skate but that never mattered – he could drink and party forever, and did I mention he was assertive… He is the central character in many stories in many tournaments; Montreal, Chicago, New York, Gander, and Minneapolis to name a few. In MSP he befriended a YZ player whose arm was in a sling and therefore couldn't play. The Waz thought this guy looked like Lanny McDonald (Leafs and Flames legend) and..., but I digress, this story is about the Gander gathering in 1976.
In March ’76 I flew from Winnipeg, where I had moved in February, to Montreal and joined a bunch of fellow hockey players enroute to QX. And a varied crew we were; players from UL, YZ and several from Chicago including the Waz, WK and Zamboni. We were likely 30 or so in total and we were to fly AirCanada from UL to HZ, gather several guys from QM, and then on to QX. That was the plan.
Of course the drinking started long before the first boarding call in Dorval and by the time we were taxiing out we were already flying. Much noise and singing and drinking continued with a very loud chorus of “REPENT, REPENT WE'RE ALL GONNA CRASH!!! (as verified by Louis De Lisle) repeated the entire time we were on final for HZ followed by considerable clapping and whistling when the DC-9 touched down. This was going to be a trip to remember.
Fortunately for the airport staff we were only to be in HZ for a couple of hours. I was still relatively sober and as time passed I seem to remember noticing a number of RCMP officers in the passenger area but hey, we were still behaving ourselves, loud and obnoxious but still behaving - and then the Waz sort of changed things. Now the Waz was a rather imposing and slightly scary guy; maybe 5’11” (some say taller, but he slouched a lot), 200lbs, very long arms, big hands, longish hair, reddish blonde van dyke beard and mustache, and small, rectangular sunglasses, and a deep drawling voice. Did I mention he could be menacing and assertive at the same time and you NEVER dared him to do anything…
So there was the Waz.
He had found an RCMP officer standing by a pillar and has placed himself in the officer’s space, as in face-to-face
or rather nose-to-nose. He says something about this being a pretty airport and then pokes the officer in the chest
and adds, fairly loudly; “How would you like me to make this place a parking lot?” following by several more
pokes. By now you must be wondering what this has to do with Jeff.
In 1976 Jeff Gallant was an IFR controller in UL but in his previous life he was a member, that is Jeff used to be an RCMP (GRC s’il vous plait) constable. And in ’76 at the HZ airport Jeff single handedly de-fused the Waz confrontation. He managed to get between the Waz and the constable and while some of us pulled/dragged the Waz from the scene, Jeff leaned in conspiratorially and said he was a former “member” and had an idea that would save face for everybody and avoid an ugly scene, as in a drunk, ugly and stupid scene. His solution was simple and impressive; all Waz really wanted was an RCMP hat, not the wide-brimmed version you see with the scarlet uniforms, just the usual hat with the yellow stripe and black rim. Now I understand the RCMP do not like to see their hats worn by ordinary citizens and only relent when the RCMP insignia has been removed. More and more constables began to arrive and just before boarding our DC-9, an RCMP hat, minus its insignia, magically appeared and the Waz was beaming. Funny, our group led by the Waz, boarded last, more or less surrounded by several officers.
As we climbed out from HZ the DC-9 captain came on the intercom and said (more or less);“I understand we have a bunch of happy air traffic controllers on board on their way to play hockey in Gander. The RCMP have advised me to advise you that if you act up or get too boisterous there are several jail cells awaiting our diversion to St. John, New Brunswick.” We all cheered! The flight to QX was similar to the flight to HZ; much noise and singing and drinking continued with a very loud chorus of “REPENT, REPENT WE'RE ALL GONNA CRASH!!!" repeated the entire time we were on final for QX. While taxiing in I apologized to my seat mate, an elderly lady from Gander. She replied that she had never enjoyed a flight so much in her entire life! My last memory of that flight was leaving the airplane and walking through an honour guard of maybe 20 RCMP officers who flanked both sides of the walkway. Hmmm, exactly where would we have gone on that huge Gander tarmac??? The Waz wore his RCMP hat 24/7 for the entire stay except maybe for the 12 hours or so he spent behind the piano in the Gander Hotel bar, but I digress. Gander won their own tournament and a great time was had by all.
Thanks Jeff, now the rest of ATC knows how you saved the ’76 Gander hockey tournament.
July '07; Rod Peterson (former ZAU) emailed me the Waz' correct surname. Thanks Rod.
Las Vegas 2002.
Fort Lauderdale 2003.
Fort Lauderdale 2003.
Bruce Monroe and L0 (Louis De Lisle)
an excellent player from YWG and Louis
Not the 3 musketeers but close, the long time trio from UL then YZ,
Eric "Street" St.Denis, Nick "Waddya say JJ" Walker, and Colin Blanford
All the guys at the YHZ tournament.
The first tourney after the PATCO strike in 81...
I was reviewing this page a while ago and I decided it was time to acknowledge
the contribution of the Gander ACC hockey team of the early '70s to popular folklore and culture - namely the
seldom seen practice of streaking.
From Wikipedia, the free internet encyclopedia: Streaking is the non-sexual act of taking off one's clothes and running naked through a public place. Wikipedia further states that: "...streaking seems to have been well-established on some college campuses by the mid-1960s" and; "...a group of University of Notre Dame students sponsored a "Streakers' Olympics" in 1972." I cannot verfiy the first statement, but I know, by personal experience, that Gander controllers were participating in this rather odd behavior in the early '70s or earlier. You may well ask how do I know? Read on.
The first ATC tournament I ever attended was in 1971 (or was it 1973?? and I think Montreal won, didn't we??) in Nashua New Hampshire. We stayed at the Holiday Inn and occupied most of one wing on the bottom floor. I think it was night 2 that the streaking began, but we didn't call it streaking as that word was rather unknown to our group. We correctly called it "Newfie Racing" as it was our controller brothers from The Rock who introduced us to the sport. Imagine the scene if you will. After midnight 20 to 40 men, most between 25-40 are drinking beer in the hall on the ground floor of a Holiday Inn, so far so good. Somewhere after 6 or 10 beers for the Canadians (or 3-6 for our American brothers) someone suggested we race.
Yes boy, race.
But we don't have shorts or running shoes!
Don't need 'em.
Don't wear anything.
Run naked. And so we, or at least many of us did. At one point a guest room door opened and a rather large black man asked what the hell was going on. He had his wife and family in their room and we were making a lot of noise!!! I mention that he was black as it must have been an odd sight; both clothed and naked men, mostly pale, white untanned men, drinking beer and clearing the hall every 5 minutes or so as 2 or 3 naked men, beer in hand, raced down the hall.
What the hell are they doing?
Oh. And the non-ATC guest returned to his room not to be heard from again that night, even when someone opened the double doors and several unclothed racers charged outdoors and skidded in the snow. One unfortunate soul struck a parked car straight-on. No blood, so we let them cool off outside for 20 or so minutes. The next day the Hotel management was not impressed and another Nashua hotel posted a NO ATC HOCKEY PLAYERS! sign. That's the reason for the 1972 tournament in Montreal and where by the way, one of the Boston types did a Newfie race on the ice in skates. By the end of that experience it was not clear what gender he(?) was as his, well equipment, had shrunk, afraid of the cold and the attention! Some of the wives in the crowd thought it was that US college activity called streaking. We corrected them immediately.
Newfie Racing - another cultural gift from The Rock.