A 519 Feature by Dwight Wakabayashi
The Chatham Jr. Maroons are a storied junior ice hockey franchise that was founded in 1959 in the town of Chatham, Ontario Canada. The Sr. version of the team goes back even further, to the early 1920’s and 30’s.
The existence of the franchise has bonded a community together under the roof of the Chatham Memorial Arena, a 2500 seat and 3000-patron capacity building on Tweedsmuir Ave., on the south east side of the city.
A brief history and franchise timeline can be found here at ChathamMaroonAlumni.com along with photos from nearly every single team in the history of the franchise. It was while looking at these photos that I started my research for this article. Some other notable Maroons information can be found here on Wikipedia.
It’s hard to research and talk about the Jr. Maroons without mentioning some of the special people and families that have been involved in the franchise from the ownership level to coaching to volunteering over the 58 -year history. Names like;
Copper Leyte – One of the greatest players to ever suit up for the Chatham Sr. Maroons. Copper would go on to coach various Jr. Maroons teams between 1961 and 1974. Many consider Copper the greatest player to ever put on the Maroons uniform, although he didn’t play for the Jr. Maroons, only the Sr. Maroons.
George Aitken and the Aitken Family
George Aitken – Played his junior hockey for the Toronto Marlboros organization alongside George Armstrong and Danny Lewicki and under famed coach Syl Apps. Along with Leyte, Aitken could be considered the best Chatham Sr. Maroon of all time. He led them to the Allen Cup in 1959-60. He then won it again the following year with the Galt Terriers. Once his playing days were over, George coached the Jr. Maroons for 11-years and the Aitken family has been heavily involved in the franchise throughout its existence.
Jim and Dave Torrie and the Torrie Family
Jim started off as a long time coach in Blenheim Minor Hockey and for the Blenheim Blades Jr. C Hockey Team. He then went on to coach the Sr. Maroons, while being an avid fan and supporter of the Jr. team as well. In 1995, in the middle of troubled times for the franchise, (the team name had been changed to Micmacs in 1988), Jim’s son Dave began coaching the team and Jim expressed a desire to buy the team from current ownership.
The Maroons Are Back
With the Torrie duo determined to restore the team to prominence, Jim bought the team in January of 1996 and Dave coached out the remainder of a tough first year.
Jim’s wish of having the name changed back to Maroons was implemented prior to the 1996-97 season and the team was poised to improve. In an unfortunate turn, Jim suffered a heart attack and passed on while attending the Maroons’ opening game in St. Mary’s at the start of the season. The family persevered and Dave would go on to coach the club to much success.
Many members of the Torrie family were responsible for running the franchise with incredible success between 1996 and 2006.
Larry Keenan and Family
Larry Keenan has been involved in hockey in Chatham in every different capacity throughout his entire life. He started young, as the stick boy for the Allen Cup champion Sr. Maroons. His life long involvement in the game forged many friendships, including one with Jim Torrie and his family.
After many years in Maroons management, Keenan and his family got involved in the new ownership group early in the Torrie years and was instrumental in establishing and celebrating the history of the franchise. He was the first president of the Chatham Maroons Alumni Association and he along with his family and many community volunteers, is largely responsible for the strength of the alumni and history today.
Keenan and the Alumni Committee is also largely responsible for one of, if not the only program in Jr. B hockey that offers financial help for furthering a players education. The Blades For Grades program offers a grant of money ($500 to $750) for every season a player plays in the Maroons uniform. The money can be used towards Canadian university or college course enrolment.
Best Players of All Time
Volunteers and alumni backers are of the utmost importance to the survival and success of a community team like the Maroons, however;
this article is all about the players on the ice.
It is very hard to find compiled historic statistics for the Jr. Maroons so statistics were not the most important thing considered while compiling this list. Due to the fact that hard stats were not available for many of the Maroons’ seasons, here are the things that were most considered when making this list;
- Players had to play a minimum of three full seasons in a Jr. Maroons uniform
- Players from the most successful Maroons teams garnered most consideration
- Leadership, stats where available, team success and tenure were the key considerations
- Many people involved with the team over the span of all era’s were consulted when compiling this list with special mention to Larry Keenan, Dave Torrie, Marc Swayze, Kyle Nishizaki, Mike Bennett and Steve English.
- My own personal knowledge as a historian on all things Jr. Maroons. My father played for the very first Jr. Maroons team in history in 1959 and my extended family has knowledge of the earliest years of the franchise.
- My first hand knowledge era would be from around 1983 to around 2006 as I attended many games and followed all the teams during those years.
- Others were consulted on all other era’s and a source from every era was contacted
This is not a list of players who played a season or two with the Chatham Jr. Maroons and then went on to claim and fame elsewhere in their careers. Players such as Todd Warriner, Vern Stenlund, Andy Delmore, Justin Azevedo, Ryan Jones, Carl Lindros, Steve English, Perry Pappas, Mike Vellinga and Rick Lacroix would all be on that list.
This is an attempt to try to capture the best players in Jr. Maroon history, while they were playing for the Maroons/Micmacs.
This list was compiled with the best care and consultation available, and with the best intentions in mind, and any perceived omissions or exclusions are completely by mistake. I apologize for that in advance. The project was done for some fun history and of course discussion and debate, as long as it is kept in perspective and in good taste. Lists like these are purely subjective and fun.
Who is your favorite Jr. Maroon of all time? Are they on this list? Let me know at the end with a comment.
I present to you the;
Top Fifteen Chatham Jr. Maroons Of All Time
15. Jay Brodie -F-
- 4 seasons 1978-79 to 1981-82
There is quite a large gap in the recorded history of the Maroons franchise between the years 1972 and 1984. So much so that there are no team photos during those years, and not much information at all to go on. When speaking to various sources about memorable players during those gap years, Jay Brodie was mentioned as part of the Maroons dynamic duo of the late 70’s. Along with Brett Shepley, Brodie was remembered as a dominant force and Robin to Shepley’s Batman. The highly skilled and high scoring forward led the Maroons during some struggling times for the franchise, as they only reached the playoffs once in a span of nine seasons from ’76 to ’84.
14. Jeff Stonehouse -F-
- 3 seasons 1995-96 to 1997-98
Jeff Stonehouse, or “Stoney” as he is known to most in the area played for the Maroons at the very beginning of the Dave Torrie coached era. A native of Blenheim, Stonehouse had many tools in his offensive arsenal including speed, high hockey IQ and an incredible shot. He started with the team when they struggled through a five win ’95-’96 season and had an immediate impact on the offense. He then became a leader on the team in the following season and led them to the Western Jr. B championship in his third and final season. When the game was on the line, Stoney could step up and make the play.
13. Serge Aumont -F-
- 4 seasons 1988-89 to 1991-92
Serge Aumont came to Chatham during the time when the team was known as the Micmacs, and was an integral part of the team during back-to-back Western Junior B titles in ’89-90 and ’90-91. In a very physically tough, clutch and grab era of the league, Serge was an undersized dynamo, who wasn’t afraid of any area of the ice. He was a tireless checker and his offensive production improved in each successive season in Chatham. He captained the team in his final year in 1991-92. When the going got tough, a smile came over Serge’s face, and he got going on the ice.
12. Scott Hope -F-
- 3 seasons 1985-86 to 1987-88
When I attended Maroon games in my teens between 1985 to 1988, Scott Hope was the team’s most consistent and offensively skilled player. In probably the roughest and toughest time in the fight filled league, he often stood out game after game and was a key offensive performer for his entire Maroons career. Hope had speed in spades and a nose for the net to go along with it. The Maroons made it to the Western Jr. B finals twice in the three years that Hope was a star. All over the ice, all the time. That was Scott Hope at his finest.
11. Eddie Wright -F-
- 3 seasons 1962-63 to 1964-65
Chatham native Eddie Wright played back in the original Border City Junior B League in the early 60’s and was by all accounts a dominant star. One of the smallest players in Maroons history, Wright played much larger than his frame and was a puck pursuit and possession wizard. Wright was instrumental in the Maroons winning the Border City’s championship in ’63-64, after losing in the finals the season before. He scored, he checked and he fought many battles for the team in that dominant era. Definite contender for fastest player of all time.
10. Brett Shepley -F-
- 4 seasons 1977-78 to 1980-81
I mentioned the large gap in Maroons franchise history between the years 1972 and 1984. According to sources and fans of that era, Brett Shepley was by all accounts the best Maroons player during that time. He combined on a line with the number 15 on this list, Jay Brodie as part of the Maroons dynamic duo of the late 70’s. The highly skilled and high scoring forward was one of the best players for four straight seasons and led the Maroons to the league finals in his final season in 1980-81. Shepley could play the game any way you wanted to.
9. Dennis McCord -D-
- 3 seasons 1968-69 to 1970-71
Dennis McCord played for the Maroons when they were in the Western Ontario and Southern Ontario Junior A league what many people consider the highest level of hockey in the Maroons history. McCord is only one of three defenseman on this list and can be called one of the best defenseman, if not the best defenseman in Maroons’ history. He was a dominant force on both sides of the puck and won the WOJHL championship with the Maroons in 1969-70. McCord was like Ray Bourque in his prime.
8. Brent Rumble -F-
- 4 seasons 1995-96 to 1998-99
Brent Rumble was an integral member of the Maroons’ rags to riches story of the mid-nineties under Dave Torrie. The Blenheim native was part of the five win season in ’95-96 and then would stick around for four more consecutive seasons before co-captaining the Maroons to their one and only Sutherland Cup championship in his final season in ’98-99. Brent had one season with the Maroons where he scored 52 goals in 52 games. A deadly combo of strength and skill.
7. Mel Wakabayashi -F-
- 3 seasons 1961-62 to 1963-64
Mel Wakabayashi is the older of the two famed Wakabayashi brothers who played for the Maroons in the early 60’s. Full disclosure, Mel is my uncle so extra consideration was paid before naming him to this list. All sources were adamant that both brothers belonged on this list no matter who the writer of the list is. Mel was an extremely fast and smart player who was said to put up large offensive numbers in all three of his seasons with the Maroons. He captained the Maroons to a Border City league title in 1963-64, his final season with the Maroons. Another contender for fastest Maroon of all time.
6. Bryan Campbell -D-
- 5 seasons 1997-98 to 2001-02
Bryan Campbell was an offensive defenseman who played for the Maroons during the most successful run in franchise history. The Maroons won four consecutive league championships and their only Sutherland Cup during the first four years Campbell played for the team. In his fifth season, he captained the team back to the league finals to cap off his incredible career. Sources contacted for this article say that at one time, Campbell was the highest scoring defenseman in not just Maroons but in the Jr. B league history, a title that he could still hold today. No Maroons defenseman in history was better for longer than “Soupy”
5. Rick Stickney -F-
- 3 seasons 1972-73 to 1974-75
Rick Stickney was a star for the Maroons in the time before all league statistics were kept but sources state that he was the Jr. Maroons all-time leading scorer before Brian Wiseman came along in the late 80’s. Stickney was a young player on the famed 1972-73 Buckland Cup champion Maroons, whom many tag as the best team in Chatham Jr. Maroons history. He scored a ton in a time when they played less games. He starred for two more seasons after and used his slick playmaking ability to put up large offensive stats.
4. Darryl Green -D-
- 3 seasons 1996-97 to 1998-99
Stratford native Darryl Green is the best defenseman in Maroons history. Green was brought in to the organization in 1996 as the anchor on the back end to help bring the struggling organization back to respectability. Green certainly did not disappoint as he led the culture change and captained the team to back-to-back league championships. He was also the captain and best player on the only Maroons team to win the Sutherland Cup. Green played a complete two way game better than any defenseman to ever wear the Maroons uniform. Green could completely control a game from the back end.
3. Herb Wakabayashi -F-
- 3 seasons 1962-63 to 1964-65
The younger of the two Wakabayashi brothers, Herb played a significantly different style than his older sibling Mel. While many peg Mel as the better offensive talent, Herbie played a stronger two-way game and excelled in all areas of the ice. Short but stocky and strong for his frame, Herbie was a top clutch playmaker and popular leader for the dominant Maroon teams in the early 60’s. All sources put him high on this list, and although many are reluctant to compare the two brothers, Herbie got a slight edge in voting over Mel and why he is higher on the list He played like Marcel Dionne with an edge.
2. Ken Houston -F-
- 3 seasons 1970-71 to 1972-73
When people speak of Ken Houston in a Maroons uniform, dominance is the word that is used most in the conversation. Houston went on to be one of the most successful professional players from the Chatham area, but his dominance was most noted with the Maroons. His size and ability around the net were second to no one who played in the uniform and he was the main player when the Maroons won the Buckland Jr. A Cup in 1972-73. Houston got a few votes to be the number one on this list. Many call Houston the best player on the best team in Maroons history. It’s hard to argue with that.
1. Brian Wiseman -F-
- 3 seasons 1987-88 to 1989-90
Wiseman is the undisputed best Chatham Maroon ever.
When speaking to people about compiling this list there was never any dispute as to who the number one player would be. I would tell people I was making the list and then they would mention his name as number one.
Brian Wiseman started his Jr. B career in 1987 as a 16-year old and as a Maroon. He ended it with a league title in 1990 as a Micmac and was nothing short of spectacular every step in between. Wiseman was the star player in one of the most memorable seasons’ in Maroon history and still holds the Western Jr. B league record for points in a season at 147. The diminutive forward was a sight to see with his incredible playmaking ability, extreme hockey IQ and dogged determination. His number “9” Micmac jersey is the only jersey retired in the history of the franchise
There were many players listed, considered and discussed for this list, with honourable mention going to the following Maroon/Micmac alumni players;
Richard Rumble, Mickey Gray, Dickie Smith, Dennis Babcock, Ron Coristine, Ryan Coristine, Colton Fretter, Simon Protopapas, Darryl Bossence, Justin Anderson, Kyle Lang, Bob Vandersluis, Tom Waddick, Darren McCluskey, Kyle Nishizaki, Tyler Roeszler, Dave Easton, Nick Warriner, Gary St. Pierre, Jim Bodden, Rob Vanderydt, Tony Pappas, Jim Shine
*Note: Players from the 2012 season to current were not considered due to lack of information on the current era and many of those players did not play for three or more seasons.