Tuesday, July 7, 2015

MONDAY'S WITH WALLY


The first Oldtimers luncheon, since Wally Stanowski's passing, took place on Monday afternoon in Markham, Ontario.

At Wally's table, framed copies of newspaper articles covering his death, were positioned behind an unopened bottle of ale.

After lunch, several speakers were scheduled to talk about Wally and his career in the game of hockey.

Ron Hurst, recalled the first time he met Wally...

"I first met Wally when he was wearing a Sammy Taft hat. He was a famous hatter and his shop was next door to Shopsy's in Toronto. He took the time of day to speak to me when I was a junior."

Pete Conacher, remembered playing with Wally on the Oldtimers hockey team...

"After I finished playing hockey, I joined the Oldtimers and played 13 years with them. Wally and I drove in the same car to those games. It was an experience I will never forget. Wally was special. We had guys in the room like Ron Hurst, Bob Goldham, Jackie Hamilton, Ike Hildebrand and Sid Smith, but Wally was the leader, on and off the ice. He had a great career and was a great guy. We are going to miss him."

Ivan Irwin
Ivan Irwin, told a couple of wonderful stories about Wally, his friend and teammate.

The Boston story...

"Frank Brimsek got cut and at that time you only carried one goaltender. The Bruins had 10-minutes to get him stitched-up and back on the ice. With the break in the action, Hap Day turned to Wally and told him to get on the ice and warm-up. Wally had been parked on the Leaf bench since the beginning of the game. Wally skated around twice and was going to sit down, but Day told him to warm-up properly. Wally went back out and started skating. The organist in the corner started playing a waltz and Wally got into the stride of the waltz. He was coasting along and the Boston crowd started to clap for him. He started to do a bit of Sonja Henie with one leg up and skating backwards!"

On Wally's career-ending injury...

"Someone had thrown a coin on the ice and he skated right over it. Wally was a fast skater and he went into the boards. He put his foot right through the boards. After about three weeks, the team told him he could go home. Wally's car was in Cincinnati and it had a gear shift and clutch. He couldn't drive the car because his cast went all the way up his leg. I cut-off a Northland hockey stick and taped it to the clutch so he could shift gears. I thought he was going from Cincinnati to Toronto, but his wife was out in Vancouver. So, Wally drove all the way out to Vancouver and picked up his wife. While he was out there, Wally decided he might as well see San Francisco. He drove there and had trouble with the hills!"

"Wally was a character and he was a beautiful character. I have a lot of fine memories about him. He was a good one."

Paul Henry, a long-time friend of the Stanowski's, spoke about the family he has known since 1955.

"I met Wally in 1955, when I was 10 year-old boy. He gave me my first pair of tacks. He had quite an impact upon me as a young boy. He was an amazing creature of habit. He loved his Wednesday steam-baths and he loved his fishing trips."

"He had 4 kids, one every five years. They were pretty special children. Skip went on to be a winner with the St. Mike's junior 'B' team and won an All-Ontario championship. He was the MVP at Cornell University, when they won the national title in 1967. He was the MVP on a team anchored by goaltender Ken Dryden. Adair and Adrian are both great ladies, teachers and impact people in life. Craig was one of the very first Canadians to win a track and field scholarship at the University of Iowa. Joyce (Wally's late wife) was a dynamite lady and her home was like my second home."

"It will be a long time before we get over the loss of Wally. My deepest sympathies to the family. We have a lot good memories. I also have four children. The minute Wally used to come into our home every weekend, when he came fishing, he would want his love and kisses. And the kids wanted their potato pancakes!"

John Kovalcik, who was Wally's dentist, spoke about what the Stanowski family meant to him...

"I've had the good fortune of knowing Wally and his family for many years. Joyce always warmly welcomed me into the household and family. Wally shared stories and jokes and every single time we had a chance to spend time together was truly memorable. When I had the chance to think about Wally's passing, it was a shock to all of us, it literally took the wind out of the knees. I knew things were going to be different. Wally has now entered the Hall of Fame Of Life and I think we should all cherish the memories."

Skip Stanowski
The final speaker to make his way to the microphone was Wally's eldest son, Skip Stanowski. His talk was uplifting, but also pulled at the heartstrings.

"This is not a time for tears," Skip began, setting the tone for his talk. "It is time for laughter, joy and to remember."

Then, he touched on what the monthly luncheon meant to Wally.

"My father loved this place. He loved coming here. He loved everyone who was associated with this event. He lived to come here. If he was still alive today, I would take him out of St. Joe's (St. Joseph's Hospital) on a gurney and get him here on IV and he would be happy."

Skip revealed that it wasn't necessarily the game of hockey that motivated his dad to return month after month.

"It wasn't the hockey thing that he thought of, it was the people. He just loved to talk to old friends and new friends."

A blanket of silence covered every inch of the room when Skip talked about Wally's last day on this earth.

"We had a super visit on his last day which was Sunday (June 28). He was lying in bed and he couldn't speak, but he could hear. I said to him, you're not going to make the next luncheon. He kind of nodded and I said, I'm not going to see you anymore. His eyes popped open and he knew he was going to go. He was in a lot of pain, but it didn't last long. He knew when his time was up. If he could have been here today, he would have, but he is here in spirit."

In closing, Skip saluted Al Shaw for his work in keeping Wally's beloved Oldtimers lunch going from year-to-year.

"To Al Shaw, who has done an unbelievable job with this organization, I want to express my appreciation for all the things you've done for my dad. It's not the time for tears, but to tell funny stories and keep the thing going."

Before Al Shaw brought the curtain down on the tribute to Wally Stanowski, he had this last message for his good friend.

"Do me a favour Wally, keep your stick on the ice and we'll see you again up there soon."








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