History from 1954 to Present: 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990's, 2000's
Early in the 1950's the area of York Mills and Bayview was a developers' dream. The land to the north and east was farmland - open flowing fields. The predominant land owner was E. P. Taylor who owned much of the land between Crescent School and Sheppard east to Leslie. The York Mills and Bayview Mall was in its infancy. Bayview Village Shopping Mall was an open air mall. E.P. Taylor decided to develop portions of his property - the result was the creation of many new housing communities which greatly expanded the local population. The administration of The Borough of North York stipulated that 5% of available land was to be designated as parkland. The land designated for park development was the property at the south east corner of York Mills and Bayview. The park was initially developed with tennis courts.
A group of fathers from St. Johns York Mills Anglican Church thought that it would be a good idea to develop a hockey league for young boys. Bob Purvis proposed that a skating rink be added to the park. Shortly thereafter Bud King suggested the idea of a hockey arena. Together Bud, Doug Adamson and Bob combined their efforts and suggestions. They posted notices on local lampposts and at the local malls to gauge interest. There was an enthusiastic and resounding positive response. In 1954 the York Mills Hockey League began play. The league started with 40 boys, the majority between the ages 7 to 9, a few were as young as 5.
Registration fees for the 1954 season were $15.00. Players received a sweater, a hockey stick and a full season of play so long as the weather co-operated. Goalie equipment was provided by the league, and stored at the home of Bud King and Doug Adamson. League play took place on Saturdays, starting at 6:30 am and lasted all day in order to allow sufficient time to resurface the ice and to allow all teams to play. Initial team names were the Algonquins, Iroquois, Cherokee, Micmac and Ojibwa. By the end of the 50's the league had expanded to 4 teams per division, ranging from age 4 to 13.
YMHC started play in the North York Hockey League (which was founded in 1953) in the late 50's. Initially YMHC participated at the "A" level.
In 1959, the YMHC Pee Wees were the 1st YMHC team to become the North York Hockey League "A" Champs.
In 1960, under the Coaching of Ross Connelly the Pee Wees were once again the North York Hockey League A Champs. In that same year, under the coaching of Hugh Fisher, the Minor Bantams also won the NYHL Champs.
Joel Ross, son of founder Ed Ross and a participant in the league since 1963 at age 5 recalls the outdoor atmosphere of YMHC in its early years. The ice was resurfaced by volunteer parents who would collectively shovel the snow and ice off the ice surface between games. The ice was resurfaced by a hand drawn cart outfitted with a water reservoir, tubing leading to a T-bar and sponge configuration which was used to flood the ice. Wire mesh fencing, not glass, was constructed on top of the boards to help keep the puck in play. Many players practiced and also played at the nearby Owen Park outdoor rink.
During the early 60's, Tim Horton - a local resident, famed Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman and founder of the Tim Horton's chain of restaurants, often came to the arena on Saturday mornings to give friendly advice to Doug Adamson and other YMHC coaches.
By 1962, the league had 2 separate divisions. A junior section which maintained their original Indian names and a senior section made up of Pee Wees, Minor Bantams, Bantams and Minor Midgets. The senior section played teams from other organizations within the North York Hockey League.
According to excerpts from the NYHL 1963 yearbook, The York Mills Hockey Club was "proud of their achievements". They had won "its share of Championships." Their philosophy was "to produce better boys and to introduce them to sportsmanship and co-operation and to learn the fundamental skills of the game which it is hoped they will have fun playing for many years to come". This motto continues today.
In 1964 YMHC began Select play within the North York Hockey League (they were also participating at the "A" and above levels at the same time).
During the mid to late 1960's YMHC experienced rapid growth. Due to the rapid population growth in the York Mills and Bayview communities, the size of YMHC expanded and the quality of play greatly improved. Parents put pressure on the YMHC executive to offer a more competitive level of play. The decision to expand from the House League foundation was controversial - not all executive or parents were in agreement. The decision to expand into more competitive hockey was however approved and YMHC joined the North York Hockey League. Using personal money, Ed Ross and Peter Dalton, were the first to create "All Star" or "Rep" teams within YMHC. YMHC was proud to send teams from the 6/7 division to the prestigious "Paperweight" tournament held at the old Dixie Gardens located at the corner of Dixie and Eglinton, since replaced by apartments.
As the 60's came to a close, YMHC once again expanded to offer "A" and eventually "AAA" teams in specific age groups. YMHC AAA teams were called the "Millers" and competed against the Toronto Red Wings, Toronto Marlboros and the Toronto Young Nationals. In all they completed against 6 other teams.
On February 11, 1967 YMHC was chartered. The founding Board members were: Doug Adamson (founder since 1954), Bob Bird, Fred Ellins, Dick Hamilton, Brad Henry, Bud King (founder since 1954) Al Lightbound, Doug Napier, Ed Ross and Bob Wood.
During the mid to late 1960's Mark Napier and Steve Napier were players in YMHC. Mark subsequently played for the Toronto Marlies, Toronto Toros, Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota North Stars, Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabers. Steve subsequently played within the MTHL, Junior A and with Cornell University.
Under the coaching of Mr. Sherry Bassin the YMHC Minor Bantams were the 1st YMHC team to win the MTHL Championships during the 1969/70 season.
Significant contributors to the initial and overall success of YMHC since 1954 were also made by: Doug Braithwaite, Peter Dalton, Joe Greenham, Wally Halder, Doug Masters and Mr. Reinus.
Sponsors became a large part of the organization and with this weekday play began in the early 1970's as well as weekends. YMHC was operating 6 days a week.
By the early 1970's the Millers found the competition tough and YMHC made the decision to abandon the AA level and return to their House League roots. The AA level eventually became the AAA level as the Toronto population grew. The M.T.H.L. as it was known then, created another level of competition and eventually offered competitive hockey at the AAA, AA and A levels.
In 1973, under the initiative of Ed Ross, Jim McConnell and others, a number of YMHC Coaches and Executive who wanted to participate at a higher level of play, left YMHC and formed the Toronto Flames. The Flames eventually became the Toronto Junior Canadians.
During the 1973 to 1975 seasons, famed major league baseball pitcher Orel Hershiser of the Los Angeles Dodgers was a player in YMHC.
During the 1976 to 1981 seasons, Robert Cimetta of the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs was a player in YMHC.
Due to the initiative of Ed Ross, his team was the first YMHC team to participate in the prestigious Quebec Peewee Hockey Tournament in 1974 advancing to the semi-finals.
By 1976, the league had dwindled to some 300 players. Under the direction and tremendous efforts of President Stephen Lende, the league expanded to approximately 750 players by the end of the 1977 season.
Michael Lende, son of President Stephen Lende, joined the league in 1975. He recalls the very competitive level of play by York Mills teams participating at the Select and NYHL "A" level.
In 1978 the arena underwent a drastic redevelopment with the construction of the arena enclosure - walls, a roof, lights and change rooms. A Zamboni machine was now available to clear and flood the ice - the modern age had arrived.
During the 1970's ex Boston Bruin player Don Awrey was a coach at YMHC.
Significant contributors to the ongoing success of YMHC were made by Doug Morrison, Ross Lawrence, Barry Phillips, and Ken McKee.
At the start of the 1980's interest in the league was at a low. Lack of volunteers and players meant that YMHC only had 6 teams participating in the 6/7 age group. Parent participation in the regular season, play-offs and Championship Weekend was also at a low.
In 1990 YMHC enacted a new rule prohibiting body contact within all House League play. Prior to 1990 body contact was permitted in all age divisions. In the older divisions, rough play and fighting caused many suspensions which forced the league to adopt these new rules. Implementation of a no body contact rule was not unanimous - many continued to feel that body contact was a part of the game and that it should be permitted within house league play at all age levels.
In connection with the 1995/96 season, in response to the renewed interest and growth in the league, YMHC moved play of the 16/17 year old division to Don Mills arena.
During the mid 90's Gabe Hayos took the initiative to hire the Hockey Institute to run the weekly practice sessions for age divisions 6/7 through to 11. The introduction of the Hockey Institute brought an added level of professionalism to the league - players were provided with expert skating and skills instruction which helped improve the quality and competitiveness of both House League and Select teams.
In 1996 modifications were again made to the arena with the addition of a pool and new playground.
In 1997, in recognition of the passing of Mr. Bruce McGee, a past President, long term treasurer and volunteer to the league, YMHC established the Bruce McGee Most Valuable Player awarded, given to the MVP of each divisional Championship Weekend game.
Under the direction of Stuart Angus (1998) YMHC developed its 1st handbook which codified league policy and guidelines into a single booklet that was distributed to all players and parents at the start of the season.
Prior to the start of the 1998 season renovations were again made to the arena which expanded the size of the dressing rooms and added a rubberized surface to the dressing rooms and walkways which reduced the wear and tear on both skates and concrete.
During the early 2000's YMHC undertook a few initiatives to improve the organization and visibility of the league.
Under the direction of President Kevin Brillinger (2000 and 2001), the YMHC website was created and implemented in connection with the 2002 season by Barry Stephens and Francois Roy. The website greatly improved communication of league schedules, standings, policy and general information. Kevin also initiated the provision of league jackets to both House League and Select Coaches increasing the visibility and profile of the volunteer coaches both within the league and community.
Under the leadership of President Mark Fieder (2002 to 2004), a number of key initiatives were implemented. YMHC created the executive position of Head Convenor, which improved communication and established standards between all convenors and divisions. In an ongoing effort to improve league visibility, Mark initiated a merchandising arrangement with Threadlines Embroidery Factory to develop a line of merchandise for sale to all players, both House League and Select. Due to the increased demand for additional players in the younger age groups the age 8/9 division was split into 2 separate divisions providing an additional 32 player openings. To accommodate the additional players play associated with the 12 division was moved from Don Mills Arena to Pleasantview Arena. Finally, in celebration of 50 years, YMHC held a special 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday April 2, 2005 at York Mills Arena as part of their annual Championship Weekend.
On Saturday April 2, 2005, in celebration of our 50th anniversary, YMHC celebrated a very special Championship Weekend organized by Daryl Paquette and Barry Stephens. Over the course of the day, all divisional Championship games were played, sports celebrities such as Stuart Gavin (ex Toronto Maple Leaf) presided over a few of the games, Carlton the Bear - the mascot of the Toronto Maple Leafs entertained the early morning games, a special presentation was made to honour those founding members and their surviving families, many past YMHC Presidents and players attended, and a special presentation tent was erected on the adjacent basketball court to conduct all player trophy presentations. Media coverage was provided by the The North York Mirror, The Bayview Post and Citytv. M&M Meats provided a BBQ and Krispy Kreme provided donuts for all.
Doug Adamson, age 88, the co-founder of the league in 1954 and a Founding Board Member was present at Championship Weekend where he made a speech about the early years of the league. Doug was the last surviving league originator and Founding Board member alive at the time. Other family founding members attending were Joel and Stephen Ross - sons of Ed Ross, David Ellins - son of Fred Ellins, Norm Lightbound - son of Al Lightbound, Stephen Napier - son of Doug Napier, Joel and Stephens Ross - sons of Ed Ross, and Michael and Daniel Lende sons of President Stephen Lende.
As part of Championship Weekend, the 1st annual Stephen J. Lende Volunteer of the Year Award was initiated. The 1st recipient was Barry Stephens.
Significant contributors during the 1980's, 90's and 00's were made by Jay Granatstein who acted as House League and Select Coach (for more than 1 team at a time) Equipment Manager, Sponsor and Sweater coordinator, Paul Richardson who acted as an Executive member, President, Convenor, Coach and Select Coach; Ian Hall who acted as Executive member, Treasurer, and Coach , Kevin Brillinger who acted as Coach, assistant Select Coach, Referee in Chief, President, Executive member and NYHL liaison, Gord Robertson who acted as Coach, President and Executive Member and Jane Stephens who as an Executive member and Registrar significantly improved the co-ordination and administration of player registration. Dave Garard, together with Mark Etherington, Kevin Brillinger, Glenn Sora and Jeff Kein (early years) established a Select program and level of success that set the standard for all YMHC Select teams.
In 2007 sweaters representing the only 3 YMHC alumni to play in the NHL were hung inside the arena. The players represented were Mark Napier, Rob Cimetta and David Harlock.
In the 1st quarter of 2009 the GTHL mandated that all Toronto leagues must adopt and implement the Hockey Canada on-line registration system. Despite the limitations of the system York Mills was one of the 1st Toronto organizations to implement the system. Despite the limitations of the system parents managed to register their children. The new system significantly reduced the Registrar's paper based registration system.
During the summer of 2009 significant improvements were made to York Mills Arena. The ice pad, which had shifted over the years, was replaced. In addition, significant changes and improvements were made to the smaller dressing rooms and washroom facilities.
If you have any additional significant information that adds to the rich history of York Mills Hockey Club, please contact any member of the York Mills Executive.