In the spring of 1976 when Don Cherry wanted to toughen up his already rugged Bruins with a role player, he didn't have to engage the services of an employment agency.
Cherry, after convincing a (very) skeptical general manager Harry Sinden, put out a call to a player he coached in Rochester, the AHL Americans, who was just cut loose by the St. Louis Blues, who selected him in the seventh round of the 1973 draft. The Blues deemed his hockey skills as mediocre and his skating less than sub-par.
Cherry figured the Blues were under-rating the player. Besides, he had a benchful of guys who could skate and score. The Bruins flamboyant coach didn't rate John Wensink as tough, he listed him as tougher than tough, tailored made for his bruising Bruins in an NHL era when they weren't taking any prisoners.
The ex-Cornwall Royals left winger who grew up in Maxville (he was born in Pincher Creek, Alta.) didn't disappoint Cherry, or the boisterous gallery gods at the old Boston Garden.
Wensink didn't waste anytime submitting his enforcer credentials, taking on all comers. One of his historic battles was against Flyers tough guy Bob "Battleship" Kelly, with Wensink winning a drawn-out decision.
During a game in Minnesota he skated to within a couple feet of the North Stars bench and challenged the entire team. The Stars, who had watched their enforcer smitten by Wensink, stayed glued to the bench.
Wensink showed he could pack some offensive punch, too. In the 1978-79 season he scored 28 goals for the Bruins. Ironically, Cherry claimed the goal-scoring spree hurt his pro career, that he forgot the role that got him to the NHL. However, the stats show that in his 28-goal season Wensink wasn't exactly a Lady Bing Trophy candidate, spending 106 minutes in the penalty box.
He played his third and final season in a Bruins' uniform in 1979-80, scoring nine goals and piling up penalty minutes. He finished his NHL career with Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Rockies and New Jersey Devils before spending two seasons playing in Holland from where his parents had immigrated to Canada.
On Friday, Sept. 13 Wensink will be on the receiving end of some pretty good jabs ... verbal of course, and for a good cause: it's the Children's Treatment Centre John Wensink roast at the New Parkway Hotel.
The roasters includes two NHL Hall of Famers, defenceman Brad Park and goaltender Gerry Cheevers. Then there is Rick Middleton, Terry O'Reilly and Bob Plager. Kelly Chase, ex-NHLer turned radio broadcaster, will serve as master of ceremonies. Middleton had five 40-goal seasons, O'Reilly played his entire NHL career with the Bruins and Plager has been with the St. Louis Blues since they came into the league in 1968 (traded by the Rangers). As he puts it, he has done everything but drive the Zamboni.
To say Park is pulling out all stops to take part in the roast would be an understatement. He isn't taking an easy route to the event. Park is flying to Los Angeles from Boston on Sept. 12 for a medical appointment, grabbing an overnight flight from L.A. to Toronto then hopping on a Friday morning connecting flight to Montreal where he will be driven to Cornwall, hopefully in time for a pre-roast catnap.
Of course, the icing on the cake for the night would have been Cherry but he doesn't make public appearances these days, not even in his hometown of Kingston, but even without the legendary Grapes on hand, it's an all-star lineup.
TRIVIA ANSWER - Dr. J. M. Pollock practised medicine in Avonmore for nearly 60 years. He was still attending to patients when he died on April 7, 1974 at age 88. Six days earlier the region lost another long-time family physician with the passing of Dr. J. C. MacLeod of Finch at age 78. He practised medicine for more than 50 years in the community.
TRIVIA On March 3, 1964 Rolland Larochelle became the first Cornwall firefighter to die while on duty. What heroic act was he performing when he lost his life?
IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR Retired Cornwall Transit driver Bob DiMillo has fond memories of the crew he worked with over the years, going back to the days when Sun Life Insurance Co. operated the transit system (the Belt Line, Seventh Street route and trolleys) under the name Cornwall Street Railway Light and Power Co. which was housed on Water Street between Pitt and Sydney streets. One of his colleagues was veteran driver Don "Brownie" Brown who lost an eye to cancer but continued to drive buses. Brownie's favourite prank was taking out his glass eye and polishing it. Once, while taking an eye exam he did just that in front of the young lady giving the exam. "She nearly fainted," recalled DiMillo. Another driver, Bill Wilson, drove for more than 35 years and never once called in sick. ... George Miklos sends along a post card circa 1912 showing a young boy standing beside a large muskie caught by a Mrs. Sammis at Stanley Island east of the city. It weighed 38.5 pounds and won first prize in a fishing tournament. In its heyday, Stanley Island was home to a swank resort, the 300-room Algonquin Hotel complete with a golf course. Legend has it that President Franklin Roosevelt once vacationed at the resort which was destroyed by fire in 1936. ... The lunch counter at McNabb's Drug Store on Pitt Street.
SEEN & HEARD In case you didn't notice, Sunday, Aug. 25 was International "Go Topless Day". Of course, if you live in Cornwall (and area) you didn't notice because there was nothing to notice. Just for the record, it not illegal for women in Canada to bare their breasts in public. "Go Topless Day" was observed in several U.S. cities where guys snapping photos from the sidelines outnumbered the topless marchers.
HERE & THERE According to a Canadian Press story, 7,000 Canadians signed up for a chance to live on Mars. Haven't seen the list, but one can only hope. ... Ever wonder why so many cars with Quebec plates show up at some of the apartment buildings and subsidized housing units on weekends? ... To "encourage" subscribers to use paperless billing, at least one cell phone company is hitting customers who receive bills in the mail with a $2 penalty. On the flip side, shouldn't those using paperless billing get a $2 discount?... Here's an interesting statistic: while the size of Canadian families has declined over the last 30 years, the size of the average family home has doubled. ... If you are wondering why the population of Cornwall isn't growing, take a look at the obituary column.