CORNWALL, Ontario – For Boston Bruins fans, there was no better place in the world to be Friday night, than Cornwall.
The Children’s Treatment Centre John Wensink Roast brought together not only the Maxville tough guy who terrorized the NHL during the 1970s, but there was also the likes of Bruins stars Brad Park, Rick Middleton, Terry O’Reilly, Gerry Cheevers and – making a surprising appearance – Canada’s unofficial prime minister, Don Cherry.
Even the most ardent Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs fans converted to the black and gold on this night.
Cherry, who was a couple of hours down Highway 401 in Belleville, in preparation for a Hockey Night in Canada production on Saturday, was piped into the room at the Best Western Parkway Inn – greeted with a thunderous standing ovation from hockey fans.
Cherry held court for nearly 30 minutes, with those in the audience hanging on every word.
He told the story of the first time he saw a photo of Wensink. Cherry was with the Bruins and was looking for a heavyweight to anchor his club against some of the tough guys from other teams.
“But then somebody told me about this guy in Cornwall, a real tough guy who had won the Memorial Cup and everything.
“But you have to look tough, you just can’t be tough.
“So I went to Hockey Hall of Fame and I saw the Memorial Cup (photo) and he had the big wire hair and the Fu Manchu and I said: ‘Lovely – my guy!'”
Cherry’s stories were met with riotous laughter.
In one of the most infamous moments in NHLhistory, on Dec. 1, 1977, Wensink, after just fighting tough guy Alex Pirusof the Minnesota North Stars, skated over to the opposing team’s bench and motioned with his hands, challenging the entire roster to fight – but no player responded
Cherry knew he would get it in the end.
“He challenges the whole bench, and I get fined $2,000.”
Cherry was spirited away following his remarks, to yet another standing ovation.
It was wall-to-wall hockey fans Friday night at the Best Western, with many clamouring for autographs from their favourite players.
Wensink was a good sport, laughing nearly as much as those in the audience as players poked fun at his on- and off-ice demeanour.
Wensink played 403 games in the NHL, notching 70 goals and 68 assists, while also amassing a whopping 840 penalty minutes.
He played 169 games with the Cornwall Royals, scoring 30 goals in that time.
Wensink thanked the crowd at the Best Western, also making mention of the good work done by the Children’s Treatment Centre.