Author Topic: Spirit of '72 (NHL Paul Fendley)  (Read 7285 times)

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Offline Melo the Prog Goddess

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Spirit of '72 (NHL Paul Fendley)
« on: April 18, 2010, 03:16:48 AM »
Spirit of '72

Paul Fendley's on-ice death in Guelph once dominated headlines. His story is fading from memory, but those who knew him remember.
December 08, 2007

The Guy That Got Killed In A Hockey Game had a middle name, Russell, after a favourite uncle. He also had a sweetheart, Judy. He liked to dip Dad's oatmeal cookies in milk and made sure his little brother tagged along when he took a girlfriend for ice cream.

Few in Guelph know much about Paul Fendley. He arrived in Guelph via a trade in January the year the Guelph CMCs won the national championship. While most people are remembered for how they lived, in Guelph at least, Fendley is remembered only for the way he died.

Fendley was born in Norval, a sleepy village on Highway 7, just east of Georgetown. His parents ran the local general store that also served as a butcher shop and post office. Behind the family home, the Credit River slows to a near stop and freezes every winter.

It was a perfect playground for a Canadian boy.

"Our backyard was the gathering spot. It was like a public park for kids in Norval," remembers his brother, Tom Fendley, who was four years younger than Paul. "In the summer we swung off a rope into the river. In the winter we played hockey on it every chance we got. Mom loved it because she always knew where we were. All she had to do was look out the back window."

In 1965, the general store closed and the family, with the exception of older sister Bonnie, moved into a humble two-bedroom bungalow in Georgetown. It was 10 minutes from the Georgetown Memorial Arena -- a venue that would become Fendley's second home.

Those were tough years for the family.

Fendley's dad, Norman, was dying of kidney failure and passed away two days after Christmas in 1965. There was little money to go around.

"We drank powdered milk," remembers Tom Fendley, an OPP officer near Barrie and the lone surviving member of Fendley's immediate family. "If Mom had enough money for some hamburger on Sunday, well, that was a big deal."

But, Tom remembers, Phoebe Fendley always found money for her boys to play sports.

"I remember when we broke a hockey stick, Mom opened her purse and showed us her last five dollars. She said 'that's my coffee money for the week,' but she would give it to us for a new stick because she knew how important it was to us."

Eventually Fendley's mother took a job at a factory just outside Toronto. With their mom, who would later remarry, working shifts and their father gone, it was up to Paul to help shoulder the load.

"Paul grew up a little bit earlier in life for his age," says Ray Inglis, one of Fendley's best friends and longtime minor hockey teammate in Georgetown. "He was mature. He had a head on his shoulders."

A meticulous dresser who rarely swore, Fendley was more than a sibling to his younger brother.

"He was a brother, a friend. Almost a father," Tom Fendley says. "He was just one of those special guys. I always looked up to him."

Georgetown high school teacher Rusty Lovelock called Paul an "outspoken, confident student" who had "a love of learning."

Paul wrestled and played on the basketball team before hockey took over his spare time. On weekends he spent mornings refereeing hockey games for free. When not playing or practising on his hockey team, he could be found hanging out at the old North Halton Sports store on Main Street, listening about and talking hockey with the older men.

"He lived and breathed hockey," Inglis said, "but he also knew his schooling had to be kept up."

Tom Fendley is convinced his brother would have been a gym teacher had hockey not worked out.

One of his Georgetown high school mates was Peter Marzo, who would later be Fendley's teammate with the CMCs.

"He was a great guy to be around," Marzo remembers.

"A fun guy, but not noisy. Not over-the-top aggressive."

"You couldn't help but like him," Inglis says.

Despite one lung destroyed by asthma, Fendley excelled at hockey. His bantam team won a prestigious international tournament. Scouts began to notice the solidly built, smooth-skating forward with the natural scoring touch.

Following his second year of midget hockey, Fendley was invited to try out for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League. The coach of that team was future NHL legend Roger Neilson, who sent a letter and $10 for a bus ticket to the Fendley home. Neilson would later attend Paul's funeral.

After a year playing in Peterborough, up and down between junior B hockey and the Petes, he moved to the junior A Brantford Majors of the Southern Ontario Hockey Association, the league where the Guelph CMCs played.

It was in those games against Brantford during Fendley's second season that he caught the eye of Guelph general manager Brent Madill. Trades were a rare thing back then, but Madill was building a contender and Brantford was well back in the standings.

In mid-January 1972, Guelph traded two players to Brantford for the 19-year-old Fendley. He moved in with the Andrews family on Waterloo Avenue, where future NHLer John Van Boxmeer also roomed.

"Paul was a pretty quiet guy. A pretty serious guy," remembers Van Boxmeer, who coaches professionally in Switzerland. "Hockey was our whole life back then. We didn't talk about playing pro hockey much, we just wanted to play as long as we can."

Fendley tried taking a couple of courses at the University of Waterloo, but found it difficult to combine schooling with the demands of a hockey team gunning for a national championship.

His spare time was spent hanging out at Lou Embro's fruit store on Carden Street, or back in Georgetown with family and friends, or with his girlfriend Judy, in Brantford.

"I think he would have married her," Tom Fendley says.

Fendley quickly became one of Guelph's top players after coming over from Brantford and during their playoff run led the team in goals and tied for the team lead in points.

And NHL scouts were watching.

"I think he would have been drafted," Marzo says. "They were definitely watching him. He was cautiously optimistic about it, but not brash. I think he would have gone on."

"He liked the trade to Guelph," Tom Fendley says. "He got a lot more recognition from the scouts because Guelph had a hell of a hockey team . . . they figured John Van Boxmeer and my brother were going to be the first two players ever drafted from Tier II hockey."

The night Guelph clinched the championship and Fendley would be injured, he stopped by the house of Rita Campbell.

Campbell worked at the rink, boarded players and helped run the fan club. Her home was also a hangout for the players, who would gather at her dinner table for spaghetti and meatballs before games.

Campbell was worried about Fendley that night. He had been knocked unconscious earlier in the Ontario final by a sucker punch from a Thunder Bay player who wore a cast on his hand at the time. That punch broke orbital bones in Fendley's face and he was still hurting. He'd been issued a football-style helmet that protected his injury but he discarded it because it was so cumbersome.

"I told him he shouldn't be playing that night," Campbell says. "He just looked at me and said 'I've gotta play, we're going to win the Centennial Cup tonight.' "

Hundreds of people, including the entire CMCs organization, attended the Fendley funeral at Norval's small Presbyterian Church, a few doors down from where he grew up. The family received roughly 300 letters of sympathy.

Six players served as pall bearers, including team captain Bill Kestell, who quietly slipped the game-winning puck inside the coffin before it was closed.

"My mom never got over Paul's death. Never got over it," Tom Fendley says.

He has kept the old jerseys, the scrapbooks and all the letters of condolence, including one from the Boston Bruins organization that said it was scouting Fendley and might have drafted him. Another was from the family of an individual who had received a donated kidney of Fendley. And the parents of Doug Lindskogg, who had delivered the check that fateful night at Memorial Gardens, also sent a letter, full of remorse and guilt.

Fendley's headstone at Hillcrest Cemetery includes the image of a hockey stick, puck and the initials 'CMC.'

Recently the Guelph Storm booster club renamed its monthly academic award for a Storm player the Paul Fendley Memorial Student Achievement Award. The Georgetown referees' association used to hand out an annual award in Fendley's name, but hasn't done so for a few years.

Brian Barton, who was 13 when he got Fendley to autograph a discarded "Players" brand cigarette package at a practice, would like to see Fendley's number officially retired by the Guelph Storm and Guelph Minor Hockey. While no junior A team in Guelph has worn the number 18 since Fendley's death, it has never been officially retired and rep teams in Guelph do issue it to players.

"It kind of worries me as time goes by that he would be forgotten," says Barton, who still has the autographed cigarette package. "That whole team was amazing and I don't think the team, or Fendley, ever got the recognition they deserved."

Campbell shares the sentiment that not enough has been done to honour Fendley's memory.

"He deserved more."

"Gamma, help me". my younger grandson said in imperious tones! He wanted me to put in my password  and unlock my phone so he could play with it!

Offline ChCaim44

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Re: Spirit of '72 (NHL Paul Fendley)
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2015, 07:00:22 PM »
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