Meet­ing ‘The Big M’

NHL hero and for­mer se­na­tor em­bod­ies the Cana­dian char­ac­ter

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - GUEST OPIN­ION BY PAUL QUINNEY Paul Quinney is a free­lance writer liv­ing in Ot­tawa. He and his wife make their summer home in Darn­ley, P.E.I.

Frank Ma­hovlich — the leg­endary “Big M” — sur­veyed me and my pal Rob as his cart pulled up be­side us at An­der­sons Creek Golf Club in Stanley Bridge, P.E.I., on a sunny July morn­ing.

He still cut an im­pos­ing fig­ure de­spite his 79 years, and broke out into his trade­mark imp­ish grin as he said hello to us.

A small crowd quickly gath­ered around — mostly mid­dleaged men like me who were just boys when the Big M won his fourth Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967 — 50 years ago as we all painfully re­called.

Ma­ho­volich is a born en­ter­tainer and un­der­stood what we all wanted to hear: hockey sto­ries from the leg­end we all be­lieved in as young boys all those years ago.

He didn’t dis­ap­point.

He told us about a 1957 in­ter­view the great Mau­rice “The Rocket” Richard gave in which he was asked about Ma­ho­volich’s NHL rookie year with the Leafs that year. Im­i­tat­ing Richard’s ac­cented English, the Big M quoted Richard as say­ing, “Dat guy is no flash in da pan!” We all laughed and savoured the mem­o­ries that the Big M’s story brought back to us.

Ma­hovlich is a gra­cious man; the very def­i­ni­tion of a Cana­dian hockey hero. He took the time to sign a few golf hats and head cov­ers and seemed to gen­uinely en­joy talk­ing to people.

I asked Ma­hovlich whether he missed serv­ing in the Se­nate. His face lit up and I could see the look of pride when he told us he had the chance to serve al­most 15 years.

He said with a touch of de­fi­ance (no doubt brought on by the bad press the Se­nate has re­ceived in the wake of a se­ries of re­cent scan­dals) that he had worked with great people, and that to­gether they had done a lot of good work for Canada.

Then he looked off into the dis­tance as he lamented the dam­age done to the rep­u­ta­tion of the in­sti­tu­tion by what he said was the bad be­hav­iour of a few.

He was about to name the guilty, but stopped mid-sen­tence. I think he had too much class to con­tinue.

As Rob and I watched the Big M drive off to play the An­der­sons Creek back nine, I was re­minded of how much people still need things to be­lieve in.

It’s why mid­dle-aged men like me, who long ago dreamed we too could be a Frank Ma­hovlich, are thrilled to have his au­to­graph and get a pic­ture with him that we can send to fam­ily and friends.

He and what he did on the ice and in pub­lic ser­vice em­bod­ies the Cana­dian char­ac­ter.

And we all long to be­lieve in that.


Paul Quinney, left, poses for a photo with NHL great Frank Ma­hovlich dur­ing a chance en­counter at An­der­sons Creek Golf Club in Stanley Bridge, P.E.I.

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