Meeting ‘The Big M’
NHL hero and former senator embodies the Canadian character
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.