MVP hockey player re­mem­bered

Gus Leonard, 97, had been sec­ond old­est liv­ing Peter­bor­ough and District Sports Hall of Fame in­ductee

The Peterborough Examiner - - SPORTS - MIKE DAVIES EX­AM­INER SPORTS DI­REC­TOR mdavies@post­media.com

Gus Leonard was at the Peter­bor­ough and District Sports Hall of Fame for their Tues­day morn­ing cof­fee crew as the 97-year-old has been do­ing for years.

That’s why it was sur­pris­ing for many to learn on Fri­day that Mr. Leonard died Thurs­day night. Only Fraser Dun­n­field, at 100, was older among the Hall’s liv­ing in­ductees.

“I don’t know any­one who didn’t have tremen­dous re­spect for Gus as a per­son and a hockey player,” said long-time Hall of Fame chair­man Don (Red) Was­son. “If the world was full of Gus Leonard it would be a much bet­ter place.”

Mr. Leonard grew up in Marmora but Peter­bor­ough be­came his home when he moved here in 1941 to play ju­nior B hockey and soon af­ter be­gin ba­sic train­ing at Mor­row Park dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. He built a home on Done­gal Street he lived in un­til his death.

In De­cem­ber 1997, Ex­am­iner colum­nist Don Bar­rie wrote an ex­ten­sive piece on Leonard’s ca­reer. Bar­rie quoted a 1951 Ex­am­iner ar­ti­cle which said of Leonard: “The Petes star took the rub­ber at his blue­line, and in a beau­ti­ful dis­play of weav­ing and stick­han­dling, eased his way through the en­tire team to score a pic­ture goal.”

Was­son said Leonard was one of the best se­nior hockey play­ers of his era.

“He was a won­der­ful hockey player ,” he said. “I can’t be­lieve he didn’t play at a higher level than he did.”

A com­bi­na­tion of the War and Leonard’s love for hunt­ing and fish­ing may have con­trib­uted to him not hav­ing a burn­ing de­sire to pur­sue pro­fes­sional hockey.

As Bar­rie wrote, a team­mate of Gus from his ju­nior days said of him, “He was a hockey tal­ent with class and a real gen­tle­man to boot.”

He played his mi­nor hockey in Marmora and gained a rep­u­ta­tion as a teenager play­ing in the Trent Val­ley League. He joined Peter­bor­ough’s ju­nior B team in 1941 and joined Joe Ro­chetta and Ron Hor­ton on the team’s top line. Ex­am­iner sports writer Fred D. Craig wrote: “This boy Leonard who hails from Marmora is a real find for the ju­niors. A rangy, fast lad, he is good go­ing both ways, is a fine team player and han­dles him­self nicely at all times.”

Fol­low­ing his ba­sic train­ing he was posted to the Cana­dian Provost Corp in Ot­tawa and played in the In­ter­ser­vice Hockey League. He was re­cruited for an Armed Forces team of se­lect play­ers who were to travel to en­ter­tain the troops. He trained with Red Til­son who was later killed in com­bat and for whom the OHL’s Most Out­stand­ing Player Award is named.

“He was as good a player as was in camp,” Leonard said. “He was not very big but he was out­stand­ing with the puck.”

Be­fore the team was to go on tour all the play­ers were sent back to their lo­cal reg­i­ments. Af­ter the War, Leonard re­sumed play­ing hockey in Marmora un­til Red Creighton called to see if he was in­ter­ested in mov­ing to Peter­bor­ough and play for the se­nior B Petes.

Bar­rie wrote that Leonard’s first job, he re­mem­bers, was “sweep­ing out the old Cen­tre Theatre each night af­ter the last show.”

He later worked at the Do­min­ion Woolens and the Toronto Peter­bor­ough Trans­port Co., from which he re­tired.

The fond­est me­mory of Leonard’s hockey ca­reer was win­ning the Jimmy Drum­mond Tro­phy. This award was given to the most out­stand­ing player in hockey in Peter­bor­ough in 1951.

His best game me­mory was from his high school days. The high school in Marmora had 35 boys, in to­tal, from which to choose a hockey team. In the 1938-39 sea­son, this small school made it all the way to the On­tario fi­nals in Ot­tawa.

Mr. Leonard was elected to the Peter­bor­ough and District Sports Hall of Fame in 1993. Vis­i­ta­tion and fu­neral ar­range­ments were not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

CLIF­FORD SKARSTEDT/EX­AM­INER

Mem­ber Gus Leonard at­tends a party on May 31, 2016 at Peter­bor­ough and District Sports Hall of Fame at the Me­mo­rial Cen­tre. Mr. Leonard, who died Thurs­day night at the age of 97, was an ath­lete with many tal­ents in­clud­ing run­ning, rugby, soft­ball, base­ball and hockey. In 1949-50, he was named MVP in the OHA league. He was elected into the sports hall of fame in 1993.

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