The three-season history on the Labrador City Carol Lakers in provincial hockey competition was “a worthwhile and good experiment” according to Dave Fitzgerald, who played two seasons and was part of coaching for the third winter.
“We did very well during the 1978-79 season, our first,” Tilton native Fitzgerald remembers. “There was lack of talent and a shortage of money the second and third winters and that was end of the experiment.”
But Fitzgerald, who continues to be involved with local hockey, looks back on the effort as “one that had to be made. There was lots of talk for several years and finally we joined the other top clubs in the province.”
The Carol Lakers finished fourth in the 11-team regular schedule.
There were “full houses” for home games during the first season, and the Lakers defeated the defending Herder champions from Corner Brook in the first round of the playoffs. The Lakers won 9-3, 10-6 and 7-3. Corner Brook had a 4-2 win in Game 3.
“Gander eliminated us in the second round.”
The Flyers won 10-1, 8-2 and 5-2.
Fitzgerald speaks easily about “a real good roster that first season.
“Bob Warr of Happy Valley-Goose Bay played great goal for us and Joe Lundrigan, who played in the NHL with Toronto, led our defence. Speedy Jimmy Dawe and Geno Levesque headed our forwards, who scored goals with the best of them.”
Dawe has been inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame.
Fitzgerald lists Ray Maidment, Darryl Munn and Reg Turbiee as other Lakers’ goalies.
In addition to Lundrigan, Fitzgerald spoke of Adrian Sullivan, Al Michelin, Howie Ellis, Tom Kent, Hedley Hicks and Eric Turbiee as other defencemen.
Up front, besides himself, he spoke of Gerry Power, Ricky Boone, Bill Lake, George Hunt, Hedley Gill, Cal Dwyer and Paddy Poirier.
“We got excellent coaching from Bill Kelly and Jim Wilcox, and overall top community support, especially for the opening season in which we were very, very competitive.”
He recalls “teams coming into Labrador got a special travel grant, $2,000 I think, from the government and there was some money when we went out. It cost something like $5,000 per trip for us to play on the island.
“We didn’t pay any players, but we were able to land a few jobs for players coming in. They were not paid to play hockey, but I guess the overall experiment just got too expensive.
“Lundrigan and Levesque weren’t with us the second season and we were not competitive. That hurt the gate at home games and it was impossible to continue after the third season. But it was all worthwhile because that was during the big days of provincial hockey.”
The 1980-81 season was the third and final Herder Memorial Trophy try for Labrador City. The Lakers were seventh in the seven-team operation, one point back of Stephenville.
“A large number of local sports fans wanted to try for the Herder and we certainly did that first winter,” Fitzgerald says. “It was a good time for all of us.”
But he doesn’t think it will ever be tried again.
“Minor and junior hockey are the levels we will continue to play,” he predicts.