Date of Birth: 1931
Place of Birth: Buchans, Nfld.
Inducted: 1998 (Player Category)
Wilson (Copper) Leyte is one of the finest players the province has ever produced. From his high school performances in the early 1940s through provincial senior hockey to Quebec junior hockey and Canadian senior hockey, Leyte displayed great skill as a puck handler combined with exceptional skating and an intense desire to play at his highest level.
Leyte was only 16 when he joined the Buchans Miners senior hockey team, and was 19 when the club won the provincial senior championship and the Herder Memorial Trophy for 1949-50.
Leyte earned a berth on the Quebec Citadels’ major junior hockey team in 1951 and was the club’s second-line centre behind superstar Jean Belliveau. The team advanced to the Memorial Cup finals, losing to Barrie, Ont. In 1952, he and Belliveau were members of the Quebec Aces of the Quebec Senior Hockey League when Leyte moved back to defence. His impressive play during three seasons with the Aces, playing under coach Punch Imlach, earned Leyte an invitation to three Montreal Canadiens’ National Hockey League training camps and the opportunity to play in several exhibition games with Montreal. Leyte, Belliveau and Imlach were with the Aces when the club won the Alexander Cup as 1952’s top senior team in Eastern Canada.
Leyte was an outstanding member of the Glace Bay Miners and the Amherst Ramblers of the Maritime Senior Hockey League, and was the “pick-up” player for the Chatham Maroons of Ontario for the 1956 Allan Cup finals. In 1960, the Maroons defeated the Trail Smoke Eaters of British Columbia for the Allan Cup with Leyte and goalkeeper Cesare Maniago, who would enjoy a long National Hockey League career, emerging as the best performers. The Maroons decided to tour Russia instead of playing in the world championships and the second-place Trail Smoke Eaters went on to become the last Canadian amateur team to win the world title.