Scoring machine

Port Arthur’s Connie Madigan scored at total of 503 points in the old Western Hockey League, the most of any local product who competed in the minor pro loop. 

While many local products put up solid numbers in the old Western Hockey League, no other player from the Lakehead had more points there than Connie Madigan.

As a minor professional loop that ran from 1952 through 1974 and its predecessor, the Pacific Coast Hockey League prior to that, Madigan was a very solid contributor in the WHL.

As a rugged defender with the Port Arthur West End Bruins in the 1950s, Madigan would eventually make his WHL debut in Spokane, Wash., in 1959.

In all, he played 806 games in the league on defence and supplied 503 points, mainly with the Portland Buckaroos, where he spent 12 seasons.

Not shy with the rough stuff either, he piled up 1,846 penalty minutes, making him one of the most skilled and physical players in WHL history.

Madigan also went on establish a mark back in 1973, when at age 38, as a member of the St. Louis Blues, became the oldest rookie to ever dress in a National Hockey League game. That feat still stands today.

Meanwhile, two of the other biggest point-getters in the WHL that hailed from the Lakehead were Don Poile and Max Mekilok.

Poile sits No. 2 on the local WHL points list with 409.

He spent nine full campaigns and parts of a 10th with the powerful Edmonton Flyers, who were coached by him brother Norman (Bud) Poile, and won multiple championships.

Then there is Mekilok, who was well over a point-per-game performer as a member of the Spokane Comets as he racked up 380 in 341 contests.

Starring in Spokane, Mekilok led the WHL in scoring in 1961-62 with a 97-point effort. However, his Comets were upended by Poile’s Edmonton club in the final that year.

Another successful marksman, Gary Veneruzzo, had a great year with the Denver Spurs in 1971-72, leading the way in tallies with 43 and being fourth in points (86).

That same campaign, Ken Campbell collected 31 markers with Portland to crack the Top 10 in that department before going on to finish seventh in points (77) the following year.

Pete Durham is another notable local player from town who was also a Memorial Cup winner with the Port Arthur West Bruins in 1948. Durham paced the WHL in penalty minutes (184) in 1952-53. He did likewise in 1956-57 (205) and was among the PIM leaders throughout his time there.

Then there were the likes of Fred Creighton, who spent five full seasons in the league before going on to a lengthy coaching career, including in the NHL with the Atlanta Flames and Boston Bruins.

Another local bench boss in the WHL was Gus Bodnar with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles 1971-72 before he returned to Ontario and began a stint in the OHA with the Oshawa Generals where he coached the likes of Nelson Pyatt, Lee Fogolin Jr., and Rick St. Croix.

Back on the ice after helping the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 1950, Steve Black had two highly successful years in the WHL from 1952-54 with the Calgary Stampeders, registering 91 points in 88 outings, including 42 goals.

While Madigan’s 503 points in the WHL were the most of anyone from the city that played in the league, here’s a list of the locals who collected 50 or more points in the old WHL:

Connie Madigan (503); Don Poile (409); Max Mekilok (380); Ken Campbell (326); Bill (Red) Johansen (231); Larry Cahan (204); Bart Bradley (202); Gary Veneruzzo (143); Pete Durham (139); Steve Hrymnak (131); Don Raleigh (129); Gord Wilson (104); Norman (Bud) Poile (103); Jim Moro (92); Steve Black (91); Stan Baluik (84); Fred Creighton (80); Lou Marcon (64); John Schella (63); Don McLeod (54) and Rudy Migay (51).

Tom Annelin’s column appears weekly in The Chronicle-Journal. Contact Tom at tommyhockey@tbaytel.net.