Monday, October 20, 2008

My Job with the Newmarket Saints

From 1986 to 1990 I had one of the coolest after school jobs ever. I was the videographer for the Newmarket Saints of the AHL, who of course were the top farm team of my beloved yet crappy Maple Leafs. The Saints moved in ’86 from St. Catherines into Newmarket’s brand new three thousand seat arena. Originally, I was going to be a simple, run-of-the-mill usher until management realized they needed a videotape record of each and every game, and this duty fell onto me.
As an aside, over my time there, that management consisted of some big names in hockey. I was one of the first to shake the hand of Gord Stellick the day he was promoted from Saints GM to Leafs General Manager in April of 1988. I had been reporting to him for the past season before and after each home game. John Brophy was in town often as coach of the Leafs, and I would see Saints coach Paul Gardner every night to give him a tape of that evening’s game. Currently he is coaching Dynamo Minsk of the KHL with Glen Hanlon. Perhaps the biggest hockey personality I crossed paths with, (however indirectly) was Leaf owner Harold Ballard. As our pay cheques were issued by Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd, each was stamp-signed by the old man. Pretty cool stuff for a teenage hockey nut. Alas, I digress….
The Saints really were never that good, struggling to reach a .500 record only twice in their five seasons. They made the playoffs only once, in 1988-89 when they topped out at 82 points…it was hardly worth the wait as they were turfed in five games by eventual Calder Cup champs Adirondack. This series was memorable, to me at least, for two reasons. Firstly, both Saints goalies, Jeff Reese and Tim Bernhardt, were injured down the stretch forcing them to rely on third stringer Jim Ralph. Ralph had spent the better part of the last two seasons providing radio colour commentary, often working on his impersonations to entertain us press box dwellers. He has parlayed that into a nice career doing the same with the Leafs. Ralph had played a handful of games over the two seasons with a goals against average well over four. Even as a teenager I could tell he wasn’t a very good goaltender utilizing a weird stand up style. He did somehow manage to win a few big games to secure the Saints their playoff spot. If memory serves, they had to win the final game of the season to sneak in by a point over arch-nemesis Rochester. Of course, come playoff time, first place Adirondack lit Ralph up to a tune of 28 goals in 5 games including a ridiculous 9-7 win in Newmarket in game four.
The other memorable part of that series was the play of Saints, Ken Yaremchuk. In the five games, Newmarket scored a fairly impressive, but not nearly enough 20 goals. Of these 20, Yaremchuk was in on an incredible 14 of them! He scored 7 goals and assisted on 7 others over 5 games. Among players who did not make the finals that year, he was the top scorer playing in only five games, better than players that played for three rounds.

Remembering Yaremchuk’s scoring exploits got me asking myself how this, however brief playoff scoring excellence rates from a historical perspective. 2.80 pts/game and pointing on 70% of his team’s goals must be next to impossible to duplicate, especially over more than one round. This I will look into further in my next post.


Bruce said...

I just got a terrible early-90's hockey blooper video called 'Hockey: A Brutal Game' hosted by Jim Craig that's full his terrible impersonations and some highlights of him getting scored on. I think they were from his AHL days. Maybe they used your tapes.

Nitzy said...

You mean Jim Ralph, right...I have that same tape too. He can be a bit over the top at times.

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