TORONTO (Jan. 30) — Next weekend, in Santa Clara, Calif., the eyes of the football world will gaze upon its brightest young star as 26–year–old Cam Newton of Atlanta quarterbacks the favored Carolina Panthers against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. For hockey fans of a particular vintage, however, a 65–year–old man from Peterborough, Ont. lays claim to being the “original” Cam Newton.
Not that anybody knows where to find the guy.
For more than a week now, I have deployed my strongest reporting instincts only to come up empty.
I started with an email to New York Rangers president Glen Sather and continued through telephone conversations with Mark Napier of the National Hockey League Alumni Association; long–time NHL executive Jim Gregory; current Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford and Newton’s former World Hockey Association teammates Pat Stapleton, George (Duke) Harris and Dave Dryden. None could help me locate the goalie that led the Toronto Marlboros to the 1967 Memorial Cup; later played 16 games in the NHL with Pittsburgh from 1971 to 1973, then 102 games with the Chicago Cougars, Denver Spurs/Ottawa Civics and Cleveland Crusaders of the WHA from 1973 to 1976. There are too many Newtons in the Toronto and Peterborough telephone directories to start pestering people. And, a listing for “C. Newton” in Fenelon Falls, Ont., where the old goalie once lived, rings and rings, without a message service.
“I have no idea where he is; try the NHLPA,” emailed Sather, once Newton’s teammate with the Penguins.
“Yup, he was our goalie with the Memorial Cup team,” mused Gregory from Vancouver, where he attended the Top Prospects game this week. Gregory was general manager of the 1967 Marlboros before being elevated to the same post with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1969 to 1979. “I wouldn’t have a clue where he is today but I’ll ask around out here to see if someone might know.”
“I remember Cam quite well, but haven’t seen or heard from him in ages,” said Rutherford, who played goal against Newton in the Ontario Hockey Association… and later with Newton in Pittsburgh. “We have a number of alumni events with the Penguins and he’s never shown up. So, I have no idea where he is today.”
“Cam Newton?” asked Napier, as if trying to recall the name. “Yup… there he is on our database. From Peterborough; 65 years old. But, I hardly even remember him.”
Offered Pat Stapleton from his home in Strathroy, Ont.: “I’ve got to laugh. This is the second time in the past week that someone has asked me about Cam. I told the other fellow to call Duke Harris in Sarnia. Duke and Cam were pretty close buddies when we all played with Chicago in the WHA. Why not give that a try?”
Duke Harris, from Sarnia, Ont.: “I remember [Newton] took my house [in Chicago], but that was 40 years ago. Haven’t heard from him in ages. He was a good fellow; a typical goalie. A bit off the wall.”
Dave Dryden, the former goalie and brother of Ken Dryden: “You know, I got your phone message on Friday night and began to wonder, ‘Now, what could Howard possibly want to know about the [Chicago] Cougars?’ But, Cam Newton?! Holy smokes, I haven’t thought about that fellow in years. I didn’t even tie in his name with the [Carolina] quarterback. It’s extraordinary that you mention him.”
THE CURRENT–DAY CAM NEWTON LEAPS INTO THE END ZONE FOR A TOUCHDOWN AGAINST ARIZONA DURING LAST WEEKEND’S 49–15 ROUT BY CAROLINA IN THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME.
I have fairly vivid memory of attending Marlie games at Maple Leaf Gardens as an eight and nine–year–old when Cam Newton was one of the biggest names in junior hockey. And, often watching the Marlies play Sunday–afternoon on CFTO Channel 9, the CTV affiliate here in Toronto. First, it was Tim Ryan doing play–by–play. When Ryan left in 1967 to become public relations director of the expansion California Seals (before embarking on a long broadcasting career with NBC and CBS), CTV legend Johnny Esaw took over the Sunday junior telecasts. They became a staple in the Berger household when I was a kid.
I don’t remember the 1967 Memorial Cup tournament, but statistics show that Newton performed very well in ten appearances for the Marlies during the playoffs that spring. He compiled a 3.20 goals–against average while splitting duty with Sudbury, Ont. native Bob Whidden (now 69). Hey, there’s another idea…
Two listings for “B. Whidden” in Subdury. Two more swings and misses. What else is new?
The Marlboros finished third in the OHA standings in 1966–67, behind the Kitchener Rangers and Niagara Falls Flyers. Toronto defeated the seventh–place Montreal Junior Canadiens in the opening round of the OHA playoffs before upsetting Kitchener in Round 2. In the best–of–seven league final, the Marlies swept the Hamilton Red Wings. It was then on to the best–of–five Eastern Canada series against Thetford Mines Canadiens, the Quebec champion. The Marlies prevailed in four games, thus advancing to the Memorial Cup final against the Western Canada–champion Port Arthur Marrs.
THE “ORIGINAL” CAM NEWTON (RIGHT) SITS NEXT TO COACH GUS BODNAR AND ALTERNATE CAPTAIN AL OSBORNE IN THE TORONTO MARLBOROS 1967 MEMORIAL CUP TEAM PHOTO.
The best–of–seven series took place May 7–14 at the Fort William Gardens (photo below) in what is now Thunder Bay (the amalgamation of Port Arthur and Fort William occurred on Jan. 1, 1970). As such, the Marrs played at home. Five days before the championship round began, the Maple Leafs had won the 1967 Stanley Cup. The Marlboros, also owned by Stafford Smythe and Harold Ballard, were hoping to make it a double–celebration. In the end, it was no contest, as the Toronto shooters overpowered the Western titlist. Marlies won the Canadian junior hockey championship in five games, out–gunning Port Arthur, 30–16.
THE FORT WILLIAM GARDENS (SITE OF THE 1967 MEMORIAL CUP FINAL) AS IT APPEARS TODAY.
BRIAN GLENNIE CAPTAINED THE 1967 MEMORIAL CUP–CHAMPION TORONTO MARLBOROS. HE WOULD PLAY DEFENSE FOR THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS BETWEEN 1969 AND 1978. HERE, HE SITS BETWEEN OWNERS STAFFORD SMYTHE (TO HIS RIGHT) AND HAROLD BALLARD. GENERAL MANAGER JIM GREGORY IS AT FAR–LEFT IN FRONT ROW, NEXT TO ALTERNATE–CAPTAIN GERRY MEEHAN. FUTURE HALL–OF–FAME DEFENSEMAN BRAD PARK IS IN SECOND ROW, BETWEEN GREGORY AND MEEHAN.
CAM NEWTON TURNS PRO
Having finished his junior career by playing 93 games with the Marlboros and Kitchener Rangers from 1967–68 to 1969–70, Newton was chosen by Pittsburgh 102nd overall (of 115 selections) in the 1970 amateur draft — one spot ahead of fellow netminder Row Low (Dauphin, Manitoba Junior Hockey League), who would appear in 382 NHL games. Pittsburgh began the 1970–71 season with veteran goalies Les Binkley and Al Smith (another former Marlboro). They split the bulk of playing time for coach Red Kelly.
Newton was recalled late in the regular season and made his NHL debut at the Civic Arena against Detroit on Mar. 24, 1971. The Penguins rolled to an 8–2 victory in Gordie Howe’s second–to–last week as a player with the Red Wings. Newton would make four more appearances in goal, without earning a victory.
Newton spent the entire 1971–72 season and much of 1972–73 in the American Hockey League with Hershey. Pittsburgh recalled him on several occasions to spell for Jim Rutherford, their No. 1 stopper. “My [paternal] grandfather, Bill, died in Montreal during that season and I had to leave the Penguins for a few games,” Rutherford recalled. “That’s one of the times in which Cam was brought up from the minors. He backed me up later on and I remember him as a happy–go–lucky guy. What I would call a typical goalie.”
While leafing through pages of The Hockey News from 1972–73, I came upon game summaries from four of Newton’s 11 appearances with the Penguins: Oct. 28, 1972 at Los Angeles; Jan. 6, 1973 at home to Vancouver; Jan. 17, 1973 at Montreal and a home game against Philadelphia on Apr. 1, 1973:
MOVING TO THE W.H.A.
Having lost the confidence of Pittsburgh coach Ken Schinkel with a 3–4–0 record and 3.94 GAA in 1972–73, Newton chose to sign with the Chicago Cougars for the second year of the World Hockey Association:
Oddly enough (though unintentionally), I was at Cam Newton’s first game in the WHA. The Ottawa Nationals franchise from the league’s inaugural season moved to Toronto for 1973–74. The Toronto Toros played their home games at tiny Varsity Arena — the University of Toronto–owned rink attached to old Varsity Stadium on Bloor St. Opened on Dec. 17, 1926, the arena held roughly 4,800 spectators and the Toros began their season against the Cougars on a Sunday night, Oct. 7, 1973. Former Leafs defenseman Carl Brewer played for the Toros and graced the cover of the opening–night program (game ended in a 4–4 tie):
My issues of The Hockey News contained a number of game summaries from Newton’s WHA career. I’ve posted four, below — two from Varsity Arena against the Toros; another from the Quebec Colisee (against the Nordiques), and a third from Cobo Hall in Detroit, where the Michigan Stags played their home games from October 1974 to January 1975:
The Cougars and Toros met in the Eastern Division final (Avco World Trophy semifinal) in 1974. The late John F. Bassett, who owned the Toros, rented Maple Leaf Gardens from Harold Ballard for games that spring (the Leafs had been swept by Boston in the opening round of the Stanley Cup tournament and the Gardens was available in May). I attended the Toros home matches in that Chicago series — won by the visitors in Game 7, at the Gardens, on May 6. Newton played goal for the Cougars. The program (below) is from Game 5 of the best–of–seven round on May 1, 1974. The series results follow:
Pat Stapleton, an All–Star defenseman and key figure on the legendary 1972 Team Canada for the Summit Series against Russia, left the Chicago Black Hawks after the 1972–73 season and signed with the Cougars as playing–coach. He made Newton his No. 1 goalie after training camp, with Montreal native Richard Coutu (now 64) as back–up. “Cam was pretty good for us,” Stapleton recalled. “He wasn’t an All–Star, but his goaltending played a huge role in our team making the Avco Cup final in 1974. We beat the Toros in that tough, seven–game series and went up against Gordie Howe and the Houston Aeros for the championship.
“It’s a moment from my career that I’ll not forget… for a number of reasons.”
PAT STAPLETON IN THE UNIFORM OF THE WHA’s CHICAGO COUGARS.
The Cougars played their home games at the International Amphitheater — a 9,000–seat arena (opened in 1934) adjacent to the Union Stock Yards on the south side of Chicago. For reasons that escape Stapleton all these years later, the Amphitheater wasn’t available during the 1974 Avco Cup final. Instead, the Cougars hosted the Aeros for Games 3 and 4 at the Randhurst Ice Arena in Mount Prospect, Ill. — 22 miles northwest of downtown Chicago. “Imagine Gordie Howe in front of 2,000 people in the playoffs at an arena attached to a shopping mall,” Stapleton laughed. “But, hey, we packed the joint for those two games against Houston. Unfortunately, we lost both (7–4 and 6–2) and were swept in four straight.”
A HORSE SHOW AT THE CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL AMPHITHEATER IN 1934, THE YEAR IT OPENED. FORTY YEARS LATER, IT WOULD BECOME HOME TO CAM NEWTON AND THE CHICAGO COUGARS. THE BEATLES PLAYED THE AMPHITHEATER DURING THEIR NORTH AMERICAN TOUR ON SEP. 5, 1964.
Dave Dryden, from Hamilton, Ont., broke into the NHL in 1961–62, playing one game in goal for the New York Rangers. He later went to the Chicago Black Hawks, where he backed up Hall–of–Famer Glenn Hall in 1965–66 and then split playing time (57 games) with Denis Dejordy in 1967–68 and 1968–69. He carried on to Buffalo after expansion in 1970 and appeared in 120 games with the Sabres between 1970–71 and 1973–74. During a 1973 playoff game at the Montreal Forum, he famously encountered brother Ken at the opposite end of the ice. When the match ended, the brothers skated to center and shook hands.
DAVE DRYDEN (RIGHT) SHAKES HANDS WITH BROTHER KEN AFTER A STANLEY CUP QUARTERFINAL GAME BETWEEN THE SABRES AND CANADIENS AT THE MONTREAL FORUM IN 1973.
When Dryden left the NHL and signed with former Black Hawks teammate Pat Stapleton, he assumed the starting role in net for the 1974–75 Chicago Cougars. Dryden appeared in 45 games (with a 3.87 GAA); Newton in 32 (3.97 GAA). “Cam Newton… of all the names to bring up,” Dryden, now 74, marveled on the phone Saturday. “He was a good fellow and I remember tracking his career until he stopped playing in the WHA. But, my Lord, that name hasn’t come up in decades.” Dryden went on to play with the Edmonton Oilers in the final four seasons of the WHA. He then appeared in ten games with the Oilers in their first NHL season: 1979–80. Few goalies can boast about playing with Bobby Hull, Phil Esposito, Gilbert Perreault and Wayne Gretzky — all legends and Hall–of–Famers — during their career, as did Dryden.
A PHOTO FROM 1974–75 OF DAVE DRYDEN STANDING BETWEEN CHICAGO COUGARS TEAMMATES RALPH BACKSTROM (LEFT) AND PAT STAPLETON. DAVE, AS HE APPEARS TODAY, BELOW.
Cam Newton, wherever he may be, is now 39 years removed from his final moment as a pro — with the Erie Blades of the North American Hockey League in 1976–77. It has been nearly half–a–century since I watched him as a kid at Maple Leaf Gardens with the Toronto Marlboros. I look at the above photo and wonder about the amount fetched for Cam’s Chicago Cougars home–white jersey. Though mildly frustrating, it was also fun to try and hunt him down in the past week. My conversations with Jim Gregory, Jim Rutherford, Mark Napier, Pat Stapleton, Duke Harris (who played four games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967–68) and Dave Dryden were quite the pleasure.
If anyone knows where the “original” Cam Newton is today, please send me an email.