With half of the second period gone, Brydge staged a nice little rush, passed the puck to Patterson who tied the count with a lovely goal.
Toronto Daily Star, February 18, 1927
Another pleasing feature of the contest was the work of Patterson. The former Hamilton player rifled a shot from the wing that scored Toronto’s first goal and he endeared himself to Toronto fans right then. This lad who played in the Kingston OHA junior championship team last winter is going to be one of the stars of the NHL before very long, and the local club made no error when they landed him.
Toronto Globe, February 18, 1927
It wasn’t the ‘shot heard round the world’, but for Toronto Maple Leaf fans it was the beginning of an era.
I wasn’t there, of course, when the former Toronto St. Pat’s changed their jerseys in mid-season, wearing the new maple leaf for the first time on Valentine’s Day. Nor was I there three nights later, on February 17, 1927 when Toronto defenceman Bill Brydge passed the puck to his teammate in the old Arena Gardens on Mutual Street in Toronto. But then, neither was my mother, Lorna Patterson, who wouldn’t be born for another three years.
Eighty seven years ago this month, my granddad, that tall, lanky kid from Kingston, George Franklin ‘Paddy’ Patterson, scored the first goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The score tied, the Leafs went on to win that game 4-2 over the New York Americans. Famed American aviator Charles A. Lindbergh’s epic solo flight from New York to Paris was still in the planning stages. Later, after a short stint with the Montreal Canadiens, George played for his former rivals, and wore a New York Americans sweater the year mom was born.
We grand kids called him ‘Bamp’. He was a big, gentle bear of a man with a deep baritone voice who loved telling a good tale. On a late summer night, at the end of Roger’s Side Road just east of Kingston, the little white cottage would almost shake on its foundation as that big voice got louder and louder. These stories, more often than not, would end with Bamp roaring with laughter while Nana Myrt would scold him if these same stories went off colour. “George! Not in front of the children!” she’d say, and it was ironic, for she didn’t mean us, but her own four ‘kids’, Dorothy, Doug, Lorna and Lois, all grown up now with families of their own. We grandkids would laugh too, not understanding the joke but joining in the fun and responding to the sound of George’s laughter.
That same little cottage on the St. Lawrence River became a focal point in our early lives. Bamp taught all 14 of us how to swim, bringing sand from his concrete-block plant and making a beach beside the dock. He attended almost all of our hockey and baseball games, offering advice and encouragement with very little criticism.
At Christmas, we would gather at 442 Albert Street, the Patterson family home originally owned by George’s parents, Richard and Mae Patterson. It was here that the mysterious framed clippings and cartoons from another era stared out at us down in the rec room. “How Paddy scored three goals in a row” “Record offer made by Montreal Maroons for Patterson of Hamilton” “Fans in Hamilton want Patterson” “Paddy Patterson making the grade-former Kingston boy travelling fast with St. Pat’s”.
I think I was seven or eight one Christmastime when I asked the question: “Mom, who was Paddy Patterson?” I asked, pointing to the lanky ‘cartoon character’ in a picture frame.
“That’s Bamp dear,” she replied. “He played professional hockey when we were growing up.”
“You mean like Dave Keon or Bobby Hull?” To my young eyes, the tall figure in the pictures did not resemble the big man upstairs telling another story in the living room. Once again, the whole house would almost shake with his laughter.
“Uh, yes dear, the professional leagues – you know, the NHL, the American leagues.”Mom was staring at the pictures and following the framed clippings with her finger, lost in her own memories.
“Mom... was he any good?”
Mother had tears in her eyes but continued reading. I don’t think she heard me.
Just up Albert Street from the Patterson house toward the Memorial Centre lived another Kingston hockey family. One of the boys remembered ‘Big Paddy’ very well.
“Boy, I’ll say he was good,” said Canadian hockey icon Don Cherry. “I remember George as a big but quiet gentleman. He was bigger than most guys who played at that time.” Cherry has a cottage on Wolfe Island and it’s his quiet retreat when the hockey season winds down. He’ll often come upstairs to the wheelhouse of the Wolfe Islander III to keep up with the news. It was here, many years later, where he told me of my grandfather’s earlier hockey adventures.
“There was one particular game I remember very well,” Cherry continued. “Big George was skating fast along the boards and someone opened a door. Believe it or not, these doors opened out into the rink in those days and George slammed into it. I think that was his first concussion. He was out like a light. The doors all open inward now.”
There would be more injuries. Many more. From my mother’s collection of clippings I saw where Bamp tore ligaments in his right knee. I remember this giving him trouble much later in his life. In another clipping I read: “Georgie Patterson doesn’t think hockey is such a rough game. The lanky forward of the Americans has had his jaw broken and several teeth knocked loose from their moorings. But it wasn’t while working at his ice profession. It takes an automobile accident to hurt Patterson. He has yet to be hurt playing hockey.”
An account of that auto accident was pasted to the same page. “The next summer, while attending to his filling station business just out of Kingston (in Joyceville) an auto in which he was riding took a crazy jump into a ditch and Patterson crawled out from under the wreck with a fractured jaw and his mouth feeling all moist and funny. He didn’t know why until he spat out a whole bunch of teeth.”
That same summer, on August 15, 1930, Mom was born. Both she and her sister Lois were born prematurely at that same filling station in Joyceville. Needing an incubator, the doctor placed the tiny twins inside the stove, saving their lives. Both mom and Aunt Lois loved telling and retelling that story.
Soon, hockey season would begin again, and the family would pick up and spend weeks and even months on the road, living in hotels or a rented house until they could return home. “It wasn’t easy,” Mom would say years later. “One season we would have to learn American history in Minneapolis, only to have Dad traded back to a Canadian team.”
When the family finally settled in Kingston on Albert Street, George and Myrtle Patterson decided their travelling hockey days were over. George’s career which spanned almost twenty years included seasons with nearly every team in the professional leagues. Starting with the Kingston Frontenacs in 1925, he graduated to the NHL with the Hamilton Tigers. Other teams he played for in the NHL and other leagues were the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Ravinas, the New York Americans, the New Haven Eagles, the Boston Bruins, the Boston Tiger Cubs, the Detroit Red Wings, the St. Louis Eagles, the Buffalo Bisons, the Minneapolis Millers, the Cleveland Barons, the New Haven Eagles, the Hershey Bears, and finally, Hershey-Providence in 1945. He tallied 51 goals and 27 assists in 269 games.
George and son Doug founded Patterson Concrete shortly after, beginning their cement block plant on Hillendale Avenue and later moving the business to Gardiners Road. “Doug Patterson was a product of the Rotary boys and city leagues and also played OHA intermediate and senior hockey here in Kingston in the 1950’s,” wrote local hockey historian Bill Fitsell. “He defended the blueline and the goal crease in the days when defencemen were the big and bruising.” George and son Doug continued in the concrete business for the rest of their lives.
The pictures and clippings are all we have now. Friend and neighbor Ken McCullough has been pushing to have Bamp nominated for membership in the Kingston and District Sports Hall of Fame and had many news clips copied from several sources, many we’ve never seen before. Sadly, Nana and Bamp left us in the mid 1970’s followed by Aunt Dorothy, Mom, Uncle Doug and Aunt Lois.
Some time ago, Doug’s daughter Joanne and I were looking through old photos and clippings of Bamp. “He never mentioned getting that goal, did he?” she asked.
“No, he never told me either,” I replied.
“I don’t think he told any of us. Hey, do you remember him folding the sheets at that big ironing machine downstairs at Albert Street, when they rented rooms out to Queen’s students?”
“I sure do,” I replied. After working at the cement block plant all week, this was how Bamp spent his Saturdays. Nana did the washing, Bamp did all of the ironing on that big machine.
“Guys used to come to the plant years later asking if George and Myrt were still alive,” said Doug’s son George Jr. “They lived at Albert Street during their years at Queen’s and never forgot Nana and Bamp.
Mr. Hockey himself, Don Cherry, said it best: “He was just a great guy. One of my biggest heroes.”
He began following the rubber at Kingston, Ontario, his birthplace. The kids of the town used to play their games right out on the Great Lake, with the shores of the harbour for their sideboards. For three seasons he was a prime performer for the Junior Ontario Hockey Association. His mother came out to all the games. But if you ask Patterson the details of his start the answer is always the same.
“They just asked me to play,” says Georgie simply.
Written by Harold C. Burr (undated article)
George Patterson passed away January 16, 1977, one month before the fiftieth anniversary game of the newly named Toronto Maple Leafs.
By Brian Johnson, grandson of George Franklin ‘Paddy’ Patterson
Brian Paul Johnson is a regular contributor to TI Life. (And this editor is ever grateful!). His stories are a delight to read and he has captured many personalities over the years. He has worked for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation for more than 30 years, recently celebrating 20+ years as captain of the Wolfe Islander III. We also see him pass through the islands as captain of the Canadian Empress in the summer.
Today, Brian combines his marine career with writing. Fascinated by stories and legends of the 1000 Islands area he has written for the Kingston Whig Standard, Telescope magazine and the Great Lakes Boatnerd Website:“Seaway News”. Brian co-edited Growing up on Wolfe Island, a compilation of interviews and stories with Sarah Sorensen. He is a past president of the Wolfe Island Historical Society.
This story was originally published in the Kingston Whig Standard under the title, “He shoots, He scores”.