NEW GLASGOW – For the Mahovlich brothers the possibility of playing together wasn’t something they expected would happen.
With almost nine years between Frank and his younger brother Pete, that was enough of a reason, let alone the fact that players were rarely traded when Pete was coming through junior hockey. It wasn’t until expansion started that teams started to move players slightly more often.
“I never thought about it, because back then there were only six teams when we were looking at it at that time (1963-64),” said Pete. “There weren’t that many trades. Player movement didn’t happen. Players stayed with their teams for 10, 12, 14 years and there might be one trade a year between a team. As expansion grew and player movement started to happen we were fortunate enough to play together.”
In town for the 20th annual Scott Weeks Celebrity Golf Tournament, the brothers talked about their experience of winning the Stanley Cup multiple times and their time spent with franchises like Detroit, Montreal and Toronto.
Frank played 19 seasons (from 1956-57 to 1973-74) in the NHL between the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he won four Stanley Cups; Detroit Red Wings; and Montreal Canadiens where he added two more. Pete was in Montreal for the two his brother won and also tagged on two more with the Habs in 1976 and 1977 after his brother had left the NHL. Pete was in the NHL for 16 seasons from 1965-66 to 1980-81.
“Over four years we ended up winning two Stanley Cups,” said Pete. “That was a great experience for both of us. Frank has won six Stanley Cups – four in Toronto and two in Montreal – the one he treasures most I think is our first Stanley Cup together in Montreal in 1971.”
Frank recalls that 1971 season for a number of reasons. He said it all started because he was traded from Detroit to the Canadiens and soon after Montreal’s play started to pick up.
“We started to play well and people started to talk about the Stanley Cup,” he said. “We were the underdogs against Boston, who set all the records that particular year. We were underdogs in that series and then we were underdogs in the Chicago series. I think we were favoured against Minnesota, but we took Boston in seven and Chicago in seven, so it was a very exciting time.”
In the Mahovlich household there was no favourite team in the years they played for separate teams. Their parents cheered for Frank and Pete regardless of what jersey they had on their back. The first stint together was in Detroit during the 1967-68 and 1968-69 seasons. Pete then moved on to Montreal where his brother would join him in 1970-71.
“As far as mom and dad were concerned they didn’t cheer for the teams, they just cheered for us when we weren’t playing with each other,” said Pete. “The allegiances changed – we played together twice – once in Detroit where we played together for a bit and then we got to play together in Montreal, where we had a tremendous amount of success.”
On top of their NHL success the two brothers also played for Canada in the 1972 Summit Series. Both of their memories were sharp when it came to remembering specific moments throughout their careers, but they truly remember that series with great detail.
Pete described one of the most odd moments in his career as being from that 1972 series. His brother gave the spectator’s version.
“He (Alan Eagleson) was putting on a display on a questionable goal, so the soldiers just politely picked him up and were taking him out (of the arena),” said Frank of one of the Canadians behind the Summit Series. “I said ‘they got him now’ and he (Pete) jumps over the boards, takes his stick and goes right up to the soldiers and threatens them. Who ever did that in Russia? That was an automatic in jail forever. They let him go and he marched Al back across the ice. Al Eagleson sat down beside me on the bench and was as white as a sheet.”
Looking back Pete said it definitely wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but in the moment he wouldn’t have done it any other way.
“There was so much intensity back then and you didn’t really look at it at that time,” said Pete. “You just reacted without thinking. I look back at it thinking ‘I wasn’t very smart, I’m over there threatening these guys with a hockey stick and here they have loaded machine guns.’”
Nowadays the two are a little more laid back than in their playing days – well, Frank said, it’s supposed to be that way. He retired from his role as a Canadian senator on Jan. 10, 2013, which he held for over 14 years beginning in 1998.
“I’m supposed to be retired, but I don’t seem to have any time,” he said with a laugh. “I’m way behind in my gardening at home. I take my grandchildren to play a little golf and that, so I’ve been busy and I don’t know why I’m so busy. I haven’t seen my brother in six months, so I thought this would be a good chance to get away and spend some time with him and we’ve had a great time.”
On the flipside Pete is still involved in the NHL as a pro-scout with the Florida Panthers. Going to approximately 150 to 180 NHL or AHL games a year he’s watched a lot of hockey and recognized things are a lot different from when they played.
“The preparation of the players is much better, the athletes are bigger and stronger and the equipment is better,” he said. “There are certain aspects of the game I don’t like, but other things I do like. You do see a lot of great players like Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon; there are just so many good hockey players around. We’ve got some good ones with the Florida Panthers – (Jonathan) Huberdeau who played down with, now our coach, Gerard Gallant (formerly Saint John Sea Dogs).”
Pete didn’t hint when he’ll stop working with a professional hockey team, but it doesn’t sound like it will be any time soon.
Recent guests of the tournament: