3
QUEBEC CITY

COACH JOE BYRNE, EVER A CAREFUL AND PRAGMATIC fellow, had willingly offered to accompany the four young athletes to Quebec City, a four- to five-day journey by rail, sea and road. Byrne was the proud owner of a late-model Chevrolet and looked forward to the trip almost as much as the kids themselves. Joe was the purser for the trip, financed entirely by the Quebec Citadelles organization, and could be counted on to spend wisely, even with someone else's money.

Shortly before leaving home, and after receiving the official invitation to attend tryouts, Lester and Olive accompanied George on a special buying trip to Riff's Department Store for new clothes: shirts, pants (“with the modern-day 24-inch cuffs”), a new raglan, complete with zippered lining (“everybody wore a raglan like that back then”), and last of all, to complete his new “gentlemanly” appearance, a new cap – complete with peak and all. There was never the like of such grandeur in the Faulkner home before. “I was all dickied off, for sure,” he would say.

The CNR transported Byrne's 1949 Chev on a flatcar as far as Port aux Basques for the crossing on the newest gulf ferry, the M.V. Cabot Strait, a two-year-old addition to the fleet. The flatcar rode several cars behind on the same train and every time the train lurched or its cars bumped together in a domino-effect pattern, Byrne would almost jump out of his seat, worried about what might be happening just a few cars behind. Then there was the frightening strain of climbing the infamous Gaff Topsails, a long series of uphill track known for its winter blockages of snow. Even at this time of year, the Gaff Topsails could often be a challenge to the aging steam locomotives in the Newfoundland rail system. On its run up this legendary section of rail in the very heart of the province, the train, lovingly referred to by the travelling public as “The Newfie Bullet,” would be moving at its slowest, a tormenting dead-slow pace (“You could see the rust comin’ on her”), and the butt of many fanciful stories because of it. “I think Joe suffered every foot of the climb on that trip,” George laughs, “thinking the Chev might fall off, or get squashed, but nothing came of it. We finally got there in one piece, car and all.”

The new ferry was launched shortly after the province's entry into Confederation in 1949. “The Cabot Strait was a beauty: modern, with the best of meals and accommodations. We thought we were in some fancy hotel somewhere.” Shortly after the sailing began, however, and no longer in sight of the shores of home, a note of anxiety surfaced among the group. Someone mentioned the loss of the M.V. Caribou during a crossing in 1942.* “We got out into open water and it became kind of eerie, and the guys started talking about what happened to the Caribou” George recalls. “Even though the war was over, it wasn't that long ago; a lot of people on board still remembered what had happened, and the thought occurred to some that maybe those German subs were still lurking out there, in all that fog. You felt a long way from home once you got out in the Gulf.”

However, the only thing to go overboard on the trip was George's new cap, the brown-sprinkled object with a fancy peak the family had bought for him a few days before. Maybe to offset the uneasy atmosphere the talk of the tragedy had caused, Dougal Foote, the fun-loving goalie from Botwood, grabbed it off George's head and tossed it overboard, all the while trying hard to control the laughter as they watched it float away in the fog.

Cape Breton, on the other side of the Gulf and a world away from the rugged Newfoundland coastline, was in full bloom that September. They say the season of autumn finds Cape Breton at its most beautiful, its hills and highlands flourishing in the late summer light. This September day was exactly like that. The land still held the heat of a long summer as the first touches of autumn colors began to show themselves.

The route from North Sydney would take them along the Bras d'Or Lakes, a picturesque run to Port Hastings at the other end of the island, and a quick crossing of the Strait of Canso by ferry into mainland Nova Scotia. Unlike the narrow gravel roads at home, they could now sail along on paved highways through the rest of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and from there on to Quebec City, following the panoramic shoreline of the St. Lawrence River the rest of the way. Certainly, it was a breathtaking introduction to the sheer enormity of their newly adopted homeland.

The first sight of Quebec City was overwhelming. To the eyes of an innocent kid from a town of two or three thousand people, the spectacle of what lay before him, a city whose population almost equaled that of his entire home province,* was breathtaking. First, there was the magnificence of its location along the St. Lawrence River. Despite what little experience he might have brought to these new surroundings, the striking contrast between the Exploits River back home – a mere 1,200 feet wide at Bishop's Falls – and the mighty St. Lawrence, more than one-half mile in width, as it moved past Quebec City, overwhelmed him. The magic and immensity of the river, like the city itself, was difficult to grasp.

For the first time George and his friends would see a strategic part of Canadian history in its real form. Their accommodation was within walking distance of the Plains of Abraham, Canada's national shrine to its French/English past, just about as authentically Canadian as it gets. The story of the two famous generals from the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, Wolfe and Montcalm, practically jumped out at them on a daily basis. “For some reason,” George explained, “and from what little I remember of the details of this part of our history, I somehow always took a liking to Montcalm, more so than to Wolfe. Seems he was the more tragic figure of the two.” Many Canadians would probably agree.

But for the next few days and weeks they would not be getting much interference from matters of history in their day-to-day affairs. There would be time for little else but hockey and hard work. The living arrangements for the group turned out to be quite comfortable, and proved to be only a short bus ride to the downtown area and the Quebec Colisée, where the camp was being held. They were set up in a modern tourist home, an off-season arrangement the club had made for them, complete with their own rooms, home-cooked meals (“almost as good as home”), for as long as their stay would last – at the moment, an unknown and anxious prospect for each one of them.

The only equipment they brought from home was their skates – everything else would be provided by the team. George had brought along a new pair of Tackaberry skates, second only to the more popular CCMs, which only a few kids could afford. The ‘Tacks’ were a gift donation from his buddies on the Bishop's Falls hockey team and would put him on a par with everyone else when it came to skating. The rest was up to him.

Hockey sticks were also a precious and expensive commodity back home, even at 75 cents a piece. George couldn't believe he'd have his own selection of sticks throughout the tryouts. “Nothing like that in Bishop's. We'd have one stick for almost the whole winter. If you suddenly broke a stick in the middle of some big game, you'd skate to the bench like a bat out of hell to grab one from one of the guys – skate by the bench in a panic and reach for a stick – any kind of stick. The guys would get such a fright they were going to lose the only stick they had, they'd all pull back, and leave you just standing there, ‘til the coach slapped one of them in the back of the head and simply pointed. That's how precious a stick was then.”

The question of money was a very simple affair – they were given a biweekly allowance, in cash, of twenty-five dollars. Since every other facet of their trip was covered by the organization, including room and board and meals, the allowance would be more than enough to see them through. It was spending money only, the boys were told, if they ever got the time to spend it. They considered the generous offer more like a small fortune.

The most unnerving piece of news they would get before practices began was the selection format to be used during camp. Each of the four cringed when told that a roster would be posted on the dressing room blackboard at the end of each day, listing the names of those who were invited to return next day. If at the end of a day your name was missing from that roster, you knew you were on your way home. For George Faulkner, as well as others, it made them anxious from the outset, even before they stepped on the ice for that first and now even more intimidating practice: “You can imagine how nervous we all were to hear that. There'd be no chance for a second look, no chance to explain that you'd had a bad day at practice or weren't feeling well, and you'd do better tomorrow Nothing. Just pack your bags. It was frightening at the end of each day to sit in the dressing room and wait for that posting and wonder if you were still part of the camp.”

The team held two practices a day, morning and afternoon, after which they were free to socialize, mostly taking in a movie downtown, and the odd treat of a coke and burger. Unlike the accepted practice of many of today's young athletes, alcohol, in any form, was unheard of. In any case, they soon learned there was little time for anything else but practice. The drills were gruelling, the scrimmages (“more like skirmishes”) were tough and would only get tougher as the number of recruits got smaller each day and the competition improved accordingly. Even though it was always a relief to see your name on the daily posting, you felt bad for the guys who didn't make it, especially if you thought you were responsible in any way. “In the one-on-one drills – trying to beat a defenceman for a shot on goal and knowing that this wasn't supposed to happen – you felt bad when you got around a guy and afterwards saw the scared look on his face as he skated past the coach on his way back to the bench.”

“Just part of the natural selection process,” one coach explained. George had no idea what he was talking about.

To make matters worse, the day finally came when it got close to home.

Day after day, Faulkner's name continued to appear on the roster. The others, however, Blackmore, Foote and Sanger, managed to survive the cut for only a few days. They weren't really surprised. At 19 years old, they would be starting their last year of junior play and could see for themselves how the younger crop, even now, were that much more advanced than themselves. There was simply no time available to make up the difference. For them, the invitation to the tryouts had come a little too late. Still, the trip had been worth it – every minute of the experience would be remembered for a lifetime, and they could always consider themselves as having had a shot – no matter how small – at the “big time.” Not everyone back home could say that.

Before leaving for home the day after they got the bad news, the three friends got together to say a brief farewell to the last Newfoundland hopeful. “You're the one, now, George. It's all on you. We know you'll do okay – for heaven's sake, you can skate backwards faster than most of them can forwards. See you back home at Christmas.”

Dougal Foote, as a kind of parting shot, concluded the parting of the ways: “George, they told us they're going to fly us home; only for that I'd have a look crossing the Gulf for that fancy cap of yours.”

With the loss of his three buddies from home, it took George a while to adjust to his new situation. The group had shared a lot of good times together – the trip from home, the training camp – even the little socializing they did kept them together at the end of each day of training. He was glad, however, they saw the age difference, even though it was only a year or so, as the biggest factor in their not making it; but it still felt awkward to see them have to leave the way they did. It would be the first of many disappointments to come his way in this new world that lay ahead of him.

He soon learned his new roommate would be Leo Amadio, a kid who had hopped a ride with them to Quebec from the small Cape Breton community of Donkin. Amadio, it turned out, would stay with the Citadelles organization that year, ensuring the two would remain friends – if not teammates – for the next few years in Quebec hockey circles.* Another hurdle was now out of the way, leaving very little to distract him from the day-to-day routine of continuing to work out with the squad.

He was already feeling stronger, and skating better, and as the camp routine wore on and more and more players disappeared from the dreaded blackboard lists, he began to feel more confident in his chances.

George wasn't aware that a highly encouraging report had already appeared in the Grand Falls Advertiser of October 25, about two weeks into the camp. Joe Byrne reported home that Citadelles coach and camp supervisor, Phil Watson, liked what he saw in young Faulkner:

Watson… predicts that in a few years he'll be playing pro hockey… Faulkner was rated the best prospect in camp and will be heard from in a few years.

At the same time, George himself slowly began to realize he was every bit as good as the rest of the fellows in the fundamentals of the game. The daily roster posting – still intimidating to a point – was finally beginning to lose much of its meaning.

It began to look as if he might really be here to stay.

The final posting came at the end of the third week of training camp. Routines changed considerably as the number of players became more manageable. Practices were longer and there was a lot more scrimmage time as the coaches experimented with different line possibilities. George played centre and left wing for most of the time and was getting as much ice time and personal attention as any of the others. At one practice, he noticed Phil Watson in the stands and figured something important was about to happen. Maybe this was the last “look” the head coach needed before making the final cut. “I turned on the burners when I caught a glimpse of old Phil up there. He coached the “A” team and oversaw our squad once in awhile. He scared the hell out of all of us whenever he was around and we hadn't seen him in a while.”

It turned out George was right. That afternoon, at the end of a particularly long practice session, freshly showered, he quickly made his way to the now-familiar blackboard area, more anxious on this afternoon than ever. There it was, in bold if unsteady lettering: FINAL CUT. His name was still there.

Of all possible coaches young George Faulkner could have played under as a novice in this new world of big-time hockey, it would be his misfortune, at least in the early goings, to fall under the wing of “Fiery Phil” Watson, the legendary New York Ranger right winger and holder of two Stanley Cup championship rings. Watson could intimidate the entire hockey establishment: players, owners, referees, and the league management itself. He was a known fighter, hard on his players – young and old – but he knew hockey and gained the highest respect of players throughout his long, often belligerent, coaching career. In one historic disagreement during the 1952–53 Junior “A” playoffs, Watson disputed a goal by the Montreal Junior Canadiens and rather than settle it by admitting that he had overreacted to the disputed call, pulled the team out of the playoffs, then out of the league altogether, and went on to join the playoffs for the Memorial Cup instead.

Luckily, George saw the better side of him right away. Whatever else, this guy knew the game and there was a lot to be learned from him. As it happened, Watson's role with the Citadelles' organization that year was as head coach of both “A” and “B” teams, but he was directly involved only with the “A” team, meaning they wouldn't have Fiery Phil looking over their shoulders at every turn.

It turned out that the Junior “B” team, because of youth and inexperience, did not get anything near the media attention of its senior complement. Individual and team records, even team rosters, do not exist for that division. What remains in the books is playoff history only. The league consisted of four teams: Quebec Citadelles, Montmorency Falls, Montmagny and Quebec St. Patrick's, a mixed high school/junior level team also owned by Frank Byrne. St. Patrick's would be the home team of George's new friend from Cape Breton, Leo Amadio, that first year. The two would become linemates further on in their young careers.

George managed to get home that Christmas, almost a surprise visit, since no one had expected to see him before the end of the hockey season in April. The high school hockey league was still in operation at home and it happened that the two main competitors in the league – Bishop's Falls and Grand Falls Academy – were scheduled to play the final game before the Christmas break. Younger brother Alex, a 16-year-old at the time, had become the team spokesman, not to mention its leading scorer, and wasted no time trying to convince George to suit up for the game against Grand Falls. The reason for trying to get him to play stemmed from a rather odd situation with a Grand Falls player. Cec Thomas, the best player on the Grand Falls squad, had left school just before Christmas and was now working at the mill. Technically, he should have been ineligible to play, but word got around that, somehow, through some kind of loophole, he was going to be in the lineup for the crucial game against Bishop's.

“Cec was a real good player,” according to George, “and would have made a big difference to the outcome of the game; so brother Alex, not to be outdone, decided I should be allowed to play as well, since I was taking a course or two in Quebec – a plain case of ‘sauce for the goose being sauce for the gander.’”

Few people knew George Faulkner was home for Christmas, and no one in Grand Falls would know until he was the last player to step on the ice for the warm-up exercise for the game that day. Alex had him stay in the dressing room until the Bishop's Falls team -all seven of them – were already out there. “When I hit the ice and started to skate around with the rest of the team, someone spotted me, and the whole Grand Falls team – a full squad of 18 or so players – just stopped and stood there. They couldn't believe what they were seeing.” Their next reaction was to skate en masse to the team's bench to protest. The long and short of it was that there was no game played that day. “Neither team would agree to allow myself or Cec to play and the game was cancelled outright. We went back to the dressing room, changed outfits, and went home. Alex said afterwards they could have beaten Grand Falls either way.”

1

THE LINDAHL FAMILY. Fourteen-year-old Svea (far right) would become grandmother to the Faulkner clan. “Grandpa” Lindahl was killed in an industrial accident at Bishop’s Falls in 1918.

1

HOCKEY WAS NOT HIS ONLY LOVE. Lester and Olive Faulkner at home in Bishop’s Falls, 1956.

1

THE RINK AT ROUNDHOUSE COVE. The three older Faulkners (front, L to R – Alex, George, Lindy) are seen sporting their favourite NY Rangers jerseys.

1

GEORGE, AGE 10, with boots in hand, about to start his hockey day on the Exploits River. The background shows the Bishop’s Falls railway trestle.

1

NEWFOUNDLAND JUNIOR CHAMPS, 1948. George, 15, (standing, last on the right), along with fellow tryouts to Quebec, Tom Blackmore (standing, first left), and goalie Dougal Foote. Coach Joe Byrne is shown with his first winning team from Grand Falls.

1

THE FLYING FAULKNERS TAKE ON THE PROFESSIONALS. In an exhibition game played in Grand Falls during a tour in 1957, an all-star collection from the Quebec leagues got the surprise of their young lives when George’s four brothers joined him in a third-period exchange of players against the Quebecers. The roof almost lifted off the Grand Falls Stadium. (L to R: Alex (21), Lindy (26), George (23), (Lester Faulkner), Seth (19) and 14- year-old Jack.)

After a first place finish in a 24-game season, the Citadelles went on to win the league championship, ousting St. Patrick's four games to two in the semi-finals, and then defeating the Quebec Aces four games to none in the finals. They would go on to represent the Quebec City League in the provincial finals against Montreal NDG Monarchs (Mount Royal Junior League), Montreal Cinderella (Laurentienne Junior League), and Cap-de-la-Madeleine (Eastern Provincial League).

The Citadelles became Provincial Junior “B” Champions that year, defeating Cap-de-la-Madeleine in the finals in straight games, outscoring them 11–6 in a two-game series.

They had made “Fiery Phil,” the tempestuous figure who had appeared at so many of their practices – it seemed out of nowhere – a very happy man.

George felt that he had had more than a satisfactory year with the Citadelles and had played more hockey than he could ever imagine possible. At 18, he was in peak form, with two more years of junior level play still ahead of him. He had satisfied himself and the coaching staff that he belonged. Everything seemed to add up to a busy summer back in Bishop's Falls and a return to Quebec for a second time in September. For a number of reasons, it did not work out quite that way.

For one thing, at the conclusion of the season there was no communication with team owner Frank Byrne or any of the coaches, including “Fiery Phil.” They were given no indication where their future might be with the organization, or what immediate prospects might be ahead for the 1952–53 season. There was no team meeting at the end to underscore the season just finished, no outlay of plans for change, no new strategies for the year ahead. Nothing. It was simply like any other day at the rink. The players wrapped up the season by getting a ticket home and nothing else. It seemed the next year would be like the last: wait for the call and begin tryouts all over again.

George prepared to return home, unceremoniously it seemed, but still very eager to enjoy a summer of playing soccer and doing some part-time work repairing gravel roads – a government “make work” program of the time.

The ticket home was via Trans-Canada Airlines, his first flight. Not that it mattered, but it turned out to be “an all-night milk run” – Quebec City to Moncton, Halifax, Sydney, Stephenville and Gander, aboard the revered and ageless DC-3 aircraft. “Next to making the team and scoring that first goal, that flight was one of the highlights of the year.”

George Faulkner's hockey experience in Quebec would see him quickly move allegiances away from favourite NHL teams he had adopted from childhood – Toronto and New York – although he could never figure why he cheered for New York. The change began during this first year away from home when his interest turned largely to what was happening in Quebec hockey, especially, as one would expect, how the “big club”Les Habs, prospered each time out. It was part of the big dream.

A few years before the Canadiens began their five-year reign of Stanley Cup Championships (1956–60), they had had their problems with inconsistent performances and frequent, sometimes very big, turnovers in their roster.

The 1948 season stands out. The team finished in fifth place, out of the playoffs, with a won-lost-tied record of 20-29-11 in the old 60-game format. Coach Dick Irvin would begin the next season with ten new faces in the lineup and end the year in second place but with no Stanley Cup.

The 1950–51 season introduced two brilliant new rookies to the team – Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion and superstar Jean Beliveau, both just 19 years old. Geoffrion stayed with the club, while Beliveau remained a holdout for another two years before signing a pro contract. As the old Montreal guard slowly declined with injuries and retirements, a new breed of player would take over, a building process that would create in a few short years the most successful organization ever in hockey.

However, there was still a small mountain or two to climb, in the form of the other two dominant clubs in the league, Detroit and Toronto. In the span of years from 1948 to 1955, the Detroit Red Wings would win the Stanley Cup four times, Toronto would claim three, and Montreal just one, in 1953.

George Faulkner's entry into the Quebec hockey world in 1951 came at a time of much re-organization at the top level in Montreal, the faces of its players changing yearly until 1956 when it would complete its turn-around, giving the team a stability that would last into the next decade.


* The Caribou was torpedoed by a German submarine in October that year, with a loss of 137 passengers and crew.

* Quebec City's metropolitan area population at the time was about 300,000, Newfoundland's population about 360,000.

* Amadio was the younger brother of Neil Amadio, a semi-pro player who became a dominant figure in Newfoundland hockey, especially in the Grand Falls area. Leo would be selected to play Junior “B” that year with an opposing side – St. Patricks High School – in the same league.

4
DECISION

FOR A KID ON HIS WAY TO A CAREER IN PRO HOCKEY, it might have seemed like a peculiar decision.

After making the Citadelles' lineup at age 17 and playing through a successful season at the Junior “B” level in Quebec City, at the end of the summer Faulkner decided he would stay home for the 1952–53 year. “I was just 18 years old and I was offered a permanent job at the mill in Grand Falls. A permanent job in those days was a big deal. It was also a job that paid well, and I couldn't pass it up. Hockey, after all, was still a big question mark.”

For some strange and unknown reason, he was not aware at the time that the Citadelles wanted him back. The word would certainly have come down to his long-time mentor, Joe Byrne, who was responsible for all hockey matters in Grand Falls and whose brother still owned the Quebec Citadelles. When he learned of Faulkner's decision to stay home for the year, he obviously let the matter rest there. He knew young George had been hired full-time by the mill, and with the prospect of having him available to play with the Grand Falls All-stars – in fact, to play on the same line with himself and playing-coach Wes Trainor – it might have made sense to Byrne, in the interests of a good hockey year at home, to say nothing. Politics, even in the game of hockey, it seems, gives no quarter.

Apart from what might have been in Quebec that year, there was still plenty of hockey at home, and at the provincial senior level, and playing on a line with two ex-pros would give him a different perspective on the game and plenty of challenges coming from their individual styles and exceptional abilities. Both Trainor and Byrne were still in great playing form, leaving little doubt that the year would not be a total loss, certainly not from what was to be gained from the experience of playing with these two. All that was missing, he remembers thinking, was the influence of “Fiery Phil” Watson.

His job at the mill paid forty-three dollars per week – a good salary back then and it was permanent, with opportunities to progress within the industry. In the beginning he was assigned “on the broke” – cleaning up paper breaks at the huge drying machines. A large piece of wire mesh would take the wet end of newly ground pulp from the grinding room to a huge drying machine, where it would begin its paper run. It was the “broker's” job to supervise the operation in case of any paper breaks, which had to be corrected immediately. “You only had seconds to get to the machine. If you had a break and didn't get to it in time, if it got away from you, you'd have an explosion of paper on the floor within seconds. That could mean a full day's clean-up.” Not quite the pre-game leisure time of today's athletes.

Decision made, George Faulkner settled in to life in Grand Falls, a full-time position at the local paper mill, and a new challenge in the game he loved.

At age 18, standing 5’9½”, and hardly above welterweight status at 152 pounds, he was ready to unleash upon the local hockey scene a singular talent more advanced than anyone remotely expected. The years of playing at Roundhouse Cove on the Exploits River, and the impressive learning experience gained from his year in Quebec had placed him at the pinnacle of his game. They were about to pay off handsomely – especially for his hometown of Bishop's Falls.

The local club league got underway in November, with four teams and a schedule of 12 games per team. The teams – Bishop's Falls (the “Woodsmen”), Guards (last year's winners), CLB and Hawks – comprised players from all over the area, with an “open” player selection process. Bishop's Falls would include, once again, the three Faulkner brothers: Lindy, age 20; George, 18; and Alex, a youthful 16-year-old, still eligible for the high school ranks. Playing-coach Joe Byrne, at 31, joined the squad and played on a line with George and another skilled forward, Dave Greene.

A quick look at league statistics that year tells all:

9781550813876_0038_0001

The team would go undefeated for the season, a feat never before accomplished in league play. In the traditional year-end exhibition game between the winners and a team made up of league all-stars, the Bishop's crew continued their dominance. The squad won easily, 5–2, with George contributing three goals and one assist.

The playoffs for the Herder Memorial Trophy, a provincial championship series going back to 1935, began in March. Competitors came from east and west of the island: Corner Brook, Buchans, Grand Falls, Gander, Bell Island, and St. John's (usually represented by one of its senior “club” teams).

The semi-finals against a poor squad from Gander proved to be a wipeout, as expected. In back-to-back wins, Grand Falls outscored Gander 22–0. Faulkner contributed six points: three goals and three assists. The finals, against perennial winners Buchans Miners, would be a different affair and the lads from the Grand Falls squad knew it. They were aware as well that, in nearly 20 years of competition, they had never won the Herder. Buchans, winners of the title for three years running, were long-shot favourites, as usual.

The series would be a best-of-three affair, played in Grand Falls in mid-March. Attendance at the small Grand Falls arena for the series would soar to nearly six thousand, the highest attendance ever recorded up to that time.

The Buchans Miners lineup included a starting line of three players from PEI: Al Carver, Willie Robinson and Mark Kelly – a given match-up against the Grand Falls first line of George Faulkner, Joe Byrne and Dave Green. For the first time in a long while, the outcome of a series was uncertain. Buchans sported other great names that year, many of them remembered to this day as legends of the old Newfoundland game: defenceman Bill Scott; Hugh Wadden; the Mullins brothers – Ron and Al; Jimmy Hornell; Cape Breton's wonderful goalie of the time, “Sham” Mclnnis; and a skillful, free-spirited player George remembered well. “George Pike was one helluva hockey player. Talent to burn. He got away with a lot because he was always a kind of individual playmaker and not much of a team man. He'd remind you of the kind of player Ted Gillies of St. Bon's* was – a dipsy-doodler – very much an individualist. If they tried to play like that anywhere else, they'd be killed.”

The Grand Falls lineup had more than its share of talent and well-known stars on the provincial scene as well: “Bucky” Hannaford, Al Folkes, Ray Marshall, Wes Trainor, Joe Byrne, and former teammates of Faulkner's – Fred Sanger and Dougal Foote.

The series was everything it was expected to be – except for the outcome. Grand Falls won the Herder in two straight: 6–4 and 4–1. It was the most exciting hockey the area had ever seen.

The season came to an end with the series against Buchans. In all, the team had played 22 games, including exhibitions, losing only once, to a team from North Sydney. George had played in all 22 games, and amassed an impressive 36 points (21 goals, 15 assists). For the full 1952–53 season, including play at the club level, he had played 34 games, scored a total of 48 goals, and set up 32 others. Coupled with the two championships recorded in Quebec the year before, the Herder victory marked four consecutive championships for the young hockey star in just two years.