Stettler man skated alongside legendary Orr

Not many people can say they played hockey with Bobby Orr and fewer yet can claim the honour of being inducted

Wayne McKenna of Stettler poses with memorabilia from his induction into the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame in Parry Sound

Not many people can say they played hockey with Bobby Orr and fewer yet can claim the honour of being inducted into a sports hall of fame with Orr.

A Stettler man, however, did just that.

As a youngster growing up in Parry Sound, Ont., Wayne McKenna played hockey with Orr for about nine years, but it was the 1961-62 season that stands out. The bantam all-star team completed the season without losing a game and won four major championships — Muskoka district, all-Ontario bantam B, district Little NHL tournament and the provincial Little NHL tournament.

No team has duplicated that quadruple-title feat.

Orr was the team captain, while McKenna, 14 at the time, was one of the two assistant captains. Both played defence.

This past spring, the entire 1961 bantam all-star team, carrying the still-unbeaten record, was inducted into the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame in Parry Sound.

“It was quite an honour,” McKenna said from his Stettler home. “It’s something I hadn’t expected. It came out of the clear blue.”

On the Friday evening of the May gala, a social gathering allowed the inductees and their wives an opportunity to socialize before the Saturday induction ceremony, which attracted about 3,000 people.

McKenna and Orr hadn’t seen each other for 22 years.

During the ceremony, Orr attributed his NHL success to the bond and friendship formed with his teammates during those early years.

“About 90 per cent of my extended family attended,” McKenna said.

He was reunited with some family members that he hadn’t seen in more than 20 years.

“It was an amazing weekend,” he said.

When McKenna was presented with the Hall of Fame plaque, Orr shook his hand and said, “He was one helluva hockey player,” related McKenna with a smile.

McKenna, now 64, has lived in Stettler for the past eight years and currently works as a warehouse technician at Flint Process Systems near Halkirk.

He fondly recalls many hockey memories of his youth. He learned to skate on a backyard rink his dad had flooded.

 In the following years, McKenna — along with Orr and others — would spend many hours skating and shooting pucks on Georgian Bay, which would always have a bare patch of ice swept clean by the strong winds that would blow over the bay.

 A neighbour of McKenna’s at Parry Sound, Terry Crisp, became an NHL player and later coached the Calgary Flames to their only Stanley Cup victory — in 1989.

McKenna stayed involved in hockey and had five of the six NHL teams at that time interested in drafting him. Montreal’s farm team was the only club he didn’t play with.

McKenna believes his best shot at being drafted was when he played with the Boston Bruins’ farm team at Framingham, Mass. One day during practice, McKenna was told some men wanted to see him.

He immediately thought he was being drafted by the Bruins.

Instead, his hopes were dashed by immigration officials who notified him he was being deported for not having all the necessary paperwork complete to remain in the U.S.

Back in Canada, McKenna played junior C hockey with the Huntsville Merchants. They won their final game of the series 6-4, back in McKenna’s hometown of Parry Sound, where he scored four of the six goals in front of the hometown crowd.

McKenna left Ontario when he was 21 for B.C., where he remained until moving to Stettler. He never gave up his love for hockey and played the sport until he was 50 years old.

At that time, he sold his hockey equipment.

“The legs just can’t do what the mind thinks they should,” McKenna mused.

McKenna has the memories and some significant memorabilia to remind him of the sport he so loved.

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