The Norwich Merchants, How It All Began
In March 1967, Tom Wright received a phone call from Jim Bickell. Jim and some other fathers were hoping to start a junior hockey team. Norwich had a good midget team the previous year and they were hoping to keep the nucleus of this team playing in Norwich.
Tom Wright put an ad in the Norwich Gazette asking anyone in town interested in starting a junior team to attend a meeting at the Norwich arena. Twenty five people showed up at that meeting and the pros and cons were discussed. The first issue was to secure the needed ice time. Minor hockey agreed to move the Juvenile games from Friday to Thursday night and the skating club gave the team two hours Friday night. This allowed the team to start warmup at 8 pm with the games starting at 8:30. Next problem to solve was the need for a larger dressing room. Arena Manager, Stew Pettit agreed to knock out a wall to the furnace room making one room suitable for the team’s needs.
With these problems solved, it was put to a vote on whether to proceed with the team. The vote was 13 to 12 in favour of going ahead with the team. Tom Wright was appointed OHA contact and an application was submitted and accepted by the OHA.
The next question was how to finance the team. It was decided to sell sweater sponsorship to the local businesses. They were able to sell 44 sweater sponsors at $100.00 per sweater and because of the response to the sweater sponsorships it was decided to call the team the Merchants. Red and White were the chosen colours, but when Bill Smith arrived at the suppliers the Blackhawks red, white and black were the only sweaters available in the number required, so Red, Black and White it was.
The first executive was elected before the season began and included: Sherman Jones, President; Bill Fidlin, Treasurer; Gerald McLees, Vice President; Cap Stubbs, Trainer; Tom Wright, OHA Contact; Don Izzard, Coach; Matt Menich, Assistant Coach and Manager; Merlin House, Secretary; and Jim Ormston, Assistant Trainer.
The first season began with many local Midget players including Wayne Longthorne, John Avey, Rick Buck, Barry Buck, Gary Swanton, Larry White, Martin Wylie, Bryan Bickell, Ted Griswold and Rick Nickerson.
Here we are 50 years later and the dream of those Norwich fathers lives on in the Merchants still!