GREAT MOMENTS IN OUR PAST
Player Highlight: Gregory Knapp
Out next installment looks at the 2004/05 season with #16 Gregory Knapp who spent 2 years with Norwich and he made an impact immediately.
Greg’s very first game saw him get an early shower, dropping the gloves right of the bat. Greg thought he would be benched for that tilt, however he would find himself paired on the blueline with Tyler VanTyghem and the two were a formidable force or as Greg recalls a wrecking crew.
Greg has many memories of his time in Norwich including Mark Baxter’s famous Christmas Eve chicken wings. Greg also wants to point out he crushed 7 wings that year tops on the team, although the following 30 minutes Greg would be found on the ice surface with his tongue latched to the cold surface. Greg remembers the golf tournaments, the Friday night ritual of driving back to London after a big win, where Greg and the boys would venture off to Cowboys looking snazzy in their suits.
Greg also remembers having the best dressing room atmosphere. Never would a skate not be sharpened or tape withheld. Sometimes, you’d find Greg and teammate Eric Britton atop the stairs taping sticks with a big “gagger” in their lip – a term Greg still laughs about today. Next thing you know it was game time as Trooper’s Raise a Little Hell blasted in the dressing room, the boys were ready to roll.
Greg says 50 years of success is credited to Norwich being the most high caliber club Greg ever played for in Junior C hockey. He says Norwich’s mentoring and shaping of the young men who don the red & white is better than average. Greg says that from the day he walked in to the day he departed, he walked out a better individual learning a lot from his time in Norwich. He credits many people who dealt with the challenge of dealing with them, but especially wants to highlight Mark “Bax” Baxter and take this chance to apologize. Greg remembers Mark taking care of thus mislead kid trying to sneak through college who had a massive lapse in judgement at a Woodstock tournament (it was him). Greg says he hasn’t forgotten and he’s truly sorry and despite the fact that Greg never apologized, Mark never swayed in taking care of him.
Greg says 50 years of dealing with young men trying to find themselves through competition is commendable and he hopes the best during the next 50 years.
Finally Greg says to those who currently or will wear a Norwich sweater to cherish the moments, as they go by too quickly and all you’ll have is a distant memory. Work harder, play harder and ask for help when you need and never think you’re too tough to ask for help. Rely on your teammates and keep each other together as a unit. If one of you is at fault, you all are. Lastly always keep the high ground and take everything from the enemy.
We thank Greg for partaking in this series and want to highlight something the Norwich Merchants are extremely proud of for Greg. Sergeant Gregory Knapp has served this country in uniform and defended our freedom. We thank you for your service. You are an inspiration to us!
Player Highlight: Bryan Hall
Our next installment in our look-
Bryan Hall was a member of the 1999/2000 team, but in total he played 5 years. Bryan recalls a slow start to the season, but they would recover to finish with a 23-
When asked what 50 years of Merchants hockey means to Bryan, he thinks back to his family. Bryan’s father Bill donned the Merchants jersey from 1972-
Player Highlight: Derek Boersma
Our next chapter in Merchants history looks back towards the 1997/98 season. It had been many years since Norwich could hang a banner in the blueline club – the most recent was in 1989/90. That would all change in the 97/98 year – a season that feature Derek Boersma.
Derek played 3 years with Norwich from 1996 through 1999. He remembers specifically being selected for the All-
This season saw Norwich compile a 26-
Derek looks back on his time in Norwich very fondly. An Ingersoll native, if you wanted to play Junior C Hockey, odds are you were heading to Norwich or Woodstock, Derek was happy to find his way to Norwich, where multiple people played an impact on his career – folks like Randy Nobbs, Tom Wright, Bob Rachar, Mark Baxter and Bryne Wise. Derek also notes how coaches through his minor hockey career played a part in Merchants history – gentlemen like Rick Johnson, Andy Riley and Wayne Chalkley.
Now a father, who has a daughter playing hockey, Derek remembers paying a visit to the Nor-
Player Highlight: Jerry Vandenbussche
This week we take a look back to the 1984/85 season with Jerry Vandenbussche. This would be a season Norwich would dominate and perhaps a preview of what came in the 1985/86 season.
Jerry was a veteran on the 84/85 team having joined the Merchants as an affiliate player in 1980/81 – the first year Norwich participated in the Junior C category. He joined the team full time the following season and would spend the next five years in the red & white capping his Junior career with on Ontario Championship. Jerry played in an era were Norwich was constantly competing for division, league and provincial championships and Jerry credits the coaching staff and management group for that constant success. He says the players always had a strong bond that also helped make Norwich one of the top teams on a consistent basis. The 1984/85 team was one of the strongest Jerry says he has ever played on. The team lost only 4 times in the regular season and as a result were dubbed “the team to beat.” That regular season success didn’t follow through come playoff time that year, where Norwich fell in the division finals to Woodstock – a scenario Jerry says was disappointing consider the team Norwich had.
That disappointment seemed to spark a fire in Jerry along with returning teammates in the 85/86 season. That season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Norwich, but the squad didn’t listen and instead won it all, winning the Ontario Junior C Championship or Schmalz Cup in a thrilling 7 games series over the Bradford Blues. Jerry says the memory of winning it all will last forever and also learned that you do not need to be the best team on paper to win it all.
Jerry credits 50 years of Junior Hockey in Norwich to the passion and dedication that the executive, coaching staffs and the fan base have demonstrated time and time again. Jerry says he was proud to witness that passion from all sides and says that’s what the Merchants name means to him.
Jerry finished offering advice to players within the Norwich Minor Hockey system who dream of playing for their hometown squad and to those young players from outside with the same goals to always work as hard as you can in games and practices to improve yourself. Have fun, enjoy your time playing and good luck.
Player Highlight: Bob Pizzey
The next installment we look at is the 1983/84 season with Bob Pizzey. Bob spent 4 years with the Merchants, the first of those being the 83/84 season when he joined Norwich as a 16 year old after a season with the Brantford Jr. B Alexanders.
Bob recalls the 83/84 season being a rebuilding year, although the team did finish with a 21-
When asked about his favourite memories, Bob says they didn’t take place on the ice. Sure there were memorable games, but the comradery off the ice is what sticks out for Bob. Events like the fish fry or golf tournaments as well as the famous chili parties and Walkathons all meant a lot to Bob. He fondly remembers the Christmas parties, bus trips, pig roasts and simply hanging out with teammates and fans in the blueline club. He also points out adventures Don “Donzo” Miller and trainer Bruno Nizzero. He says these memories and the friendships created will last with him forever.
When asked what 50 years of Merchants hockey means to him, Bob says it means much more than the game itself. He says it all starts with a great community who supports the team financially and emotionally. As a player, Bob says there is no better feeling than seeing a packed rink game after game – home or away. He says when you add in the executive, the team really starts to feel like a family. Bob says no team could perform without the building block elements found off the ice. Bob also says 50 years of Merchants hockey has created multiple friendships and stories that will last a lifetime.
To those currently donning the Merchants sweater and to those future players, he says to wear the red & white with pride and understand the history associated with that sweater. He asks these players to understand what it takes to create a successful hockey club, which goes above looking at wins, losses and points. As you give back to the community, he asks that you understand and appreciate what goes into running an organization that constantly breeds success. He asks that you understand and appreciate the time volunteers put into this team – that doesn’t happen by chance. Bob says he cannot say enough about his years wearing a Merchants sweater and how much that has meant in his life. He ends by telling players to cherish and make the most of your time in Norwich.
Player Highlight: Rick Johnson
This week we look back to the 1982-
Rick was a longtime Merchant playing for 4 years from 1981 through 1985 and even returned back to the team in the 1994/95 season as an assistant coach. Rick recalls competing in a tournament in Clinton that feature some of the best Junior teams across the province – a tournament the Merchants won by defeating the Dundas Blues in the final. The 82/83 season also feature Rick’s very own “Darryl Sittler Game” – a 10 point night against the Flamborough Colts where he potted 8 goals and added 2 assists in a game. The Merchants had a strong team in the 82/83 season compiling a 24-
There were many other joyous memores Rick has including around Christmastime when the team would head on over to Don and Shirley Miller’s house for some delicious chili – a tradition the team still partakes in today.
When asked what 50 years of Merchants Hockey means to him, Rick credits the work ethic of longtime executive members who he refers to as dedicated ambassadors. Randy Nobbs, Bryne Wise and Tom Wright have played a huge role in the sustainability, success and longevity of the Merchants Rick says. He also credits the many others who have played a vital role in the foundation of the club – a foundation other teams inspire to be like.
To those wearing the Merchants sweater and those who will in the future, Rick says to wear it with pride and dignity and be proud of the opportunity to wear the red and white.
We close with Rick reflecting on his experience. He says his playing days provided him with a good foundation in life and taught him how to work together as a team to achieve success.
Player Highlight: Dwayne Devos
This week we take a look back at a new era in Norwich Junior Hockey – the 1980/81 season. This was the first year Norwich was classified as a Junior C club having made the jump from Junior D after 12 years in that category. Those 12 seasons saw Norwich compile a 182-
To help them tackle those challenges, local resident Dwayne Devos returned to the Merchants. He began his junior career in the 1976/77 season before moving on to play Junior B with Tillsonburg and Brantford for 3 years. The 80/81 season was the first of 2 more season Devos would play for Norwich.
Dwayne recalls the 1980/81 season being a unique situation for the Merchants with their recent jump in categories that would see a ton of new faces done the red & white and would also provide the fans with a new style of hockey. Dwayne credits General Manager Tom Wright for bringing in those new faces which would help Norwich compete. Winning wasn’t a guarantee in Junior C, but Norwich held their own in that first season compiling a 15-
On 50 years of Merchants Hockey, Dwayne credits that to Norwich having a strong organization. He says on all the teams he played for over the years, the Merchants were up there with the best in all of Ontario. The sense of community provided by the team has also been integral to their success. Dwayne says he is honoured to have been a part of the Merchants among some great players.
To those currently wearing the Merchants jersey and to those who will in the future, Dwayne tells them to simply enjoy the experience. It goes way too fast and always remember why we play the game. Just enjoy it!
Player Highlight: Brent Van Parys
This week we look back to the 1977-
Brent’s path to the Norwich Merchants consisted of hard work and dedication. When playing midget hockey in 1974, Brent broke his leg forcing him to take a rest for the year. In 1975, Brent tried out for the Merchants, but didn’t make the team. He would however practice and hang out with friends from the team when not playing for Delhi’s Juvenile squad. In 1976, Brent’s goal of making the team finally came to fruition where he stuck around for two seasons before playing for the Norwich Intermediate B team, however time commitments with his university studies forced him to leave that team, but not hang up the skates altogether – in fact Brent played hockey until the age of 57.
Focusing in on the 1977/78 season, Brent recalls not having a home rink for the most part. The arena was under construction that year forcing Norwich to practice in nearby rinks including Delhi, Langton & Burford, but that craziness allowed Brent and his teammates to be a part of the very first team in the new rink – something not many can say. Brent also recalls having fond memories of his good friend – the late Jim McNally who was trainer of the team and who Brent says was the glue that kept them together.
When asked what 50 years of Merchants hockey means to him, Brent praises the Township of Norwich for supporting their youth. Brent says there was no bigger thrill for young men than to wear the red & white (and black in 70s) Norwich sweater. Brent says the people of Norwich recognize the value of youth sports and thus have supported the Merchants organization. He understands the difficulty boys between 15 and 20 years old have finding themselves and he credits the team for providing lifelong lessons to them including the value of teamwork, commitment, community and sportsmanship. Brent credits 50 years of successful hockey to the positive environment coaches, trainers and executive members have provided to players that allow the team to consistently ice a competitive team. Brent recognizes the passion for sport, youth and community members of the team have had throughout the years. Brent appreciates how the Merchants have contributed to the community, just as the community as contributed to the Merchants.
We end with words of advice Brent would like to pass along to current and future Merchants. He says to wear the sweater with pride and understand you may not be the most popular team in opposing rinks, but understand the potential dislike comes with the territory of playing a team with a long history of success. He says the Merchants have always played a tough, physical game with a healthy dose of confidence. Don’t change that! He also says to thank the people who have made it possible for you to wear the red & white. You will be a better person because of their hard work and dedication to the organization.
Player Highlight: Gord Reeves
This week we take a look back into to the 1976/77 Norwich Merchants team featuring Gord Reeves – a goaltender for the team who spent 3 years with the Merchants from 1975 to 1978. Gord recalls the 76/77 team being an offensive powerhouse, but also had some defensive issues as on the odd night they would give up a few goals too many as well. Gord says that’s what should be expected during an era where the action was wide open and end to end play. The 70s were also the days where the broad street bullies of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers were ever-
On 50 years of Merchants hockey, Gord credits the stability of the hockey club as well as the management team for providing both a competitive and enjoyable brand of hockey. He also credits the fan base and team sponsors for their overall and consistent support through the years.
When giving advice to today’s crop of Norwich Merchants and those of the future who will don the red & white, Gord stresses to always respect and remember the people who helped you along your journey to becoming a Merchant. Be proud of your days in Norwich, always enjoy the game and be sure to give back – volunteer at some point and be sure to help the next generation who follow in your footsteps.
Gord closes by saying he is honoured to be recognized as a Merchant Alumni. His time in Norwich provided him with confidence and taught him important values he has carried forward throughout his lifetime involvement in hockey.
Player Highlight: Bob Hall
Our next chapter looking back on the history of the Norwich Merchants will focus in on the 1975/76 season talking to local resident Bob Hall. Bob began playing for Norwich in 1972, but he’s been a fan of the team since their inception in 1968 and continues to frequent the Nor-
Bob remembers fierce battles against Waterford and Delhi in the 1975/76 season – two teams whom Norwich had strong rivalries with which was proven by the large home crowds that would take in games between the clubs. One of Bob’s fondest memories was the joy of suiting up alongside his brothers Don & Bill and the only thing that could make it better would have been able to suit up with his oldest brother Doug, but sadly when Bob came to play Junior hockey in Norwich, Doug was too old. The eldest Hall brother did however play for Norwich starting in the team’s inception year of 1968 until 1970.
Another fond memory Bob recalls is the “after hockey get-
When asked what 50 years of Merchants hockey means to him, Bob says it’s a significant milestone and he credits the many great people who work tirelessly and who are extremely committed to making the Merchants organization what it is today and what it always has been. To him, 50 years means success. His own experience and observations show that the club can reach this plateau because of their commitment to provide fans with a competitive and exciting product. To be able to accomplish that goal, Bob says the team needs to attract players who want to be a Norwich Merchant and they are able to do that not just because of their success and reputation, but because the players are treated with compassion and generosity from the executive. Bob also points out the strong support between organization and community that the team possesses.
Bob wishes to offer the following advice to current and future Merchants. He tells that they are playing for one of the best organizations around – a team that has established a formidable reputation. He asks that players not only play with pride and respect on the ice, but the present themselves accordingly off the ice, whether it’s within or outside the community.
Norwich Merchants Look-
This week we take a look back at another one of the early years for the Norwich Merchants, specifically the 1973/74 season with Don Hall.
Don began his Merchants career as a 16 year old in 1970/71. He began the season playing defense for the Norwich Midget All-
Don spent the next 4 years with the Junior D club and recalls the squad always being competitive – always making the playoffs, but falling short on their Championship goals. He also remember opponents not looking forward to play Norwich as the team was full of strong, tough men. He recalls some great saves and goals including Lambert Schaafsma dipsy-
Don always wanted to emphasize the off-
When asked what 50 years of Norwich Hockey means to Don, he says it’s a testament to the commitment and hard work of the executive, the sponsors and the entire community past and present who have a love of hockey and continue to hold on to the original vision of having Junior Hockey in Norwich.
To those who currently play for the team and to those future superstars, Don asks that they recognize they play for an organization with a rich history. Wear the sweater with integrity and respect for the organization, the sponsors and the community. Most of all, Don says to have fun and enjoy the ride. You may not realize it now, but there will come a time when you appreciate the importance of what you’ve learned and how you grew as a person.
Finally we end with how Don views his time in Norwich, which I’m sure many former players agree with this sentiment: When you skate on the ice as young man, your time here is primarily about playing hockey, but when you look back at these milestones, you then realize how much you learned about yourselves not just in hockey, but life in general. The lessons learned today carry over into everyday of life, not the least of which is what it takes to work together as a team to achieve goals.
The 5 years spent in Norwich for Don bridged a gap for him and allowed him to continue playing hockey as an adult showing his love of the game has never withered. He continues to lace up the skates to this very day. Don often wonders that if he never got that midget call-
Merchants Look Back – 1971-
This week we take a look back at the 1971-
Before Jim began his Norwich career, he remembered actually being tired of hockey. He quit the game in the fall of 1970 after playing for 3 teams the year prior. Merchant coach Don Izzard convinced Jim to try the Norwich Merchant team in 1971 and that’s where Jim stayed.
He recalls some fantastic memories, but none more important than a party he attended in Norwich at the invite of Don and Barb Hall. It was that party where he met Miss Joanne Pearson and saw something in Jim, because she became his wife and that was over 40 plus years ago.
He also recalls how times have changed, because odds are you wouldn’t get away with what happened to Jim when he was late for a game. He was caught speeding through town in his new car when he was pulled over. The police didn’t recognize Jim because of his new car and when they found out he was late, they didn’t give him a speeding ticket, but rather a police escort, sirens and all to ensure Jim suited up that night.
Jim mentions that 50 years of Merchants hockey has provided friendships from players and executives that will last a lifetime.
Finally Jim has one piece of advice for the current and future Merchants – actually its one word. ENJOY!
This week we take a look back to year number 3 of Merchants hockey – the 1970/71 season. Coming off an Ontario Championship the year prior, it was players like Wayne Longthorne that were tasked with trying to repeat.
Wayne took a veteran role with the 70/71 team having been a part of Norwich since its inception in 1968 but he looked to Coach Don Izzard who Wayne recalls was an inspiration to him and taught him so much about the game of hockey. Wayne also wishes to thank former General Manager Tom Wright who took Wayne under his wing at the age of 14.
Wayne credits 50 years of Norwich Merchants hockey to the dedication many folks have provided behind the scenes to ensure the Merchants are kept on a road to success.
On advice to the current crop of Merchants as well as to the future stars, Wayne tells them to wear the sweater with pride and to always give 100 percent.
Although Norwich fell short of achieving their goal of repeating as Ontario Champions in 70/71 – the team should be looked at fondly. They actually had a better season record than their predecessors going 18-
We end with one final quote from Wayne – which any player can live with and know to be true – “Once a Norwich Merchant – Always a Norwich Merchant!”
Player Highlight: Martin Wylie
Norwich was still new to the Junior Hockey game back in 1969/70 with that year only being the second in existence for the Norwich Merchants, but somebody must have forgot to tell the Merchants that new teams weren’t supposed to succeed so early, because by the end of the 69/70 season, the Norwich Merchants were referred to as Ontario Champions.
This week we talk to Martin Wylie and look back on his time as a member of the Ontario Junior D Champions. Martin began his journey the same time the Merchants did back in 1968/69 playing two seasons for the squad, his second while studying at university in Waterloo. When asked about his favourite memories of the season, Martin describes the entire year as a highlight he will never forget, an experience that is difficult to put into words. Martin described it as a feeling of everyone was working to the same common goal. He does recall a few snapshots including the new team dressing room, completing the league final in Game 7 in Caledonia and simply how well the team was run with exceptional coaching, splendid recruiting and a great executive.
Memories wouldn’t be complete without looking back on that tough 7 game Ontario Championship series against the Haliburton Huskies that saw the Norwich Merchants fall behind 3 games to none. Martin recalls the speech that Coach Don Izzard gave in Game 4 of that series that sparked the team to a 7-
When asked what 50 years of Norwich Merchant hockey means to him, Martin says the team is something he’s proud to call himself an Alumni of. He mentions how pleased he is that the same values have been maintained throughout 50 years – those values of community, hard work and team dynamics that are still integral building blocks within the organization today.
On advice to current and future Merchants, Martin explains that the team was an important element of his development as a young adult. He says the experience provided structure, discipline, direction and demonstrated the importance of community – life lessons he hopes the current and future Merchants hold dear.
Martin wraps up with one final thought from the Championship team. He says every player from that year contributed to its success and the bond that was between players and staff is still going strong.
50th Anniversary – Player Interview – 1968-
It all began almost 50 years ago – the birth of the Merchants. A Junior D Hockey Club would called the small village of Norwich home. The team has gone through some ups and downs, but the Merchants have always been there – well at least since 1968. Over the next 50 weeks the team will be preparing for their upcoming 50th season in 2017/18. In preparation of this, the team will be highlighting each year of existence by conducting an interview with one member of that team per week as we look back on some of the great moments in team history while looking forward what the future holds.
We begin all the way back in 1968 – the first year of the Merchants highlighting Wayne Chalkley. Wayne had thought his junior hockey career was over. He along with Ken Cook had been cut by the Ingersoll Junior C team when they received a phone call from Merchants’ Head Coach Don Izzard who asked the two young men to suit up for Norwich. Although reluctant to go at first, Wayne says making the move began the best two years of his hockey career.
When asked what his favourite moment was, Wayne said the entire year was a highlight. He remembers the town buzzing over the newly formed Merchants and the sense of community was apparent. He recalls heading over to Smith’s to pick-
On 50 years of Merchants hockey, Wayne says it is a great accomplishment, especially when you look at the teams who have come and gone over the years. He mentions it’s no surprise the team has thrived when you look at how hard the team executive works and how they treat the future. He has no doubt the team will continue to be strong for years to come.
Wayne wraps the interview with some advice to Merchants of today and tomorrow: “Your Junior career is short, so enjoy every practice, game, bus ride and event the team organizes.”