Windsor Spitfires Memories from ’75-76
It’s been 41 years since the Windsor Spitfires returned to Major Junior hockey in time for the 1975-76 season. That was also the first season I started attending Spits games on a regular basis and I have no shortage of memories from that first season – not all of which are good. But even bad memories can be fun to recall.
This will be the first of three blogs in which I relate some of my earliest memorable moments from Spits hockey.
As to be expected of an expansion team, the Spitfires were overmatched all season long and finished dead last overall in the OMJHL with a 12-50-4 record. The goaltending contingent of Dave Cooper, Larry McRae, Wayne Mills and Bob Parent were shell-shocked in just about every game as the team allowed an astounding 470 goals in 66 games – for an average of 7.12 goals per game. These poor guys were fishing the puck out of their net every 8.42 minutes.
Goal judges from around the league suffered as well as the result of the Spits’ inability to keep the opposition from scoring literally at-will. Many of them suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of having to flick the red light on so often behind the Spits’ goaltenders.
As amazing as it may seem now over four decades later, this group of puckstoppers did have some skill. McRae, who recently made local headlines as a result of his inspiring recovery from a debilitating spinal cord injury, went on to become a well-known and respected lawyer in his hometown of Windsor. While his rookie season stats – a 6.67 goals against average in 45 games were not exactly flattering, his save percentage of 0.910 was stellar considering the circumstances of the team in front of him. McRae did show considerable skill under what must have been very trying circumstances was actually drafted by in the 6th round , 103rd overall, of the National Hockey League Draft and the 6th round, 109th overall, of the World Hockey Association (WHA) by the Cleveland Crusaders.
McRae’s backup for most of the 1975-76 was Wayne Mills who, quite frankly, looked like a fish out of water whenever he was between the pipes for the Spitfires. He had a 7.88 goals against average in 24 games. Mills returned to play Junior A in his hometown of Hamilton after his forgettable season with the Spitfires.
Cooper and Parent – were Junior B call-ups during the season and played 2 and 9 games respectively with the Spits. Cooper, went on to become a successful local businessman and senior baseball player, is currently the coach of the Varsity Men’s Baseball Head Coach at St. Clair College, actually had the lowest goals against average of any Spitfire netminder during the team’s first season in Major Junior with a 6.02 GAA. A testament to Cooper’s athleticism is that he was inducted into the Windsor and Essex County Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. Parent’s inflated 8.44 GAA was the worst of the four puckstoppers during the Spits’ first season but he did play three seasons in a Spits uniform before enjoying a minor pro hockey career and actually playing three games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the early 1980’s.
Windsor Spitfires Memories ’75-’76 Vol II