Toronto Maple Leafs: Bill Barilko and Timmins, Ontario Hockey History

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Toronto Maple Leafs: Bill Barilko and Timmins, Ontario Hockey History
Coloured photo of Barilko's 1951 Stanley Cup winner.

Bill Barilko is one of two Toronto Maple Leafs players to have had his number officially retired by the team. 

His No. 5 hangs proudly from the rafters of the Air Canada Centre, and every time someone mentions his name, stories of the 1951 Stanley Cup Championship goal and tragic death aren't far away.

As many of you know, Barilko died in a plane crash about 80 km north of Cochrane, Ontario in August 1951.

The crash site that claimed the lives of Barilko and dentist Henry Hudson still had remains of the destroyed plane. However, on Oct. 16, it was brought home to its intended destination, Porcupine Lake.

Porcupine, Ontario is a suburb of Timmins, located about 10 minutes away.

The full timeline of Barilko, from birth to death and beyond, as described by North Bay, Ontario sportswriter Ken Pagan is available here.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Timmins native Steve Sullivan currently plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The timing of this excavation couldn't be more perfect for the city that Barilko grew up in. Timmins will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2012 and plans on using the wreckage in a planned Sports Heritage Hall of Fame, to be located at the McIntyre Arena.

"The Mac" has played host to some big names in history. In fact, looking through the past, we can go down a list that includes Paul Harrison, the Mahovlich brothers, Allen Stanley as well as current NHL player Steve Sullivan and NY Islanders prospect Mark Katic. They all hail from Timmins and have played in the McIntyre Arena.

 

Did you know that New Jersey Devils superstar Ilya Kovalchuk won a championship in Timmins in 1999?

 

Recently, Timmins hosted the 2010 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

That tournament hosted a number of recent NHL draftees including Edmonton Oilers first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Team Pacific), Florida Panthers No. 3 selection Jonathan Huberdeau (Team Quebec), Boston's ninth overall pick Dougie Hamilton (Ontario) and both of Toronto's first round picks (Tyler Biggs for Team USA and Stuart Percy for Team Ontario), and that's just the first round picks.  Click here and take a look at the rosters.

Sure, you may look at this article and say that I am just an overzealous Timmins native who is proud of his hometown and to that, I say, yes, yes I am.

To think that a city of just over 40,000 can have such a rich hockey history, both in the past and the present is a remarkable feat. The man responsible for this pedigree stems is the most famous person ever to emanate from Timmins. It's not country music star Shania Twain, it's Bill Barilko.

His legend is still spoken of today, and if you would like to know more about the removal of the plane that Barilko crashed in, take a look at this video that aired on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada during the pregame show on October 22, 2011.

Congratulations to Timmins for 100 years. "The City With the Heart of Gold" is truly "The City With the Heart of Hockey History" and Barilko's story will forever be a testament to what Timmins can bring to the hockey world.

 

Mark Pare is a Toronto Maple Leafs Featured Columnist and Timmins, ON native. You can follow him on Twitter and don't forget to check out his sportswriter page.

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