Zellio Toppazzini: The Player of the
The R. I. Reds Heritage Society was formed early in 2000 and one of its first orders of business in the new millennium was to select the team's "Player of the 20th Century." To do so the group's founders waded through records of more than 600 players who proudly wore the uniform during the team's 51-year history.
In the end, the choice was not difficult. On Saturday night, April 1, 2000, the society honored Zellio "Topper" Toppazzini as Reds' "Player of the Century" in ceremonies at the Providence Civic Center prior to a Providence Bruins AHL game. The richly deserved honor recognized Topper as the greatest Red of them all.
Topper, who passed away in 2001 at age 71, is the all-time leading scorer in Reds history. During his 12 years sporting the uniform, he amassed 279 goals, 448 assists and 727 points in 650 regular season games, and another 16-28-44 in playoff action. All are team records.
In 1955-56 the line of Topper, Paul Larivee and Camille Henry spearheaded the Reds to both regular season and Calder Cup championships. Topper earned career highs of 42 goals,
71 assists and 113 points in leading the AHL in scoring and in the playoffs he also added 7-13-20. Needless to say, he was selected to the AHL's first-team all-star squad. Later, in the early 1960s, the popular right-winger captained the club.
Topper came to a beleaguered Reds team in January 1952. He joined defenseman Pat Egan and forward Jean Paul Denis from the New York Rangers in a trade for forward Jack Stoddard. The deal immediately energized the Reds who came on strong the rest of the season, only to lose in the Calder Cup finals to Pittsburgh, 4 games to 2.
But the best was yet to come. For 11 more seasons Topper was the man. Who can ever forget #15 with his long, graceful strides that seemed to produce effortless acceleration and, of course, his rink-length rushes and never-fail breakaways.
Topper was brought up in Copper Cliff, Ontario, but decided to make Rhode Island his home. He and his lovely wife Shirley raised
five children and 12 grand children. After the Reds, Topper coached hockey at Providence College and was a highly respected referee for youth and high school hockey in Rhode Island. He was also a successful sales representative for a local automotive parts company.
Criteria for his award were testing. To be considered, an individual must have been with the club for at least five years (10% of the Reds' 51 years); must have achieved outstanding performance in his team association; must have shown himself as a leader, and must have established himself as a good-will ambassador for the Reds through involvement in local residency and outstanding service to the community.
Topper excelled in all those categories and truly deserves recognition as the greatest player ever to wear the proud colors of the team --- red, white and black.
Tops Award Recipients
Rick "Nifty" Middleton played just one season with the R.I. Reds but made it a memorable one, leading the 1973-74 team in scoring and being named AHL's rookie-of-the-year. That led to 14 seasons in the National Hockey League, 12 of them with the Boston Bruins. The Bruins recently retired his number 16 in recognition of his great scoring ability which included in 493 goals, 595 assists and 1088 points in 1119 NHL regular season and playoff games.
After retiring as a player, he has led the Bruins Alumni and its many charitable endeavors and coached the U.S. to the Paralympic (Sled Hockey) Games championship.
Vin Cimini's early involvement with hockey came as a goalie at LaSalle Academy. He joined the Reds public relations staff while still a student at Providence College. President of Cimini & Company, he brought fresh ideas to the board of directors of the R.I. Reds Heritage Society.
He is the founding chairman of the joint venture of the Reds Heritage Society and R.I. Hockey Inc. that created the Rhode Island Hockey Hall of Fame and led that new organization to an impressive debut featuring a spectacular inaugural induction in 2018.
George Army forged his own leadership path with the Reds, as an off-the-ice treasure. In 1930s he was a minor league catcher in baseball and friendly with a pitcher named Jean Dubuc, who had a financial interest in pro hockey?s Providence Reds. Dubuc said the team was looking for a trainer and offered the job to his catcher friend.
Despite knowing nothing about the skills of training athletes - let alone hockey players - Army accepted the position and began a brand-new career as trainer of the Reds in 1934. It would turn out to be a lifetime career of 46 years, lasting until his death at age 69 in January 1969.
Army learned his craft on his own. There were no trainers' clinics in those days. So, he buried himself in medical books and carefully observed team doctors. In his self-taught, on-the-job learning process he focused on studying the physical anatomy of players and the most common injuries he would face. He even learned how to take stitches to close facial wounds, a talent he perfected by slicing orange peels at home and then stitching them back together. During game injuries, Reds players, and even players on opposing teams, were comfortable in having him stitch them -- many times preferring him over attending doctors.
George Army not only was a leader in injury diagnosis and treatment, he was also a great teacher in art of healing. Today, two of his local protege students - Tommy Woodcock and Pete Demers - are recognized proudly in the trainers' division of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Dave Creighton, after an outstanding 12-year career in the National Hockey League where served the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs, came to the Reds in a trade 1965. There, he became the primary leader of a dismal team that had not made the American Hockey League playoffs in three consecutive seasons.
A clever playmaking center, Creighton was soon named player-coach of the Reds and turned the turned the team around in 1967-68 as leader of the club's top line by centering rookie left wing Brian Perry and veteran right winger Eddie Kachur. The line scored 100 goals (42.6%) of the team's 235 goals. The Reds finished third in the standings, just one point out of second place, then went on to defeat Springfield in the first round of the playoffs before being nudged out in the semi-finals by Quebec.
Creighton's leadership achievements were deservedly acknowledged by the AHL when the circuit named him Most Valuable Player for '67-68. With that award he became only the second (and last ever) player-coach in AHL history to be named MVP. The other was Fred Glover of Cleveland. After several more successful seasons guiding the Reds as coach and general manager, he moved to Florida for retirement and golf club ownership. He passed away at age 86 in December 2017.
Though he played for the Reds during only one campaign (1961-62), when he remarkablygarnered 64 points in 64 games,
Orland Kurtenbach established himself with the New York Rangers in the midlate 1960s and then became
a legend in Western Canada toward the close of his career, notably with the Vancouver
The Heritage society honored Kurt for his off-ice leadership in harnessing necessary corporate sponsorships for the British Columbia Junior Hockey League
which annually ? using those
funds ? is able to graduate 100-
125 players into hockey scholarships
for Division I hockey
schools here in the USA.
Don McKenney began his NHL career with the Boston Bruins in 1954, and made an immediate impact and led the team in scoring, and finished second in voting for rookie-of-the-year. Over the next seven seasons, McKenney led Boston in scoring three more times, while his clean, elegant style?and skill as a defensive forward and penalty killer?gained recognition.
In 1960 he was awarded the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship, combined with a high level of performance.
He was named team captain in 1961. Later he was traded to the N. Y. Rangers, then to Toronto where he helped the Leafs to the Stanley Cup 1964 title - the only Cup of his long and brilliant NHL career. Next he played briefly for the Detroit Red Wings.
Along came the 1967-68 expansion of the old NHL 6-team format. The result added six new franchises to the league and the fledgling St. Louis Blues quickly added the talented veteran McKenney. He played effectively for the Blues, scoring 29 points in 39 games, before a knee injury caused management to send him down to the minors (the Kansas City Blues) to rehab. It would prove to be his final NHL action. His NHL career totals are impressive: In 1,202 games?397-570-967.
But while on a scouting trip, Buster Clegg, the Reds? young general manager, decided to ask Blues? GM to sell Don to our Reds. The deal was done but it took a call from Reds? player-coach to persuade Don to report to the Reds. He did and led the Reds in scoring in 1968-69 with impressive stats of 26-48-74 (in 74 games).
In 1970 with his playing career over, McKenney joined longtime Bruins teammate Ferny Flaman on the coaching staff of the Northeastern University Huskies mens? hockey team. There he served nearly two decades as assistant coach and head recruiter. Later he assumed the head coaching position and eventually received deserved honors for his dedication to the university.
Don has been a loyal and supportive member of the R. I. Reds Heritage Society since our inception back in 2000. And he is one of nicest gentlemen in the game of hockey.
Tom Eccleston Jr.
Thomas Eccleston Jr. had coaching and teaching credentials that were
unimaginable. As a long-time coach at Burrillville High starting in the
1940s, he had the following records:
- Football (22 years) - Won 149, Lost 36, with consecutive state
championships and seven undefeated teams.
- Baseball (nine years) - Won 127, Lost 36, with consecutive state
championships in 1948-49-50, along with a rarity in baseball circles, an
undefeated (21-0) team in 1950.
- Hockey (15 years) - 215-77-12, with nine league championships and
six state titles.
Those accomplishments did not
go unnoticed by Reds owner Louis A. R. Pieri, himself a former coach and
teacher and a perceptive judge of both hockey and human skills, and also
character. That is why sometime in the late 1950s or early '60s Pieri
invited Eccleston to his office and offered him the Reds coaching job.
Not just once but several times. Though flattered, Eccleston declined
due to his commitment his career role as educator - history teacher,
high school principal and later superintendent of schools. He did,
however, offer his assistance as a consultant, and his analysis of games
and players proved an invaluable resource. In 1956, he became head
hockey coach at Providence College. In eight seasons he won 96 and lost
68, with only one losing campaign. His 1960 team won the Boston Arena
Tourney and in 1964 his P.C. sextet won the Eastern Championship and
went to the national finals. That season, Eccleston was voted NCAA Coach
of the Year and also won the Clark Hodder Trophy as New England Coach of
the Year. He resigned from P.C. to devote full-time to his duties as
superintendent of schools in Burrillville. After retiring from
Burrillville in 1972 he joined the faculty and coaching staff at The
Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where his hockey teams had a
185-57-5, or a 76% winning record in 494 games. Upon
retiring from the prep school life, he moved back to Burrillville where
he was recruited - at age 76 - to take charge of the high school's
floundering hockey program. He quickly restored the program and
Burrillville's pride in hockey by winning two division titles.
Unfortunately, we lost "Coach Tom" at the age of 90 on December 30,
Terry Reardon, Paul
Larrivee and Jim Bartlett
Terry Reardon was the heart-and-soul leader of the Reds from 1947 to
the early 1960s, and was architect in building the 1955-56 Reds' Calder
Cup team. He served in World War II as a major in the Queen's Own
Cameroon Highlanders, which landed on Sword Beach in the Normandy
Invasion. Before the war, he had played with the New York Rovers and
Boston Bruins and later teamed with his brother Ken on the Montreal
Canadiens. He joined the Reds in 1947 and as player-coach led the team
to a Calder Cup title in 1948-49.
Paul Larivee came to the Reds in 1953 and immediately took a dominant
role as a clever center and great scorer. Paul's best year was in
1955-56, centering Toppazzini and Camille Henry. In retirement he was a
partner in an insurance business and, for 20 years, served as color
commentator on the French radio and television broadcasts of the
Jim Bartlett was one of the most popular of all Reds players after
joining the club for the 1955-56 season. Jim became the Reds' all-time
penalty leader and also was one of the leading scorers in the league. In
retirement, Jim was active with a variety of groups, especially as a
fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of greater Tampa. He was a
full-time assistant as an adviser and driver for George Steinbrenner,
former owner of the New York Yankees.
Wayne Muloin and Ray Clearwater
At age 24, Wayne Muloin came to the Reds via trade in 1965-66 in the midst of the Reds worst three consecutive seasons of losses, totaling 146. Clearwater, just 23, joined Muloin the next season on the rookie blueline.
A signature strength of Muloin was the long lost art of the effective hip check and a knack for team leadership. Clearwater provided timely defensive poke-checking and productive offensive rushes. Both could move the puck cleanly out of the defensive zone and each had skating skills to advance the play on their own.
Wayne and Ray, who have become close friends throughout the years, agree today that veterans Adam Keller and Moe Mantha, whom the team also acquired, were immense positive factors in their development into solid American Hockey League defensemen. The now deceased Marcel Paille, their goalie who had been bombarded throughout the long three-season losing streak, was the first to appreciate the relief the talented “two kids” and two veteran blueliners provided.
In fact, in 1967-68 the Reds made the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, led by player-coach and AHL MVP Dave Creighton and the team’s stalwart defense corps. In the Calder Cup playoffs the Reds then toppled the Springfield Kings in the first round, 3 games to 1, but eventually lost in the cup semi-finals to the Quebec Aces, 3 games to 1.
After spending four seasons together as teammates on the Reds, Muloin and Clearwater rejoined as partners when they signed on for three seasons with the fledgling World Hockey Association’s Cleveland Crusaders in 1972.
Notable teammates there were goaltender Gerry Cheevers, ex-Reds Larry Hillman, Joe Hardy, Jim Wiste, and the now deceased Jack Hanna. And though he is not an ex-Red, let’s not forget our own current R. I. resident, Rich Pumple and former Providence College star.
George Ranieri was a fan favorite whose blistering
wrist shot from left wing earned him 111 goals in
five seasons with the Rhode
Joining the Reds for his rookie
year in 1960-61, George became
one of the American Hockey
League's most productive young
offensive players, netting 30
goals and 41 assists for 71
points in 72 games. For the next
two seasons he scored 21 goals
each year, helping the Reds
gain playoff berths.
Well on his way to a fourth
great season - already having
netted 20 goals in just 54 games
- George sustained a horrific
head injury one fateful night in
February 1964. In a collision with a foe
in Springi eld, George landed with full
force on the back of his head.
George lay in intensive care
for three weeks before surgeons
were able to remove a massive
blood clot from his brain. After
seven weeks, he was discharged
from the hospital.
Always respected for his mental
and physical determination,
George returned to the Reds the
next season (1964-65) and surprised
everyone by scoring 18
goals in 61 games. But that was
it for pro hockey and George
During the summer of
1965, at age 29, he received a
lucrative offer to join the sales
team at the Molson Brewing Co.
"They made me an offer I
couldn't refuse and hired a guy
with three holes in his head to
help sell their beer," George
quips with his customary sense
Since retiring from hockey,
George spent many years
donating his time, talents and
affable personality to community
projects including Molson Oldtimers and the Toronto Italians
Oldtimers hockey charity
games. He has been part of the
Dundas Oldtimers fund-raising
support for minor hockey. He
also coached the Dundas Merchants
Johnny Bower, Bruce Cline and Ed MacQueen
Though Johnny Bower played only two seasons in goal for the Reds, he
led the team to two consecutive the AHL regular season championships in
1956 and '57 and to Calder Cup title in 1956. As Ranger property on
loan, both seasons he was voted the AHL's Most Valuable Player and added
a third the next season with Cleveland. Later, of course, he starred
with the Toronto Maple Leafs and backboned them to four NHL Stanley Cup
championships in the 1960s. Today Bower is an icon in Canadian sports.
He is the most sought-after speaker for banquets and charity events, and
his biography, "The China Wall," is still a bestseller at bookstores
Bruce Cline was a mere 23 years old when he joined the Reds as a N. Y.
Rangers farmhand in 1955-56. As a teammate of Bower in that Calder Cup
winning season, Cline played mostly with Red Johansen at center and
Jimmy Bartlett on the left and netted 27 goals to earn the AHL?s vote as
"Rookie of the Year."
Still Ranger property, Cline played another four years with the
Springfield Indians as a line-mate with Bill Sweeney and Bill McCreary
(both former Reds). There he was able to chalk up three more Calder Cup
rings (1960, 61 and 62). After that Bruce played three more years with
the Hershey Bears before retiring with four championship rings.
Within a few hockey teams there emerges a versatile gem. For the Reds in
the late 1950s through the mid-1960s, that hero became Eddie MacQueen,
whose many talents at forward and defense, including fisticuffs, allowed
his coaches to spot play him wherever and whenever needed. If there were
a "7th Player Award' back then, it would have gone to MacQueen.
Few know that the Reds acquired MacQueen from the Rangers for Bower in
one of hockey's strangest, most complex deals ever. MacQueen served the
Reds well for eight seasons and became a local fan favorite, playing
those spot positions, including point man on the Reds power-play,
utilizing his sizzling shot. He finished hockey with six great seasons
in Baltimore with ex-Red coach Terry Reardon as his mentor.
Gil Mayer and Bob Robertson
Gil Mayer arguably was one of the
greatest goaltenders in the AHL during
the 1950s and 1960s. During his 14-year
career in the league he won 346 regular
season games and another 37 in playoff
action. Forty-one (41) of his victories
Nicknamed "The Needle" because of
his 5'-6" stature, Mayer backstopped the
Pittsburgh Hornets to Calder Cup championships
in 1952 and 1955. Five times in a six-year span Gil captured
the Hap Holmes Award, presented
to the goaltender with the best goals-against
average. After his 7-year tenure in
Pittsburgh, Mayer played seven more,
with Hershey (3) and Cleveland (2), then
finishing off with two years with the
Reds. He was elected five times to AHL all-star
teams, three first-team nods and two
After sharing goaltending duties with a
young Eddie Giacomin in the 1962-63
season, Gil decided to put away his goal
pads forever. Few know, though, that he finished
that final season with a 2.91 goals-against
average in 34 games played, nearly
matching his 2.93 career record of 14
Bob Robertson was a talented defenseman
and unsung hero who played for
eight different teams in his 13 seasons of
pro hockey. That might label him as a journeyman
blue-liner, but his five full seasons with
the Reds are indelibly implanted in the
minds of former local fans who remember
the Reds success in the mid-1950s. Bob was among the leaders
of stalwart group of defenseman who
protected Johnny Bower in the nets and
helped lead the Reds to an AHL regular
season first-place finish and their last-ever
Calder Cup title in 1955-56. Game after game, rush after rush, Bob
was there to break up offensive threats by
opposing teams the likes of angry Barons,
hungry Bears and Bisons, and hostile
Hornets and Indians. He would poke-check pucks away,
body-check attackers and block blistering
shots - all to get the job done.
Ray Ross, who joined the Reds from Cleveland in 1954-55
and played an important role in the Reds resurgence out of the AHL
basement to win the Calder Cup in 1955-56. That championship year, he
scored two game-winning goals in the cup finals as the Reds swept the
Barons, his former team, in four straight games to claim the title. He
had four goals and four assists in the playoffs that year. In Ray's eight seasons with the Roosters, the speedy forward, who
had converted from center to right wing, scored 111 goals and had 125
assists for a total of 236 points. He also was named to the AHL all-star
game in 1961. Since his retirement from hockey, Ray has been a model in civic
involvement in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario. He has been a regular
volunteer for the United Way and a financial sponsor of youth sports. As
an employee of the Hamilton Spectator, Ray helped deliver Christmas gift
packages to needy families. He also has been the top recruiter in Canada
for new memberships to our Society, bringing in family members, friends
and business associates.
Marty Gateman and Tom McDonough
Marty Gateman was a dependable, stalwart defenseman for the Reds when
the team moved from the old R. I. Auditorium in 1972 to the downtown
Providence Civic Center, now called the Dunkin Donuts Center. As a
New York Ranger farmhand, he played four seasons with the Reds, helping
them reach the AHL's Calder Cup playoff finals in 1973-74. After pro
hockey Gateman spent 15 years coaching youth hockey in Smithfield and
high school at St. Raphael Academy, serving as a role model for hundreds
of young hockey players. Today he is employed by the Coca Cola Company,
a strong supporter of the Reds Heritage Society.
Tom McDonough was stick boy and locker room assistant for seven seasons for the Reds from 1951 though 1957 and was part of the celebration of the
team's last Calder Cup championship in 1956. After graduating Providence College, he served in state government, retiring as associate director of the Department of Human Resources. He also coached youth hockey and basketball and was a founding director of the R. I. Reds Heritage Society back in 2000. He is also the founder and director of the 30-year-old Cranston Sports Collectors Show, largest single-day event of its kind in the country. Proceeds are donated annually to the Immaculate Conception Church in Cranston.
Bob Leduc played seven full seasons (1965-72) with the Reds in the
American Hockey League before moving to the World Hockey Association in
1973 with Ottawa Nationals and later the Toronto Toros. With the Reds,
the strong left wing scored 135 goals and had 202 assists for 337
points. Like many ex-Reds players, Leduc has been successful as a
businessman in his post-hockey years. The father of two daughters owns a
large complex in North Smithfield that includes a hardware and garden
store, complemented by a gift shop.
Stan Baluik served the Reds for five seasons, starting in 1959-60 when he was named the AHL's Rookie of the Year. For three seasons he centered the team's famous B-line and consistently set up his high scoring wingers, Jimmy Bartlett and Pierre Brilliant. He played 359 regular season and playoff games, scored 130 goals and added 257 assists for 387 points. Clearly one of the top players of his time, Baluik surprised the club and took another path in 1964 and accepted an offer to become head golf professional at the new Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln. He has been there ever since. Stan's personal accomplishments as a golfer have been numerous. More importantly, his work off the course has been an inspiration to young golfers throughout New England. Nearly a dozen of his assistants are now head golf pros, carrying forth his dedicated work ethic and love of the game. He has also mentored hundreds of young high school and college golfers.
Ross Brooks and Serge Boudreault
Ross Brooks, a goaltender, played parts of nine seasons before being
acquired by the National Hockey League's Boston Bruins. With the
Bruins' AHL farm team, the Boston Braves, he won the
Award in 1971-72 as the goaltender with the lowest goals against average
(2.38) in the AHL. Called up by the Bruins in 1972-73, he distinguished
himself by winning 14 consecutive goaltending starts the next season, an
NHL record at that time. Brooks, a Lincoln resident, is now manager of
Schneider Arena at Providence College. He once coached the Lincoln High
School hockey team for 8 years during the late 1970s and early 80s. He
has also worked tirelessly at raising college scholarship funds for
needy senior high school hockey players. Those scholarships, totaling
nearly 100, have been provided from proceeds generated by the annual
Chris Brooks Memorial hockey and golf tournaments, named in memory of
his late son.
Serge Boudreault, standing only 5-foot, 6 inches tall, was a
fast-skating, gritty forward who could score goals and set up line
mates. During parts of six seasons with Providence, he also stood out as
an outstanding defensive, back checking forward and a skillful penalty
killer. At the end of his careers, Boudreault, like many other ex-Red
players, decided to make his year-round home in Rhode Island.
Since then, he has made significant contributions to the larger
community, especially in the promotion and support of local youth
hockey. Boudreault, who lives in South Kingstown, has been a scout for
the NHL Philadelphia Flyers for seven years. Before that he was hockey
coach at Cumberland High School for 12 seasons, also during the 70s and
80s. Since retiring from pro hockey, Boudreault has dedicated much of
his free time towards encouraging and instructing young hockey players
in the development of the individual skills necessary to play
George Sage, Tom Army and Louis A.R. Pieri
George Sage, a resident of Barrington, was owner of the Reds from 1969 through
1976. At the same time, as president of Bonanza Bus Lines, he was a powerful force in the development of downtown Providence by supporting the construction of the Providence Civic Center. In doing so he committed the Reds to move from the old, deteriorating R. I. Auditorium, built in 1926, to the sparkling, brand new facility in 1972. Aside from hockey, Sage is well known for his many philanthropic contributions to the community, including a leadership role in creating a performing arts facility at St. Andrews School in his hometown. He is also a major contributor to the Heritage Harbor Museum planned for Providence, where he supports the R.I. Reds Heritage Society's effort to build a lasting exhibit to restore and preserve the team's 51-year history (1926-1977).
Tom Army joined the Reds' publicity office in the mid-1950s, after starring as a high-scoring forward at Providence College where he captained the team in 1952-53. He served the Reds in several front office public relations capacities, including color analyst for the team's radio broadcasts, backing up the legendary play-by-play announcer George Patrick Duffy. Army has been deeply dedicated to youth hockey for more than three decades as a coach, officer and board director. He also was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the R.I. Reds Heritage Society four years ago and now serves as its founding vice president. The group has grown to 510 members from throughout the United States and Canada. Army lives in East Providence.
Louis A. R. Pieri, was the dynamic, colorful owner of the Reds from the
late 1930s until his death in 1967. A graduate of Brown University, he
was a high school teacher who turned his interests to entrepreneurial
endeavors in the 1930s. Pieri first started as general manager of the
old R.I. Auditorium and worked hard to eventually become owner of both
the building and the Reds. During his tenure the Reds won four Calder
Cups and he was lauded not only by his fellow owners, but also by his
players, with whom he built many lifelong friendships. Pieri was also a
silent, but generous contributor to the community. He was an interested
supporter of local youth, high school and college hockey. He also gave
generously to Dean College in Franklin, MA, from which he graduated when
it was a junior college in 1916. His donations to athletics are
recognized to this day by having his name attached to one of the
college's major athletic complexes, the Louis A. R. Pieri Gymnasium.
Harvey Bennett and Buster Clegg
Bennett joined the Reds from the NHL Boston Bruins system in 1947-48 season and
helped lead the team to the AHL's Eastern Division championship that year. A
year later, his goaltending was a major factor in the Reds Eastern Division and
Calder Cup championships. His goals-against average that season was a sparkling
3.16. With Bennett in goal, the Reds also made the playoffs in 1949-50 and
1951-52, and again won the Calder Cup in 1955-56 as his long career in goal was
winding down. After his career with the Reds, Bennett worked extensively in
youth hockey in Rhode Island, helping to develop a new generation of young
players. Five of those players were his sons, all of whom went on to play
professional hockey with four making it to the NHL. Bennett resides
in Warwick, R.I.
Buster Clegg played high school hockey at Burrillville and captained the University of New Hampshire team in 1958-59. He was named general manager of the Reds in 1966-67 following several front-office assignments after joining the Reds for the 1959-60 season. Since his service with the Reds, Clegg has been deeply involved with youth hockey as a coach and as a member of several boards of directors for more than 30 years. Today he enjoys watching his youth hockey "grand kids" play. In 2000 he was the catalyst in the formation of the R.I. Reds Heritage Society, for which he continues to serve as its founding president. He resides in Barrington, R.I.
Eddie Ellsworth and Ferny Flaman
Eddie Ellsworth was business manager and comptroller of the Reds for 31 years under two ownerships, the Louis A. R. Pieri family and George Sage. While at the old R. I. Auditorium and later at the Providence Civic Center, Eddie was involved in virtually every aspect of arena events. Besides hockey, he also served in business management for basketball, boxing, stage shows, ice shows and circuses. He
remains extremely active in community service as treasurer of the Masonic St.
John's Lodge in Providence, which provides funds to qualified, needy
organizations and individuals. Ellsworth is a resident of Barrington, Rhode
Ferny Flaman spent parts of 17 seasons with Boston and Toronto in the National Hockey League and is a member of its Hall of Fame. He served five years with the Reds in the 1960s, first as player-coach, then as general manager. During his tenure with the Reds as player-coach he led them to three successive Calder Cup playoff oppositions, one being a first-place finish in the
AHL's Eastern Division of 1962-63.
A resident of Westwood, Massachusetts, Flaman later was head coach of Northeastern University's varsity hockey team for 19 years from 1970-71 through 1988-89. During those years he counseled many a player with fatherly advise on non-hockey, social and academic personal matters.
George Patrick Duffy and Chuck Scherza
George Patrick Duffy became the Reds' team publicist in 1945-46 after
serving in the U. S. Coast Guard during World War II. Over the next twenty-five
years he became the popular"Voice of the R. I. Reds" on radio. Old-time
fans still recall his memorable, protracted description of each and every Reds
goal, "He scorrrrrrrrrrres!" While at the old R. I. Auditorium, George Patrick
was a jack-of-all-trades. Besides hockey, he also served as publicist for the
building and all its events, including basketball, boxing, stage shows, ice
shows and circuses. He continues to be an active volunteer in sports. In
winter he coaches boys' varsity high school basketball and in summer different
levels of youth baseball where he recently recorded his 600th career victory.
Chuck Scherza was among the most durable players ever to wear a
Reds uniform. He played in 649 games, second by only one to Zellio Toppazzini,
and appeared in 60 or more games in each of his 10 seasons. Overall, in regular
season play, he scored 139 goals, 297 assists for 436 points -- fourth highest
in team history. He received the Tops Award in 2001. Chuck's hockey career
ended tragically in 1958-59 when as player-coach of the North Bay Trappers he
was accidentally hit by a stick in his left eye, a blow that cost him the eye's
vision. Ironically, he later became a respected linesman for AHL games in
Providence. In fact, league officials praised him as one of the most accurate
and dependable in the circuit. Youth, high school and college refereeing came
next. "He was always in charge and respected by the young players" says
Russ McGuirl, a veteran referee of 17 years who often partnered with Scherza.
"If play got too rough, he could be very stern, or at other times very
fatherly. Whatever it took, things never got out of control and the kids learned
important values of sportsmanship from Chuck."