As told to: Eric ZweigI was playing Junior B for St. Michael’s. This would be 1944-45. My coach was (Father Ted) Flanagan, and I played on a line with Red Kelly. Coach told me, “Scouts are here, and they’re looking at you and Red.”
The Boston scout asked me to meet him in the basement of the sporting goods store – Doug Laurie – at Maple Leaf Gardens. Standing there amid all the boxes, he pulled out a form (I can’t remember if it was an A Form or C Form) and said, “just sign this, and we’ll give you $100.” But I told him I wouldn’t sign. I had to tell me father what I was doing. He said, “don’t worry, I’ll talk to your father.” But I told him I wasn’t going to sign at that moment.
I was only 16. I had no concept of business, but I knew I wanted to go to school. If I signed a form, I would miss school because you had to go to training camp, in Barrie, or Niagara Falls, or Hershey. Guys would sign these forms thinking it was just them, but then you’d get to training camp and there would be young guys from all over. You might not get back home until November, and I wanted to go to school.
When I told my father about the scout, he couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe a pro team was interested in a 16-year-old. “You’ve never lied to me before,” he said. “Pa,” I told him, “I’m not lying now.”
Two weeks later, the scout called our house and spoke to my father. “We’d like to sign your boy. He didn’t sign for $100 but we’ll offer you $200.” My father said no, my son wants to go to school.
After that, I was on the Bruins’ negotiating list for a couple of years. In those days, we were playing junior and the Bruins, or someone, would scout you and put you on their list. They could put three on the list, and if they signed you, they could put on another.
Art Ross signed me in 1947. I was 18 then, and it was after my final exams. My father and I met Mr. Ross at the Royal York Hotel. I signed for a salary of $6,000. My father said, “You can’t give a boy that young that much money!” Mr. Ross agreed to $3,000 up front to my father, and the rest was paid out to me over the season as my salary.
ERIC ZWEIG has worked on the NHL Official Guide & Record Book for 20 years and is the author of more than 20 sports books for adults and children. New for 2015 is Art Ross: The Hockey Legend Who Built the Bruins (Dundurn Press) and The Ultimate Book of Hockey Trivia for Kids (Scholastic Canada)
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