This was a dream team, one of the finest in Canadian junior hockey history. No less than 11 players from the 1963-64 Memorial Cup-winning Toronto Marlboros graduated to the NHL. That’s how superior that team was, a squad concocted when the Metro junior league dissolved following the 1962-63 season and when the Neil McNeil team returned to the junior B ranks. So for the 1963-64 season, the Marlies joined the OHA, taking some Neil McNeil players with them in the process.
Consider this: the Marlboros were 60-10-8 overall that season, including 40-9-7 in regular-season play in the OHA’s Major Junior Series and they were 20-1-1 in post-season play. It’s generally believed that the 1968-69 Montreal Junior Canadiens are considered the finest junior team ever assembled in Canada. Some 15 members of that team went on to the NHL. The Marlies are rated second best. Pete Stemkowski led the Marlies in scoring that season with 103 points, including 42 goals and 61 assists. Mike Walton was second with 92 points on 41 goals and 51 helpers. Ron Ellis was third with 84 points, 46 of them coming on goals. Andre Champagne and Grant Moore posted 71 points each and star defenceman Rod Seiling contributed 13 goals and 54 assists for 67 points. Gary Smith was the workhorse goaltender, playing 54½ games with a GAA of 3.41, while backup Bill Henderson got into a mere game and a half.
Research shows that defenceman Jim McKenny was the only player to dress in all 56 regular-season games. “It wasn't really fair,” McKenny said of the power the team possessed. “It was a combination of two teams: the Marlboros and Neil McNeil. It wasn’t fair to the rest of the teams in Canada. We were too good. We were so much better. If Boston had been able to combine their sponsored teams in Oshawa and Niagara Falls, they would have had a pretty good team, too.”
In the playoffs, the Marlies swept the Montreal Junior Canadiens (4-0) in the OHA final. Then they dumped the North Bay Trappers (2-0) and the Scotty Bowman-coached Montreal Notre Dame de Grace Maple Leafs (3-1-1) in regional playdowns. Finally, they disposed of the Edmonton Oil Kings in four games in the Memorial Cup final, which was played at Maple Leaf Gardens. “When we played Edmonton, they didn’t have a chance,” McKenny said. “We had the biggest team in hockey that year. We had big guys like Ray Winterstein and Jack Chipchase on defence. They were huge.”
As it turns out, Stemkowski, Walton, Ellis, Champagne, Smith, Seiling, McKenny, Brit Selby. Wayne Carleton, Gary Dineen and Nick Harbaruk made it to the NHL. And so did Gregory, a Colgate-Palmolive purchasing agent, who went on to be a GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs and, at 68, served as the NHL’s senior vice-president of hockey operations. “It was fantastic coaching those guys. When you get older, the team gets better in your head.” Gregory said.
“My only regret was the short time I spent with them,” Dineen said. “I was playing for Father David Bauer and the Canadian Olympic team in Innsbruck and I only joined the team after the completion of the Olympics. As a matter of fact, I think the team was disappointed that when I joined the team, I only weighed 160 pounds, which brought the team average down to 191 pounds,” Dineen said, chuckling. “We were the biggest team in hockey just ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks.”