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Reminiscing with the London Lions

Comments from several of those involved with the London Lions:


Rick Newell wrote me on 5 November 2004: "I was in London briefly after suffering a broken jaw in training camp in Detroit and as you probably know I went back to Virginia in the AHL after a couple of months in London. The next year I joined the Phoenix Roadrunners in the WHA and played against some of the earlier Swedes, Anders Hedberg, Kent Nilson etc. We have remained in Phoenix and still call it home. Business wise I have my own investment firm specializing in real estate land investments. I have been married for close to 30 years now and have a daughter who is a college freshman at St. Cloud State in Minnesota. Kendall is one of the top goalies in the west and is playing Division 1 women's hockey in the WCHA.".
And Rick's wife is named Lesley Lyons-Newell, so you could say he went from Lions to Lyons!

Charlie Shaw sent a quick note on 29 October 2004: "One of those old London Lion's checking in. I have a lot of info and material from this road trip. Glad to share...". Today Shaw works with VP Business in Markham, Ontario.

In an article by John McGourty at NHL.com, dated 19 October 2004, Al Coates, former trainer of the London Lions and now General Manager of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, mentioned the London Lions; "We spent Christmas in Helsinki and New Years in Stockholm. We played Djurgarden with Kent Nilsson, who was then only 15. That's how good he was. We played the Czechs with the Holiks and Vaclav Nedomansky. We lived in hotels for seven months and had a three-month road trip during the season. We played 72 games and won 52."

When interviewed by Mark Spector, National Post, in September 2007, Coates added: "I was trainer, part-time interpreter, road secretary, equipment man? There was me and Barkley, an interesting time."
"We were a travelling road show. We had wives with us, kids with us. And the way we got through is that everyone just pitched in. Somehow or other, we got billed as the Canadian national team, so everywhere we went everyone was geared up to beat us."

Dennis Polonich contacted me on 13 May 2004. After the winter with the London Lions ("it was a great 6-7 months touring Europe at that age doing something we loved so much"), he went on to play 390 games for the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL. Today Dennis lives in Calgary with his wife and two daughters. He's a NHLPA Certified Player agent with CMG Sports. He's also started to play some veteran hockey with the Battle of the Badges-tour. Regarding the time with the Lions, Dennis writes: "I was only 19 yrs. old when we traveled over there so it was quite a thrill as I said. Detroit had so many players under contract then and they sent mostly single or young couples over. I didn't care I just wanted to play but I did think I was getting further from the NHL not closer at the time. We started at Wembley for a month and half the a 3 month road trip to 11 different countries then back for a month and a half. Travel mostly by bus with a trailer in tow for equipment and luggage. We were not the Harlem Globetrotters but did do very well against club teams. As our record speaks. I won a watch for MVP in a tournament in Switzerland and is now appraised at over $15,000 USD. Wow!"

Tom Mellor wrote me twice on 3 May 2004: "I visited your website and it was a trip down memory lane. What a great group of guys and some great memories". He also wrote that "though we would all agree it was great fun and a wonderful experience touring Europe, our primary goal was to play in the NHL. My time was brief as I joined the Lions in Stockholm after Christmas during the Ahearne Cup and played 6 games...my fondest memory was when we beat the Russians 2 - 1 in Stockholm. I think either Cutch (McCutcheon) or Stubby (McCann) got the winner". Mellor continues: "I also remember the wonderful ovations that Honken Holmqvist and Ulfie Sterner received when we toured with the Lions. Ulfie was so good with the puck, he used to bounce it off his stick a couple of times and would actually 'head' it a teammate...an old fotball skill!!" "Following my year with Vastra Frolunda in Goteborg, I joined my former Detroit Red Wing coach, Ted Garvin, with the Toledo Goaldiggers in the International Hockey League (IHL). Ted named me the assistant playing coach and we had a fun year advancing to the 7th game in the finals, but losing to Saginaw. I then retired as my second son, Michael was born and my career was probably not going to be on the ice!! I joined former New England Patriots Randy Vataha and Bill Lenkaitis who were opening up a series of racquetball ball clubs. Over the next 5 years we had 9 clubs throughout the Northeast. It was fun for a while, then became overcrowded and I decided to change careers and become a stockbroker. I joined Kidder Peabody in Boston in 1982 and stayed there until 1990, when I left to open my own firm, Windham Capital Group. Today, we place institutional capital with hedge fund managers across the country and are located in downtown Boston."

Terry Richardson sent this reply on 1 May 2004: "Well to be honest I have not kept in contact with any of the guys. I guess one just moves into your life after hockey. Although there were all kinds of great memories from that season. My firefighting career has been rewarding as well, but nothing can match my family. I have been married for 29 yrs. as of this June, we have 3 children and now have 3 grand daughters. Would be interesting to find out what all the guys are doing now."
In Lions' match programme #8, Richardson's first three matches at Wembley are described as "little short of sensational". Richardson commented on 3 November 2004 that "the London experience was nothing short of fantastic!! Say hi to all the guys i'm sure you will get a good response, as these are good people!!"

On 20 April 2004, it was Duffy McCarthy who contacted me back: "I'd be very interested in chatting about the team, and finding out what some of the players are now doing. I have nothing but fond memories of the whole experience."

On 19 April 2004, Mike Jakubo, nowadays a Co-Ordinator of Supplies & Services in the City of Greater Sudbury in Ontario, Canada, wrote: "I am definitely interested in communicating with you about those good old days & will be glad to exchange a story or two ! It's only been 30 - 31 years ago but it was the best time of my hockey career."

Terry Clancy (who is the son of legendary Toronto Maple Leafs player and leader King Clancy) has been in the insurance industry since 1976. In 1997 he joined Moore-McLean Corporate Insurance Ltd in downtown Toronto. Terry specializes primarily in transportation risks including long haul trucking and bus fleets. He frequently participates in fund-raising events arranged by the Maple Leafs and/or NHL-alumni, like golf tournaments and veteran hockey games.

Doug Barkley, former General Manager and coach of the London Lions, was interviewed by Joanne Gerstner for The Detroit News on Christmas Eve 2002. He now lives in Calgary where he found a new career as the Calgary Flames' radio voice, broadcasting from 1980 through 2001. Today Barkley - who never married and had children - plays golf, hunts birds, helps charities and visits favorite warm spots such as Palm Springs or Las Vegas. "I've traveled all over the world and done so much. I've had a really great life. I've been lucky that things worked out so well for me after my injury. At that moment, I never could have imagined where life would take me. I never could have imagined that I would have stayed in hockey for 45 years. It's all worked out for the best."

Brian McCutcheon has been assistant coach of the Buffalo Sabres since 2001. Before that, he had three successful years as head coach of the Rochester Americans in the AHL. Prior to joining the Amerks, McCutcheon served as the Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel for the Columbus Chill of the East Coast Hockey League. Before moving to the pro ranks, McCutcheon was the head coach at his alma mater, Cornell, from 1987 to 1995 and led the Big Red to a 108-105-24 record. He and his wife Susan have two children: Kelly, a 2001 Cornell University graduate who is attending graduate school at the University of Vermont; and Mark, the fifth-round selection of the Colorado Avalanche in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft who plays hockey at Cornell.

Over the years, Swedes Ulf Sterner and Leif Holmqvist have occasionally commented on their time with the London Lions. In an article by Stellan Kvärre in Swedish daily Dagens nyheter of 28 April 1995, Holmqvist said: "We players had to help to fix the ice. We walked around and scraped it manually! But the team was actually quite good, we defeated several Swedish top teams like AIK, Färjestad and Västra Frölunda. Our games in Czechoslovakia drew 55 000 persons and the interest in England also increased". Today Honken lives in Jönköping, Sweden, where he is part-owner and Key Account Manager of Event House. When interviewed by Dagens nyheter in 1991, Sterner said he was disappointed that the European league had failed to materialize. "If it had, I believe our Swedish players would have stayed in Europe". Today Sterner is retired and lives with his family in the countryside near Karlstad, Sweden. His grandson Robin Sterner has played with Färjestad in the Swedish Elite League in the 2010s. The third Swede, Tord Lundström, today lives in Gävle, Sweden, where he works as Administrator at local real estate company Brynäs Byggnads.