I just learned of the passing of Bob Hassard on December 30th, 2010. He was 81 years old.
Winning was something Hassard got used to. The previous season he helped the senior Toronto Marlies win the Allan Cup as Canada's amateur champions. Then the year after the Stanley Cup victory he helped the Pittsburgh Hornets capture the Calder Cup as AHL champions!
Though he was born in Lloydminister, Saskatchewan, he grew up in Toronto, not far from Maple Leaf Gardens. it was his dream to play for the Leafs. Actually, he was just as thrilled to make the Bantam Marlies at the age of 14 and later the junior Marlies.
Described as a great skater and a junior and minor league offensive dynamo, Hassard was in many ways burdened by his position. He was most comfortable at his natural position of center. The problem was the championship Leafs teams of his era had centers named Teeder Kennedy and Max Bentley, both Hall of Famers, and Cal Gardner and Tod Sloan, no slouches in their own right.
The gentlemanly center played sparingly in 5 NHL seasons, all with the Leafs except for 17 games with Chicago. He totalled just 126 games played, including 70 in 1952-53, his only full season in the league. He enjoyed long tenures with the junior and senior Marlies, as well as in the AHL. He left pro hockey in 1958, but returned to amateur senior hockey with the Whitby Dunlops through 1960. He helped Whitby win the Allan Cup in 1959.
All in all, not a bad hockey career considering he almost embarked upon a career in professional baseball, instead. When he was just 18 the Brooklyn Dodgers offered him a chance to play in the minor league system and work his way up to the minor leagues. He passed on the offer of reportedly $100 per month.
After retiring from the game in 1958, Bob Hassard settled in Stouffville, Ontario, a beautiful city just north of Toronto. Along with a business partner named Birkett, he opened up a successful insurance business. He was also a long time local minor hockey coach, teaching a generation of hockey loving kids including a young Keith Acton.
He enjoyed the slower pace of life in Stouffville and became a noted bluegrass musician. He also enjoyed giving free Christmas Eve wagon rides to children as well. Often long time Leaf and Hassard's close friend George Armstrong would join in for the night.
Hassard is survived by his son Bill, a Leaf draft pick in 1974, and daughters Kim and Jacqui, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.