Tom "Windy" O'Neill

Tom "Windy" O'Neill put aside his education and a career as a lawyer to play in the National Hockey League. But he would soon return to school and then the courts and enjoyed a lengthy career as a lawyer in Toronto.

The attended famous St. Michael's school and hockey program in the early 1940s. It was at St. Mikes that he earned his interesting nickname. No, it had nothing to do with his speed on the ice or any gastrointestinal issues. No, he was dubbed Windy by a priest at school who did not take well to his long winded debates!

A law career may have been his realistic goal, but a shortage of NHL players due to Canada's efforts in World War II opened the door for O'Neill to play with the Leafs for two seasons.

In 1943-44 O'Neill played in 33 games and scored 8 goals and 15 points. The following season O'Neill again played in 33 games, but his production fell off, scoring just twice with five assists. He did not play in the playoffs, which is unfortunate as the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup that year.

When he did play he was utilized strictly as a defensive forward. In fact, one story has coach Hap Day instructing O'Neill to never cross the other team's blue line. Not much of a claim to hockey fame, though he was dubbed "the best piano player in the National Hockey League" by writer Scott Young. He was a very good musician.

O'Neill moved on from the NHL after that season. He originally moved to Vancouver to be a sports reporter for The Vancouver Sun newspaper, but he soon moved back east. He spent a season in Quebec City playing senior hockey with the Aces, and then 3 seasons in Halifax. All the while he studied law, first at Laval University (where he also studied French which, along with Italian and English, would make him trilingual) and then Dalhousie.

Interestingly, his legacy in the maritimes has more to do with football than hockey. He served as president of the Athletic Union at Dalhousie and was instrumental in bringing collegiate football to Canada's east coast.

Upon his return to Toronto he made some of his biggest impact on the NHL. He, along with Lionel and Charlie Conacher, founded the NHL Oldtimers Association to represent the Alumni of the NHL. Years later that organization was instrumental in the pension fight to reclaim $50 million dollars taken by the NHL from the pension fund.

O'Neill was a devoted member of the Liberal Party, though he failed to win a federal seat for the party in 1958.

Windy O'Neill died suddenly of a heart attack in 1973. He was just 49 years old.


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