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Sandy Air

Sandy Air

What young Canadian boy has not grown up playing road hockey or shinny and imagined themselves as being part of a Stanley Cup or World Championship winning team. Sandy Air realized that dream as a member of the 1958 Whitby Dunlop’s, who travelled to Oslo, Norway to bring back a World Championship to Canada after a couple of major Canadian disappointments in the two previous seasons.

Sandy was born in Toronto in 1928 and spent his entire childhood living in the family home on Venn Crescent in the Borough of York. He attended Silverthorn Public School before moving onto Memo in the fall of 1942. Youth hockey was not as organized as our present-day game, and the boys would not begin to play in organized leagues until the age of 12 at the Minor Bantam level.

Prior to that age players would search out any sheet of natural ice they could find, to compete in unorganized shinny games. For Sandy and his friends their oasis was a plot of land known as “The Desert” – an old sand pit located at the corner of Cameron and Eglinton Avenues.

It would not be uncommon to see three or four games going on simultaneously on the same sheet of ice. While at Memo Sandy competed in Football and played on both the offence and defence which was very common in those early years. While there was no organized school hockey in those days, one of Sandy’s classmates was Harry Pidherny, who would go onto a 19-year pro career including a stop with the Boston Bruins.

After four years of minor hockey Sandy was invited to play for the Victory Aircraft sponsored team in the then Metro Jr. “B” League. He played two seasons at this level and performed well enough to be recruited by the OHA’s Stratford Kroehlers - where he played Jr “A” hockey and finished his final year of high school.

The following season he played his final year of Junior closer to home as a member of the OHA’s Oshawa Generals, where a solid year lead to the beginning what would be a five-year minor pro career, with stops in Milwaukee, Kansas City, Moncton, Boston and Washington. In returning to Canada Sandy began the next phase of his life and while working at new jobs returned to the amateur ranks, playing OHA Senior hockey with the Niagara Falls Cataracts. The next year with a job beckoning closer to home, Sandy joined the Whitby Dunlop’s Senior A team and spent the next six seasons in that very successful program.

In 1957 with such notable teammates as Harry Sinden,  the former York Memorial student and future coach with the Boston Bruins and Team Canada ’72 – as well as Stanley Cup winner and Leaf’s legend Sid Smith as player coach, the Dunlop’s would go on to win the Allan Cup, awarded each year to the Canadian Senior A champions. As an added bonus the Allan Cup champions would earn the right to represent Canada at the following years Worlds Championship.

There was a lot of pressure attached to those journeys in any given year but it was an especially daunting task for the Dunlop’s in 1958. Canada had lost the 1956 Olympics to the upstart Russian National team and redemption was delayed when Canada boycotted the 1957 Worlds to protest the Soviet invasion of Hungary earlier that year. The team headed to Norway via ocean liner and over the six-day journey many of the players experienced terrible sea sickness before landing on European soil.The team chose not to fly as their General Manager and future NHL GM with the Minnesota North Stars – Wren Blair – was afraid to fly.

Fortunately for Sandy he was recovering from a serious knee injury prior to the tournament and was able to fly over to join his teammates. After completing an eight-game undefeated exhibition tour in Europe, the Dunny’s would go undefeated over seven games in the World Tournament before defeating the Russian’s 4-2 in the Gold medal game. Bringing home Canada’s seventeenth World Championship the Dunlop’s were given a hero’s welcome and to this day are one of the greatest success stories in the annals of Canadian hockey history.

The following year would see Sandy back with the Dunlop’s where he would play another three seasons, winning another Allan Cup in 1959, before retiring from competitive hockey after the 1959-60 campaign. Sandy moved onto a new career as a stock broker at Moss-Lawson – a journey that would see him work until December of 2019 before retiring at the ripe age of 91 years old.

Sandy is living a well-earned retirement in the Mississauga area and still gets together with a group of his peers at the pro hockey players luncheon, held every month at a sports bar in Markham. Needless to say, Sandy was a success on the ice and incredibly had an even better business career!