By Rob Ficiur
My first personal encounter with a NHL Father – Son combination was in 1974. After an Old Timers hockey game in Lethbridge I had gone down to get some autographs. Jimmy Peters Sr. was the NHL old timer chatting with young fans. At home I had a hockey card of his son Jimmy Peters Jr. As he signed my program I asked where his son was playing this year. Jimmy Peters Sr. had been pleasantly signing autographs for a few minutes. When I asked my question about his son he got a big smile on his face. He was talking now as a Dad not as a hockey player. “Jimmy is playing with Springfield this year. Hopefully he can get back into the NHL with the Kings.”
Four decades ago, I heard a different message from Jimmy Peters Sr. than I do today. As a 12 year old hockey fan I thought that Father Peters was predicting a rising star in the NHL. Since a three time Stanley Cup champion (Jimmy Peters Sr) had said / hoped that his son would get back in the NHL, then that is what was going to happen. The Kings had traded Hall of Fame Goalie Terry Sawchuk to Detroit to get Jimmy Peters Jr., they must have seen equal value in the trade.
Back then I naively thought there was a ladder like progression from the Western Hockey League to the Central Hockey League (and other minor leagues) to the NHL. I had not one, but three Jimmy Peters Jr. hockey cards at home, so that must mean he would one day be an NHL star.
By the time I was 25 years old (and knew everything there was to know about everything) I came across my Jimmy Peters hockey cards again. As I thought back to that conversation I had with Jimmy Peters Sr., I concluded he must not have known much about hockey. Jimmy Peters Jr. played three more games in the NHL and never became a star in any league. Jimmy Jr. played parts of nine seasons in the NHL, totaling 309 games (39 goals 29 assists). Jimmy Jr. was 30 years old when I had the conversation with his father. If a player has not made the NHL by the time they are 30 they are not going to be a regular NHL player.
At 25 years old, I thought Jimmy Peters Sr. should have had a better understanding of hockey. Jimmy Sr. played 575 games from 1945-1954. He scored 125 goals and 150 assists on his way to three Stanley Cup championships. His final season in the NHL was 1954 with the Detroit Red Wings at the age of 31. Jimmy Sr. should have realized that his son (then age 30) was not going to be an NHL player.
Now that I am more than 50 years old, I see the conversation from a different perspective than either my 25 or 12 year old self. Jimmy Sr. was not a hockey player answering my hockey question. Instead he was a Father talking about his son. On that day in 1974 Jimmy Sr. was the same age that I am now. Jimmy Sr. knew better than most the struggles of playing professional hockey. With expansion in 1967 there were double the number of teams he could play for. In 1968-69 he scored ten goals and followed that with career high15 goals the next year. After his break out year, with a last place team, Jimmy Jr. spent the next two years in the minors.
As we had our one minute visit 41 years ago Jimmy Sr. knew that his son’s hockey career was winding down. Jimmy Sr. knew how hard it was to make and stay in the NHL. (Jimmy Sr.’s last two years were in the minors.) Jimmy Jr. had lived the ups and downs of pro hockey and yet he competed. In the end Jimmy Jr. played 320 NHL games more than the majority of young players who dream of the hockey life.
Dads are like Jimmy Peters Sr. hoping their children succeed. Dad can be proud of their children’s efforts when they know how hard they worked at reaching their goals. Like Dads everywhere my one minute visit with Jimmy Sr. was a chance for Jimmy Peters Sr. (3 time Stanley Cup champ) to talk about their favorite topic one of his children.