Nfld. & Labrador

'You gotta work for it,' says NHL champ Johnny Bower

Stanley Cup champion Johnny Bower is in St. John's this weekend, bringing a message of determination for young players, and memories of a 25-year career.
Former NHL goalie Johnny Bower is in St. John's this weekend to attend a fundraiser for victims of child abuse.

Stanley Cup champion Johnny Bower is in St. John's this weekend, bringing with him a message of determination for young players — and a host of memories from a career that lasted more than 25 years.

Bower, 90, is in the city to speak at a weekend fundraiser for victims of child abuse.

He brought a lighter message for up-and-coming hockey players as well.

Young players, 'you gotta work for it'

Stanley Cup champion Johnny Bower played in the AHL and NHL - a career that spanned three decades. (CBC)
"It's a childhood dream to have your name engraved on the Stanley Cup," Bower said.

"And that came true for me, I never gave up, I never stopped fighting. No matter what profession you choose, whether it is hockey or baseball, you name it, you gotta work for it … I spent 13 years in the minors before I finally got a break."

Bower also played many NHL games against former Montreal Canadiens' player Jean Béliveau, who died earlier this week.

The two were on the ice together for many games, including the Stanley Cup Championships of 1967 — the last time the Leafs won the cup.

Bower remembers Béliveau

Bower said he has fond memories of Béliveau.

"He was a hockey player, but also a gentleman off the ice," Bower remembered.

"I recall once we were in a pub in Montreal and I was standing on one side of the street and he was standing on the other, and he recognized me. I should have been walking over to him, but he walked right over to me and shook hands with me and wished me good luck [in the game]," Bower said.

"Maybe that's why I let him score a lot of goals on me."

Bower, who earned the nickname 'The China Wall,' started playing pro hockey when he returned from the war in 1943.

He played with the American Hockey League until 1953 when he was then picked up by the New York Rangers.

At the height of his NHL career in the early 1960s, Bower helped the Toronto Maple Leafs win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships.

He was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976.

Bower celebrated his 90th birthday on Nov. 8.

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