Justice Marc Nadon drafted by Harper - and Red Wings?

Justice Marc Nadon managed to mix Canada's national pastimes of hockey and politics Wednesday when he told MPs reviewing his Supreme Court nomination that he had been drafted at age 14 by the Detroit Red Wings. That left some experts scrambling for details — and scratching their heads.

Supreme Court nominee clarifies surprise claim to MPs that he was drafted by Detroit's NHL team

RAW: Supreme Court nominee statement

9 years ago
Duration 11:23
Justice Marc Nadon's speech to House of Commons committee

Canada's newest Supreme Court Justice managed to mix two of Canada's national pastimes — hockey and politics — when he told MPs reviewing his nomination to the top court that he had been drafted by the Detroit Red Wings.

"During my youth, my ambition was to become a hockey player," Marc Nadon said, as he shared some details of his upbringing. "In fact, I was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings when I was 14."

That set some hockey fans scrambling for more details — and scratching their heads.

As Puckstruck.com's Stephen Smith wrote Wednesday night, the NHL draft started in 1963, when Nadon was 13, and there's no record of him being selected by any of the six original teams in the four-round draft.

Same for 1964, 1965 and so on.

Justice Marc Nadon, right, arrives Wednesday with Minister of Justice Peter MacKay to appear before a special Commons committee reviewing his nomination to the Supreme Court. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Nadon told MPs Wednesday that when he was 16, his father — a hockey player in the 1940s, Nadon said — gave him an ultimatum to choose hockey or academics, so he turned his attention full time to studying.

That decision led to a seat on the bench of the Federal Court, instead of one in an NHL arena.

And now he's set to take the bench at the nation's highest court. A release from the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday confirmed his appointment to the Supreme Court.

But how to explain his claim that he had also achieved the dream of every Canadian boy who plays hockey, to be drafted by an NHL team?

Smith had some thoughts.

"[I'm] wondering whether he was scouted and/or had an offer extended by the Detroit Jr. Red Wings, a Junior B team in the early '60s who were affiliated with the NHL club. That seems the most likely thing," Smith said in an email to CBC News.

The Office of the Commissioner of Federal Judicial Affairs confirmed to CBC News Thursday that that is, in fact, what he meant.

"At the time, the NHL recruitment process placed young players on protected lists and I believe [Justice] Nadon was recruited by the Detroit Red Wings organization to play on one of their many farm teams," Margaret Rose Jamieson of said in a voice message.

Nadon himself told the Huffington Post he didn't mean to suggest he was officially drafted into the NHL.

"I wasn't trying to say that I was going to play for the Red Wings that year or something to that effect," he told the news outlet.

"I was 14, my father was handling all this and he had told me that I would be part of the Red Wings' organization. So I used 'draft' in the way that I would have used it in those days, loosely termed to say that I would be part of the organization," he said.

"Not to imply that I would play for the Red Wings, that somehow I was part of the Wings' organization and I was a decent hockey player that's what really what it was meant to say, nothing further."

One of the MPs on the special Commons committee who heard from Nadon Wednesday said she'd appreciate an official clarification.

"Of course, it is always a concern if someone misinforms a Parliamentary committee — we expect judges to be scrupulous in making representations to Parliament. I hope he'll take the earliest opportunity to clarify the details of his junior hockey career with the committee," the NDP's Françoise Boivin wrote in an email to CBC News.

On Wednesday, Nadon followed his revelation he'd been drafted by Detroit to add an admission "which may be fatal to me in Ottawa — that I'm neither an Ottawa Senators fan nor a Montreal Canadiens fan."

A spokesman for the Supreme Court said Nadon would be making no further comment on the matter.

Faced NHL-calibre competition

In a post on Puckstruck.com, Smith notes Nadon played for a midget team in Saint-Jérôme, Que. Smith was able to find one reference to a game just before Christmas in 1964 in which Nadon’s team beat Montreal-Nord 6-0.

"Nadon scored a goal and added an assist, which put him seventh in the league’s list of scoring leaders, with five goals and 12 points in 11 games. [He had also accumulated six penalty minutes.]," Smith writes on his site. "Notable at the top [of the leagues] that year: Verdun’s Guy Charron, who went on to play for Montreal, Detroit, Kansas City, and Washington."

So Nadon did face NHL-calibre competition as a young player, just not in the big leagues.

Smith said the players on those junior teams affiliated with NHL clubs in the 1960s were signed to letters or contracts known as “forms.”

"An A form got you a tryout, a B gave the team the option to sign a player for a bonus. The C committed your professional rights to the team in question. You had to be 18 to sign that one, or if your parents were willing, they could do it for you," Smith wrote.

That's how the Boston Bruins managed to scoop up a young Parry Sound, Ont., phenom named Bobby Orr when he was in his early teens.

And, maybe, how a man now bound for a job at the highest court in the land once nearly realized a dream to rise to the top of an entirely different arena.


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