In 1953, three Humber Valley fathers wanted to provide their 7 and 8 year old sons an opportunity to play hockey in their community.
Stafford Smythe, son of Conn Smythe and President of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the time, had a son Tommy who was interested in playing hockey. Stafford’s good friend, well-known sportsman Jack Stafford Jr., wanted the same opportunity for his 7 year old son John. Ray Picard, father of 7 year old Alan, was talked into getting involved as a well, and the three men began to form Humber Valley’s first hockey team.
A notice was put up at Humber Valley Village School on Hartfield Road. The following Saturday Lambton Park’s outdoor rink overflowed with interested parents and children. The Humber Valley Hockey League was born.
Two teams were formed in that first year – the Hornets, coached by Jack Stafford, and the Redmen, led by Ray Picard. They played as Atoms in the Toronto Hockey League, the forerunner of the GTHL. At the time, Atoms were players aged 10 and under. Their first game, at the old Ravina rink in the Annette/High Park area, ended in a scoreless tie. By the end of the first season, the Hornets and Redmen were tied for 3rd place in the league, forcing a sudden-death playoff which the Hornets won 3-0. At the end of season banquet, the guest speaker was none other than retired Leafs goaltender Turk Broda.
In its 2nd year, Humber Valley iced an impressive 12 teams in the THL. At the Atom level, the Elfs, Frys, Imps, Shrimps, Squirts and Tom Thumbs carried the Humber Valley colours. The Hornets and Redmen played in the Peewee division, while the Jets, Kings and Rams made up the league’s Minor Bantam teams. The Aces were the first Bantam team for Humber Valley. That season, for the first time ever, Humber Valley entered teams in the King Clancy series, a post-season THL tournament. The success of this second season was a direct result of the hard work of many volunteers including, Jack Coulter, Murray Dryden, Russ Hicks, Ross Johnstone, Pat Patterson, Bill Sanagan, Harry Stayley and George Williams Jr.
In year 3, the enthusiasm and coaching efforts of the Humber Valley parents paid off with 2 championships. Humber Valley’s squirts won the THL Atom championship during the regular season, and the White Shirts – an All-Star team made up of players from the house league Atom division – took home the King Clancy Championship. But the real excitement of the 3rd year occurred at the Tyke level, which then included all players under 9 years of age. The final game of the Easter Timmy Tyke Tournament saw the Humber Valley Tykes squaring off against their Scarborough counterparts. After regulation play the score was tied at 1. Two 5 minute overtime periods failed to break the deadlock, forcing a shoot-out. It was won by Bruce Dempster, who posted both of Humber Valley’s goals that day. The tournament MVP was Tim Ecclestone – who later becaome an NHL star – whose father Bill coached the team with Doug King.
During the early years, games and practices were held on the ice surfaces of Ravina, Lambton Park and Anglesey Park – the first community outdoor artificial rinks in the Metropolitan Toronto area. Parents at this time not only coached and managed their children’s teams, but also officiated in the house league program. By the 4th season, the league had grown to 18 teams from Tyke to Minor Midget. At the end of the year Humber Valley, Queensway, Alderwood and Northern Etobicoke entered teams in a tournament held by the newly formed Etobicoke Hockey Association, with the stated purpose of determining an all-Etobicoke champion.
During its first few years of existence, the league blossomed and grew under the presidencies of co-founders Stafford Smythe and Jack Stafford Jr., both of whom had an incredible ability to draw volunteers to work with them to make the league a success.
Since those early days, Humber Valley has enjoyed a reputation as an outstanding amateur hockey organization. All of the players, parents, coaches, volunteers and officials who have been active in the association since those early days owe a huge debt of gratitude to Stafford, Jack and their contemporaries.