Alex Faulkner: NHL Pioneer: was the first Newfoundlander to play in the National Hockey League, leading the way for the next generation Newfoundland skaters.
Alex Faulkner only played one game as a Toronto Maple Leaf, but to hockey fans in Newfoundland it was an important hockey game!
Faulkner signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs in December 1960. He had a reputation for being a prolific goal scorer in Senior Hockey in his home province of Newfoundland. He started his professional hockey career with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League in the 1960-61 season. While skating with the Americans, he signed a free agent contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He notched 19 goals and 54 assists in his second season (1961-62) in Rochester. These numbers resulted in a call-up to the Maple Leafs during the 1961-62 season. I am sure that every radio and television set in the province of Newfoundland was tuned into that Leaf hockey game. When Alex Faulkner skated on to the ice for the first time as a Maple Leaf, he became the first Newfoundlander to play in the National Hockey League!
But his career in the Leafs’ organization was short-lived. His scoring numbers in the AHL drew the attention of the Detroit Red Wings who claimed Faulkner in the National Hockey League’s annual Intra-League Draft.
This change of uniform turned out to be very beneficial. Faulkner made the Red Wings’ roster and spent the entire 1962-63 season playing in the Motor City. He scored 10 goals and added 10 assists while playing 70 games. In the play-offs he notched five goals in 8 games.
In the final round of the play-offs, Alex scored a very important goal for the Red Wings. At 19:39 of the second period of the third game, Faulkner notched the winning goal in a 3-2 victory for the Red Wings. But Toronto stormed back to win the next two games, capturing the 1963 Stanley Cup.
Despite a good season, the next year, Faulkner found himself splitting time between Detroit and the Red Wings’ two farm clubs in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
Alex Faulkner was born in Bishop’s Falls, Newfoundland on May 21, 1936. Faulkner played hockey as a youngster in his home town. His formal hockey career began with the Bishop’s Falls Woodsmen of the GFSHL in the 1951-52 hockey season. During eight regular season games he notched only 2 goals and 4 assists. But in the play-offs, he showed not only that he was a clutch performer, but also that he had a bright future ahead of him in the world of hockey. Faulkner banged in 11 goals and set up another 11 for an outstanding total of 22 points in only five games. He would continue to hone his hockey skills in the Senior Hockey loop until he turned professional almost a decade later.
After his professional hockey stints in the Toronto and Detroit organizations, Faulkner returned to senior hockey in Newfoundland for the 1964-65 hockey season. He signed as a co-coach and player with the Conception Bay Ceebees who were the powerhouse franchise in the Newfoundland senior hockey loop. Interestingly, Alex shared co-coaching chores were not shared with just one other person. He and his two brothers, Jack and George, were all inked to contracts calling for the three to play and share the coaching duties.
He continued played until an injury forced him to retire from hockey at the end of the Allan Cup Playoffs in 1971-71 hockey season. But he returned several times over the next decade to play a few games on each occasion. He finally hung up his skates after a stint in the 1981-82 campaign.
In 1984 Faulkner received the ultimate reward for his athletic feats in the province of Newfoundland. On November 3rd of that year, Alex Faulkner was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame.
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Hockey history is full of surprises, amazing stories and athletes who never cease to surprise. It is more than just stories about the NHL, it is tales from the minor leagues, the bush leagues, and much more. And, it is not just a Canadian story.