Red Leckie:
More Than a Hockey Player,
Also a Caring Citizen

Red Leckie was more than a good hockey player. He played for the team, not for himself. Outside hockey, he responded when he saw a need in his community.

The decision to play hockey in a community which offered a positive family environment brought Red Leckie to Owen Sound in 1951. 

After graduating from the Stratford Kroehlers, where he had starred as a Junior A hockey player for three years, Red had to make a choice between playing for the Cleveland Barons' farm club in Philadelphia or the Senior “A” Owen Sound Mercurys. 

Red LeckieRed Leckie Owen Sound Mercurys - Paul White Sports Photograph Collection

Fortunately for this Owen Sound, he chose the Mercurys. 

Roy James “Red” Leckie was born in Magnetawan, Ontario January 27, 1931. He grew up in Timmins sharing a dream with his older brothers about playing in the National Hockey League. 

Life was hard for most families in Northern Ontario during the 1930s and 40s. However, for the Leckie family, times were a little more difficult. When Red was only two years old, his father, who was a conductor with the T.N.& N.O. railway, died. 

This tragic event has had a significant impact on Red's life and his attitude towards society. Anyone who followed his career knows that he has made huge contributions to the community which he has called home since 1951. 

He is a member of several organizations whose goals are directed to helping people. Whenever he has seen a need, he has tried to correct the situation. 

An example of this attitude occurred in 1991 while he was vacationing in the St. Petersburg, Florida area. That year, he started a hole-in-one golf tournament called Play For Hunger. In three years, he raised $30,000 for the St. Petersburg Food Clinic. 

He wants to be able to repay society for the assistance that was given to his family in the 1930s. Red told me that each Christmas there was always gifts and food at the door of his home. Later, he found out that the area Shriners and Masons had been responsible for fulfilling his childhood Christmas dreams. Consequently, he became a member of the Owen Sound chapters of both of these organizations. 

As a teenager, he moved to North Bay, where he played high school hockey and continued to dream of the NHL. It was during these years that he was offered $100 by the Toronto Maple Leafs to sign a "C" form. His mother, who was making about $12 a week at the time, was shocked someone was willing to pay her son that kind of money just to play hockey.

When he headed to Stratford to try out for the Kroehlers, his older brother gave him a piece of advice to which Red credits his success in making the team. His brother told him to stick to his wing, skate up and down the ice, and check hard. This spirited exhibition of desire and talent impressed the Stratford management, and he played Junior “A” for three seasons.

Red was not the only Leckie to make it to Junior “A” hockey. His brother Bob played in Galt. His other brother, Jack, played for the Barrie Flyers. Both brothers played hockey in Scotland after their junior careers ended. 

Later, while Red skated for the Mercurys, his brothers played for opposition teams in Barrie and North Bay. 

Besides the rich quality of life that Owen Sound offered, Red told me that in the 1950s, the Ontario Senior “A” League offered almost as high a calibre of hockey as the top minor hockey leagues. Leckie enjoyed a successful career with the Mercurys from 1951 until 1957. Later, he played Senior “B” with Meaford and Collingwood teams. 

During the 1954 season, Leckie scored a goal in 11 straight games. During this time, his teammates dubbed him "Dead-Eye." 

An event occurred in the 12th game of the streak which spoke volumes about Leckie's character. Late in that game — he had not scored, and his streak was on the line — he and Paul Parker, a rookie called up from the junior team, were carrying the puck. 

Just when it looked like he was going to shoot and score the goal that would continue his streak, he passed to Parker who put the puck behind the goaltender. Leckie failed to score that game and his streak ended. But it didn't bother Red because it was more important that the team won.

In 1952, Red started coaching in the Owen Sound Minor Hockey system. He imparted his hockey knowledge to local youngsters for 16 years. For the last 36 years, he has sponsored a minor hockey league team. His goal is to continue the sponsorship for at least half a century. 

For his support, he received-the Minor league Outstanding Achievement Award. As well as being a member of the Shriners and Masons, Leckie has been a Kiwanian for 31 years. In 1984, his efforts were recognized when he was named Kiwanian of the Year for Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. Red also is a major supporter of Camp Quality, a summer camp for children, aged 3-16, who have cancer. 

Somehow, when you talk to Leckie, the individual achievements don’t seem all that important. It is the team that counts, and, to Red Leckie, all society is a team looking to find that winning combination. 

In 1981 Red Leckie was honoured to be named an Honourary Citizen of Owen Sound. He is also a member of both the Owen Sound and the North Bay Sports Hall of Fame.

A version of "Red Leckie: More Than a Hockey Player, Also a Caring Citizen," originally appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times.

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