By John White
Special to the Truro Daily News
“I considered myself to be a journeyman minor-league goaltender, because for 90 per cent of the time that’s what I was. I kicked around the minors as a journeyman and I’d do the journey over again.”
Those are the words of Brookfield native Lyle Carter, as told to yours truly during a recent conversation.
And make no mistake, Carter was surely a hockey nomad. Over the course of 13 seasons, beginning in 1962-63, he played goal for 12 professional teams, including the NHL’s now-defunct California Golden Seals, not to mention seven amateur clubs for a total of 19 teams.
Carter played junior and senior, respectively for Brampton and Orillia in Ontario. He spent one year with the Windsor Maple Leafs and the New Glasgow Rangers, both of the Nova Scotia Senior Hockey League. He also logged two years in Newfoundland’s senior circuit, suiting up with the Buchans Miners, the Gander Flyers and, for a brief period, the Conception Bay CeeBees.
Carter’s travels as a pro took him to Cleveland, Toledo, Montreal (AHL), Muskegon, Baltimore, Salt Lake City, California (NHL), Oklahoma City, New Haven, Syracuse, Greensboro and Clinton, N.Y.
Oh, by the way, there was another sport in Carter’s life that some of you may be aware of – he is very well known throughout the province and beyond as an elite fastpitch softball player. During the 1960s and ’70s, while with the Brookfield Elks of the Mainland Senior Softball League, Carter won an amazing nine batting titles and was named all-Canadian third baseman a remarkable four times.
These days Carter, 74, writes a weekly sports column along with a bi-weekly feature piece for the Truro Daily News.
Born and raised in Brookfield, Carter credits a great deal of his hockey and softball mastery to a gentleman by the name of Don Henderson, whose name is attached to a landmark Brookfield sports arena called the Don Henderson Memorial Sportsplex.
“Don was such a great man for sports in Brookfield,” Carter said. “He helped so many young athletes like myself. The big thing was to play for the Brookfield Elks, and Don Henderson managed all those Elks softball teams. He also managed the Elks hockey teams. He was an older man, but he was like a brother to all of us.”
Carter said another positive influence and leader was his former high school hockey coach, Bill Spears.
In 1961-62, Carter was stopping pucks for the junior team in Trenton, when a chap by the name of Crowe Curley took notice. Curley informed then bird-dog scout/Chronicle Herald sportswriter Hugh Townsend of his find.
To make a long story short, Carter left home in the fall of 1962 and joined the Brampton 7-Ups of the strong Metro Toronto Junior Hockey League.
“I left Brookfield with cow manure on my pant leg and I still have cow manure on my pant leg,” Carter laughed.
Following his Brampton stint, Carter had stops in Windsor, Buchans, New Glasgow, and Orillia, Ontario, where, during the 1965-66 campaign, he caught the eye of the Montreal Canadiens. Carter attended the Habs’ training camp the following fall but was cut.
“Yep, C-U-T,” he said while spelling out the most dreaded word in team sports. “I then went to Gander for a year,” he said. “Montreal took me back the following season and I ended up with their farm team in Cleveland. So I went from the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League directly to professional hockey. I owe a lot to Newfoundland. I gained a lot of confidence playing there.”
Carter first played on The Rock during the 1963-64 campaign. “Neil Amadio took me to Buchans,” he said, referring to the Donkin, Cape Breton native who along with brothers Leo and Dave had stellar hockey careers.
Throughout Carter’s career, league titles were scarce.
“I think back,” he said, “and I was away 13 seasons, and I played on two championship teams: the 1964-65 New Glasgow Rangers and the 1968-69 Clinton Comets.”
The New Glasgow club captured Maritime senior honours that season. “Our manager and president became the premier of Nova Scotia in 1999,” recalled Carter. “He was a young doctor at the time named John Hamm.”
Meanwhile, Carter’s ’68-’69 championship-winning Clinton Comets played in the old Eastern Hockey League.
“A fellow by the name of Joe Robertson from Windsor, N.S. was with us. We played New Haven for the Northern Division title and won in seven games. We then went on to play the Nashville Dixie Flyers for the league championship and beat them in seven.”
Also that season, Carter was named first team all-star and took home the George Davis Trophy, awarded annually to the Eastern league’s top goaltender. Other years, however, weren’t so good for Carter.
Although he played sparingly for the AHL Voyageurs, which at the time was the top farm club of the NHL’s Canadiens, Carter has fond memories of his time spent with the team.
“Being part of that club was special because you knew that a lot of those guys were going to the NHL. We had (future big leaguers) Peter Mahovlich, Guy Lapointe, Pierre Bouchard, Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif.”
Another highlight for Carter during his Voyageurs’ stay was the opportunity to practise with the parent Canadiens. As it happened, both teams played out of the old Montreal Forum, and for a spell, due to health reasons, Habs’ regular netminder Rogie Vachon had been excused from workouts, thus Carter filled in.
“I practised 10 or 11 times with the Canadiens,” Carter said. “Why would that be a highlight? Well, they had Jean Beliveau, John Ferguson and all the rest. Another thing, after a couple of practices, Beliveau would ask me to stay out and take shots. To this day it’s still a thrill getting to know Jean Beliveau a little bit. He was a great man.”