In 1953, three fathers in the Humber Valley area of Etobicoke wanted to enable their 7 and 8 year old sons to play hockey. Stafford Smythe, whose father Conn Smythe was one of hockey's elder statesmen and President of the Toronto Maple Leafs, naturally wanted his son Tommy to be able to play. His good friend, well-known sportsman Jack Stafford Jr., wanted the same opportunity for 7 year old son John. Ray Picard, father of 7 year old Alan, was talked into getting involved as well, and the three men began plans to form a Humber Valley hockey team.
A notice was put up at Humber Valley Village School on Hartfield Road, and 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 the first year- the Hornets, coached by Jack Stafford, and the Redmen, led by Ray Picard - and 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 banquet ending the first season, the guest speaker was none other than retired Leaf goaltender Turk Broda.In only its 2nd year, Humber Valley fielded an unbelievable 12 teams in the THL. At the Atom level, the Elfs, Frys, Imps, Shrimps, Squirts and Tom Thumbs carried the Humber Valley colours.
The Islington Hornets and Islington Redmen were the two original teams, and played as Atoms (10 years and under) in the Toronto Hockey League in the 1954-55 season. •TOP:Bryant Smith, Dave Shaw, Bob Bryant, Ken Dryden, John Harris, Dick Falconer, Mike Evans, John Leetham, Andy Clements, Jack Cambridge•MIDDLE: Bill Sanagan, John Stafford, John Pennal, Bill Cansfield, Dick Edwards, Tom Smythe, Gord Hicks, Pete Legault•BOTTOM: Bruce Sinclair, Al Picard, Pete Taylor, John Forsythe, Dave Webb, Doug McCorkingdale, Doug Smith
The Hornets and Redmen played in the Pee Wee division, while the Jets, Kings and Rams made up the league's Minor Bantam entry. The Aces were the first Bantam team for Humber Valley. For the first time, Humber Valley entered teams in the Kin Clancy series, a post-season THL tournament.As in any year, the success of this second season was the result of the hard work on many people, a few of whom deserve special mention, such as: 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 all the house league
Atoms - took 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 old. 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 1-1. Two 5 minute overtime periods failed to break the deadlock, forcing a shoot-off which was won by Bruce Dempster, who counted for both Humber Valley's goals. The tournament MVP was Tim Ecclestone - later to become an NHL star - whose father Bill coached the team with Doug King.During these beginning 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 programs. By the 4th season,
the league had grown to 18 teams from Atom 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 the ability to draw many other volunteer parents to work with them in making the league a success. Since those early days, Humber Valley has enjoyed a reputation as an outstanding amateur hockey organization, and all the league executives, team officials and players who have been active in the association since then owe a huge debt of gratitude to Stafford, Jack and their contemporaries.