Monthly Archives: September 2023

The Gorrie Details: A Hockey Romance

It’s been almost four months since I last posted a story on my website. I don’t usually go this long, but I’ve been pretty busy since June, working on three manuscripts due to publishers between the start of September and the end of October. Two done, one still to go for anyone who’s interested…

There’s a lot I could be writing about now. The Blue Jays are — probably — headed for the postseason. But they’ve been so frustrating this year. Yes, I do believe (as I heard on the radio recently) that any team that actually makes the playoffs deserves to make the playoffs, but baseball used to be about excellence over a long season. I really don’t like the fact that, after treading water for most of the schedule, they could get hot at the right time and possibly win the American League pennant.

That’s so hockey!

And, of course, the hockey preseason is under way. I could write about the Maple Leafs. But they’ll probably have another excellent season that will be undermined by an early playoff flameout. (That’s so baseball!) Or, I could chime in on the Boston Bruins’ selection of their 100 “Historic Players” to kick off the team’s centennial celebrations. But, despite literally writing the book on Art Ross (and contributing stories about him, and his era, to the Bruins’ centennial book and upcoming documentary), I’m not really a Bruins guy. My thoughts — as with the NHL and the Leafs in recent years — is that these lists “are what they are” and that too many old-timers get overlooked.

So, what am I writing about today?

Well, admittedly, this one’s a bit quirky even by my quirky standards!

Recently, while looking for something else (the best stories get found that way!), I came across some interesting things about a long-ago goalie named Clarence Gorrie.

Now, aside from the three people I’ve asked for a bit of help from for this story, I figure there are probably only about three or four other people out there who will recognize that name. Unless you were a pretty rabid fan of Toronto hockey about 120 years ago, you’d have no reason to know of Gorrie. But still…

Clarence Gorrie started playing goal for the Toronto Marlboros at least as early as the winter of 1900–01 when the team played in the Toronto Lacrosse-Hockey League. When the Marlboros entered the Ontario Hockey Association for the 1902–03 season, Gorrie played for their intermediate team. However, after the junior team won the OHA championship that season, he was replaced by the junior team goalie in the intermediate finals. (That goalie was Eddie Giroux, later of the Kenora Thistles, and I’m pretty sure that Gorrie’s name stuck in my mind after researching Giroux for my 2022 book about the Thistles.)

Anyway, a story I stumbled across about Gorrie recently in the Montreal Gazette on October 27, 1903, mentioned him signing to play in Pittsburgh that winter, where Canadian players had been lured for a few years with the promise of being paid. Most of the Canadians were hired for cushy off-ice jobs, but everyone knew they were really being paid to play hockey, which often got them banned from playing back home in Canada, especially in Ontario, where the OHA championed amateur hockey over professionalism.

The Toronto Marlboros Intermediate team of 1902-03.

I checked for Gorrie on the web site of the Society for International Hockey Research. There were no stats for him playing with the Pittsburgh Bankers in 1903–04. It turns out the Toronto Star had the same story back on August 7. Still, I couldn’t find any stories about him actually playing in Pittsburgh. But since there were a lot of gaps in his SIHR stats record, I did a little poking around. Turns out, Gorrie actually played — with the OHA’s permission — for the Markham intermediate team in the winter of 1903–04 instead of in Toronto with any of the Marlboros teams. (Eddie Giroux and Tommy Phillips of the Thistles led the Marlboros senior team to an OHA championship that season, and on an unsuccessful Stanley Cup challenge of the Ottawa Silver Seven.) Gorrie also played at least one game with a Toronto team known as “the Fearnaughts” at a tournament in Markham in February of 1904.

No reason as to why Gorrie left the Marlboros intermediates — though maybe there was a bit of bad blood over his being replaced. Yet, it seems he was at least at the preseason workouts with the Marlboros seniors in 1904–05 when they were looking for a new goalie after Tommy Phillips convinced Giroux to head north to Kenora — still known as Rat Portage at the time.

I won’t go into all the whys and wherefores of where Gorrie played over the next few seasons — except to note that he served as the secretary of the Toronto Aquatic Hockey League in 1906–07 instead of playing with the new Toronto professional team that season that was a feature of Prime Minster Stephen Harper’s hockey book. (Gorrie — and the Aquatic league — are mentioned briefly in Harper’s book.) The league involved the Parkdale Canoe Club, Toronto Canoe Club, Toronto Rowing Club, the Argonauts Rowing Club, and the Balmy Beach Canoe Club. Gorrie was a member of the Toronto Canoe Club, though the only record I’ve seen that indicates he may have played for the team was a listing for one game showing a player named Gorrie at center. He did serve as a referee in some league games.

When he wasn’t playing hockey, Clarence Gorrie worked for the post office in Toronto. In the hockey news in The Globe on November 14, 1907, under the headline A HOCKEY ROMANCE, the following story appeared:

The staff of the general post office yesterday presented Clarence M. Gorrie, the well-known hockey player, with a silver tea service as a mark of esteem on the eve of his marriage.
The bride-to-be is Miss Rundle, a member of the Wellington ladies hockey team which aggregation was under the management of the groom…. Mr. Gorrie is a versatile athlete and widely popular.

So, Gorrie the goalie married a goalie!

Miss Vera Rundle played goal for the Wellington ladies team from the winter of 1904–05 though 1906–07. (It was probably not considered proper for her to continue playing after she was married.) Her sister Amy was a center. Toronto papers covered the team — and other women’s teams of this era — in pretty decent detail.

From the Toronto Daily Star, February 15, 1907.

In reporting on one of the team’s early games, The Globe of January 18, 1905, said this:

The ladies’ hockey match, played last night on the Broadview Rink, was won by the Wellingtons, who defeated the Broadviews by a score of 4–0. The ladies did not play in crepe de chene, as some of the spectators imagined, but buckled down to hard work, donning white and red sweaters and short bicycling skirts.

The Toronto Daily Star on February 15, 1907, which reported on the Wellingtons’ second consecutive Ontario ladies hockey championship, said, “the game was by no means a burlesque. The girls were very much in earnest all the way, and considering the handicap afforded by three-quarter skirts, put up a very good exhibition of Canada’s national winter pastime.”

The Wellingtons defeated Waterloo by a score of 6–0. “The [team] is a well-balanced aggregation,” said the Star. “Miss Rundle in goal made many good stops.” As for her sister, “Miss Rundle, at center, a decidedly pretty girl, was very tired at the finish but she showed much ability while she was fresh. A jolt in the face from the butt end of a stick made her dizzy for a while, but she was plucky and continued.”

Though the Star story about the Wellingtons says they wore white uniforms with blue shoulders, it also mentions a letter W inside a maple leaf on the breast. I suspect this is actually their team. The date given is 1909, but the picture may have been taken earlier, so that still may be Vera Rundle standing in front of the goal.

Though both families appear to be working class, The Globe gave a decent amount of space to the Gorrie-Rundle wedding in the paper on November 16, 1907. “The bride wore a pretty dress of pale grey. Her sister, Miss Amy Rundle, was bridesmaid, in a mauve colienne.”

The last records of Gorrie playing goal are from the 1908–09 season, but he stayed in the game as a refereee, and was still prominent enough that the Toronto Star considered this story newsworthy on December 10, 1921:

Clarence Gorrie the well-known OHA referee and ex-goal keeper of the famous Marlboros senior team [that would appear to be an error], has been promoted by the Post Office authorities to Woodstock. Clarence, who has spent ten of his fifteen years’ service at Postal Station E., Markham street, was yesterday presented with a handsome club bag by his fellow employees prior to his departure for Woodstock tonight.

The Gorries would live the rest of their lives in Woodstock, with Clarence coaching the local OHA junior team during the 1921–22 season. He passed away on March 22, 1952. Vera survived him for another 30 years. They are buried together in Woodstock at the Hillview Cemetery.