All-Time New Brunswick-Born Lineups

Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, is a village in the northwest quadrant of the province. It’s close to the border with the United States and is on the territory of the Wəlastəkwewiyik (Maliseet) people of the Wabanaki Confederacy. You’ll find the World’s Largest Fiddleheads there (bring some vinegar if you’re a fan) and every year this small village of just over 1,000 people hosts the World Pond Hockey Championships (WPHC). Teams from around the world apply to be a part of the four-on-four tournament that takes place on what is known as Roulston Lake.

Teams flock to Plaster Rock for the ice, experience, and competition, but they return to New Brunswick for the people. They know they’ll be greeted by great, welcoming people with great food. I like to think that the players in these all-time New Brunswick-born lineups represent these traits but with a touch of elite hockey skills. There’s a reason why many of these players returned to New Brunswick after their careers were over. The Maritime province might not have a list of hundreds of professional hockey players to draw from, but the lineups below rival those of other provinces and states. You’ve got barrier breakers, game changers, and people who have excelled because their love of the game won’t let them give it up.

The first lineup is an all-NHL group and the second draws from Canadian National Women’s Ice Hockey teams, the first version (1999-2007) of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), and the Colored Hockey League (CHL). Let me know what you think of the lineups and leave a comment at the end of the article. Enjoy!

Centre: Greg Malone (Chatham, NB)

Malone had a nice arc to his career. He put up 47 points in 21 games with the Fredericton Black Kats in the 1971-72 season and added 35 points in 49 games for the Fredericton Express in 1986-87. Between those seasons, he was a consistent offensive presence during his junior years with the Oshawa Generals and throughout his professional career with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Hartford Whalers. He only dipped below 50 points in a season three times between 1973-74 and 1985-86.

He put up a career-best 65 points in 1978-79 in 80 games with the Penguins and followed that up with a 1.00 point-per-game average in 1979-80. Malone played 33 games for the Quebec Nordiques before retiring and eventually becoming the head scout for the Penguins. He won two Stanley Cups during his time leading the scouting staff. His longevity and consistency made him an easy choice down the middle.

Right Wing: Gordie Drillon (Moncton, NB)

Drillon is a pioneer of what is sometimes referred to as the “garbage” or “dirty” goal. He was one of the first forwards in the NHL to set up right in front of the net and tip shots past goaltenders or clean up rebounds laying in the crease. Unless you have an elite shot or smooth hands, this is one of the most common ways players try to score goals now and many players make a professional career out of this style. As goalie equipment grew and took up more of the net, players relied — and continue to rely — more on Drillon’s style to re-direct a puck past the goaltender.

During his relatively short NHL career, Drillon achieved great success on the scoresheet, tallying 295 points in 312 games. He played six seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs and had a career-high 52 points in 48 games in 1937-38. The evenly dispersed 26 goals and 26 assists helped him earn his first All-Star honors and his four penalty minutes contributed to his Lady Byng Memorial Trophy-winning season. He nearly tied his career high in points in 1942-43 during his one season with the Montréal Canadiens where he put up 50 points in 49 games.       

Gordie Drillon of the Toronto Maple Leafs made his home in front of the opposing goaltender. (THW Archives)

In his final season with the Maple Leafs (1941-42), he helped them with the Stanley Cup and scored five points in nine playoff games. After he retired, he played senior hockey across Atlantic Canada and Quebec, and served as a Maritime scout for the Maple Leafs. His innovation and scoring touch earned him a spot on this list.

Left Wing: Willie O’Ree

The left wing position for this all-time list is quite deep. The Calder Memorial Trophy and Stanley Cup-winning Danny Grant (Fredericton, NB), with his 536 points in 736 games, deserves a long look on the top line and can easily slot in on the second line. Grant scored 50 goals and 87 points in 80 games in 1974-75 for the Detroit Red Wings, a team he would captain during the 1975-76 season and part of the 1976-77 season. Grant returned to the Maritimes after his NHL career to coach various junior and university teams.

Mike Eagles (Sussex, NB) deserves a nod for his longevity and defensive focus. He could easily slot in in the top nine of this all-time roster. It’s difficult to maintain a long professional hockey career as an offensive player, never mind as a grinding defensive-specialist. Playing in your own zone takes a toll and this work should be recognized. Eagles won a Memorial Cup in 1982 and a World Junior Championship gold medal in 1983 with Team Canada. He also returned to New Brunswick to coach and help the St. Thomas University Tommies hockey program.

The first-line spot has to go to the great Willie O’Ree. He only played 45 games in the NHL, but his legacy is more significant than the number of games played. He was the first Black man to play in the NHL, but it’s a complicated moment to celebrate considering Black men had been playing organized hockey since at least the late 1800s in the Maritimes. But O’Ree was the first and that is important. The moment when he stepped on the ice in 1958 deserves recognition and so does every shift after. His 14 points and two game-winning goals are also impressive during his time in the Boston Bruins jersey.

Willie O'Ree
NEW YORK, NY – 1961: Willie O’Ree #25 of the Boston Bruins skates with the puck as Camille Henry #21 of the New York Rangers looks defend during their NHL game circa 1961 at the Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

O’Ree played another 17 seasons of hockey across various professional and minor professional hockey leagues. He put up at least 30 goals in five of those seasons and at least 50 points in eight seasons. He was a consistently strong offensive player and a leader of the game across Canada and the United States. He played until he was 43 years old and continues to be an ambassador for the game. O’Ree earned this spot in the lineup.

Left Defense: Don Sweeney (St. Stephen, NB)        

Don Sweeney is the only player on this list that is not currently playing in the NHL but still employed by one of the teams. Sweeney is the general manager of the Bruins, but that’s not why he made this lineup. He had a long playing career, spanning 15 seasons with the Bruins and one with the Dallas Stars. He played 1,115 games, a feat on its own, and ranks fourth all-time in games played for the Bruins.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney
Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney watches a scrimmage from the stands. (Boston Globe staff photo by John Tlumacki)

In May 2015, Sweeney became general manager of the Bruins. He helped construct a team that won the Eastern Conference in 2018-19 but lost to the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final. He was awarded the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award for the 2018-19 season. Sweeney is a respected executive and former defenseman. He is as smart on the phones as he was on the ice. His continued presence on the blue line and behind the scenes for the Bruins demonstrate his commitment to the team and help land him a spot in this lineup.  

Right Defense: Charlie Bourgeois (Moncton, NB)

On the right side, Moncton’s Charlie Bourgeois gets a spot on the top pair. Bourgeois was undrafted but played 290 games in the NHL as a member of the Calgary Flames, Blues, and Hartford Whalers. He has also had a significant impact on the hockey community in Moncton. In the 1980-81 season he helped the Université de Moncton win the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship, putting up 31 points in 24 games. After retiring from playing professional hockey, he coached the Moncton Hawks to the Calder Cup Final in 1993-94 season and coached the Université de Moncton men’s hockey team.

You could try Randy Jones (Quispamsis, NB) on the right side of this all-time lineup, as well. The undrafted Jones scored 105 points across 365 games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Winnipeg Jets. He put up a career-high 26 assists and 31 points in 2007-08 with the Flyers and helped them reach the Eastern Conference Final that season. Jones won a Calder Cup with the Philadelphia Phantoms in 2004-05 and had a strong college career with the Clarkson Golden Knights, which helped him earn his contract with the Flyers. One thing’s for sure, the defensive core of this all-time New Brunswick-born lineup is a strong shutdown focused group.  

Goalie: Jake Allen (Fredericton, NB) and Roland Melanson (Moncton, NB)

This was one of the more fascinating decisions. According to Stathead.com, Jake Allen has had and is having a better career than Roland Melanson. Allen’s 309 (and counting) games played (GP), 156 wins, 2.51 goals-against average (GAA) and .912 save percentage (SV%) are all better than Melanson’s 291 GP, 129 wins, 3.64 GAA, and .883 SV%. The playoff numbers don’t deviate from this picture, either. But if you factor in the high-flying and scoring atmosphere of the 1980s NHL, then perhaps the stats aren’t so different. Interestingly, they’ve both served in more of a platoon role throughout their NHL careers.

That’s why you’ve got to go with both goaltenders in this scenario. They’re used to the platoon role and have excelled in it. Allen has one Stanley Cup while backing up Jordan Binnington with the Blues, while Melanson won three consecutive Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders from 1980-83 as the second-half of the duo with Billy Smith. The pair also won the 1982-83 William M. Jennings Trophy as the best goaltending pair with the fewest goals against.

Hypothetically, if either claims the net, then you run with the hot goaltender, but both have excelled as a member of a tandem, so why not put them in the best situation to succeed.

Beyond the NHL

If we look outside the NHL, there’s more talent that can make up another all-time New Brunswick-born lineup. Here it is: 

Centre: Stacy Wilson (Moncton/Salisbury, NB)

Wilson is a legend of hockey in Canada and one of the most decorated players on this list. Some of the most noteworthy moments include serving as captain of the Canadian National Women’s Team, winning four gold medals at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) World Women’s Championships (WWHC), helping start a women’s club hockey team at Acadia University, and leading Team New Brunswick and the Maritime Blades at various National Women’s Championships. At the 1990 WWHC, she put up 11 points in five games to lead Team Canada to a gold medal, and in 1995, won the MVP at the Women’s National Championship by scoring six goals and six assists in six games for the Maritime Sports Blades. It was just one of many MVP moments for Wilson.

Wilson also added a silver medal and six points in six games at the first appearance of women’s hockey at the Winter Olympic Games in 1998. She served as captain of the first women’s national team to appear at a Winter Olympics. In addition to a number of other medals, Wilson was inducted into the Acadia University Sports Hall of Fame and the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame. Her impact on the game is much wider and more significant than can be addressed here. After retiring, she coached in the United States college system for a couple of different teams, wrote a book on hockey for girls, and eventually returned to New Brunswick. She’s a superstar and a lock for this lineup.        

Left Wing: Kathy McCormack (Blackville, NB)

Kathy McCormack is another original member of the first Canadian National Women’s Team to appear at the 1998 Winter Olympics. She won a silver medal with teammate Stacy Wilson at the tournament. McCormack played on the national team from 1997 until 2001.

Earlier in her career, she played for Team New Brunswick at the Canada Winter Games and Canadian Championships. She won a silver medal at the 1995 championship and a bronze at the 1996 tournament with the Maritime Sports Blades. McCormack was also a member of the Oakville Ice of the original National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). Her presence as a member of these teams is important for young hockey players from the Maritimes and in southern Ontario and helps her earn a spot on this lineup.       

Right Wing: The Celestials (Fredericton, NB), The St. John Royals (St. John, NB), The Ralph Waldo Emersons (St. John, NB)

According to George and Darrill Fosty in their book Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, there were at least three New Brunswick-based Black hockey teams of the first organized professional hockey league in North America. The Colored Hockey League (CHL) started in 1895 and stretched into the 1930s while facing backlash from white leagues and rink owners. The Fostys note that the game played in the CHL resembled more of what we think of as ice hockey now than what was played in other early leagues. The CHL is also credited with featuring the first known usage of familiar techniques like what we now call the “butterfly” for goaltenders and the much-lauded slap shot.

Unfortunately, there are no records of the players from these New Brunswick teams to pull from for this all-time lineup, but the players that made up The Celestials, The St. John Royals, and The Ralph Waldo Emersons undoubtedly deserve a spot in this list for their innovation and excellence in the game of hockey.

Left Defense: Carol Cooper

All the women on this list are original stars of the women’s game in Canada. Carol Cooper was a defensive force on the left side for the Mississauga, Hamilton, and Guelph teams of the Central Ontario Women’s Hockey League (COWHL), which eventually became the original NWHL. She served as captain of the Mississauga team for multiple seasons and played in eight national championships.

According to the old Mississauga player profiles, she won athlete of the year in 1984 at the University of New Brunswick (UNB), was a second-team all-star for the COWHL in 1996-97, and won a Sportsmanship award in 1997. In that same year, she won the Most Valuable Defensive Player award on her team. Much like the all-time NHL lineup, this all-time lineup centres around a strong shutdown defensive player.  

Right Defense: Rebecca Fahey (Sackville, NB)

Rebecca Fahey is a solid addition to the right side of this lineup. She is another veteran of the game who played throughout the 1990s. She appeared in the 1997 IIHF World Women’s Championship and won gold with Team Canada. She also played on the provincial team and appeared in the Canada Winter Games, Canadian Women’s National Championship, and Esso Women’s National Championship alongside McCormack and Wilson.

Team New Brunswick’s success at the Women’s National Championships throughout the 1990s was a result of the strength and commitment of the women on this list, including Fahey. Her reliable presence simply adds to the defensive depth of this lineup and makes her a key part of the top pair.

Goalie: Marlène Boissonnault (Dundee, NB)

Marlène Boissonnault is the youngest player on either lineup and perhaps the future of these lineups as well. She currently plays for the Calgary team of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) and is part of the National Women’s Team Development roster.

In 2015, Boissonnault won a silver medal with the under-18 national women’s team, posting a strong .920 SV% and 1.71 GAA in four games. She went on to play for the Cornell Big Red women’s hockey team from 2015 to 2019 and amassed 56 wins and 15 shutouts, the second and third most totals in the university’s history, respectively.

Lesley Reddon also deserves an honorary mention for this lineup. She was born in North York, Ontario, and played minor hockey in her home province, but in 1993 she moved to New Brunswick to work toward a master’s degree from the UNB. While there, she played for the men’s hockey team, becoming the first women to play in the Atlantic University Sport division.

Alongside a silver medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and two gold medals for 1994 and 1997 WWHC, what is of particular note for this lineup is that Reddon was the goaltender for the Maritime Sports Blades teams that won silver and bronze medals at the National Women’s Championship with many of the above honorees. She represented Team New Brunswick and the Maritimes in women’s hockey during the different variations and backstopped elite teams to successful finishes. For her contribution to hockey in New Brunswick, she deserves a nod on this list.     

There it is. Two solid starting lineups comprised of the best New Brunswick-born (and one honorary spot) hockey players from across generations.


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