Every year at the Providence Golf Classic, we are blessed with the presence of some NHL Legends. This is Canada; we love hockey; and these guys are superstars! They come quietly to play golf, but their presence provides a special thrill for the rest of the people at the event.
One of the Legends who came for years was the late Johnny Bower, who we are honouring at this year’s event. He will be deeply missed by us all – such a great, kind man.
Another of the Legends is Dick Duff. In fact, he has been coming to the Providence Golf Classic since its inception 23 years ago! The first time, he was asked to come as a representative of the NHL, but he was already familiar with Providence. Father Woods, who Duff knew when he was a student at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto, moved to Providence after he retired and the young Duff would visit him there. That led to frequent visits to the boy’s orphanage (also run by the Sisters of St. Joseph who founded Providence) across the street from Providence Villa on Friday nights – even after he was an NHL star – to play floor hockey with the children. He also points out that Foster Hewitt and Frank Mahovlich had personal experiences with Providence, as well.
Charity work has always been important to Duff and we are delighted that he has chosen Providence as one of the charities he continues to support. If you see him at this year’s tournament, don’t hesitate to shake his hand and let him know what a legend he has been to you.
Duff’s Hockey Career
Duff spent 18 seasons in the NHL, contributing to two Stanley Cups in Toronto and four more in Montreal. Duff started his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1955-56 at the age of 19. The team was being rebuilt in those years and Duff provided a major boost. He had started out as a hockey prodigy in his hometown of Kirkland Lake and he continued to be a star with the Leafs. He scored the winning goal in the Stanley Cup Championship won by the Leafs in 1962 – Toronto’s first Cup since 1951! He also played with Toronto when they won the Cup the next year, too.
Duff went on to play briefly for the New York Rangers and then for the Montreal Canadians from 1964 to 1970, where he became an instant fan favourite. With the Canadians, he was part of four more Stanley Cup wins – in 1965, 1966, 1968 and 1969. The Habs say of him: “Pound-for-pound one of the toughest men in the game…too small to be considered a power forward, Duff still managed to play like one. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound left winger did everything expected of bigger forwards. He battled for the puck, carried it through traffic and staked a claim to his spot in front of the enemy net.”
Duff later moved to the Los Angeles Kings briefly, and then was sent with Eddie Shack to the Buffalo Sabres, where they joined their old Leaf coach, Punch Imlach. Imlach once said that Duff was “probably the best playoff player I ever coached.”
In 1971, Duff decided to retire from playing, but he returned to the Toronto Maple Leaf organization as an assistant coach and then as a scout (along with Johnny Bower) into the mid-1990s. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006.
Providence Healthcare is a leader in providing rehabilitation, palliative care, long-term care and community outreach in Toronto. On August 1, 2017, Providence Healthcare joined St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital to operate under one corporate entity. For more information, visit www.providence.on.ca.
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