Before hockey, before soccer – there was lacrosse. At the turn of the 20th century, not only did the town have a lacrosse field, complete with bleachers, located at the fairgrounds on the west side of Simcoe Road, it had a championship team. In 1902, the town won the Junior Canadian Championship. Over the next few years, essentially the same team, with a roster that included Walter Reeves, Ollie Robinson, and Dr. Lewis H. Campbell, went on to win the Ontario championship three times, and in 1908-1909, the Intermediate Canadian Championship. The Toronto Telegram was driven to exclaim: “Bradford was the best Intermediate Champions for some years.” Reeves was the acknowledged star, going on to play pro lacrosse with the Toronto Tecumsehs. “Gunch” Reeves was also town constable from 1929 to 1946.
In the 1930s, baseball and softball supplanted lacrosse in public interest. Games between Fennell’s Corners, Bradford, Mount Pleasant, Churchill and other villages in the South Simcoe League were hotly contested. Records suggest that Fennells Corners' amateur players Blake Constable, in the 1940s, and Ron Zielke, in the 1960s “were good enough to be all stars” – but there is only one player from Bradford who went on to play in the majors. Mike Kilkenny signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1964. He initially played in the Tigers’ farm system, but moved up to the big league in 1969, when he was named Rookie of the Year. That season, he had four complete-game shutouts, for an 8-6 record and ERA of 3.37. He played for the Tigers until 1972, when he was traded to the Oakland As, then to the San Diego Padres, then to the Cleveland Indians, for whom he pitched his last game in May 1973. By the time he retired, he had pitched in 139 games, had a 23-18 record, an ERA of 4.43, and 301 strike-outs in 410 innings. He continued to play amateur ball with the London Majors, and he played and taught golf. Kilkenny passed away June 28, 2018.
Curling had its start in Bradford in 1880, with the first club launched under the patronage of Sir William Mulock – yes, that Sir William Mulock. Curlers first played on the frozen surface of the Holland River, then at Bradford’s combined curling and skating rink, located at the corner of John Street West and Moore Street (now a municipal parking lot). In 1956, the Bradford Curling Club was built on Simcoe Road beside the new Bradford & District Memorial Community Centre, at a cost of $50,000. It has been the home of champions – including a winning wheelchair curling mixed team, under Ken Gregory, that went on to represent Ontario in the Canadian championships several years running.
Norm (Dodger) Collings’ fame rests on a single hockey game. Born in 1910 in Bradford, he was a market gardener in the Holland Marsh, and he later worked for Hardee Farms, but hockey was his passion, and he played professionally from 1930 to 1938. Almost all of his games were for teams like the Minneapolis Millers, New Haven Eagles, and Philadelphia Arrows – but for one glorious season, in 1934-1935 at the age of 24, he played in the NHL for the Montreal Canadiens. He played one game and was credited with an assist. Collings’ home at 108 Moore St. is being designated a heritage site, partly for its architectural features, and partly for its association with the hockey pro.
So, what about Brandon Mashinter? Born in 1988, Mashinter played with the BWG Bulldogs hockey club before moving up to the OHL, AHL, and finally the NHL, playing for teams that included the San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers, and, in 2015-2016, the Chicago Blackhawks – where he scored four goals and an assist. Now 29, Mashinter has played 242 games in the OHL (57 goals, 43 assists), 535 games in the AHL (126 goals, 134 assists), and 64 games in the NHL (4 goals, 1 assist).
Sources: Governor Simcoe Slept Here: The Legacy of West Gwillimbury, Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library archives, and various online sources, including quanthockey.com.