'I love the sport': Powassan senior opens town's first Hockey Hall of Fame
NORTH BAY -- Joe Steele has loved the sport of hockey since he was a young boy. Growing up, he cheered for the Boston Bruins and his famous cousin, #4 Bobby Orr.
"I love the sport. I always asked him for stuff. I said 'I wanted a sweater,' and within three days, I got the sweater and that's pretty famous. I got to know a lot of pro players," Steele said.
His other cousin is Bill Barber, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers and won two Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975.
Over the years, Steele has collected used sticks, jerseys, autographs, hockey cards and photographs of players who played in the NHL and those that didn’t but still had distinguished careers in the hockey world.
Now, he has decided to show his collection off to the public.
The 89-year-old was generously given an empty downtown storefront by a local businessman, so he could hang his collection up for all to see. He hopes the community of Powassan can appreciate the area's hockey history.
"I tried to concentrate on Powassan and area," said Steel. "Powassan Minor Hockey has three All Ontario Juvenile C Championships. They've won a peewee championship and a midget E championship. They've been pretty good."
Steele’s collection includes seven former NHL players that are connected to the Township of Nipissing. One of them, his close friend, is 82-year-old Gerry Odroski from Trout Creek.
Odrowski played 309 games as a defenceman in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings, the St. Louis Blues and the former California/Oakland Seals team. Odrowksi recorded 31 points in his career and also played in the former World Hockey Association.
"In Detroit, I played there in two years with the great Gordie Howe and Terry Sawchuck," recalled Odrowski. "He was one of the better goalies."
Odrowski credits his friend for keeping the hockey history alive with the Powassan Hockey Hall of Fame.
"I just hope the young hockey players look up to him with respect," Odrowski said. "Hockey is huge in northern Ontario."
Steele said it's important to keep the history of the sport alive locally for the next generation of hockey fans, so they can appreciate how the game has grown and how it shaped the community.
"We try to keep minor hockey in effect here," Steele said. "The old Powassan Hawks, they were pretty famous that's for darn sure."
Steele is still an avid fan and always tries to catch a game when he can. He said he still gets that rush of excitement when watching the puck drop, saying it's a feeling that will never leave him.