University of Toronto Sports Hall of Fame member Don Bark still recalls the first time he saw Ed Kryzanowski.
The meeting came at an open tryout for the U of T Varsity Blues’ hockey team in 1944.
“Ed came out as a complete unknown,” Bark recalled. “He wore an old pair of gloves, old pair of skates, and a long pair of street pants. Everyone looked at Ed and said 'Who the hell is this guy?’”
But Bark said it didn’t take long for the players at the tryout to realize that whoever Kryzanowski was, he was a heck of a hockey player.
“Our wonder changed to admiration when his shift came on,” Bark said. “With his dazzling speed and stick-handling, he controlled the ice.”
Bark’s respect for Kryzanowski’s skill on the ice hasn’t diminished in the more than 50 years since that first tryout.
In fact, after Bark was inducted into the U of T Sports Hall of Fame in 1995, he made it his mission to ensure the best player he ever had the pleasure of sharing the ice with also was recognized for his accomplishments.
“If the [purpose of the] Hall of Fame is to put in the best player that, first of all, ever played at the University of Toronto, Ed Kryzanowski should have been put in years and years ago,” he argued.
“It took me 10 years to talk them into it, but we finally made it.”
Kryzanowski will be inducted as a member of the 2006 class of the U of T Sports Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Toronto tonight (June 14).
The honour caps a long and impressive list of sporting accomplishments for the former Fort Frances native who now lives in Atikokan.
After serving in the navy during World War II, Kryzanowski was given the option of either accepting a cash settlement or attending university. He chose the latter and shortly thereafter headed south to begin his studies.
Looking back now, Kryzanowski recalled having some concerns about his decision.
“I wondered whether I was a university student or not,” he admitted. “That was my biggest challenge—whether I had the intelligence to become a student.
“And I was surprised that I had it.”
Once on campus, Kryzanowski decided to try out for the Varsity Blues hockey team.
Due to the war, the U of T had not had a varsity team for several years and so was holding open tryouts in an effort to find the best players. It was at these tryouts that Kryzanowski would meet Bark.
Both players were selected for the team out of the hundreds who tried out. But neither would contribute a great deal during their first season as they were forced to sit on the bench by coach Ace Bailey.
It was not until their second season that both players, particularly Kryzanowski, who was named captain of the squad, would flourish.
Over the next two seasons, Kryzanowski led the Varsity Blues to back-to-back inter-collegiate championships, defeating the likes of McGill and Queen’s University.
The team also would play in a series of exhibition games across North America, including contests against the Air Force Academy in Colorado and the Army at West Point in upstate New York.
Kryzanowski’s play was so dominant over the two-year span he was captain that it wasn’t long before National Hockey League scouts began attending U of T games to watch the Varsity Blues’ defender.
One of those scouts was Harold “Baldy” Cotton of the Boston Bruins. He liked what he saw in Kryzanowski and offered to sign him to a contract that would see him play with the Bruins as part of the “original six” NHL effective immediately.
Kryzanowski agreed to sign under one condition.
“I didn’t want to quit before [I finished my degree],” he said of the decision. “When I start something, I want to finish it. I finished my college and got my degree, and then I came down to training camp in the fall.”
Kryzanowski enjoyed a very successful NHL career after completing his degree in physical education at U of T. He played in more than 200 games over the course of four years, spent primarily with the Bruins.
In 1952, he was sold to the Chicago Blackhawks, where he would play his final five NHL games.
Kryzanowski then spent the final four years of his professional career playing in the American Hockey League with the Providence Reds and Hersey Bears before retiring in 1956.
Bark said Kryzanowski was a natural leader who had the respect of each of his teammates.
“Dearly beloved by the boys but he was a quiet fellow,” Bark recalled. “He led by example. He was a terrific hockey player.”
Kryzanowski hasn’t changed very much in the more than 50 years since he played at the U of T. Never one to revel in the spotlight, he won’t let the honour being bestowed upon him go to his head.
“I don’t worry about those things at all,” he said. “I had no ambition to be Mr. Famous or anything like that. They [awards] don’t affect me at all.”
In addition to his play on the ice, Kryzanowski also is being recognized for his work as a standout forward on the U of T rugby team.
His involvement with the sport of rugby, however, had more to do with hockey than it did any particular love of the game.
“The only reason I played rugby was to get in shape for hockey,” he said. “Rugby takes a lot of running around. I played forward because I wanted to run around a lot.”
Kryzanowski enters the U of T Hall of Fame on Wednesday night along with fellow inductees Marie-Therese Armentero, Emma Robinson, and Kim Crawford.
(Fort Frances Times)