Back in the winter of 1974-‘75, I was a 21 year-old student at the University of Toronto. I was set to graduate in a little over a year, in the spring of 1976. I guess I was beginning to think of “the future”, as in: what was I going to do with the rest of my life?
Academically, my transition from high school (where I had been a studious over-achiever) to university (where I was a less-than-studious under-achiever) had not been smooth. I was majoring in English literature, which in theory was preparing me to be a high school teacher, I suppose. I wasn’t enamored with that prospect, though I come from a long line of teachers. (My mother taught for close to 50 years, and initially worked in one of those early-1930s one-room school houses.)
I did love sports, and was a lifelong and devoted follower of the Toronto Maple Leafs. One day it hit me. I was living in Toronto and would soon need a job. Why not apply for a job with the Leafs?
Looking back, there were no doubt thousands of young men who had similar aspirations, many who probably ended up doing exactly what I tried to do—talk themselves into a job. (In fact, the Stellicks—Gord, a future Leaf General Manager and now a sports talk show host and brother Bob—earned gigs as young press room/public relations guys in and around that same time period, working under the late Stan Obodiac, then a highly-regarded employee of Leafs owner Harold Ballard.)
I saw myself as someone who understood the game (doesn’t everyone?), though I never played it at a high level. I was finishing my degree before long, so I had the requisite education, it seemed to me.
What I didn’t have, I figured, was a way “in”.
So I took it upon myself to go straight to the top. Or at least, close to it.
One day in the early winter of ‘75, I walked down to Maple Leaf Gardens, which was probably a 20-minute walk from my school residence located near Bay and Wellesley. I had been to a number of NHL and junior games at the Gardens, so I was familiar with the building.
I went up the escalator that led to what turned out to be the not-at-all-fancy Maple Leaf “executive offices”. I went in and announced that I would like to speak with King Clancy about a job. Now, Clancy was older than the building, having been a star player and then referee in the NHL for many years and eventually a Hall-of-Famer. He later became Assistant General Manager with the Leafs, an aide to GM and coach Punch Imlach and in later years, an “advisor” to team owner Harold Ballard. He was a gregarious personality and very popular around Toronto. (We’ve included a photo of Clancy from the early 1960s, waiting to board a plane with a few Leafs around him- Ron Stewart, Terry Sawchuk and Carl Brewer.)
How hard was it to get in to see Clancy? Well, I waited maybe 5 minutes, and then was escorted in to his rather humble little office.
I was nervous but confident. I wanted to make a good impression. After all, I had skipped all the formalities of a letter, submitting a resume, or even making a phone call. I made a “cold” call, in person.
Clancy was friendly, charming, and feigned interest as best he could. As I mentioned, I don’t doubt many other young men had tried to convince Clancy that they would be the perfect young guy to be hired to work for the Leafs in some capacity.
We talked for maybe 45 minutes. (I’m not sure what Clancy did around the building in those days—mostly keeping Ballard company, the media seemed to suggest.) I appreciated that he took the time to meet with some kid who literally had walked in off the street. But by the time we had finished talking, he made it clear there was no “future” job available, at least no job that he was interested in giving to me.
Given the way the world has changed—just in terms of building security issues for starters—my approach to shooting for the job of my dreams probably seems backwards. Nowadays, there is an understandable focus on resumes, researching the organization you want to work for, the interview process and presenting yourself in a polished and professional way (maybe even with a blazer and tie!).
Back then, I just walked in off the street, in my everyday university clothes (jeans). I didn’t get a job, but when I think back now, I remember how friendly the receptionists in the Leaf offices were, how willing Clancy was to meet with me. There was no security of any kind. No need for a “pass”.
Following my heart didn’t help me get a job, but it demonstrated that I wasn’t afraid to take a chance, to do something that was spontaneous, where failure was likely. In a way, it helped lead to my relatively short-lived career in radio, where I did talk my way into my first job—without experience. From there, it was on to other communications-related jobs, which in turn led to in turn my more successful and enjoyable career working for myself as an advisor to corporate clients and also to sports organizations, NHL coaches and young athletes.
So, it wasn’t a waste of time after all—and my “meeting” with Clancy is still a great memory to have.