I was raised in a French-Canadian household (though, sadly, my French-language skills nowadays are at best, modest) in southwestern Ontario in the early 1950s. But even in my day and the world I was familiar with, which included quite a number of fellow francophones in our neighborhood, I don’t recall ever meeting a boy named Noel. The world “noel” is a French word, and translated into English means “Christmas”—that is, unless I’ve been misled all these years.
I've never personally known of anyone named "Christmas" but as many people know, in the French language, Noel was/is a not totally uncommon name. So it was not that unusual that there was a hockey player by that name when I was a kid. That he played for a time with the blue and white might seem a surprise, but Noel Price was an Ontario kid who ended up having a lengthy NHL career. (That's a nice picture of a young Price, at right, from his time with the Maple Leafs. I remember him from when he had a lot less hair, much like myself, later in his NHL career...)
He played a bit for the Leafs in the late 1950s, though I more remember him for his time in the mid-‘60s with the Montreal Canadiens. He played a lot in later years (after expansion saw the NHL double from six to twelve teams in the fall of 1967) for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Atlanta Flames, where he was a teammate, if I’m not mistaken, of former Leaf defenseman Pat Quinn.
Price played professionally until the age of 40, in the mid-1970s. He played about 500 games in the NHL, but interestingly, played more than 800 games in the minors. He was a solid, reliable, old-time defenseman with some offensive skill as I remember, though his “numbers” weren’t huge. (As I think I've written about here in the past, he played in the same '60s/early '70s era as the other hockey "Noel", Noel Picard, who I remember playing mostly with the St. Louis Blues...)
Price was never considered a star, but he was good enough to play in the old six-team NHL, and played a few games for the Habs in the playoffs in the spring of ’66— enough to earn a Stanley Cup ring. (I believe he later returned for a while to the Montreal organization…)
Price was not a big name, but he had an unusual one, and is unique part of Leaf lore.