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Alex Faulkner: from Newfoundland to Toronto to fleeting fame in Detroit

I love watching old Leaf games on TV, particularly those from the late 50s and 60s.

In some cases I’m getting the opportunity to see games I couldn’t see as a kid, because we lived near Detroit and many playoff games were blacked out in my area. I also now watch with more experienced eyes and can appreciate many players in a way I simply could not all those years ago.

I was recently watching, on Leafs TV, Game 3 of the 1963 playoffs. The Leafs that season were finishing off their best season in my lifetime (still to this day), winning the Cup in only 10 playoff games after finishing in first place during the regular season.

But the thing that stood out to me watching that playoff game was the gutsy performance of the Detroit players. Not just the stars like Terry Sawchuk, Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Marcel Pronovost and Bill Gadsby but the lesser-known guys such as Pete Goegan and Eddie Joyal.

However, this particular game belonged to a young man by the name of Alex Faulkner.

Now, one of the interesting things about Faulkner is that he was from Newfoundland. Other than former Maple Leaf forward Howie Meeker (who won some Cups with the Leafs in the late 40s and early 50s and later briefly coached the team) there weren’t many NHL’ers from the that part of the country in those days.

In recent years, players such as Daniel Cleary and Michael Ryder have put Newfoundland back on the NHL map. But back then, it was a rarity for a guy to make it from that eastern—and fairly new—Canadian province. I knew of Faulkner not because of his Toronto connection but because I lived so close to Detroit, and he had a nice rookie season with the Wins in 1962-’63. Then he had a breakout playoff that spring, accumulating 10 points in the playoffs, including 2 goals in Game 3 of the Leaf series I am referring to.

The Wings won that night, 3-2, thanks to Faulkner’s heroics, to get back into the series after losing the first two games in Toronto. (We’ve included a photo from that game.) Faulkner was interviewed by Hockey Night in Canada after the game, and I can imagine that was a pretty big deal for his supporters back home.

I remember newspaper headlines in Detroit naturally making quite a fuss about Faulkner after that game. (My Dad would always pick up the Detroit Free Press, and sometimes the Detroit News, so he could follow the political columnists and both he and I could read about the Red Wings and Detroit Tigers, especially)

For Faulkner, it turned out to be a career highlight, at least in terms of his NHL play. What I didn’t know as a kid back then is that he had signed his first professional contract with Toronto, and played briefly with the Leafs the season before, prior to joining the Wings. I have no memory of him with the Leafs. I’m not even sure how he ended up in Detroit, whether he was traded or was picked up in the intra-league draft in the off-season.

After that outstanding playoff performance in the spring of ’63, Faulkner only played 30 games with the Wings the following season, and 4 more in the playoffs. That spring (1964) the Wings probably should have beaten Toronto in a 7-game final, but I don’t remember if Faulkner played much in that series.

He had some nice seasons in the minors afterwards, retiring after the 1970-’71 season. I’m hoping some of you following this site can shed some more light on his career and life after hockey.

There’s no doubt this one-time Leaf made a name for himself in the spring of 1963, and particularly that April night, when he was the well-deserving first star in Detroit’s Game 3 Stanley Cup final win over the Leafs.


  1. That Game 3 was shown in Detroit from the CBC on the Windsor Ontario affiliate CKLW-TV. I was 9 years old and watched the game with my father. I was a hockey nut and watched with glee as the Wings got back in the series 2-1. However, as always, the Leafs were a better team and deserved to win the series as Keon was the best player, or so it seemed. When the Leafs played at the Olympia in those days, the Ontario Leafs Fans would root for their Leaf team and there were times that fights broke out in the stands. It was a great rivalry and one that I will always remember. Living in a border city enabled us to watch Hockey Night In Canada every Saturday and it was a ritual. I also listened to the Sunday night games on the CBS as well. Great memories of Olympia and the original six.

  2. Hi John, I was a similar age as you. And yes, I do indeed recall going with my Dad on a couple of occasions to the Olympia and watching the Leafs or the Habs. The stands were full of passion, to say the least. It was a bit un-nerving as a young person!

    Those were wonderful times. Thanks for sharing memories of a great hockey era.