Allan Stanley

Stanley, Allan: Played defense for the New York Rangers, Chicago, Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia from 1948 – 1969. Born: Timmins, Ontario, 1926.

Allan Stanley was originally a Boston Bruin farm hand with the Providence Reds when New York Rangers’ general manager Frank Boucher paid big money to acquire his services in 1948-49. Boucher heralded Allan as a panacea for all Ranger ailments, past, present and future. By the time the big man first stepped onto Madison Square Gardens’ ice, his 6’2″, 191-pound frame looked like a Lilliputian when held up against the expectations of fans. For six relentless seasons, he endured the scorn of Ranger enthusiasts who failed to appreciate the virtues of his plodding, defensive style. In 1954, he was traded to Chicago where the tradition of criticism continued.

It was not until he reached Boston in 1956 that his game came to fruition as a hard-hitting, intelligent defender with a knack for well-placed poke-checks. By 1958, however, the Bruins’ management figured Allan was near the end of his prime. They unloaded the old warhorse to the Toronto Maple afs where general manager Punch Imlach had a hunch that Allan Stanley was just getting warmed up – and he was right. When paired with Tim Horton on defense, the opposition was hard pressed to squeeze ice shavings between the two rearguards. Leafs’ fortunes soared and by 1967, Allan had four Stanley Cup victories to his credit plus two second-team all-star awards. In 1968, he was taken by Quebec in a reverse draft and eventually resurfaced with the Philadelphia Flyers for his twenty-first and final major-league campaign.

During the summer prior to joining the Flyers, Allan and his wife, Barbara, were vacationing at a golf resort in the Bobcageon-Fenlon Falls area of Ontario. While there, Allan was approached to be a partner in a local hockey school. He declined the offer, but by then, the hockey-school bug had been placed in his ear and before long, he had a whole hive of ideas buzzing in his head.

“Barbara and I started talking about it the last weekend of the summer,” he related. “And I was saying, ‘If you want to go into the hockey-school business, we know the right location because we were customers there during the summers.’ That was the Beehive Resort on Sturgeon Lake. And once we started talking about it, we never stopped.

“So when I went to Philly, I told the manager, Bud Poile, that I might have to make a special trip up to Bobcageon because it was something to do with my future. He was very obliging. So I flew up here four times during the year for discussions to purchase the property. And finally, on the forth time, we came to an agreement. I needed an option on the property and I needed an option on the local arena. One without the other wasn’t good enough for all my ideas. So I got both options.”

When the Flyers were dispensed with by the powerful Blues in the playoffs, Allan returned straightway to Beehive to launch his second career. “It was a resort with a golf course, a dining room and a coffee shop,” he explained. “We inherited all of that without any experience other than sitting at the table in the dining room or sitting at the opposite side of the bar or playing golf. So it was completely new to us.”

But Allan was bent on moulding the Beehive Resort to his plans. To succeed, he had to summon all of the internal fortitude and cunning that sustained him during his lengthy stay in the NHL. He also needed an opposition against which to pit his determined will. The previous owners of the resort would do just fine.

“Actually, the people that owned the resort, sold it to me to get the down payment back because they didn’t think I could handle it,” he revealed with a glint in his eye and gleam in his voice. “And I proved them wrong! Even years after that they couldn’t figure out how the heck I did it!”

In truth, there was no magic in Allan’s formula, just good old-fashioned slave labour. “There’s nothing to match what Barbara and I had to go through,” he declared. “I always figured that if I took the worst days of my whole life and put them together, they couldn’t match my first three years in business. All that Barbara and I knew about it was, we like to look after people. Hey, we wanted to spoil them! So that’s what we based our whole business sense on.”

Their first step was to ensure that the resort could sustain itself while they set about converting the place to a boys camp. “Ever hear of a crash course?” Allan queried. “This was the biggest crash course anybody had in a lifetime! Like I say, we didn’t have any experience at this. So I tried to set up each area so it looked after itself. The previous owners stayed on to look after the dining room, but halfway through the season I had to let them go. I came down one night and the wife was leaving with a case of vodka and the husband had his fingers in the till. So Barbara and I took over the dining room ourselves, and that was besides all the other responsibilities around the place like the hockey school and the golf course. We started on a shoestring and the only thing we realized early was that you couldn’t spend anymore than you took in.”

That shoestring must have been a skate lace with sufficient strength and length to hold things together while they got the conversion process underway. “At one point we were a quarter boys camp and three-quarters resort,” he recounted. “Then we progressed to half boys camp and half resort till we had filled the whole place with kids. I could handle 136 boys plus all my staff which was made up of counsellors, camp directors, coaches and their families. And I was feeding maybe two hundred people three times a day!”

With sheer force of will, Allan drove his hockey school to its full potential. In the early going. Such schools were rare, so the Beehive Camp thrived as a novel idea. “But from that point on, they just sprang up all over the place!” he exclaimed. “They advertised big names and then half the guys didn’t show up. And the ones that did show up were just there to sign autographs! But here, I had good coaches – they were family-oriented men. They took a great interest in the kids, worked with them on the ice and played with them off the ice. We taught them more than golf. We taught them how to get along in society. And I received letters from parents who couldn’t even recognize their kids when they came home!”

Allan ran his hockey school for about nine years before the market bottomed out. “At that time, they started building artificial ice in every little hamlet with Wintario money,” he explained. “And then they started building rinks all across the northern States. When they built a rink down there it would cost them two million dollars, so all the rinks were losing money. Then the coaching fraternity and the amateur body got together — and said, ‘Let’s keep the kids at home.’ In some areas, they told the kids, ‘If you go to a Canadian hockey camp, you’re not on the team!’ The final death knell came when they started having their tryouts for the next year in July and August on all these artificial ice rinks-and our season and July and August. I went on for three years trying to turn it around in some way-but I wasn’t going anywhere. I was running fifty-five percent American kids and bang! Just like that, in one shot! With no warning! No nothing! I was running half full. I thought they had locked the doors at the border. So I closed and converted back to a resort.”

Motivated by such trials, Allan took a half-forgotten kettle off the back burner and turned up the heat on his simmering idea. “I had close to two hundred acres,” he recounted. “The northeast corner was a beautiful walk through hardwood bush. It was sixty acres, and I always had it in the back of my mind to develop it some day. So I started early, laying the local groundwork. Talking to council members, to the Reeve, to see if it was a good idea and hey, I got a good response! So I had the piece severed from the property. I ended up with sixty one-acre lots. I put in over a mile of township roads! Of course that took money. So I went all over Ontario to all those institutions just looking for money with a good idea. It all depended on cash flow. If you didn’t have cash flow, they didn’t remember your name by the time you’d left. And my cash flow was going the other way — all the time. We were just scrambling to keep our nose about water. I looked for two years and finally it came through one of the local banks.

“I think the saviour of this whole thing was the subdivision–it just turned out absolutely beautifully! I think it’s the most prestigious development in our area. You can look out any window and it will take you right back to nature. We still have deer running around the place, running through your backyard and fox, man, you name it, we’ve got it. I had one person who wanted to buy a lot and take all the trees out. I wouldn’t sell him the lot. I told him, ‘Hey, you want that, you can go find a field with no trees on it! But not here’!”

In 1988 Allan and Barbara sold the Beehive Resort and reaped the rewards of their labour. “I retained my lot in the subdivision,” he reported. “Right now I’ve got the high ground and I overlook the whole resort, the golf course and Sturgeon Lake. I overlook everything the new owner is doing in more ways than one,” he joked. “You couldn’t paint a better picture and I haven’t gotten tired of it in twenty-seven years.”

He and Barbara now spend seven months a year in Fenlon Falls and the remaining months at their getaway in Venice, Florida. On the subject of family, Alan joked: “We don’t have any kids. I always say that I took my hockey seriously-and that was hard on the legs years ago and I’m very impressionable.”

In retirement, Allan is free to do something he never did as a hockey player or a businessman. “I’m a floater now,” he confided with a hefty laugh. “I have one hobby. I want to be talked about and remembered as a golfer. Hockey is in the past. The business is in the past. Now I’m dedicating myself to playing a reasonable game of golf. I tell you, when I leave the golf course, they’re going to be talking about me one way or another! I used to be the longest ball hitter on the course but the farthest in the bush! And it hasn’t changed much either.”