Thursday

Pete Stemkowski

Quietly Pete Stemkowski had a solid NHL career that lasted 14 years. A useful and aggressive forward, "Stemmer" always took a back seat of attention wherever he played.

Pete was a product of the Toronto Maple Leafs junior system. He played in his native Winnipeg before moving to Toronto at the age of 17 to play with the OHA's Toronto Marlboro's, the Leafs junior team.

After splitting his first three professional seasons between the Leafs and their AHL farm team in Rochester NY, Pete finally made the veteran Leafs squad 1966-67. It was great timing as the Leafs won the Stanley Cup that year. Stemkowski, 24 at the time, was an important contributor with 12 points in 12 games. But the focus fell upon aging veterans like Sawchuk, Bower, Armstrong, Stanley, Mahovlich and Horton.

In March of 1968, Stemkowski was sent to Detroit as part of big the Frank Mahovlich trade. He was basically a throw in a deal that also saw Garry Unger and Carl Brewer head to the Motor City in exchange for Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson and Floyd Smith.

It was a good trade for Stemkowski though. He had a chance to play regularly and responded well with two 20+ goal seasons in his two full seasons in Detroit.

Early in the 1970/71 season, Stemkowski was traded to the Rangers in exchange for Larry Brown. This was partially a result of an incident in practice where Stemkowski disrespected new head coach Ned Harkness. Harkness had just come to Detroit from Cornell University. Stemkowski, a noted joker, was mockingly imitating a college cheer. Harkness made sure Stemkowski was gone shortly afterwards.

The Rangers, after suffering through many lean years, were emerging as a powerhouse. A good mix of veterans like Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle and Ed Giacomin with help from enthusiastic help from young players such as Stemkowski, Brad Park, Steve Vickers and Walt Tkachuk. Stemkowski especially was very popular with the Madison Square Gardens faithful.

Pete Stemkowski played six strong seasons in New York. Despite 3 20+ goal seasons as a Ranger and some fine team play, Stemkowski never again sipped champagne from Lord Stanley's Cup. The Rangers came oh so close to the Stanley Cup three times, however it was not meant to be.

In 1977-78, Stemkowski finished his career playing one season in a Los Angeles Kings uniform. Despite playing just one year there, he had some great memories of California.

"I started my career in Toronto in the early 60's. The Leafs were a real powerhouse back then and all you heard was hockey 24 hours a day. When I came to the Kings the whole atmosphere changed. I'd go to the bank and the teller asked me what I did. I said I play for the Kings. The teller said, "who and what are the Kings?"

Stemmer particularly remembers Dave Schultz and Marcel Dionne.

"I remember a lot of traveling with the Kings and that I played with Dave "The Hammer" Schultz. I got to know the other side of the reigning "bad boy" in the NHL. He helped me find a place to live when I first arrived."

"Playing with Marcel Dionne was a treat. He was such a talent. Marcel and his family really did a lot to keep the team close. Every Sunday Marcel would invite the entire team over to his house for a barbecue and swim."

Pete obviously liked the California sunshine too. He stayed out west after his career. He served as the San Jose Sharks colorman on broadcasts.

4 comments:

Cobrahockey31 1:37 PM  

Hi Joe.
I played with Pete in L.A. , we wereroomates on the road.
Pete was a New Yorker at heart [ still lives there] and he hated California. He was the Kng of the one liners in the hockey world and a great teammate.
Cobrahockey 31

Barb 9:33 AM  

I was introduced to Pete in the mid-1970's and would see him during the hockey season him when he came into Detroit with the Rangers. Bar none, he was the funniest and nicest person I had ever met in my life. I moved to California in 1976. but wasn't aware he played with the Kings, but I attended a Kings game just to see Marcel Dionne, another fabulous person.

Cobrahockey31,  1:58 PM  

Stemmer had a joke or a line for everything.

Unknown 7:06 PM  

I used to live around the corner from Pete and his family in Atlantic Beach, New York. My Old English Sheepdog Alfie used to sneak out and walk over to Pete's house. Pete brought my dog back to my house and that's how we met. We used to hang out at the beach and we even played football on the beach. Believe Pete can play football and he can hit hard when he was fooling around. It'sbeen a long time since I saw Pete and his family and I hope they are all well and would love to hear from them.

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