WINNIPEG — The province of Manitoba can lay claim to a number of former National Hockey League stars such as the Chicago Blackhawks’ Bill Mosienko; the Boston Bruins’ Tom Johnson; Andy Bathgate of the N.Y. Rangers; Terry Sawchuk of the Detroit Red Wings; and Toronto Maple Leafs’ Bill Juzda and Bill Ezinicki.
All of the aforementioned, of course, gained prominence because they rose to stardom in the best hockey league in the world. One other lesser known skater from the prairies however, a Jewish Manitoban who died this past fall, took his act overseas and became a household name, if not a legend, in Britain.
The man in question, Victor “Chick” Zamick, 81, died on October 8, 2007 in London, England. Jewish folk who grew up in Winnipeg’s north-end were quite familiar with the Zamick clan.
As the story goes, all the kids were called “Chick” because there were twelve Chiclets in a package of chewing gum and there were a similar number of offspring in the family whose parents came originally from Ukraine. Many of them excelled in sports, whether it was hockey, football, track and field, softball, soccer, boxing, gymnastics or baseball.
Victor, a member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame since 1995, became the most well known athlete of the family. The Winnipeg-born centre, who started playing hockey at age 15, spent two seasons in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, mainly with the Winnipeg Monarchs, and then went east to play with the St. Catherine Teepees of the (Junior ‘A’) Ontario Hockey Association. He also earned a tryout with the American Hockey League (AHL) Cleveland Barons.
It was in 1947 that Alex Archer, who was born in West Ham, London but moved to Winnipeg when he was three, encouraged and recruited young Victor to join him abroad. Archer was already enjoying a successful hockey career across the pond.
Being only five-foot-eight and 175 lbs., Zamick saw little future for himself as a small man in the rough and tough game of Canadian hockey. He made his way to England where he starred primarily with the Nottingham Panthers, now of the British Elite League.
The numbers the diminutive speedster compiled in Jolly Old England would make any coach salivate. He won seven scoring titles, compiling 778 career goals with the Panthers while adding 645 assists in 624 games. He made the first all-star team seven times and the second team three times. Zamick is a member of the British Hockey Hall of Fame.
In his best season, his second last with Nottingham in 1954-55, Zamick scored 94 goals and added 75 assists in just 62 games.
Zamick was known in some circles as the Gordie Howe of British hockey; others compared him with Rocket Richard.
Bob Goring, a Manitoban who is the father of one-time NHL star Butch Goring and who played in the British League around the same time as Victor, confirmed that Chick was indeed a legitimate talent. He said Zamick’s diminutive stature didn’t put him at a disadvantage, as his skating speed plus the fact he was extremely elusive made him hard to check.
In 1958 Zamick took a coaching position in Geneva, Switzerland that lasted three years. Afterwards, he returned to play a number of games with the Wembley Lions. After he retired from hockey, he opened several businesses, including a dry cleaner, sauna and squash courts.
Zamick is survived by his wife Vera, four children, and six grandchildren.
• HC Lausanne of the Elite Swiss League now has a pair of Jewish skaters who played last season in the AHL. Cory Pecker, a one-time Manitoba Moose forward who played with the Binghamton Senators in the 2006-07 campaign, has recently joined former Grand Rapids forward Eric Himelfarb. Both players played junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League, where they were prolific scorers who never shied away from the rough stuff. They have good speed and were sixth-round NHL draft picks: Himelfarb by Les Canadiens and Pecker by the Flames.
• Left winger Adam Henrich, a 2002 second round selection of Tampa Bay, has been promoted from the East Coast Hockey League where he was scoring up a storm with 10 goals and 10 helpers in 12 games with the Wheeling Nailers. Now in Norfolk of the AHL he was recently voted “Player of the Week,” recording four goals and an assist in four games.