Bucko Trainor - New York Rangers
He’s a member a two sports hall of fames in Atlantic Canada for his outstanding efforts as both a dynamic player and successful coach. He’s also the fourth native Islander to play in the NHL with the New York Rangers in 1948-49.
Weston “Bucko” Trainor was born on September 11, 1921 in Charlottetown and skated on frozen rivers and ponds in Souris, in eastern PEI and Charlottetown as a youngster. There was no minor hockey program to speak of in the 1920’s but by the 1930’s Charlottetown would become the first Maritime city to organize a pee wee program. Bucko would thrive as a minor player with skills that were evident quite early. He was known for his tremendous stick handling and his tireless skating abilities. Oldtimers say he was a master with the puck and combined with his smooth as silk skating, he could stick handle his way through opposing forwards and defense, setting up a chance for a shot on goal or nifty pass to create a scoring chance. At 5-7 and 185 pounds, Trainor was a solid force on the ice.
In 1938 he joined the Charlottetown Junior Royals, coached by Walter Lawlor, which would become one of the greatest teams from the Island to compete in national playoff action. He was a 17 year old forward and team mates included other talented players like John Coyle, Bert Steele, and John “Tarky” Whitlock. The Royals won the Maritime Championship by eliminating the Saint John Pontiacs and Dartmouth Rough Riders. Next came the Perth Blue Wings, Ottawa District Champions, who the Royals pushed to the limit. Perth would win out in two overtimes, with a 7-6 decision before 3,000 fans in a sold-out Charlottetown Forum. Whitlock scored two goals in the first overtime but the Blue Wings evened the score with just 42 seconds remaining, much to the chagrin of the home crowd. It would go down as one of the greatest series ever for an Island team. Perth went on to lose to the Oshawa Generals in the Eastern Canada Championship, the next step toward the Memorial Cup.
Trainor stayed with the Royals through 1940, playing in a handful of games for Charlottetown Army in the senior ranks in 1939-40. World War II was just beginning and Bucko, along with many other Island hockey players were called to serve their country. He would captain the Camp Petawawa Grenades in 1940-41, a team that advance to the Allan Cup playoffs. That would be it for hockey for the next four years for the Charlottetown native. Trainor became a member of the Canadian Army’s Radar Unit and suffered a severe knee injury, which resulted from a stray gun tray. The injury would plague him over the next few years and hampered his professional career. Trainor had become a “goal-a-game” man, scoring 18 times in 18 games for the Grenades in the regular season. He scored five goals in five games in the playoffs and had three markers in four games in the Allan Cup senior playoffs.
Then came four years of war service. Bucko was still just a young man, only 21, but duty called as it did for many other Islanders.
With the war ended in 1945, Trainor turned pro with the Drummondville Intrepids in the Quebec Pro Hockey League, scoring 18 goals in 31 games and adding 24 assists for 42 points. It was on to the Moncton Hawks, the year following, where he played under coach Windy Steele and manager George Schurman, both from Summerside. Team mates included Mousie Dowling and Buck Whitlock, both Charlottetown born, and Summerside goalie Bob Schurman. Trainor was named captain and led the Hawks to the Big Four League championship with a productive 20 goals and 65 points in 37 games, good for eighth place in league scoring. His 45 assists led the league and caught the eye of one NHL team.
#5 Wes "Bucko" Trainor St. Paul Saints
The next move, for the now 26 year old, was a contract with the New York Rangers. He signed in 1947 as free agent and reported to the St. Paul Saints of the United States Hockey League. Bucko had seven goals and 15 points in 35 games but realized in order to take the next step to the NHL with the big club, he’d have to be in better shape. That summer he played baseball and took part in other non-hockey related activities. He returned to Saint Paul and went to work immediately. He was involved in a three-way battle for the scoring lead with Ray Powell and Bert Olmstead and wound up with 19 goals, a league high 49 assists and 68 points. That’s when the Rangers general manager Frank Boucher got on the phone and called the Island star up to New York.
Trainor played in seventeen games with the Blueshirts, wearing number 14. He scored his first and only NHL goal on Boston Bruins goalie, Frank Brimsek and added two assists and impressed the Rangers brass. To quote Rangers coach Lynn Patrick, “If all the boys hustled like Bucko, this team wouldn’t look so bad.” The Rangers finished in last place in the six team league with 18 wins in 60 games. Bucko centered a line with Edgar Laprade and Tony Leswick. His NHL debut came on February 6th, 1949 in Chicago against the Black Hawks. What was to be his final game came on March 15th that year, as the Rangers hosted the Boston Bruins. New York had a 5-14-2 record during that span and missed the playoffs.
In the fall of 1949, Trainor was playing in a pre-season contest against the Rangers farm club in New Haven when a wayward puck struck him in the face and broke his jaw in three places. It was back to the minors after that. He scored six times for the New Haven Ramblers in the AHL and had three more goals in 14 games with St. Paul, where he also got into three playoff games, scoring once. The Rangers sold his contract to the Charlottetown Islanders, which had just entered the Maritime Big Four in 1950. Back home he won the MVP award scoring 25 times and adding a league high 73 assists. His 98 points was a career high and came in 75 games. He would play two more seasons with the Islanders, although his production would fall off.
The 1952-53 season saw Trainor take over as coach and player with the Grand Falls Cataracts Juniors and the Grand Falls All-Stars in Senior. This began a long tenure on the Big Island where he would make a name for himself, landing nine provincial championships in Grand Falls. He also established minor hockey programs in Grand Falls and Gander. Trainor brought his own set of rules and discipline with him to Grand Falls, which resulted in five provincial Senior “A” titles, Herder Cup Memorial Trophies, two Senior “B” championships plus two provincial junior titles. His four years in Gander were not as successful but he did guide the Flyers to to the 1961 finals, going up against the powerful Conception Bay Cee Bees, who won their second straight Herder Cup.
Polls that were conducted by the Telegram and Grand Falls Advertiser named Trainor as the best coach of all-time in Newfoundland and Labrador hockey history. The contributions he left on Newfoundland hockey were outstanding. Not only did he begin solid minor hockey systems in Grand Falls and Gander, he also served as recreation director and set up exceptional minor baseball programs in both towns. Three of his four daughters were born in Newfoundland during the ten years he and his wife resided there.
Bucko would retire as a player in 1955 at the age of 34. He did suit up for one playoff game in 1956 in Grand Falls. His final year with the Charlottetown Islanders was in 1953-54 where he scored 18 goals and had 47 points for 65 points in 65 games.
He gained the reputation of being a playmaker and leader, both on and off the ice. Any team that Bucko coached in Newfoundland was bound to be a champion. He returned home to become the manager of the Charlottetown Forum, a place he grew up in as a hockey star. He also coached some junior teams in the city in the 60’s and 70’s.
Bucko was usually found in his office at the Forum on game day as manager. He fashioned a fedora and always wore a suit and tie. He might have come across as little on the gruff side, from time to time, thanks in part to his military and hockey background. As manager, he ran a tight ship and expected his staff to do a good job for each game and event. As a young hockey reporter, I got to know him, maybe not as much as I could have, but enough to learn to respect him. He rarely talked about himself, preferring to let others do the talking. I was doing a sports feature on CFCY radio on Island hockey history and had to pester him enough for him to give in for an interview. Bucko finally agreed and talked about his time in the NHL, which was quite brief. But it brought a smile to his face just to remember that winter in 1949. Wes “Bucko” Trainor had a soft side, so I found out. That sparkle you see in person’s eyes when they talk about something they love. Bucko also loved kids and loved to see them excel in sport. He died on November 21st, 1991 at the age of 70, after a short illness. Two provinces lost a great person that day.”
Weston ‘Bucko” Trainor was inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame on May 29, 1983. He was honoured, posthumously, as an inductee to the Newfoundland & Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005 in the Athlete-Builder category. He was involved in the game for 50 years
Bucko Trainor wore #5 the Saints a year before going to the NHL
#14 Wes "Bucko" Trainor - NY Rangers 1948-49
Bucko Trainor managed the Charlottetown Forum in the 1970's
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