Coach Whitlock guided his Charlottetown Jr. A teams to a record six straight PEI titles in the 1970's
Coach Whitlock presents the Eagles Three Stars Award to Jeff Hannum
Early 70's Colonel Gray & Summerside Crystals line-up sheet. Some future PEI Sports Hall of Famers on both sides.
The Gordon Juckes Award was presented to Gordie in 2012 from Hockey Canada for his service to the game over many years.
Gordie began his minor hockey career in Charlottetown in the early 1950's
Gordie Whitlock has put his life into hockey, education and his family. He has touched the lives of many people in and around the game.
Gordie entered the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 2010 for his outstanding career as a player, coach and builder in hockey
The 1990-91 Armour Fence Islanders became the first PEI team to win a major national championship, the Allan Cup in Senior hockey
Special thanks to Julie Whitlock for her research and photo contributions and to Hockey PEI and Hockey Canada.
Story edited by Stephanie Holland.
Gordie & Billy MacMillan (front row) were together on the 1958-59 Maritime Midget Champions in Charlottetown
The word “champion” is associated with greatness achieved as a player, a coach, and a builder in the game of hockey. Gordon Nelson Whitlock has achieved that distinction in all three capacities and beyond. He’s also a student of the game who has learned through others and given back so much to the Prince Edward Island community, both as a teacher and instructor.
Gordie Whitlock, who was born February 15, 1943, also comes from a family of champions.
Gordie’s father, George “Pud” Whitlock, had been a member of the 1933–34 Charlottetown Junior Abegweits that won the Maritime–Quebec Junior championship. They advanced to the Memorial Cup playoffs but lost to Toronto St. Michael’s that spring.
George encouraged Gordie to take up the game and do his best to improve.
Gordie’s uncles were also influential in his development as a young player. Tarky Whitlock played on the 1938–39 Maritime Junior champion Charlottetown Royals that advanced to the Eastern Canadian playoffs in the Memorial Cup run but lost to the Perth, Ontario Blue Wings[SH1] . Gordie's uncle Roy “Buck” Whitlock would become the most dominant player in Maritime senior hockey in the 1950s. Uncle Buck became a legend. Gordie would face him years later as a junior age player against the all-time great.
“I lined up in a face-off with him and figured I would have no trouble getting past him, being 19 years younger,” recalls Gordie. “He got the puck and skated right by me before getting a shot on the net. He just blew by me. I learned a good lesson that day.”
It also might have been a “welcome to the family business” moment for the younger Whitlock.
Another standout member of the family is Bobby Whitlock, Buck’s son, who possessed a shot equal to or better than the NHL great Bobby Hull. Bobby made his mark in the World Hockey Association (WHA) in the 1970s.
So, young Gordie had a pretty good pedigree being part of the Whitlock clan, but he would also set out to make his own mark and contribution to the game.
He got his start in 1953.
“I guess I never really started the game on ice until I was about 10, but I had a passion for the game," says Gordie. "I lived near the site of the Dairy Queen on University Avenue on Summer Street. I remember having both parents [Olia and George] were working, which meant I had to walk with a bag of gear from my home over to the old Kennedy Coliseum on Kensington Road [where the Trade Centre now stands at the Eastlink Centre]. Those walks lasted through the middle of the winter to the rink and back home.”
Gordie admitted it was a chore—but he liked the game so much it didn’t create any problems. “That was the way it was back then, and if you wanted to get to the rink, you had to find a way somehow.”
When he turned 12, he played Pee Wee under coach Norman “Hawk” Larter.
“Hawk noticed my play and was impressed. He gave me a lot of encouragement to get better at the game,” says Gordie.
Gord came up through the Charlottetown minor hockey system. He played on a line with future NHLer Billy MacMillan with the Charlottetown Abbies—the Maritime Midget champions in 1958–59. The two would be reunited on the Saint Dunstan’s Saints in 1964–65 as Maritime Intercollegiate Champions who won the silver medal at the Nationals. Gordie was also a member of the Old Spain Penguins, the Atlantic Junior champs of 1963, and the 1968 Maritime Senior A champion Sandy’s Royals.
At St. Dunstan’s, he played on the lead scoring line with Mike Kelly and Maurice Roy and helped set a record for most scoring points in a season in the Maritime Conference.
The coach of the Saints was Jack Kane. Gordie also had former NHLer Bucko Trainor as his coach during his career.
A Teacher and Coach
In 1966, Gordie began his teaching career after graduating with a bachelor of arts degree. He followed that by studying during the summer at the University of New Brunswick toward his goal of an education degree with a major in physical education. He began teaching Phys. Ed. at Birchwood Junior High and spent 32 years educating Island students in physical education, health, science, and math. He was also vice principal in his last nine years at Birchwood.
A coaching career of his own would be his next stop. He and St. Dunstan’s teammate Vince Mulligan would take up coaching in the years ahead. Gord would make his mark in the 70s in junior, and Vince would have his decade in the 80s. Both would become good friends, along with Vinnie’s brother Billy Mulligan.[SH3]
Gordie’s first coaching job came in 1966–67 at the tender age of 23. He coached in the Charlottetown District Junior Hockey League with the St. Dunstan’s Junior Varsity team that won the Charlottetown and District championship.
Then came a two-year stint with the Charlottetown Midget Abbies that won the Maritime championship in 1968–69 and 1969–70.
He would coach for five decades and be behind the bench at various levels of minor hockey, plus junior and senior high school, before moving to the Junior ranks. His Birchwood Junior High team went unbeaten in 1968–69 and took the PEI Intermediate Interscholastic title.
As head coach of Colonel Gray in 1969–70, the Colonels were crowned PEI high school champs. The Colonels then represented PEI at the Canada Winter Games in Saskatoon.
Cecil & Gordie's Junior Dynasty
The junior years followed, which is where Gordie’s career took off.
The Prince Edward Island Junior Hockey League began as Junior B loop in 1970–71. In its first two campaigns, the Summerside Crystals won both first place in the regular season and the league championship. Starting in 1972–73, the Colonel Gray Colonels from Charlottetown would dominate for six consecutive seasons with the guidance of Coach Whitlock and General Manager Cecil Taylor—likely the most dominant coach-general manager duo in the history of PEI hockey. The Cecil and Gordie (CG) Colonels would finish first three times and second in the league standings another three times during their 1970s dynasty. The Colonels–Generals–Eagles franchise won four Atlantic/Maritime titles during their reign in the east, with 238 wins, 96 losses, and 34 ties in the regular season and playoffs combined during those years.
Cecil Taylor later became junior director for the PEI Hockey Association, followed by terms as vice president and president, with his term ending in 1992. The Canadian Amateur Hockey Association asked for his services in 1991, where he would serve as vice chair at large. He also served as a board member and junior hockey director, where he saw Canada win back-to-back gold medals. In addition, he served as director of minor hockey. Cecil returned to junior hockey in PEI in 1996 and became a vice president in the Maritime Junior Hockey League. Hockey Canada honoured him with the Order of Merit at its annual meeting in Regina in 2018.
Gordie says one of Cecil's strong fortes was his knowledge of the game. “He knew the rule book inside out and all of the things off-ice that needed to be taken, including arranging travel and hotels for the playoff games we were involved in. He worked hard for the team. We remain close friends today.”
Several others who played a role in the success of the Charlottetown juniors. Those included assistant coach Bobby Doherty, trainer Bruce Johnston, assistant trainer Joey MacKinnon, and team physician Dr. Charlie Brown. Hugh Simpson was a long-time president of the team.
In total, the Colonels–Generals–Eagles won seven IJHL titles and went to the Eastern Canadian Centennial Cup playoffs five times. All of their home games were played at the legendary Charlottetown Forum, where the stands were always full, and the place was loud[SH4] . The home team used dressing room #4 on the southeast end of the building. There wasn’t a specific coaches room. The coach, his assistant, and management had to use what was primarily a washroom adjacent to dressing room #4 for post-game meetings. The dressing room was long and narrow, with benches for the players on both sides (cramped most nights) with a shower stall at the far end. But no matter what, it was home for the players.
Getting off the Island was probably as tough a road as the playoff trail up-country back in those days. The Charlottetown juniors faced formidable opponents in Sherwood–Parkdale, O’Leary, Summerside, and Montague over several seasons. The 1976–77 Generals set a league record with 331 goals for and just 129 against. Kevin Murphy led the league with 59 assists, 89 points, including 30 goals, and finished just a point ahead of teammate Rory Beck who had 88 points. They were followed by four other Generals to round out the Top Six in scoring. Those included John Abbott with 86 points, Shane Turner, who had 83 points, Dunstan Carroll with 82 points, and Ray Dunn, a 43 goal scorer, who wound up with 74 points. Laurie Downe was the top goaltender with 2.87 goals against average and allowed just 64 goals. Still, the Eagles finished a game back off the first place Sherwood–Parkdale Metros, who had one more win and two more points in the regular season. The Generals finished 32–6–2 in 40 games.
Ray Dunn set a PEI junior record in 1975–76 with 61 goals. That same year,16-year old rookie Rick Vaive established a league rookie record, scoring 42 goals and 79 points.
Vaive is one of two notables coached by Gord who went on to NHL careers. The other is Mike Kelly, who, at 18 years old, held assistant coaching jobs with the Florida Panthers, Las Vegas Golden Knights, and the New York Rangers, all under Gerard Gallant as head coach.
“Ricky Vaive played with me as a 16-year-old," says Gordie. The shot that he had then outside the blueline was so hard and accurate he could pick any part of the net and score. And he was playing against 20-year-olds.”
Ricky went on to become the first Toronto Maple Leaf to score 50 goals in a season in the NHL, a feat he'd achieve twice more in his career.
Another player who played a key role was the Colonels captain Paul Gormley—nicknamed Pudgy to most—who wore the C proudly on his #8 jersey.
“He was the best captain I ever had who really was able to take control of the team," recalls Gordie. "[He] showed by example on the ice and in the dressing room and was a tremendous help to a coach, as well as being a great player.”
Paul Gormley later had a successful career as a Charlottetown police officer and has great admiration for his former coach. “Gordie was a very intense coach. If you were out on the ice just floating, he would get in your face and tell you," shares Paul. "You definitely knew where you stood with him. He was also very successful in junior and won the Allan Cup. He lived and breathed hockey, and in my opinion, he was the best coach on the Island. Gordie was great to play for and got the best out of his players.”
There were other fine captains like Mike Devine and Kevin Murphy. The latter would go on to do some great things in building the hospitality and tourism industry in Prince Edward Island, and in 2021, he and his wife were named to the Order of Canada.
“I got to coach several of the Murphy boys, starting with Shawn in Midget, D’Arcy, Kevin, Danny, and Stevie," says Gordie. "It’s not often you get to coach five brothers in junior.”
Mike Devine played his whole junior career with Gordie as his coach, starting out as a 15-year-old defenseman.
“He was instrumental in shaping my—and numerous other players'—game throughout his junior coaching career,” says Mike. “He was a great teacher, a solid tactician, demanding of his players to be a team. His many successes as a junior coach in PEI—and later with the Islanders with their Allan Cup championship—are testaments to his abilities to get the most out of his players.”
There were many other star players on those 70s teams, including Mike Ready, Terry McKenna, Rory Beck, Charlie Trainor, Wayne Squarebriggs, Dunstan Carroll, Kenny Campbell, Shane Carr, goalies Elmer Campbell and Laurie Downe, Jeff Hannum, Mark Ledwell, Jeff Lantz, Bobby Dunn, Shane Turner, Kenny Flanagan, and many others.
Over a ten-year period from 1971 to 1981, Gordie’s coaching record was legendary—but he remained quite humble about that success and always deflected credit away from himself and on to his players and assistant coaches. He was always modest[SH5] in victory and gracious in defeat.[SH6]
“Back then, the hockey was really good, and the crowds were tremendous,” says Gordie. “We had a great run from ’72 to ’78 with those six straight Island championships and five Atlantic championships. There were a lot of great memories. We had a real good team and played against some great teams.” He emphasizes that his teams were made up primarily of Island-born players.
Gordie came back to coach the rival Sherwood–Metros from 1985 to 1987. Then he was behind the bench with the Montague Huskies that played in an interlocking schedule with PEI and New Brunswick Junior A teams in 1987–88.
“I look back on that as a good experience for me," says Gordie. "I had George Trainor as general manager, who was an excellent person. It was very difficult for a Charlottetown guy to go coach in Sherwood, as we were pretty good rivals back then—and I am sure a lot of people never forgave me for leaving the Eagles and going to coach the Metros. I wasn’t totally accepted in Sherwood, either.”
Gordie had a good first year with his new team. But after two seasons, he decided it was best that he leave the situation—which he did.
He returned to coach in Charlottetown with the Abbies in the Maritime Junior A League from 1999 to 2002.
The Allan Cup....A PEI Dream Comes True
In November 1990, Gord became head coach of the Armour Fence Islanders senior hockey team. After starting the New Brunswick Senior League with five straight home wins, the club went through early-season coaching changes but had trouble winning on the road. General Manager Peter Williams and assistant GM Mike James made the difficult decision to let go rookie Coach Paul Saulnier and replace him with Gordie while retaining assistant coach Kevin Smith.
The Islanders were made up of many of PEI’s greatest players from the junior, college, and senior ranks—and even some former pros. The names were a who’s who of the Island’s best: Dave Cameron, Craig Jenkins, Shane MacEachern, Ron Carragher, Rob Moffat, and goalie Wayne Bernard. There were many other stars, like Wilf MacDonald and Jerry Fleming, Bobby Doiron, Marc Gallant, and Terry McKenna. The Islanders had to play some games in Summerside with the Canada Winter Games underway at the new Charlottetown Civic Centre. They won the NB League championship over the rival Saint John Vitos, who they beat in the full seven-game series and coming back down 3–2 in the set. They won 7–4 in Game 6 in Charlottetown and 3–1 in the final game in the Port City.
In the Atlantic finals, the Islanders again trailed but won the last two games, 4–2 and 4–1 over the Dartmouth Moosehead Mounties, to add another notch in their playoff run, winning that series, 4–3.
Next came Laval in the Eastern Canadian finals. Though Laval was highly-rated, they bowed to the Islanders in five games.
The PEI senior team was into the Allan Cup final for a second time since 1988. They would face the Thunder Bay Twins from Ontario, the club that beat them in ’88.
The Allan Cup would be played in its entirety at the Civic Centre, and it turned out to be a four-game sweep for Gordie’s Isles.
“I can’t say enough about all the work that was done behind the scenes and from players," says Gordie. "It was a tremendous team that could play the finesse game and play rougher when needed. We had a 90% penalty kill rate, and the power play had a 40% success rate. It was a pleasure to be with the Islanders, and of course, winning the national championship was the highlight of my coaching career.”
After leading the series 3–0, the fourth game went to overtime. Just a minute into the extra period, Ron Carragher and Mike Devine worked the puck to John Nelson, who scored the deciding goal of the series and gave the Islanders a 5–4 victory. It was a series sweep and PEI’s first major amateur hockey championship—exactly 100 years after the first organized game of hockey was played in Charlottetown. It was fitting that Gordie Whitlock was the head coach—no one was more pleased. The celebration on the ice in front of the over 3,000 diehard fans—and minutes later in the Isles' dressing room on the west side of the building—was something to behold. Dave Cameron was the series MVP with four goals and nine points. Coach Whitlock was, as usual, humble in victory. “It really wasn’t anything that I did,” he told Guardian newspaper reporter Garth Hurley. “It was just the character of the players. Not just the ones who played every night but the role players who didn’t get in all of the time but had the attitude to contribute and helped the team win.” He added winning the Allan Cup was the highlight of his coaching career.
Coaching and Building Years Continue
Gordie was an assistant coach with the UPEI Panthers for six seasons. Two of them (2002–04) under head coach Doug Currie, followed by fours on the bench with head coach Dylan Taylor.
There were other coaching challenges at the provincial and national level.
He was head coach of Team PEI in the 1983 Canada Winter Games in Chicoutimi, Quebec, 12 years after coaching Colonel Gray at the Winter Games in 1971. He also extensively scouted all teams at the 1991 Winter Games in Charlottetown.
Gordie was involved with Team Atlantic at the World Under 17 Championships and was head coach in 1987 after being an assistant coach in '85.
He was selected to become an assistant coach for the 1989 National U-18 team, but the program was cancelled that year due to a lack of funding.
He was also head coach of the PEI U-16 team in 1995 that played New Brunswick in a two-game series in Memramcook.
And Gordie worked as an Ontario Hockey League (OHL) scout in PEI from 1980 to 2003. He was responsible for having Island players drafted into the OHL major junior league.
Gordie's coaching career spanned over five decades from junior and senior high school to Junior, Senior, Canada Games, Under 17, and the university ranks. Not many coaches have such a long, successful run in any sport. Imagine how many young men were influenced by him over that span of time—it would be hundreds, if not thousands. He always led by example, was humble in victory, and gracious in defeat.
His skill as a teacher and educator, competitive spirit, knowledge of the game, and his ability to connect with players of all ages led to another stage of his career: this time as an instructor, administrator, and builder.
He obtained his NCCP Level 5 coaching certification in 1975 and continued to work as an instructor over the years at different levels. He had a keen interest in player development where he saw a need for competition at the elite level. That worked out for him to become the coordinator of the Program of Excellence for Hockey PEI from 1994 to 1999. And he was a driving force behind the creation of the Atlantic Challenge Cup.
Gordie also worked behind the scenes. He was a member of the mission staff for PEI at the 1999 and 2011 Canada Winger Games. He volunteered for several committees, such as the 1991 Canada Games, the 1997 Atlantic Bantam Championship, the 1999 Fred Page Cup, and the 2006 Telus Cup.
He served on the Hockey PEI board of directors in many different roles and was president of PEI’s governing body for amateur hockey from 2008 to 2010.
“One of the big changes came when we changed the name from the Prince Island Hockey Association to Hockey PEI, which became a trend across the country," says Gordie. "I was really proud to help start the Program of Excellence for the male side program. I spent a lot of time doing curriculum and running camps. It’s allowed many PEI players to play at a higher level.”
Gordie was also a member of Hockey Canada’s Development Council from 1999 to 2005 and became Chair of the Hockey Canada Development Council. He sat on the Board of Directors of Hockey Canada during that time.
After being an instructor at Charlottetown Minor Hockey Schools from 1968 to 1973, he instructed at Bill MacMillan Hockey Schools in Charlottetown from 1976–1981.
Gordie was a student of the game himself. He participated and trained in the Program of Excellence Hockey Symposium in Calgary under head instructor and longtime Team Canada coach Dave King. Gordie attended several other programs, such as the International Coaching Symposium in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1998, and was appointed to a National Committee working group set up by Hockey Canada in 2008 to address issues related to harassment, bullying, abuse, and suspension guidelines.
Gordie’s athletic career also included playing old-timers hockey in Charlottetown and competing in many tournaments, both on and off-Island, from 1982 to 2006. He was a member of the Charlottetown Legionnaires baseball team at second base and won the PEI Junior Baseball Championship in 1962. From 1960 to 1962, he played with Prince of Wales College in varsity hockey, track and field, and football.
Honours and Awards
His long list of awards shows the distinction he has made in the game, starting as a 2nd Team All-Star left wing in Maritime Intercollegiate hockey with Saint Dunstan’s, which won the conference title.
He was Coach of the Year in the Charlottetown and District Junior Hockey League in 1968 while coaching the Junior Varsity at Saint Dunstan’s. He received the same honour in 1985–86 in the PEI Junior A League, winning the President’s Award while coaching Sherwood–Parkdale. He was also Coach of the Year in 1984–85 in the Air Canada Midget League with the Charlottetown Kinsmen.
In 1980, Gordie received an NHL Old Stars Award for outstanding service and dedication to hockey, presented by Toronto and Detroit NHL great Norm Ullman.
After the 1991 Allan Cup Championship, the Armour Fence Islanders were named Team of the Year by Sport PEI, with Gordie as head coach.
He presented with the Hockey PEI Life Membership in June 2015 at the Hockey PEI Awards. Each year, an award is presented in his name: The Gordie Whitlock Development Award, which honours an individual for their long-standing service to Hockey PEI.
In 2012, the Gordon Juckes Award was presented to Gordie by Hockey Canada for his outstanding work in amateur hockey.
PEI SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Gordie was inducted as a member of the 1964–65 Saint Dunstan’s Saints Maritime Intercollegiate Champs and Canadian Finalists into the UPEI Sports Hall of Fame. The Saints were inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. Just two years previous, the Armour Fence Islanders Allan Cup Champions were named to the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
In 2007, Gordie was inducted as a Builder of Hockey at the Memorabilia Room at the Charlottetown Civic Centre.
In 2010, he was inducted as a member of the PEI Sports Hall of Fame as a hockey builder. He’s also in the Hall as member of the 1964–65 Saint Dunstan’s Saints (2015) and the 1990–91 Armour Fence Islanders (inducted 2017)
Besides hockey, Gordie's loves in life include his family, golf, gardening, home repair, cooking, and travelling.
As a coach, Gordie Whitlock would often use anecdotes to help motivate his players. One of his best lines was, “The biggest gap in the world is between I should and I did.”
According to Gordie, “I’ve covered quite a spectrum of the game—and not by design. I certainly have no regrets. I have a great passion for the game and have loved every moment of it.”
For Gordie Whitlock, he did it as a player, coach, administrator, and builder. His contributions will be reflected in the game for many, many years to come, building more champions in the future.