Remembering Jack Gelineau

by J. Peter Roberts, BEng’55

Jack Gelineau tending net for the Boston Bruins in 1950

It was the autumn of 1951 when I entered the Faculty of Engineering. An item on the notice board motivated me to show up for a tryout with the Redmen at the old Montreal Forum at St. Catherine and Atwater, hockey’s shrine. I found myself amongst players who were handling the puck with ease, especially a Redmen alum and goaltender whose name was Jack Gelineau. No wonder I couldn’t put anything by him. After all, he had been awarded the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year the year before.

The coach of the Redmen was Rocky Robillard and Gelineau, BCom’49, was on the ice solely for old time’s sake having backstopped the Redmen to a championship in 1946. But I knew nothing of this. And I knew nothing of Gelineau the man who, as an air gunner with the RCAF and not yet 20, survived a plane crash and rescued  an injured crewman from the burning plane. He was awarded the British Empire Medal for gallantry.

Despite his early NHL success, he left professional hockey after only a few seasons, evidently in search of fulfillment elsewhere.

Forty-four years later, I was visiting my mother at the Manoir Westmount, founded in 1979 by its Rotary Club. She entered this residence for seniors in late 1993. I stopped by on a monthly basis, becoming a dining room regular. I routinely chatted with the Manoir’s affable manager, who I simply knew as Mr. Gelineau. This went on, month after month, until one day in the spring of ’95, I noticed a memorandum circulating,  advising that “Mr. Jack Gelineau” was about to retire. How very familiar his name looked when spelled out in front of me. Naturally, I wondered if he could possibly be the goalie I faced when I was a teenager and blurted out to Manoir’s head nurse, “Is it really him?” “Yes”, she said. “I didn’t know!” Well I hadn’t, not for a moment.

Jack Gelineau with J. Peter Roberts’s mother

Mr. Gelineau was installed as the Manoir’s manager in 1982. Modesty was his long suit and helping others his forte. He had found a vocation suiting his temperament. This illustrious McGill athlete of the forties naturally sought to put those around him at ease, especially seniors like my mum. The photo depicts him gifting her a birthday rose. It is hard to believe this quiet spoken man challenged the likes of Maurice Richard and a young Gordie Howe!

J. Peter Roberts played for the McGill Redmen in 1951-52. Jack Gelineau was inducted into the McGill Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. He led the Redmen to a national championship in 1946 and was the first recipient of the Forbes Trophy as McGill’s male athlete of the year in 1948. Gelineau  played 143 regular season games in the NHL, mostly for the Boston Bruins. He made his NHL debut before graduating from McGill and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 1950. He died in 1998.

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