North Bay hockey icon Pete Palangio, who was the oldest living Montreal Canadien, passed away in his sleep at 4 a.m. on Christmas Eve at the age of 96, in his North Bay home.
“He was gentleman and a classy individual,” former CFCH radio reporter Peter Handley said reflecting on the many times he covered Palangio’s team’s after he retired from professional hockey.
The North Bay native played his first professional hockey game with the Montreal Canadiens back in 1926, at the time playing alongside hockey legends Howie Morenz and Aurel Joliat.
Palangio’s NHL career was a rollercoaster ride. He only played in 70 career NHL regular season games with Montreal, the Detroit Cougars, and the Chicago Blackhawks.
During that career which spanned 17 years, Palangio also played in minor pro cities like Windsor, London, Syracuse, St. Louis, Tulsa, Hershey and Pittsburgh before he hung up the blades back in 1943.
But his hockey career was far from finished after he retired from the National Hockey League. Palangio, who has an arena named after him (Sept. 1991) and has his jersey up in the rafters of Memorial Gardens, came back home and was heavily involved in hockey.
He was known by many as Mr. Hockey in North Bay for his contribution to junior hockey.
As a General Manager/owner, Palangio led the 1956-57 North Bay Trappers to the Eastern Canadian Allen Cup final, where they lost to the Whitby Dunlops, who went on to win the World Championships that same year.
Palangio also tried to bring an OHA franchise to the city in 1961. Although that attempt failed, the following year he brought a North Bay franchise into the newly formed Northern Ontario junior “A” league, where they won two Copeland Cup championships in 1963-64 and 1965-66.
After 22 years as a sponsor of junior hockey in North Bay, he sold the team to a local group in 1967.
Palangio's contributions to sport were recognized at his 75th birthday party back in 1983. On that day his name was given to the trophy honoring North Bay's Sportsman of the year.
During North Bay's 75th anniversary celebration, Palangio was named as one of the top 20 builders of sport in the city.
In his later years, Palangio became a popular fan at North Bay Centennial games. Handley said NHL scouts would go out of their way to make a visit to Centennial games if they knew Pete Palangio would be in attendance.
“George Armstrong (Toronto Maple Leafs scout) even tried to set Pete up with his Mother,” Handley remembers.
The last few years, Palangio hadn’t been out at many hockey games as his daughter Rhondi took care of him in their North Bay home.
Handley said the jersey at Memorial Gardens will be removed from the rafters and put in an alcove on the North side of the arena, similar to the display of Craig Rivet's World Championship jersey located on the South end of Memorial Gardens.
Palangio’s funeral is expected to take place early next week.