Milan Marcetta, one of the most elegantly skilled centres to play hockey on the Island — and whose name is engraved on the Stanley Cup — has died at 78.
The native of Cadomin, Alta., played three seasons for the Victoria Maple Leafs of the professional Western Hockey League in the 1960s. He had a graceful skating stride up the ice and a natural touch around the net, recording 102 goals and 237 points in 201 regular-season games, and nine goals and 24 points in 24 playoff games for the Victoria club.
After the 1966-67 season, Marcetta and Victoria teammate Autry Erickson were called up by the Toronto Maple Leafs for the National Hockey League playoffs. Marcetta appeared in three playoff games in the final against the Montreal Canadiens — the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup.
One of Marcetta’s finest moments in the minors came when he helped lead the Victoria Maple Leafs to the 1966 WHL championship Lester Patrick Cup in a seven-game final against the Portland Buckaroos. A large celebratory crowd greeted the Maple Leafs in front of the Memorial Arena on Blanshard Street upon their arrival back from Portland after Game 7.
The top line of the championship Victoria team included Marcetta, Bob Barlow and Andy Hebenton.
“It was the best line in the league, and Milly [Marcetta] was the quarterback of the line. He was a super guy, fabulous centreman and great linemate,” said Barlow, who lives in Victoria after a lengthy minor-pro career and 77 NHL games.
Hebenton, who set the Iron Man record for most consecutive games played, was a nine-season NHLer. Players such as Marcetta and Barlow, who played during the old six-team NHL era, would have been regulars in today’s 30-team league.
As it was, Marcetta played far and wide for 18 seasons in the minor pros for teams that included the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds, Phoenix Roadrunners and Denver Spurs. His NHL career consisted of 54 regular-season games with the Minnesota North Stars, with seven goals and 22 points. He played 20 Stanley Cup playoff games — the three that got his name on the Stanley Cup with Toronto, and another 17 for the North Stars (seven goals and 14 points).
“Milan was a shifty player and he could really stickhandle,” said brother Marko Marcetta, who lives in Nanaimo.
During his Victoria years, Milan Marcetta conducted one of the largest youth hockey camps in Western Canada at the Esquimalt Sports Centre (now Archie Browning Sports Centre).
“More than 500 kids a year went through the camps,” recalled Marko Marcetta.
It was all a labour of love.
“Milan was a very athletic, happy guy who enjoyed what he did,” said brother Peter Marcetta of Victoria. “He was crazy about hockey and really involved.”
After his career in hockey, Milan Marcetta was a property manager in Coquitlam. His son, Mike Marcetta, played junior in the WHL for the Seattle Breakers and in the B.C. Hockey League for the Richmond Sockeyes.
Marcetta died Sept. 18 in Vernon. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Arlene, sons Mike and Milan Jr., and grandchildren Nathan and Milan III.