Lefty Reid was a hockey pack rat who stockpiled pucks, pads, sticks, sweaters, masks and medals.
He gathered gloves, collected cards, selected skates. He foraged for ephemera such as scorecards and schedules, programs and press passes.
For 25 seasons, Mr. Reid was curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. He liked to say he had inherited “a basement full of old pucks and sticks” to which he eagerly added memorabilia.
Mr. Reid, who has died at 92, added many treasures to a stock of priceless artifacts for which he became responsible in 1968.
The most important was the Stanley Cup, hockey’s holy grail, originally purchased for 10 guineas (about $50) in 1892. Mr. Reid’s responsibilities included delivering the storied trophy to the arena to be presented to the National Hockey League’s championship team. Whether driving the Trans-Canada Highway or, after crossing the border, an interstate highway, he often carried the trophy in the family station wagon.
Sports reporters called him the guardian angel of the Cup. With little fanfare, he sometimes walked with the trophy along a red carpet for an on-ice presentation.
(Today, the role is played with more formality by white-gloved curator Phil Pritchard, dubbed the Keeper of the Cup, who has been featured in television commercials as he travels the globe with the trophy.)
“Some people think it’s like travelling with a child,” Mr. Reid once told Dave Anderson of the New York Times. “But you can tuck a child into bed. When you’ve got Lord Stanley in your room, you’re always worrying about double-locking the door so even the maid can’t get in.”
In 1979, he accompanied the prize and six other silver trophies, as well as a truckload of memorabilia, on an exhausting, 72-day continental tour.
The NHL expanded to 21 teams during Mr. Reid’s tenure, a period which also saw the rise and, later, absorption of the rival World Hockey Association. It was also the start of a new era, as the 1972 Summit Series pitted the NHL’s Canadian stars against the Soviet Union’s best. This was followed by a series of international showdowns including other European rivals and the United States.
Mr. Reid’s time as curator overlapped with the retirement of such greats as Jean Béliveau and Gordie Howe and the rise of such stars as Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky.
The curator also had to be alert to the accomplishments of lesser-known players.
On Valentine’s Day, 1977, Al Hill, an unheralded checking forward from Nanaimo, B.C., made his NHL debut with the Philadelphia Flyers. Just 36 seconds after the opening faceoff, he scored a goal, later adding another goal and three assists to tie the record for most points by a player in his NHL debut. The hall got his stick.
A series of overnight burglaries bedevilled Mr. Reid’s early years on the job. In 1969, two trophies and the so-called presentation Stanley Cup (an exact replica of the original, which was brittle and had been placed in a vault) were stolen. They were recovered within a week.
“It’s like stealing a fine painting – you can’t sell it,” Mr. Reid said. “It’s senseless.”
In January 1970 a three-tiered silver collar for the Cup was stolen. It was recovered from a dry-cleaning store seven years later. Then, in December, the presentation Stanley Cup and other trophies were again stolen. The anonymous thieves, who attempted to negotiate reduced sentences for colleagues behind bars, threatened to dump the trophies in Lake Ontario. The silverware was found in the home driveway of a Toronto police officer three weeks later.
Maurice Hugh Reid was born on Sept. 25, 1927, in the Ontario town of Leamington and raised in the nearby hamlet of Blytheswood. He skated on outdoor rinks and listened to Foster Hewitt broadcast games on the radio. He dropped out of high school to enrol in the Royal Canadian Air Force, serving as a corporal before completing his education at the armed forces’ training and rehabilitation school at St. Luke Road Barracks in Windsor.
In Trenton, Ont., Mr. Reid became a noted amateur softball pitcher celebrated for his windmill delivery, helping take his team to the junior-B provincial championships in 1947.
He was hired by Roy Bonisteel (later to become nationally known as host of CBC’s Man Alive television program) to write a sports column for the local twice-a-week Trenton Courier-Advocate.
“It was $5 a column and I liked the work,” Mr. Reid once said.
He then worked for the Belleville Intelligencer before becoming sports editor of the Chatham News. He bounced around Ontario newsrooms, working at newspapers in Kitchener, Galt (now Cambridge), and Peterborough, where he won the city’s bowling championship.
Mr. Reid was hired by the Toronto Telegram as a copy editor and sportswriter in 1961, the same year in which prime minister John Diefenbaker officiated at the opening of the Hockey Hall of Fame in a building on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.
When former referee and long-time curator Bobby Hewitson announced his retirement, Mr. Reid took over during the season in which the NHL doubled in size to 12 franchises. Mr. Reid also had responsibility for Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, which shared space in the building with the hockey hall.
Mr. Reid died at his home in Peterborough on Aug. 15. He leaves a daughter, three sons, nine grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife, Evelyn, who died in 1994, and by a daughter, Dale Lunau, who died in 2016.
He was inducted into the Peterborough and District Sports Hall of Fame in 2006 for his prowess as a bowler and softball pitcher. He was the founding curator for the local hall, which originally lacked a building, so he catalogued and stored the keepsakes in the basement of the family home.
Mr. Reid has not been enshrined in the hockey hall he curated for a quarter-century, nor has he had his name engraved on the trophy with which he spent many lonely hotel nights.
“I was a good skater,” he once said, “but I wasn’t much of a hockey player.”