Anyone who chases names from the past knows the jarring sensation of learning that someone you just talked to has died.
On September 1st of this year, I was hunting around for Milan Marcetta, who played in the NHL. With a fairly uncommon name, and the lead that he was probably in British Columbia, I started my search.
With the first call, I got his brother, who steered me in the right direction.
Milan Marcetta had been in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, and hence there was a file on him from Maple Leaf Gardens that I now have access to through the Allan Stitt Collection (which was the basis for my book, Written in Blue & White).
There was nothing really earth-shattering or important in Marcetta’s file, but I’m a curious guy and one of the real rewards of this gig is returning copies of old paperwork to players of the past. The fact is that most of them have little to no record of their days in the NHL and in the minors, especially if they played before the late 1960s, when lawyers and agents began representing players.
A native of Cadomin, Alberta, Marcetta made his way through the western junior league before a variety of Western Hockey League teams employed him as their centre — Calgary Stampeders, Saskatoon Quakers, Victoria Maple Leafs. He also had stints in the American Hockey League, with the Buffalo Bisons and Rochester Americans.
Of main interest to most people were his three games with the Leafs — all in the 1967 playoffs, so therefore his name is on the Stanley Cup with the last of the championship Toronto teams. He also played parts of two seasons with the expansion Minnesota North Stars. “It was the first year and the crowds were good in Minnesota at that time,” he told me.
But I found something intriguing in the paperwork. There was a letter on Syracuse Braves letterhead, but I couldn’t find a record of that team even existing in that particular year.
Milan and I didn’t talk too long, but he did help me out with my query — the team from the Eastern Professional Hockey League moved to St. Louis.
We talked about a few of the players and coaches he knew, and I asked if he had any regrets about the way his career turned out. “No, none at all,” he said. Hockey was a big part of his life. “I had 17 years of it, yeah I enjoyed it.” (Post-hockey, he was a property manager in Coquitlam, BC.)
As we all have experienced, sometimes when you are talking to a senior, there are a litany of ailments to list off if you ask about their health. Truthfully, I don’t ask much any more.
Without that knowledge, it was a surprise that Milan Marcetta died on September 18th, the obituary from the Victoria Times Colonist circulating through the email list for the Society for International Hockey Research.
Was I his last interview about his career? Probably. In retrospect, of course, I wish that I had asked him about a lot more things, that our chat had gone longer, but there is little I can do about that now.
Rest in peace, Milan.