By Doug Kennedy
When I was a teenager in the 70s, I did not realize the magnitude of playing Junior B hockey against Tony McKegney.
I have said before in my articles how I have been blessed with my relationships from the great game of hockey. McKegney was certainly one of the best players I ever played against, followed by meeting his brother Ian McKegeny and his family when I moved here in 1989. I coached Ian’s oldest son, Sean, during my first year of living here. It did not take me long to figure out that Sean was way too good to being playing minor hockey when he was 16. I also coached Ian and Bubbles McKegney’s youngest son, Sam.
Talking to McKegney this past weekend has taken me back to our junior hockey days. We talked about playing against each other and he reminded me how he beat us out of playoffs that year.
After playing Junior B in Sarnia as a 15-year-old, he went on to play for the Kingston Canadians, where he became the captain of the team. He told me he had his first hockey fight against my Junior B teammate, Gerry Seguin. Seguin played defense and said McKegney was tough to defend against because of his speed and strength. He says that was the only fight he lost and he clearly won all 25 of his fights in the NHL.
It was during that series his trainer had a massive heart attack in the St. Marys arena and passed away. McKegney said it was a tough ride home that night.
McKegney went on to play 13 seasons in the NHL, with seven teams. He was drafted by Buffalo and played there for five years. He also played in Quebec, Minnesota, New York, St. Louis and Detroit. He played 912 games in the NHL and scored 320 goals.
He built a dozen golf bubbles in Ohio, Buffalo, New York State and Ontario, and sold them all. He currently volunteers with the fire department in Buffalo and delivers meals to homeless people. McKegney also helps out with the NHL alumni. He is good friends with the Pegula family, who own the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres.
There is a documentary about his life being developed right now that will be shown on ESPN and possibly Netflix. Tom Brady and Michael Strahan’s company, Religion of Sports, is trying to purchase the rights to this documentary.
In the last few days, I have reached out to some of my old St. Mary’s teammates to get their thoughts about playing against McKegney. My best friend growing up in St. Marys, Brian Dundas, said McKegney was a really good skater and one of the best players in our league, as a 15-year-old playing against 18 and 19-year-olds like the two of us.
Dundas and I both remember the person that McKegney was on the ice and that he was one of the best skaters and players in the league, as well as one of the nicest players. He would always talk to you at the faceoff circle.
McKegney was born in Montreal and adopted by a white family in Sarnia. A couple of weeks ago, Ron MacLean from Hockey Night in Canada gave the McKegney family a shout out during the Saturday night broadcast, recognizing McKegney as part of Black History month. He talked about him, his brother Ian, and his mother who lives in Kincardine. That is what gave me the idea to write this story.
McKegney was not a talkative person, but when he did speak, he was really respected. Tom Bailey, a teammate from Kingston, and McKegney attended St. Lawrence College classes together.
Bailey said racism did exist then, but was not talked about a lot publicly. When it was heard on the ice, his teammates defended him quickly, although McKegney didn’t want it to be an issue for the rest of the team.
Clarke Pollock said he refereed a game between Kingston and Kitchener that McKegney was playing in, when there was a brawl that Ken Linesman started and ending up throwing a pile of sticks into the stands.
I receive a few sports books every year at Christmas from my kids. This year, the Willie O’Rea book was under the tree. I will be donating that book to the local library because it is important to read these stories about the history of black athletes and their experiences.
McKegney has been in Kincardine over the years to help with fundraising events and to visit family. He told me that after COVID-19 settles down a bit, he would speak in Kincardine about racism.
The closest people in McKegney’s life are his mom, Ian and Bubbles. His mom is 96-years-old and he finds it really tough not coming up here to visit her.
Black History month means more to me than ever before because of my disappointment with what has been going on around the world. I have learned so many things over the last few years about too many injustices against minorities. We need to educate people in the future about how we can do better–one step at a time. I think we, as a culture, should have an open mind about treating every person and culture the same. I know this is not easy for a lot of people to talk about, but I am hoping we can start the process to make a kinder generation to follow us.
5 thoughts on “Tony McKegney has a great family story”
I had the pleasure of coaching Tony in baseball when he was 11 years old and thought he could make a career out of baseball, he was that good. I knew at age 11 he would make the N. H. L. but also knew he had a shot at baseball as well.
Doug. I’m a childhood friend of Tony’s from Sarnia . I’m a year older . My older brother Bill (YOB 1955)played in the 73-74 playoffs ( lost in OHA semis to Hamilton in 8 games) as a juvenile Callup. On a personal note my family we’re partners in a warehouse business with Murray Pickle & another Sarnia B alumni Steve Smith ( he and 5 other locals & Pickle went to W Michigan the same year ). A very good friend of mine ( born 1959) name John Thompson played as a 16 year old for the bees . I didn’t know him then ( but was a heavyweight fighter ) but I remember him winning a fight decisively over an ‘overages’ named Kennedy but for some reason I thot his name was Terry. Sequin lives in Sarnia . Lastly I met an ex Lincoln in the Barbados 3 years ago. I don’t recall his name but he was a goalie
I was 1 year behind Tony at Johnson Memorial public school and played scholastic sports with him.
I believe Tony could have played football, basketball or baseball professionally if he had wanted to but his passion was to follow his older brother in hockey.
An uncommonly talented athlete with the physicality to back it up.
It was all i could do to break his highjump record.
I played against Tony in baseball when we were young Pee Wee and Bantam I played for Corunna and Sarnia was always are biggest rivals Tony was a very good ball player fast and was a very good pitcher I later played for Team Canada and went into to play at South Alabama I remember when Birmingham got the hockey team and I never knew Tony was drafted and when I heard of the protest not to sign him I understood we were number # 1 ranked in the USA in 1975 and 1978 although lost in the regionals my head Coach was Eddie Stanky of Brooklyn Dodger fame and teammate of Jackie Robinson Coach Stanky always had me room with our African American ball players on the road because I was Canadian and as a Canadian we grew up at
Least I did as respecting all athletes I respected Tony because he was a hell of a ball player and nice guy not because of the color if his skin I get tired of hearing about that
I am good friends with his older brother Mike. We all went to Johnston Memorial Elementary school in Sarnia. Tony was an all round athlete in many sports. I remember accidentally breaking 1 of Tony’s baseball bats when we were kids and bought him a new one. I enjoyed this article. Mark Olacke