Hockey Heartaches and Hal
Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto broadcaster and public relations
This book, by Stellick (former General Manager of the Toronto Maple
Leafs) and O’Leary (a Toronto Sun journalist), is a homey account of
the tribulations of a naive young man (Stellick) caught in the web of
intrigue spun by the team’s irrascible octogenerian owner, the late
Although there seems little left to say about the so-far irreparable
damage Ballard caused the once-unbeatable Stanley Cup Champions,
Stellick’s tale of woes during his 14-year tenure with the Maple Leafs
organization reconfirms the chaos of the Ballard years.
Stellick’s rise from teenage part-time “gofer” to the youngest
general manager in hockey history was both meteoric and haphazard.
Ballard was motivated by whim and petty politics to hire and fire his
staff according to mood rather than expedience. As he aged and lost his
health, his erratic and petulant modus operandi destroyed both the Maple
Leafs team and its management. Abetted by his ambitious and manipulative
lady friend, Yolanda MacMillan, Ballard fiddled while the Leafs
Stellick’s thesis seems to be that the key to survival under the
Ballard regime was to always say “yes” to the boss of all bosses.
Voicing an opinion that differed from that of Ballard (and, often,
Yolanda), whether right or wrong, good or bad, was suicidal from an
employment point of view. The old man had no sense of humor and no
forgiveness when crossed. He considered his employees, at whatever
level, to be either with him or against him.
Stellick’s road from his family’s North Toronto home to the lofty
position of General Manager of the Leafs was a bumpy one. According to
this book, he would not have missed the experience for the world, but it
was difficult. Stellick’s anecdotes are honest, straightforward, and
would be considered revealing had not the legendary tales of Ballard,
his children, and Yolanda been told so many times before. For Ballard
novices or for aficionados of the almost-never-ending saga of Harold
Ballard, Maple Leaf Gardens, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, this book is
as good a read as any.