Fans of local hockey history will want to pick up a copy of Del Gingrich’s latest book From the Dam to the World Stage.
The biographical work chronicles Floradale native Butch Martin’s ascent to hockey notoriety playing for the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen, along with his experience in the 1956 and 1960 Winter Olympics after he declined a contract offer from the NHL’s New York Rangers.
Gingrich is a full-time volunteer at the Mennonite Story in St. Jacobs, an interactive museum that highlights the culture and religion of the Mennonite people in Woolwich Township and around the world.
In his spare time, Gingrich keeps busy writing articles on senior members of the Mennonite community for his church and he has also written two other books, one about Mennonite children called Quilted Impressions and another about the Kissing Bridge in West Montrose.
Gingrich and Martin are first cousins and have gotten to know each other quite well over the years, says Gingrich.
Looking back on Martin’s accomplishments, Gingrich felt it was a story that should be told.
“He was an example of someone who played tough in hockey but he was always respected, he wasn’t a dirty player and played consistently at a high level,” explains Gingrich.
“He’s also a very humble man, so I appreciated the way he handled himself.”
The book took approximately a year and a half to complete, as it required a significant amount of research.
Gingrich says he interviewed a number of Martin’s former teammates as well as his friends and his daughter. These sentiments were compiled with articles, photos and Newspaper clippings Gingrich tracked down through library archives in Kitchener, Waterloo, Galt and Guelph.
“The most interesting part was [seeing] how much Butch was appreciated and respected internationally,” he says. “The coach of the Russian hockey team … called Butch by his first name – he was really widely known and widely recognized in the international world of hockey.”
Gingrich says his intent was not only to memorialize Martin, but also to highlight changes in the world of hockey since the 50s and 60s, when Martin was playing.
The book also discusses how Martin’s personal life influenced his hockey career – from not playing on Sundays, to turning down a contract opportunity with the Rangers.
“At that time you only had six teams in the NHL and 105 players, so to get to that level was really something special, as it is today of course, but while it was something special, you didn’t get paid exorbitant salaries,” he says.
“What he earned at the sawmill in Floradale plus what he earned with the Dutchmen, was about as much as he could have made in the NHL.”
Turning down the offer from New York, however, allowed Martin to play in the Olympics.
“If he had played for the NHL at that time, he couldn’t have gone to the Olympics because no professionals were allowed; so he had that opportunity because he was an amateur.”
So far, Gingrich says response from readers has been great and he really enjoyed the process of putting the book together. He says it is important to keep these community stories alive – the ones that do not always make it to the big history books.
“He was on a team that represented Kitchener-Waterloo at two Olympic games and I think it’s something we can forget easily, just like our veterans who served in the world wars,” he says. “I think it’s very important to our young people, to his family, to his friends, to the community to appreciate that someone of this stature actually was a native of Woolwich Township.”
Gingrich’s book is available at Roxanne’s Reflections in Fergus.