Marshall Severyn might have been teammates with Jackie Robinson if the Brooklyn Dodgers hadn’t been so cheap.
Severyn is remembered as a hockey legend in Nelson, but in 1950 he attended a Dodgers training camp in California as a pitcher and was given a spot on the team’s minor league roster.
He turned the Dodgers down. They’d offered him $55 a month, but he opted to make more playing for the Delisle Gems in Saskatchewan.
Severyn’s son Pat remains convinced his father would have cracked the Dodgers’ lineup that went on to four World Series appearances between 1952-56.
“He could really throw a baseball. I’m not kidding ya,” said Pat. “At 65 years old he’d still get up at family reunions and throw heat. He had all the tools back then.”
Happily for Nelson hockey fans, Severyn’s baseball career never made it to the Show.
Severyn played for the Nelson Maple Leafs from 1951 to 1964 and coached the team twice (1969-71 and 1976-78). He passed away on Nov. 20 at age 87.
After attending a Chicago Blackhawks training camp, Severyn was supposed to play in Spokane but arrived to a full roster. The coach suggested he spend the remainder of the season with a team in Anchorage, Alaska.
On his way back from Anchorage to Spokane, Severyn stopped in Nelson and met his future wife Mary Morrison, who was working at the CP Rail station. Severyn joined the Maple Leafs in 1951, won the senior hockey provincial championship Savage Cup final in 1961 and again as the Leafs’ coach in 1971.
Severyn’s legacy is highlighted by coaching an unheralded Nelson bantam team to a provincial championship in 1969. The team, which included future NHL players Pat Price and Danny Gare, was a heavy underdog against the North Shore Winter Club.
“They came into North Shore, where North Shore even had numbers on their skates and everything matched,” said Pat. “If you’ve seen a picture of the Nelson team, they had an ‘N’ on their jersey, some of their jerseys didn’t match, they were like hillbillies from upcountry.”
Prior to the championship, Pat said his father became incensed at a perceived slight from the opposing team.
“Their coach made a comment to my dad. ‘Gee, that’s a nice little team you got there.’ It pissed my dad off so badly that he went into the dressing room, and he gave a pre-game speech to these kids.”
Nelson went on to stun North Shore, winning the city’s first and only provincial bantam title.
“That’s my dad,” said Pat, who was also coached by his father along with brother Marc on the Leafs in the late 1970s.
“He kind of lived by that when it came to hockey. He didn’t care how you played. You win, and nobody remembers if you played nice or not nice, but they just remember if you won. That was his motto. Us growing up as kids too. It’s the way he was.”