Timmins Rock captain Wayne Mathieu shakes hands with comedian Gerry Dee as Rock president Ted Gooch looks on during the puck-dropping ceremony prior to the start of Sunday afternoon’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. Dee was in town to take part in the Rock’s Comedy Night Fundraiser at École secondaire catholique Thériault along with local comedians Rick Lemieux and Richard Steudle. The Rock went on to drop a 5-2 decision. See page B1 for coverage of the game. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – How injury plagued are the NOJHL’s Timmins Rock right now?
Well, they had Gerard Francis Donoghue — better known to his legion of fans as Gerry Dee, or Mr. D — in the lineup for the start of Sunday afternoon’s game against the Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena.
Okay, okay, technically he wasn’t in full uniform, just decked out in a maroon, gold and white Rock home jersey with, the No. 17 and his name on the back.
And if the referees had checked his birth certificate, they would have learned he was born on Dec. 31, 1968, making him almost three decades too old to play in a Junior ‘A’ hockey game.
Despite those facts, the star of the CBC sitcom Mr. D made a solid contribution to the success of the Rock’s campaign by taking part in the puck-dropping ceremony prior to Sunday’s contest and then performing his stand-up routine during the team’s Comedy Night fundraiser at École secondaire catholique Thériault Sunday night.
That show also included local comedian and Timmins Police Service Const. Rick Lemieux, as well as Iroquois Falls native Richard Steudle.
Dee’s ability to move seamlessly between the world of entertainment and sports shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
“I haven’t been to Tier 2 Junior ‘A’ game, which is the level I used to coach at back in Toronto before I did stand-up, since I left coaching 15 or 20 years ago,” he said, during the first intermission of Sunday afternoon’s game.
“This is pretty cool. Sports, rather than stand-up comedy, is something I grew up with. It’s ironic that I am doing stand-up now instead of doing anything involved with sports.”
Dee played university hockey and golf during his younger years and he was briefly a sports broadcaster on The Score before turning his attention to comedy full time.
During the week prior to his appearance in Timmins, Dee made a guest appearance on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCowan.
“I miss coaching hockey,” he said.
“I played university hockey and then I got into coaching and I ran a hockey school. Then, I moved up to Tier 2 and I coached with the Wexford Raiders, as an assistant. At that point, I had to make a decision and obviously I made the right one, but I really miss coaching. Being here brings back a lot of memories.
Dee had the opportunity to meet a number of Rock players prior to the start of Sunday afternoon’s contest.
“It is great to get to see all these young guys today,” he said.
“I got to meet the healthy scratches. They would laugh if they heard me say that, the injured players. They told me they were playing a real tough team today, but they are up 2-0 after the first period. Maybe I am good luck.”
That might very well be the case given that after Dee left the McIntyre Arena to get ready for the Comedy Night, the Voodoos stormed back to defeat the Rock 5-2.
Some athletes can best be described as the class clown, but that description doesn’t really fit Dee to a T.
“I was like the worst guy on the team, probably, and you can’t be the funny guy when you are the worst guy, you have to be at least middle of the road.”
A number of hockey players have made guest appearances on the Mr. D show during its seven-year run.
“Hockey guys are always good at chirping in the room, so that’s always a good place to start,” he said.
“I can relate to hockey players because I played and coached, so they can certainly take a chirp and give it back. I think they are good guys for comedy for that reason. There are a lot of funny guys in dressing rooms around the country.”
So, out of all the players who have made an appearance, who is Dee’s favourite?
“We had a guy named Nathan MacKinnon and a guy named Michael Cammalleri, I am not sure if they still play,” he said, knowing full well both are continuing to play in the NHL.
What words of wisdom would the one-time coach turned comedian have for the Rock?
“I don’t have any advice for them,” he said.
“If they have five or six guys hurt and this team they are playing the Voodoos — which is an awful name, by the way — is one of the top teams in the country (ranked No. 5 in Canada by the CHL), and they are up 2-0, I have no advice.
“The coach looks like he is trapping, which is what I would think he would have to do with six guys out of the lineup. Looks like they have a good coach.”
Dee hasn’t been in Timmins in a number of years, which means most the fans attending the Comedy Night likely weren’t too familiar with his newer stand-up material.
“It is fun to come to cities where it’s a brand-new crowd and I can’t wait,” he said.
“I think I did a comedy show here maybe 10 year ago and I probably did another one when I worked for Yuk Yuks six years before that.”
How much research did Dee do on Timmins before visiting the City with the Heart of Gold?
“I just talked to (Rock president) Ted (Gooch) on the way here (from the airport) and he gave me all the research,” he said.
“I am a big Shania Twain fan and her story to me is amazing. I know how hard it is to make it in entertainment. I was in Toronto and she is from a smaller area, like Timmins. To come out of this city and do as well as she has and she is 100 times bigger than me, so it’s just an amazing story.”
The historic significance of the McIntyre Arena was not lost on Dee, either.
“The history of this building is remarkable, as well,” he said.
“I didn’t realize Bill Barilko was from up this way, too. Being a Maple Leafs fan growing up, I got to play Wayne Cashman in the Canada vs Russia remake, so we got to hang around some events the (Frank and Peter) Mahovlichs were at and they are great guys.
“I didn’t realize until I got here how much NHL history there is here. I knew Steve Sullivan was from here. He is more from my generation.
“So, it is pretty cool to be a rink that housed those guys.”
Getting his own Timmins Rock jersey to take home as a reminder of his trip to Timmins is pretty cool, but Dee did have one minor little gripe about the gift.
“It’s awesome, but they put my first name on the back,” he said.
“It’s like they had never seen a hockey sweater before. You can’t put my first name on it. It has got to just be my last name. I feel like I am in Timbits hockey. How many Gerry Dees are there?”
Timbits, of course, is a fun age for both players and spectators alike.
“My son is just entering,” Dee said.
“He’s five and he has just started Timbits. It’s the thing we do in Canada and he doesn’t love it yet, but I am making him go because I know he will love it and I don’t want him to be the worst player in his class.”
The snow was coming down pretty hard when Dee’s plane landed at the Timmins Airport earlier in the day.
“When we took off from Toronto, they told us we might not be able to land, so we made some calls to Ted and said, ‘Look, this is out of our control,’” he said.
“But, we got on the plane with the possibility it would have to turn around and it landed and after we got on the ground, walking out of the plane, I don’t know how they landed it because I couldn’t see 20 feet in front of me.”
Despite that fact, Dee resisted any urge he might have to turn around and get right back on the plane.
“I am glad we made it and, as they say, the show must go on,” he said.