Ask anyone that was around the St. Lawrence University Men’s Ice Hockey program in the late sixties or seventies, and they’re bound to have a story relating to perennial ringleader Tim Pelyk ’73. Whether it involved a beer blast, an errant Zamboni, or carousing until the wee hours at fraternities on campus, Tim cast quite an impression on those around him. Appropriately, one of his core philosophies while at SLU was “we’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time!”
With his gregarious and outgoing demeanor, it would be easy to say that Tim’s focus strayed from the classroom. But he is quick to point out that the scholastic side of St. Lawrence was also important: “it was the best 8 years of my life,” he says with a wink. “First and foremost, we were there because we had some hockey ability. But It was also our intention that we wanted the education as well” he recalls.
Originally from Toronto, Tim arrived in Canton during the fall of 1968. After graduating in the spring of ’73 (and later earning a masters degree in educational psychology in ’77), he spent several years bouncing around professions before eventually starting his own construction business back home in Ontario. As he says, “I’ve been in it since ’82 or ’83. I still have three or four guys that have been with me for 25 years. Nowadays, I go out, get the jobs, line up the projects and get home around noon. Then I read the paper and it’s usually time for a nap. I don’t have a hobby. I don’t know what else to do with my life.”
While he may not have any hobbies, Tim’s undying love for all things St. Lawrence is readily apparent, especially when it comes to former classmates. “We’re still a very tight knight group of individuals. There’s about a half dozen of us in the Toronto area that still have a keen interest,” he describes. “We manage to get back to St. Lawrence at least once or twice a season. Three hours and I’m at Duty Free putting as much Canadian beer as I can in my pickup truck! I’m proud that I went to St. Lawrence. People recognize the ballcap that I have on.”
One of Tim’s enduring legacies is the Men’s Hockey alumni reunion he organized years ago. Over 100 people showed up to golf, swim, barbecue, and revel in the festivities. As for Tim’s favorite memory? “We got the Zamboni out of the rink, and we brought it over for the Reunion parade. And we stuck a keg in it! It was our float” he fondly remembers. “So Brian McFarlane ‘55 is out there with a couple of guys he went to school with in the fifties holding the St. Lawrence Hockey banner, and there’s probably a dozen guys in the Zamboni, with no shirts on, drinking beer. We went down past Dean Eaton and then we started up past Vilas where they were judging the floats. And the brakes wouldn’t work! So a whole bunch of us had to get out and get in front of this thing to get it stopped.”
During the years that Tim was at St. Lawrence, the world was rapidly changing. Hockey players were regulars at the fraternities – all of them – and the drinking age was only 18 years old so parties were constant. “When I first started guys had to wear sport jackets, sign in and out, visitation, all that. And then when Vietnam started and Kent State happened, the campus was wide open and there was no signing in or out” he described. “In four months time everything changed. For going to this small liberal arts school with all these rules and regulations, suddenly there were no rules or regulations! One year finals were optional…imagine that!”
Protesting the war in Vietnam had become commonplace on campus. Students banded together, often using dramatic imagery to convey their emotional outrage. One incident stands out to Tim: “They wrapped the flag around Richard Nixon, and they were going to burn him in effigy right out in front of Payson Hall. They were supposed to put him on fire about 11 o’clock” he recalled. But word had gotten out, and some in the Canton area had other plans: “At about a quarter to 11 a whole bunch of trucks pulled in with WWII veterans. Some of them with rifles. And they said ‘we don’t care if you burn Nixon, but you’re not burning that flag.’ So they took the flag off Nixon and burnt him to a crisp.” Tim remembers.
“I think that’s why we remain so close. It was a very unique time. With the Vietnam thing, it changed the whole attitude of students on campus. Because we wanted someone to listen to what we had to say about this crazy war in Vietnam. At the next reunion they want to play big band music like Guy Lombardo and Frank Sinatra. We don’t want that. We want Creedence, The Beatles, Pink Floyd. We make excuses to see each other. We don’t make excuses why we can’t go.”