One of the greatest players and coaches in the history of the Nelson Leafs has died.
Frederick George Koehle, who was known as Fritz after his mother gave him the nickname as a child, played 14 seasons for the then Maple Leafs between 1948 to 1964. He later became the team’s head coach, and led the Leafs to their only Junior B championship at the Cyclone Taylor Cup during the 1967-68 season.
Koehle passed away April 26 at the age of 89.
He was born in Regina, but spent his childhood in Trail where he was the stick boy for the city’s 1944 championship-winning AAA Junior B.C. team.
Koehle and his family, which included brothers Red, Bob and Gerry, moved to Nelson in 1942. He joined the Leafs six years later and played with Red and Gerry. The highlight of Koehle’s playing days was a five-goal performance against Trail in 1960. He was also named the Western International Hockey League’s most valuable player in 1961.
In a 2012 interview with the Star, Koehle said his favourite season as a player was 1953-54 when the Leafs lost an eight-game series against Penticton.
“We could have won just as easy as lost,” he says. “That was, I think, the year I loved best.”
Koehle left the Leafs’ roster to join the family’s sheet metal and heating business. But three years later he re-joined the Leafs as coach and won the Cyclone Taylor in his rookie season behind the bench. He stayed on through the 1970-71 season, and returned for a second stint between 1974-76.
— With files from Greg Nesteroff.