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December 20, 2007

John "Peanuts" O'Flaherty

John "Peanuts" O'Flaherty may only have played in 21 NHL games, all with the New York/Brooklyn Americans. But he is a legend in the AHL where he starred with the old Pittsburgh Hornets, as well as an amateur star in Toronto, Ottawa, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, as well as a stint in New Brunswick with St. John.

Growing up in Toronto, John O'Flaherty was a true rink rat. He even earned his legendary nickname "Peanuts" because he would sell snacks at Maple Leaf Gardens. It was a way of earning spending cash but just as importantly a way of getting into Leafs games.

He was a star player with the St. Michael's Majors and West Toronto Nationals, where he led both teams to Memorial Cup championships. In 1934 he helped St. Mikes win the Canadian junior championship over a stacked team from Edmonton, with O'Flaherty scoring 10 goals and 16 points in 12 playoff games. In 1936 he helped the West Toronto team to 17 consecutive playoff wins en route to the Memorial Cup. In 12 Memorial Cup games he scored 10 goals and 19 points.

Despite being such a Toronto rink rat, somehow O'Flaherty was never on the Leafs' radar. He stayed in the city until 1940, starring with amateur senior teams like the Dominions, Marlboros and Goodyears, challenging for Allan Cup titles for four consecutive years, somehow never winning Canada's amateur championship.

In 1940 O'Flaherty signed with the New York Americans, but would only see action in 21 games over the next couple of seasons. Instead he starred with the Pittsburgh Penguins of the AHL for a decade, taking two year leave of absence to serve with Canadian Air Force. Even during that time he was based back in Toronto, playing hockey on the senior circuit when time allowed.

After a decade in Pittsburgh he returned to southern Ontario to chase amateur championship dreams, playing nearly another decade. Somehow, however, the Allan Cup continued to avoid O'Flaherty's grasp.

O'Flaherty later coached in Sudbury but later ended up on Canada's west coast, working in the auto industry as well as scouting for the Vancouver Canucks. One of the players he recommended to Canucks management was his own son, Gerry, also known as Flapper. Gerry O'Flaherty would put in 6 seasons of yeoman's work in a Canucks uniform in the 1970s.

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