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August 20, 2015

Frank Spring

Two things run deep in the Spring family of Cranbrook, British Columbia - hockey and cars.

The patriarch of the family is Frank Sr., who was an instrumental force for amateur hockey throughout the entire province as well as a prominent automobile dealer in Cranbrook.

Three of his sons went to the pros - Dan in the WHA, Derek in the minor leagues, and, for a total of 61 games, Frank Jr. in the National Hockey League.

Frank was a big right winger (and sometimes defenseman), six-foot-three and 210 pounds, who was drafted fourth overall by the Boston Bruins in 1969. Even though he was a top pick he had no idea he was drafted until the local radio mentioned it a few days later. Things were a little different back then.

Spring would sign with the Bruins for $20,000. As he told Ken Reid in the excellent book Hockey Card Stories, the first NHL game he ever saw was the one he played in.

"That's pretty intimidating. That was in Montreal. That was the first exhibition game i played with Boston and my legs were shaking. I was 19 years old out of Cranbrook and had never seen an NHL game."

Aside from those exhibition games, Spring would only play in one official game with the Bruins. After a season in the minor leagues the Philadelphia Flyers claimed him in an inter-league draft.

Spring would never play for the Flyers, but he did play several seasons, both as a forward and defenseman, with the Flyers farm team in Richmond, Virginia. He recalled those years in the minor leagues as tough, considering it more like surviving it than thriving in it.

Paying his dues did pay off. In 1973 he joined the St. Louis Blues organization, getting a couple of chances to play with the Blues.

But it was when Spring headed to California in 1975, joining the Golden Seals, that Spring finally made the NHL. He would get into 55 games with the Seals over three seasons, scoring 14 goals and 34 points.

In his final season with the organization was in 1976-77. The franchise relocated to Cleveland and became the Barons. But when the financially troubled team failed to pay Spring in January of 1977, he was declared a free agent.

Spring ended up signing with the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA in 1977-78. It would be his last season in pro hockey.

Spring returned to Cranbrook where he returned to amateur status and helped the local Royals team win the Allan Cup as Canada's amateur champions. And of course he joined his dad in selling cars.

Frank's son Corey also made it to the National Hockey League, playing sixteen games with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the late 1990s.

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