“We called her the captain of the land ladies because she was such a wonderful person, she was the perfect billet.”
Sitting in the Dallas Omni Hotel, at the 2018 NHL Draft, Paul McIntosh describes who he would consider the ultimate Petes billet parent, Elsie Flint.
Flint worked at a concession stand in the Memorial Centre since the building’s inaugural year in 1956 until 1982. It was here she developed a reputation among fans and staff for having a thorough sense of humour and an ability to develop sincere relationships in the community.
Her status throughout the arena caught the attention of Roger Neilson, who sought out her assistance in temporarily billeting a couple of players in 1966.
“She had no intention of having boarders. So Roger came to her and said ‘Elsie, I have two boys that I have to get them out of where they are. will you take them?’” explained Nancy Cavanaugh, Elsie’s oldest daughter.
According to Nancy, Elsie did not agree to Neilson’s request until consulting her younger sister, Gloria, who would be the last Flint child in the house that fall. Nancy would go on to marry and her now- husband Richard, and brother Bill would leave for university.
Gloria’s agreement to shift into the smaller bedroom, that was once her brother’s, left one double bed for two Petes to share and cemented the Flints as a billet family for the next ten years.
“Nobody would’ve believed that they put big guys like that, two of them in bed. They loved it there,” explained Nancy. She added, “There was only one bathroom in the house as well.”
From 1966 to 1975, the Flint family housed Kent Byrnes, Alex Campbell, Gord Tucker, Tony Featherstone, Chris Meloff, Skip Foster, Jerry Andretta, Mike St. Cyr, Paul McIntosh, Brian Shortreed, Bob Smulders, and Frank Salive.
In 1969, kitchen renovations allowed the players to upgrade from a shared double bed to separate twin beds and a basement where a less-than-secret ‘society’ entitled Club 47 developed (named after the address of the Flint residence at 47 Park St.).
It was here that guys like Bob Gainey, Colin Campbell, Frank Salive, and Mike St. Cyr – a mix of billets and non-billets – held private meetings. The logistics of the club they formed rivaled that of an official court. Nancy recalled investigating noise she heard in the basement, learning that it was St. Cyr commencing a Club 47 meeting by hitting a gavel on an ironing board.
Positions like president, vice president, and secretary were dished out to each of the players, and a handshake was required to enter the Club 47 fortress. McIntosh and his fellow Dallas Stars scout, Jimmy Johnston (referred to as J.J.), continue to demonstrate the handshake and encourage non-members to perform it when discussing Club 47.
Among the memories shared with the players, the Flint children recall boating with the guys, the 1974 team acquiring a parasite while playing in Russia at the World Juniors, and players testing Gloria’s patience in regards to her car.
In addition to her cleverness and deep care for the players, everyone highlights Elsie’s talents in the kitchen.
“She was a good cook, she fed them really well. In the older days they had to have steak before games,” commented Nancy. McIntosh would describe her as an, “unbelievable cook.”
What made Elsie special?
“She treated them like they were her own kids,” explained Nancy, who also mentioned that players like Skip Foster considered Elsie his second mother.
The roster of players from the 70s light up when the topic of conversation turns to Elsie, serving as the catapult to a series of stories from Club 47 to unravel. She was a staple in the organization who provided the comfort of family, alongside her husband Bill, allowing players away from home to thrive in Peterborough.
Are you interested in becoming the next Elsie Flint? The Petes are looking for billet families in Peterborough for the upcoming season! Click here to learn more about billeting and to apply to become a member of the Petes family.