When the Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society honors Cranston natives Don and Tom Mellor at its 13th annual Reunion on Sunday, Aug. 4 at Goddard Memorial State Park in Warwick, the non-profit historical group will also pay tribute to a pair of hockey pioneers.
“This is a great, great honor for the Mellors,” said Paul J. Long, a Warwick chartered financial consultant who remembers Don and Tom Mellor from his childhood. “They were the biggest name in Cranston hockey before the Bennett family came along.”
Don and Tom Mellor will also re-write the state’s hockey history book when they accept the Reds Heritage Society’s RI Native-Born Hockey Achievement Award.
“This may be the first honor of its kind in sports history,” Buster Clegg, president of the Reds Heritage Society, said. “We’ll have a father (Don) and son (Tom) receiving the same award, on the same day, same time and at the same location.”
Clegg explained that the award, which was inaugurated back in 2011, is given to the Rhode Island native-born individuals who have made significant contributions towards the advancement and public image of hockey and in doing so have brought statewide, national and worldwide attention to the quality and proud history of ice hockey excellence produced here in Rhode Island.
“If it wasn’t for Don and volunteer coaches like Harold Wicks, Leo Castiglioni, Mr. Larsen, Jesse Long, Red Fabruzzio, Mr. Gustafson and others, there would not have been CLCF,” Clegg said. “They were such solid guys; they volunteered to coach a lot of sports. They’re also the reasons why Cranston’s sports teams were such powerhouses back in the 1960s.”
Long, who back in 2007 was inducted into the Cranston Hall of Fame and Rhode Island Aquatic Hall of Fame, remembers playing hockey with Tom Mellor during his pre-teen years “at places like the Budlong Pool that had lights and the old Ice Bowl at the Shipyard that is now the Harbourside Campus of Johnston & Wales University.”
“He was a great youth hockey coach,” Long said of Don Mellor, now 92 years old. “He taught us everything ... the game, respect, discipline and how hard work pays rewards.”
Tom Mellor – as well as his brother Duke – and their dad made up what Long called “Cranston’s biggest hockey family back in the day.”
Don Mellor played hockey in Cranston and was later recruited by the Boston Olympics, an Eastern Hockey League team sponsored by the Boston Bruins. He played two seasons (1941-42 and ’42-43) before enlisting in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
He was a Fire Controlman 2nd Class on the USS Hopewell DD 681, a destroyer that assisted troops in the South Pacific.
After the war, Mellor married former Coast Guard SPAR Helen Phillips, his wife today of 67 years. He spent his working career as a foreman.
With the fact that he had two sons and there were no organized sports in Cranston, Mellor became one of CLCF’s founding fathers that provided the opportunity to play not only hockey but also sports like youth football and baseball. He also managed to play defense for the former RI Scarlets, an amateur team.
“Don was a great hockey coach,” Long said. “Tom and I played on the same teams. We learned many valuable lessons from Don.”
While Mellor stuck with hockey and scaled great heights during a career that included helping the U.S. Olympic Team win a Silver Medal in the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, Long used his great athleticism and went on to become an All-State swimmer in the 1960’s.
“Tom took to his father’s innate natural skills and teachings very quickly,” said Clegg. “As a square player of age eight, he showed great promise with his abilities, including backward skating and puck handling, both essential tools for an aspiring young defenseman.”
Now 63, Mellor went to Northwood School in Lake Placid, N.Y., for four years prior to attending Boston College. As a BC freshmen in 1968-69, he scored nine goals and 19 points. He had a great sophomore season, scoring 21 goals and 44 points in 26 games. In his junior year he had 40 points in 25 games. Mellor also played 18 games for the U.S. National Team.
One of the highlights of his career came in 197 when he played for the U.S. Olympic hockey team. He also represented the United States in the 1971 and `73 World Championships.
Mellor returned to BC for his senior year in 1972-73 after taking a year off for international competition. In 30 games he scored six goals and led the nation with 45 assists. He was also selected to the NCAA East First All-American team.
He joined the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings in 1973-74 as he was drafted in the fifth round, 68th overall in the 1970 Amateur Draft. He suited up for 25 games with the Red Wings, scoring two goals and six points. He also played in 23 games with the AHL’s Virginia Wings as well as six games in the British League with the Long Lions.
In 1974-75 he played one final NHL game with the Red Wings. His career totals were 26 games played, two goals and six assists. The remainder of the year was spent in Virginia where he had 17 goals and 52 points with the Wings.
Mello also played 34 games with the Vastr Forlunda of the Swedish Elite League in 1975-76. He scored eight goals and 16 points. He played 13 games with the Toledo Goaldiggers of the IHL and then returned for one final year of pro hockey with the same team. He went out in style, winning the James Gatschene Memorial Trophy, given to the MVP in the IHL.
Today, Tom Mellor, 63, is president of Windham Capital Group, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in matching institutional investors with a select group of hedge fund managers.
The Reds Heritage Society Reunion will run from Aug. 2 to Aug. 4. A record turnout is expected at three events; a Meet and Greet Aug. 2, a Dinner Dance on Aug. 3 and the Aug. 4 Reunion-Awards presentation at Goddard Park. Tickets for the Aug. 4 event are $35 per person and may be ordered by calling (401) 247-2666.
Many former Reds greats from goalie Johnny Bauer to Chuck Scherza will be among 48-ex Reds and other notable NHL alumni at the reunion.