Sault Ste. Marie resident Sam Cistaro is nearing the finish line of a long journey, documenting the history of the Soo Greyhounds hockey club.
“Former players and fans have invited me into their homes to show me their memorabilia, recall their stories,” Cistaro said. “This is a great piece that could easily go into a time capsule and then in 50 years’ time people can look back on it and look back to 1972 and say hockey was so much different back then.”
The documentary is a further accompaniment to last season’s 50th anniversary celebration. Cistaro expects the project to be completed next spring.
“It celebrates the 50 years but celebrates new players coming to the Sault from the larger population centres like Toronto and Ottawa and loving life up here in Northern Ontario,” Cistaro said.
“To a man, everyone has said how special this place was to them in their upbringing. They’ll tell the stories of on-ice success and the friendships they’ve made, but also there is an intertwining story of how much a hockey team means in a smaller centre like Sault Ste. Marie, where this is the only game in town and how much the people of these small centres rally and support the team.”
The documentarian, as Cistaro calls himself for this project, says he interviewed 40 people for the documentary, basically the glitterati of Hounds hockey down through the years. Cistaro figures he has about 20 hours of footage logged so far. Chris Felix, Kevin Hodson, Wayne Groulx (Hounds all-time leading scorer), Abbie Carricato (first coach of the team), Kyle Dubas, Darnell Nurse and Joe Thornton gave their time to talk about Hounds hockey.
Cistaro also interviewed former Hounds GM Angelo Bumbacco and Walter Gretzky before they died.
Cistaro is hopeful Ron Francis and Wayne Gretzky will make an appearance in the documentary. Cistaro has reached out to both men and is waiting for confirmation.
Cistaro pitched the idea to the Greyhounds in 2019, saying the club has been very supportive of the entire project.
“I’ve been keeping them aware of where I am and how the process is going,” Cistaro said.
The former producer at the Score Television Network says there is something interesting and noteworthy for people interested in the history of the club.
“There are stories that the fans have heard during the course of their patronage to the organization but it’s all going to be in one place,” Cistaro said. “I am going to be entering this in film festivals so it will be a sense of pride, not just for a hockey team, but the city.”
Cistaro has set up a GoFundMe page for the project, saying it’s expensive to get archival footage, while trying to find a local production company that can put a shiny bow on the project prior to release.
Cistaro is hoping fans of the team and its history will donate to help get this project to the finish line.
“There is a lot of video to purchase from CBC and it’s $45 a second,” Cistaro said. “If I am to get some of that older stuff, like Gretzky in the Sault in the 1977 season, I am going to be paying $450 for 10 seconds (of footage).”
And while the Sault resident is the creator and curator of the project, the bells and whistles, the shiny gloss of a final production isn’t his strong suit.
As of Friday afternoon, two people have donated a total of $350 toward the project.
“I am not a professional editor. I am just trimming up clips and putting them into a timeline,” Cistaro said. “I was quoted one figure and they want $45,000. I have been putting it together but not a professional, shiny project. That’s not my skill set. I shot everything, I wrote everything and I interviewed everyone personally. This has been a one-man show. I know my limitations in editing.”
To watch promotional video clips, and to donate money to the project go to: HoundPower50.com
The Great One: a great start to a hockey career
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Cistaro is close to completing a long journey in documenting the history of the Soo Greyhounds hockey club.
The Greyhounds documentary is an accompaniment, a book-end, to last season’s 50th anniversary celebration. Cistaro expects the project to be completed in the spring of 2023.
“I was able to interview Walter Gretzky before he passed and one of his great clips is where he states that maybe Wayne wouldn’t have been as successful in the NHL if he didn’t come to the Sault, that the Sault played that much of a role in his development in being away from home for the first time, the love that he got from his billet family,” Cistaro said.
According to the local documentarian a life-long and recognizable brand got its start in Sault Ste. Marie.
“There is great local story that when Wayne came to town he was No. 9 because of Gordie Howe,” Cistaro said. “But Brian Gualazzi , who was a veteran on the team at the time, wouldn’t give up the number. Because of Gualazzi, the Greyhounds said ‘hey, Wayne why don’t you become No 99.’ So that is a story that I tell in the piece, as well. A life-long brand in NO. 99.”
Even though Wayne Gretzky was only with the Greyhounds for one massively productive season, tallying 182 points, Cistaro thought his time here was well worth documenting. “At the end of the day, it is Wayne Gretzky and his number is retired in the rafters,” Cistaro said.
The Greyhounds retired No. 99 in 1994.