In September of 1944, the hockey world briefly focused its attention on Lucknow, Ontario, as three brothers from the remarkable Chin family amazed and delighted fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Charles and Rose Chin, who had settled in Lucknow and ran Chin’s Restaurant on the main street of the small town, had fourteen children. While eleven of them played hockey at a competitive level, three stood head and shoulders in ability above not only their other siblings but all other hockey players in the region: Albert, George and William Chin.

The three boys, just a year apart in age, were phenoms from an early age. Bill was the eldest at 17, Ab was 16, and George, just 15. In August 1944, Detroit Red Wings scout Freddie Cox admitted that he had the Chin boys on his radar. “The three Chin boys from Lucknow are going to surprise everyone this winter,” he told the Toronto Daily Star. “They’ll be ready for the big time before long.”

When Ed Bickle, president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, learned that the Red Wings were interested in the Chins, he “blew a gasket.” But, in fact, Hap Day already had the boys scouted. Ab (Albert) and Bill were already on the Leafs negotiation list, while 15-year-old George was too young to have on the list. Incomprehensibly, all three boys were invited to the Maple Leafs training camp in Owen Sound prior to the 1944-45 season.
The three boys, younger and smaller than any of the other hopefuls at camp, made their presence known, attracting great attention from the veterans and the management. They were invited to play in the three Blue and White games, in which the roster was divided in two, with Joe Primeau’s Blues facing Harold Ballard’s Whites, with proceeds going to the local Kiwanis Club.

“Of the ones attracting the most attention in the Owen Sound and St. Catharines games have been the three Chinese brothers, Albert, George and Bill Chin from Lucknow, Ontario. Although on the small side and several steps away from top-flight hockey, the lads have struck a popular chord with folks following the Leafs in training this fall,” wrote the Toronto Star. “Just to keep his record straight, (goaltender Frank) McCool finished off the night’s work by robbing 15-year-old George Chin of a score in the dying seconds of the third period. It was the parting shot of the Chinese line from Lucknow that made a big hit with the crowd with its clever passing, good stickhandling and aggressiveness.”

Bobby Hewitson of the Toronto Telegram noted, “The fans got a great kick out of the three Chin boys and their performance. They were given lots of use and worked hard, but could not produce a goal, though that would have pleased the crowd of 12,105 paid, one of the best attendances ever to see these annual games.”

The boys, who were disappointed but not surprised to be sent home, returned to their Lucknow juvenile team, and continued to tear up the league. “George Chin, a 15-year-old who laughed his way through Leafs training camp last fall, scored all 12 of his juvenile team’s goals at Kincardine Saturday night,” reported The Star, who then chided the Leafs management by adding, “Hadn’t we better send for him, Hap?” Two days later, after George scored six goals in his next game and his brothers added four, The Star again called for the Leafs head scout to sign the boys. “Maybe Squib Walker should hustle out to Lucknow and scout the kids all over again as a Leafian front line threat!”

The boys were so popular in their hometown that fans, who drove in from all over southern Ontario to see the Chins, had to arrive early in order to get a seat. “The walls of the rink bulge with customers who come from all points of the compass.” Then, after the games, the brothers quickly dressed and hurried over to their family restaurant in order to sign autographs. “They occupy a front table and greet their worshippers,” wrote The Star. “Often, there’s a lineup to get inside as well as to get autographs.”

None of the boys ever did get to join the Maple Leafs, although George did go on to a terrific hockey career. He joined the Windsor Spitfires in their inaugural junior season (1946-47; Bill went to training camp but was cut), and then joined the Chatham St. Clair Maroons, who won the Turner Cup as International Amateur Hockey League (IAHL) champions in 1949-50. The team was entered into the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame en masse in 2002. George later earned a scholarship to play hockey at the University of Michigan while studying geology, and in 1951-52, the Wolverines won the NCAA championship, with George earning All-American selection at forward for his play during the season and then as part of the NCAA Frozen Four First Team All-Tournament Team. The Wolverines won the NCAA championship in 1952-53, and again George was selected as an All-American for the season, and was selected to the NCAA All-Tournament Second Team. Chin joined the Nottingham Panthers of the British Hockey League (BHL) in 1954-55, and completed his post-graduate studies at Nottingham University.

But the hockey story doesn’t end there. The Chin’s Chinese restaurant included a larder in the basement, and the floor, which often had a thin layer of water on it, froze in the winter, allowing the family and friends to play spirited hockey games using a ball. One of those young friends was Paul Henderson, who learned to play the game with the Chin boys. In fact, patriarch Charlie Chin provided Henderson with his first hockey equipment. Ab Chin later coached Paul Henderson on his way to an NHL career.

George Chin was forced to stop his weekly skating excursions a few years ago due to a stroke that compromised his ability to skate, but looks back fondly on his hockey career, including the autumn of 1944 when he and his brothers got the opportunity to wear the blue and white of the Toronto Maple Leafs.