Warner was the backbone of a team that made it all the way to three national championship games. After his third year at SMU, the Montreal Canadiens didn’t come calling. But another
Original Six team did: he got an offer to attend Toronto Maple Leafs camp. Johnny Bower, whom Warner had met a few times over the years, invited him to try out for the Leafs. Warner politely declined. Following his fourth and final season, the future SMU Hall of Famer got another call from the Leafs. It was Bower again.
Warner had fully planned on pursuing a career in teaching. He was 24 years old. The possibility of playing in the NHL wasn’t on his radar, despite the call from Bower the year before. “My wife answered. She said, ‘Johnny Bower’s on the phone.’ I said, ‘Yeah, so is Mickey Mouse.’ She insisted. So, I get on the phone. I said, ‘Hello, Mr. Bower.’ He said, ‘Hi, Bob. It’s John.’”
Warner’s wife wasn’t kidding. The Hall of Famer, a Leafs scout, was calling again. “I can honestly tell you I think my toes, everything, started to shake. I didn’t know what was going to happen.
The next thing Johnny said was congratulations on this, this, and this. And then he said, ‘We’d like to sign you to an amateur tryout, if that’s okay?’ I said, ‘Of course it’s okay!’”–
–Excerpted from One to Remember: Stories from 39 Members of the NHL’s One Goal Club by Ken Reid. © by Ken Reid. Published by ECW Press Ltd. ecwpress.com