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One could easily write an entire nostalgic column just about the golfing exploits of Dave Pulkkinen.

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The longtime Sudbury resident, now 73, won the Idylwylde Invitational in 1990.

Years later, he teamed with Sid Segsworth to win Ontario’s Senior Best Ball Tournament, combining to card a round 67 against the best players their age in the province.

Pulkkinen has played countless high-end courses across North America, many of which have hosted PGA majors, often taking these wonderful rides with friends and cohorts of golfers Sam Yawney, Berk Keaney and Marcel Pinard, among others.

Golf has absolutely been an important part of the soft-spoken Finn’s life, whose father lent him the money at age 12 to buy his first set of clubs (Pulkkinen took a paper route so he could pay off the debt) .

But focusing solely on the summer ties hobby wouldn’t do justice to the hockey player who was drafted in the seventh round of the 1969 NHL Entry Draft by the St. Louis Blues, who won quite a bit. of underage success and cracked the 1970s New York Islanders roster for a pair of games.

Did we mention that Dave Pulkkinen considers baseball his favorite sport?

Growing up in the South End, when the South End wasn’t even considered part of the town proper, the father-of-two and member of Idylwylde Golf and Country Club for over 40 years still remembers of his first steps on the ice, most of which took place on outdoor rinks – or on any other practical surface.

“Where McDonald’s is now (on Regent Street) was McFarlane Lake Road; it was a gravel road,” Pulkkinen said. “I used to play hockey in the ditches along the road with my friends. The ice was only so wide, but it was pretty cool.

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Although Riverside Playground offered his first chance at organized sport, playing bantam and midget hockey at the rink, Pulkkinen was as diverse an athlete as he could be in those days.

From occasional athletic feats at the Alerts Track (“behind where the Holiday Inn is now”) to baseball just a hop and skip (“I played a lot of baseball – the corner of Nepahwin and Paris is where our baseball a lot was”), and adding some golf for good measure (“A lot of my buddies from school played Sudbury Golf Course, but I played Countryside Golf Course , which is now Pinegrove”), Pulkkinen was a well-rounded boy when he met coach Stu Duncan and the provincial-caliber Lockerby Vikings hockey team in the late ’60s.

He spent a year with the Oshawa Generals (1968-69) thereafter, showing enough to catch the attention of the NHL Blues. To this day, the man who played most of his career at 5-foot-10, 169 pounds laughs that every hockey reference you can find mentions him at six-foot-195.

“It stuck with me the whole way through,” Pulkkinen said with a smile. “But I couldn’t gain a pound. I figured out how to gain a pound or two later.

Gaining weight, however, was the role of NHL training camps. Suffice to say, the camps were very different from those aspiring professional hockey players will encounter in 2022.

“I had a book to practice with before I went to camp, but when we went nobody was fit,” Pulkkinen said. “The younger ones that got drafted looked really good going into camp and everyone thought they would do well. But after two or three weeks, these guys were cut.

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Pulkkinen was not.

Boasting a wonderfully wholesome perspective on exactly where hockey fits from a global perspective, the boy from the North wasn’t always one to follow the crowd, however. On three occasions, the Blues brass of Cliff Fletcher, Al Arbor and Scotty Bowman have approached him with contract offers this fall. Three times he refused them.

“Scotty said get rid of me, so I walked out of the room,” Pulkkinen said, unsure if his stance would backfire or not.

He eventually put pen to paper on a deal that landed him a $6,500 salary and a $2,500 signing bonus. After IHL/CHL stints in Kansas City and Port Huron between 1969 and 1972, the defenseman-turned-forward was traded to the New York Islanders organization, where he enjoyed his greatest success.

During the 1972-73 season, Pulkkinen led the New Haven Knighthawks in points (25G-41A in 75 games), playing on a line with future Islanders Gary Howatt and Bobby Nystrom. In fact, the trio were called up to Long Island as a unit at one point, losing a game 3-0 to the big, bad Boston Bruins of that era, but earning praise from a Bobby Orr.

“They played the way they should against us,” Orr said in a March 1973 New York Post article. “They were the best forecheck line.”

Through it all, Pulkkinen remained grounded and realistic.

“Nystrom and Howatt deserved to be there (with the Islanders) more than me,” he said, noting that he always respected Hockey Hall of Fame general manager Bill Torrey, the man which brought together the Islanders dynasty that won four consecutive Stanley Cups.

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By 1975, Pulkkinen had seen enough of the lifestyle for those who couldn’t quite make it.

“It was an easy decision for me to step away from hockey,” he explained. “I had some really good years, I met some really good people, but I wasn’t good enough. That’s the simple answer. When I got home (to Sudbury), I skated for a year. I didn’t want to be that guy sitting in a hotel telling people how good I was.

Fortunately, he returned to the game, a mainstay of the Sudbury Nooners hockey bands of the 1980s, indulging in a bit of coaching, even doing radio commentary for Wolves alongside Rob Faulds.

Summers, however, were now his season of sporting prominence, albeit from very humble roots.

“I’m a self-taught golfer,” Pulkkinen said. “I was not a good golfer; I got better over time. I shot in the 80s, then the 70s, then the 60s, and I started gaining things here and there and getting closer.

Beating North Bay native Mike Poupore twice-and-one in the 1990 invitational final, Pulkkinen broke a 34-year skid that Idylwylde had gone without one of its own members claiming the longest tournament in match play in Canada.

“It’s a great feeling,” Pulkkinen exclaimed to Sudbury Star sportswriter Norm Mayer, who sadly passed away just a few years ago. “Since I’ve been a member here, I’ve admired the Idylwylde as one of the best tournaments in Ontario. I always wanted to enjoy the thrill of winning the tournament at this club.

Yes, Dave Pulkkinen has made a name for himself in golf, but let’s not completely forget his hockey career either.

Nickel City Nostalgia airs every two weeks. Contact Randy Pascal at


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