IN the many years that there were only six National Hockey League clubs, there were a multitude of players who were equally as exceptional in the minor pro ranks.
One of those was Lakehead product Stan Baluik.
Beginning his junior career locally as a 15-year-old with the Fort William Canadiens, he would be a standout with them for four campaigns.
Despite being diminutive in stature, he piled up 91 goals and 105 assists in just 106 Thunder Bay Junior Hockey League outings.
He also paced all TBJHL players in points during the 1953-54 season with 85.
Other contributions saw Baluik end up second in the league in helpers twice and finish third in tallies on a pair of occasions.
In his time there, under another local legend in head coach Mickey Hennessy, the Canadiens won a pair of league championships (1953-1954).
Twice moving on to the Memorial Cup trail, Baluik was a point-per-game game producer, picking up 15 in as many match-ups.
In his second run at it, the local Habs advanced all the way to western final, only to fall to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Taking his talents south, Baluik played his final two years of junior with the Kitchener Canucks of the OHA.
Like he did at home, he excelled there pacing the loop in assists both runs and won the Eddie Powers Trophy as the league’s top scorer in 1954, while being tabbed as a first all-star team honouree at centre.
Turning pro, he played three seasons for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QHL), Springfield Indians (AHL) and Victoria Cougars (WHL) where he tacked on another 120 points to his totals.
Moving on to 1959-60, Baluik made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins where he made seven appearances.
Joining the Providence Reds of the AHL from there, he put up big numbers with that organization.
Excelling offensively and despite only playing in 342 career contests with them, through five seasons, Baluik remains ranked eighth all-time in Providence scoring production with 373 points on 124 tallies and 249 assists. He’s also sixth-best in setting up goals.
Points-per-game wise, he is third amongst Reds’ skaters, who appeared in 300, or more, games, at 1.09, trailing only other former team greats John Chad (1.22) and Zellio Toppazini (1.12).
Among his accolades in Providence was being named the AHL’s Rookie of the Year in 1960.
In total, he amassed 864 points through 714 games played throughout his stellar career.
Tack on another 58 in the playoffs, racking up over 900 points defines an impressive accomplishment on the ice.
Putting his time in hockey to a close in 1964, he turned to another sport that he was equally as talented at – golf.
A standout on the links at an early age, Baluik, at 15, became the only local product to win the Ontario Junior Golf Championship, when he claimed that title a decade earlier.
He’s one of three golfers from the Lakehead to capture a provincial golf crown.
Patrick Szturm (1980) and J.J. Gilham (1997) are the other two title holders as they both claimed the Ontario Bantam Golf Championship.
In 1964, Baluik was offered the head professional position at the Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln, R.I., so he packed away the skates in favour of the clubs, where he would go on to strive for many years.
He would go on to be inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 as well as the Rhode Island Reds Sports Hall in 1970.
A winner of many regional titles on the links, Baluik was also enshrined into the Rhode Island Golf Hall of Fame in 2005, that featured at one-time being named New England’s PGA Professional of the Year.
As the numbers show, Stan Baluik is yet another one of Thunder Bay’s sporting greats.