AMHERST – The Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers are going to honour one of their greatest players later this year.
The team announced Wednesday it will officially retire the Number 8 worn by Bill Riley before he went on to a professional career that included stops with the Washington Capitals and the Winnipeg Jets of the NHL and the Hershey Bears, Nova Scotia Voyageurs, New Brunswick Hawks and Moncton Alpines of the AHL.
“It’s a great honour for us to be able to announce that we will be retiring Bill Riley’s jersey at our last home game of the season on March 2,” Ramblers’ president Jim Henwood said.
After being one of the inaugural members of the Amherst Junior Ramblers, Riley joined the Dayton Gems of the International Hockey League and became only third black player in the history of the National Hockey League, following Willie O’Ree and Mike Marston.
Riley had 31 goals and 30 assists for 61 points and 320 penalty minutes in 139 NHL games.
Henwood said a number of sweaters have been retired and unretired by the team over the years, but stressed that once the Number 8 is retired it will be taken out of circulation.
The Ramblers’ president is also hoping to get some of Riley’s former coaching counterparts to participate in the pre-game ceremony including Forbie Kennedy, the former longtime coach of the Charlottetown Abbies, and Danny Berry, who coached the Antigonish Bulldogs.
“There would be no better way to celebrate the conclusion of our 45th anniversary season than to pay tribute to a man who has played such a prominent role in the history of this franchise as a player and a coach,” Henwood said.
After his playing career ended, Riley went on to become a successful coach and executive at the junior and major junior levels. He was coach and general manager for the Rambler team that won the Atlantic championship in 1990 and travelled to Vernon, B.C. for the Centennial Cup.
He was also the coach and GM when the Ramblers hosted the Centennial Cup in 1993, losing in overtime to Chateauguay, Que. in the tournament semifinal.
After leaving the Ramblers, Riley joined the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL and would later spend several seasons coaching the Miramichi Timberwolves of the MHL.
Henwood said there are plans to honour other former Rambler greats.