Lew Mueller Top Defenceman Award

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From an early age Lew had been involved in sports especially hockey, baseball and golf.

On a Sunday afternoon, Lew and a group of young friends would sneak into the darkened rink, lit only with the holes in the roof, and play shinny for hours. 

Competitive hockey began for Lew, quite informally, at the age of eight or nine.  There were no organized leagues for these younger ages. 

When Lew reached the age of thirteen he joined the Pilot Mound Bantam Team where he was appointed captain.  Over the next two seasons, 1953-1955, this team went on to win two Provincial titles.  It was at this time that Lew was approached by Eddie Shore, who invited him to play for the Winnipeg Barons Junior Hockey Club, affiliated with the Boston Bruins.

Lew was sixteen when he headed to Winnipeg in 1956, playing his first year of Junior hockey with the St. Boniface Canadians and attending United College.  The following year the Winnipeg Braves Junior Club was formed and the new Winnipeg Arena would be the team’s home ice.  Lew`s next three seasons 1957-1960 were with The Winnipeg Braves Junior A Hockey Club, and he had the honour of being a part of this Memorial Cup Championship team in 1959.  This 1959 Winnipeg Braves team is the last Manitoba team to win the Memorial Cup.  The talent of the Braves was quickly noticed and some of the players went on to successful National Hockey League careers. 

In total, Lew played four years of Junior hockey in Winnipeg.  He was selected First Team All-Star Defenceman of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in 1960, and was captain of this Junior All-Star Team which played the Moscow Dynamos in Winnipeg that year. 

As amateurs, the players had to concentrate as much on making a living as they did on hockey, which for Lew meant employment with Ashdown’s Wholesale Hardware.

Few could match Lew’s enthusiasm for the game.  Returning home on the weekends, he would help out in the store on Saturdays, pick up exhibition games with local teams, and often drive out to Miami or Pilot Mound mid-week for evening games.

Winnipeg Tribune sports writer, Vince Leah, described Lew in one of his columns, ”Lew Mueller, the Quiet Man, about as conspicuous as an ink blot on a leopard and tougher to beat than a Russian passport inspector, hasn’t played a bad game since he was a bantam star around Manitou and we don’t think he played one then.”

During his last Junior season in 1960 and part of the following season, Lew played professionaly with the Winnipeg Warriors.  A quote by Winnipeg Braves coach, Bill Allum, posted in the Winnipeg Tribune, stated “Lew Mueller, who has joined the pro Warriors, is the toughest defenseman in the business to go around.  In the Memorial Cup final last spring we counted 24 occasions on which opposing forwards decided to try to beat Lew on his side specifically and failed to do it.”

During his career Lew came up against the Detroit Red Wings, the Boston Bruins and played opposite one of his greatest heroes, Gordie Howe.  But he rates the toughest team he has ever met as the Russian Team, made up of professional and Red Army players, which toured during the 1959-1960 season.

In 1961 Lew joined the Winnipeg Maroons in their quest for the Allan Cup which took them to the National final against Galt Terriers.  The following season, in 1962 Lew received an invite to the Detroit Red Wings training camp, but he made the decision to remain in Manitou.

For the next number of years, Lew played for teams from Manitou, Morden, and Miami in the South Central and South Eastern leagues.  In the late 1970’s, Lew, along with brother Walter and a number of players from surrounding towns formed the Pembina Valley Old Timers team that travelled coast to coast attending tournaments and winning many awards. 

In 1997, Lew reunited with his former teammates at a ceremony in Winnipeg where The Winnipeg Braves 1959 Hockey Club was inducted into The Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame.  The team was again honored in 2003 when they were inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

At 73, Lew is still playing hockey, and travels to play in tournaments with the Manitoba Old Buffalos, a team based out of Stonewall/Winnipeg.  Lew also looks forward to Monday night linament league scrimmages at the local Manitou arena.

Lew has seen a lot of changes in hockey over the years, some for the better, some he’s not so sure of.  But one thing is for sure…..Lew’s hockey career has left him with many fond memories, many incredible experiences and many life long friends. 

This award was created in 2009.

2009-10 Charles Bergstresser--Morris Mavericks
2010-11 Travis Dreger--Morris Mavericks
2011-12 Riley Thiessen--Morden Thunder
2012-13 Jayden Buchanan--CNMPM Tigers
2013-14 Kirby Bridges--CNMPM Tigers
2014-15 Trent Siemens--Morris Mavericks
2015-16 Jeremie Goderis--Prairie Mountain Mustangs
2016-17 Lucas Neufeld--Portage Collegiate Institute Trojans

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