The legend lives on

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Bill Barilko is still big business, more than 50 years after the plane crash that killed the brash Maple Leafs' defenceman.

His famous 1951 Stanley Cup winning overtime goal is the most requested photo from the Hockey Hall Of Fame archives, there is a Bill Barilko Day planned in his hometown of Timmins next month and the Tragically Hip's tribute, Fifty Mission Cap, is among the band's most popular songs.

Now there's a new book on the legendary Leaf, Without A Trace, and during yesterday's launch at the Hall, it was announced that it will be made into a movie.

"It's Canadiana in every way," author Kevin Shea saidyesterday of the continuing Barilko allure. "It's got history, mystery, elation, family. It's got that whole Leaf (aura)

that each spring, the Leafs will win the Cup."

Publisher H.B. Fenn reached a deal with Canadian-born producer George Mendeluk, who has begun working on the script, casting and funding.

"It's the Buddy Holly Story of hockey," Mendeluk said.

"It's about an engaging, handsome young man, who died before his prime and what he could have been if he'd lived.


"It's going to have romance, art direction with a lot of fedoras, pin-striped suits and Sinatra (era-music)."

Shea's book, written in close consultation with Barilko's sister, Anne Klisanich, does not contain anything new about the tragedy of August 1951.

Anne and her late mother, Faye, did not want Barilko and family friend Dr. Henry Hudson to take the fateful fishing trip. The crash site took 11 years to reveal itself, during which the Leafs never won the Cup.

Lil Hurst, then a young teacher and boarder at the Barilko home, recalls how desperate Faye was for any hint of her missing son's fate.

"Before Bill died, I used to read tea leaves for her," said Hurst, now retired in Ancaster.

"It was all in fun, and whenever I knew she was planning to go to Toronto to see him play, I'd read a trip in the leaves.

"But after he disappeared, she came all the way to Kapuskasing (about 150 miles away) to have me read the leaves to find him. She had a lot of faith in me, but I was not psychic. I just tried to be understanding to her."

So many rumours surrounded Barilko's fate, that Faye and Anne learned not to get excited. Anne moved to London, where in 1962, she finally received confirmation from the Ministry of Forestry that the wreckage was located, with the remains of the missing men inside.

"It was hard time for my mother, who was put on sedatives, but I told her, 'at least now we know and we can rest in peace'," Klisanich said yesterday.