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Jannetta saw his initial efforts as three-fold, a ‘thank you’ to his adopted country, to provide some fun for his closest friends in the West End and maybe keep a few wayward young countrymen “off the streets”. He began with just two teams, midnight ice time at Ravina Gardens (later George Bell Arena) with one rule – nobody would have to sit out.
Two more teams were quickly added, six in all by the late ‘70s. Though Jannetta eventually stopped playing, he fulfilled a dream of a select CIHL squad going to Italy in 1963, with help from ex-NHLers Lou Fontinato and Pete Babando. When the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association refused to sanction the visit after three years of fundraising, politicians such as Prime Minister John Diefenbaker (an Imperial Room regular) stepped in. While in Rome, Jannetta and another league backer, Alderman Joe Piccininni, met Pope Paul VI.
Fast forward to a Sunday morning in 1980. Jannetta was watching CFMT andfrustrated at the lack of variety of Italian programming. On a whim he called the station manager and offered to put his league games on the channel.
“Louie quickly lined up Steve Stavro (the Knob Hill Farms grocery magnate was then a Leafs director) and things fell into place with the newspapers and radio (Corriere Canadese and CHIN),” Della-Savia said. “Other Italian businesses came on as sponsors and Louis helped get TV lights put in at St. Mike’s.
“He re-named the six teams Abruzzo, Puglia,…
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