Sunday, July 19, 2015

THE HOCKEY BATTLES

"The main thing, I think, was that for years I had been talking to hockey players in military terms telling them what real soldiers were like, how much they would do for their team, how much they'd give, and how brave they had to be to survive." 
 - Conn Smythe commenting about deciding to join the military and fight in World War Two with the Maple Leaf players he encouraged to enlist.


Throughout the history of hockey the battles on the ice have been compared to military confrontations. As Conn Smythe's quote indicates, management often used the conditions facing a soldier fighting in a conflict between countries to motive their warriors on skates.

I came across a couple of newspaper photographs this week, which could easily be used as an example of a game situation being compared to a military procedure or manoeuvre.

A WOUNDED SOLDIER
A concerned Colonel stands over one of his wounded soldiers as the rest of the regiment forms a human wall to protect from a further invasion.

BUILDING A LINE OF DEFENCE
With the opposition outnumbered, the defence adapted a formation to protect their territory from being penetrated. Enough soldiers were back to handle the lone shooter and his comrade on the right flank.



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

BEHIND THE MICROPHONE WITH McFARLANE, BOWEN AND McDONALD


The June edition of 'Inside the Room', hosted by Mike Wilson (The Ultimate Leafs Fan), featured three popular broadcasters - Brian McFarlane, Joe Bowen and Jiggs McDonald - from the game of hockey.

Most of us are familiar with their work, taking into account the number of years we have watched and listened to them over the airways. After countless hours of broadcasting, they still get a gleam in their eye when recalling how they broke into the big leagues.

Here are their stories about getting that first-crack to move behind the microphone on the big stage.

~ ~ ~

Brian McFarlane, on going from CBS to joining Hockey Night in Canada...

"I got a job with CBRB in Toronto and that led to a job with CBS. I auditioned for Hockey Night in Canada. I did a great interview with King Clancy, but they told me I was too young and they hired Ward Cornell. That same week, CBS called and said we'd like a guy who can get on skates and go around the ice and do interviews. And that's how I broke into television, not with Hockey Night in Canada, but with CBS."

Later in time, McFarlane was hired by Hockey Night in Canada and after working behind the scenes he was ready for a new challenge.

" I asked, why don't you put me in the gondola with Bill Hewitt? I guess it didn't dawn on them that I might be a fit in there. I was there for the next 17-years."

Danielle Iverson (that PR thing Inc.) models Brian McFarlane's HNiC jacket, which everyone enjoyed seeing and trying on!

~ ~ ~
Joe Bowen, on a phone call he will never forget...

"My dream was to replace Johnny Bower and I failed miserably," Bowen said of his attempt to become a goalie with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Prior to becoming the voice of the Maple Leafs, Bowen was working for a radio station out east.

"Allan Davis called me one day from Toronto and told me Ron Hewat was going into radio sales and wouldn't be broadcasting Leaf games anymore. I had bought a house in Halifax where I was working at the time. I sent my resume in and a tape, but nothing happened over the summer."

Then, came the call Joe Bowen will never forget.

"One day after having done the morning sports run, I got a phone call from a gentleman named Len Bramson. He said, 'Joe, we've listened to your tape and we'd like to fly you in this weekend to do an exhibition game between the Leafs and Edmonton Oilers as an audition for the job'."

The kicker is, Bowen thought he was talking with Allan Davis.

"I said, Allan go bleep yourself and don't be yanking my chain! Then, there was a silence and I said, you're not Allan Davis. He said, 'no I'm Len Bramson and this is the first time anybody has told me to take my job and shove it up my bleep, before I even offered it'."

"Ten-minutes later, he called me back and told me that was one of the greatest audition telephone calls he ever had and offered me the job," Bowen recalled of how their telephone conversation ended.

"Thirty-three-years-ago I arrived in Toronto and we still haven't won a Stanley Cup."

~ ~ ~

Jiggs McDonald, on his first job interview with Los Angeles Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke...

"I'm going to tell a story here tonight that I've only told maybe four or five people at the very most," McDonald stated.

And with a line like that, he quickly got the attention of everyone.

" I had applied for the job in LA and got information back from Mr. Cooke. Everything was done in writing because telephone calls were too expensive. I still have a lot of the correspondence. They were down to five candidates and I was one of the final five. I was informed that Mr. Cooke was coming to Toronto and will be at the Royal York Hotel and he wanted to meet with me."

"It's Valentine's Day night," McDonald noted of his scheduled job interview with Cooke.

"I showed up and had to wait as Mr. Cooke was in a meeting. When the door opened and three gentlemen walked out," and McDonald was surprised as to the identity of one person in Cooke's party.

"Out of the room comes Jack Kent Cooke with Larry Regan, who had been hired as his general manager and Red Kelly."

Putting two-and-two together, it became obvious to McDonald that Red Kelly, who was still playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, wasn't meeting with Cooke and Regan to make dinner arrangements for them. He was certain the three were talking about Kelly working for the expansion Kings and his gut-feeling was correct.

"If you fast-forward to the expansion draft, the Leafs protected Red. A deal was supposedly done between LA and Toronto, but Stafford Smythe said, 'no, this isn't going to happen'. Then, all hell broke loose and you can't imagine what was going on at the LA Kings draft table."

McDonald, who landed the play-by-by job with Los Angeles, provided insight on what happened next.

"I had the responsibility of going over to the Leafs hotel and getting Mr. Imlach and Mr. Smythe into a cab and bringing them back to Mr. Cooke's suite. It was loud, it was long, it was profanity laced, but somehow they got it sorted out and Red Kelly became the Kings first coach."

~ ~ ~
Left to Right: Brian McFarlane, Joe Bowen, Mike Wilson and Jiggs McDonald

Three stories from three of the best, "Inside the Room".








Sunday, July 12, 2015

A FINAL FAREWELL TO WALLY STANOWSKI


On Thursday afternoon, family and friends of Wally Stanowski gathered together to say one final goodbye to "The Whirling Dervish"as a Memorial was held in the west end of Toronto. The event was organized by Wally's four children - Adair, Adrian, Skip and Craig.

Earlier in the week, Wally's life and hockey career was celebrated at the Oldtimers luncheon in Markham, Ontario. On Thursday, a number of the regulars who attend the monthly lunch, turned out to join the Stanowski family to remember Wally.

Upon entering the room where the Memorial was held, one could not avoid seeing a number of wonderful photographs, which showed Wally at various stages of his life. Below, are several examples of the pictures along with a couple taken at the Memorial.

Wally out and about. The bag he is carrying would indicate that he is about to go on a road trip.
.
Wally with some teammates. Pictured from left to right: Wally, Bucko McDonald, Pete Langelle and Bob Goldham.

These marvellous shots were taken in front of Maple Leaf Gardens. Pictured from left to right: Howie Meeker, Gus Bodnar, Bill Barilko and Jimmy Thomson.

Skip Stanowski, behind the microphone, introducing Paul Patskou, who made a wonderful video presentation covering Wally early in his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Wally's daughter, Adrian, spoke about her dad.

The St. Boniface Seals team photo, which was taken after they captured the 1938 Memorial Cup at Maple Leaf Gardens. 

Wally's oldest daughter, Adair told a very touching story about her dad. When Adair was a young girl, her mother and father gave her a doll ornament, which later broke into pieces. At that point, Wally went into action and painstakingly glued the ornament back together. This ornament was one of only a few personal items that Wally took with him when he moved from his house to a retirement home. Clearly, this item was very sentimental to Wally and meant a lot to him.

A very young Wally Stanowski.

Skip Stanowski and former Toronto Maple Leaf, Ron Hurst, sharing a moment. Ron spoke on behalf of the Oldtimers. He said a few words about Wally and told several jokes to the delight of those in attendance. I could picture Wally looking down from above and laughing then, leading the applause  following Ron's last joke. Adrain pointed out in her talk that Wally had two families - his wife Joyce and their four children and his second family, being his hockey family. Over the past week, there have been countless stories about how much the monthly Oldtimers lunch meant to Wally. 

Representing the Oldtimers lunch from left to right: Pete Conacher, Bob Tindall, and Lorraine & Al Shaw.

 Bob Beckett and Bob Nevin.

Left to Right: Gord Sammon, Jim Morrison and Ivan Irwin.

Left to Right: Betty & Gary Collins with Jerry Junkin.

Standing left to right: Bob Beckett, Jim Anderson and Gary Collins, with Jerry Junkin (sitting).

This final photo shows Wally and teammate Garth Boesch reading The Boston Daily Globe.


With his passing, Wally Stanowski has now joined the ultimate Oldtimers hockey team. I can imagine him pairing-up with his former partner on the Leafs defence, Bingo Kampman, and rushing the puck up ice to score a picture-perfect goal against Charlie Rayner. On his next shift, Wally finds a wide-open Sid Smith and dishes the puck off to the left winger, who beats Rayner for Toronto's second goal.

Upstairs, the game just goes on and on. And Joyce is in the stands watching Wally work his magic.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

MONDAY'S WITH WALLY


The first Oldtimers luncheon, since Wally Stanowski's passing, took place on Monday afternoon in Markham, Ontario.

At Wally's table, framed copies of newspaper articles covering his death, were positioned behind an unopened bottle of ale.

After lunch, several speakers were scheduled to talk about Wally and his career in the game of hockey.

Ron Hurst, recalled the first time he met Wally...

"I first met Wally when he was wearing a Sammy Taft hat. He was a famous hatter and his shop was next door to Shopsy's in Toronto. He took the time of day to speak to me when I was a junior."

Pete Conacher, remembered playing with Wally on the Oldtimers hockey team...

"After I finished playing hockey, I joined the Oldtimers and played 13 years with them. Wally and I drove in the same car to those games. It was an experience I will never forget. Wally was special. We had guys in the room like Ron Hurst, Bob Goldham, Jackie Hamilton, Ike Hildebrand and Sid Smith, but Wally was the leader, on and off the ice. He had a great career and was a great guy. We are going to miss him."

Ivan Irwin
Ivan Irwin, told a couple of wonderful stories about Wally, his friend and teammate.

The Boston story...

"Frank Brimsek got cut and at that time you only carried one goaltender. The Bruins had 10-minutes to get him stitched-up and back on the ice. With the break in the action, Hap Day turned to Wally and told him to get on the ice and warm-up. Wally had been parked on the Leaf bench since the beginning of the game. Wally skated around twice and was going to sit down, but Day told him to warm-up properly. Wally went back out and started skating. The organist in the corner started playing a waltz and Wally got into the stride of the waltz. He was coasting along and the Boston crowd started to clap for him. He started to do a bit of Sonja Henie with one leg up and skating backwards!"

On Wally's career-ending injury...

"Someone had thrown a coin on the ice and he skated right over it. Wally was a fast skater and he went into the boards. He put his foot right through the boards. After about three weeks, the team told him he could go home. Wally's car was in Cincinnati and it had a gear shift and clutch. He couldn't drive the car because his cast went all the way up his leg. I cut-off a Northland hockey stick and taped it to the clutch so he could shift gears. I thought he was going from Cincinnati to Toronto, but his wife was out in Vancouver. So, Wally drove all the way out to Vancouver and picked up his wife. While he was out there, Wally decided he might as well see San Francisco. He drove there and had trouble with the hills!"

"Wally was a character and he was a beautiful character. I have a lot of fine memories about him. He was a good one."

Paul Henry, a long-time friend of the Stanowski's, spoke about the family he has known since 1955.

"I met Wally in 1955, when I was 10 year-old boy. He gave me my first pair of tacks. He had quite an impact upon me as a young boy. He was an amazing creature of habit. He loved his Wednesday steam-baths and he loved his fishing trips."

"He had 4 kids, one every five years. They were pretty special children. Skip went on to be a winner with the St. Mike's junior 'B' team and won an All-Ontario championship. He was the MVP at Cornell University, when they won the national title in 1967. He was the MVP on a team anchored by goaltender Ken Dryden. Adair and Adrian are both great ladies, teachers and impact people in life. Craig was one of the very first Canadians to win a track and field scholarship at the University of Iowa. Joyce (Wally's late wife) was a dynamite lady and her home was like my second home."

"It will be a long time before we get over the loss of Wally. My deepest sympathies to the family. We have a lot good memories. I also have four children. The minute Wally used to come into our home every weekend, when he came fishing, he would want his love and kisses. And the kids wanted their potato pancakes!"

John Kovalcik, who was Wally's dentist, spoke about what the Stanowski family meant to him...

"I've had the good fortune of knowing Wally and his family for many years. Joyce always warmly welcomed me into the household and family. Wally shared stories and jokes and every single time we had a chance to spend time together was truly memorable. When I had the chance to think about Wally's passing, it was a shock to all of us, it literally took the wind out of the knees. I knew things were going to be different. Wally has now entered the Hall of Fame Of Life and I think we should all cherish the memories."

Skip Stanowski
The final speaker to make his way to the microphone was Wally's eldest son, Skip Stanowski. His talk was uplifting, but also pulled at the heartstrings.

"This is not a time for tears," Skip began, setting the tone for his talk. "It is time for laughter, joy and to remember."

Then, he touched on what the monthly luncheon meant to Wally.

"My father loved this place. He loved coming here. He loved everyone who was associated with this event. He lived to come here. If he was still alive today, I would take him out of St. Joe's (St. Joseph's Hospital) on a gurney and get him here on IV and he would be happy."

Skip revealed that it wasn't necessarily the game of hockey that motivated his dad to return month after month.

"It wasn't the hockey thing that he thought of, it was the people. He just loved to talk to old friends and new friends."

A blanket of silence covered every inch of the room when Skip talked about Wally's last day on this earth.

"We had a super visit on his last day which was Sunday (June 28). He was lying in bed and he couldn't speak, but he could hear. I said to him, you're not going to make the next luncheon. He kind of nodded and I said, I'm not going to see you anymore. His eyes popped open and he knew he was going to go. He was in a lot of pain, but it didn't last long. He knew when his time was up. If he could have been here today, he would have, but he is here in spirit."

In closing, Skip saluted Al Shaw for his work in keeping Wally's beloved Oldtimers lunch going from year-to-year.

"To Al Shaw, who has done an unbelievable job with this organization, I want to express my appreciation for all the things you've done for my dad. It's not the time for tears, but to tell funny stories and keep the thing going."

Before Al Shaw brought the curtain down on the tribute to Wally Stanowski, he had this last message for his good friend.

"Do me a favour Wally, keep your stick on the ice and we'll see you again up there soon."








Monday, June 29, 2015

REMEMBERING WALLY STANOWSKI: 1919-2015



One of the great pleasures of spending time with Wally Stanowski came when he told a good ole fashion hockey story.

Like this one about when he arrived in Toronto to face the Oshawa Generals at Maple Leaf Gardens to determine the 1938 Memorial Cup champion.

"That was with St. Boniface," Stanowski told me back in February 2012. "It was terrible the first time. Artificial ice is a hell of a lot slower than natural," which Stanowski skated on in his hometown. "Our first practice at the Gardens, if you threw a pass to your teammate it wouldn't get there because the puck was slow. It took a while to get adjusted."

Then, Stanowski got to the meat of the story.

"It kind of surprised me," Stanowski said after informing his visitor of a bribe letter he received at his downtown Toronto hotel room between Memorial Cup games. "I was supposed to skate behind the net and pretend I was lacing my skate, which meant I'm going to go along with it."

After thinking the situation over, Stanowski, then an 18 year-old kid, knew he had to do the right thing.

"I gave the letter to my manager," Stanowski stated 73 years later. "I was going to do it as a gag, but I didn't just in case we lost."

And what compensation were the gangsters promising Stanowski for his co-operation?

"They offered me $100," he replied without a hint of regret that he didn't sell-out. His reward came when the St. Boniface Seals won Canada's junior title.

On June 28, 2015, hockey lost one of its oldest storytellers when Wally Stanowski passed away at the age of 96.

I first met Wally Stanowski when I began attending the hockey oldtimers lunch in Markham, Ontario. Over time, I interviewed him on numerous occasions for my blog and other projects I was working on.

Despite his advanced age, Stanowski's memory remained intact as he remembered the past.

Walter Peter Stanowski was born on April 28, 1919, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

"My dad was a blacksmith and mother didn't work," Stanowski stated in a lengthy interview I conducted for The Society for International Research in June 2014.

"My mother bought me a pair of skates for $2.95 and they were brand new," Stanowski recalled of his opportunity to ditch the lady blades he had been wearing. "They were size 9 and at that time I was wearing size 5, but I was suppose to grow into them," he said with a chuckle. "That is how tight money was in those days."

Due to the turbulent financial times in the 1920's, Stanowski's dad had doubts about hockey as a career for his son.

"My dad didn't want me to play hockey. He wanted me to be a blacksmith. He used to do some welding and repair all the wagons with wooden spokes. He made carts for the farmers as he was pretty good with his hands."

When asked if he played organized or pond hockey as a youth, Stanowski answer was one that many generations could relate to.

"We had quite a few open-air rinks in Winnipeg. They also built a cabin at the rink. The boards were about two-and-half feet high and the rest was snow, which we cleaned off before playing shinny."

While strutting his stuff on the outdoor rink, little Wally Stanowski's favourite hockey player was Boston's Eddie Shore. "He was an all-round type of player," Stanowski said of Shore's ability to execute at both ends of the ice.

Before becoming a teenager, Stanowski's first taste of organized hockey came in a playground league. "We played another outdoor rink team. There must have been 10 more more of those outdoor rinks."

While in junior with St. Boniface, the New York Americans added his name to their negotiation list.

"I attended their training camp at Calgary in 1938. I remember being told to slow down that I already made the team and I had nothing to prove."

There was a reason the New York Americans didn't want Stanowski displaying his "A" game at camp. "I didn't know they made a deal with Toronto," Stanowski said of the agreement between the two clubs. "Toronto had the rights to pick any player from the camp. That's why they told me not to skate so hard and take it easy. That's how I became a Leaf."

After winning the Memorial Cup, Stanowski turned pro with Toronto and spent the 1938-39 season in the American Hockey League with  Syracuse.

He joined the Maple Leafs defence in 1939-40. His first coach in Toronto was Dick Irvin, who was behind the Maple Leafs bench in 1932, when they captured the Stanley Cup in their first year at Maple Leaf Gardens.

"He was a bad coach," Stanowski said of his new mentor. "He didn't teach me a thing. I thought here I'll learn something, but no."

In 1940-41, Hap Day, a former Leaf defenceman took over the coaching duties in Toronto. "Hap was very good. He got instructions from Smythe, but he did a lot of good things on his own."

His partner on Toronto's blue line was Bingo Kampman, with Stanowski being the take-charge guy.

"I was the one with the Leafs that if a puck came into our zone and I could get hold of it, they couldn't stop me from getting it out of our zone.

Stanowski's ability to effortlessly skate up ice and participate on offence, then motor back to attend to his defensive responsibilities was the greatest asset of his game.

"I would say as far as skating is concerned, in my opinion, Stanowski was the fastest skater," Boston Bruins legend Milt Schmidt told me in 2012, when I asked him to name the top speedster on Toronto's defence in the 1940's.

No one would argue with Schmidt's appraisal of Stanowski.

And that included Conn Smythe. On October 18, 1939, he described Stanowski's style of play to a local reporter.

"He plays defence as though he was swivelled at the hips. He skates sweepingly with legs spread out. You can rock him but he is harder to knock down than Joe Lewis," Smythe said of his rookie rearguard.

Under new coach, Hap Day, Stanowski's game flourished in his second  term in Toronto. He earned a spot on the 1941First All-Star Team, joining Boston's Dit Clapper. This achievement was one of Stanowski's fondest memories.

In season three, Stanowski and his teammates reached hockey's tallest mountain. As a result of winning the 1942 Stanley Cup, Stanowski and the other Maple Leafs remain a part of hockey history. Unable to gain a win in the first 3 games against Detroit, the Leafs took the next 4 contests and remain as the only club to accomplish this feat in the Stanley Cup Final.

Like many players from that era, Stanowski's NHL time was interrupted due to World War Two. He returned to Winnipeg along with his friend and fellow Leaf, Pete Langelle, and served as physical fitness instructor in the RCAF. While in the service, Stanowski skated for the RCAF Bombers.

Upon being discharged, Stanowski returned to the Maple Leafs and added three more Stanley Cups - 1945, 1947 and 1948 - to his trophy case.

His Stanley Cup in '48 was bittersweet, as it marked the end to his wearing the Blue & White.

The background on his escape from the Maple Leafs and Conn Smythe is another delightful story that can only be told by Stanowski.

Decked out in a comfortable blue plaid shirt and with a stream of smoke billowing from the bowl of his pipe, Stanowski sat back in his chair during one of my visits and told me about his trade to the New York Rangers in June of 1948.

"That year they didn't play me and I thought I've got to go to a team where I can play."

To accomplish this, Stanowski knew he would have to be proactive in getting the ball rolling.

"I told a Toronto reporter of my intention to quit hockey and go into business on my own. He was the only one I told. My wife didn't even know."

Like a hunter who sets a trap, Stanowski took cover and waited for his trap to work.

"I knew the reporter would take that information up to Smythe. He was a tattletale and he would get a favour from Smythe."

As the story goes, the reporter did go to Smythe with the information and shortly thereafter, Stanowski was traded to the New York Rangers. This transaction only occurred after Stanowski talked with Frank Boucher, who ran the Rangers.

"I understand you are going to quit," Boucher said to Stanowski.

"I have no intention of quitting," Stanowski told his future employer.

Secure in the knowledge he had a commitment from Stanowski, the Rangers manager made the deal with Smythe.

Aware that he could lose one of his assets without getting a return, Smythe took the bait planted by Stanowski. He wasn't going to call Stanowski's bluff.

In New York, Stanowski played a full season in 1948-49, but he wasn't so lucky for the balance of his time in Manhattan.

When the Rangers came to Toronto for a contest on January 21, 1950, their coach, Lynn Patrick, commented on the impact injuries were having on his club.

"Injuries, especially the one to Wally Stanowski. That one really hurt. Wally was the key man in our defence in front of Rayner. To make matters worse, we don't know how long he will be out."

A knee problem kept Stanowski on the sidelines for an extended period of time, and he only saw action in 37 contests during the 1949-50 campaign.

At training camp preparing for the 1950-51 season. Stanowski suffered an ankle injury, which hampered him from getting into game shape.

"He missed six or seven games early in the season and with six defencemen hasn't had much chance to play himself into condition," Frank Boucher said of Stanowski's slow start.

But the worst and final injury of Wally Stanowski's hockey career came on December 23, 1951.

The career-ending mishap took place during an encounter between the Cincinnati Mohawks and Indianapolis Caps. An American Hockey League farm team of the Rangers, Stanowski was assigned to Cincinnati to begin the 1950-51 hockey year.

The Mohawks and Caps were locked in a 3-3 tie after sixty-minutes of play and went to overtime. But 47-seconds into the overtime period, Stanowski's skates got tangled with the boards and he broke his left leg. That would be Wally Stanowski's last game as a professional hockey player.

In his retirement, Stanowski continued to lace-up his skates and play hockey for the NHL-Toronto Oldtimers. Billed as "The Whirling Dervish" due to his flamboyant skating style, Stanowski continued to entertain crowds with his moves.

I last spoke with Wally Stanowski prior to the Chicago-Tampa Bay Stanley Cup Final and I asked him which club had the best chance of being crowned hockey's new champion.  Needing no time to ponder his answer, Stanowski quickly told me Chicago would emerge victorious, the old pro demonstrating he still kept in touch with the game and could spot a winner.

The lunches on the first Monday of each month won't be the same now that Wally is gone. As the oldest living former Toronto Maple Leaf, he was the elder statesman of the group.

Similar to a hockey dressing room, Wally had his usual spot in the restaurant. When someone called attention to him, all eyes knew exactly where to turn to find Wally. That will no longer be the case, but we will have his rich and wonderful stories to remember him by.
















JIMMY MORRISON - CALENDAR BOY

As we edge towards the backside of June, it will be just a matter of time before I flip the page on my Hockey Heroes (Hockey Hall of Fame Collection) 2015 Calendar.

This month featured  a wonderful shot of Toronto Maple Leaf defenceman, Jimmy Morrison, battling two Chicago Black Hawk players for the puck.


As the calendar photograph (above) reveals, Morrison is engaged with George 'Red' Sullivan, as the two men lock/cross sticks in an effort to gain control of the rubber. While this is going on, Bill Mosienko (HHOF class of 1965) applies the lumber to Morrison's back. Looking on are Chicago's Harry Watson (HHOF class of 1994) and Toronto's Parker MacDonald.


At the Oldtimers lunch on the first of June, I couldn't resist snapping the above picture of Jimmy holding the calendar. Although not a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Jimmy Morrison was inducted into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame in late January of 2013.

Bill Mosienko played his entire National Hockey League career with the Chicago Black Hawks. A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, he skated on Chicago's famous 'Pony Line' along with Max Bentley and his brother Doug Bentley.



One of the highlights of Mosienko's career came on March 23, 1952, when he set a National Hockey League record for the fastest three goals. In a contest at New York's Madison Square Garden, Mosienko beat Rangers goalie, Lorne Anderson, who was called-up from the New York Rovers, for three goals in 21-seconds.

Harry Watson's finest year, statically, came in 1948-49. During the regular season (60 games), Watson produced 26 goals and added 19 assists for 45 points. Of the 26 goals he scored, one stands out above the others.

On March 5, 1949, at Maple Leaf Gardens, Watson connected for 2 goals against New York Rangers netminder Chuck Rayner. His second of the game, just past the 10-minute mark of the third period, was Watson's 100th NHL goal.

Jim Vipond, writing in The Globe and Mail, described Watson's 100th:

 Watson had the play all to himself, stealing the puck from a Ranger defenseman's {sic} stick and waltzing in on an exasperated Rayner.

Vipond may have decided to use 'exasperated' due to the fact Toronto defeated New York 7-1. Obviously, Rayner didn't receive much support from his teammates.

Harry Watson looking over his 100-goal puck

In addition to the Maple Leafs, Watson skated for the Brooklyn Americans, Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Black Hawks.

Watson's last National Hockey League campaign was in 1967-57 with Chicago. At the end of his career he had amassed 236 goals in 809 league games.





Friday, June 26, 2015

GRETZKY to McDAVID

As we head into the National Hockey League Draft tonight in Florida, all eyes will be on Connor McDavid. Projected to be the first overall selection by the Edmonton Oilers, McDavid's arrival in Edmonton will be the most anticipated by a hockey player since Wayne Gretzky joined them in 1978.

On June 8, 2015, while in Toronto to attend a charity event, Gretzky spoke about McDavid during a media scrum.

"Hockey is an amazing sport because when Gordie Howe retired everyone said, well what's going to happen to the game," Gretzky remarked concerning the impact of an icon leaving the scene. "When Wayne Gretzky retired the same question (was asked)."

"We just seem to have all these great people coming along," Number 99 noted about hockey's succession process when it comes to future superstars.

On McDavid going to his former hockey home, Gretzky stated, "Connor is a nice young man and everything I've seen of him and read, he's going to absolutely love Edmonton. The people in Edmonton are going to treat him with kid-gloves and be patient."

Commenting on what awaits the most prized asset in the class of 2015, Gretzky said, "It's a big step for him to go from junior hockey to the NHL. I got a little bit lucky as I went from junior hockey to the WHA."

Gretzky left little doubt that all the praise being heaped upon McDavid as hockey's 'Next One' is justified. "I think Connor McDavid is the best player we've seen since Lemieux and Crosby. I think he is going to have a great career in Edmonton."

Did he get the chance to watch the draft lottery live when Edmonton won the top selection?

"We watched it live," Gretzky told the assembled media. "I told my wife we had to watch it, but she said, 'why do we have to watch it, Edmonton's going to get the pick.' She predicted it, not me."

Later, during a panel discussion, Gretzky once again touched on the aspect of new young talent coming up to replace the giants of the sport when they hang up their skates for good.

"Well, the kids come along like Crosby to Stamkos and Toews,"Gretzky said echoing his previous comments on this subject.

And there is no better example of this than Gretzky himself. Back on November 2, 1978, when he was dealt from Indianapolis to the Edmonton Oilers in a transaction between the two WHA clubs, a hockey legend was making his exit from the game.


On November 1, 1978, the day before Wayne Gretzky was shipped to Edmonton, Bobby Hull announced his retirement as a player with the WHA Winnipeg Jets.

Prior to jumping to the World Hockey Association in the summer of 1972, Hull was an NHL superstar with Chicago. In 1961, his name was engraved on the Stanley Cup and in two subsequent seasons Hull was named the winner of the Hart Trophy (NHL-MVP).

While the door closed on 'The Golden Jets' brilliant career, a key was turned on another to welcome 'The Great One.'

In his first year of pro hockey, Gretzky had only 8 games under his belt with the Indianapolis Racers prior to his move to Edmonton. The following campaign, Gretzky was in the National Hockey League as the Oilers were part of the NHL-WHA merger. The merger also resulted in Hull briefly returning to the ice to play 27 games for Winnipeg and Hartford in '79-'80.

By this time, the guard had changed and Gretzky represented the games future.


As Connor McDavid looks forward to life in the National Hockey League, I wondered if Gretzky had an itch to get back into the game in some capacity.

"No, but listen, everything I have in my life is due to hockey," Gretzky answered in response to my question asked during his press availability. "I have enough going on in my life right now."

Included in this mix was a planned trip to last weekends U.S. Open, one of golf's elite tournaments.

"We're going to the U.S. Open next week with our grandson and hopefully, our son-in-law does well,"    Gretzky noted of his future plans.

Gretzky's son-in-law, Dustin Johnson, was in contention for his first win of a major, but his putter let him down on the final hole during Sunday's last round.

Tonight and over much of this weekend, it will be Connor McDavid's turn in the spotlight. And I'm sure we will hear Wayne Gretzky's name mentioned a few times.