Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's That Time of Year, Again!

The tradition continues with the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.

For details on all the Stanley Cup champions during the Original Six era, go to the left panel and scroll down to Original Six Champions 1943 to 1949/1950 to 1955/1956 to 1967.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Jack Stoddard: 1926-2014

"At an early age, hockey became an important part of his life and extended over a thirty year period from the minor leagues through the NHL."
~Passage from Jack Stoddard's obituary~
Jack Stoddard, who passed away on January 29, 2014, began his hockey journey in the early 1940s playing junior at Stratford and Hamilton.
 During his second OHA season, Stoddard signed a tryout form with Providence on March 14, 1944. The big right-winger was scouted by Johnny Mitchell and the tryout form is the first registered document filed with the National Hockey League containing Stoddard's name.
 Before making his way to Providence, Stoddard remained in Hamilton, spending one year in senior hockey and another in junior.
 In 1946-47, he joined the EAHL Baltimore Clippers and demonstrated his ability to deposit the puck into the net. In 53 contests, Stoddard connected for 22 goals and 19 assists.
 The following campaign, Stoddard moved up to the American Hockey League and earned a spot on the Providence Reds roster.
 As a rookie in Providence, his offensive numbers dropped, but his enthusiasm didn't wane. And there is no better example of this than when his team found themselves in a jam late in the '47-'48 season.
 In March 1948, Providence goalie, Harvey Bennett, suffered an injury which prevented him from carrying out his duties. To make matters worse, the Reds didn't have another goalie to take Bennett's place. Recognising his team was in a bind, Stoddard volunteered to go between the pipes.
According to statistics published by the Society for International Hockey Research, Stoddard's new assignment lasted for 3 games. His goals-against-average was 8.67. A summary in The Hockey News from one game where he donned the pads observed, "Stoddard, a winger and centre by trade, did all that was expected of him."
In one clash while occupying the crease, he went head-to-head against a future Hall of Fame goalie by the name of Johnny Bower. As anticipated, Bower held a huge advantage over his opponent. Bower's Cleveland Barons pumped 8 pucks behind Stoddard. At the other end, Providence managed to put 3 past Bower.

In his sophomore year, Stoddard regained his scoring touch, potting 25 goals and 28 assists. He added 4 more tallies in the playoffs and helped Providence capture the 1949 Calder Cup.

Over the next two terms, Stoddard increased his goal production, hitting the twine for 32 in 1949-50 and 37 in '50-'51.

Stoddard's size - six-three / 185 - and reputation as a sniper didn't go unnoticed.

On New Year's Eve 1951, the New York Rangers made a deal with Providence to obtain Stoddard's services. "Rangers get wingman in trade with the Providence Reds" announced a headline in the January 1, 1952, edition of The New York Times. Going the other way in the transaction were forwards Zellio Toppazzini and Jean Paul Denis, along with defenceman Pat Eagan

Stoddard departed Providence as the AHL leading scorer with 20 goals and 28 assists in 34 encounters.

"What I like most about him is his all-round ability," said Rangers GM Frank Boucher of his new acquisition. "Although he's awfully tall, he isn't ungainly. He's strong and he's coordinated, he's a strong skater, a fine combination player and a real good goal scorer."

On the New York Rangers website, Stoddard's bio states he made his Rangers debut on January 2, 1952. However, there is evidence he played the previous night on the road before making his first appearance on Broadway.

"New York showed a new forward, Jack Stoddard," wrote Joesph C. Nichols in The New York Times after Stoddard's first game at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday January 2, 1952. "He played on a line with Laprade (Edgar) and Reg Sinclair, and gave a good performance despite a foot injury suffered in the Rangers' game against Boston on Tuesday night." The latter giving credence to the possibility Stoddard first wore a Rangers uniform on January 1st at Boston Garden.

With several NHL games under his belt, Stoddard took centre stage in a Sunday night tilt against Chicago on January 6, 1952. Trailing the Black Hawks 2-1, Ed Slowinski evened the score at two goals apiece early in the final frame when his shot found the back of the net behind Harry Lumley.

Stoddard sent 11,654 fans home happy when he scored his first National Hockey League goal, the game-winner, in a 3-2 victory. " Laprade passed the rubber to Stoddard who scored from the right alley in 9:37," is how The New York Times described Stoddard's first marker in the big-show.

In his first 20 games with New York, Stoddard registered 4 goals, 2 assists and was assessed one minor penalty. His season came to an end after he suffered a fractured right wrist in practice on February 26, 1952. "Stoddard suffered the injury when he jammed into defenceman Jim Ross after getting rid of a pass," wrote Dana Mozley in The Hockey News.

A new season brought a clean slate. "As for Stoddard, I never doubted his ability," stated Frank Boucher. "He just had to learn there's a difference between playing in the minors and the National Hockey League. He wasn't throwing his weight around. Now he is. With his size and his fine shot, he should be a big scorer for us."

Jack Stoddard dressed for all 60 games in New York's 1952-53 schedule. Mostly skating on a defensive unit with Nick Mickoski and Eddie Kullman, Stoddard netted 12 goals and 13 assists for 35 points.

There weren't too many highlights for the '52-'53 Rangers, but one game does stand out. At home versus the Montreal Canadiens on January 11, 1953, New York blanked Montreal 7-0. The victory gave goalie Lorne "Gump" Worsley his first NHL shutout and Jack Stoddard chipped in with 2 goals.

As expected when a team settles at the bottom of the league standings, changes are made. And that is exactly what happened in Manhattan after the '52-'53 season.

When the next hockey year got underway, Stoddard found himself back in the AHL. The Rangers brass decided to tweak their right side and purchased winger Ike Hildebrand from Cleveland. In return, Stoddard was loaned to the Barons.

Stoddard's participated in his final National Hockey League game on March 22, 1953. He earned an assist on a goal by defenceman Allan Stanley. "Stoddard set up the play with a slick bit of stickhandling just inside the Chicago blue line," wrote William J. Briordy in The Times.

In his new surroundings, Stoddard scored 23 goals for Cleveland. The Barons went on to win the 1954 Calder Cup by upsetting Buffalo in the first round, then disposing of Hershey in the final. With several ex- New York castoffs leading the way for Jim Hendy's championship team, the following quote from an unidentified individual appeared in The Hockey News, "The Cleveland Barons are the only team with a farm club in the NHL."

A trade in the off-season sent Stoddard back home to Providence to close out his AHL run in 1954-55. The Reds purchased Stoddard and Ray Ceresino from Cleveland. "The return of Stoddard comes as good news to hockey fans," noted one scribe in reference to Stoddard's previous success in Providence.

From 1955-56 to 1961-62, Stoddard mostly played senior level hockey. His crowning achievement came when the Chatham Maroons won the Allan Cup in 1960.

Besides his adventure guarding the Providence net, two other quirky facts need to be addressed when writing a piece about Jack Stoddard.

First, there is his nickname - Jack "The Octopus" Stoddard. He was tagged with this because of his long reach. "No matter where you hit Stoddard, you always wind up getting his elbow in the eye," one of Stoddard's rivals told The Hockey News in 1952.

Then, there is the number he wore on the back of his sweater - 13. Usually considered unlucky and seldom used, there was no hesitation in letting Stoddard wear the number when he arrived in the Big Apple. "If Jack wants 13, we'll give it to him," declared Frank Boucher.

John Edward Stoddard was born on September 26, 1926, in Stoney Creek, Ontario. He passed away in his 88th year in Owen Sound, Ontario.

*Revised, April 4, 2014


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bob Beckett: Highlights From the Past

On March 3, 2014, I conducted my second talk at the NHL Oldtimers lunch. In the spotlight was former Boston Bruin forward Bob Beckett.

Monday March 3, 2014
Markham, Ontario

Bob Beckett's first step up the hockey ladder came when he played pee-wee in the Agincourt Minor Hockey League. Also, Bob played in the Big Six Junior Hockey League for Agincourt and two of his teammates were Mike Nykoluk and Bobby Baun.

At the age of 17, he joined the Jr. "B" Scarborough Rangers.

The following year, Bob graduated to Jr. "A" and performed for the Galt Black Hawks. Bob's time in Galt was limited to one season due to the team folding.

His next stop was in Barrie, under legendary Flyers coach, Hap Emms. He was the first of three tough taskmasters Bob played for in his career.

With Bob on the ice and Emms behind the bench, Barrie advanced to the 1955-56 OHA final by beating St. Mike's. Their opponent in the final, however, was the powerful Toronto Marlboros. Their line-up included Bob Pulford, Bob Nevin, Carl Brewer, Bobby Baun, Gord Haughton and Gary Collins.

In game four, Bob led his team to their only victory against the Marlboros. He scored twice in Barrie's 4-2 win. In 17 playoff games, Bob scored 14 goals and added 8 assists.

Bob's rights were owned by the Boston Bruins and while still in junior, Bruins GM, Lynn Patrick, was asked to comment on prospects in Boston's system. He said, "I like Bob Beckett. He does a lot of work."

Like most Ontario born players who showed promise, Bob didn't escape the watchful eye of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Quoting Bob, "I was actually scouted by Bob Davidson in Toronto. I was playing bantam and he invited me to come down and practice with the Marlies. My brother took me down and we were late. I can remember the Marlies already being on the ice. They were all big guys. I said to my brother 'take me home, I'm not going out there.' So we went home. Later Baldy Cotton, who worked for Boston, scouted me and followed me in junior."

Bob's performance in the post-season against St.Mike's and the Marlboros resulted in his hockey year being extended by one game. He made a trip to Hershey to play a single contest with the AHL Bears. In Hershey, his coach was Murray Henderson and one of his teammates went on to make a name for himself in television,  Don Cherry.

Bob began his first full year as a professional in 1956-57, playing for the Victoria Cougars and Quebec Aces. In Quebec, Bob was coached by another tough mentor, Punch Imlach.

On December 20, 1956, the Bruins Vic Stasiuk suffered an injury during a contest against Detroit. This opened the door for Bob to earn a promotion to the National Hockey League.

Then, on February 7, 1957, Boston's Jerry Toppazzini had his nose reshaped by Ted Lindsay's stick. Once again, Bob got the call to join the Boston Bruins. On February 10th, versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bob registered his first NHL point, an assist, on a goal by Fleming MacKell. Also, that season, he helped the Quebec Aces win the Edinburgh Trophy over the Brandon Bengals.

From 1957-58, Bob played most of his hockey in the American Hockey League, which included a stint under Phil Watson. His third venture skating for a demanding, no nonsense coach.

Bob Beckett's first NHL goal came on November 2, 1961, when he beat Montreal goalie Jacques Plante. Overall, Bob appeared in 68 NHL games, all with the Boston Bruins, and scored 7 goals and 6 assists.

His final campaign was in 1963-64 with Providence and Boston.

He went on to play with the NHL Oldtimers and had a chance to skate alongside many former players in this room.

In this photo from The Star Weekly of March 10, 1962, Bob is clearly at a disadvantage as he battles Leaf defenceman Carl Brewer. Still, Bob's intensity is shown on his face as he keeps focused on the puck, and more importantly, he keeps both hands on his stick - way to go Bob!

Thank you.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Jerry Junkin: Highlights from the Past

At the request of event organizer, Al Shaw, I began a series of talks this month honouring the players and other dedicated individuals, who attend the NHL Oldtimers Lunch. The person profiled to kick things off was Jerry Junkin.

Below is a transcript of my speech and a Q&A session with Jerry.

Markham, Ontario
February 3, 2014

Often, when doing research, it can become frustrating when you hit a brick wall. At times, it goes no further than the statistical information for a player. When delving into Jerry Junkin's past, I thought I could go no further than the data available on fact sheets.

Then, I hit pay dirt when I discovered a Toronto Daily Star article published on June 3,1944, 70 years-ago this upcoming spring. The headline screamed out to me - it read "HIGHLIGHTS IN LIFE AND TIMES OF JERRY JUNKIN".

The piece begins by mentioning Jerry's time as a young lad running errands and doing chores for former Maple Leaf star Harvey "Busher" Jackson, who played on Toronto's famous Kid Line with Joe Primeau and Pete's Dad Charlie Conacher. Jackson's cottage was in Bobcageon, Ontario, which is Jerry's hometown.

While skating with the Birch Cliff Juveniles of the Toronto Hockey League, Jerry's play caught the eye of NHL scout "Baldy" Cotton, another ex-Leaf standout, who won the Stanley Cup in Toronto's first season at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931-32. By all accounts, Cotton was impressed with the hustle Jerry showed in each and every shift on the right-wing.

In 1943-44, Jerry began the year in junior with the Toronto Marlboros, but was summoned, on the recommendation of Cotton, by the EAHL Boston Olympics at mid-season. In 9 contests, Jerry collected 6 goals and 6 assists.

When his season came to a close, Jerry didn't forget Cotton for being in his corner. During his travels, he bought Cotton a gift to show his appreciation.

Cotton's comments after receiving the youngsters expression of gratitude provides insight into Jerry Junkin the hockey player and person. Cotton told the Star reporter this about Jerry. "He's only 19 and may never be a major leaguer, but he brings me back 50 great cigars from out west, so he's tops in my book."

Jerry may have never made it to the big show, but it didn't stop him from picking up a stick and jumping over the boards.

Before closing the book on competitive hockey, he signed on with the Hollywood Wolves and ventured out to California to dazzle crowds during the 1944-45 Pacific Coast Hockey League schedule. Jerry demonstrated his skills on offence by registering 21 points in 17 outings.

Upon returning to Canada, he captured several championships in the THL's Major Commercial League between 1945-46 and his final term in 1949-50 with the Toronto Staffords.

Game Two of the 1947 Toronto Hockey League championship round is an example of Jerry's ability to score and stick his nose into the action. At that time, he was in his first year with the Toronto Barkers. The game story in The Toronto Telegram sums up Jerry's talent and determination to tackle all challenges, no matter how big they were,  when he took to the ice. A portion of the text notes, "Jerry not only performed the three-goal hat trick for his team, but was the instigator of one of the wildest free-for-all scraps seen at the U of T rink this winter." It goes on to provide an explanation for the fireworks. "Junkin started it all when he swung at big John Knipfel...during a faceoff."

Clearly, Jerry would have no difficulty fitting in on a present day team managed by Brian Burke.

One quote from the Toronto Daily Star article in 1944, really drives home Jerry's positive attitude and what the game of hockey meant to him. First, the reporter set the scene. "Rooming with Art Jackson at the Manger Hotel, Jerry would wake up in the morning, stretch, and reflect loud." Then came Jerry's wonderful appraisal of the situation he found himself in at the start of each new day while employed by the Boston Olympics. "What a life! Nothing to do but play hockey. Sure is a swell way to make a living. How long has this been going on?"

Through the years, Jerry never lost his enthusiasm for our great sport and in many ways is a classic example of someone who played for the love of the game.

Next month, Jerry will turn 89 and we all wish him good health and many more years watching the game which filled his life with enormous joy and memories.

Thank you.

Jerry Junkin (2014)

Q&A with Jerry Junkin...

When you were a youngster, who was your favourite NHL player?

Jerry Junkin: "Harvey 'Busher' Jackson. He used to come to Bobcageon where his cottage was located. I got to know him and he used to take me around in his car. He was a real good hockey player. I remember him playing with Primeau and Conacher."

Did you try to play like him?

Jerry Junkin: "I tried to be speedy like him, which I thought I was, but I wasn't as good a goal scorer as Harvey. I always enjoyed how Harvey played on Saturday nights."

Did you gather around the radio to listen to Foster Hewitt on Hockey Night in Canada?

Jerry Junkin: "We use to gather around the stove in the hardware store in Bobcageon. A bunch of us kids would listen to the game and be real happy about it."

Did Foster Hewitt paint a picture of how fast 'Busher' Jackson was?

Jerry Junkin: "He sure did. 'Busher' was always in a lot of plays that went on with him, Primeau and Conacher."

You played with a future Hockey Hall of Fame defenceman, Allan Stanley, during your time with the Boston Olympics - can you describe the type of player he was in the early stages of his career?

Jerry Junkin: "Allan was a very clever player. He could always take the wingers out and move them into the corner. He could check them hard. Allan was the type of person that would never get upset or hurt anybody. He played the game clean and he was an excellent player with the Boston Olympics. He had no problems moving the puck up to the forwards. I knew Allan was going to make the NHL. Also, Fernie Flaman was there and I knew he would make it to the National Hockey League."

In the February 15, 1947, edition of The Toronto Telegram, there is a photo of you and the caption states 'Speedy Winger'. The text below describes you as a 'fast-skating winger'. Like 'Busher' Jackson, did speed become your greatest asset?

Jerry Junkin (1947) - "Speedy Winger"

Jerry Junkin: "Yes, I always wanted to be a fast player. I wanted to get the puck. I could cut in on the goal and score. They use to feed me the puck a lot. Speed was the best part of my game and that is why 'Baldy' Cotton picked me up."

What was the highlight of your career?

Jerry Junkin: "The highlight of my career was playing on so many teams and having so many good coaches. Also, leaving home when I was only 16 to play hockey in Toronto. Hockey was something I always wanted to play. I trained hard all the time."

*The above interview has been condensed and edited

Monday, January 20, 2014

Seeing Stars

There are certain memories a hockey fan will never forget.

Most of us can remember key games our favourite team participated in and were over-the-moon if they involved a Stanley Cup championship.

One hockey event I enjoyed seeing each year was the NHL All-Star Game. Growing up in an era when the National Hockey League received limited television exposure, the All-Star contest was a welcomed addition.

In my memory bank, thoughts emerge from viewing All-Star clashes after the league expanded in 1967-68. As I recall, the games always occurred in mid January and were scheduled for a weeknight. This led to intense negotiations concerning my bedtime. A little give-and-take ultimately resulted in a treaty favourable to both sides.

The elite gathering of hockey's best had a different feel than a regular season contest. It was unique in every aspect. There were line combinations and defensive pairings one could only dream of seeing on any given night in an NHL barn. Mortal enemies worked together instead of going after one another.

Unlike recent All-Star tilts, where the score sheet is plastered with goals and assists, the early post-expansion were low scoring affairs.

I recall one year, 1971, when only 3 goals were scored.

On January 19, 1971, the West squad defeated the East 2-1 at Boston Garden. The amazing part being that all the scoring took place in the first period. After inspecting the box score, which included the East-West line-ups, one can only shake their head trying to figure out a reason for the lack of offensive production.

Somehow, the goaltending duo of Tony Esposito and Ernie Wakely, the last line of defence for the West, managed to limit their opponent to one goal. This included facing a potentially wicked power play with Phil Esposito, Gordie Howe and Frank Mahovlich up front, and Bobby Orr joined by J.C. Tremblay on the blueline.

St. Louis goalie, Ernie Wakely, offered an explaination as to why things didn't jell for the attacking units.

"What can anyone expect when players come together for the first time without practice," said Wakely.

New York Ranger goalie, Eddie Giacomin, who gave up goals by Chico Maki and Bobby Hull, expected more scoring punch from his teammates.

",,,I thought with the guys on our team they might have bailed me out by scoring more," Giacomin told reporters in his post-game comments,

Reflecting on the special team unit mentioned earlier, Phil Esposito stated, "we were like strangers in the night."

Bobby Hull, no stranger to having an opposing player shadow his every move, spoke of the need to pay attention to defensive responsibilities.

"This was likely the tightest-checking of all the All-Star Games," observed The Golden Jet. "Of course, you have to - it's a pretty potent punch we were facing."

For a youngster glued to the television screen, the lack of firepower had no impact. The anticipation leading up to the opening face off provided enough fuel to stick with it until the final whistle. There were no blindside hits or obstacles to contend with.

The night sky sparkled and I was seeing stars.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Montreal's Gain

In hockey there is no greater rivalry than the one between Toronto and Montreal.

Dick Duff and Frank Mahovlich experienced early success with the Maple Leafs, then found their way to Montreal. As members of the Toronto Maple Leafs they shared Stanley Cup wins in 1962 and 1963. Mahovlich went to capture two more championships wearing Blue & White in 1964 and 1967.

Duff was traded to New York in February '64, thus ending his run in Toronto. Mahovlich left the Leaf organization in March 1968. He was the cornerstone of a huge transaction with Detroit.

While the two ex-Leafs were productive with their new teams, additional chances to sip from Lord Stanley's mug didn't materialize. Their luck changed, however, when they joined the previously despised Montreal Canadiens.

A native of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Dick Duff became a Hab on December 22, 1964.

"If Dickie plays anything like he used to play for Toronto,  I don't see why he shouldn't help us," noted Canadiens coach Toe Blake. "He was a good two-way player with the Leafs."

Montreal's new left-winger made his debut in a contest at the Forum on December 23, 1964.

"The critical crowd of 13,313 appreciated Duff's work as he set up some smart plays, had a couple of scoring chances and was always back on the wing as soon as the Rangers had the puck," wrote Pat Curran in The Gazette of Duff's performance.

Forty-three years ago today, on January 13, 1971,  Frank Mahovlich was shipped from the Red Wings to Montreal for Guy Charron, Mickey Redmond and Billy Collins.

"I'm happy with the move to Montreal, but the trade didn't really come as a surprise," said Mahovlich upon arriving in Bloomington, Minnesota, to face the North Stars.

Rising to the occasion, it didn't take The Big M long to fit in.

"It was a case of Frank being in position when he scored the opening goal at 16:59," noted a game story of Mahovlich's first period tally. "Terry Harper's shot deflected off Cournoyer and Mahovlich was just outside the crease when he steered the puck past Cesare Maniago."

Of interest, the piece documents that Mahovlich wore a sweater with number 10 on the back, as Montreal and Minnesota skated to a 3-3 tie.

Like their time in Toronto, Duff and Mahovlich enjoyed enormous success in Montreal. Duff flourished in his new surroundings winning Cups in 1965, 1966, 1968 and 1969. Mahovlich upped his Cup count with victories in 1971 and 1973.

On both counts, clearly a case of Montreal's gain .

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Time is Here

Earlier this month, a capacity crowd enjoyed the annual NHL Oldtimers Christmas Lunch.

To kick-off the event, Santa belted out several tunes


Santa's helper - former NHL referee Ron Wicks

Dick Duff makes out his Christmas wish list


Ivan Irwin stands between former Boston Bruin Bob Beckett (L) and former Boston Olympics forward Jerry Junkin (R)


Mike Filey (R) of the Toronto Sun chats with his favourite Maple Leaf, Tod Sloan (L)


Two great New York Rangers, defenceman Harry Howell(L) & forward Dean Prentice (R)

Two alumni members from St. Michael's, Frank Mahovlich (L) & Phil Samis (R)


Red Kelly (L) & Bob Baun (R)


Former NHL defenceman and AHL Hall of Fame member, Jimmy Morrison (C) works the room


Wally Stanowski