Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Covering the Habs

In the early 1970s, two Toronto newspapers published a magazine that came with their Saturday edition. And on September 11, 1971, they both chose a member of the Montreal Canadiens as their cover story.




On the cover of The Telegram's Weekend Magazine (above), Montreal goalie Ken Dryden is pictured walking with his wife, Linda. A quote from Dryden at the bottom of the cover notes, "How I spent my summer as a Nader Reaider."

After making a major contribution to the Canadiens Cup victory in 1971, Dryden spent his off-season working in Washington for activist Ralph Nader. As a Nader Raider, Dryden worked on a project to aid fishermen who sought to clean-up polluted water.




In the Toronto Daily Star, a future Montreal superstar graced the cover of The Canadian Magazine (above). The bold text next to a photo of Lafleur declared, "The Canadiens Guy Lafleur: A Legend Before His Time."

With the retirement of Jean Beliveau following Montreal's Cup win in 1971, all eyes turned to the rookie from Thurso, Quebec, as Beliveau's replacement. In his final season of junior with the Quebec Remparts, Lafleur's numbers gave credence to the hype surrounding the damage he could do in the NHL. Lafleur played in 62 games with the Remparts and scored 130 goals and 79 assists for 209 points.

As a rookie, Lafleur had a decent campaign (73-29-35-64), but it wasn't until the 1974-75 season that he began to dominate. In the span of one year his point total jumped from 56 ('73-'74) to 119. It included his first 50-plus goal season.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Night of Hockey & Golf Talk

On August 19, 2014, Mike Wilson (http://www.ultimateleafsfan.com/) hosted a fun and informative evening on the topic of early hockey rinks and golf courses in the city of Toronto.

Hockey historian, Len Kotylo, got things underway on the theme of "Skating through the Fairways of Toronto."

The first rink touched on by Len was the Granite Club (1886), located at Church and Wellesley. First used for curling, the Granite had six curling sheets to serve its members.

On February 16, 1888, a history-making event took place at the Granite Club, when the first hockey game was played in Toronto. The host club defeated their opponent, the Caledonia Club, by a 4-1 score.

Two years passed before the next hockey game was played at the Granite Club. The visitors in February 1890 were a team from Ottawa - the Rideau Rebels. On the roster for the Rebels were Arthur and Edward Stanley. Their father, Governor General Lord Stanley, would participate in the formation of the Ontario Hockey Association and donate the Stanley Cup to Canada.


The Toronto Granites hockey team was a huge success. They won two Allan Cups (1922 &1923) and an Olympic championship in 1924. Two of their most talented performers were Hooley Smith and Harry Watson (Note: Not the former Maple Leaf).

Next up in Len's talk was the Victoria Curling Club (1887), situated at 277 Huron Street. Like the Granite Club, it was designed by Norman Bethume Dick. Games were first played there in 1902 and it's another example of hockey taking place in a private curling club.


During the 1930s, as Len pointed out, the depression and lack of desire for private curling clubs resulted in the decline of the Victoria rink. Also, with the Arena Gardens and Maple Leaf Gardens being built, the Victoria couldn't compete on the same level. The building was demolished in 1962 and the land is now occupied by the University of Toronto School of Architecture.

Similar to the Granite Club, the Caledonia Curling Club (1885) became a driving force in the growth of hockey in Toronto. Situated on Mutual Street, it also became known as the Mutual Street Rink.

Of note, the Caledonia hosted Toronto's first professional hockey game. On December 28, 1906, the Toronto Hockey Club faced the Canadian Soo (Of the International Hockey League). It wasn't a good night for the Toronto Hockey Club as they were blanked 7-0.



As time passed, the Caledonia rink failed to keep up with new trends. For example, artificial ice was favoured over natural ice. It was demolished in 1911 and in its place the Arena Gardens (also known as the Mutual Street Arena) was built.

In this new building, hockey flourished. Designed by Ross and MacFarlane, the Arena Gardens (1912) had artificial ice and could seat 8,000 spectators. In addition to the pro game, senior and junior contests were held at Arena Gardens.


When the Toronto Maple Leafs departed for their new home at 60 Carlton Street, the Arena Gardens became a secondary venue. Amateur sports and various entertainment events were booked. In 1962, a name change occurred and roller skating became the featured attraction at The Terrace.

"I can tell you that in the mid-1950s, that both the T.S.S.A.A. and T.I.A.A. high school basketball championships were held at the Mutual Street Arena," noted former NHL coach Tom Watt, who was in attendance for the presentations.

Varsity Arena, where Tom coached the University of Toronto Blues hockey team, was the next rink addressed by Len.

"I used to scout there in my early years," Jim Devellano, the current senior vice president of the Detroit Red Wings, told the gathering. Then turning to Tom Watt he stated, "And it seemed to me you kept winning championships." For the record, beginning in 1966, Tom captured 9 University Cups with the Blues.

I spent 15 years there," said Tom. "The land belonged to the University of Toronto, but both the arena and stadium were built by the University of Toronto Athletic Association. They raised the money and paid off the mortgages."



Varsity Arena opened its doors on December 17, 1926. "The idea of the rink for the Varsity Grads, which won the gold medal in 1928, was for it to be a place for them to prepare for the Olympic games," informed Tom.

Prior to Varsity Arena, the University of Toronto hockey team held their games at the Victoria rink and Caledonia Curling Club. In 1915, the school won a Provincial championship and the captain of the team was Conn Smythe.

The final location covered by Len was Ravina Gardens. Situated north of High Park, construction was completed in 1925-26.

"I coached a juvenile team there in about 1958, 1959," recalled Jim Devellano.

"It had the highest boards," noted Tom Watt, who played at Ravina. "When you went over the boards you were really shocked when you hit the ice."


The crowning moment at Ravina Gardens came in the autumn of 1926. Conn Smythe, hired to run the newly formed New York Rangers of the National Hockey League, decided to hold their first training camp in Toronto and selected Ravina Gardens as their base.


"By mid-October I had the Rangers working out in Ravina Gardens in west Toronto, all staying at a hotel near the rink, when I got a call to meet Colonel Hammond at the railroad station," wrote Smythe in his memoir (If You Can't Beat 'Em in the Alley). "When he got off the train and walked down the platform Lester Patrick was with him." It didn't take Smythe long to figure out what was happening. "I got the message. Hammond offered me $7,500 to settle my contract, and told me Patrick would take over from there."

Ravina Gardens met its end in 1961 and was torn down due to snow and ice damage.

"At that time, I was teaching school in Toronto and there were very few football fields in the city of Toronto," said Tom Watt. "When it was demolished, it became the home field for both Western Tech and Humberview Collegiate."

Once Len wrapped up his presentation, golf historian, Scott Burk, took the floor.

"I've always been a book collector," stated Scott in his opening remarks. "And as I would read things on golf in Toronto, I would keep coming across histories or references to golf in Toronto. Ultimately, it led me to put a map together as to where all these courses once were and if they still existed."

Scott relayed how golf in Toronto was played prior to fixed-routed courses being developed.

"As interesting as anything in doing this research is that before we had fixed courses we had open meadows and farmlands. There are letters that speak to this fact. The well-healed would head out on a Saturday afternoon with a couple of pals, a caddy and a stake. You would say to your caddy, 'go out there 125 yards and put the stake in the ground and we're going to putt into the hole the stake made'."

Then, as Scott explained, came organized golf on Michael Fitzgerald's farm at Coxwell and Gerrard. The Toronto Golf Club was formed in 1881.

"The first record of organized golf in Toronto happens in a Toronto newspaper article on May 9, 1881, where you are invited to a Toronto location to discuss the possibility of becoming a member of what was to become the Toronto Golf Club."


While doing research on the early golf courses in Toronto, Scott discovered the reasons why many of the pioneer clubs moved, merged or sought a better location. One example of this happening was in 1912 when the Toronto Golf Club moved to the west-end of the city. "Why do golf courses die?" asked Scott. "Usually because of urban development or depression."

Another factor raised by Scott was the advancements made in public transportation. A golfer in Toronto was no longer strictly confined to his neighbourhood and had the means to travel a great distance to another course.

"In the early 1900s you would get an electric railcar at Yonge and Woodlawn, just north of Summerhill station, and you could go all the way to Jackson's Point at Lake Simcoe. It was called the Metropolitan Line with dark green cars and grey uniformed drivers and conductors. There was a steering column in the front and back and the reason for that is they didn't want expensive loops at either end."

Changes in the composition of the golf ball also had a direct correlation to the need for larger courses. The feathery ball and gotta percha ball prevented long drives, thus not making the expansion of courses necessary. But when the wound ball was manufactured, it had a tremendous impact. Smaller locations on the golfing directory were no longer a challenge. New sites with vast land were required to meet the requirements as the game changed.

Some early golf courses survived, but as Toronto grew and other uses for land were required, those in the golf business sought other avenues to expand their interests.

Come the year 1921, the citizens of Toronto had two public courses at their disposal. Scott identified Ralph Connable as the gentleman responsible for making golf available to those who didn't have the funds to join a private club.

Connable was an American and worked his way up the corporate ladder in the F.W. Woolworth Company. One of his assignments called for him to move to Canada and expand the Woolworth's brand north of the boarder. He was a believer in golf being the perfect sport for his managers to bond and seal deals with their suppliers.

The expansion of Woolworth's in Canada and building public golf courses in Toronto weren't the only contributions Connable made to his new home. Scott told a remarkable story of one other gift Connable gave to Toronto.

Along with his wife Harriett, the couple spent their vacation time in Petoskey on Lake Michigan. During one trip, Mrs. Connable went to the local library to witness a speech being given by a young man who fought in World War One. Listening to the guest speaker, Harriett Connable couldn't help but be impressed. She found him to be full of life and physically active.

This motivated her to approach him with a proposal which would be beneficial to both of them.

While the lad she met at the library was lively, her son had a physical disability which prevented him from getting the most out of life. She thought her new friend would make an excellent tutor for her disabled off-spring. During their conversation, he expressed an interest in becoming a journalist. Upon hearing this, Harriett Connable hatched a plan. Her husband, who had serious business connections in Toronto, could help find him a job on a newspaper. In exchange, he would help their son.

The offer was made and accepted. The gentleman speaking at the Petoskey Library was Ernest Hemingway.

In addition to these stories, Scott talked about a number of early courses in Toronto. He mentioned that, "The Rosedale, High Park and Toronto all had women's golf sections early on. While they weren't full members, there were lots of inter-club matches between the clubs."

By the end of the night one thing was certain. There is no shortage of stories relating to the early history of hockey and golf in Toronto.

A tip of the golf cap and a raised hockey stick to Mike, Len and Scott for their work!


Monday, August 18, 2014

Supporting a Great Cause

On Friday August 15, 2014, a huge crowd attended the sold-out 3rd Annual Ludzy's (Steve Ludzik) Celebrity Roast in Niagara Falls, Ontario. In the coals this year was Hockey Hall of Fame member Phil Esposito.





A number of former NHL players were on-hand to help raise funds of The Steve Ludzik Centre for Parkinson's Rehab. As noted in the program, "in 2012 Steve revealed that he had been fighting Parkinson's disease for 12 years."

The guest of honour Phil Esposito

Philadelphia enforcer Dave "The Hammer" Shultz

Mike Wilson (http://www.ultimateleafsfan.com/) with Steve Ludzik's wife MaryAnn
Brit Selby, the last Toronto Maple Leaf to win the Calder (top NHL rookie). Brit won the Award in 1966
Mark Osborne, who played junior hockey in Niagara Falls with Steve, served as one the celebrity table guests. He is pictured above with his sister Lisa

The event was a huge success with $132,537 being added to the cause.








Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Review: The Metro Prystai Story by Frank Block

With the Kings Stanley Cup win fading in the rear-view mirror and training camp still many miles down the road, I needed a hockey fix.

And it arrived courtesy of author Frank Block and his e-book - The Metro Prystai Story. Prystai, who passed away on October 8, 2013, wore an NHL uniform from 1947-48 to 1957-58.

Also, there was a pleasant surprise when I opened up the attachment to his e-mail, but I will get into that later.

Wasting no time, Block addresses the crowning achievement of his subject in the NHL - Detroit's Cup victory in 1952. That was the year the Red Wings cruised through their opponents and won the bare minimum of 8 games. In the playoffs they swept Toronto and Montreal.

When asked to comment on his Cup experience, which included scoring the winning goal in game 4 of the final, Prystai replied, "Oh terrific, you know Sawchuk got 4 shutouts...they never scored a goal on us at home."

Then, comes the story of young Metro Prystai growing-up in Yorktown, Saskatchewan. Interviews with his siblings and friends provides insight into his boyhood on the Canadian prairie. His dad worked for the railroad and like most households in the 1930s, his mother looked after the home.

On the hockey front, Block chronicles Prystai from the time he played in high school to junior in Moose Jaw. "We had a pretty good team there...and they were pretty well all local guys," said Prystai. "We won three championships in a row in Saskatchewan."

A turning point for Prystai came in January 1945, when the Chicago Black Hawks decided to sponsor the junior Moose Jaw Canucks. In 1947-48, Prystai earned a spot on the Black Hawks roster and he took up residence in Chicago.

The chapter detailing his time in Chicago includes some incredible stories about his interaction with Matty Capone, who was Al Capone's brother (yes, the gangster). For example, Matty attempted to recruit Prystai into the family business. When he inquired as to what would be required, Capone replied, "just carry a gun."

Wisely, Prystai decided his true calling was to carry a stick and not a gun.

A trade in July 1950, sent Prystai to the Detroit Red Wings. In addition to helping his club capture two Stanly Cups, Prystai had the respect of his teammates. This becomes abundantly clear in the chapter titled "The Strike." A trade in November 1954,  sent Prystai back to the Windy City, setting off a firestorm in Detroit's dressing room. Led by defenceman Red Kelly, the Wings weren't happy with the transaction and they were ready to take action over managements decision to shed Prystai from their team.

Prystai, made a triumphant return to Detroit in 1955-56. He made an immediate contribution as the Wings advanced to another Cup final by defeating Toronto in the semi-final.

The book touches on numerous aspects beyond Prystai's involvement in hockey. It contains background on his family life, and business ventures after he hung-up his skates. And hockey wasn't the only sport Prystai participated in. During the summer he played ball and in one exhibition contest he shared the field with a true baseball icon.

Along with wonderful tidbits of information and moving moments (my favourite being Metro's return to the Motor City in 2011 with his family to receive a Stanley Cup ring), there are amazing photos taken at various stages of Prystai's life. The passage of time reflected in early black & white pictures, followed by bursts of colour as he got older.

Before reading Frank Block's e-book, I was somewhat aware of Prystai's work in the NHL. Going through my files, I came across this description of a goal he scored against Toronto in game 3 of the 1956 semi-final: "Then Metro Prystai, an industrious workman for the Wings, broke away, thrashed into the Leaf end with his bull-in-a-china-shop skating style, and scored with a 35-foot backhander."

How can one not appreciate a player who's style of play is described in this manner? Thus, it was a delight to expand my knowledge of Prystai beyond a file folder of clippings and notes. His story is new and not a recycled effort of the more known names in the game.

Now, for the pleasant surprise.

As Block writes on his website, included in the attachment is  "a professionally produced two and a half hour audio version where you'll get to hear exclusive interviews with Metro as well as other great hockey legends such as Red Kelly (who wrote the Forward), Emile Francis, Ted Lindsay and more."

This extra feature brings a certain intimacy to the process of getting to know Metro. I suggest first reading the text, then close your eyes and soak in the verbal portion.

So, if you're like me and in need of a hockey fix, I highly recommend securing this e-book/audio presentation. You will not be disappointed. It will satisfy the hunger of fans wanting to devour a new meal of hockey stories and information!

For further details, please visit http://www.metroprystai.com/ or e-mail the author at info@metroprystai.com


"I have really gotten to know Metro in a truly remarkable way," noted Frank Block. "It seems that no matter who I've talked to about Metro, the underlying theme in our conversations is that everyone has nothing but the utmost respect for him."

And who wouldn't want to read and learn more about someone with that reputation?






Friday, July 18, 2014

Guy Trottier: 1941-2014

Like most who strutted their stuff prior to the 1967 expansion, all Guy Trottier wanted was a crack at earning an NHL roster spot.

When expansion did take place, Trottier didn't find himself in the NHL, but he did move up from the International Hockey League to the American Hockey League.

As a member of the IHL Dayton Gems, Trottier dominated the scoring column. His goal production jumped from 46 in 1964-65 to 68 in 1965-66.. A further increase came in Trottier's final year in Ohio, when he led the league in goals with 71.

When the dust settled on expansion, Trottier found a new home in Buffalo with the AHL Bisons. His first season in Western New York was 1967-68.

Under rookie coach Fred Shero, Trottier and fellow winger Larry Mickey, provided Shero with a strong right-side. But in early 1968, injuries put both of them out of commission. Mickey suffered a broken left arm and Trottier went down with a torn cartilage in his left knee. "Losing Trottier is a big blow," said Shero after learning of the diagnosis.

Trottier remained with the Bisons after his rights were traded to the New York Rangers on December 1, 1968. New York was well stocked up front and Trottier only saw action twice with the Blueshirts in 1968-69. However, he continued to flourish with Buffalo. When the season ended, Trottier's 45 goals were tops in the AHL. He didn't let up the following campaign, as his 55 goals in 71 games allowed Trottier to retain his goal scoring crown.

Trottier's scoring prowess didn't go unnoticed by other organizations. At the Intra-League draft held on June 9, 1970, the Toronto Maple Leafs claimed Trottier from the Rangers.

Prior to an exhibition contest against St. Louis in Ottawa, Maple Leafs GM, Jim Gregory, inked Trottier to a one-year deal.

"I must admit that there were many times when I wondered if I'd ever get a good shot at a job in the NHL," said the 29 year-old Trottier in late October.

A third period hit by Pittsburgh's Greg Polis in a tilt on December 8, knocked Trottier out of Toronto's line-up. He suffered a separated right shoulder. To fill his roster spot, Toronto called up Brian Spencer from the Tulsa Oilers.

An instant crowd favourite, Spencer experienced some tragedy early in his Leaf career. On the the evening of December 12, 1970, his father was shot and killed in Prince George, British Columbia. Roy Spencer became enraged when he discovered Brian's game wouldn't be televised on the west coast. He stormed CKPG TV and forced the station to go dark. As he was departing, Spencer was confronted by three RCMP officers and engaged them in a shoot-out. Mr. Spencer expired upon arriving at the hospital.

Along with Jim Gregory, Trottier made the trip west to represent his teammates at the funeral for Roy Spencer.

Trottier got back into action in early January. His numbers before he was sidelined were telling as to his style of play. In 24 contests, he connected for 12 goals. Due to his small stature (5'8"-165), Trottier was tagged with the the nickname "The Mouse". One Toronto newspaper noted in a headline that Trottier was the "Mouse That Scored."

When the regular season ended, Trottier had collected 19 goals and 5 assists in 61 games.

He participated in 5 playoff games, but didn't record a point. Along with several other Leafs, Trottier was fined $200 for leaving the bench when a brawl broke out at New York's Madison Square Garden. A highlight of that free-for-all occurred when Bernie Parent's goalie mask was tossed into the crowd and vanished.


Guy Trottier and his fans: This photo is from the Toronto Daily Star (Dec. 1970). The Leafs opened the Gardens for the general public (mostly kids) to watch the team workout


Year two in Toronto saw a dip in Trottier's offensive production. His goals dropped to 9 and he recorded 3 less points than the previous campaign.

In early March, there was speculation of Trottier being involved in a transaction with the Buffalo Sabres. The deal would have seen him return to his old AHL stomping-grounds in exchange for Danny Lawson. According to newspaper reports, Buffalo backed-out of the trade.

During the off-season, Trottier bolted from the Leafs to sign with Ottawa of the World Hockey Association.

The change of scenery for the 1972-73 season helped Trottier regain his scoring touch. He scored 26-times and added 32 helpers for the Nationals.

A new hockey year in 1973-74 brought Trottier back to Toronto, but it wasn't with the Maple Leafs. Unable to make a go-of-it in the Nation's capital, the Ottawa franchise moved to Toronto and became the Toros.

Playing out of Varsity Arena, Trottier commented on the difference between his new home and Maple Leaf Gardens, "I've seen nights at Maple Leaf Gardens when you could have heard a fly buzz past."

At the start of his second term with the Toros, Trottier was shipped (Nov. 1, 1974) to the Michigan Stags. He ended his year with the IHL Dayton Gems.

In his time with hockey's rebel league, Trottier produced 60 goals,

He returned to Buffalo to close-out his on-ice career in 1975-76. Trottier served as a playing-coach for the Buffalo Norsmen (NAHL). While he had a productive regular season - 58 points (36 goals) in 56 games - the playoffs were another story.

On March 27, 1976, Trottier and the Norsmen were scheduled to play a quarter-final series game against Johnstown. A battle erupted in the warm-up sending Greg Neeld to hospital and another Norsmen player to the medical room for treatment.

This display of violence was enough for Trottier and general manager, Willie Marshall, to forfeit the series. Marshall, a former scoring sensation in the American Hockey League, made harsh comments when he spoke to reporters. "Hockey is secondary in this league," noted Marshall. Then, he came out with this, "I hate to say I'm a member of this league,"

After a one-year absence from hockey, Trottier returned to coach the junior (QMJHL) Hull Olympiques. He replaced former NHL defenceman Marcel Pronovost, who left to work for the Buffalo Sabres. Trottier, who also held the general manager's title, left both positions when he resigned in early 1978.

Trottier remained out of hockey for an extended period of time, before returning for two stints (1994-96 & 2000-04) as an assistant coach with the ECHL Dayton Bombers.

Trottier wearing a Bombers cap



In Toronto to attend a Maple Leaf game at the Air Canada Centre, Trottier signed autographs at the alumni booth located at Gate 1 of the ACC


Looking back on Trottier's career, a quote from his second year with the Leafs best sums-up his approach to the game. "I just don't have the build to go around challenging people," began Trottier. "I wouldn't last long in this league if I took runs at the tough guys. I have to save my energy and stamina for the serious pursuits such as scoring goals."

Guy Albert "The Mouse" Trottier was born on April 1, 1941. He passed away on June 19, 2014 in Dayton, Ohio.



Monday, July 14, 2014

Larry Zeidel: Sticking it to the Opposition

Three moments from Larry Zeidel's hockey career surfaced when I read about his recent passing.

As a rookie defenceman with the Detroit Red Wings in 1951-52, Zeidel skated in 19 regular season contests and 5 playoff matches. Detroit swept Montreal in the Stanley Cup final with game four being played on April 15, 1952. There can be no greater moment, for a freshman or veteran, than winning Lord Stanley's mug.


  Zeidel paid his dues before landing a spot on the Wings roster and getting his named engraved on the Cup.

Following his final year in junior with the Barrie Flyers, Zeidel's career took him to the Quebec Senior Hockey League. In 1947-48 he joined the Quebec Aces. He stayed with the Aces for three campaigns and the time spent in his native Province helped define him as a player. As Zeidel once stated, "there were a lot of rugged guys in the league at that time, too, so maybe it was partly a matter of survival."

In his final year with Quebec, Zeidel led the league in penalty-minutes. He spent a total of 176-minutes in the sin-bin.

After winning the Cup in the Motor City, Zeidel spent most of the following year with the Edmonton Flyers in the WHL.

Zeidel rode hockey's version of a roller coaster, when his rights were traded by the high-flying Red Wings to  the bottom-dwelling Chicago Black Hawks.

Subsequent to his one term (1953-54) in the Windy City, Zeidel wouldn' return to the National Hockey League until expansion took place in 1967.

When he departed from the big-show, Zeidel bounced between the American Hockey League and the Western Hockey League.

This brings us to Zeidel's second moment of notoriety.

It happened on October 2, 1958, when Zeidel was a member of the Hershey Bears. In an exhibition match-up between the New York Rangers and the Bears held at The Stamford Arena in Niagara Falls, an  incident occurred which made the news the following day.

Under a sprawling headline - "3 Hockey Players Jailed As Riot Breaks Out In Arena" - the hockey world was made aware of an event which started one of the most ugly and malicious feuds the game has ever witnessed.

In the story, Hershey GM, Baz Bastein, is quoted on how the trouble started. "It started from a stick-swinging duel between Shack (of the NYRs) and Zeidel. They were thrown out of the game and after they got dressed they met and went at it again near the players' bench."

When the police intervened to break-up the ruckus, Zeidel lost his cool.

"Someone pulled me off Zeidel and he got up and punched me in the mouth," said police officer William Gillies when he testified later in court.

Zeidel was charged with assaulting  a police officer and causing a disturbance. His teammate, Obie O'Brien, also got involved in the altercation. He was accused of shoving Gillies and another officer away from Zeidel. He was charged with obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duties.

O'Brien and Zeidel appeared before Magistrate Johnstone Roberts to plead their cases. Zeidel took a tactical approach to his defense. He entered a not guilty plea to the assault charge and guilty to the lesser offense of creating a disturbance.

The Magistrate didn't but into Zeidel's reasoning or explanation for his actions. Zeidel's attorney told the court his client was concussed and thus didn't act appropriately. The Hershey rearguard suffered two cuts on his head which required 10 stitches. Turning a blind-eye to Zeidel's account of how things went down, the Magistrate found him guilty of assault and gave him a suspended sentence on the disturbance charge. As result, he was fined $200.

Obie O'Brien won his case and was absolved of any wrong-doing.

Eddie Shack, out on bail (set at $100), had a later court date on the charge of disturbance by fighting. His case was dismissed.

Throughout hockey, Zeidel was gaining a reputation for letting his stick do his talking.

While playing for Edmonton in the WHL, Zeidel and Jack Evans teed-off on each other. "Evans and Zeidel stood off about four feet and started swinging at each other," Lorne Davis (Edmonton Flyers '54-'55) told the Hockey News in 1958. "Finally they broke the sticks over one another's head. Then they started to spear each other with the jagged ends. Both caught about 19 stitches. The ice was covered in blood. It was terrible."

The Zeidel-Shack saw-off in 1958 was the ugly portion of their feud. The malicious part would come 10-years later in a moment near the end of Zeidel's time on the ice. And the nastiness emerged on two fronts.

On the night of March 7, 1968, Philadelphia and Boston tangled in a regular season tilt at Maple Leaf Gardens. The location of the game was moved to Toronto when the Philadelphia Spectrum closed due to roof damage.

At the mid-point of period one, Zeidel and Shack renewed their hostilities. Their weapons of choice, like in '58, were their sticks. Photographs in newspapers the next day revealed how vicious the stick-battle got. They showed blood trickling down from the head of both combatants. The lumber they gripped fully extended and within range of their unprotected areas. Their gloves remained on, a clear indication that punches wouldn't be thrown.





Afterwards, one question was being asked - why? Why did this happen, again?

There appears to be two theories concerning the cause. The first, being a cross-check Zeidel applied to Shack as he attempted to enter Philadelphia's zone. Normally, this would be a common play which occurs on a regular basis. Certainly, it wouldn't cause either Shack or Zeidel to turn their sticks into tomahawks.

The second notion carries a lot more weight in establishing grounds for a cause and why one of them reacted in the extreme.

Alleged comments made by the Boston Bruins were identified by Zeidel as the reason he blew a gasket. "Nearly the whole Boston team tried to intimidate me about being the only Jewish player in the league," Zeidel told reporter Ed Conrad. "They said they wouldn't be satisfied until they put me in a gas chamber."

An investigation by NHL president Clarence Campbell revealed, "it was not denied that Zeidel had been called 'Jew' or 'Jewish', combined with a variety of abusive terms." However, Campbell stated there was no evidence to support Zeidel's claim of references to Nazi actions in World War Two.

Although Zeidel made some early comments, a code of silence was quickly adapted. The National Hockey League would do the talking and have the final word on this matter.

When Campbell handed down his verdict, Zeidel was suspended for four games and Shack had to sit out three. Also, both were fined $300 for their misdeeds.

Zeidel would put in one more season with the Flyers before hanging-up his skates. In 158 NHL games he scored 3 goals and 16 assists. In 12 playoff dates, he recorded a lone assist.

Larry "The Rock" Zeidel was born on June 1, 1928, in Montreal Quebec. He passed away on June 17, 2014. at Pennsylvania Hospital



Friday, July 4, 2014

Fresh Hope

For those of you keeping track and perhaps, cheering on the Toronto Maple Leafs, the odds of a Stanley Cup parade in the near future are declining rapidly. Not to mention, the last festivities of this kind were held way back in 1967.

To determine the reason why there have been no celebrations on Bay Street is an impossible task. Fingers can be pointed at every level within the organization. Even the on-ice officials are included in the blame-game. Remember the non-call in game 6 of the Campbell Conference final - the contest where Kerry Fraser and crew missed the carving applied to Doug Gilmour?

Wayne Gretsky's overtime goal in game 6, sent the series back to Maple Leaf Gardens for a seventh and deciding game. The winner would receive an all paid expense trip to the Stanley Cup final and a date with the Montreal Canadiens.

Unfortunately for Toronto, Gretzky put on a show at 60 Carlton. He had all the weapons and sunk the Leafs ship.

Many Toronto faithful are of the opinion that if the Leafs had gotten by Los Angeles, a Cup victory over Montreal awaited them.

The '92-'93 Habs didn't hold a candle to the red-hot Canadien clubs of yesteryear. In particular, when compared to the powerhouse squads coached by Scotty Bowman in the 1970s.

In 1978, Toronto and Montreal collided in the conference final. It was the last time they met so deep in the post-season. Toronto joined Montreal in the next round thanks to Lanny McDonald's overtime goal in game 7 against the New York Islanders.

And it didn't get any easier facing Montreal in the conference final. During the regular season, Montreal strung together an impressive 59-10-11 record and scored a league-high 359 goals.

As expected, the Canadiens continued their march to the Cup final by stampeding over the Leafs and sweeping them in four-straight contests.Montreal reached the top of the mountain when they defeated Don Cherry's Bruins and were crowned champions.

In 1993, a possible match-up between the two Canadian teams seemed more even. Montreal closed out the year with 102 points, while Toronto registered 99 points. If Toronto had advanced, there was a good chance, unlike in 1978, that the final wouldn't be a blow-out for either team.

But it never happened. The stars weren't aligned for the long-time rivals to once again battle one another for all the marbles.

Several decent playoff runs followed for the Maple Leafs. Still, most agree Toronto's best opportunity to shake there post-expansion blues was in 1993.

If the Greater Toronto Area is to host another Cup parade, they may have to look outside-the-box.

The Maple Leafs inability to add proven top-end talent results in them spinning their wheels and negating any meaningful progress.

A second National Hockey League franchise (located in Toronto or a nearby suburb) could be the answer for Cup starved Toronto residents. Sure, there are no guarantees a second team in the GTA would hoist Lord Stanley's gift to hockey, but there would be fresh hope. And that is a major component to being a fan.

Comments made on social media this week suggest that hope is evaporating. "Same team going to be iced again this year, maybe worse actually," declared one posting. Another asked, "...how much longer are they going to rebuild? They have 3 playoff wins in 12 years it's getting ridiculous."

On June 25, Tim Leiweke, who holds the top job at MLSE, spoke at a Board of Trade gathering. Many share a belief the Maple Leafs wouldn't allow or welcome neighbours to their gated community. But as Leiweke pointed out, "we just have one vote," in reference to a league-wide referendum which would be required for expansion or relocating another team to Toronto.

Any worries Leaf ownership have about losing their standing in the Toronto market are unfounded. Almost 100-years of passion and unwavering support doesn't suddenly expire. Like any relationship there are good and bad times. A rocky patch doesn't always result in divorce.

The Maple Leafs will, forever, be Toronto's team. But with this comes a public trust to meet a high standard both on and off the ice.

In fact, due to the nature of their business, Bell and Rogers could benefit from the competition. The immediate rivalry between the Leafs and the new boys in town wouldn't hurt the TV ratings. To help sweeten the pot, the newcomers most likely would sign either a short-term or long-term lease to play out of the Air Canada Centre.

Then, there are the hockey fans in Toronto who just want to relive or experience for the first-time a Stanley Cup victory on their home turf.

In his book - "1967 - The Last Good Year" -  Pierre Berton wrote: "In 1967 we looked forward with anticipation. In 1997 we look backward with regret to the 'good old days' when nobody talked about deficit or 'downsizing'."

And for Toronto Maple Leaf fans, they look back to 1967 when there was hope for many more Stanley Cups.