Friday, December 31, 2010

A Final Salute

This being the final day of 2010, I wanted to acknowledge the players from the Original Six era  who passed away in the last year. I apologize in advance if names have been omitted from the list.

Jack Bownas, February 10, 2010, 1957-58 to1959-60 / 1961-62, Mtl / NYR

Lou Jankowski, March 21, 2010, 1950-51 to 1954-55, Det / Chi

Hec LaLande, August 18, 2010, 1953-54 / 1955-56 to 1957-58, Chi / Det

Roland Rousseau, November 2010, 1952-53, Mtl

Ed Litzenberger, November 1, 2010, 1952-53 to 1963-64, Mtl / Chi / Det / Tor

Gaye Stewart, November 18, 2010, 1941-42 to 1942-43 / 1945-46 to 1953-54, Tor/ Chi / Det / NYR / Mtl

Vic Lynn, December 9, 2010, 1942-43 to 1943-44 / 1945-46 to 1953-54, NYR / Det / Mtl / Tor / Bos / Chi

Harry Pidhirny, December 20, 2010, 1957-58, Bos

Thursday, December 30, 2010

True Grit

During this time of year, it is always a joy to read about someone overcoming a difficult situation, and being able to reach their goals.

In late December of 1949, hockey fans were following the plight of Vic Hunt. The story of the young goalie for the Weston Junior Dukes, a team sponsored by the Toronto Maple Leafs, is amazing. In the fall of 1949, as a result of an industrial accident, Hunt lost his right hand. Determined to continue in hockey, Hunt and a friend constructed a devise which would attach his goalie stick to the prosthesis that replaced his hand.

Vic Hunt returned to action in a game played on December 30, 1949. He was in goal for the second and third periods when the Dukes faced the Dixie Staffords in a Junior "B" contest. Hunt turned in an inspiring performance making 12 saves in a 4-0 victory.

As it is always said about those who play goal, they truly are a special breed. Vic Hunt's story is a testimonial of an athlete who played for the love of the game. No huge contract or bright lights to consider. Only courage and perseverance to return to the net.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Harry Pidhirny : 1928-2010

Harry Pidhirny was a centre who started his professional hockey career with the 1948-49 Philadelphia Rockets of the AHL. He passed away on December 20, 2010.

His playing days were mostly spent in the American Hockey League with the Springfield Indians, Syracuse Warriors and Baltimore Clippers. His best year as a pro came in 1958-59 with the Indians. In 70 games he scored 21 goals and 60 assists (League high) for 81 points. He will be inducted into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame on January 31, 2011.

In 1957-58, Pidhirny played in 2 games for the Boston Bryins.

Harry Pidhirny was born on March 5, 1928 in Toronto, Ontario.

December 29, 1951

As is customary at this time of year, newspapers carry stories recapping "the year that was". Such a story appeared on December 29, 1951.

One of the biggest stories of the 1950-51 NHL season, was the sudden passing of Maple Leaf Bill Barilko. The story detailed Barilko's Cup winning goal in the '51 Final against the Montreal Canadiens. Also, it made a very important point looking beyond Barilko's accomplishment against Montreal. It noted that Barilko most likely would have been an anchor on the Leafs defence for years to come.

Much was made of the Detroit Red Wings failure to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs, Expectations were high for the Red Wings as they lead the League in points.

Attendance was down in 3 NHL cities - Boston, Chicago and New York. Contributing factors were the emergence of television and spending restraints initiated by the 3 owners. However, as the article speculated, the primary reason may have been the dismal records of each club, and how that translated into points - Detroit (101), Toronto (95), Montreal (65), Boston (62), New York (61) Chicago (36).

The Trophy winners for 1950-51 were Milt Schmidt (Hart/Boston), Gordie Howe (Art Ross/Detroit), Terry Sawchuk (Calder/Detroit), Al Rollins (Vezina/Toronto), Red Kelly (Lady Byng/Detroit).

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Open House

It is the kind of event a kid in the late 1960s could only dream of attending. Imagine sitting in Maple Leaf Gardens and watching your hockey heroes being put thru their paces.

In 1967, that situation became a reality for youngsters who followed the Toronto Maple Leafs. The period between Christmas and New Years was a perfect time for the Leafs to stage an open house. The event was sponsored by Dominion Stores.

On December 29, 1969 the third open house took place with 15,000 screaming kids in attendance. The line-up outside 60 Carlton Street began forming at 8:00am, some 2 hours prior to the proceedings start time.

The first part of the festivities had Brian McFarlane and Leafs general manager Jim Gregory explaining the fundamentals of hockey. Then, King Clancy, substituting for coach John McLellan, conducted the Leaf practice. This was followed by a  scrimmage and penalty shot competition.

Was there any better way for a kid to spend the Christmas break?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Games on Christmas Day

In today's NHL, there is a mandatory Christmas break as per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The last scheduled game, prior to Boxing Day,  was played on December 23rd between Phoenix and San Jose.

This was not the case during the Original Six era. Between 1942 and 1967, the Toronto Maple Leafs participated in 19 games slated for Christmas Day.

During Christmas 1961, the Leafs played in Chicago on Christmas Night. Most of the club celebrated the holiday on Christmas Eve. The reality of having to lace-up the skates on Christmas Day was explained by Tim Horton.

"Christmas must be a good date for hockey in the U.S. and the fans, who pay the tariff, call the turn. I hope they have a full house for our game with the Black Hawks in Chicago Christmas Night", said Horton.

December 1962

Coaches of the six NHL teams preferred to have their club playing on the road at Christmas. The general consensus was the visiting team wouldn't suffer from any holiday distractions. Their regular game day routine would not be disrupted. Maple Leaf netminder Johnny Bower, offered another take concerning this aspect.

"It would be nice to be able to spend the day with the family and I don't think it would interfere with my thoughts about hockey", stated Bower.

With the formation of the NHLPA in 1967, the Association fought for more family time around the holiday season.

An Original Six tradition of games on Christmas Day slowly disappeared off the hockey calendar.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!

With the arrival of Christmas Day, one tends to become nostalgic about previous Christmas celebrations. With fondness, we look back to when we were younger, and how Christmas took on another focus. For this writer, the memories of Christmas past are forever locked in my memory bank.

In my youth, Christmas vacation and the game of hockey were a shared experience. The thrill of no school and spending time at the local rink working on my game. The endless road hockey games.

One particular Christmas holiday remains so clear in my thought process, that it seems as though it only occurred yesterday. When I first started participating in House League Hockey, my skating skills were next to nothing. I was so bad, the coach had no hesitation assigning me to the position of goalkeeper. Prior to each game, I would say a little prayer hoping I would get the net right in front of the players gate. Otherwise, I would have to stumble down the length of the ice to the other net.

Then, one of those magical events usually associated with Christmas took place.

Over the Christmas vacation, our coach held a skating party at his farm. Most of my morning was spent falling and picking myself up. Late in the afternoon, my Christmas miracle came right out of the blue. All of a sudden, I was transformed from being Gump Worsley in net, to Bobby Hull on an end-to-end rush! From that moment on, the game of hockey escalated to a new dimension for me. Christmas vacation was no longer a time for kicking around the house. The rink became my home away from home. Pleasure skating and shinny occupied most of my day.

There were other aspects which contributed to making the Christmas break so special. The joy of being allowed to stay up and view the entire Maple Leaf mid-week game on TV. Buying a hockey magazine and dedicating hours to devouring every word. Hockey Pictorial. Hockey Illustrated. Hockey Digest. Do these great publication bring back memories or what?

On the big Day, Christmas, the hockey theme would continue. Thanks to Santa (Mom & Dad!) my inventory of hockey goodies increased substantially. My first hockey jacket. New gloves, sticks, and skates. The biggie was a new hockey book. For most of the second-half of the holiday, my eyes would be glued to the pages of the latest autobiography by Stan Fischler or Jim Hunt. Another favourite was Brian McFarlane and his wonderful detailing of hockey history.

To all the readers of this blog, thanks for taking the time to reflect on the rich history of our grand game.

Hockey and Christmas. It truly is the best season of all...



Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Tradition

The game of hockey contains many wonderful traditions. Such was the case in Toronto during the 1930s with "Kiddies Night" taking place at Maple Leaf Gardens.

December 24, 1932

On December 24, 1932 "Kiddie Night" was incorporated into the the game between the Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks. As a Christmas treat, a child accompanied by an adult who bought a ticket, got in free. An estimated 5000 "Kiddies" attended the game in 1932. Their roar could be heard loud and clear when Joe Primeau scored the lone Leaf goal in a 2-1 Chicago victory.

The biggest crowd noise came from both the children and adults, when referee George Mallison disallowed a Leaf goal. He claimed 2 Toronto players interfered with goalie Chuck Gardner, who was unable to stop a Charlie Conacher blast.

This tradition would continue for many decades, but there were some adjustments. The events official name was changed to "Young Canada Night". Also, subscribers were given first crack at securing tickets, with a general "Young Canada" sale to follow. In some years, the season ticket holders scooped-up all the tickets, leaving the general public in the lurch.

December 22, 1934

December 22, 1945
In December 1948, several Leafs were asked what "Young Canada" should be watching when they attend the game.

"I saw only one pro game before joining the Leafs. I learned how important puck control was that night and went home and worked at it", said Ted Kennedy.

"A goalie today must be as good a skater as a forward. A youngster can learn a lot from watching a top goalie use his hands and body. By watching how he plays the angles and rebounds", stated Turk Broda.

Turk Broda, Always a fan fav, "Young Canada Night", Dec. 1950

 On December 18, 1974 "Young Canada Night" featured a game between the Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins. A newspaper report noted that 16,327 tickets were purchased, but there were a number of empty seats. The writer explained that this was unusual happening on "Young Canada Night".

The times, post Original Six era, certainly were changing.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Showing Your Cards

Recently, the results of a poll conducted by Harris-Decima for Canada Post were released. The objective of this  survey was to delve into the trends relating to Christmas cards. Of 1,001 people participating, 8 out of 10 prefer receiving a card. In 2008, this figure was 71%. An average of 15.6 cards will be mailed per Canadian.

Of interest, the poll revealed that 60% have no intention of sending an electronic greeting. All this translates into Canada Posts volume of  Christmas Mail increasing by 2% over last year at this time.

Of course, during the holiday season of 1962, the digital option was not available.

The collage (above) provides a sampling of what folks in the sporting community were sending out during Christmas in 1962. Click on the photo for an enlarged version.

Here is an index for each individual card...

  1. Dick Shatto, Toronto Argonaunts
  2. Barb Wagner Grogan & Bob Paul, Skaters
  3. Rudy Pilous, Chicago Black Hawks
  4. Jack Adams, Detroit Red Wings
  5. Phil Boylen, Horse Racing
  6. Frank Pollock, Baseball Maple Leafs
  7. Johnny Gottselig, Chicago Black Hawks
  8. Clarence Campbell, NHL
  9. Toe Blake, Montreal Canadiens
  10. George Hendrie, Horse Racing
  11. Frank Conklin, Horse Racing
  12. Hap Day, Toronto Maple Leaf
  13. Punch Imlach, Toronto Maple Leafs

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas 1960 : No Shortage of Hockey

In an era where hockey operated without a Players Association, club owners ruled the day. The holiday season was no excuse not to schedule games. Teams wisely marketed these contests as being a family event for everyone to enjoy.

As the above ad indicates, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings went to battle on Christmas Eve 1960. A capacity crowd watched the Wings and Leafs skate to a 4-4 tie.

On Christmas Day 1960, Maple Leaf Gardens played host to an OHA Junior "A" doubleheader. The Guelph Royals played the Toronto Marlboros, followed by the Niagara Falls Flyers vs. the St. Michael's Majors.

The Guelph Royals were coached by Emile Francis, who would later lead the New York Rangers in the NHL. Their big line included Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle and Terry Oliver. Going into the Christmas Day game, this trio had accounted for 45% of the Royals goals.

The Marlboros were introducing 3 new players to their fans - Don Westbrooke and Grant Moore (Weston Dukes) and Ian St. Clair (University of Toronto).

The Niagara Falls Flyers featured the Leagues leading goalie, Wayne Rutledge.

The St. Mike's big line was composed of the Draper twins, Dave and Bruce, skating with Larry Keenan. Also, a big deal was being made of coach Father David Bauer moving forward Terry Clancy back to play defence. Of course, this was the same position his famous dad, King Clancy, patrolled in the Gardens for many years.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Big Pants to Fill

Bill Durnan was a National Hockey League goalie who spent his entire 7 year career (1943-44 to 1949-50) with the Montreal Canadiens, His record reflects just how brilliant his time in the Habs net was - 6 Vezina wins and 6 first team all-star selections - falling short of a  sweep in both categories in 1948, losing out to Toronto Maple Leaf Turk Broda.

After his playing days were over, Durnan turned to coaching. In 1959-60 he was behind the bench for the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen in the OHA  Sr. League. A member of his squad was a young goalie named Cesare Maniago.

Having a coach who played the same position only reaped benefits for Maniago. Durnan wouldn't hesitate to pass along tips to his goalie, as he knew how difficult it was to guard the nets. And it wasn't only instructions on technique. Maniago, being a large 6'3" required help in another regard. While on the ice, he discovered that he was being exposed in a manner that left him in the cold. Literally. The long johns he was wearing were not providing much coverage to his lower extremities. Wanting his goalie to have every edge, Durnan provided the perfect remedy. Going through his old equipment, Durnan found a pair of long johns that would be an improvement, and spare Maniago from further exposure.

In 1960-61 Maniago would reach the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was called up to replace Gerry McNamara, who was playing due to an injury suffered by starter Johnny Bower. When McNamara met a similar fate, Maniago played in 7 regular season games with the Leafs.

He compiled a 4-2-1 record and a 2.43 average. By allowing only 17 goals in 420 minutes, Maniago made a huge contribution towards Johnny Bower capturing the Vezina Trophy. In addition to the prestige of winning the prize, there were remunerative rewards for Bower - $1000. for winning the Vezina and $1000. for allowing fewer than 200 goals (145) - important contractual benefits back in the Original Six era.

In his 7 game stint, Maniago became part of NHL history. The game in question was played on March 16, 1961. With the Leafs in town, the largest crowd of the season, 15,011, jammed every inch of the Montreal Forum. The astute fans in Montreal clearly understood that there was a different slant to this contest. They would be in attendance to witness Bernie "Boom-Boom" Geoffrion's 50th goal of the season. This would match Rocket Richard's accomplishment 16 years earlier. The large crowd would not be disappointed. Taking a pass from Gilles Tremblay at the edge of the crease, Geoffrion stopped the puck, then banged it in the net.

In the same game, Jean Beliveau set an NHL record for most assist in a season, 58, passing Bert Olmstead's mark of 56.

The Canadiens secured a 5-2 win, but Maniago couldn't be blamed for the loss. A newspaper report declared "for two periods it was any body's contest, thanks to the heroics of goalie Cesare Maniago".

In total, Maniago would play in 568 regular season games with Toronto, Montreal, New York, Minnesota, and Vancouver. He would post a 3.27 average with 189 wins and 30 shutouts.

"Hail Cesare".

Monday, December 20, 2010

Topping the List

It is the time of year when the "Best of the Best" polls begin to circulate in the media. Recently, Canadian Major League baseball player, Joey Votto, was named the recipient of the Lou Marsh Award.

In December of 1950, the Canadian Press released the results of a poll concerning the greatest hockey player of the past 50 years. Topping the list was the legendary Howie Morenz.

Howie Morenz first season in the National Hockey League was 1923-24 with the Montreal Canadiens. Right from the start, Morenz tremendous offensive talents made him a fan favourite. His ability to skate like the wind led to the nickname "The Stratford Streak". Many hockey fans in the United States were attracted to the NHL as a result of Morenz. They would marvel at his creative skills on offence, and be buzzing when he roared back to negate an opponents rush. In the U.S. Morenz was referred to as "The Babe Ruth of Hockey.

 When Canadian Press announced Morenz as the winner, the debate began immediately regarding others who should have been considered.  However, it is very difficult to argue as to why Morenz shouldn't have been ranked at the top. His achievements include 3 Hart Trophy wins (1928,1931,1932), and 3 Stanley Cups (1923-24,1929-30,1930-31).

Lionel Conacher, Canada's top athlete for the first half of the century, commented after Morenz was named the greatest player.

"Morenz was great in those 1-0 games. You could knock him down, but you knew he'd get up and that on the next rush he would probably beat you", said Conacher.

Unfortunately, Morenz didn't live long enough to bask in the accolades of this richly deserved acknowledgment of his skills. In a game played on January 28,1937, Morenz broke his leg. While still in hospital, he passed away at the age of 34.

In 1945, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the initial class.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dear Santa

As we approach the final weekend prior to Christmas, time is running out to get our wish lists to the North Pole. No doubt, Santa will be inundated with mail from fans requesting hockey books this holiday season. If one walks through the sports department of a bookstore, they will discover no shortage of hockey publications on display. An individual could easily fill a shopping cart with books ranging from biographies to instructional guides.

Such was not the case in 1899. In that year the very first book was produced about the game of hockey. Written by Arthur Farrell, the title of this true piece of Canadiana is Hockey : Canada's Royal Winter Game. Not a stranger to the sport, Farrell was a member of the 1898-99 Montreal Shamrocks who captured the Stanley Cup that season.

Hockey:Canada's Royal Winter Game
According to Library and Archives Canada, only 4 copies of this book have survived with the passing of time. The 121 page hand-book delves into the genesis and growth of the sport, training methods, strategy and rules. Also, it contains sketches and photographs of teams from that era. It was published in Montreal by C.R. Corneil.

Jumping forward to 2010, here are my recommendations for those with an interest in the Golden Age of Hockey (the Original Six Era 1942-1967).

Eddie Shore And That Old-Time Hockey
By C. Michael Hiam

Official Guide to the Players of the Hockey Hall of Fame

 Hockey Hall of Fame Book of Goalies


   The Golden Jet
By Bobby Hull with Bob Verdi

Tim Horton : From Stanley Cups to Coffee Cups
By Don Quinlan

Toronto Maple Leafs
Diary Of A Dynasty
By Kevin Shea

 How about it Santa?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Political Maneuvering

For most sports fans there is no greater excitement than attending a game as opposed to watching on TV. The atmosphere and build-up contributing to making the experience enjoyable.

In most sports, contests usually proceed as scheduled. Occasionally, baseball suffers from a rain out, but the game is made-up by playing a doubleheader. A majority of weather related cancellations can be rescheduled to accommodate participants and spectators.

Of course, there is always the exception to the rule. In Minnesota this week, the inflatable roof at the Metrodome suffered major damage. Due to 43 cm of snow, 3 panels collapsed rendering the building unsafe for use. The NFL game between the Vikings and New York Giants was delayed one day, and moved to Ford Field in Detroit.

In hockey, there are several factors which have lead to games being cancelled or halted while in progress. A power outage, severe weather conditions, or a national disaster/emergency are three examples. On November 1, 1960 a new circumstance was tossed into the mix. The Blackhawks were scheduled to host the New York Rangers at Chicago Stadium, but no hockey was played that evening in the Windy City.

Chicago Stadium
With a Presidential election only days away, the local political bosses of the Democratic Party had other plans for the fine people of Chicago. On the same night of the hockey game, a political rally was being held for Texas democrat Lyndon B. Johnson in Chicago. Johnson was the running mate of Presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy.

Bowing to political pressure, the National Hockey League cancelled the game and rescheduled it for the next evening. The Hawks and Rangers battled to a 4-4 draw. Chicago scored twice in the final 9 minutes to even the score. The tie resulted in Chicago gaining the league lead in points over Montreal. Of interest, the fans at Chicago Stadium witnessed U.S. Olympic goalie Jack McCartan  making his first road appearance in the NHL. He replaced Gump Worsley in the third period, after the Rangers starter suffered a back injury.

As for the election, I guess it can be said that the NHL made a small contribution to the dawn of a new era in politics known as Camelot.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Murray Armstrong : 1916-2010

One of the oldest living players from the Original Six era, Murray Armstrong, passed away on December 8, 2010.

In fact, Armstrong pre-dated the era, having started his National Hockey League career with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1937-38. The birth of the Original Six era is considered to be the 1942-43 season, when the New York/Brooklyn Americans left the NHL. Thus, leaving the league with 6 teams.

Entering the Maple Leafs training camp in 1937, Armstrong was at a disadvantage due to an injured knee. His first NHL game was on December 26, 1937 with the Maple Leafs.

(L) Regis "Pep" Kelly (C) Murray Armstrong (R) Nick Metz - October 1937

While in the Toronto organization, most of his playing time was with the Syracuse Stars of the IAHL (International-American Hockey League). In total, he played 12 games for the Leafs, recording 1 point on an assist. On May 18, 1939 he was traded to the New York Americans.

The trade to New York rejuvenated Armstrong's career at the NHL level. He scored 32 goals over 3 seasons with the Americans' franchise. Like many others, his time in the big leagues was interrupted due to World War 11. During his military service, he skated with the Regina Army Cps.

Armstrong returned to the National Hockey League in 1943-44 with the Detroit Red Wings. This would be his final stop once the '45-46 season came to a conclusion. As a Leaf, American and Red Wing, he scored 67 goals and 121 assists for 188 points in 270 games.

Murray Armstrong's coaching career began in 1947-48 with the Regina Pats. Following his assignment in Junior hockey, his next adventure would be his most rewarding in the game of hockey.

In 1956 Armstrong joined the University of Denver Pioneers. He guided them to 5 NCAA Championships. The 1960-61 Pioneers are considered one of the greatest teams in NCAA history. Their record tells it all, 30-1-1. Also, in 1960, Armstrong's club defeated the eventual winners of Olympic gold at Squaw Valley in California. They defeated the American National squad 7-5. His efforts to develop hockey at the Collegiate level in the United States didn't go unrecognized. In 1977,  Armstrong was the recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy for his contributions to American hockey.

Commenting on his tenure in Denver, Armstrong said he was most proud of "all the fine young men" he coached. A grad of Denver University currently playing for the Leafs is Tyler Bozak. Although he never played for coach Armstrong, Bozak described him to me as being an "icon".

Armstrong retired to Florida in 1977 and pursued his love of golf. In February of 2008 he sent me a note stating in part "I can't see very well, still golf a lot and lose a lot of balls." Even with diminished eyesight he wouldn't abandon his passion - to quote a " Murray-i-s-m" - "Excuses are for losers."

Murray Alexander Armstrong was born on January 1, 1916 in Manor, Saskatchewan.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Fanatical Situation

How about this bizarre story from March of 1969.

In one way or another, we are all fans of a certain team or player. The word fan is a derivative of fanatic (a person who is moved by a frenzy of enthusiasm or zeal). As in all social settings it is a requirement to express our emotions in a non-violent manner. In particular, at sporting events where blood levels can rise to the boiling point.

At the Montreal Forum in a game between the Montreal Junior Canadiens and Hamilton Red Wings, one fan lost all sense of reason. Not to mention his mind. With a minute remaining in the game, the spectator unleashed a surprise towards the ice. The object was a frozen pigs head with a pair of teeth stuck into the corner of the animals mouth. The rock-hard head never reached the ice surface, but struck a 9 year old boy in the head. The impact knocked him out cold. At the hospital, he received stitches to repair a nasty cut over his ear.

On previous occasions, the same man was responsible for tossing rubbers (N0, not that type!), hats, toilet paper, a frozen chicken, and a dead duck.

The strange part of this (did I just write that?!) he was cheering on the Hamilton team. Being from Quebec, one would think he would throw his pig, I mean support, behind the Jr. Canadiens.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Seal of Approval

Recently, there were rumblings out of Pennsylvania that Terrence Pegula had a $150 million letter of intent to purchase the Buffalo Sabres. The rumours were quickly put to rest by the Buffalo ownership.

Back in January of 1969, there were similar rumblings emanating out of Buffalo concerning the Oakland Seals. It became public knowledge that Seymour Knox and his family had an option to purchase the west coast team. It was their intention to transfer the franchise to Buffalo, New York.

In addition to the Knox family revelation, other information relating to the Seals was disclosed. The predominate face of the Seals ownership group was Barend Van Gerbig. He had a syndicate of financial backers at the ownership level. In response to the maneuvers coming out of Buffalo, another voice was heard concerning the Seals future.

By means of a $680,000 loan in March of 1968 to the Seals, the Labatt Brewing Company had first right of refusal relating to the purchase of controlling interest in the team. The agreement terms were in effect until March of 1969. Their partners in this endeavor were the Vancouver Canucks of the WHL.

All this spelled major headache for the National Hockey League.

On January 21, 1969 the NHL Board of Governors met in Montreal prior to the all-star game. Their agenda was clear - untangle this mangled mess. Talking on behalf of the Board was Clarence Campbell who reported on the outcome of the meeting.

The question of double-dipping was front and centre. Campbell revealed that Puck Inc. owned the Oakland Seals, but player contracts and other team rights were owned by San Francisco Seals, Inc. The Buffalo group was negotiating with Puck Inc., while S.F. Seals, Inc. were dealing with the Vancouver group.

Putting matters into perspective, Campbell said "basically the right to move a franchise belongs to the league and not the owners. Therefore, it looks like both Puck Inc., and the Seals, Inc., have been selling options it is not their right to sell."

Sound familiar Mr. Balsillie?

The NHL ruled that the Oakland Seals would remain in place and future meetings would be held pertaining to the Seals ownership, and the leagues desire to keep the club in California.

The Oakland Seals would undergo several name changes and remain in the Bay area until 1976. At that time, the franchise moved to Cleveland. In 1978 the Cleveland Barons merged with the Minnesota North Stars and left the State of Ohio.

Vancouver and Buffalo would be granted expansion teams to begin play in the 1970-71 season.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Vic Lynn : 1925-2010

The Original Six era suffered another loss this week with the passing of Vic Lynn at the age of 85.

Vic Lynn started his National Hockey League career with the New York Rangers in 1942-43. He participated in one NHL game, with the bulk of his playing time being spent with the New York Rovers of the EAHL.

The following year, Lynn once again had a short stay in the NHL, skating in three contests with the Detroit Red Wings. His major assignment was with the Indianapolis Capitols of the American Hockey League.

In 1945-46, Lynn, for a third time, had a brief stint in the NHL with Montreal playing in two games.

After experiencing a taste of big league action, most players would consider a demotion back to the minors as being the end of the world. Sometimes, it is the complete opposite. For Vic Lynn, his time in the minors proved to be a major turning point in his career.

While playing in the American Hockey League, Lynn's play was closely being scrutinized by referee Charley "Rabbit" McVeigh. The slight 5'6" 145 pound McVeigh played in 397 NHL games with Chicago and the New York Americans.

The Buffalo Bisons were the Montreal Canadiens farm club, and Lynn had an outstanding season in '45-46. He recorded 51 points in 53 games, including 26 goals.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, looking to add some scoring punch at left wing, listened to McVeigh's glowing recommendation concerning Lynn. Conn Smythe, looking for the next Busher Jackson, decided it was time for action.

September 1946
 Vic Lynn became a Toronto Maple Leaf on September 21, 1946. At training camp he was placed on a line with centre Ted Kennedy and rookie Howie Meeker. The three young player's quickly developed a chemistry and became known as the K-M-L Line - as in Kennedy-Meeker-Lynn. This unit was an integral part of three straight Stanley Cups won by Toronto in 1947, 1948 and 1949.

Vic Lynn was traded to the Boston Bruins on November 16, 1950, and would finish his NHL career with the 1953-54 Chicago Black Hawks.

I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to Vic Lynn, Ted Kennedy and Howie Meeker in April 2004. Although not as vocal as his linemates, Lynn expressed how proud he felt to remain in the NHL and be a multiple Stanley Cup winner.

I'm sure "Rabbit" McVeigh was just as proud.

Victor Ivan Lynn was born on January 26, 1925 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How Times Have Changed

In most cases, when a hockey fan attends a National Hockey League game, their only concern is witnessing an exciting contest with the home team gaining 2 points.

A week ago, with Taylor Hall making his first NHL regular season stop at the Air Canada Centre, I strolled into the building with great anticipation. I was not disappointed. Hall displayed his greatest weapon, speed, when he accelerated past the Leafs defence, and planted a Dave Keon-like backhand into the goal.

Without hesitation, I can run this play through my mind in great detail. On the other hand, I have no recollection as to what I wore to the game.

Say What?

It may not be a concern in our current society, but in previous decades it was a relevant issue.

On January 4, 1961 Maple Leaf Gardens sent the following letter to their season ticket holders...

Dear Subscriber:
 Among those attending the National Hockey league games in Maple Leaf Gardens there has been a noticeable letdown lately in the dress and general deportment of a number of people occupying the box seats.
 These naturally, are not the regular box seat holders but, having always been able to keep a high standard in the Maple Leaf Gardens, we are asking our subscribers to exercise care when they release their tickets to someone else.
 We know that our concern regarding the above is also yours, and will appreciate your co-operation.
Yours very truly,

With most season tickets (2010) in the Platinum section at the Air Canada Centre being controlled by corporations, it would be a major challenge to follow the MLG guidelines.

The request "to exercise care when they release their tickets to someone else" would require extra staff for those companies who pass out tickets to clients.

In 2010, the conversation would go something like this...

 "Well Mr. Client, as a way of thanking you for increasing your order by 20%, I want to present you with a pair of tickets to the Leaf game on Saturday night. Before I give you the tickets, your signature is required on this waiver."

 "What is it for?" Mr. Client says with a look of concern.

 "It releases our firm from all responsibility concerning your chosen apparel for wearing to the game."

 "What the..." fumes Mr. Client, shaking his head.

 "Sorry, but it is a necessary condition prior to our handing over the tickets. We have no desire to get on the wrong side of MLSE."

That ladies and gents sums-up how and why times have changed.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


The similarity between the game of hockey and golf has often been made. The comparison is usually based on the relationship between the golf swing and hockey slap shot. The technical aspects of each motion has been the main reason many hockey players excel at driving the little white ball.

Back in 1967, a former NHL right winger was a member of the pro golf tour.

Bill Ezinicki broke into the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1944-45. Nicknamed "Wild Bill", he earned a reputation as being a tough competitor. In one game, Ezinicki lost 4 teeth, but returned to score the winning goal. After retiring from hockey, he turned to his other sporting passion - golf.

Taking a peak into his time on the PGA tour, I came across his participation in the $104,500 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am Golf Tournament. The event was held at Pebble Beach in California. The 6,747 yard course (at that time) is considered one of the finest golfing locals in the world.

Ezinicki shot an opening round score of 72, but ran into weather related difficulties in the second round. Gale winds resulted in elevated scores, and Ezinicki shot 150 placing him in 78th position.

The tournament was won by Jack Nicklaus who recorded a 4-under par 72 hole total of 284. This was good enough for a 5 stroke advantage over Billy Casper. Ezinicki's final score was 302, putting him 18 shots off the lead. Fellow Canadian George Knudson finished in 20th place and collected $1,040.

For many years, Bill Ezinicki was the golf pro at a course in Bolton, Massachusetts. He won a number of State championships.

Hockey's best golfers from the Original Six era were on display at the 14th annual NHL Golf Tournament in June of 1968. The winner was Ken Girard (Tor 1956-60) who shot a 3-under par 68 to beat Andy Bathgate (NYR/Tor/Det/Pitt 1952-71) by 5 strokes.

The top 5 included Jim Morrison (Bos/Tor/Det/NYR/Pitt 1951-71), Dave Creighton (Bos/Tor/Chic/NYR/ 1948-60), Doug Favell (Phil/Tor/Col 1967-79), and Jack Stanfield (tied) (Chic 1965-66).

The leader in the 40 to 50 year old group was referee supervisor Frank Udvari who shot a 76. In second place was Hank Goldup (Tor/NYR 1939-46).

In the over 50 category the winner was Jack Shewchuk (Bos 1938-45) who registered a 77. He was followed by Turk Broda (Tor 1936-52) who fired an 80.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pete Langelle : 1917-2010

Over the weekend, came news of the passing of Pete Langelle at the age of 93.

A sleek centre, Langelle participated in 137 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs between 1938-39 and 1941-42. His final year in Toronto was his most productive - scoring 10 goals and 22 assists in 48 games.

In the 1942 playoffs he produced 3 goals and 3 assists in 13 games. In the Stanley Cup finals, Langelle had his finest moment in a Leaf jersey. The Maple Leafs, having lost the first three games, forced a game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings. In the final contest, Pete Langelle was credited with the game winning goal.

Following the 1942 finals, Langelle entered the Air Force. The next 4 years were spent skating for the Winnipeg RCAF.

Upon his return, Langelle found that cracking the Leafs line-up was going to be a difficult task. Down the middle, Toronto already had Ted Kennedy, Syl Apps, and Max Bentley. As a result, he finished his playing career in the minors (AHL & Senior hockey in Manitoba).

Pete Langelle was born on November 4, 1917 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Monday, December 6, 2010

At the Car Wash

We are all well aware of the impact inflation has had on our economy. From the price of gasoline for our vehicles to the cost of delivering food to our kitchen tables.

The above ad is a terrific learning tool for any students delving into sports related investments. For the price of a car wash in March of 1969, an individual not only had the opportunity to meet Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, and Ted Green, but obtain an autographed picture.

In today's economic times, those wise enough to visit that car wash 41 years ago certainly would have no regrets. With the boom in sports memorabilia collecting, that initial investment of cash and time would have paid off nicely. In the current market, the price to obtain such items relating to the 3 players is staggering. An 8x10 action photo of Bobby Orr goes for a cool $249.; Phil Esposito $59.; Ted Green $25.

So, next spring, one can hope that this kind of event is given new life like the plants and flowers. Perhaps, members of the Tampa Bay Lightning would be willing participants. The 2011 newspaper ad would read...


Hey, a poor guy or gal could get their vehicle washed 20 to 30 times in hope of a similar return down the road!

Friday, December 3, 2010

On this Date : December 3, 1966

Newspapers documented the retirement of Camille Henry from hockey.

Henry started his NHL career in 1953-54 with the New York Rangers. He had a terrific rookie year scoring 24 goals in 66 games. As a result, Henry was awarded the Calder Trophy. In 1958, he would be selected the winner of the Lady Byng Trophy.

After a 11 year run with the Rangers, Henry was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. He scored 5 goals in 22 games with Chicago in 1964-65 after the trade.

In 1965-66, Henry skated for the St. Louis Braves of the CPHL. Claiming that he injured his back while playing for the Blackhawks ('64-'65) , Henry didn't report to the St. Louis Flyers in October 1966. They were a farm team of the NHL Hawks. At this point Chicago suspended Henry, but kept him on their reserve list.

Not wanting to let Chicago general manager Tommy Ivan have the advantage, Camille "The Eel" Henry retired from hockey. He was concerned that Ivan would sell his rights in anticipation of NHL expansion the following year. It was Henry's contention that the Hawks could make as much as $75,000 in any deal of this nature.

The announcement of his retirement was made in his bi-weekly column for L'Evenement.

After sitting out the entire 1966-67 season, Henry was traded back to New York for Paul Shmyr on August 17, 1967. His final 2 years in pro hockey were spent in the St. Louis Blues organization.

Henry retired for good after the 1969-70 season.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Brother Act

In the history of the National Hockey League, there have been well over 200 pairs of brothers who have participated in competition. We are all aware of the Hull's and Esposito's. Also, there are the champions of the brother acts - the Sutter's - Brian, Darryl, Duane, Brent, Rich, and Ron.

Then, there are the lesser known combinations like Don and Rod Morrison from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

The 1947-48 season was the first step in the Detroit Red Wings march to NHL superiority. New coach Tommy Ivan created a first line that would ultimately lead to 4 Stanley Cups in 1950, 1952, 1954, and 1955. With second year forward Gordie Howe at his disposal, Ivan teamed him with Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay. The three became the Wings main offensive force and were nicknamed the Production Line.

In goal for Detroit was Harry Lumley. On March 10, 1948 he became the first Wings goalie to record 30 wins in a single year. The Detroit squad had the 1948 Calder Trophy winner in Jimmy McFadden.

The '47-48 Red Wings finished second in the NHL standings. In the playoffs, they lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup final.

With talent galore on the roster, Don and Rod Morrison both managed to crack the Detroit line-up in 1947-48. Rod Morrison was called-up during a Wings losing streak in mid-December 1947. Also, called-up from Indianapolis were Fernand Gauthier and Marty Pavelich.

The two Morrison brothers played on a line with Jim Conacher. In 47-48, Don Morrison, playing centre, got into 40 games with Detroit. He scored 10 goals and 15 assists for 25 points. Brother Rod, a right winger, played in 34 games recording 8 goals and 7 assists for 15 points.

With an abundance of power in the Detroit line-up, you would think the task of gaining recognition would be difficult for the Morrison brothers. Well, they certainly were prominent in a game played on January 25, 1948.

Fighting for top spot in the standings, 2 weekend games against the Habs were crucial. In the Saturday contest, Rod Morrison scored the winning goal in a 5-1 victory. The re-match on Sunday the 25th at the Olympia was a much tighter game. On the strength of a Don Morrison goal with assits going to Rod Morrison and Conacher, the Wings won 1-0.

The 2 points allowed Detroit to gain the number one ranking. They would finish 5 points behind Toronto, but 13 points ahead of third place Boston in the final standings.

Don Morrison would play for Detroit in 1948-49, then be traded to Chicago in the summer of 1950. His NHL career came to an end after the 1950-51 season. He played one additional year of hockey with the St. Louis Flyers of the American Hockey League. Morrison retired at the age of 28.

After his one year with the Detroit Red Wings, Rod Morrison spent 2 years with the Indianapolis Capitols in the AHL. He retired at the close of the 1950-51 campaign.

The game on January 25, 1948 sure was one for the Morrison family scrapbook.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Putting on a Show

One of the unique aspects applicable to the Original Six era, was the constant battle for players to maintain their standing within the league. The most competitive on-ice position was in goal. There was only one opening per team for the padded warriors.

In the season bridging the 1950s and 1960s, the starting NHL goalies for 1959-60 were Jacques Plante (Montreal), Johnny Bower (Toronto), Terry Sawchuk (Detroit), Glenn Hall (Chicago), Gump Worsley (New York), and Harry Lumley (Boston).

There was not only a fierce battle between the two Canadian teams, but a rivalry between the two goalies - Plante and Bower.

Often, these two goalies would share the spotlight when Toronto and Montreal played at Maple Leaf Gardens or the Montreal Forum.

One such occasion was a game played on November 30, 1961 in Montreal. A newspaper headline summed-up the evenings activity - PLANTE AND BOWER STEAL 1-1 SHOW.

Both goalies held the opposition scoreless until 11:29 of the third period  when Bernie Geoffrion scored. Then, Bert Olmstead scored 30 second later to even the score.

A report on the game gave Montreal the edge in the first period, and Toronto got the nod for the second peroid. The third was termed as being a "saw off".

The individual accolades kept coming back to Plante and Bower. In one sequence of play, Bower made the "best save of the season" on Dickie Moore. Also, Bower "robbed" Don Marshall while the Leafs had the man-advantage. As for Plante, he stoned scoring chances by Frank Mahovlich, Allan Stanley, George Armstrong, and Dick Duff.

At games end, Plante made 32 saves and Bower made 31. Both goalies received an ovation from the appreciative crowd.

Plante and Bower, each fighting to maintain their job security. Also, making their path to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Len Lunde : 1936 - 2010

The hockey world has lost another member of the Original Six era. Len Lunde passed away on November 22, 2010 in Edmonton.

Lunde broke into the NHL with the 1958-59 Detroit Red Wings. In his rookie season, he scored 14 goals. His final NHL action was with the Vancouver Canucks in 1970-71.

Len Lunde was born on November 13, 1936 in Campbell River, B.C.

Play Ball

For Canadian baseball fans, it has been a busy time since the Giants won the World Series.

It started with Alex Anthopoulos of the Toronto Blue Jays naming John Farrell as the new manager. Then, Joey Votto from Etobicoke, a suburb of Toronto, received 31 of 32 first-place votes, and was named the National League MVP.

He became the third Canadian to capture the award, following in the footsteps of Larry Walker (Maple Ridge B.C.) and Justin Morneau (New Westminister B.C.).

At the outset of 1950, Canadian baseball news was limited to minor-pro leagues across the land. On January 11, 1950 there was news for both the Canadian baseball and hockey enthusiast.

It was announced that Howie Meeker of the Toronto Maple Leafs would be joining the Kitchener Legionnaires of the Senior Intercounty Baseball League. In the summer of 1950 Meeker would play third base and be the right-hand man of manager Bobby Schnurr. In his coaching position, Meeker would be replacing Carl Fischer. In the major leagues, Fischer pitched for 5 teams (including the Detroit Tigers) between 1930 and 1937.

Meeker and Bobby Schnurr were old friends who played shinny together on a lake in Kitchener Park. During the 1949-50 hockey season, Schnurr was playing for the Tulsa Oilers in the United States League.

The NHL season in '49-50 called for each team to play 70 games. Meeker a small (5'8" 165 pounds), but sturdy right winger, played in all 70 games and 1 playoff series for the Leafs. It was a tough playoff defeat for Toronto who won back-to-back Cups in 1947 and 1948.

At the conclusion of the hockey season, Meeker was set to turn in his hockey gloves for a baseball mitt. Unfortunately for baseball fans in Ontario, the management of the Leafs had other plans.

On May 15, 1950 came news that "Hurricane Howie" Meeker would not be donning cleats for the Legionnaires. On advice from team doctors, Meeker was instructed to rest over the summer and refrain from strenuous physical activity.

I wonder if Joey Vitto can play hockey? Better still, would the Cincinnati Reds let him play?

Friday, November 26, 2010

On The Air

In this world of instant communication, participation is often a click away.

The Montreal Canadiens have used modern technology to their advantage when it comes to reaching out to their fan base. At the beginning of the season, Montreal had 72,000 followers on Twitter, and 470,000 friends on Facebook.

Not willing to sit on their laurels, the Canadiens introduced another innovation for the 2010-11 season. Fans of the club are now able to select the three stars. Those who wish to vote can do so via a free a app for their cellphone, or can register their selection at the RDS website.

The three star selections have been a staple on Hockey Night In Canada since games were first broadcast on television during the 1952-53 schedule. The first telecast took place on November 1, 1952 with the Canadiens hosting the New York Rangers. On that same evening, English Canada witnessed the Leafs and Bruins playing at Maple Leaf Gardens.

A review of a partial script from a telecast on February 14, 1953 confirms that television wisely integrated the three star feature into their broadcast. A notation on page 14 of the script reads as follows...

Imperial Esso telecast
February 14, 1953...Page 14
(Dave pads for 10 seconds before
giving 3 stars, one at a time, in same
order as received from mobile truck)

The three stars were first introduced on radio when Imperial Oil took over sponsorship of the broadcast from General Motors. This occurred during the 1936-37 NHL season. The concept of selecting three stars was based on Imperials three major brands.
November 1936
 As shown above, the three star campaign was not limited to hockey. Ottawa's victory over the Toronto Argonauts is celebrated in this ad.

The new sponsor wasn't the only change made for the '36-37 season. New amplifiers and broadcast equipment were installed at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Gondola, from where Foster Hewitt broadcast, was divided into 2 sections by placing a panel down the middle. The first half being Hewitt's space to call the play by play. The second half was occupied by commentators and engineers. The purpose of this was to limit the amount of distractions  faced by Hewitt.

The Leafs first game was played at home against Detroit on Thursday November 5, 1936. Since this was a weekday, only listeners tuning into CKCL could hear the broadcast. Dick Mansell and Charles Jennings would handle the intermission duties.

The National or "Coast-to-Coast Canadian Network" would only carry the Saturday evening games. This included the powerful CFRB station in Toronto. The intermission host on the National Broadcast was Graham McNamee.

As for the Leafs, they didn't give much for Foster to work with. In the home opener they lost to Detroit 3-1. On the Coast-to-Coast contest Saturday evening, they fell to the New York Americans 3-2.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!

With the approach of another Thanksgiving in the U.S., I can't help but think of an episode from one of my favourite TV shows - WKRP In Cincinnati.

The episode, "Turkeys Away", aired in 1978. The premise of the story centered around Arthur Carlson's desire to become more involved in the marketing of radio station WKRP, which is owned by his family. Carlson thought the Thanksgiving break would be a perfect occasion to engage in a holiday promotion. Like giving away trees at Christmas, the perfect gimmick for Thanksgiving would be the free distribution of turkeys. He was convinced this act of charity would pay dividends in future ratings.

Setting the promotion into motion, Carlson sent News Director, Les Nessman, to a grocery store. His instructions were to report back to disk jockey Johnny Fever live-on-air via a remote broadcast.

The following excerpt from the script tells what happened when Nessman filed his report...

It's a helicopter, and it's coming this way. It's flying something behind it. I can't quite make it out, it's a large banner and it says, uh, W...K...R...P! What a sight ladies and gentlemen, what a sight. The 'copter seems to be circling the parking area now, I guess it's looking for a place to land. No! Something just came out of the back of the helicopter! It's, uh, a dark object. Perhaps a skydiver. Plummeting to the earth from only two thousand feet in the air. A second, a third! No parachutes yet. Can't be skydivers. I can't tell just yet what they are, but - Oh my God, they're turkeys!!! Johnny can you get this? Oh, they're plunging to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! Oh, this is just terrible! The crowd is running around pushing each other! Oh, my goodness! Oh, the humanity! People are running about! The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Honestly, folks I don't know how much longer...the crowd is running for their lives.

So, you think this could only happen in the world of fiction on a television sitcom? Wrong!

A different take on this scenario occurred in - of all places - an NHL arena.

On Thanksgiving day, November 22, 1962, the Toronto Maple Leafs were visiting the Stadium in Chicago to play the Blackhawks.

November 1962
During the game, a turkey, weighing 20 pounds, was dropped from the upper seats and fell in the direction of the Leafs bench. The poor birds final destination and landing point was the lap of an unsuspecting female seated behind the visitors bench. Seeking cover, the bewildered turkey sought refuge beneath the Leafs bench.

I wonder if the instigator of this mischievous act had achieved his desired results. Or, was he left with a deflated feeling, much like Carlson after failing to have his plan executed as originally drafted?

The final word goes to Arthur Carlson...

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly".


Roland Rousseau : 1929-2010

Although his National Hockey League career wasn't as extensive as brother Bobby, Roland Rousseau did play in 2 games (1952-53) with the Montreal Canadiens.

Rousseau has died just shy of his 81st birthday.

In Junior, Roland Rousseau won a Memorial Cup in 1949 with the Montreal Jr. Canadiens.

The bulk of Rousseau's playing time during the season he wore a Habs jersey, was with the Montreal Royals of the QMHL. In 1952-53, he skated in 49 games with the Royals posting 19 points (4 Goals/15 Assists).

Like many players from that era, Rousseau's exposure to the NHL game didn't result in permanent residency. The rosters for the Original Six teams didn't have many vacancies, and cracking an NHL line-up was a very difficult task. The balance of his playing career was spent in various leagues within Quebec. However, Rousseau did participate in 66 games regular season and 6 playoff games in the American Hockey League.

Roland Rousseau was born on December 1, 1929 in Montreal, Quebec.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gaye Stewart : 1923-2010

One of the joys of attending hockey games at the Air Canada Centre is seeing various members of the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni.

Unfortunately, we lost one of the players from the Original Six era last week
- Gaye Stewart. The former Leaf passed away in Burlington, Ontario at the age of 87.

Gaye Stewart was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 6, 1942. The 1941-42 season was a unique experience for Stewart. Having started the year with the Toronto Marlboros, he was quickly promoted to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League when his Junior club was eliminated from playoff competition. His career took another leap up the ladder when Hershey's post-season came to a conclusion. The Leafs, who lost the first three games of the Cup final to Detroit, recognized that desperate times called for desperate measures.

With nothing to lose, Hap Day inserted Stewart into his line-up. Toronto went on to win the next four games and Gaye Stewart captured his first Stanley Cup. Also, he won a Stanley Cup with the Leafs in 1947.

March 1942

In 1942-43, Stewart played on a line with Bud Poile and Jack McLean. The rookie scored 24 goals and 23 assists for 47 points in 48 games. Stewart was rewarded for his outstanding season by being named the recipient of the Calder Trophy for the '42-43 campaign.

Like many players, Stewart's hockey career was interrupted by World War 11. Upon completing his military service, the big left winger returned to the Leafs - with a bang. He lead all goal scorers in 1945-46 netting a total of 37.

In addition to Toronto, Stewart played for Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Montreal. In 502 NHL regular season games, he scored 185 goals and 159 assists for 344 points. In the playoffs, he participated in 25 games, scoring 2 goals and 9 assists.

He was named to the first all-star team in 1946, and the second all-star team in 1948. Stewart played in the 1947, 1948,1950, and 1951 all-star games.

Following his playing career, Stewart became an NHL referee. Also, he worked with a Brewery as a District Manager.

James "Gaye" Stewart was born on June 28, 1923 in Fort William, Ontario.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A New Pair of Blades

One of the major reasons for the decline in hockey programs is the cost of equipment. Many parents find the expense cannot fit into the family budget.

Although the cost of $12.50 may have been exorbitant for some in 1942, I picture many sets of these skates being wrapped for Christmas morning. Then,  as time went by, being passed from brother to brother. The "Hand-Me-Downs" generation.

How many times have we heard or read stories of this nature from those who were chartered members of the Original Six era?

The following passage is contained within Stan Obodiac's mini-biography of Red Kelly...

  One day Pete Kelly called to his elder son, "Joe, come
here for a minute!" When the boy came over, his father
said, "I think you'll have to give your old skates to
Leonard. It's about time he started skating."
  Joe was aghast.
  "But dad, they're too big for Leonard, by at least a
couple of sizes." He seemed reluctant to give up his first
pair of skates.
  "We'll see," said his father. Now go and get them
  Joe obeyed his father and got the skates. His father
turned them over to Leonard and told Joe to take his
brother skating.
  "And be careful on that ice on the swamp," the father
  Joe had put a couple of pairs of socks on his
brother's feet so the big skates wouldn't wobble around
too much.
  Leonard eventually made it onto the ice and away he
went, wobbling around like a drunken sailor. For the
first little while he spent more of his time skating along
on his ankles than he did on his shiny steel blades.
  But he never gave up. Up and down the ice he went,
around and around in his over-sized skates. Only occa-
sionally would he come over to the cedar log fire the boys
had built at the edge of the swamp to keep themselves

Indeed, many of us can relate!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Centre of Attention

So the Toronto Maple Leafs of 2010-11 are having trouble at the centre-ice position. Many are of the opinion that the club is lacking a number one centre. As a result, Phil Kessel is suffering by not having a creative set-up man.

November 1947

Well, the Maple Leafs of 1947-48 certainly didn't have a similar problem. A trade on November 2, 1947 provided Toronto with strength up the middle that hasn't been matched since. The acquisition of Max Bentley from Chicago provided coach Hap Day with a trio that any team would die for - Bentley, Syl Apps, and Ted Kennedy.

In addition to Bentley, Cy Thomas came to the Leafs. Off to Chicago were Gus Bodnar, Ernie Dickens, Bob Goldham, Bud Poile, and Gaye Stewart.

Max Bentley was one of the most talented stick handlers to play in the NHL. His nickname says it all - "The Dipsy-doodle Dandy from Delisle".

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Playing for Peanuts

John Benedict "Peanuts" O'Flaherty started his National Hockey League career with the New York Americans in 1940-41. A rugged right winger, O'Flaherty saw action in 10 games and recorded 4 goals. The following year he played in 11 games (1 goal / 1 assist) with the renamed Brooklyn Americans.

The balance of his playing time was spent in various leagues, including the American Hockey League.

During the 1954-55 season, O'Flaherty was coach of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the NOHA (Northern Ontario Hockey Association). In addition to his coaching responsibilities, he participated in 3 games as a player.

In the spring of 1955, when the Greyhounds set their sights on the Allan Cup, they decided to change their look. No, they didn't change their style of play, or the colour of the team jersey. Peanuts O'Flaherty and his team decided to grow beards.

In the current world of hockey, this is a common experience. However, in 1955 it was news. Looking at vintage photographs throughout the years, it is very rare to see a player with facial hair beyond a neatly trimmed mustache.

Was coach O'Flaherty and his players thinking way ahead of their time?

Unfortunately, this endeavour didn't help their cause. The Greyhounds lost the Ontario Senior "A" hockey championship to the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchman.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Time of the last Goal 11:59

It is the sort of game every hockey fan loves to see. A close contest with the home trailing, but still hanging in there trying to mount a comeback.

Dean Prentice
 That is the type of game the fans at Madison Square Garden witnessed exactly 50 years ago tonight. With the New York Rangers hosting the Boston Bruins, Bronco Horvath scored early in the third period to give Boston a 3-1 advantage.

Instead of giving up and writing off the rest of the period, New York focused on finishing strong. Camille Henry scored at 4:03, followed by Ken Schinkel's tying goal prior to the 8 minute mark.

With the clock counting down, Dean Prentice emerged as the hero of the night. The native of Schumacher, Ontario took a pass from Schinkle and took "a hard high shot" which hit Bruins goalie Don Simmons on the shoulder. At 19:59 the puck entered the net, completing the Rangers comeback.

It was a timely win for the Blueshirts. Coach Al Pike threatened to make changes if his last place club didn't start winning. One alteration made by Pike was placing Andy Bathgate on a line with Red Sullivan and Johnny Wilson. Bathgate scored the opening goal at 8:39 of the first.

A timely win in so many ways.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Don't go by the the First Impression

From the time we are young, the importance of making a good first impression is drummed into our everyday life.

On the evening of November 21, 1942 hockey fans in Toronto had their first opportunity to watch a rookie play his first regular season game at Maple Leaf Gardens. Making the Canadiens wartime roster that fall was a right winger from the Montreal Sr. Canadiens of the QSHL - Maurice Richard.

Along with his teammates, Richard was eager to make a good first impression in this early season contest.

In the first period, forwards Ray Getliffe and Buddy O'Connor both hit the post, giving Montreal their best scoring chances, The Leafs scored twice, 27 seconds apart, on goals by Dave "Sweeney" Schriner and Gaye Stewart.

In the second and third periods, the Montreal defence of Jack Portland, Leo Lamoureux, Tony Graboski, and Butch Bouchard couldn't handle the Toronto attack.

As Habs coach, Dick Irvin, put it "We had a fair team until we lost 5 defencemen. Now look at us."

Reports made mention that the only NHL caliber  player for the Canadiens was Buddy O'Connor. The line of Gordie Drillon, Ken Reardon and Toe Blake were not providing sufficient scoring power.

The top line for the Leafs on the night was Billy Taylor (2pts), Schriner (3pts), and Lorne Carr (2 pts). Toronto lead 4-0 after 2 periods on goals by Bob Davidson and Syl Apps.

Goaltender Paul Bibeault of Montreal didn't get much support in the third period, allowing goals by Carr, Norman "Bud" Poile, Schriner, and Mel Hill.

The final score was 8-0 for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Turk Broda registered the shutout stopping 33 shots. Bibeault, as the score would indicate, was busy in the Canadiens goal, facing 42 shots.

The Leafs defence was lead by Bobby Copp who assisted on 2 goals. Also, he received 2 stitches on his head. In an attempt to block a shot,  he went down too early, and paid a price for his miscalculation - a puck to the head.

As for Maurice Richard, his first NHL game at the Gardens was a non-event. He made no impression what so ever.

A newspaper report summed up Richard's performance in a short paragraph which read "Gaye Stewart overshadowed one of his rookie competitors, Maurice Richard, by as far as from here to Montreal."

At the conclusion of the season, Stewart would top the voting and be named the NHL Rookie of the Year.

November 1942

Richard's participation in the '42-43 season, was cut short when he suffered a broken ankle in a collision with Boston defenceman Jack Crawford. In 15 games, he posted 5 goals and 6 assists.

It wouldn't take Maurice Richard too long to make a gigantic impression on Leaf fans. This happened the following season,  in the opening round of the 1944 playoffs.

In game 2, at the Montreal Forum, Richard scored 5 goals in the Habs 5-1 victory. He was named the first, second and third star. The Canadiens closed out the series against the Leafs with an 11-0 win. Then, in the finals they beat Chicago in 4 straight to capture their first Stanley Cup in 13 years.

Of note, goalie Paul Bibeault was signed by the Leafs in December of 1943, after being discharged from the Military. He started game 1 of that series for the Leafs against the Canadiens. The Leafs were out shot 61 to 23, but managed to defeat Montreal 3-1.

As for that first impression resulting from Richard's initial game at MLG, well,  never mind. It was a rookie mistake on the part of Toronto fans and media.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just For the Fun of It

One of the most enormous undertakings initiated by the NHL was the 6 team expansion  for the 1967-68 season. The NHL determined that all 6 clubs would form the Western Division of the league.

The post expansion Western Division would only survive until 1970-71. With further expansion to Buffalo and Vancouver, both of these franchises joined the Eastern Division. The Chicago Blackhawks headed west.

As promised, let's get to the "just for the fun of it" aspect of this story. Close your eyes and suspend belief for a short period.

Imagine that the 1967-68 Western Division was still in operation. What would the standings look like after 40-plus years of going to battle. Statistics from the National Hockey League 2010 Official Guide were used to construct the follow list.

N. Stars3,2601,3891,36245950



N. Stars10,13810,3933,287




The undisputed leader in the majority of categories are the Philadelphia Flyers. The early success of the Scotty Bowman coached St. Louis Blues, enabled them to capture the number 2 spot. The Stanley Cup Champions (3) of this lot are the Pittsburgh Penguins, who rank fourth. At the bottom are the Los Angeles Kings.

One causality resulted in the Western Division shrinking to 5 members. The California Seals/Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals, were transferred to Cleveland in 1976-77, then merged with the Minnesota North Stars for the 1978-79 season. The Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas to start the 1993-94 campaign.

Okay, you can open your eyes.