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
Audio
(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, Happy..Thaaaankss...giving...from 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".

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

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.

1942
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
anyway."
  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
cautioned.
  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
warm.

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.

1955
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.

 
WESTERN DIVISION STANDINGS 1967-2009
TEAMGPWLTOL
Flyers3,2601,6211,11845764
Blues3,2601,4171,34243269
N. Stars3,2601,3891,36245950
Penguins3,2601,3601,45238365
Kings3,2601,2961,47742463
Seals/////
TEAMGFGAPTS

Flyers11,0249,5903,763

Blues10,20110,3323,335

N. Stars10,13810,3933,287

Penguins10,97011,5763,168

Kings10,65211,4203,079

Seals///


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.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

On November 11th of each year, we are asked to pause and remember those who gave their lives for our country. Many families from coast to coast have lost loved ones while engaged in military combat. During the Second World War, the National Hockey League was not immune from their own being struck down while in service.



Dudley Garrett
Dudley "Red" Garrett was born in Toronto, Ontario on July 24, 1924. As an amateur, he played defence for the Toronto Shamrocks (1940-41), and the Toronto Marlboros of the OHA (1941-42). Also, in '41-42 he played for the Toronto Red Indian Chiefs in the Toronto Independent Hockey League.
At the beginning of the 1942-43 season, Garrett was a prospect in the Toronto Maple Leafs system. Sensing a need for more experience on their defensive core, the Leafs swung a trade with the New York Rangers.

The Leafs gave up Garrett and forward Hank Goldup for defenceman Walter "Babe" Pratt. He was a veteran of  7 seasons with New York, and won a Stanley Cup in 1939-40.

Commenting on the trade, Hap Day stated "I know Garrett is a mighty fine defence prospect. But it is immediate urgency that impels us to deal like this."


November 1942

Coach Day's assessment of the situation was accurate. Pratt posted 37 points (12 goals/25 assists) in 40 games after being dealt to Toronto. In New York, Red Garrett appeared in 23 NHL games during the 1942-43 season. He collected 2 points, a goal and an assist, and spent 18 minutes in the penalty box. Also, in 1942-43, Garrett skated in 6 games for the Providence Reds of the AHL.

Like many young men across the nation, Red Garrett answered the call to duty, and entered the Navy during the '42-43 season. While in the service, he played on several military teams - Sydney Navy, Toronto Navy, and Cornwallis Navy.

On November 24, 1944 Dudley Garrett was killed while serving his country in World War II. His military assignment found him on the HMCS Shawinigan.


November 1944

One of Garrett's teammates on the New York Rangers was forward Joe Bell. He was born in Manitoba and was a Junior star for the Portage Terriers. In 1942-43, he gained a roster position with the Rangers, and was the youngest member of the Bell-Bend-Gooden line. He participated in 15 games scoring 2 goals and adding 5 assists. Like Garrett, he entered the Royal Canadian Navy during the '42-43 season. His military hockey clubs included the Winnipeg Navy, Cornwallis Navy and St. John's Navy

Joe Bell 1942
 Following his tour of duty, Joe Bell played for the New Haven Ramblers and Hershey Bears of the AHL in 1945-46. His 46 goals goals earned him another opportunity in the NHL with New York. In 1946-47, Bell played in 47 games with the Rangers (6 Goals/4 Assists). He rounded out his career playing in the AHL, USHL, PCHL, and WHL. His final season was with the Seattle Bombers of the WHL in 1952-53.

It was in Seattle that I first corresponded with Joe Bell in 2006. Joe was kind enough to write me about his career, military service, and his teammate Dudley "Red" Garrett.

The following is Joe Bell in his own words...

"We are from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba where we won the Memorial Cup in 1941-42 defeating the powerful Oshawa Generals for the Canadian Championship. The pro's drafted most of our team, but Hitler was on the loose and we all ended up in the service. I was in the Canadian Navy for 3 years (1942-45) serving on the HMCS Barrie and HMCS Kapuskasing, escorting convoys across the North Atlantic from St. John's, Newfoundland to Derry, Northern Ireland. I was in the radar branch which was new at the time."

On Red Garrett, the hockey player...

"Dudley "Red" Garrett was a teammate of mine and roomed together in the fall of 1942. We were "rookies" with the New York Rangers. Red had a tremendous future in the NHL - talent galore, big, tough and a great skater who could carry that puck end to end. He could write his own contract today with 30 NHL teams."

On military service...

"Red served on the HMCS Shawinigan and I served on the HMCS Barrie. Our job was escorting convoys across the North Atlantic to Great Britain. Usually 5 navy escort ships would protect up to 50 merchant ships. Shawinigan was sent on special assignment and torpedoed with zero survivors. Because it was one of 5 escort ships in our group and for morale reasons were never officially told what happened."

And we leave the last word to Mr. Bell...

"God Bless you and your mates, Red."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hall of Fame : Time for a Change?

With another Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony in the books, it is once again time to reflect on the selection process. In particular, as it relates to those who played in the Original Six era.

In 2000, the Hall decided to abolish the Veterans Committee from the process. The main purpose of this group was to elect players who had been retired for 25 years or more. Often, this was the only avenue open for those who were overlooked or considered to be borderline candidates.

An example of how vital this category was, can be discovered in the 1994 selections. Gaining entry into the Hall, via the Veterans Committee were Lionel Conacher and Harry Watson. They were both very interesting choices.

Neither individual had overwhelming statistics, but both were very talented players. Conacher excelled  in a number of sports and was named Canada's top athlete of the first half of the 20th century. Watson was a solid  two-way player who just happened to win 5 Stanley Cups.

As is usually the case, arguments can be presented from both the pro and con sides concerning their eligibility for acceptance into the hockey shrine. It was of major importance that they were judged on their abilities during the era in which they performed. The comparison aspect could only enter the debate if it was within the players term of service. There could be no saying "but, Harry Watson is no Gilbert Perreault. The standards set for today, cannot be applied to another era.

The political implications which were prevalent in the early years should not be taken lightly. It has been said that Harvey "Busher" Jackson was kept out of the Hall because Conn Smythe deplored his lifestyle away from the rink. How often did some form of political maneuvering occur to deflect an individuals nomination?

In 2010, there are still debates over why certain players are not members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The case of goaltender Lorne Chabot is frequently discussed in hockey circles. Many are of the opinion that it is a miscarriage of justice that he has been excluded. Then, there are the unique circumstances surrounding a player like Bill Barilko. Despite only playing 5 seasons, he won 4 Stanley Cups. His value and contributions to the Leaf Dynasty of the late 1940's cannot be refuted. In 1951, he scored one of the biggest goals in Leaf history. The overtime tally against Montreal provided Toronto with their last Stanley Cup until 1962. Tragically, Barilko lost his life in the summer of 1951.

If the Hall of Fame was to reinstate the Veterans Committee, players like Chabot and Barilko could have a place to be heard. Present day historians and those on the selection committee could take a fresh approach, and analyze the facts in a more detailed fashion.

The make-up of a new Veterans Committee demands that creativity be a number one priority. It should be composed of members who specialise and have knowledge/understanding of a particular era. Their credentials should be beyond reproach. A subcommittee of researchers should be engaged to thoroughly build a case for a players nomination. An exhaustive review of all documentation, including game tapes should be incorporated into the fact-finding mission. First hand accounts and interviews should be conducted. The detailed report supporting justification of an inductee would be made public. This way, everyone is aware that an intelligent and informed decision was made.

The perception of  "Out of sight, Out of mind" must be wiped off the map. A new road map is essential to bringing the past into focus.

We owe it to those who have been ignored or who have slipped through the cracks.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hall of Fame Weekend : Part 2

As promised, here are some more photos.

Mike Gartner, 2001

Chuck Kaiton, 2004

Murray Costello, 2005

Pat Quinn, Selection Committee member

Jim Rutherford,  Carolina GM

Marc De Foy, 2010 Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award Winner
  Congratulations - Jimmy Devellano, Angela James, Cammi Granato, Dino Ciccarelli, The family of Daryl Seaman, Ron Weber, and Marc De Foy - the class of 2010.

Hall of Fame Weekend : Part 1

It is one of those dates you circle in red on the hockey calender - Hockey Hall of Fame Weekend. The weekend kicked-off  Friday afternoon with the launch of the new Spirit of Hockey Store, and a book signing with Johnny Bower and Billy Smith. On Saturday there was the Tales of The Cup and a book signing with Ron Ellis and Scotty Bowman. On Sunday there was an inductee Fan Forum and the Hockey Hall of Fame Legends Classic Game at the Air Canada Centre.

The best part of the weekend was seeing so many hockey people.

Bill Gadsby, 1970

Matt Pavelich, 1987

(L) Scotty Morrison, 1999 (R) Brian O'Neill, 1994

Brian Trottier, 1997

Michel Goulet, 1998

Peter Stastny, 1998

More to follow.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Field of Dreams

With the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies taking place tonight, the inductee's are about to receive one of hockey's highest honours. All the hard work put into their craft will be rewarded as they take their place next to the games elite. Along with names like Howe, Richard and Orr, they will be joining one of Canada's most decorated individuals in the world of sports - Lionel Conacher.

Conacher was a gifted athlete who played in the National Hockey League and won 2 Stanley Cups, Also. he was successful in, count them, 5 other sports - Football (Grey Cup Champion), Baseball (Triple A Championship), Boxing (Canadian Amateur Light Heavyweight Champion), Lacrosse (Turned Pro in 1931), and Wrestling (27-0 as a Pro).

He is a member of not only the Hockey Hall of Fame, but the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, Canadian Football Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Also, he was named Canada's Male Athlete of the first half of the 20th Century.

So, how did the City of Toronto honour one of their native son's? Well, the Summerhill neighbourhood near downtown Toronto named a park after Lionel Conacher.

Lionel Conacher Park

Can't you  just picture Lionel playing some football, baseball or lacrosse in this wonderful parcel of land? Then, heading down to the Hall of Fame to observe the festivities.

Indeed, A Field of Dreams.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ed Litzenberger 1932-2010

It is the type of story that immediately grabs your attention when scanning the morning newspaper. You quickly turn the page, but just as quickly turn back to make certain your eyes weren't failing you. Your first impression is, wow - what a treat, an update on one of the players from the Original Six era. Then, it hits you like a ton of bricks - ED LITZENBERGER (1932-2010).

The Toronto Sun (Nov.4) carried a nice obituary on Litzenberger penned by Hall of Fame writer Frank Orr. The 4-time Stanley Cup champion passed away on Monday in Toronto -  Full Story.


The first instance of Litzenberger being recognized for his work in the NHL came in 1955. On April 26, 1955 he was named the winner of the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year. For the first time since 1937, a Chicago Blackhawk had captured this prestigious prize. The previous Hawk winner was Cully Dahlstrom who was born in Minnenapolis, Minnesota.

Litzenberger received 128 of 180 votes to beat out Don McKenney of Boston (72votes) and Jacques Plante of Montreal (54 votes). In a unique process, voting for the Calder took place at the mid-point of the season, and at the conclusion of the regular season. In the first half of the voting, McKenney only received 15 votes, however, he made tremendous strides in the second half by registering 57 votes. Litzenberger went 54 and 74 in the voting.

His statistics reflect why he won the Calder. After beginning his rookie year in Montreal, he was traded to Chicago on December 10, 1954 for cash (the waiver price of $15,000). As a result of the trade, Litzenberger played in 3 more games than any other player - 29 with Montreal and 44 with Chicago. The regular season called for each team to play 70 games. He netted 23 goals (9th in the league) and 28 assists for 51 points. In a game against the Boston Bruins on February 23, 1955 he scored all 3 Blackhawk goals in a 3-3 tie.

April 1955
 Now comes the number one question. Why on earth did the Canadiens trade a player with such enormous potential? The roots of the transaction can be traced back to the 1953-54 season.

On December 2, 1953 newspapers were reporting on spectacular news emanating out of Chicago. One headline stated - "Writz Threat to Withdraw Hawks Startle NHL Brass" - had the entire league buzzing.

Arthur Writz in his own words.

"I'd like to pull the Black Hawks out of Chicago. The team has lost $300,000 already and the future isn't bright at all because we can't get players regardless of how much money we are willing to spend...Unlike baseball and professional football, (hockey) is without a draft and it is practically impossible to get young players to rebuild the Hawks."

Over the next year or so, the NHL would respond with the "Help Chicago" program. In the 1953-54 season, the flood of players being sent to Chicago started with Jack McIntyre ( Boston) and Ike Hildebrand (New York). In 1954-55 Toronto sent Dave Creighton and Harry Watson. In addition to Litzenberger, the Canadiens shipped Bucky Hollingworth, Johnny McCormack and Paul Masnick to the Windy City. Down the road, the Chicago roster would be propped-up by Frank Martin, Pete Conacher, Bob Hazzard, Ray Timgren, Red Sullivan, Dick Gamble and Bill Gadsby.

Of all the players destined for Chicago, Ed Litzenberger was by far at the top of the heap. In 1961 he was captain of the Stanley Cup squad.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Klando 1978

The resume of Czechoslovakian forward Eduard Novak is truly impressive - 5 League Championship titles (306 goals in 560 games); 2 Olympic Games; 4 World Championships (2 wins). On the international scene, he appeared in 113 games with the National Team and recorded 48 goals.

News of his passing on October 21, 2010 brought back memories of his visit to Toronto with Klando as part of Super Series '78.

Super Series '78
 The game was held on January 2, 1978 at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Klando club had an enhanced line-up, adding 5 players from other Czech teams. In total, they had 9 players from their World Champioship squad dressed for the contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The complete roster for both teams is listed below.

 
KLANDOTORONTO
#PLAYER#PLAYER
20Milak Kolisek1Gord McRae
24Miroslav Krasa29Mike Palmateer
2Jaroslav Vins2Ian Turnbull
3Otakar Vejvoda4Trevor Johansen
4Miroslav Dvorak6Ron Ellis
5Bohumil Cermak7Lanny McDonald
6Milan Novy8Jack Valiquette
7Eduard Novak10George Ferguson
8Lubomir Bauer12Errol Thompson
9Jan Neliba15Pat Boutette
10Zdenek Nedved17Jerry Butler
11Frantisek Pospisil19Bruce Boudreau
12Frantisek Kaberele21Borje Salming
13Peter Stastny22Dave Williams
14Vaclav Sykora23Randy Carlyle
15Miroslav Krivacek25Scott Garland
16Marian Stastny24Brian Glennie
17Milan Skrbek26Kurt Walker
18Zdenek Mueller27Darryl Sittler
19Jaroslav Pouzar/Greg Hotham
20Milak Kolisek20Mike Pelyk
21Arnost Reckziegel16Jimmy Jones
22Bohuslav Ebermann

23Jan Novotny



 In Toronto, the Leafs drew heavy criticism for not icing key players. Coach Roger Neilson didn't pencil in Borje Salming or Lanny McDonald. Ian Turnbull was out due to a back injury, and Brian Glennie only lasted a couple of shifts. To top matters off, Gord McRae was in net instead of starting netminder Mike Palmateer.

 With a depleted roster, the Leafs were no match against Klando. The visitors skated off with an 8-5 victory.

Scoring a pair each for the Czech club were Peter Stastny, Miroslav Krivacek and Jaroslav Pouzar. The other markers came from Jan Neliba and Milan Novy (empty net). Scoring for the Leafs were Darryl Sittler (2), Errol Thompson, George Ferguson and Scott Garland.

Of note, Dave "Tiger" Williams was assessed a major penalty for spearing Frantisek Kaberle. Yes, the father of current Leaf defenceman Tomas Kaberle.