Thursday, December 29, 2011

Johnny Wilson: 1929-2011

The Original Six era has lost another player with the news of Johnny Wilson's passing. He passed away on December 27, 2011 at the age of 82.

His nephew, Ron Wilson, head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, broke the news of Wilson's death on Twitter. "My uncle, Johnny Wilson, passed away this morning at 82 yrs. He was a warrior thru & thru, right to the end. Our family will miss him dearly," wrote Wilson.

Johnny Wilson's long journey to the National Hockey League began on February 18, 1947. While playing in a high school game with his brother Larry, several scouts took note of Johnny's performance. Representing the Detroit Red Wings was Marcel Cote, who just happened to be refereeing the contest. Planted in the crowd was JoJo Grabowski, who scouted for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Following the game, Cote approached Johnny Wilson with the intention of signing him for the Wings. It was agreed they would meet later to further discuss the matter. While Cote was dressing after the game, Grabowski scooped in and took Wilson for a taxi ride. He made his case for the Leafs and Wilson was impressed the NHL club would spend the coin on a taxi just to talk with him.

Detroit's efforts were fruitless as Toronto had already posted Wilson's name on their negotiation list. However, Detroit did add Larry Wilson to their list.

The next step in the process for Toronto was to land Wilson's signature on a "C" form. All attempts in this regard failed as Johnny Wilson's only desire was to continue playing with his brother. In 1947-48 both Johnny and Larry played for the Windsor Spitfires in the OHA.

With two different NHL clubs owning their rights, another brother act would come into play to bring the Wilson brothers under one umbrella. The Leafs, hitting a brick wall each time they tried to sign Johnny Wilson, decided to take action. Dusty Blair, already part of the Leafs organization, had a brother named Chuck in the Detroit chain. Toronto made a deal with the Red Wings, sending Johnny Wilson to Detroit in exchange for Chuck Blair. Thus, each brother combination was reunited - the Blair's in Toronto and Wilson's in the Motor City.

Johnny Wilson turned pro in the 1949-50 campaign with the Omaha Knights in the USHL. He produced 41 goals in 70 games and added 39 assists for 80 points. During the regular season, both Johnny and Larry were called-up by Detroit to play in one contest against the Hawks in Chicago Stadium.

Jack Adams, Detroit's general manager, summoned Wilson for the Wings post-season play in 1950. The Wings swept all 8 games playoff games and Johnny Wilson won his first of four Stanley Cups.

In addition to playing for Detroit, Wilson skated with Chicago, Toronto and the New York Rangers. He participated in 688 NHL contests, scoring 161 goals and 171 assists for 332 points.

An example of his durability came when he set the consecutive games played record of 580. This covered a stretch of 8 NHL seasons.

When his playing career came to an end, Wilson tried his hand at coaching. In the National Hockey League, he paced behind the benches in Los Angeles, Detroit, Colorado and Pittsburgh.

John Edward Wilson was born on June 14, 1929 in Kincardine, Ontario.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Gift that keeps on Giving

Being a hockey fan,  one of  the joys of Christmas is receiving a wrapped book under the tree or a magazine stuffed in your Christmas stocking.

In 1955, a loyal fan would have been entertained for hours by this edition of BLUELINE (the original hockey monthly).

Sunday, December 25, 2011


This vintage cover from 1947 wraps-up the sentiment of the season - MERRY CHRISTMAS to One and All!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A B-ball and Hockey Gathering

For the first portion of their schedule, the National Hockey League has been the only show in cities where they share an existence with NBA franchises. Due to a labour dispute, the round-ball season was put on hold as players and owners wouldn't budge from their negotiating positions. The lull in activity provided the opportunity for NHL clubs to bask in the spotlight and secure media coverage which often fell to their National Basketball Association counterparts. In today's competitive marketplace, the two often engage in battle for consumer dollars and media attention.

On October 15, 1953 the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics shared the limelight during a luncheon put on by the Boston Chamber of Commerce at the Sheraton-Plaza Hotel. It was the first in their history the hockey club was honoured in such a manner. Team members were introduced by Fred Cusick who served as the play-by-play announcer for the Bruins.

Addressing the crowd on behalf of the National Hockey League was president Clarence Campbell. "Not so long back there was the possibility Boston would cease to hold its ranking as a leading sports city. People began taking sports too much for granted. Sports are great for business. And those magic figures of 13,909 who appeared for the opening game, proved the best possible evidence that interest is reviving," Campbell told the assembled masses.

Captain Milt Schmidt, who sat beside Celtic Bob Cousy, received nothing but praise when Cusick turned his attention to the Bruins superstar. "There just aren't enough adjectives to describe him," the voice of Bruins hockey imparted to those in attendance.

With the end of labour disruption in the NBA, the Bruins and Celtics will once again share centre stage in the city of Boston. The condensed and busy schedule for the Celtics will result in little time for luncheons with their brethren from the NHL.

Monday, December 19, 2011

It Must Run In The Family

Congratulations to Toronto Sun Baseball scribe Bob Elliott on his induction into the media wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame. On December 6, he was named winner of the Taylor Spink Award by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He is the first Canadian writer to join this prestigious group.

Reading material on Bob, it is interesting to note he isn't the first member of the Elliott family to reach Hall of Fame status in a big league organization. This honour was first bestowed upon his grandfather Edwin "Chaucer" Elliott.

Ed Elliott

The elder Elliott played sports while studying medicine at Queen's University. A two-sport athlete, he played both football and hockey while attending school. In 1899, he won a hockey title with the Kingston Granites. Following his time in University, Elliott put together a semi-pro baseball team in Kingston. In 1906, Elliott coached the Toronto Argonauts and later in the campaign won a championship with Hamilton over McGill. This was followed by a stint with Montreal's AAA team as coach and subsequent role as an advisor. In 1911, he was appointed manager of the St. Thomas baseball club. A Toronto Sun article pointed out Elliott played on the diamond with the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team.

His claim to fame in the sports world came in hockey as an on-ice official. His participation as a referee came in 1903. During his time in this capacity with the OHA, Elliott gained the reputation as being a solid referee who knew the rules of the game and how to implement them.

Ed Elliott passed away in 1913 suffering from cancer. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Fine Penalty Killing Duo

Last week, the Toronto Maple Leafs fell 4-2 to Washington with all the four goals coming on the power-play. It represented the most power-play goals given-up by Toronto in one contest since the 2009-10 season.

When the Maple Leafs opened the 1954-55 hockey campaign, their main duo for working on the penalty kill was Rudy Migay and Ron Stewart.

Rudy Migay

Ron Stewart

Early in the year, these two not only helped out on the penalty kill, but lead the team in scoring. At the top of the list was Stewart with four goals. Right behind him was Migay with three.
On November 6, 1954 in a game against Chicago, Migay produced not one, but two shorthanded goals, a rare feat for the day. Migay scored his first shorthanded tally in the middle frame. Migay and Stewart went to work after teammate Parker MacDonald was assessed a minor penalty for high-sticking. The goal came about when Stewart picked-up a rebound off the end-boards and sent the puck to a wide open Migay. Known as the "Toy Terrier", Migay's shot beat Chicago goalie Al Rollins.

His second marker on special teams came with Stewart in the box serving an interference penalty in period three. Migay took a pass from Hugh Bolton which sent him in the clear. Rollins, gave up a rebound on the  initial shot, but Migay buried the rebound.

Toronto defeated the visitors by a score of 5-2. Another highlight came when rookie Parker MacDonald scored his first National Hockey League goal to open the scoring in period two.

Rudy Migay, played his first NHL game with the Maple Leafs on December 1, 1949. His entire time in the Original Six era, 10 seasons, was spent with Toronto. In 418 games, Migay notched 59 goals and 92 assists for 151 points. He accumulated 293 penalty-minutes. He participated in 15 post-season matches, scoring one goal and registering 20 penalty-minutes.

Now, if only the current Toronto club could have as much success on the penalty kill.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Maple Leaf Gardens: A Mysterious Disappearance

Last week, I met a friend at the Loblaws store in Maple Leaf Gardens for a beverage prior to proceeding to a function held downtown.

While waiting outside, I walked around the building to observe any changes since the opening last month. From a construction point-of-view, most of the work is now restricted to the Wood Street side.

As the above photo reveals, interior construction is now in progress on the third floor. Scaffolding and debris removal equipment extend to the upper level just east of the delivery bay. The space is being renovated to house the hockey rink and athletic facility for Ryerson University.

Making my rounds, something didn't look right as I walked along Carlton Street. I had more time to digest the exterior alterations, as my last visit focused on the Loblaws opening and the brilliant retro marquee. After pacing back and forth several times in front of 60 Carlton, I came to the conclusion my eyes were not deceiving me. The object of my search was nowhere to be found. Then, questions started filtering through my thought process. Where did it go? Was it damaged? What would the motive be to abandon or cover-up such an important part of history?

Anytime I strolled past Maple Leaf Gardens, I would take the time to glance down and look at the lower portion of the building at one particular spot. The approximate location was a short distance away from the intersection of Church and Carlton. During my visit last week, I discovered the cornerstone had vanished quicker than a Charlie Conacher blast off the right wing.

The unveiling of the cornerstone took place on the afternoon of September 21, 1931. The list of hockey people attending the dedication was impressive. In addition to J.P. Bickell, Conn Smythe and the rest of the Gardens Board of Directors, the National Hockey League was represented by president Frank Calder. On hand were executives from the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association and the Ontario Hockey Association. Also, local hockey organizations attended the festivities. The ceremonial honours went to Lieutenant-Governor W.D. Ross.

Speaking to the Lieutenant-Governor, Bickell told those assembled that Maple Leaf Gardens "might be regarded as a civic institution rather than a commercial venture, because its object is to foster and promote the healthy recreation of the people of this British and sport-loving city."

Bickell's wish for the use and heritage of the building certainly has survived the ravages of time. Sure, the Gardens has been referred to as the Cash Box on Carlton Street during the Harold Ballard era, but no building in the city of Toronto has been so loved by its citizens. For that matter, the entire Nation. Many visiting Toronto would make the hockey palace their first stop when heading out to explore their surroundings. Thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Foster Hewitt, it became a Canadian Institution.

As the long crowds waiting outside for the opening of Loblaws would indicate, the Gardens hasn't lost its luster to be a major attraction. Taking into account the words spoken by J.P. Bickell, the building will be experiencing the best of two worlds, commercial and civic, once the renovations have been completed. The retail outlets being the commercial aspect of the new venture and Ryerson being the civic side. Although it will no longer house an NHL squad, there is little doubt many of the curious will converge on the site to view the Ryerson Rams performing under the original domed roof. If Loblaws is a major draw, one can only imagine the impact and demand for tickets to sit and once again watch hockey action in this iconic structure.

As for the present status of the cornerstone, one can only hope it hasn't fallen victim to a construction mishap or neglect. It was alarming to see the area in question encased in cement, but this casing could have been put in place to protect the cornerstone during the construction phase. Also, there could be a concerted effort to keep it out of public view and out of the reach of vandals. If this is so, it doesn't make much sense. For 80-years it has been in place and visible to all who desired to inspect it.

Early in the process, the cornerstone was boxed in by wooden planks to shelter it from work being conducted. As same was completed, the cornerstone reappeared, however, is once again hidden from view. The above noted photo of the cornerstone was taken on January 3, 2011.

The photo below, showing the spot in question guarded from the elements, was shot on September 25, 2010.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Maple Leaf Gardens: A New Life

As the lyrics to the Dinah Washington classic tune states, "what a difference a day makes."

This certainly is applicable when examining the renovations at Maple Leaf Gardens. As pointed out previously, the interior makeover has been shielded from traffic within the neighbourhood. Also, it appears as though a portion of the exterior work was delayed to coincide with the opening of Loblaws on the main level.

Developments started to heat-up during the week of November 21st, when work was being conducted on the domed roof. On November 23rd, the Maple Leaf logo was removed from the roof. As the exterior of the building comes under heritage protection, it was not necessary for the Leaf emblem to disappear. It was placed on the structure in the 1980s during the Harold Ballard regime. For some reason, the powers-in-charge has elected not to return the insignia to the top of 60 Carlton Street.

On the same morning, came an installation which was powerful enough to stop one in their tracks. Think of a driver behind the wheel of his or her vehicle slamming on the brakes to avoid a wayward child in their path. Walking along Carlton Street took on the feel of being in a time warp. It is a moment, once you have come to a complete halt, where you look away and give your head a shake. Then, peer-up once again, hoping the initial glance wasn't a figment of your imagination. At this point it all sinks in. It is like seeing an old friend who comes back into your life after an extended absence. In this case, the old pal is the marquee covering the main entrance to the iconic edifice. And believe me; I'm not exaggerating the impact this has on anyone with an appreciation for history.

One word can be used to describe the new marquee - stunning! Under the direction of ERA Architects, who specialize in heritage architecture, the final product is both eye pleasing and appropriate. Project Architect, William MacIvor, nailed this one by selecting the correct era on which to base adaptive reuse of the marquee. Having written in the past about the marquee, it is of significant interest and is often referred to as being the face of Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Gardens marquee. Photographed on Nov. 30, 2011.

MacIvor, who obtained a Masters degree in architecture while attending Dalhousie University, wrote about the process in his blog. His entry following the installation provided insight into how things came together. "The original canopy from 1931 did not include the lightbox (which was added in the following decade), and the marquee has been subsequently modified numerous times over the life of the building." MacIvor explained the original drawings dating back to 1931 were engaged to provide vital information.

The lettering of - Maple Leaf Gardens - "was painstakingly recreated from historical photographs," wrote MacIvor. This certainly was achieved and is clearly evident when viewing an image from a by-gone-era. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and the photographic evidence in his blog confirms how accurate the reproduction is when compared to the past.

In what appears to be a gathering of Leaf captains, the above photo seems to date back to the late 1950s. On the extreme right is Sid Smith, who wore the captains "C" during the 1955-56 campaign. The first individual on the left is Hap Day, who holds the honour of being the first Leaf captain. Thus, it isn't a stretch to determine the approximate circa of the photo. An examination of the picture demonstrates how precisely the replica matches the one behind Conn Smythe and company.

Upon choosing a design, the next step was to pitch his vision. In this regard, MacIvor wrote, "it was decided in consultation with municipal staff from Heritage Preservation Services to restore the signature element to its iconic, longest running version; the one which is most clearly defined in the public consciousness."

Having viewed the final product last week, I was staggered by this new addition to the Carlton Street landscape. There is little doubt the new/old design has brought new life to the building. I observed many people, young and old, taking the time to look-up and take in the marquee. At night, with the lights switched on, it is absolutely striking! Watching the shopping crowd coming and going, it seemed as though the wonderful sights and sounds of a Toronto Maple Leaf game night had returned. Memories of a large hockey crowd flooding out of the Gardens following another evening of NHL action flashed before me.

The marquee at night

The following week, there was another explosion of important news pertaining to the 80-year-old building which opened on November 12, 1931 with the Maple Leafs playing host to Chicago.

First-up was Ryerson University with a preview of their new rink on November 29th. Neatly tucked under the dome, the space will seat 2,600 spectators and will resemble a miniature version of the original bowel. It will be known as Mattamy Home Ice after the company owned by major financial contributor Peter Gilgan. It will serve as the new home of the Ryerson Rams hockey team. Future work is expected to be completed by spring of 2012.

Next on tap was the opening of Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens on November 30th. The grocery store takes in 85,000 square feet and devours the entire first floor. I was fortunate enough to be part of a tour conducted by Mario Fatica who is Vice President, Planning development & Approvals for Loblaws. Right off the bat, I informed Fatica my main interest was the hockey/historical aspects of the renovations.

However, I can't help but comment on the vast variety of products and services available to the public. From a consumer point-of-view, the store will definitely be an asset to the community. In addition to providing enough food to feed an army, there is a pharmacy, in-sore dietitian and medical clinic.

The first visual relating to hockey is found near the escalators, located to the right as you enter via the corner doors at Church and Carlton. Affixed to the east wall is a huge blue Maple Leaf. The Loblaws press release describes the artwork as a "three dimensional sculpture created from stadium chairs." This is a nice touch and pays tribute to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Maple Leaf sculpture
 Prior to making my way into Loblaws, I soaked in a view of the exterior from the south-side of Carlton. Ducking around traffic, I got a clear look at the entrance. Immediately, I recalled vintage photos of the United Cigar Store, an inaugural tenant at Maple Leaf Gardens. United Cigar Store first appeared as part of the new hockey palace in the 1932 Toronto city directory. The exact location being 438 Church Street at the corner of Church and Carlton. The following pictures tell the tale between 1931 and 2011.

Church and Carlton - 1930s

Church and Carlton - 2011

From the same vantage point, by the escalators, one can focus on several other historical related features incorporated into the Loblaws store. As the interior was stripped bare to accommodate renovations, original concrete walls are now in full view. Old light fixtures which hung above ice level have been put back into operation. Storefront windows have been designed to mirror as closely as possible those from the past.

Contained within is a cafe/canteen for hungry and thirsty shoppers to take a break and contemplate their next move. In these ares, there are a couple of things to capture the eye of hockey fans. Depicted on one wall is a replica of artist John Richmond's mural which was located in the Gardens lobby. In 1994, the piece was put up to pay "homage to historical moments and star players." Since the wall on which the original was created on fell victim to the gutting process, photographs were reviewed to obtain accuracy in the reproduction.

After finding a table under the mural, one can rest their weary bones on a gold or red seat salvaged from when the Leafs vacated the premises.

The counter tops to a number of tables contain historical photos under glass. While munching on a treat or savoring a fine beverage, a history lesson is readily available.

As we reached aisle 25, Mario Fatica pointed to a red circle on the floor. My first impression was a painter, in a hurry to finish last minute touch-ups, over filled his tray and there was no time to correct the mishap. This thought quickly vanished as our tour guide articulated the significance of this circle. At that moment, Mario and I were standing at the exact location where thousands of face-offs took place to start thousands of hockey games. Yes, we were firmly planted at centre ice in the old Maple Leaf Gardens.

Once told this, my first move was to get a sense of my surroundings relative to the previous layout. To my right, the player benches and the penalty box to my left. Gazing straight ahead, I conjured-up the image of goalie Glenn Hall going through his pre-game rituals prior to the puck drop for period one. Returning to reality, I was looking south and could see the new windows exposing Carlton Street.

Marking centre ice in the old Gardens

Perhaps fueled by my nostalgic journey back to the Original Six era and preparing to face-off against Stan Mikita and the Hawks, several suggestions came to mind. Without hesitation, I passed them onto Mr. Fatica.

Noticing the second floor - home to Joe Fresh, LCBO and President's Choice Cooking School - Foster Hewitt's broadcasting location popped into my head. How about a reproduction of the Hockey Night in Canada gondola, allowing shoppers to glance-up and see a tribute to a broadcasting and hockey pioneer?

Throughout the Loblaws store a great amount of signage is done in stenciling. This form of lettering was very popular in the early years of Maple Leaf Gardens. I recommended to Fatica that the name of each Street - Carlton, Church and Wood - be stenciled on the applicable wall. In a way, this could make the store seem more intimate and serve as a guiding light for those who lack a sense of direction.

A sample of the stenciling

Another acknowledgment of the past is six columns draped with posters saluting major events. One of these honouring a concert held on May 10, 1975 when Frank Sinatra performed at the Gardens.

Unfortunately, no area of the interior was deemed to have heritage value. Thus, the glorious art deco lobby was demolished. Its survival would have only enhanced the experience of visiting 60 Carlton. Beyond the architectural importance, the space could have been used as an information desk and benefit customers by supplying coat check services.

Somewhere there must be room for a Gardens museum. It is my understanding this is in the cards as part of future development plans. The history and artifacts of this building shouldn't be hidden away, but made accessible to all.

My grade for this project so far? For all concerned - Loblaws, Ryerson and the Federal Government - they deserve a solid A-Plus. In hockey terms, they have scored the game-winning-goal.

One only has to think of the alternative.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Howie Morenz Jr: The Name Game

One can only imagine the immense pressure.

First, there was the sad and difficult experience of having to deal with the sudden passing of your beloved father. The first undisputed superstar produced by the National Hockey League. A dad you shared with hockey fans all across the world. A dad whose name just happened to be Howie Morenz.

Secondly, there was the subsequent period of having to contend with the glare of the public spotlight being pointed directly in your path.

Following the passing of Howie Morenz on March 8, 1937 the Montreal Canadiens concluded their NHL commitments and headed out to Canada's east coast to take part in a Maritime hockey tour. Joining them on this trip was ten-year-old Howie Morenz Jr. In the final encounter, played in Moncton, New Brunswick on April 13, 1937, young Howie dazzled 5,000 spectators by scoring a goal.

The media, jumping all over this story, reported on the adventures of Howie Jr. Although this was only an exhibition series, along with the fact Morenz was still a boy, didn't prevent conversation on his future in the game. Writing in the April 14, 1937 edition of The Toronto Daily Star, Red Burnett provided his readers with this assessment. "Young Howie Morenz Jr. is showing early signs of hockey greatness. Like his late father the 10-year-old youngster appears to have the happy knack of knowing the shortest way to the goal."

In the fall of 1937, the Montreal Forum played host to the Howie Morenz Memorial Game The contest featured a collection of NHL All-Stars versus the Montreal All-Stars. For many, the highlight of this event took place when Howie Morenz took to the ice and skated with teammates who once shared the space with his dad.

There are good times and bad when an individual is the focus of public scrutiny and the Morenz family couldn't escape the negative side of being well known members of society. In mid-November of 1937, Howie's mother, Mary, received several disturbing telephone calls from unknown persons. The purpose of these contacts only inflicted more pain and tension to an already distraught household.

During the initial call, Mrs. Morenz was told to "be on your guard" as a plot was in motion to "snatch" her son. As a result, Howie Morenz received protection from the Montreal Police Department. The detectives assigned to investigate the matter speculated the threats came due Morenz participating in the Memorial game.

At the age of sixteen, Morenz continued to hear the comparisons with his legendary dad. This is clearly documented in a piece penned by the Vancouver Sun's Charles Edwards on November 20, 1942. The Vancouver scribe wrote, "Young Howie has the same sloping shoulders, the same deep through the chest look, that distinguished the late Canadiens star." In reply to a question concerning his dad's greatest asset as a hockey player, the tremendous speed he could generate when skating, Morenz stated, "I don't think I am anywhere near that speed."

Baz O'Meare of the Montreal Star set lofty goals for Morenz when he wrote, "there will come a night when high drama will ride the lists and young Howie will skate out with the lucky seven number on his sweater, the number that has never been worn by any Canadien since his dad passed on."

In October of 1943, Morenz joined the Montreal Jr. Canadiens in the QJHL. The jump from playing for Catholic High School to junior hockey was a major step and reflected his talents as a player. However, the comparisons to his dad weren't far behind. A story published in the Calgary Herald (dateline Montreal) on October 21, 1943 heralded his ascension up the hockey ladder. "Howie Morenz Jr., will play for the Canadiens in the junior amateur hockey association loop here this season, maintaining the Canadien tradition of his famous National Hockey League father, it was announced Tuesday."

Morenz spent four-years in the Quebec Junior Hockey League with Montreal. His best season came in 1946-47 when produced 42 goals in 27 games.

Following his time in junior, Morenz graduated to the Montreal Royals of the Quebec Senior League. In an interview with writer Len Bramson, Morenz addressed the question of his ability to turn pro being linked to the family name. "I know a lot of people think I am living off of my father's publicity, that's as ridiculous as it is stupid. When my dad died I was only 10-years-old up until that time I had a lot of privileges that other kids didn't have, but after he died I had to come the rest of the way by myself just like the rest of the fellows did, step by step."

His crack at professional hockey came in1948-49 with the Dallas Texans of the United States Hockey League. In 60 games, he notched 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points. This would be his only stint at the pro level.

Recently, I sat down with Howie Morenz Jr. to discuss his dad and his own life in hockey.

You were only 12-years-old when your dad passed away. Did you ever see him play in a National Hockey League game?

 I saw my father play in two hockey games. That was it. I was going to school and couldn't go to many games. By the time they got out of the Forum it was kind of late at night and a lot of times the players arranged to go out and eat with their wives. It would have interfered with my schooling. I don't know how much I should have been impressed, but he was playing well. He was fast.

Following the 1936-37 season, the Montreal Canadiens embarked on a Maritime hockey tour visiting Canada's east coast. You played with the team during their trip out east. What was that experience like?

 By golly, I played with all the oldtimers Aurel Joliat, Pit Lebine, Johnny Gagon, Albert Leduc and Lionel Conacher who played for the Montreal Maroons. Joffre Desilets, there is a name that crops up. He didn't stay in the league long, but he was a very nice gentleman. We had an incident going across from the mainland to Prince Edward Island. Three players were standing up - Aurel Joliat, Albert Leduc and Johnny Gagon - by the bow of the boat. The nose would rise-up and go crashing down on the ice. They didn't expect this and they were all standing wearing their raccoon coats which were a favourite in those days. They all ended up looking like a bunch of drowned rats with their fedoras capped with ice, snow and water! (Laughing!).

At the young age of 16, people were making comparisons between yourself and your dad. Did you feel pressure to follow in his footsteps?

 Well sure.  I always tried my best and enjoyed hockey. During the wintertime on the outdoor rink, I used to skate every night. After school I would do my homework, then bingo I was out on the rink. I loved hockey. Unfortunately, I wasn't another second-coming.

After playing for Catholic High School, you joined the Montreal Junior Canadiens in 1943 and were coached by former NHLer Wilf Cude. It must have been a big thing in your career to take the next step?

 Your stepping-up in class there. A lot of good young hockey players were in that league. I played four-years in junior and I had one really great year which made everyone think I was going to be the second-coming, but it didn't happen.

As you started in junior, your mom was quoted as saying you "will be larger than your dad because he continues to grow like a weed." You must have been very close to your mom following your dad's passing?

 Oh yes. My mother God Bless her, had a rough time after my dad died. She had a young family with three children, but we survived. Mom met another gentleman about three years later and they got married. His name was George Pratt. He became a step-father to me and treated us all well.

While still in junior, you had the opportunity to play in several benefit games which involved the Montreal Canadiens. Usually, you would play on the opposing team. In April 1946, you skated for an All-Star team which played the Habs. You got to play with the likes of Billy Taylor and Bob Goldham that must have been fun for a young player like yourself?

 Absolutely. It is funny you mentioned Bob Goldham because he is the one I remember most. He spent all kinds of time talking to me. I really appreciated that fellow.

In 1947-48, you moved to the QSHL with the Montreal Royals. Was it difficult making the jump from junior to senior hockey?

 I didn't have a particularly good year in '47-'48. I don't know why I didn't get to play with them a second season. I guess they (Frank Selke and the NHL Canadiens) were in a hurry to see what I was going to do as competition got a little tougher. So, they sent me to Dallas.

In Dallas during the 1948-49 season did you still hear the comparisons to your dad?

 There was a lot of propaganda when I first got there. The team got very little notice in the papers.

After one season playing professional for the Dallas Texans, you returned to the QSHL for a brief stint with the Valleyfield Braves in 1949-50.

 I had an accident while playing in a game. At the time, they put up glass partitions behind the nets and took away the chicken wire. I carried the puck into the offensive zone and a defenceman ran me into the post which was supporting the glass. I was knocked-out colder than a mackerel. They carried me off the ice and I came to in the dressing room. I started to have vision troubles. The club sent me to see Dr. Bromley Moore. He wrote Mr. Selke advising him I shouldn't continue playing hockey. If I got hit in my left eye in a fight, by a stick or a puck, any kind of accident, I would lose my eye. Selke told me he didn't want me to play with the Montreal Canadiens because if I got hurt in such a fashion after what happened to my dad, it wouldn't be good for hockey and it wouldn't be good for the Montreal Canadiens. He told me if I wanted to play for someone else on my own, they wouldn't interfere. I went and played in the provincial league and I got more money playing there than I did for the Montreal Canadiens.

Did you have a favourite Canadiens player after your dad's passing?

 I liked them all. As I got older, I started to measure the value of players. Then, players like Rocket Richard and Elmer Lach came along - all the great ones.

Your dad's death was a very public event. Did it help you deal with things?

 It helped me in my day-to-day life after I finished playing hockey. I was a curiosity because of his fame. It helped me a lot.

What did your dad teach you about the game?

 Skating. He started me at three-years-old and built a rink in the lane way which had to be used by cars and delivery wagons which came around at that time. The milkman. The breadman. He flooded it and no one drove over the rink made by Howie Morenz! He got me a pair of what was referred to after as cheese-cutters. Those were the skates you strapped to your shoes and they had two runners like a sleigh. You really had to run rather than skate. He was out there saying "No, no, you cut this way, cut that way." Finally, I got the hang of it. He took me down to CCM and they made me a real pair of skates. Then, I really got into it as I could skate fast.

In late December of 1950, your dad was at the top of the list of a Canadian Press poll naming Canada's greatest hockey player for the first-half of the century. Was this the greatest honour bestowed upon your dad?

 And how. Everybody I met after that, new and old, all said it was something I should remember all my life and I certainly do.

Tell us about introducing you sister, Marlene, to Boom Boom Geoffrion in 1951.

 She use to practice skating at the Montreal Forum and that is where they first met. I acted as an interpreter for them. Boomer's English wasn't good at the time, but he appreciated the fact I could speak French, so we got along okay.

What do think of the next generation with Blake Geoffrion of Nashville carrying on the family tradition?

 I've never seen him play. I hope he does real well because Bernie was a great player and I hope he inherited some of his talents.

What is your fondest memory in regards to your dad?

 It actually happened in the summertime. We were taking part in a regatta. He and a bunch of players got into a canoe race which they won by the way. The officials refused to recognize their win because they were professional athletes. We had a swim meet, which I didn't win, but came in second. I won a little trophy. He was happier than you can imagine.

Howie Morenz Sr.

Howir Morenz Jr. - 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Close Shave

Over the past month, many people in the hockey community have focused on men's health issues via the Movember campaign. Men were encouraged to grow facial hair in support of the cause. In Toronto, former Maple Leaf Wendel Clark shaved his legendary growth, then started the process of letting his "Mo" grow back.

As the month comes to a close, many guys will be picking-up their razors so they can return to their normal look. In conjuction with this, I found several vintage advertisements which are timely for the occasion.

The above ad features the centre of the Leafs famed Kid Line, Joe Primeau. It dates back to 1936.

Using the clever tag of "Five NHL Goalies Face-Off", this ad from the Original Six era includes Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk of the 1967 Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs. Between the Leaf netminding duo and the Canadiens tandem of Gump Worsley and Charlie Hodge, is New York's Ed Giacomin.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dr. Leith Douglas 1931-2011

Yesterday, Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun reported on the passing of Dr. Leith Douglas on September 15, 2011 at the age of 80. For 36 years, Dr. Douglas served as the Toronto Maple Leafs plastic surgeon. Story.

As pointed out in the Sun, Dr. Douglas was often captured on camera by those tuning in to view a Leaf game on television. Seated beside the Leaf bench, he would open and close the bench door as the club made line changes.

In his 1991 autobiography, "Sittler" (Sittler/Chris Goyens/Allan Turowetz), Darryl Sittler shed some insight on what it was like to be treated by Dr. Douglas. Then playing for the Detroit Red Wings, Sittler was in Toronto for a contest against his former club, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The early season game was played on October 1984. After being hit from behind by the Leafs Jim Korn in the final period of play, Sittler knew instantly he had suffered a serious injury.

Describing the injury, Sittler wrote, "my upper checkbone and bone around my eye socket had been broken in three places and my eye had slipped further into the socket."

Coming off the ice, the ex-Leaf captain sought medical attention from the Toronto plastic surgeon. Recognizing the seriousness of the injury, Dr. Douglas immediately had Sittler transported to hospital. As pointed out by Sittler, it was his experience that club doctors never disclose how bad an injury is to a player, until later in the process. This allows the player time to adjust mentally to his situation and time for the injury to stabilize.

Having spent the bulk of his playing time in Toronto, there is little doubt Sittler knew he was in good hands with Dr. Douglas on the case. Full Obituary.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 12, 1931

November 12, 1931.

In the scheme of things, it was just another day on the calender.

The morning paper indicated the city of Toronto was due to get milder temperatures, but scattered showers were also expected.

Opening The Globe newspaper, readers were greeted with news concerning Remembrance Day activities. A headline read, "Poppies and Laurel On Thousand Stones Prove Remembrance".

In Ottawa, a crowd of 50,000 took part in ceremonies. The first paragraph under the above mentioned heading set the mood. "For the thirteenth time, Canada stood momentarily silent today in mute recalling of that dramatic interlude on Nov. 11, 1918, when at 11 o'clock in the morning the magic order "Cease Fire" flashed across the thundering battlefields and brought peace to a war-weary world."

An advertisement for the McLaughlin Motor Car Co. Ltd. featured a 1931 McLaughlin-Buick Sedan. Billed as being a demonstrator with only 2,500 miles the asking price was $1200.

Another story of interest involved Dr. F.B. Mowbray who was one of the nations top surgeons. While conducting an operation, the good doctor collapsed and was given medical attention. Unfortunately, he didn't survive, passing away a sort time later.

On the local scene, a fire in the downtown core caused many people to stop and observe the fireworks. The two-story building located at 109 Victoria Street, became engulfed in flames when a fire broke out on the top floor. Responding in a timely fashion, fire crews successfully contained the blaze and fear of it spreading to adjoining buildings was averted.

With colder weather, readers were asked this question by Marvelube, the purest of motor oils, "Is your motor balky these cold mornings?"

Out west, the Regina Roughriders once again dominated senior football. The club won their sixth-straight Western Canada Senior Football championship by defeating Calgary 26-2.

In the Toronto Daily Star, a gallery of photographs filled an entire page. One photo of Academy Award winning actress Maria Dressler, pointed out she was born in Cobourg, Ontario. Another showed the All-Scottish Women's field hockey team strutting their stuff at the Westchester Country Club in New York State. A caption under the picture of the Hollywood Baby Orchestra pointed out no member was over the age of six.

At the Uptown Theatre, Lew Ayres had top-billing in "The Spirit of Notre Dame". The Tivoli was offering a preview of "The Dreyfus Case" with Cedric Hardwicke. Starting the next day, Loew's was screening "The Sin of Madelon Claudet". The text made certain to inform everyone the film was "introducing to the screen one of America's greatest stage stares - Helen Hayes."

The big news of the day for most of the folks living in Toronto could be found in the sports pages.

Reading a headline in The Evening Telegram, there was little doubt something big was about to happen on the Toronto sporting scene. If anyone forgot, the bold lettering supplied a reminder - "BLACK HAWKS MINUS MANAGER FOR OPENING OF GARDENS".

The Gardens in this case was Maple Leaf Gardens, located at the corner of Carlton and Church.

On November 12, 1931, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks played the very first hockey game in the soon-to-be historic building.

As indicated, Chicago came into Toronto at less than full strength from a management perspective. With Gregory Mathieson stepping down from his responsibilities, the role of coach and manager fell to a gentleman by the name of Iverson, who served as the Hawks physical director. As all this was going down, club secretary Bill Tobin, returned to the Windy City to consult with ownership. In the previous campaign, Chicago was guided by Dick Irvin.

No matter the blight of the visiting team, the new arena was front and centre. Writing in The Telegram, sports writer J.P. Fitzgerald had these words for hockey fans. "The opening of the new Maple Leaf Gardens to-night is a great step forward for hockey and hockey crowds. The class of hockey in this new home will not be any faster or better than in the old Arena, but it will give more people an opportunity to see this, the speediest game on earth in comfort."

National Hockey League President Frank Calder was quoted as saying, "Maple Leaf Gardens, the new home of Toronto Maple Leafs, in my opinion sets a new standard in construction of arenas suitable for hockey and kindred entertainment. It is a stands as a monument to the ingenuity of those who devised and planned it, and to the courage of those who in these days of timidity saw it through."

In an amazing feat, Conn Smythe and his management/ownership team moved the project forward to completion in five months during very tough economic times!

Legendary writer Ted Reeve writing in his column, "Sporting Extras", gave his readership the scoop directly from those in-the-know. "From what the boys tell us, it is a marvellous place, built on most modern lines and supplied with everything including an echo."

Due to the new hockey palace receiving a tremendous build-up, the game itself took a backseat to the pomp and circumstance surrounding the opening of the Maple Leaf Gardens.With political dignitaries in attendance and doing what they do best, talking, hockey fans were eager for the action to get underway.

For those who couldn't go to the game, they could at least follow the opening ceremonies and play-by-play action on the radio. With Foster Hewitt planted in the gondola fifty-two above ice level, the contest was broadcast over CFCA (8:30pm) and CKGW (9:00pm) radio.

The first goal in Maple Leaf Gardens was scored by Chicago's Mush Marsh at 2:30 of the first period. The Telegram described the historic goal in the following manner, "March got in fast and was Johnny on the spot for a pass from Cook to flip the puck over the bending Chabot." Of interest, March scored the final NHL goal at Arena Gardens on Mutual Street, when the Leafs and Chicago battled in the playoffs the previous spring.

Scoring the initial goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their new home was Charlie Conacher. According to news reports, the Leafs were buzzing around the Chicago zone most of the contest, but the Hawks stayed close to their checks not allowing many scoring chances. If the Leafs did break through the Chicago defence,  goalie Charlie Gardiner was up to the challenge. The Leafs out shot their opponent 51 to 38. The only player to beat him was Conacher. At 18:42 of the middle frame, the famed right winger of Toronto's Kid Line "accepting a pass from Joe Primeau, drilled a beautiful shot into the corner of the net," as described in The Globe.

A piece in The Evening Telegram best summed-up the entire affair of the grand opening and the game. "Well, you can't have everything and doubtless the Leafs will show better hockey when a bit of the shine wears off on the new furniture. Any way, it was a great house warming and those who were in charge of handling the monster crowds, both inside and out, deserve credit for the minimum of inconvenience which was caused to customers."

Today, marks the 80th anniversary of that very special evening on Thursday November 12, 1931. From that date to 1999, when the Leafs departed and the final National Hockey League game was played in the house built by Conn Smythe, an entire nation has banked a vault full of memories and dreams.

Happy 80th, Maple Leaf Gardens!!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Maple Leaf Forever

In Days of yore,
From Britain's shore
Wolfe the dauntless hero came
And planted firm Britannia's flag
On Canada's fair domain.
Here may it wave,
Our boast, our pride
And joined in love together,
The thistle, shamrock, rose entwined,
The Maple Leaf Forever.

The Maple Leaf
Our Emblem Dear,
The Maple Leaf Forever.
God save our Queen and Heaven bless,
The Maple Leaf Forever.

At Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane
Our brave fathers side by side
For freedom's home and loved ones dear,
Firmly stood and nobly died.
And so their rights which they maintained,
We swear to yield them never.
Our watchword ever more shall be
The Maple Leaf Forever

Our fair Dominion now extends
From Cape Race to Nootka Sound
May peace forever be our lot
And plenty a store abound
And may those ties of love be ours
Which discord cannot sever
And flourish green for freedom's home
The Maple Leaf Forever

On merry England's far-famed land
My kind Heaven sweetly smile
God bless Old Scotland evermore
And Ireland's Emerald Isle
Then swell the song, both loud and long
Till rocks and forest quiver
God save our Queen and Heaven Bless
The Maple Leaf Forever

~By Alexander Muir, 1867, Original Lyrics~

Ever since Conn Smythe first purchased the Toronto St. Pats and renamed them the Maple Leafs, Muir's "Maple Leaf Forever" has closely been associated with the hockey team. It has become a timed-honoured tradition on each opening night of a new season that it be played by the 48th Highlanders during pre-game ceremonies.

The following editorial ran in The Globe following the Leafs Stanley Cup win in 1932. It was their first season in Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Globe - April 11, 1932.


 The capture by the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Stanley Cup, emblematic of the professional ice-hockey championship, will send a reassuring thrill, not only through Toronto, but throughout all Canada. The centre of the hockey-playing population has been shifting southward so swiftly in recent years that there has been some wonder as to whether or not hockey pre-eminence would remain long in Canada. The laurels are in safe hands another year. Canada is first.

The Maple Leaf forever.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bill Barilko: Another Chapter

It is the type of news which immediately grabs your attention. Sure, the story may have been cold for an amount of time, but emotions quickly bubble to the surface with word of new developments.

Such was the case last month.

Any news relating to Bill Barilko of late usually surrounds an anniversary of a past event. In April, the hockey world celebrated the 60th anniversary of Barilko's famous playoff overtime goal on April 21, 1951, which captured the Stanley Cup for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

On October 16, 2011, a fresh new chapter was written. The wreckage of the Fairchild piloted by Dr. Henry Hudson and carrying Bill Barilko, returned to Porcupine Lake in northern Ontario. It was from there the two set-out on a doomed fishing trip in August 1951. On the return flight, the plane dropped from the sky and disappeared with no signs as to its location. The journey back home in mid-October was both historical and emotional. The story coming full-circle after sixty-years had passed.

Of course, this is only one of many chapters concerning this aspect of the story. Back in 1962, when the wreckage was first discovered and the human remains returned to the families, I was too young for the entire matter to register in my thought process. Throughout the years, I have been totally captivated by the Bill Barilko story. Any reference to his name, verbal or written, would peak my interest. In 1988, I devoured John Melady's book on the Leaf defenceman called Overtime, Overdue: The Bill Barilko Story. In 2004, I could hardly wait for the release of Kevin Shea's Barilko - Without a Trace.

Last week, I decided to go back in time. I wanted to experience what it was like to follow the Barilko story as it unfolded back in 1962, when the initial sighting took place.

In order to accomplish this, I made a visit to the Newspaper Reading Room in the Toronto Reference Library. I was ready to immerse myself in the news from 1962. Drifting back to an era when there were limited media sources and the written word ruled supreme.

The first headline I came across in the Toronto Daily Star on the subject of the renewed efforts to locate the Barilko crash site was on January 2, 1962. Situated beneath a photo of Princess Margaret greeting Frank Sinatra at Royal Festival Hall in London, the enlarged bold lettering caused me to take a deep-breath. It read, "Barilko Plane Believed Spotted In Barren Bush Near James Bay." The text detailed the exploits of pilot Gary Fields and his search for the wreckage. He discovered a "glinting heap of metal," but didn't take any bearings as to the exact location. As described in the headline, the area was barren bush, thus there were no points of interest to identify a specific spot.

On June 2nd, Fields and two forest rangers were expected to take to the air with one goal in mind - find the wreckage and bodies of Dr. Hudson and Bill Barilko.

With no Toronto Daily Star being published on Sunday, the next news on the search appeared the following day on Monday June 4, 1962. A short article, located under the Crossword Puzzle provided an update for readers. District forester Ted Hall, informed everyone as to the current status of their findings. For those expecting immediate results, the news would be disappointing. The search involving a beaver plane and helicopter were unable to spot the wreckage.

A fitting story beside the puzzle, under the banner, "Medications Can Relieve Depression", seemed like appropriate reading material for those following the sad tale.

The next breaking news of substance on the activity taking place up north was splashed across the front page of the Toronto Daily Star on Thursday June 7, 1962. The headline is both stunning and powerful. One can only imagine the impact it had on those following the story right from late summer of 1951 when news of the crash became public. Eleven-years later, their eyes were glued to seven simple, but gut-wrenching words, "The Long Search Ends - Find Barilko's Plane."

A photograph of a smiling Bill Barilko accompanied the piece, along with a caption which read "11-year mystery over."

As if this wasn't enough, the sub-headline above the story brought a jarring jolt which usually comes when being told bad news. The finality it implies is tough to swallow - "2 Bodies Strapped In Seats" - and the focus quickly sifts to Bill Barilko and Dr. Henry Hudson.

The content of the article is staggering and devastating. "The Skeletons were strapped in seat belts in the plane, partly submerged in swampy water, and the two men apparently were killed on impact," detailed one paragraph.

At this stage, I could only think of the Barilko family and their state of mind when told of the discovery. It must have been a relief to bring Bill's remains home and lay him to rest. Hand-in-hand with this is the trauma of experiencing the entire matter once again. The benefits of an 11-year buffer zone supplying little consolation. The stark reality of the situation making the crash seem as though it only happened.

All these thoughts came to mind as I sat in the library. The story took on a personal nature as I slumped back in my chair and took a break to soak in what I just read. Having meet Bill's sister, Anne Barilko-Klisanich this past June, I thought about the pain she must have endured from 1951 to 1962 and beyond. Lost in my thoughts, I suddenly recalled my conversation with Anne. Her stories about Bill and their shared times together helped to distract me from the horrible events surrounding the crash.

Checking the sports section of the Toronto Daily Star for June 2, 1962, it served as a  reminder that life goes on. Although it was the hockey off-season, the sports pages were not void of information pertaining to Toronto's boys of winter. The legendary Milt Dunnell, writing in his column, Speaking on Sport, provided his readers with updates on several Maple Leafs. Dunnell passed along word Leaf centre Billy Harris was starting a new job with a catering company. Also, Toronto left winger Frank Mahovlich was about to be married, but the date was being withheld to keep the unwanted at bay.

The previous day, the National Hockey League conducted their annual meetings in Montreal. The big news for Toronto hockey fans concerned Bert Olmstead. Being a key member of the freshly minted Stanley Cup champions for 1961-62, Olmstead's services were lost to the New York Rangers who claimed the veteran off the Leafs roster during the draft.

In the period from 1951 to 1962, Toronto's hockey franchise struggled on the ice, with Barilko's goal representing their final date with Lord Stanley's silver mug. As though it were destiny, with the Leafs winning the Cup in 1962, the remains of its last playoff hero were recovered.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Close, but no Cigar!

On Wednesday night, Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul recorded his first hat trick for the Blue & White. All three goals were scored in the middle frame against New Jersey's Martin Brodeur.

If Lupul had been successful in notching one more tally, he would have equalled an achievement set by Leaf left winger Harvey "Busher" Jackson seventy-seven-years-ago. On November 20, 1934, Jackson became the last Toronto player to score four goals in one period.

In a wild contest against the St. Louis Eagles, Jackson accomplished this feat by beating goalie Bill Beveridge four-times in the third period..

The Leafs entered the final period trailing St. Louis by a score of 2-1. With his team down by a goal, Jackson went to work early to pull the Leafs even. At the 80-second mark, Jackson's shot found the back of the St. Louis goal.

Harvey "Busher" Jackson
At 5:45, Jackson's back-hand shot gave Toronto a one goal advantage. It was the first lead for the Maple Leafs in the game.

Jackson completed his hat trick midway through the period, with Charlie Conacher and Nick Metz gaining assists. On the play, Beveridge "was drawn out of the cage by a melee in front of the net." With the goalie out of position, Metz passed the puck to Conacher. Following a pass from Conacher, Jackson flipped the puck into the net.

As the game was winding down, Jackson continued with his hot streak. Two St. Louis players, Bill Cowley and Irv Frew, were in the penalty box when Jackson struck for his fourth goal of the game. Earning assists on the power play goal were Conacher and Harold "Baldy" Cotton.

Fireworks in this game wasn't limited to Jackson's exploits. Police intervention was required in the second period "to calm the players" after several fights erupted. The first fight-card featured a battle between Cotton and St. Louis player Scotty Bowman (we know what you are thinking!). Charlie Conacher, who appeared to be a dominating force in this contest, entered the fisticuffs to help out his teammate.

The main bout cast Leaf defenceman Red Horner against Desse Roche. Following their exchange on the ice, the two combatants continued their physical tussle in the penalty box.

It will be interesting to see if any other Maple Leaf comes close to matching or breaking Jackson's four goal period in 1934.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Getting to know Bob Beckett

It started with a photograph.

In January 1964, the Toronto Daily Star offered a series of forty-two action photos featuring players from the National Hockey League. The package was called Hockey Stars In Action. The photos, slightly larger than 4x6, were in glorious colour with the flip side providing a brief biography of the star depicted on the front.

Hockey Stars In Action - 1964
As a youngster, I received the set as a gift and poured over them every afternoon once I arrived home from school. One of my favourite players was Toronto Maple Leaf defenceman Carl Brewer. His image was moved to the front so it would occupy the top spot. The shot shows Brewer vigorously checking an opponent. Details identified the player being hounded by Brewer as Bob Beckett.

"In a typical play in this picture, Brewer is checking Bob Beckett of the Boston Bruins from behind," revealed the text.

Every time I glanced at the photograph, I couldn't help but observe the Bruin player engaged in the physical struggle with my hero. Not only did he have to contend with Brewer, but his focus also was on maintaining control of the puck. The enormous strain of this swashbuckling sword fight  is evident in his facial expression.

Often, I would wonder, who is this guy? Who is Bob Beckett?

During Christmas week in 2003, while watching a classic game on Leafs TV, my ears perked-up when Bill Hewitt's voice called out a member of the Boston Bruins. Quickly, I raised the volume on the TV and moved to the edge of my chair.

The Leafs TV broadcast went back in time to a trio of games played in the early 1960s. Action was limited to twenty-minutes from each contest. Boston and the Maple Leafs rung in the festivities with the opening face-off of period three from Maple Leaf Gardens on December 23, 1961.

At the 3:06 mark, Dick Duff brought the crowd out of their seats when he beat Bruins goalie Don Head. This made the score 5-2 in favour of Boston. Following this power play goal by Duff, Boston made a line change. With the drop of the puck, Hewitt went to work. At this point, I maneuvered down the cushion of my chair. One of the first names to come out of the speaker was Bob Beckett.

Playing on a line with centre Cliff Pennington and Dick Meissner at right wing, Beckett patrolled the left side. On this shift, Beckett picked-up a loose puck at centre ice and carried it into the Leafs zone. His shot on goal was deflected by Tim Horton and never reached the Toronto goal.

For most of the final frame, Beckett looked after his responsibilities in the Bruins end and sought out open ice when on offence. The only blemish came late in the period when Leaf captain George Armstrong scored while Beckett and company were on the ice.

Throughout the rest of the Leafs TV telecast, I thought about seeing Beckett. When Hewitt first called his name, the 1964 photo instantly flashed before me.

My next encounter with Bob Beckett came about a year-ago. While sorting through a stack of hockey cards at a local shop, one item caught my attention. For some reason the player looked familiar. I continued with the task at hand, digging deeper and deeper into the box. As time passed, my thoughts kept coming back to the card which captured my eye. Not being able to proceed any further due to my curiosity,  I started backtracking until the piece came into view. This time, I noticed a name sprawled down the left side. Against a black backdrop in white letters, I read the name - Bob Beckett.

The reverse side supplied additional data on Beckett: "A workman-like forward who exhibited both offensive and checking skills, Beckett was the prototypical NHL foot soldier. Unfortunately, his play did not inspire headlines which meant his subtle contributions were overlooked by the media though appreciated by general manager Lynn Patrick and coach Milt Schmidt."

Again, the Hockey Stars In Action picture appeared as a mental image in my mind.

Talking to the sales clerk, he informed me the card was produced by Parkhurst. It contained players from the 1956-57 NHL season and is known as the Missing Link set.

After sliding my loonie across the counter, I tucked the card into my pocket. At home, it was placed in my hockey card binder.

Although I knew a bit more about Beckett, he still seemed to be a mystery. The description on the card indicated he was a player who performed beneath the radar line. The type of teammate who's quiet contributions didn't go unnoticed by his co-workers and those in-charge.

Did these few short lines sum-up the Bob Beckett story?

Some 46-years after receiving Hockey Stars In Action, I attended my first lunch of the NHL Oldtimers group in March 2011. After filling my coffee mug, I turned to walk back to my table. However, I stopped dead-in-my-tracks when I observed a gentleman sitting nearby. Could it be?

My  inquiries confirmed what I thought. It was indeed Bob Beckett. It was time to finally answer the question - Who is Bob Beckett?

Earlier this month, I sat down with Beckett and started the process of getting to know Bob Beckett.

Born in Unionville, Ontario on April 8, 1936, Beckett first played organized hockey as a pee-wee in the Agincourt Minor Hockey League. Being a young lad, he naturally followed the National Hockey League. "I liked Syl Apps and I would listen to Foster Hewitt's broadcast every Saturday night," Beckett fondly recalled.

In 1953-54, Beckett suited-up for the Scarborough Rangers, a Junior "B" team which played in the Toronto suburb.

"Eddie Crouch coached me in Junior "B" in Scarborough and that was critical as he really worked with me," Beckett recalled.

The following campaign, Beckett graduated to the Junior "A" level in the OHA. He became a member of the Galt Black Hawks. Beckett was joined by future NHLers Floyd Smith and Hec Lalande. In forty-nine games, he scored 16 goals and put up 38 points.

When the Galt team folded, Beckett moved to the Barrie Flyers in the OHA to start the 1955-56 hockey year. In Barrie, he played for the legendary Hap Emms.

"I got along with Hap Emms. He liked me and made me the captain. He was a tough man and sometimes was over tough. He was very strategic. He always had a plan for every team. I remember we were playing St. Mike's and their star player was Frank Mahovlich. We had a player named Gord Loveday and Emms told him to follow Mahovlich wherever he went. If he goes to the bathroom, you go to the bathroom he instructed Loveday," said Beckett with a hardy laugh. " The Big "M" was strapped and he was their main man."

This strategy came in handy when Barrie faced the Kitchener-Waterloo Canucks in the 1956 OHA quarter-finals. Loveday's assignment was to shadow Stan Baluik. The best-of-seven affair went to eight games before the Flyers ousted the Canucks. In addition to Loveday's effort, Bob Beckett made a huge contribution. He pounced on goalie Claude Dufour for 10 goals in the opening round.

A newspaper report praised his offensive prowess, "Beckett with 16 goals and 20 assists during the regular season, has suddenly blossomed out as a scoring threat."

In the semi-finals, Hap Emms and his crew met St. Mike's. This is when Emms unleashed Loveday on Mahovlich as Beckett alluded to. Barrie pulled off the upset by eliminating the Majors. The best-of-five showdown went the distance with Barrie winning the deciding game by a score of 2-0.

As Barrie prepared to play the powerful Toronto Marlboros in the final, Boston Bruins general manager Lynn Patrick commented on the prospects in the organization. " I like Beckett.  He does a lot of work," commented Patrick.

On the subject of becoming property of the Bruins, Beckett told me, "I was actually scouted by Bob Davidson in Toronto. I was playing bantam at the time. He invited me to come down and practice with the Marlies. I didn't even know where Maple Leaf Gardens was. My brother took me down and we were late. I can remember the Marlies already being on the ice. They were all big guys. I said to my brother "Take me home, I'm not not going out there." So, we went home. Later, Baldy Cotton, who worked for Boston, scouted me and followed me in Junior."

Coached by former Leaf goalie Turk Broda, the Marlboros were rich in talent. Lead by captain Al MacNeil, their line-up contained many future NHL stars. Included in this category were Bob Pulford, Bob Nevin and Carl Brewer. They played up to expectations and took a stranglehold on the series by emerging victorious in the first three matches.

Thus, game four was a must-win situation for the Barrie Flyers. Playing on home ice, they were determined to force a game five. With forty-minutes in the book, the visitors held a 2-1 advantage. Then, Bob Beckett went to work. After scoring the opening goal in the first period, he notched the equalizer in the third. Taking a pass from defenceman Grant Morton from behind the goal, Beckett, off balance, beat netminder Len Broderick. The comeback was completed when Billy Forhan and Roy Patridge made the final score 4-2.

Playing game five in Maple Leaf Gardens, the defending Memorial Cup champions rose to the occasion. Fueled by Bob Pulford's four-markers, Toronto sent the Barrie Flyers packing. Scoring on a rebound off a shot by Morton, Beckett produced goal number 16 in 18 matches.

It was an eventful final year of Junior hockey for Bob Beckett. His play certainly caught the eye of Bruins management. When the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League required a reinforcement, they looked no further than the Barrie Flyers.

Beckett beamed with delight when he spoke of his first taste of professional hockey. "Hershey had some players missing and I guess they wanted me to have a shot and take a look at me. Baldy Cotton picked me up and drove me down there and I played in the game. At the time, Hershey had Don Cherry and Murray Henderson. Murray coached me in that game. It was a Sunday and Baldy drove me home right after. It was quite an experience."

Looking forward to getting his pro career in motion, Beckett attended the Bruins training camp in the fall of 1956. "I had a good camp and I was one of the leading scorers in the exhibition games," noted Beckett. When it came time to trim the roster, Beckett found himself a long ways from home.

"They sent me down to Victoria and I didn't do too well when I was out there. The playing coach had his favourites and some of us never got a chance. I spoke with Lester Patrick and asked if he could get me moved. That's when they shipped me to the Quebec Aces," said Beckett of his first year out of the Junior ranks.

He dressed for 16 games with the Victoria Cougars of the WHL and Beckett's numbers confirm the difficulty he experienced in getting his game going. He failed to register any points on the score sheet, but managed to accumulate 5-minutes in penalties.

Moving east to Quebec, Beckett hoped to get his game back on track. His new boss in Quebec was George "Punch" Imlach. The future head honcho of the Toronto Maple Leafs arrived in La Belle Province following World War Two in 1945.

"I consider him one of the best hockey men I've played for. Don't tell the Leafs that because they didn't like him," Beckett said with a chuckle. "He was a gentleman. When I first arrived in Quebec he picked me up at the airport. I had supper at his place and met his family."

If the Victoria episode was a downer for Beckett, the feeling quickly passed with his arrival in Quebec City. Not only did he recapture his knack for scoring by potting two tallies and two helpers in his first game, but the change in scenery built-up his confidence. After suffering a cut in his initial contest, he required stitches from the team doctor.

While the doc was patching up his patient, he said to Beckett, "Two goals, two assists, two stitches. If I put in a third stitch maybe you'll get a hat trick."

Sensing the physician could be on to something, Beckett replied, "Go ahead, doctor, put in the third stitch. Maybe I'll get the third goal."

Quebec hockey fans had the pleasure of watching some talented players perform with the Aces. Topping Imlach's list in this regard were Jean Beliveau, Gaye Stewart, Orvil Tessier, Joe Crozier, Marcel Bonin and Armand Gaudreault. Included on this list was Bob Beckett.

"Maybe they weren't all what you'd call great players, in comparison with Bobby Hull and Frank Mahovlich and some of those, but they were good hockey players," wrote Imlach in his 1969 biography Hockey is a Battle.

Like most young players, Beckett's goal was to someday reach the National Hockey League. At the age of twenty, Beckett understood he had to fine tune his skills and work hard. One of his great assets was his size.

"I wasn't the type of player that ran all around, but I wasn't afraid to go into the corners and hit someone. I didn't get many penalties and I had the odd fight. I was considered big at 5-foot-11-inches, 200 pounds. At that time it was a good size."

This physical edge didn't escape the watchful eye of Bruins management.

When Boston played the Detroit Red Wings on December 20, 1956, the two clubs scored one goal apiece and settled for a tie. Although happy with gaining one-point in the standings, the Bruins were concerned over an injury suffered by Vic Stasiuk.

With their big left winger out of the line-up due to a torn side-muscle, the Bruins turned to Quebec and summoned Bob Beckett.

The Christmas holiday resulted in Beckett getting his first exposure to life in the National Hockey League.

For Beckett, his short time up with the big league team was a learning experience.

"I can't remember too much about about it. I was nervous and a bit fearful as you want to do a good job. You don't think about things too much once you're called-up. The Boston players were always good to me especially being a young guy. They tried to help you out."

Late in January 1957, Beckett once again joined the Bruins for a few games. Following his two brief stints in late 1956 and early 1957 with the NHL team, he failed to produce a single point. On each occasion, Beckett returned to Quebec and waited for another opportunity.

On February 7, 1957 the Bruins travelled to Detroit for an encounter against the Wings. Detroit, one of the top clubs during the 1950s, were also one of the toughest. Jerry Toppazzini of Boston discovered this when Ted Lindsay introduced his hockey stick to Toppazzini's face. Suffering severe facial injuries in the February 7th game, it was expected the Bruin would be sidelined for the balance of the season.

Conferring with coach Milt Schmidt, general manager Lynn Patrick made the decision to go back-to-the-well one more time to promote Beckett.

Speaking to the media, Patrick explained the reasoning behind the move. "There were several reasons we thought why Beckett was our best substitute. Topper did most of the bumping for that line, so Beckett's size was a factor. Playing with tricky fellows like MacKell and Regan requires drive on the part of the third member of the line and he has that."

Not only did Beckett have to adjust to the NHL style of play, but he was about to be thrown into a new position. Having experience at both centre and left wing, he now was penned in as Toppazzini's replacement on the right flank.

His first contest with line mates Fleming MacKell at centre and Larry Regan at left wing, came on February 9th in Boston Garden versus the Montreal Canadiens.

Getting his feet wet, Beckett assessed his play. "I feel I've been doing a bit better since getting in good shape, but I hope I can start helping out with the scoring soon. I haven't been much help in that way yet," Beckett told the Boston press core.

This scenario would change in Beckett's next game. On February 10, Boston welcomed the Maple Leafs to town. Beckett gained an assist on a goal by Fleming MacKell, thus earning his first point in the National Hockey League. During this stretch on Boston's roster, Beckett added two more helpers - February 16th vs. Chicago (Larry Regan) and March 2nd vs. New York (Larry Regan) - giving him three points over 14 games. On March 9th, Beckett made his first visit to the Boston Garden penalty box for an infraction at 2:06 of the first period against a Red Wing.

And he lived up to Patrick's expectations relating to "bumping" the opposition. As a matter of fact, Lynn Patrick got an up close look at Beckett in full flight. In a game at Maple Leaf Gardens, Patrick was seated behind the Bruins bench. Beckett, in pursuit of Leaf forward Rudy Migay, sent his target flying with a solid check. Not only did Migay go for a tumble, but his stick left the playing area. The projectile struck Patrick and he required stitches to men a cut on his eyelid!

Recovered from his injuries, Toppazzini returned alongside MacKell and Regan on March 13th in Madison Square Garden in the Big Apple.

1956-57 Boston Bruins. Bob Beckett, first player back row left

In 18 NHL games during the 1956-57 schedule, the line on Bob Beckett was zero goals, three assists and two penalty-minutes. The chance to score an NHL goal was now out of his grasp as the return of Toppazzini marked his reassignment to Quebec. The trip back to Quebec City would be the icing-on-the-cake in a wild hockey year for Beckett.

The Aces were crowned champions of the Quebec Hockey League and took possession of two pieces of silverware. The first prize was the newly created Emile Genest Trophy for finishing in first-place. Next up was the Thomas O'Conell Memorial Trophy for being the last team standing in the playoffs. During this era, the QHL champs would play the Western Hockey League victors for the Edinburgh Trophy. The award was presented by the Duke of Edinburgh for the 1953-54 season.

Competition for the 1957 Edinburgh Trophy pitted Quebec against the Brandon Regals. Hailing from Manitoba, the Regals were guided by playing coach Don "Bones" Raleigh who was a former New York Ranger. The best-of-nine series opened on April 28th with all the games being played in the Province of Quebec. Quick out of the gate, Quebec built-up a four games to one series lead. With Brandon facing elimination, game six took place on May 9th. Going scoreless in the first five, Beckett would fire the game-winning-goal in game six and help his team capture the Edinburgh Trophy.

Over the summer of 1957, the Boston Bruins signed a new affiliation agreement with the Springfield Indians in the American Hockey League. Previously, they were sponsored by the Hershey Bears. Lynn Patrick's first step was to staff the Indians with personnel he was familiar with. The new general manager in Springfield was Punch Imlach, with Cal Gardner being named playing coach.

Changes were not restricted to the front office. Bob Beckett found himself in new surroundings. Wanting to have their prospects close to home, Beckett became a member of the Springfield Indians.

As fate would have it, the Hershey Bears and Springfield Indians met in the 1958 Calder Cup Final. The Bears jumped out to a three games to one lead. On the road, it was a must-win situation for the Indians in game five.

Hershey held a one goal advantage after one period. At 2:06 of the second, Beckett scored to even up the contest. Then, Gerry Ehman put Springfield in front at 13:10 of the final frame. This was followed by Bob Beckett's empty net goal at 19:27. The Indians lived for another day with their 4-2 win.

Faced with another do-or-die challenge, Springfield was hoping for a similar result in game six. In a close game, the teams went into the third tied at 1-1. The deadlock was broken at 16:55 when Willie Marshall took a pass from Dunc Fisher and beat goalie Claude Evans.

Bob Beckett would be denied a second straight championship as Hershey was king of the American Hockey League.

In his first trip through the AHL in 1957-58, Beckett beat the opposition goalies 17 times and finished with 33 points. During the year, he played in nine games with the Boston Bruins. Beckett still was unable to corral his elusive first NHL goal.

Looking forward to his sophomore season in the AHL, Beckett found himself on a new team. This came about when the Bruins, for the second consecutive summer, played musical chairs with their farm team. Dropped from the organization were the Springfield Indians and a new agreement was entered into with the Providence Reds.

The 1958-59 campaign was a case of mixing the new with the old for Beckett. The new part consisted of being in uniform for 32 games with the Reds.  Expecting more offence from Beckett, he only netted 5 goals for his new AHL club. In January 1959, he was shipped to his old playing grounds in Quebec along with Buddy Boone for Pete Panagabko. In 25 matches with the Aces, Beckett scored 6 goals.

Beckett, for the first time in his pro career would be anchored in one city. He spent the entire season in 1959-60 with the Providence Reds. In 57 games, he put up decent numbers, scoring 11 goals and adding 31 assists for 42 points. For most of the year, he was teamed with Stan Baluik and Danny Poliziani.

In the off-season, Providence owner Lou Piere, made a significant coaching change. Out was former Boston Bruin Jack Crawford. The owner and coach were embroiled in a contract dispute. Crawford's replacement behind the bench was another ex-NHLer, Phil Watson.

Watson's reputation as a coach can best described as fiery. While coaching the New York Rangers, he constantly battled with his players.

For Bob Beckett, his new coach in 1960-61 had the opposite effect. Taking Beckett under his wing, Watson's straight forward approach produced positive results. His first instructions pertained to Beckett's weight. He told his forward to drop 30 pounds. This added speed to Beckett's game and helped his overall conditioning. Lynn Patrick spoke of Watson "lighting a fire under Beckett."

Talking to the press, when both he and Beckett were promoted to the Bruins in 1961-62, Watson reflected on his time with Beckett in Providence.  Watson said, "He was my old reliable with the Reds. I used him as a regular left wing, he killed penalties and worked on our power play. He did a fine job for me and he knows I appreciated his work."

Beckett told me he had no beefs with Watson, despite the horror stories relayed by many players who toiled under the former New York Ranger. "I can't say anything bad about him. Sometimes he went overboard saying silly things. I've seen him bounce the medical table around the dressing room and cursing while doing it. I was quiet in the room and he never bothered me. He was always good to me."

The change in his game was evident on the ice. In 1960-61, Beckett put together his finest year in professional hockey. He regained his scoring touch by filling the net 22 times in 72 contests. His 34 assists brought Beckett's point total up to 56.

Red's general manager, Terry Reardon had glowing comments concerning Beckett. "Bob has always been a boy with plenty of potential. He has the size and weight and ability, but what he lacked was aggressiveness. For the past two seasons Bob has been using his weight more, and it has paid off. There's no one tougher than Bob in the corners, just ask the players."

Filled with confidence, Beckett was full of anticipation for the 1961-62 season. With Phil Watson now roaming behind the Bruins bench, Beckett made his return to the National Hockey League. "We understood each other in Providence and we understand each other here," stated Watson.

Beckett joined the parent club for a match-up against Detroit on October 26, 1961.

After two games at home, Boston hit the road for a tilt against Montreal on November 2nd. It would turn out to be a very special night for Bob Beckett. At 16:48 of the second period, with Boston in front 3-2, Beckett scored his first NHL goal. With assists going to Jerry Toppazzini and Cliff Pennington, Beckett beat Habs legendary goalie Jacques Plante.

Scoring Summary. Bob Beckett's first NHL goal, November 2, 1961

Over the next four games, Beckett went on a scoring binge. On November 5th he struck against Chicago. Beckett increased his production on November 8th by scoring twice against the New York Rangers. He was blanked on November 9th at home against the Red Wings. Then, the Maple Leafs came calling on November 12th. On a rush lead by teammate Charlie Burns, Beckett picked-up a loose puck and his shot beat Johnny Bower.

Unfortunately for Boston and Bob Beckett the good times didn't continue. As a result of a shake-up in January 1962, Beckett was sent down to Providence. Also on the move were goalie Don Head to Portland (WHL) and forward Terry Gray to Kingston (EPHL). Elevated  to the Bruins were goalie Bruce Gamble and two forwards, Larry Leach and Tommy Williams.

Splitting the year between Boston and Providence, Beckett scored 7 goals for Boston and 13 for the Reds. The player-coach in Providence was former Bruin captain Fernie Flaman. Following a slump in January and sparked by Beckett's return, the Reds turned their fortunes around earning a playoff spot in the process. Their top line down the stretch consisted of Orland Kurtenbach, Zellio Toppazzini and Bob Beckett.

In 1962-63, Beckett spent the entire year in Providence.  Early in the campaign, he played on a line with a couple of newcomers to the Reds, Willie Marshall and Norm Corcoran. Marshall, is considered one of the greatest stars ever to perform in the American Hockey League.

"He was smart. He didn't have size, but he could handle the puck and he knew how to score," Beckett told me about Marshall.

Statistics show Beckett played in 62 games with Providence in 1962-63. He contributed 12 goals and 25 assists for 37 points.

Bob Beckett's final year in pro hockey came in 1963-64. Like most players whose careers are winding down, Beckett took on a defensive role with the Reds. He was joined by Harry Ottenbriet, Ed Mazur and the three formed the BMO Line. Later, Larry Leach would replace Ottenbriet in the combination. Paying special attention to his defensive responsibilities didn't hamper Beckett's ability to hit the twine. His 29 points in 33 games were made-up of 14 goals and  15 assists.

Fernie Flaman raved about Beckett's ability to play a total game. "Bob's been our best two-way player this season and I'd definitely have to rate him one of our most valuable players."

I asked Beckett what it was like playing for his former teammate in Boston. "He really couldn't coach as he was still playing. He couldn't handle the team properly because it was impossible to both coach and play. He was a great guy. I remember when I first joined the Bruins he was captain of the team. He took me out after a game. He was a terrific gentleman."

1963-64 Providence. Bob Beckett, 3rd player from right, middle row

Known as an even tempered player, Beckett became the focus of a bizarre incident which took place on October 26, 1963. At the conclusion of play between Providence and Springfield, an altercation involving several members of the Reds and linesman Al Fontana erupted. Fontana came out punching as the matter escalated. Beckett and three other Reds were disciplined by AHL president James Balmer. Many were shocked with the revelation of Beckett's participation. This included Reds owner Lou Pieri. After further investigation, it was determined Beckett had nothing to do with the commotion as he wasn't even on the ice when the incident occurred! His $100 fine was successfully appealed and Beckett's reputation remained intact.

Beckett had his final go-round with the Bruins in 1963-64. Lacing up for seven NHL games, he recorded one assist.

In a total of 68 National Hockey League matches, Beckett posted 7 goals and 6 assists for 13 points. He spent a total of 18-minutes in the penalty box. He didn't see any playoff action with Boston.

Late in February 1964, Beckett broke a ankle and returned home to southern Ontario from Providence.

"I use to cut in off the right wing and once I got going it was hard to stop. On the play, goalie Cesare Maniago came sliding out and put his pad out. I went into the boards and broke my ankle," said Beckett in describing the play which lead to his injury.

On the subject of goalies, I asked Beckett about one of his teammates in Providence, Eddie Giacomin.

"I knew he was going to be good because he worked hard. I consider that I helped him quite a bit. He asked me to stay out and take shots on him after practice. He wanted to improve and he did."

Sensing the need for a veteran presence, the Portland Buckaroos secured Beckett's services and brought him to training camp to prepare for the 1964-65 season. Playing in the Western Hockey League, Portland coach and general manager, Hal Laycoe, had high hopes Beckett's ankle was on the mend. It didn't take him long to determine his prized acquisition couldn't make a go of it.

"I went to camp but I couldn't play because every time I put on my skates, the ankle would swell. Then arthritis set in. Even to this day there is soreness," stated Beckett some 47-years after attending his final pro camp.

Laycoe expressed his concern over the situation. "We recruit only a few players compared to most other teams in the League and when one of those is lost, particularly one that we were counting on as a potential all-star, it has to create a situation of major concern. It's next to impossible to replace a player of this caliber at this late date," voiced the ex-NHL defenceman.

Under these circumstances, Bob Beckett's professional hockey career came to an end.

Living and working in Providence was a joy for Beckett. He makes every effort to attend reunions, like the one which took place this summer. "It was great to see all the players. The City was a great place. The fans were amazing. They were behind us 100 percent.

The highlight of his career in the game he loved to play?

"Coming home and playing my first game in Maple Leaf Gardens. Everyone wanted tickets and wanted to see me play which was very nice."

Beckett told me a wonderful story involving his dad.

"The Rocket tried to hit me in one game and he bounced back and fell down. That is all my dad could talk about," said Beckett with a beaming smile.

When each hockey year came to a close, Beckett would return to his home in Ontario. "I had a summer job as a millwright. I took it up as a trade and kept at it following my hockey career."

By the mid-1960s, Beckett was back on the ice with the NHL Oldtimers. With his new teammates, he played in a couple of games per week and the club would practice every Sunday morning in Maple Leaf Gardens. On many nights, the Oldtimers would teach their opposition a thing or two. Going up against a much younger squad in the Varsity Blues from the University of Toronto, the former NHL stars played them to a 3-3 draw. Keeping pace with the fresh legs from U-of-T was Bob Beckett who scored one of the goals for the Oldtimers.

Bob Beckett, October 2011

Coming full circle, I asked Beckett about the photograph of himself and Carl Brewer.

"I remember it was in the Star Weekly Magazine. Most of the article was about Carl. He had his arms wrapped around me and I was sort of carrying him. The strain is visible on our faces. The play developed as I was coming around the net. I still get people sending me copies of the photo to autograph."

For many, it was the initial step in getting to know Bob Beckett.