Monday, January 31, 2011

Junior All-Stars

On Friday, I wrote about the 1966-67 all-stars of the National Hockey League. The final All-Star Game related to the Original Six era was played on January 16, 1968 at Maple Leaf Gardens.

On January 31, 1968, the OHA Junior A All-Star Game took place in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Teams from the league were split into 2 factions - east and west. The east team was composed of players from Toronto, Montreal, Oshawa, Peterborough and Ottawa. The west incorporated clubs from Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Hamilton and London. Also, the Kitchener Rangers were shifted to the east to balance out the supply of players.

Gus Bodnar
 The line-ups for each all-star team contained many future NHLers. In the case of the eastern team, the potential line combinations read like an NHL squad, give or take a couple of years. Richie Bays-Terry Caffrey-Tom Martin / Lee Inglis-Walt Thaczuk-Jim Kruliciki / Paul Lessard-Andre Gaudette-Rejean Houle / Ron Dussiaume-Dave Tallon-Fred O'Donnell. The spare forwards were Don Luce, Rick MacLeish and Pierre Jarry. The defence core consisted of Norm Descouteau, Pierre Bouchard, Brad Park, Mike Robitaille, Jim Whittaker and Dick Redmond. The netminders were Gary Edwards and Gary Dole.

The coach of the eastern team was Gus Bodnar of the Toronto Marlboros. Bodnar, a native of Fort William, Ontario, played in the Original Six era with Toronto, Chicago and Boston. The 5'10" centre played in his first National Hockey League game on October 30, 1943 with the Maple Leafs. He would be named the winner of the Calder Trophy ('44) and capture 2 Stanley Cups with Toronto - 1945 and 1947.

The game was a typical all-star affair. The eastern team emerged from the first period with a 4-0 lead. In the second period, with Ottawa netminder Gary Dole replacing the Marlboros Gary Edwards, the west found their scoring touch. They netted 3 goals in the second and 2 early in the third. The winning goal was scored by future NHLer Tom Webster at 4:32 of the final frame, giving the west a 5-4 win. Edwards, who didn't give-up a single goal, replaced Doyle for the last 15 minutes of the game.

Many players participating in the Niagara Falls All-Star Game would graduate to the NHL. And eventually play in a National Hockey League All-Star Game.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The All-Stars of 1966-67

With the All-star Game taking place this weekend, I thought it would be interesting to look back and examine the selection process as it was structured for the final all-star contest connected with the Original Six era - 1966-67.

On January 26, 1967 newspaper reports provided readers with the names of players selected for the first-half of the season. Reporters and commentators in each of the six NHL cities were supplied with 3 all-star ballots. The ballot counting was tabulated as follows - 5 points for a first place selection, 3 points for a second and 1 point for a third place selection. A perfect score (for a first-half selection to the first team) would be 90 points (3 media per city x 5 pts = 15 x 6 NHL cities = 90). Based on this formula, 3 players garnered perfect scores. Two were from the New York Rangers - goalie Ed Giacomin and defenceman Harry Howell. They were joined by Chicago Black Hawk centre Stan Mikita. Rounding out the first team all-stars were Chicago defenceman Pierre Pilote and on the wings Rod Gilbert (RW) of the Rangers and Bobby Hull (LW) of the Hawks.

The second team all-stars were; GOAL-Charlie Hodge (Mtl) DEFENCE-Bobby Orr (Bos) and Tim Horton (Tor) CENTRE-Norm Ullman (Det) RW-Ken Wharram (Chi) LW-Don Marshall (NYR).

Besides the prestige of gaining a spot on either team, there was a monetary reward. Each player on the first team received a $500 bonus, while those on the second team deposited $250 into their bank accounts.

Bobby Orr
 Of interest, the selection of Giacomin, Howell and Gilbert from the Rangers, spelled the first selections from New York since Andy Bathgate in 1962-63. Also, there seemed to be some surprise in a rookie defenceman being selected. This player was Bobby Orr. As pointed out in the media, this was only the second time this had happened. In his rookie year, 1963-64, Jacques Laperriere of the Montreal Canadiens, earned a second team selection. In both cases, Orr and Laperriere, were Calder Trophy winners.

A second vote was taken after the final 35 games of the season. The point totals would be combined and the final all-star teams for the 1966-67 would be declared. After the final calculations were made (May 16, 1967), the two all-star teams looked like this (final points earned in brackets)...


Stan Mikita, Chi, C, (180)
Ken Wharram, Chi, RW, (117)
Bobby Hull, Chi, LW, (174)
Pierre Pilote, Chi, D, (156)
Harry Howell, NRY, D, (147)
Ed Giacomin, NYR, G, (149)

Stan Mikita

Ken Wharram
Bobby Hull

Pierre Pilote

Harry Howell

Ed Giacomin


Norm Ullman, Det, C,  (62)
Gordie Howe, Det, RW, (96)
Don Marshall, NYR, LW, (59)
Tim Horton, Tor, D, (94)
Bobby Orr, Bos, D, (89)
Glenn Hall, Chi, G, (62)

The dominance of the Chicago Black Hawks is seen in the first all-star team. A powerful offensive club, the Hawks failure to capture multiple Stanley Cups in the final decade of the Original Six era was always a mystery. Of course, they went all the way in 1961, but that was it. Another example of how competitive the era was and no matter how much talent there was on a roster, the Stanley Cup could be as elusive as a Players Association.

The only player bumped from the first team, following the second round of voting, was New York Ranger Rod Gilbert. Also, the only player to obtain a perfect score (180) was the Hawks Stan Mikita. A place on the final first team earned a player $1000 plus another $1000 for being the vote leader in each half ($500 per/half). For the second team it was $500 plus another $500 ($250 per/half).

Like the first-half of voting, there were some points of interest. Gordie Howe received his 18th straight all-star selection. For the first time in 25 years, no Montreal Canadiens made one of the all-star teams. Bobby Orr's selection meant the first Bruin since Bronco Horvath in 1960 made the cut.

The All-Star Game took place on January 16, 1968. This was a departure from the usual early-season date. It was moved forward to enable players from the expansion teams to fill out out the all-star roster. These players included; Terry Sawchuk (Kings), Glenn Hall (Blues), Bobby Baun (Seals), Leon Rochefort (Flyers), Ken Schinkel (Penguins), Dave Balon (Stars).

The contest was played at Maple Leaf Gardens before a record all-star crowd of 15,740 spectators. The Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs were the opposition. As a result of brilliant goaltending by Bruce Gamble for 2 periods and Al Smith in the third, the Leafs emerged with a slim 4-3 victory. All these 2 netminders had to contend with was line combinations that would make any goalies head spin...Hull-Mikita-Wharram / Marshall-Ullman-Howe / Bucyk-Beliveau-Rochefort. The defence pairing were Pilote-Howell / Laperriere-J.C. Tremblay / Orr-Baun. The all-star team employed all 3 goalies, Giacomin-Sawchuk-Hall.

Game Summary - Click to enlarge

The following year, the All-Star Game would change to a West vs. East format. The game played at the Gardens was one final tribute to the Original Six era. It was a changing of the guard - a salute to the old and a welcoming of the six new clubs to the mix.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The First Move

Andy Hebenton
 In the spring of 1955 Muzz Patrick was appointed as the new general manager of the New York Rangers. One of his first moves on the management level was to sign ex-Ranger, Phil Watson, as coach. On the player side, his first move was to purchase Andy Hebenton from the Victoria Cougars of the WHL.

Andy Hebenton was a 5'9", 180 lb, right winger, born on October 3, 1929 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 1946-47, Hebenton played for the St. Boniface Canadiens in the MAHA. As a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization (signed on April 30, 1947), he played the next 2 seasons for the Winnipeg Canadiens of the MJHL. As his skills developed, Hebenton moved up the hockey ladder. From 1949-50 to 1954-55, he skated in the AHL, PCHL and WHL. His best minor league season was '54-55 with Victoria. In 70 games he scored 46 goals and 34 assists for 80 points.

It is often said that Hebenton didn't reach the NHL sooner due to the powerful line-up of the Montreal Canadiens. On April 28, 1955, Hebenton was traded to the New York Rangers by Victoria for cash.


At the time of the trade, Muzz Patrick was quoted as saying "I found out how hard it was to stop him when I coached in the Western League. I'm sure that with hard work, he'll make it in the NHL and be a valuable member of our club."

Well, it didn't take Hebenton long to make the boss look like a genius. In his rookie season, 1955-56, he scored 24 goals in 70 games and added 14 assists for 38 points. His 24 goals tied Dean Prentice for most goals by a Ranger that year. However, he lost out to Glenn Hall in the Calder Trophy vote. His finest NHL season came in 1958-59 (70GP/33G/24A/63PTS). In 1957 he captured the Lady Byng Trophy.

In most biographies of Hebenton, reference is made to his NHL "Iron Man" streak. It was truly an amazing feat. From the 1955-56 season to 1963-64, Hebenton played in 630 consecutive NHL regular season games. On March 22, 1964 he played his final game in the National Hockey League.

Another aspect to consider relating to "the streak" is the time prior to and following Hebenton's NHL career. Taking this into account, the streak expands to 1,062 games (216 games prior to reaching the NHL/630 NHL games/216 post-NHL games). The streak came to an end in October 1967. While playing for the Portland Buckaroos (WHL), Hebenton had to return home to Winnipeg for the funeral of his father.

All in all, not a bad first move by general manager Muzz Patrick. Hebenton was a solid two-way player who could play both wings, kill penalties and work the power play.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Open Wide

Some of the most powerful images in hockey are those of injured players. A portrait of a scarred Terry Sawchuk or Borje Salming can send shivers down the spine of most fans. Then, there are the pictures of a gaped-tooth or toothless player, grinning from ear to ear. The classic photo in this regard is of Bobby Clarke when he played for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Well, as they as, "It is all fun and games until someone looses a tooth or an eye." In the early decades of NHL play, the mouth, face and head were the least protected area of a players body. As a result, the busiest member of a teams medical staff was the dentist.

In the early years of Detroit's (Cougars/Falcons/Red Wings) existence in the National Hockey League, this job fell to Dr. Charles E. Ballard. Taking into account the lack of facial equipment/protection, it is surprising Dr. Ballard had time for his other patients. He discussed his time with Detroit in a 1945 interview.

The player who took up much of Dr. Ballard's time was Harvey "Hard Rock" Rockburn. He was born on August 20, 1908 in Ottawa, Ontario. In October 1927, Rockburn signed with Stratford of the Canadian Professional Hockey League. However, he was quickly traded to the Detroit Olympics (CPHL). Here, he came under the watchful eye of Detroit's NHL team. His NHL career would begin in the 1929-30 season with the Detroit Cougars. Although he only appeared in 94 NHL regular season games, he certainly made an impact. Considered as being a hard-nosed defenceman, Rockburn often found himself in the penalty box. Described as stocky in nature, he played the game hard and wasn't afraid to stick his nose into the action. Or for that matter, his teeth.

"Rocky was good for two or three new plates a season. Alarmed at the cost of keeping Rocky's teeth in shape, Jack Adams once asked me if we couldn't arrange some sort of a flat rate for the season on the player" said Dr. Ballard.

Bill Cowley
 However, the Detroit player who suffered the most severe mouth injury was Bill Brydge. Like Rockburn, Brydge was a no-nonsense player who had no fear and wouldn't hesitate to go to battle. In one account of Brydge, he is described as the type of player who could give it to an opponent, but also take it from an opponent. And that is exactly what happened in a contest against the Boston Bruins. After an encounter with Eddie Shore, Brydge had lost 10 teeth!

The worst case that Dr. Ballard had to treat? That belonged to Bill Cowley of the Bruins. Cowley was a talented stick handler and play maker who won the Hart Trophy in 1941 and 1943. His play making skills are evident in the assists column of his statistics. In 13 NHL campaigns, he lead the league in assists 3 times. Ultimately, he broke Frank Boucher's all-time assist record in 1943-44.

One of the most difficult tasks for an opposing player was to take the puck away from Cowley. The only recourse was to play a physical game when matched against Cowley. Playing in Detroit, Cowley suffered a horrendous injury when winger Syd Howe applied his shoulder to Cowley's face. His jaw was fractured in 5 places and he lost a substantial amount of blood.

No wonder Dr. Ballard considers this as the most difficult case he treated while being Detroit's team dentist.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Telling the Storey

Red Storey
 Yesterday, I wrote about linesman George Hayes and his departure from the National Hockey League in 1965. Perhaps, the most sensational and controversial departure by an official from the NHL came in 1959. The referee in the spotlight was Red Storey.

In the 1959 semi-finals, the Montreal Canadiens faced the Chicago Black Hawks. Going into the 6th game on April 4, 1959, in Chicago Stadium, the Habs lead the series 3-2. A loss, would result in Chicago being eliminated from post-season action. With under 2 minutes remaining in the third period, the game was tied 4-4.

In his autobiography - Red's Storey - he explains what happened next.

With just under two minutes left, Bobby Hull was flying down left wing and, as he got to the blue line and made his cut, Junior Langlois nailed him with a great bodycheck...Once again the Hawks were looking at me for the penalty call...But  they were waiting again for me to blow the whistle and this time while they were waiting, Claude Provost went down and scored, giving the Canadiens the lead.
 The game was over for Chicago. The season was over...And these Chicago fans started to throw stuff - 18 bottles by one estimate, as well as papers, cans, programs, decks of cards, rubbers, cushions, a chair, parts of seats and anything else that wasn't nailed down. I skated to the centre ice circle so that anyone who hoped to hit me was going to need a good arm. Then, suddenly, I heard somebody yell "Look out!" I turned around and a fan was coming across the ice at me. He threw one of those plastic cups full of beer right in my face. I grabbed him.

With the help of Doug Harvey, Storey fended off 2 attackers who jumped onto the ice and headed straight for him. Harvey didn't hesitate to use his stick as a weapon and this assisted in keeping other fans at bay. After a 30 minute delay, the contest resumed, but that wasn't the end of the difficulties faced by Storey. While leaving for the officials room, Storey had objects thrown at him and further attempts were made to physically assault him. Luckily, he was carrying a hockey stick passed to him by Danny Lewicki of the Hawks.

You would think the threat against his career would have evaporated once he escaped from Chicago Stadium that night. However, that wasn't the case. Criticism from NHL President Clarence Campbell began to pop-up in the press. Following the Saturday evening Hawks/Canadiens game, Storey travelled to Boston for his next assignment. He was scheduled to referee game 7 of the Bruins and Leafs series to determine Montreal's opponent in the finals. In Boston, Storey read headlines which only added fuel to the fire - CAMPBELL SAYS STOREY CHOCKED and NHL PREXY SAYS STOREY CHICKEN.

With his character being called into question, and a game to call that night (April 7, 1959), Storey took his stand against the National Hockey League. Following Campbell's process of criticizing him in the press, Storey decided to travel the same route. At 8:00am, Storey contacted several members of the press and told them he was quitting. While the Leafs and Bruins were going to battle at Boston Garden, Red Storey was in flight back to his home in Montreal.

Of interest, one of the linesmen working the game in Chicago that eventful night was none other than George Hayes.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Not Seeing Eye to Eye

On Friday, I wrote about the eye trouble James "Sugar Jim" Henry experienced in junior hockey. During the Original Six era, two individuals on the playing surface were particularly prone to criticism concerning their eyesight.

The first being a goalie who let in a soft goal. Many in the crowd would groan "he didn't even see it", while others would boo at the top of their lungs. The other position to be subjected to the wrath of the crowd were the on-ice officials - the referee and his linesmen. No matter what the problem was - a penalty to the home team, an off-side call or a disputed goal - the officials vision would be called into question. The organist would serenade the referee with the tune "Three Blind Mice" as he was being circled by anger players.

George Hayes
 During the 1964-65 season, NHL President Clarence Campbell decided to address this issue. In an attempt to prove that their was nothing wrong with the eyesight of his officiating staff, he ordered all concerned to the optometrist office for testing. There was one very large objection to this and it came from linesman George Hayes.

George Hayes would begin his career in officiating very early in life. As a minor league referee, he earned a dollar a game and would often work tripleheaders. In 1941 he joined the Ontario Hockey Association. During World War 11, Hayes got the call-up to the AHL, but returned to junior once the servicemen returned to their positions in the OHA. He would land in the National Hockey League in 1946. Initially, Hayes worked as a referee, however, after 1 1/2 years his assignment was changed to linesman.

In January of 1965, when he heard of Campbell's edict for eye examinations, Hayes issued an emphatic response.

"It's a rotten slap at the officials integrity. It's a man's work on the ice that counts, not what he does with a chart in the doctor's office. The first time I heard about these tests was three years ago. I told how how I felt and I haven't changed my opinion. I haven't been near a doctor in years. I find I stay healthier that way."

As a result of his protest, Hayes was placed under suspension by the league. In late January 1965, he was officially dismissed by President Campbell via registered mail. His termination date was February 14, 1965. During his suspension, Hayes retired to his small farm near Oxford County in Ontario.

Jan. 20, 1965
Clarence Campbell pointed out that the NHL delayed the Hayes firing for over 2 years. By going public, it was the leagues hope that Hayes would capitulate and be tested. At the time of his dismissal, Hayes was one of four NHL regular linesmen. He worked 90 to 100 games per year. A linesman earned $5000 to $6000 for working 80 games. Additional work was compensated on a per game basis.

Following his exit from the NHL, Hayes wrote a column for the Woodstock Daily Sentinel. Also, he worked the family farm. Ultimately, his body of work couldn't be denied - the first official to participate in 1000 games, a sleek skater, being a large man his presence on the ice had an authoritative nature to it - and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.

George Hayes died on November 19, 1987. Right to the time of his passing, he remained true to his philosophy concerning medical practitioners. Hayes refused treatment while suffering from severe circulation problems in his legs. It was reported at the time of his death that an old friend was attempting to have him seek attention. However, even Red Storey, who travelled to the Hayes home, couldn't convince his friend to have the gangrene looked at by a doctor or go to the hospital for care.

George Hayes passed away at the age of 67.

Friday, January 21, 2011

An Eye Opener

Yesterday, I wrote about the adventures of Gerry Cheevers when he player junior hockey. In a quirky twist to his time at St. Mike's, Cheevers made an attempt to play forward. Continuing with this theme, there was another junior goalie who had to endure a quirky twist to his game.

James "Sugar Jim" Henry, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, started his junior career with the Winnipeg Lombards of the WjrHL in 1937-38. The following year, he would graduate to the Brandon Elks of the MJHL.

"Sugar Jim" Henry

As a teen, Henry suffered an eye injury, but there was no loss of sight. The only residual problem was a muscular reaction when impact was made with or around the eye. On the occasion this would happen, Henry's eye would close as tight as an NHL owners wallet. You would expect this to be a major impediment for a goalie. The solution to a problem of this nature was simple - tape the eye open. And this is exactly what "Sugar Jim" did in junior hockey.

Three years prior to his first NHL season in 1941-42, Henry, playing for Brandon against Edmonton, had to tape his eye open in the playoffs. Although uncomfortable and to say the least distracting, Henry continued with his playing career. His final season prior to turning pro (S-SJHL) was in 1940-41 with the Regina Rangers. Henry is credited with leading Regina's come-from-behind capturing of the Allan Cup.

The start to Jim Henry's time in the National Hockey League began with a bang. The rookie goalie for the New York Rangers lead the league in games played (48) and wins (29). His durability turned out to be one of his major assets. In 9 NHL seasons, he lead the league in games played 5 times. This was quite a feat, taking into account his vulnerability around the eye area. A problem which didn't seem to cause major problems beyond junior hockey.

In the 1952 playoffs, Henry participated in one of the most exciting events in hockey - a game 7. With Detroit already advancing to the Cup final, Boston , with Henry in goal, were facing Montreal to determine the Wings opponent. In the second period of game 7, Rocket Richard suffered a head injury which required stitches. However, that didn't stop the Rocket. With the score tied 1-1, he scored one of the most incredible goals in playoff history. Taking a pass from defenceman Butch Bouchard in his own zone, he eluded 4 Boston players. Bearing down on "Sugar Jim" Henry, the Rocket hooked a one-handed shot past the netminder.

At the conclusion of the contest, this famous picture was taken of the two battered warriors, Richard and Henry shaking hands. One look at Henry's eye reveals that it was a physical series, but his difficulties in junior didn't seem to hamper his performance against the Montreal Canadiens.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Now Playing Forward

For a young minor hockey player starting out in the game (tyke or minor atom), the position of goalie is often considered the least glamorous. A kid in House League who has limited skating skills, is usually assigned the netminding responsibilities by the coach. He quietly watches as his defencemen and forwards garner all the attention.

In the case of Gerry Cheevers, his yearning to explore his abilities beyond the goal crease, continued as he progressed through junior hockey. At the age of 20, you would think his main focus would be crafting his goaltending skills. There was no doubt his talent wasn't lacking between the pipes. In the 1959-60 season, playing for St. Michael's Majors, Cheevers captured the "Baby Vezina" for the least number of goals scored against. He had a 3.08 average in 36 games and lead the league in shutouts with five.

On December 16, 1960 his hockey career would take a major turn. In a game against the Toronto Marlboros, Cheevers played right wing in a 2-2 draw. St. Mike's coach, Father David Bauer, explained the experiment in this fashion.

Gerry has been wanting to try it for some time so we are taking him off our goaltenders' list for three weeks to see if he shows signs of developing. We've got to develop more up front and have to try this now if Cheevers is going to be any help in March. Gerry has played forward in a few of our "fun" games. He's a good skater - as good as almost any player on our team - a fair stick handler and has an excellent sense of timing.

The replacement in goal for Cheevers was 19 year old Dave Dryden. The brother of Canadiens famed goaltender, Ken Dryden, he would go on to play 203 NHL games. His first action was with the 1961-62 New York Rangers. The bulk of his big league tenure would be spent with the Chicago Black Hawks and Buffalo Sabres.

Fortunately for Cheevers and all hockey fans, the experiment didn't continue beyond the three week period. The 2-time Stanley Cup champion with the Boston Bruins was enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985.

One wonders if Cheevers had any hesitations in junior concerning his skills to become a winning NHL goalie. At the NHL level, any thoughts of this nature were certainly wiped out with the Cup wins and  the 1971-72 season. In that year, he set an NHL record for the longest winning streak by a goaltender in the regular season. The record, 32 games, still stands to this day.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Sound of Music

Yesterday, I wrote about the progress being made in the renovations to Maple Leaf Gardens. The massive re-do to rejuvenate and bring the building back to life. Since 1999, the structure has fallen into a state of disrepair. With no commercial purpose or use, only basic maintenance has been carried out. However, with major repairs underway and a defined future in place, a new energy and life is being pumped into 60 Carlton Street.

Another piece of Maple Leaf Gardens history encountered a similar state of abandonment and subsequent re-birth. In fact this other piece of history pre-dates MLG by 9 years. In July 1922, the Shea's Hippodrome Theatre, located on Bay Street in Toronto, made a purchase that would ultimately come into play with  three major landmarks in the city. And we mean literally "would come into play". The item in question is a Opus 558 Wurlitzer Organ.

Shea's Hippodrome
The Shea's Hippodrome opened in 1914 and would become known as a Vaudeville House. The greats ranging from Jimmy Durante to Louis Armstrong would play at the "Hipp".

After 40 years of providing the city of Toronto with fine entertainment, came word that Shea's would be demolished. The plans called for a new civic centre. In the mid-1960s the land at Bay and Queen Streets would become the address for the new Toronto City Hall. In 1956, there was concern over the fate of the Wurlitzer Organ housed at Shea's. The instrument had become a part of Toronto's cultural history and fabric. Also, it became a tourist attraction.

The entire situation played out like the frantic end to a close hockey game. The home team up by a single goal in the last minutes of play. The visitors on the attack with their goalie on the bench, pulled for an extra skater. The defending goalie facing a barrage of shots and making spectacular saves. In the case of the Wurlitzer, the enormous save would be made by Conn Smythe. The ownership of Maple Leaf Gardens paid $2000 to the wrecking company bringing down Shea's. In the process, they became the proud owners of a piece of Toronto history. Within the National Hockey League, the organ had become an important part of the entertainment package presented to fans. Smythe, now in possession of one of the finest, could market this fact to his paying customers.

Next up for Smythe and Maple Leaf Gardens was fitting the massive organ into the Gardens. The Wurlitzer was dismantled and it took approximately one year to install the unit in it's new home. The south end of Maple Leaf Gardens was restructured to accommodate the new acquisition. The organ (console & pipes) were fitted into a new band shell area below a new and huge portrait of Queen Elizabeth. Also, a new clubhouse and press box occupied the south wall.


The work came under the direction of Doug Morris and his staff (Bob Wood, sound director & Don "Knuckles" Gordon, organist - both pictured above) at Maple Leaf Gardens. Due to the size of the building, the organ had to be enlarged with new pipes and other bits and pieces. A consultant from Boston and a local Wurlitzer expert would assist in the operation. The estimated cost was under $100,00.

The premiere of the Wurlitzer Organ at Maple Leaf Gardens came on December 20, 1958. The contest between the Bruins and Leafs was part of  "Young Canada Night".

In 1963, the Gardens was remodelled to add 1800 seats. The Wurlitzer became a casualty to economic progress at the home of the Maple Leafs. It was purchased by the Toronto Theatre Organ Society for $3850. In 1964, the unit was moved from the Gardens and stored at the Imperial Theatre in downtown Toronto.

In June 1970, the Shea's/Gardens Wurlitzer became part of Casa Loma in Toronto. It remains at that location to this day on exhibit for the residents of Toronto and tourists to the city to appreciate.

The Wurlitzer Organ at Casa Loma

Casa Loma
 The rich history of this instrument shows that it has undergone many changes in order to adjust to changing circumstances and times. The main thing is it has survived. The Opus 558 Wurlitzer, though transformed, can be traced to it's roots in 1922. In much the same way, Maple Leaf Gardens is travelling down the same road - a major face-lift, but still here in 2011. Just like the Wurlitzer.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Maple Leaf Gardens Update

On October 6, 2010, I wrote a story, A Return to Glory, which delved into the transformation of Maple Leaf Gardens. Unoccupied since 1999, renovations are well underway to restore the facility. Once completed, the Gardens will become home for the Ryerson Rams University hockey team and a Loblaws grocery store.

Corner Church & Carlton, October 2010

Church St. side, January 2011

As you see from the January 2011 photo, most of the work on the Church Street side of the building is partially completed. The scaffolding shown in the first photo has been removed. The exterior make-over is stunning to the naked eye. As a result of a cleansing process, the glorious yellow bricks have been restored to their natural colour. Several decades of dirt and pollution have been removed. The windows have been replaced along with new frames. In combination with the brick work, the entire east-side on Church Street just seems to glow when sunlight beams down.

The most important aspect so far is that the building has maintained it's integrity from an architectural perspective. Of course, the will not be said of the interior renovations which will be extensive and radically different from the original design. For now, the Church St. view remains as described in the Toronto Historical Board Heritage Report of December 1989.

The Church Street elevation features a similar outline (as the Carlton Street view), with two floors of paired flat-headed windows, below two-storey vertical strip windows. The shop fronts here have also been closed in. The exterior has a solid integrity of design where decorative features are minimal. These features are not merely visual embellishments, but add a stylish completeness to the monumentality of the building and reflect the prestige the sport of hockey holds in Canadian culture.
With plans calling for shop fronts at street level, Maple Leaf Gardens will take on an even more similar appearance to what it looked like in the 1930s. The interior, well, that is another story for another day.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hull to Gretzky

Last week, came word that Ted Bearer passed away at the age of 82. The former sports editor of the Brantford Expositor was credited as being the first journalist to cover the exploits of a young Wayne Gretzky. Some 42 years earlier, in January 1969, the hockey world lost the scout credited with discovering the legendary Bobby Hull. His name was Bob Wilson.

Bob Wilson started his scouting career with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. He was responsible for tracking down and recommending players for both the Toronto Marlboros and St. Michael's College.

While working for the Chicago Black Hawks, Wilson received a rather routine assignment. He was to journey to Belleville, Ontario and observe a player Chicago had interest in. Instead, he made another discovery - Robert Marvin Hull.

In his wonderful autobiography (1967) - Hockey Is My Game -  Hull tells the story.

 I didn't know it at the time, but I was first scouted by the Chicago Black Hawks that second year of Bantams in Belleville. My parents tell me that Bob Wilson, then the chief scout, was in Belleville to look at another team and got to the rink early. I was on the ice and it's said Wilson decided after a couple of minutes to place me on the Black Hawks negotiation list. Dad kept it a secret for nearly a year, and even now I have trouble believing it.
 I know Bob Wilson has a reputation for being the best of all hockey scouts, but I don't know how he could have seen any real potential when I was twelve. I might have been the fastest kid on the ice, and I must have been scoring goals, but that is no way to measure stability, hockey sense, and the urge to play the game. Bob (I found out) thought I could be taught the refinements and just hoped I had the other ingredients. Once he told a magazine writer that he knew from the first moment I would make it in the NHL. If he really did, it is one reason why Bob is such a great scout.

After his time in Chicago, Bob Wilson joined the expansion Oakland Seals. He was hired by former Hawk coach Rudy Pilous, who became general manager of the Seals. In anticipation of the expansion draft, Wilson scoured eastern Canada for talent. Two of his finds for the Seals were goalie Chris Worthy and defenceman Francois Lacombe. At the time of his passing, Wilson was chief scout and director of player development for Oakland.

And the first sports writer to single out Bobby Hull?  That was George Carver of the Belleville Intelligencer. He wrote "Bob Hull stole the eyes of the early morning rail birds." Like Gretzky, Bobby Hull never forgot his "first mention" and how much it meant to him.

Bob Wilson passed away on January 1, 1969 at the age of 66.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Man Down

The true sign that a hockey team has become a dynasty can come in several different ways. Usually, the tag, dynasty, comes after a club has won consecutive Stanley Cups. Their talent base being so strong, no opponent in the league can wrestle Lord Stanley from their clutches.

Dec. 1955

In the case of the Montreal Canadiens of the mid-1950s, another factor came into play. As in power play. During that era, when a team had the man advantage, it was for the full 2 minutes of the penalty. If they scored, the penalized player couldn't leave the box. The Canadiens power play was so efficient and successful, it was the main reason for a major rule change. In the 1956-57 season, a new rule was implemented by the NHL "A player serving a minor penalty allowed to return to ice when a goal is scored by an opposing team".

The tell-tale signs of this rule change were first evident the year prior (1955-56) to it going into effect. A December 1955 article provided some detail on the genesis of this rule change.

Some time back, NHL President Clarence Campbell remarked that a minor penalty became too drastic when the ganging team scored two goals while the other team was short-handed.
 He said he felt that a penalty system which would allow a player serving a minor penalty to return to the ice as soon as his team was scored upon had a great deal of merit. This system is on trial in the Western Hockey League and, according to Campbell, folks out there are very happy with it.
 Of course, if a player is assessed a major penalty, he sits out his full time, regardless of how many goals are scored against his team.
 The NHL chief has a batch of statistics which prove that Canadiens are just a first-line team when playing rivals on even terms, but that, when they get the man advantage, they become supermen.
 He pointed to a  recent Hab-Chicago game as a case in mind. The Hawks drew two early penalties and the Habs struck for two goals on each occasion to settle the issue before the game was one period old.
Not only were the Montreal Canadiens responsible for a rule change, but they were on their way to capturing 5 straight Stanley Cups (1955-56 to 1959-60).

Now that's a dynasty.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hooray For Hollywood !

It was a typical Monday night. Chilling in front of the television after a weekend of running here and there. Flipping between the Auburn vs. Oregon football game, and the Bruins and Penguins playing on TSN. Although I enjoy watching football, there was an engagement which I was looking forward to with a much higher degree of anticipation. Perhaps, not as typical of a Monday night as I stated previously.

For most of Monday, I had only on thought going through my head - the Leaf game being played that evening. Normally, such an event wouldn't register so predominantly in my thought process. However,  there was a different slant that made the contest very interesting for me to view - the Maple Leafs were playing in Los Angeles! Say What? Why would this capture my imagination? Well, a flood of memories poured back to when I was a wee-lad.

Back in in 1967, the concept of NHL hockey in sunny southern California was as foreign as Palm trees in southern Ontario. As a youngster, everything about a Leafs trip to the west coast was fascinating. The late start to the game. The colourful home jersey of the Kings. The new players, not only with L.A., but those who composed the rosters for all the new expansion teams.

Another point of interest concerned former Leafs now with the Kings. Remember, Toronto was the defending Stanly Cup champions going into the initial year of expansion. In the summer, they made numerous changes via player transactions and retirements. And several ex-Leafs were now in the employ of the team owned by Toronto native Jack Kent Cooke. Most notable was Terry Sawchuk in net and Red Kelly behind the bench. Sawchuk, in particular, was a major factor behind the Blue & White knocking off Montreal in the final.

Nov. 1967
The Toronto Maple Leafs played their first regular season game in Los Angeles on November 9, 1967. With Toronto in town, the Kings had the largest crowd of their young season, with 9,604 fans eager to watch some hockey. Between the pipes for L.A. was Wayne Rutledge and Johnny Bower was in the Leaf cage.

As expected in the land of Hollywood studios and televisions Big-3 Networks, there  was a certain amount of glitz surrounding the event. In attendance were actor Ben Gazarra and from Let's Make a Deal, host Monty Hall. A large amount of folks from Toronto, now living on the coast, flocked to the Forum. This cheering section was lead by Canadian actor Larry Mann.

Right from the outset, the Kings grabbed control with defenceman Dale Rolfe scoring the first goal. Another former Leaf, Eddie Joyal, scored a pair in a 4-1 victory. The lone Toronto goal was scored by Bob Pulford. The star of the game was goalie Rutledge who turned in an excellent performance. Coach Kelly was as happy as punch (not Imlach!) at the terrific start of his club.

"Not bad for the team that was supposed to finish last, that didn't belong in the National Hockey League. And don't forget that was the Stanley Cup champions our guys beat. That's three out of seven we've taken from old teams (Chicago, Detroit, Toronto). That's proof we belong - and anywhere but in last place", said a happy Red Kelly.

In January of 2011, it was the Leafs who skated to victory with a 3-2 win. Still, I kept thinking back to the early years of expansion. The "Original 12" as I refer to this era. The thrill of watching new teams and players. Waiting by the mailbox for delivery of a fresh issue of the Hockey News, to keep track of all this new activity.

A very special time!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Remembering Lives Lived

Spotted this short item in the January 5, 2011 edition of the Toronto Sun.

This has been a solemn season for the Maple Leafs alumni with a number of players and coaches passing on in recent months. There have been nine members honoured at recent games, in one or two cases because they were recluses whose deaths were only recently reported. The list includes Murray Armstrong, Eddie Litzenberger, Don Simmons, Aut Erickson, Vic Lynn, Gaye Stewart, Pete Langelle, Bob Hassard and coach Pat Burns.

The one name that caught me off guard was Aut Erickson. I don't recall hearing or reading about his passing. Too often, the media is negligent in spreading the word about former NHL'ers who have died. Perhaps, it is a case of "out of sight, out of mind", but that doesn't really wash.

The players from the Original Six era made a solid contribution towards growing the NHL game. Since there were only six teams, cracking an NHL line-up meant you were one of the best. To participate in even one NHL contest was considered an accomplishment. The AHL was packed with potential big league personnel, and to receive a call-up really meant something.

The trend seems to be to lump all the death notices into one very sketchy story, with very little detail (like the Sun story noted above). I cannot recall the Toronto Star writing of Bob Hassard's death in the sports section. They did print his obituary in the death column, but there was no mention of his hockey career. You would have to do some detective work to determine that it was indeed Bob Hassard, former NHL player. Even at this point, one could be left with some doubt concerning accuracy.

Yet, in the January 8, 2011 Toronto Star, I read about the passing of Uche Okafor (a player on 2 Nigerian World Cup teams) and Gary Mason (a former British boxing champion). Doesn't Bob Hassard, Aut Erickson and others deserve the same acknowledgment? Keep in mind, my beef concerns the print media, not a newspapers Internet website. In the Original Six era, a players career was primarily documented in the sports section of the paper. Thus, in addition to Internet coverage, details of a death should appear in the printed version.

Aut Erickson
 This way, a players life and career is nicely archived from start to finish under one roof. A newspaper archive is the richest source of information one can explore and examine in terms of gathering a complete story. Local or community papers, where a player lived and died, often provide the most detail. Certainly, a major metropolitan daily, in the NHL city where the player performed, could pick-up the story or publish a credited re-write? In salute to the National papers, they are the best at providing a comprehensive look at a deceased players life and professional work.

I had the privilege of meeting Aut Erickson at the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Leafs 1967 Cup win. He was happy to be considered a part of the team (having only played in one playoff game), and making a small contribution towards Toronto's last Cup victory.

The 6'1", 188 lbs, defenceman started his NHL career in the Original Six era with the 1959-60 Boston Bruins. During that season, Erickson scored his first of seven NHL goals. In the 1961 Intra-League draft, he was claimed by the Chicago Black Hawks. After spending 2 partial seasons in Chicago, he was traded to Detroit (June 9, 1964) with Ron Murphy for John Miszuk, Art Stratton and Ian Cushenan. Although he never played a game for the Detroit Red Wings, they did include him in a major swap with the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 20, 1965. The transaction resulted in Erickson achieving the goal every player who pulls an NHL jersey over his head dreams of both night and day.

His time in the Leafs organization was mostly spent with the Victoria Maple Leafs of the WHL. However, as pointed out earlier, in the 1967 Stanley Cup playoffs, Erickson appeared in one game with the big club. As a result, his name is engraved on the Cup!

With NHL expansion for the 1967-68 season, Erickson was claimed by the Oakland Seals. The final four years of his playing career were split between the Seals and Phoenix Roadrunners of the WHL. In 1970-71 he didn't play, but served as a coach in Phoenix.

His career would come to an end after spinal fusion surgery in January 1970. Erickson's post-hockey life saw him settling in California and working in the aviation industry.

Autry Raymond Erickson was born on January 25, 1938 in Lethbridge, Alberta. He passed away on August 21, 2010.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Up In Smoke

In late December, Health Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, announced new regulations pertaining to cigarette packaging. Taking effect approximately one year from now, the warning label on a deck of smokes will fill 75% of the package. Included will be graphic photos of those suffering from cancer.

Back in 1935, circumstances were enormously different. The above ad featuring goalie George Hainsworth would have sent shock-waves through Health Canada. In the mid-thirties cigarette, pipe and cigar smoking had a different social relevance. Most people considered smoking as a glamorous activity.

The catch-phrase in the ad was "Calling Philip Morris". The premise being that when the buying public purchased cigarettes, they would "call" for the Philip Morris brand. The Bellboy in the ad would voice radio spots with an emphasis on exaggerating each word in "C-a-l-l-i-n-g...P-h-i-l-i-p...M-o-r-r-i-s". In the history of advertising, it is considered one of the most successful tobacco campaigns. The product was quickly identified with the catch-phrase.

George Hainsworth
The ad with George Hainsworth was another case of linking an athlete with a product. Although there was no endorsement by Hainsworth, his image and accomplishments are front and centre. The theme has a "3-star" feel to it. As the text states "We call the outstanding player - You call for the outstanding cigarette Philip Morris Navy Cut".
The game for which Hainsworth is receiving accolades, was played on December 21, 1935. The Maple Leafs were hosting the New York Americans at Maple Leaf Gardens, With Hainsworth in goal, the Leafs defeated the "Amerks" 5-3.

Of interest, Toronto made a special presentation to a former member of the Blue & White. After 7 seasons with the Leafs, Harold "Baldy" Cotton was traded to the Americans for cash. Cotton, a 5'10", 159 pound, left winger, played in 285 regular season games for Toronto. He scored 68 goals and 88 assists for 156 points. He was a member of the 1931-32 Stanley Cup Championship team, the first Leaf squad to win the Cup in the Gardens.

"Baldy" Cotton
 George Hainsworth was a small (5'6" - 150lbs), but outstanding goaltender. In 1928-29 he had a season that most goalies could only dream of. He participated in 44 games with a record of 22-7-15. His average was a sparkling 0.92. There is more. Of the 44 games he played between the pipes, 22 of those resulted in shutouts!

William Harold Cotton was born on November 5, 1902 in Naticoke, Ontario. He passed away on September 9, 1984.

George Hainsworth was born on June 26, 1895 in Toronto, Ontario. He passed away in Gravenhurst, Ontario on October 9, 1950. Hainsworth was enshrined in the Hockey Hall in 1961.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Old-Time Hockey

The discussion still carries on regarding Team Canada's stunning loss to Russia at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Buffalo, New York. Since Arteimi Panarin scored the game-winning goal, there is little doubt that every junior player in Canada is waiting for another crack at Team Russia.


Hank Goldup
 In January 1965, there was another group of players who would have given everything to face a Russian team. Although they may have been past their peak years, this team had experience in every aspect of the game. So what if they were an "Old-Timers" team composed mostly of retired NHL players. Their leader was former Leaf and Ranger Hank Goldup.

There were usually 20 players in their line-up when they ventured out to play an opponent. Proceeds from the game went to charity or a minor hockey program. Occasionally, they would assist a a former NHL compatriot who was down on his luck.

"Once we take on a game, we get there. We can't disappoint people who have made arrangements. We don't stand for nonsense from any players. And we get none" said Goldup.

 The Old-Timers team played 30 to 35 games a season and raised approximately $150,000. How is this for a partial line-up. GOAL - John Henderson (Bos) DEFENCE - Bob Goldham (Tor/Chi/Det), Ivan Irvin (Mtl/NYR), Wally Stanowski (Tor/NYR), Murray Henderson (Bos), Rags Ragalin (Det/Chi) FORWARDS - John McCormack (Tor/Mtl/Chi), Gus Bodnar (Tor/Chi/Bos), Sid Smith (Tor), Cal Gardner (NYR/Tor/Chi/Bos), Brian Cullen (Tor/NYR), Barry Cullen (Tor/Det), Harry Watson (Brooklyn Americans/Det/Tor/Chi), Ron Hurst (Tor), Gus Mortson (Listed as a forward, but played defence for Tor/Chi/Det).

Concerning playing a Russian team, Goldup had complete confidence his club could hold their own.

"The way we control the puck and know what to do with it, and the fact we don't try to knock anybody around. We fit perfectly (in) the international idea of hockey play the Russians prefer. I feel that with the addition of a couple of players, we could handle any Russian team any where. I can tell you that the Old-Timers would love to try it" said Goldup.

The opportunity for NHL players to get their "crack" at a Russian team would come in September 1972.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Stat-Man

Yesterday, I wrote about the National Hockey Leagues quest to determine how many miles a player skated in a contest during the 1943-44 season. Of course, the gathering of this stat never flourished beyond a one-game experiment.

As is evident today, there is a vast amount of relevant statistical information which was documented by various leagues throughout time. One individual is credited with being of vital importance to exposing this data to those who have an interest in such matters - James C. Hendy.

Born on May 6, 1905 in Barbados, British West Indies, the 2 year-old (some reports indicate his age to be 6) Hendy moved with his family to Vancouver. There, he fell in love with the game of hockey while watching the stars of the Old Patrick League. In his early years, he was a telegrapher for the C.P.R.

Shortly after moving to New York City, Hendy began producing a publication called The Hockey Guide in the early 1930s. The Guide contained a collection of stats. From the outset, financial remuneration certainly wasn't a driving force behind his involvement. A December 1939 newspaper report shed some light on the undertaking. Operating, for the first time, with a $2,000 advance from League President Frank Calder, 25,000 copies were printed. Since the Guide was viewed as a publicity tool for the NHL, free copies were distributed to a large number of newspapers. The minor leagues had to pay for copies, and the National Hockey League required a large quantity for their own purposes. Any profits from sales to the general public were eaten-up by the retailer.

Later in his career, Hendy became a Press Agent / Publicity Director for the New York Rangers. He left that position in early September 1946 and was replaced by Stanley Saplin. By the end of September 1946, Hendy was named the Publicity Director of the American Hockey League. This was the first such appointment of it's kind in professional sports.

His journey up the hockey ladder continued in January 1948. His experience in newspapers, publicity and hockey, lead to him being named the President of the United States Hockey League. In 1949, he became the general manager of the Cleveland Barons in the AHL. He remained with the franchise until his death in January 1961.

In a Canadian Press story on his passing, they noted that "he was the first person to assemble and publish the statistics of all professional hockey leagues, a job that he continued until the end of World War 11."

James Hendy was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Builder in 1968.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Skating for Miles

In today's modern game, we are often overwhelmed with stats which are gathered during a game. In most circumstances, the information is of interest only to a coaching staff, scouts and those participating in hockey pools.

In 1943-44, most statistical data pertained to goals, assists, points and penalty minutes. However, NHL President Red Dutton added another wrinkle into the mix. It was his desire to answer the burning question on every fans must-know-list. How far did an NHL forward skate in a game?

To assist in determining the answer to this question, Dutton hired a statistician. One of the players selected for study during a game was Elmer Lach of the Montreal Canadiens. According to calculations, Lach's performance was as follows...

First period, 3 shifts, 42 1/2 rushes covering 7,650 to 8,500 feet.

Second period, 3 shifts, 41 rushes covering 7,300 to 8,200 feet.

Third period, 3 shifts, 53 rushes covering 9,540 to 10,600 feet.

Based on this fact-finding-mission, the League estimated that Lach skated just over 4 to 5 1/4 miles.

Some 67 years later, it provides some insight into the state of the game during the early stages of the Original Six era. If anything, it provides a comparison for future generations who conduct a similar study.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bob Hassard : 1929-2010

During a stoppage in play at the Air Canada Centre on Monday evening (Boston vs. Toronto), the Maple Leafs acknowledged the passing of 2 alumni members.

Along with a photo of Pete Langelle (1917-2010), the video scoreboard flashed a photo of Bob Hassard. He passed away on December 30, 2010 at his family cottage. He was 81.

For most of his career, Bob Hassard was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. In 1945-46 he joined the Toronto Marlboros in the OHA. For the next couple of seasons, he would play for both the OHA Jr. and Sr. Marlboros.

While still in junior, Hassard was summoned by the Leafs, and he played in his first NHL game on November 19,1949. The young centre would go pointless in a 5-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Maple Leaf Gardens.

At the completion the of his time with the Marlboros, Hassard was signed by the Leafs on February 15, 1951. Over the next 4 years he would split his playing time between the Leafs and AHL Pittsburgh Hornets. As a Leaf, he would score 9 goals and 28 assists for 37 points in 109 games. On September 10, 1954 Hassard was purchased by the Chicago Black Hawks. His final NHL campaign was in 1954-55. He wouldn't record a point in 17 games with Chicago.

After his retirement from the game, Hassard became a successful insurance agent.

Robert Harry Hassard was born on March 26, 1929 in Lloydminister, Saskatchewan.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Don Simmons : 1931-2010

Late last week, came word that goalie Don Simmons passed away at the age of 79. Details of his passing are few, but it appears that he died in September 2010.

Don Simmons broke into the NHL with the Boston Bruins during the 1956-57 season. He would remain Boston property until a January 31, 1961 trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for goaltender Ed Chadwick. In addition to Boston and Toronto, Simmons appeared in 21 regular season games for the New York Rangers.

His finest moment in the National Hockey League came in the 1962 Stanley Cup final. In game 4, starter Johnny Bower injured his groin while making a stop on Bobby Hull. Bower made a valiant effort to continue, but at the insistence of coach Punch Imlach, he was pulled from the game. His substitute, Simmons, finished the series in goal.

In the final 3 games, Simmons played 165 minutes, allowing 8 goals and posting a 2.91 average. His record was 2 wins and 1 loss. On the strength of a Dick Duff game winning goal, Toronto captured the Stanley Cup on April 22, 1962 in Chicago Stadium. The winning netminder was Don Simmons.

Of interest, Simmons is credited with being the goalie who started the tradition of dashing to the bench on a delayed penalty call.

Don Simmons was born on September 13, 1931 in Port Colborne, Ontario.

Monday, January 3, 2011

On the Eve of Greatness

New Years Eve marked the 35th anniversary of one of the greatest games ever played on ice. The Red Army vs. The Montreal Canadiens at the Forum. The flow of that contest, combined with high levels of skill and determination on the part of both clubs, has made it a true classic. A delightful account of the game can be found  in Todd Denault's "The Greatest Game" (Friendly, ISBN 978-07710-2634-8).

There is a saying which goes like this "better later than never". This certainly can be said of the process of trying to bring these two clubs together. Back in February of 1961, came word that in the fall of 1960, the Soviet Hockey Federation issued an invitation to the Montreal Canadiens to play in Moscow.Speaking on behalf of the Federation was Yuri Bazhanov the Secretary of the organization. The competition would have been held in the spring of 1961.

The Soviet team would have been composed of players from various teams within the Soviet Union. The Montreal Canadiens were coming off a string of 5 Stanley Cups from 1955-56 to 1959-60. In 1960-61, Montreal failed to advance pass the first round under coach Toe Blake. Still, they had a powerful squad with names like Geoffrion, Beliveau, Moore, Harvey and Jacques Plante in goal.

One wonders how these two teams would have matched up in 1961. Would the Canadiens have skated to an easy victory, taking into account their line-up? We will never know, as the Canadiens declined the Soviet offer.

Good things come to those who wait. Like December 31, 1975.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

For many decades, the New Years Day holiday was dominated by U.S. College Football. One could spend the entire day viewing Bowl Game after Bowl Game. In the past several years, the NHL Winter Classic has managed to squeeze in some valuable TV exposure on NBC.

This is of major importance for a League attempting to sell the game beyond the NHL markets. So, in this vain, my resolution for the National Hockey League is continued prosperity and success in growing this wonderful game.

For the loyal readers of this blog, good health, peace and happiness in 2011 - HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!