Monday, February 28, 2011

Gil Mayer : AHL Legend

As the American Hockey League celebrates it's 75th anniversary, we take a look at another AHL Legend - Gil Mayer.

Gilles Mayer was born on August 24, 1930. The diminutive goaltender (5'6' - 135 lbs.) hails from Ottawa, Ontario. His thin build earned him the appropriate nickname of "The Needle". He played junior in the Ontario Hockey Association with the Barrie Flyer's. In his final year of junior, 1948-49, Mayer lead the league in victories (26), shutouts (5) and average (2.91). Unlike the previous year, 1948, when Barrie participated in the Memorial Cup final against the Port Arthur West End Bruins (Barrie lost in 4 straight), the Flyer's failed to advance past the Eastern Canada Championships.

Gil Mayer turned pro the following season, 1949-50, with the Pittsburgh Hornets in the American Hockey League. The Hornets were affiliated with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Mayer had a decent rookie campaign winning 20 of 50 games and posting a 2.84 average.

The highlight that season for Mayer didn't come in the AHL, but in the National Hockey League. In November of 1949, Maple Leafs guru Conn Smythe, was in a titanic battle with netminder Turk Broda. It was Smythe's contention that Broda weight, 197 pounds, was hampering his performance. The Major set a weight limit of 190 for Broda and when the scale hit 197, Smythe suspended his starting goalie. To add an exclamation to his point, Smythe summoned a goalkeeper who was the direct opposite of Broda in stature - Gil Mayer. Newspaper accounts described the Pittsburgh Hornet as "Little Gil Mayer" and "The midget netminder".

On the evening of December 2, 1949, Gil Mayer, wearing sweater number 25, skated to his crease at Maple Leaf Gardens for his first NHL contest.

As expected, Mayer entered the game feeling a tad nervous. In the first period, he faced 5 shots and the Detroit Red Wings scored 2 goals. Mayer didn't face his first shot until the 5-minute mark, perhaps giving his nerves time to percolate. He didn't allow another goal in the remaining 2 periods, but unfortunately for Mayer, his teammates couldn't get their offence in gear. Detroit netminder, Harry Lumley, recorded the shutout in the Wings 2-0 win.

Smythe, having made his point to the entire team ("Operation Diet" included several players on the roster),  reinstated Broda who dropped to 189 pounds the day  prior to Mayer's NHL debut.

In his sophomore year, 1950-51, Mayer would lead all AHL goalies in minutes played (4,350), shutouts (6) and average (2.40). By allowing the fewest goals against, Mayer earned his first Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial  Award. Also, he was named to the AHL First All-Star Team.

If there were concerns Mayer's size would be an impediment, they were dismissed on February 6, 1952. In the second period of a game against the Syracuse Warriors, Mayer took a shot which fractured his nose. After receiving medical attention, he returned and finished the game. His durability, grit and determination knew no size barrier.

When the Pittsburgh Hornets franchise folded in 1956, Mayer joined the Hershey Bears. In Pittsburgh he won 2 Calder Cup championships (1952 & 1955). Mayer would add 2 additional championships with Hershey (1958 & 1959), but in each case he didn't participate in any post-season action.

Gil Mayer, because of his slight physique, possessed quickness and reflexes which helped him perform at the highest level. In 7 of his seasons in the AHL, he won 30 or more games. He was an AHL First All-Star Team selection 3 times (1951, 1954 & 1955) and a Second All-Star Team choice twice (1953 & 1956). His resume includes 5 Holmes Memorial Awards - 1951, 1953, 1954, 1955 & 1956.

Mayer would play  9 NHL games, going 2-6-1 with a 2.67 average. His finest effort would come in a game which was played in the Montreal Forum. On October 21, 1954, Mayer, replacing an injured Harry Lumley, defeated the Canadiens 3-1.

After playing 3 years in Hershey, Mayer would join the Cleveland Barons in 1959-60 and the Providence Reds in 1961-62. His playing career came to an end following the 1962-63 season.

Gil Mayer would be inducted into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, February 25, 2011

King George VI and Hockey

As we head into the weekend, many of us will be looking forward to the Academy Awards broadcast on Sunday evening. The lead contender for Best Picture is director Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech". The film tells the story of King George VI as he attempts to overcome his stutter with assistance from his therapist Lionel Logue. The King is brilliantly portrayed by Colin Firth who captured a Golden Globe for his performance.

Now, you are wondering, what is the relationship between King George VI  and the game of hockey? When the King passed away on February 6, 1952, his death had an impact on the National Hockey League schedule. On February 6th, the New York Rangers were in Toronto for a contest against the Leafs. However, with the passing of George VI, the Board of Directors at Maple Leaf Gardens met to discuss the situation. Following the meeting, George McCullagh vice-president of Maple Leaf Gardens, announced the game would be cancelled out of respect for the late King - "It was the unanimous opinion of the Board that it would be inappropriate for the game to be played when the Nation and whole Commonwealth and Empire were in mourning for the King."

It was only the second time an NHL game was cancelled at the Gardens. The first was on January 21, 1963, when King George V died. The opponent for that game was the Montreal Canadiens. In 1952, the New York Rangers were fully supportive of the action taken by MLG. The Rangers took an earlier train to their next destination, Chicago, for a tilt against the Black Hawks.

 The night prior to the cancelled game against the Leafs, New York coach Bill Cook and general manager Frank Boucher took in a game between the Guelph Biltmores and Barrie Flyers. The Biltmores were partially sponsored by the Manhattan club and their roster contained a number of Blueshirt prospects. Boucher and Cook were especially impressed by - Ron Murphy, Andy Bathgate, Dean prentice, Aldo Guidolin and Harry Howell - all future NHLers.

George McCullagh, Vice-President Maple Leaf Gardens
 Along with George McCullagh, National Hockey League President Clarence Campbell and Madison Square Garden President John Reed Kilpatrick were involved in the decision making process concerning the situation. The game was rescheduled to February 19, 1952, and the Leafs and Rangers skated to a 3-3 draw.

Of note, there was an interesting story pertaining to another George - George Armstrong. The Maple Leafs had purposely stalled calling-up their future captain until after the game on February 6, 1952 had been played. This would have kept "The Chief" eligible for being involved in the voting for the Calder Trophy in '52-53. With the additional game now on the schedule, Armstrong participated in the remaining 20 games, thus taking him out of the running for a crack at the 1953 Calder. He went on to play 21 seasons with the Leafs incorporating 1,187 games.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Grade 13 to the NHL

Much was made of Carolina Hurricanes centre Jeff Skinner's appearance in the All-Star Game. At 18 years of age, he was the youngest player to perform in the history of the event. His inclusion on the All-Star roster came as a result of an injury suffered by Sidney Crosby. Having an outstanding rookie campaign, Skinner won't turn 19 until May 16, 2011.

In January 1965 another youngster, 19 year old Brit Selby, was getting his first taste of National Hockey League action. He would play 3 games for the Maple Leafs in early January of the 1964-65 season. Selby was in his final year of junior and was playing outstanding hockey for the Toronto Marlboros. At the conclusion of the OHA schedule, he had scored 45 goals and 43 assists for 88 points in 52 games. Also, Selby was in grade 13 at Victoria Park Collegiate in Toronto. One can only imagine the emotional roller coast of one day being a grade 13 student./Toronto Marlboro and the next day a grade 13 student/Toronto Maple Leaf. If Selby required guidance, he could have had a word with teammate Ron Ellis who had a similar experience. It was ironic that Selby was summoned by the Leafs after Ellis was out of the line-up due to injury.

Selby's first venture into the National Hockey League was very memorable. In his initial contest (Jan.2/65), in Maple Leaf Gardens, Selby faced the Detroit Red Wings. And what souvenir did get during his first game? A first goal puck? No. His first NHL point? No. It was a large bruise on his arm courtesy of some nasty stick work from Red Wing Gordie Howe. The incident took place on his very first shift and he explained what happened as a "sort of initiation, I guess."

Selby would nab the souvenir he was seeking in his second game. The Leafs visited Madison Square Garden on the night of January 3, 1965 for an encounter against the Rangers. Selby tipped in a pass from defenceman Carl Brewer for his first NHL goal. Prior to returning to the Marlboros, Selby played in one additional game with the big club. On January 6, 1965, he scored his second goal in a 3-1 win over the Hawks in Chicago Stadium. In 3 games, Selby would assaulted by Gordie Howe, score his first NHL goal against Jacques Plante and score the game winning goal versus Chicago.When Ron Ellis returned from injury, Selby was returned to junior.

In his rookie season, 1965-66, Selby would record 14 goals (27 points) in 61 games. He was named the winner of the 1966 Calder Memorial Trophy as the leagues top rookie. Selby would skate in 350 NHL games and post 117 points (55 goals/62 assists). Also, he would play 3 seasons in the World Hockey Association with Quebec, New England and the Toronto Toros.

In January 1965, Selby voiced concern about finishing his education prior to signing a pro contract. Ultimately, he would enjoy the benefits of both - a career as a professional athlete and the rewards of completing his studies. Selby's second career was in the education system, teaching history at North Toronto Collegiate Institute.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Max Bentley : The End of the Line

As hockey fans, we can often recall a players first tour of duty in the National Hockey League. We may have followed his development through junior and, perhaps, time in the American Hockey League. Then, the euphoria of his donning an NHL sweater and providing evidence he deserves an extended stay in the NHL. Ultimately, due to age, injury or lack of production, every player is faced with the reality of retiring from the NHL.

The media usually addresses the retirement of an average player with a couple of lines - if he is lucky. Of course, a player with a higher stature receives more recognition when he leaves the big show. With this in mind, I thought we would examine the "end of the line" for one player from the Original Six era - Max Bentley.

Maxwell Herbert Lloyd Bentley was born on March 3, 1920 in Delisle, Saskatchewan. After spending a brief amount of time in the AHL (Providence) and the AHA (Kansas City Americans) during the 1940-41 season, Bentley was called-up by the Chicago Black Hawks. His brother, Doug Bentley, joined Chicago the previous year (1939-40). In his rookie campaign, Doug quickly earned the praise of manager Bill Tobin. Bentley had some advise for his boss "If you think I'm good, you should see my younger brother Max - he's twice as good as I am."

The Bentley brothers made their mark during the 1942-43 season. Doug lead the league in goals (33) and points (73). Max finished 3 points behind (70) Doug and he won his first piece of NHL hardware - the Lady Byng Trophy.

Following the 1942-43 season, Max Bentley was absent from the NHL untill 1945-46. He was engaged in military service, as were a number of other NHL rank and file. Upon his return, he would partner up with Doug and Bill Mosienko to form the Pony Line. Max would lead all NHL scorers in 1946 (61pts.) and 1947 (72pts.). In 1946 he captured the Hart Trophy. His 3 Stanley Cups (1948,1949 & 1951) came following a November 2, 1947 trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Doug (L) & Max (R) Bentley
 Max Bentley was a talented skater and when combined with his stick handling skills, it produced an artistic vision on the ice. Bentley's nickname - "Dipsy-Doodle-Dandy" - was based on his brilliant ability to control the puck and out maneuver his opponents. Bentley maintained he developed his wrists by milking cows on the farm in Delisle. His shot was quick and accurate.

Bentley gained the reputation of being a worrier and he was concerned about catching a rare disease. After the 1950-51 campaign, Bentley's game suffered from a  lack of scoring and injuries. In August 1953, he was traded to the New York Rangers. In 57 games he managed to produce only 14 goals. In 1954-55, Bentley refused to report to the Rangers training camp. At this point, his contract was returned to the Maple Leafs. Conn Smythe, the supreme ruler of all things Blue & White, had no success convincing Bentley to return to the fold. Smythe placed him on waivers, but no team was tempted to cough-up the $15,000 waiver price.

Why was Bentley so determined not to return to the NHL? As it turned out, his heart was else where - Max Bentley's only desire was to return home. His brother Doug, at this juncture, was the player-coach of the Saskatoon Quakers of the Western Hockey League. It was the intention of Max to be reunited with his brother and play for the Quakers.

Bentley negotiated his release from Toronto and was on the hook to Smythe for $7500. It was first necessary for Smythe to offer Bentley to the other 5 clubs for the lower sum. Since Bentley's intentions were known, no club bothered to pursue his services. During this time, Bentley was placed under suspension by Toronto. On October 29, 1954, after his cheque cleared, Bentley's suspension was lifted clearing the way for him to join Doug and the Quakers.

Max Bentley's NHL career had come to the end of the line.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Bee Hive of Activity

The official name of the company was the St. Lawrence Starch Company Ltd. This business venture got it's start way back in 1889 and operated out of Port Credit, Ontario. However, it isn't the company name that is fondly remembered by hockey fans. Rather, they could readily identify with one of their products - Bee Hive Golden Corn Syrup. You ask "What did this product have in common with hockey starved Joe Public?" Well, back in the 1930s the labels and tops of this grocery-stable were like gold. By completing a coupon and forwarding a label/top, an individual could receive a photograph of their favourite NHL star.

The initial pictures were snapped in Maple Leaf Gardens and included a number of Toronto players. Montreal Canadiens were also part of the first offering.

Most of us are familiar with the photo offer, but there were several other products which could be ordered.

The above ad pertains to one such offer - a hockey star label pin. The piece was a 3/4-inch photo of a player in a jewellery setting. The photo was attached to a "gold" lacquered  hockey stick. This would have been mailed to you in exchange for a .25-cent coin and one Bee Hive Syrup label or top.

During the 1940s there were interruptions related to the offers due to the war and a shortage of corn. The photo offer lasted until 1967. The Bee Hive collection is a wonderful archive which visually documents the players from the Original Six era. Similar to the Golden Age of Hockey, economic changes resulted in the demise of the promotion. The new NHLPA demanded, rightfully, that it's members share in the profits. The hockey fan, with the advent of television, sought out colour photographs of their heroes. These could easily be obtained by purchasing hockey cards.

There are still many wonderful examples of the Bee Hive photographs and associated products in the marketplace for hockey fans to purchase and enjoy. Although, it will cost you a ton more than a label.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Adding Punch to the Interview

In the Original Six era, the relationship between media members and club management often became volatile and antagonistic. Like any organization that was subject to constant press scrutiny, teams attempted to control the release of information and keep indiscretions out of the newspapers. For the most part, reporters played along with management in fear of being cut out of the loop if they didn't capitulate.

In February 1950 an incident occurred in Detroit which shed light on how difficult and dangerous a reporters job could be. Following a contest between the Wings and visiting Chicago Black Hawks, the press gathered in the Hawks room to secure quotes for their stories. The Hawks, who lost that evening (9-2), were coached by Charlie Conacher of Kid Line fame.

Coach Conacher -  2nd from left

Like any confrontation, there are two-sides to the story. Lew Walter of the Detroit Times claimed that Conacher unleashed a sucker-punch on him while being interviewed. Conacher was berating Walter for an earlier story which criticized the "Big Bomber". The Chicago coach stated that he punched the Detroit reporter after being insulted by him. Also, Conacher had drawn the ire of media member for grabbing  referee Bill Chadwick's sweater and spinning him around during a game.

The Hockey Writers' Association sent a letter of protest to NHL President Clarence Campbell.

It is obvious to any newspaperman that the NHL regards the work of the press with less consideration than any other known field of professional sport.
 The threat of physical assault, accompanied by snicker and insult, has joined the gag rule and uncounted other factors as handicaps to proper and honest reporting

Clarence Campbell claimed he had no jurisdiction in the Walter/Conacher confrontation. The reply from the Witers' Association took exception to Campbell's contention.

"This is patently false. The league has shown many times in the past that it has considered every employee of a hockey team within its jurisdiction and has not hesitated to punish or otherwise take prompt action when it felt an individual was acting against the best interest of the game."

There is no doubt that Campbell ruled over the National Hockey League with an iron-fist during the Original Six era. And no ink-stained-wretch or his fraternity were about to intimidate the former war-crimes attorney or question his authority.

Dick Irvin, coach of the Montreal Canadiens, decided to have some fun with the situation. He created a large sign which read "SPORTS WRITERS WELCOME - BUT ENTER AT THEIR OWN RISK - IRVIN." Naturally, he had the sign taped to the door of the Habs dressing room for all to see.

For Lew Walter, there was no humorous angle to this story. He suffered swelling to the left side of his face which required medical attention. The Detroit scribe filed a complaint and a charge of assault and battery was laid against Conacher. The entire mess was resolved very quickly with Bill Tobin, President of the Hawks, making a visit to Detroit to smooth things out. Subsequently, Conacher issued a published apology and was fined $200. There is little doubt Clarence Campbell was pulling the strings on this reconciliation and any resolution was first approved by his office.

On April 4, 1950, Walter and Conacher came face-to-face in the dressing room corridor at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Red Wings were in Toronto for a playoff game against the Leafs. Detroit emerged victorious, 2-1, when Leo Reeise scored after 20 minutes and 38 seconds of overtime had been played. As for Conacher and Walter, the two simply exchanged pleasantries. Conacher asked "How are you Lew?" and the writer responded in-kind to the Hawks coach.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fred Speck : 1947-2011

For a young hockey fan born and raised in Southern Ontario, Thursday evening took on a special meaning each new hockey season. Sure, it wasn't Hockey Night In Canada, but it came close enough. It was the only night of the week I wouldn't procrastinate and made a determined effort to finish my homework - A.S.A.P.. I wanted no distractions when it was time to tune into Channel 11 (CHCH-TV) from Hamilton, Ontario. It was game time for Hamilton Red Wings Jr. "A" hockey from the old barn - The Hamilton Forum. It may not have been the Montreal Forum, however, for a hockey starved youngster it really didn't matter. I recall the wonderful play-by-play performed by Norm Marshall and hosting duties/commentary by Sandy Hoyt. Coach Eddie Bush pacing behind the Red Wings bench, his fedora firmly in place.

There were the players - Rene Leclerc, Bart Crashley, Real Lemieux, Pete Mahovlich, Ed Hatoum and Danny Lawson. And there was Fred Speck, who passed away earlier this month.

Fred Speck played in one game for the Hamilton Jr. Red Wings in the 1962-63 season. He would spend the following 5 seasons playing centre for the Wings. His finest year in Hamilton was his last. In 1967-68,  Speck scored 31 goals and added 54 assists for 85 points in 52 games.

There is a story about Speck that best sums-up his grit and determination in junior hockey. On January 16, 1966 the Wings paid a visit to Maple Leaf Gardens for a game against the Toronto Marlboros. At the conclusion of the warm-up, Speck noticed that his skates required sharpening. Under most circumstances this wouldn't be a problem, however, it turned out to be a huge headache. All concerned were advised that the machinery for sharpening skates was out for repairs. At the first intermission, Speck had reached the end of his rope - his skates were too dull for him to play properly. So what does a player do under these conditions? Well, Fred Speck removed his skates and headed straight for coach Rudy Pilous. He wasn't seeking advise or instructions from his coach. Instead, he wanted his car keys. Speck took the coaches car, drove to the Terrace (the old Mutual Street Arena/Arena Gardens) and had his skates worked into game shape. In the final frame, Speck tied-up the contest and assisted on the game winning goal in a 5-3 Hamilton victory.

Fred Speck played 28 games in the National Hockey League with the Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks. He scored 1 goal and recorded 3 points. The bulk of his playing career (1968-69 to 1977-78) was spent in various professional leagues. Also, he played in the WHA with 3 teams.

The highlight of his career came in 1970-71 with the AHL Baltimore Clippers. When all was said and done, he captured a spot on the AHL First All-Star team; won the Dudley "Red" Garrett Memorial Award (Top Rookie); won the John B. Sollenberger Trophy (Top Scorer); won the Les Cunningham Award (MVP).

Frederick Edmondstone Speck was born on July 22, 1947 in Thorold, Ontario. He passed away on February 10, 2011 in Hamilton, Ontario.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Shortage of Yankee Bucks

A few years back, the Canadian clubs in the National Hockey League were being financially crippled by the vast discrepancy between the value of the Canadian and American dollar. Being under contractual obligation to remunerate their players in U.S. funds, resulted in difficult times for several franchises. The NHL was forced to create an assistance plan to aid clubs that were overwhelmed by this additional expense. In the late 1940s,  another economic crisis had the potential to inflict devastating ramifications upon the National Hockey League.

On November 18, 1947, due to a shortage of U.S. dollars, harsh trade restrictions were put into place. They were similar to the restrictions during World War 11. It was the responsibility of Prime Minister MacKenzie King and Finance Minister Douglas Abbott to inform the Canadian public of the new measures.

The restrictions dealt with a wide range of goods that could no longer be imported - all automobiles/vehicles, refrigerators, washing machines, radios, typewriters, furniture, jewelry and candy. A severe reduction in the importing of - oranges, lemons, grapefruit, fruit juices, potatoes, apples, onions, clothes, leather goods and sporting goods.

The major concern for the NHL pertained to restrictions on travel to the United States. The annual limit for individual expenditures for travel to the U.S. was set at $150. Fortunately for the league, foreign exchange control restrictions provided relief if travel was required relating to business, health and educational purposes. Thus, clubs in the NHL had no difficulty in obtaining U.S. funds for travel to and from games.

It would have been an enormous and devastating blow for the league, as they were just climbing out of the harsh realities of wartime.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wall to Wall History at Maple Leaf Gardens

The main destination for many tourist visiting Toronto from 1931 to 1999 was Maple Leaf Gardens. After years of listening on radio and watching on television, the hockey palace on Carlton Street seemed like a second home. Once inside the giant edifice, the corridors were like walking through a museum. The large framed photographs hanging on the walls, revealed both the history of the team and building.

Many of the photographs are displayed in the Maple Leaf Gardens Commemorative Album and Auction Catalogue from November 2000 (above picture). The collection of photographs span several generations of hockey from Hap Day to Doug Gilmour.

One of my all-time favourite pictures at the Gardens was the above photo of Ron Ellis. It was snapped after the contest in which he scored his first National Hockey League goal. The game was played on October 17, 1964 at Maple Leaf Gardens. In net for Boston that evening was Eddie Johnston. The caption reads "Ron Ellis poses with his first NHL goal puck." The photo was situated in the wallway leading to the East Gold seats.

At the beginning of the 1964-65 season, comparisons were being made between Ellis and another NHL rookie - Yvan Cournoyer. The native of Drummondville, Quebec started the year playing on a line with Jean Beliveau and John Ferguson. The hope for Ellis was that he would have the opportunity to flash his offensive skills in the same manner as his counterpart in Montreal. Playing on a line with Andy Bathgate and Frank Mahovlich, there was concern Ellis would be saddled with the majority of checking assignments.

The scouting report on Ellis outlined his speed and potential to become a scoring threat. His skating abilities enabled him to reach the corners and fight for control of the puck. His shot was hard and accurate. Ron Ellis would record decent offensive statistics over his 15 year career in the National Hockey League. In his initial season, he would tally 22 more goals after that wonderful picture was taken following the Leafs home-opener.

During a visit to the Air Canada Centre, I decided to explore around the building and conduct an inspection of the photographs. Taking into account the fact the structure is relatively new (1999) and no championships have been secured, the pictorial presentation is no match to Maple Leaf Gardens. Updated technology has been engaged with several electronic screens flashing a series of pictures. These cover many decades of Toronto Maple Leafs history.

Below is a sampling of the electronic images.

The Kid Line

1951 Cup


 Tucked away in stairwells and other locations are several print/framed photographs.

Hap Day

Ace Bailey


Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Wanted to let everyone know I'm now on Facebook. I'm still in the process of establishing a URL. In the meantime, my profile page can be reached by following these steps.

1. Go to

2. Fill my name - Jim Amodeo - into the search box

3. The "Hockey Then and Now" logo (see below) will appear beside my name. It will serve as my profile picture and as a means of identifying me from other individuals with the same name.

4. Click "Add as a Friend"

Hockey Then & Now Logo
 It is always fun to have another forum in which to comment on the wonderful game of hockey!

Dropping the Gloves

The Big Bad Bruins. The Broad Street Bullies. The Third Man In. Bench-Clearing Brawls. Dave "The Hammer" Schultz. Ah yes, the 1970s. Hockey fighting and violence at it's best. The memories of that era came flooding back over the past couple of weeks. Of late, the NHL has experienced a return to play where brawls have become a major storyline in game reports.

There was Pittsburgh goalie Brent Johnson's one-punch decision over fellow netminder Rick Dipietro. This was followed by Carey Price of Montreal and Tim Thomas of Boston going toe-to-toe in a contest full of fighting majors. In a game played on February 12, 2011 the Islanders and Penguins racked-up a combined 346 minutes in penalties. Referees Dave Banfield and Dan O'halloran certainly were kept busy. For the longest time, officials have let players go to battle and burn-off steam. They will maintain their distance and allow the combatants to duke-it-out.

Red Dutton
 The origins of this philosophy for dealing with fisticuffs dates back to the 1943-44 season. It was part of an experiment initiated by league President Red Dutton. At the time, on-ice officials were being criticized for trying to break up one fight and subsequently being in a weakened position when another skirmish developed on the ice. Dutton changed things up prior to a game between the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings. Referee Bill Chadwick and his linesmen were instructed to resist the urge to lunge in and separate the participants.

Dutton commented on his observations of the game which just happened to include a fight.

 "You know how long the fight lasted, just 30 seconds. Know what Chadwick did? He stood back and observed what went on. After it was all over, harmlessly by the way, he skates away to the penalty bench and gives his findings. He didn't punish the starting pair, he penalized the two chiefly responsible.. He got the real offenders because he was in a position to see.
 I find nothing in the rule book which compels our officials to barge in and break up these affrays."

By the 1970s, the referees had no other choice. Remember the referee standing at centre ice while a donnybrook was going on all around him - firmly gripping a a clipboard - ready to take names and numbers?

As Red Dutton astutely stated "the officials as spectators".

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day 1950

In the rough and tumble era of Original Six hockey, there was little room for players to exhibit their warm and fuzzy side. They were strictly discouraged from fraternizing with their opponents. There are legendary stories of guys walking out of restaurants when members of another club walked in. Thus, it was difficult for the National Hockey League to engage the Valentine's holiday as a marketing tool. In junior hockey, it was an opportunity for club sponsors to embrace the day.

As you can see in the above ad, Maple Leaf Gardens was the place to be on Valentine's Day 1950. Billed as as a "Junior Valentine Party", the doubleheader featured Galt vs. St. Mike's and Oshawa vs. Toronto (Marlboros). Being a week night, many young individuals would flock to the Gardens for the two games. It would be a meeting place that parents wouldn't object to on a school night. The boys would appreciate the hockey and the girls were attracted to the Valentine aspect of the event.

The two games played that evening were a complete contrast to one another. The Galt/St. Mike's game was a close contest with Galt skating to a 2-1 win. The Oshawa Generals and Toronto Marlboros affair could best be described as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre! The Marlboros, with a line-up which included George Armstrong and Danny Lewicki, obliterated Oshawa 8-0.

The lone-marker for St. Mike's came off the stick of future NHLer Leo Labine. Considered to be one of the "characters" in the Original Six era, Labine was known for his ability to antagonize fellow players. In the current NHL, this type of player is classified as being a "trash talker".

Leonard Gerald "The Lion" Labine was born on July 22, 1931 in Haileybury, Ontario. His time with the St. Michael's Majors was limited to one season (1950-51). His career in the OHA came to an end the following year with the Barrie Flyers. He graduated from junior with a Memorial Cup championship.

His first two seasons in pro hockey were split between the Boston Bruins and AHL Hershey Bears. He gained a permanent spot on the Bruins roster at the start of the 1953-54 campaign. Labine would remain with Boston until a 1961 trade to the Detroit Red Wings. The highlight of his career came in a contest against the Wing in 1954. The pesky right winger managed to score 3 goals and 3 assists for a 6 point night.

As for the Oshawa Generals, they just didn't seem to have their heart in it against the Marlboros. A real heartbreak for their fans on Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hockey's Most Exciting Publication

When I'm feeling nostalgic for some vintage hockey reading, I usually dig-out one of my old hockey magazines.

As you can tell by the title of this story, and the above photo, it was also the slogan for Hockey Pictorial. This publication was produced by Ken Mckenzie of  Hockey News fame. The feature stories in this edition were outstanding and written by some wonderful hockey writers. Here is a sampling.

ONE YEAR, COURNOYER COULD BREAK THROUGH - When he first broke in, some compared him to the mighty Rocket, a fact which embarrassed him to no end. Now he's making it on his own. By Gil Smith.




If the Flyers work as hard as their coach, they have it made. Drill, drill, drill and try it again is the creed of...EAGER VIC STASIUK PHILADELPHIA FUNDAMENTALIST. By Emille Mulholland.

TED IRVINE is the kind of guy who makes his coaches very happy - or drives them nuts. He's had an in-and-out NHL career, but the Los Angeles Kings have refused attractive trade offers. They're sticking with him because they believe...ERRATIC TED CAN BE GREAT. By Bill Libby.

In addition to the NHL features, there were stories on the AHL (Nick Mileti new owner of the Cleveland Barons), IHL (Don Westbrooke, Dayton Gems), WHL (Art Jones, Portland Buckaroos), CHL (Doug Volmar, Fort Wayne Wings) and EHL (Dick Roberge, Johnstown Jets).

Although the magazine is dated February 1970, I purchased it on December 31, 1969. I can recall that day as though I just turned a page in the calendar. I spent most of the morning shovelling snow in the driveway in anticipation of a New Year's Eve party that evening. My reward was a crisp $5.00 bill. It was like Christmas all over again. With my new found wealth, I had a busy afternoon. Skates sharpened.A new roll of hockey tape. Two pucks. Tennis ball for road hockey. A couple of packs of hockey cards. Hamburger, fries with gravy and a vanilla-shake.

Oh yeah, and my new edition of Hockey Pictorial - February 1970.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Willie Marshall : AHL Legend Pt.3

As property of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Willie Marshall began his professional career in 1952-53 with the Pittsburgh Hornets of the American Hockey League. He had no problem elevating his game to the pro level. In 62 games with Pittsburgh, he scored 27 goals and 39 assists for 66 points. More important, he got a taste of the National Hockey League. His first two NHL games were played on February 28 and March 1, 1953. In a 2006 correspondence to this writer Marshall wrote "It was a dream come true when I stood at centre ice and the National anthem was played."

Willie Marshall's career path was typical to other players hoping to find a spot on an NHL roster. At times the best rated player in the AHL, Marshall couldn't fully demonstrate his talents when called upon by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thus, the bulk of his playing time was in the American Hockey League. His break-out year in the AHL came in 1955-56 with Pittsburgh. The momentum and exhilaration from winning the Calder Cup championship in the spring of '55, continued into the fall. In 58 games he netted 45 goals and recorded 97 points. His point total could have been higher, as he missed 6 games due to a stint with the Maple Leafs.

His value to the Hornets was best described by his coach in Pittsburgh, Howie Meeker, who said "Willie Marshall is the Ted Kennedy of Pittsburgh."

On January 10, 1956, Willie Marshall played in the AHL All-Star Game. The contest was held in Pittsburgh with the Hornets taking on the All-Stars. With Pittsburgh trailing 4-3, coach Meeker pulled his goalie, Gil Mayer, at 18:21 of the third peroid. Marshall scored with 1:05 remaining and sent the game into overtime. The final score was 4-4, after neither team was successful scoring in the 10-minute overtime.

The conclusion of the 1955-56 campaign was eventful to say the least. Marshall was named to the AHL First All-Star team. The Duquesne Gardens in Pittsburgh fell to the wreckers ball and the Hornets franchise folded. As a result of the developments in Pittsburgh, Marshall was sold to the Hershey Bears. In his second season with Hershey (1957-58), Marshall established himself as one of the great AHL Legends. He captured the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the top scorer in the AHL - 45 goals/64 assists/104 points.

In 1958, Hershey won the Calder Cup for the second time in their history. The first champioship came in 1947. On April 28, 1958, they defeated the Springfield Indians 2-1, to win the series 4 games-to-2. Willie Marshall scored the game winning goal at 16:55 of the third peroid. In 11 playoff games, he scored 10 goals and recorded 19 points.

His longest venture in the Original Six came in 1954-55 with Toronto. When Tod Sloan suffered an injury, Marshall was summoned by the Blue & White. In 16 games he posted 5 points. Of note, he did score his only NHL goal during that peroid of time. In 1955-56 he performed in 6 games with high expections coming from Leaf legend and coach King Clancy.

"He has been the best centre in that league (AHL) for a couple of seasons and we want to see what he can do on the big ice surface. His performance has merited a promotion. He will stay if he proves he belongs" said Clancy.

Again, Marshall couldn't transplant his skills from the AHL to NHL. His final shot at the big-league came in 1958-59, when the Leafs organization obtained his rights for a second time (from Hershey). In 9 games, he registered one-point.

If he was disillusioned by not sticking with Toronto, it didn't show in his play when he returned to the AHL. Upon his retirement after 20 seasons in the league, his final statistics reveal how much of an impact player Marshall was. In each of the following categories no other player in the history of the league could match his records at the time he hung-up his skates for good - GP 1,205, GOALS 523, ASSISTS 852, POINTS 1,375, HAT TRICKS 25, PLAYOFF ASSISTS 71, PLAYOFF POINTS 119. The league played tribute to Marshall by naming an award in his honour, The Willie Marshall Award, which goes to the player scoring the most goals each season.

In, 2006, he was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame.

Willie Marshall : AHH Legend.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Willie Marshall : AHL Legend Pt.2

Yesterday, we concluded with the OHA granting Willie Marshall's wish of playing in Guelph with the Biltmores. Following the decision on October 6, 1950, Marshall played in his first game for his new team on October 13, 1950.

The ruling by the league called for Guelph to provide adequate compensation to St. Mike's. The Biltmores sent Ken Laufman and John Negladiuk to St. Mikes's. However, Laufman, who was being offered $75. per week to play, refused to report. On October 27, 1950, the OHA instructed Guelph not to play Marshall until the matter was resolved. The Toronto Maple Leafs sponsored club claimed that Guelph was attempting to hold onto Laufman.

The breaking point in this prolonged episode came on November 4, 1950. With the two clubs throwing accusations at one another, the league stepped in and took action. Since no resolution could be reached, they had no choice and here is the stunning twist. Marshall was ordered to return to St. Mike's and Laufman and Negladiuk were instructed to return to Guelph.

With all this turmoil going on, you would think Marshall's game would have suffered. Would he be so unhappy and lose his focus? In a game on November 27, 1950, Marshall clearly proved once again that all he wanted was to play hockey. He scored 5 goals for St. Mike's in an an 8-5 victory over the Waterloo Hurricans.

Marshall's statistics for the 1950-51 season breakdown as follows - Guelph GP-4 GOALS-4,  ASSIST-3, PTS-7 / St. Mike's GP-43, GOALS-29, ASSISTS-30, PTS-59 / Totals GP-47, GOALS-33, ASSISTS-33, PTS-66.

At the conclusion of St. Mike's season in early March of 1951, Marshall would play for his third team. He joined the St. Michael's Monarchs who were a senior team in the OMHL. The following year, 1951-52, Marshall departed for the east-coast  and played senior hockey in the MMHL. As a member of the Charlottetown Islanders, he scored 50 goals and 44 assists for 94 points in 84 games.

Tomorrow, we look at Willie Marshall's pro-career in the conclusion of Wille Marshall : AHL Legend.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Willie Marshall : AHL Legend

With the American Hockey League celebrating it's 75th anniversary, we take a close-up look at a true AHL legend - Willie Marshall. In part-one, we delve into Marshall's career in junior hockey.

Willmott Charles "Willie" Marshall was born on December 1, 1935 in Kirkland Lake, Ontario. After being scouted by the Toronto Maple Leafs, he joined the St. Michael's Majors in the Ontario Hockey League.

Marshall's junior career began in 1948-49 when he played in 32 games for St. Mike's. In his rookie campaign, he scored 13 goals and added 18 assists for 31 points. Noted for his speed, the 5'10" - 165 lb, centre, brought his game to another level in his sophomore year. Known as "The Whip", Marshall netted 39 goals and 27 assists for 59 points in 43 games. With talent galore, St. Michael's knew they had their number-one centre in Marshall. However, things were about to abruptly change prior to the 1950-51 season.

In September of 1950, came word that Marshall had left St. Mike's and was joining the Guelph Biltmores. Roy Mason, a local grocer in Guelph and the manager of the Biltmores, had signed Marshall to a lucrative contract. He was to receive a salary of $2500. for playing, financial incentives for goal production and a $500. signing bonus.

The concern over the transaction was two-fold. The first objection came from St. Mike's. Father Ted Flanigan claimed that his club released Marshall so he could join the Toronto Marlboros. The second concern was emitted from the other teams in the OHA. The huge sum of the contract was staggering. Many were of the opinion players with equal or greater talent than Marshall could demand higher figures. The Majors appealed the validity of the signing. Club sponsors throughout the league wanted to discuss the concept of salary limits.

On October 6, 1950, the executive of the Ontario Hockey Association gathered for a hearing concerning the Marshall matter. All four parties pleaded their cases. Speaking for St. Mike's, Father Flanigan stated that they gave Guelph permission to talk with Marshall, but it didn't mean they were releasing him to the Biltmores. It was Roy Mason's belief a deal was in place - $500. cash and two players from their training camp roster - with St. Mike's.

Representing the Toronto Marlboros was future Leaf owner and President Stafford Smythe. He explained the unique working relationship between the Leafs, Marlboros and St. Mike's. As both junior clubs came under the Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. umbrella, there were procedural policies in place. Neither team could "raid" the other's talent base and if a player was being released, he would first be offered to the other club. In regards to Marshall, Smythe told Father Flanigan to make the best deal they could and the Marlboros would top it. Smythe became hesitant when he discovered the amount of cash Marshall was to be paid. He simply wouldn't pay, but did send two players to St. Mike's. Thus, Smythe considered him as being property of the Toronto Marlboros.

Willie Marshall
 As for Marshall, his only wish was to play in Guelph and he had the support of his parents.

The OHA issued a finding (October 6, 1950) that supported Marshall's desire to don a Biltmores uniform. Their decision was based on the following CAHA clause - "No player shall be transferred without his consent, and that no junior shall be transferred against the wishes of his parents."

With all the maneuvering going on around him, Marshall just wanted to play hockey. And that is exactly what he did. On October 13, 1950, Willie Marshall skated in his first game with the Guelph Biltmores. Playing against the Waterloo Hurricans, he scored two goals. The Biltmores won 5-4 on the strength of Herb Dickenson's (NYR 1951-52 & 1952-53) game winning goal with less than two minutes remaining.

However, that is not the end of the story. Another twist would be tossed into the mix.

Tomorrow, we continue to explore Marshall's journey through junior in part-two of Willie Marshall : AHL Legend.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Horsing Around

At the start of every National Hockey League season, each team has a goal of posting a winning record and having Stanley Cup playoff success. For the Chicago Black Hawks of 1958-59, early success came at the expense of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In a contest played on October 11, 1958, the Hawks spoiled the Leafs home-opener with a 3-1 victory. The following night in Chicago Stadium, the Hawks made it two-for-two with a 5-2 win. For the Chicago players, it was a satisfying and productive weekend.

In Toronto, Maple Leafs assistant general manager, George "Punch" Imlach, wasn't impressed with the effort of his new club.

"I was amazed at their lack of fire. They failed in front of their home fans when they should have been giving their best shot. In Chicago, they tossed in a second period that was a disgrace" said Imlach.

Tommy Ivan
 Imlach's counterpart in Chicago, Tommy Ivan, was humming a much nicer tune, "We're in the money". Literally. Ivan was accompanied on the trip to Toronto by Hawks owner Jim Norris. The boss was in town not only to attend the hockey game, but there was another sporting event on his agenda. On the Saturday afternoon of the tilt with the Leafs, the Jockey Club Gold Cup was being run at Woodbine race-track. The racing stable owned by Conn Smythe  had an entry which was near-and-dear to Jim Norris' heart. The Smythe-Larkin Maloney (a partner) horse, Kitty Girl, was bred by the Norris farm. The filly ran third in the Gold Cup race.

In addition to hockey, Conn Smythe loved the excitement and potential financial rewards of horse racing. His participation in the Sport of Kings dates back to the late 1920s. On September 20, 1930, he entered another filly, Rare Jewel, in the Coronation Stakes at Woodbine. Smythe purchased the horse for $250. which reflected the fact her name had yet to appear in the win column. Being new to the sport, Smythe was of the opinion he had nothing to lose by having Rare Jewel run. As luck would have it, jockey Dude Foden rode Rare Jewel to victory. The pay-off for Smythe was huge - $3,570 in purse money and $9,372.70 for his bet. The 107-to-1 long shot paid $214.40 to win, $46.75 to place and $19.95 to show.

With his winnings, Smythe made another investment in an athlete. This one only had two legs, but a massive heart - King Clancy. The cash from the track helped Smythe purchase Clancy from Ottawa.

Although Smythe and Norris didn't have a winner with Kitty Girl, one member of their entourage did have a fruitful day at Woodbine. Tommy Ivan, who wasn't known as a track regular, made the trip to the track with Norris. Like most novices, he was examining the names of the horses as a hunch for a placing a wager. One name, in particular, caught his eye - Hot Ice. Now, I ask, what hockey fan wouldn't slap down a couple of bucks on this nag? Tommy Ivan certainly grasped the hockey connection. He held a winning ticket, but didn't disclose how much money he walked away with.

Hot Ice in the 4th race
 By late October, Ivan and the Hawks luck had taken a nasty turn south. In a game played on October 23, 1958 in Montreal, the Hawks were blasted 9-1 by the Habs. Tommy Ivan fined 18 players $100. each for their lackadaisical play.

Less money for the players to spend at the track.

Friday, February 4, 2011

All the Hockey News

Yesterday, I wrote about my fascination with a set of hockey photographs dating back to the 1960s. As a small-frye, I would be constantly looking at them and dreaming of the day I would be playing in the NHL. The appeal of these pictures was their size - slightly bigger than a 4x6. Sure, hockey cards were interesting and fun to collect, but they were no match for my 42-picture set. The action photos would trigger my imagination.

Did Johnny Bucyk score on Johnny Bower in the above photo? Did he deke or shoot? Did Bower employ his classic poke-check?

As I got older, my eyes set sight on a hockey publication which captured my attention. The Hockey News. I would sink every penny of my allowance into purchasing this weekly paper during the hockey season. In the summer, when news was difficult to obtain, I would eagerly wait for the monthly edition to be delivered at the corner store. The team by team coverage of the latest developments and player movement was unparalleled. The statistical information was overwhelming. The coverage of leagues beyond the NHL, provided news that was very elusive to obtain.

The concept of the Hockey News was hatched by Ken McKenzie and Will Cote. These two gentleman first met in the Air Force while training in Calgary, Alberta. Their shared interest was the game of hockey. While in the service, the two kicked around the idea of producing a hockey publication.

In the 1948-49 season, their dream became a reality with the printing of a weekly Hockey News. At the time, Ken McKenzie worked in the publicity department of the NHL at their headquarters in the Sun Life Building (situated in downtown Montreal). Working along side McKenzie was Will Cote.

Right from the beginning, the Hockey News was viewed as a tremendous marketing tool by those within the industry. In January 1949, the Boston Bruins put in an order for 3,277 copies. These were to passed to their season ticket subscribers as a thank you gift. The American Hockey League bought 500 subscriptions and distributed them to media outlets. Also, management of each club received a subscription.

In addition to the hockey world, the public showed great interest in this source of information. While working in the NHL office, McKenzie and Cote would record the name and address of every individual who contacted the league seeking information. When the list hit 8,000 names, they sent out cards to all 8,000 fans telling them of their intentions concerning the Hockey News. As a result, they walked away with 4500 subscriptions.

On a trip to Chicago, McKenzie was successful in signing every member of the Hawks to a subscription. When New York visited Montreal to tangle with the Canadiens, he signed-up 12 Rangers.

My time would come in 1968. Thanks to an increase in my weekly allowance, I was in a position to become a weekly subscriber. I would run home from school every Friday brimming with anticipation. What would the bold-headline on the cover be? What was the trade speculation this week? What was the feature story? I poured over every word, sentence and paragraph, often, only putting it down to play in my House League game and watch Hockey Night In Canada.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stars and Tips

While doing research for another story, I came across something else that immediately grabbed my attention. It was a typical newspaper offering where the reader fills out a coupon and sends away for merchandise. This process is an aged-old tradition in hockey dating back to the Beehive photos which were offered to the public. What struck me was that some 47 years after the offer was being made, I still have the merchandise in my possession. I received the goods as a gift.

The official name of the offering/product was Hockey Stars. It consisted of 42 colour action photos (a tad larger than 4x6) and a 24-page booklet providing tips on how to play hockey. The offer came during the 1963-64 season. And the price of such a wonderful set of memorabilia? $1.00. Yes, as in one-dollar.

The colour photographs are magnificent to this day. The rich colours and detail of the Original Six sweaters are evident in each photo. Some goalies with no masks and skaters with no helmets. The strain on a defenceman's face as he chases a quicker forward. A goaltender in the crouch-position, not taking his eyes off the puck for one-second. A picture of Chicago Black Hawk, Kenny Wharram, being tied-up by the Canadiens Tom Johnson. The detail of the picture showing Wharram leaning so heavily on his stick that it would seem to be on the verge of splitting in-half.

One of my favourite photos in the set is of Leaf defenceman Carl Brewer and Bruin forward Bob Beckett. Both players are low to the ice with Brewer hovering over Beckett's back. Brewer seems to be tackling his opponent. Their crossed-sticks duelling to gain control of the puck. Their eyes glued to the black-rubber-disc. Beckett appears to be struggling with the weight of Brewer on his back. His movement being restricted by the defenceman clutching at him.

Original Six hockey at it's finest.

On the backside of the photo, there was a short story on the player featured in the picture. The hockey tips in the booklet were supplied by Tim Horton (defence), Dave Keon (forwards) and Johnny Bower (goaltending).

As a kid, I can't tell you how many hours I spent gazing at these photos. My imagination running wild with anticipation for the next Saturday evening broadcast of Hockey Night In Canada. There, the pictures would come to life for the next couple of hours.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Giving back to the Game

Last week, a newspaper feature detailed ex-NHL players who now coach teams their off-spring play for. The list included Wendel Clark, Tie Domi, Claude Lemieux, Tom Fergus, Andrew McBain, Michael Peca, Nick Kypreos, Paul Coffey Wayne Premeau. Not only are their own children receiving top-notch instruction, but the other players are also benefiting.

In the 1947-48 NHL season, it was the current players who were making a contribution in this regard. The coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs was the legendary Hap Day. In an era when there were no co-coaches, associate-coaches, assistant-coaches or goalie-coaches, Day found himself surrounded by coaches - all dressed in Blue & White. Although they were not involved in coaching the Leafs, many Toronto players were out in the community lending their time and skills to minor league hockey.

At the Inter-Faculty League at the University of Toronto, 3 Leafs were involved in coaching teams - Ted Kennedy (Knox College), Gus Mortson (Forestry) and Jimmy Thomson (Institute of Management). Maple Leaf great, Syl Apps, coached the team at Upper Canada College. Hard-nosed defenceman Bill Ezinicki coached a Bantam club. Also, coaching in this age category, was Max Bentley with the Mimico Bantams. Sid Smith was in charge of the Woodgreen Juveniles of the Toronto Hockey League. Howie Meeker helped in the coaching of a school team in New Toronto. Then, there was Johnny McCormack of the Sr. Marlboros. Not only did he assist in guiding the Leaside Lions of the T.H.L.(Bantam Division), but he coached a girls hockey team.

Of note, Howie Meeker became coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs in April 1956. During the 1956-57, he was behind the bench for 70 games and recorded 21 wins, 34 defeats and 15 ties. However, his greatest contribution towards teaching and instructing young players came in the 1970s. His Howie Meeker Hockey School, instructional books and TV features helped not only youngsters, but their coaches

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rod and Don Morrison to enter Hall

Recently, I wrote a story on Rod and Don Morrison - Brother Act - who played together with the 1945-46 Detroit Red Wings. Last week, I was informed by the Morrison family that both Rod and Don will enter the Omaha Hockey Hall of Fame on February 11, 2011. Full Story.

Don Morrison played 2 seasons ('45-46 & "46-47) with the Omaha Knights of the USHL and Rod Morrison played 1 year ('45-46). At the conclusion of their playing time, both Rod and Don settled in Omaha and started a construction company.

With the game of hockey in their blood, the brothers took over the Omaha franchise, which was playing in the International Hockey League, in the summer of 1960. The previous season, 1959-60, the Knights were cellar-dwellers in the Western Division, only mustering 35 points. The following year was a different tale with the Morrison duo in control. Playing in a tough and competitive division, Omaha's points total jumped to 73, an increase of 35 points. Their wins catapulted from 15 to an amazing 35 games. The better results on the ice, translated into more bodies going thru the turnstiles at Ak-Sar-Ben Coliseum.

The late Don and Rod Morrison would be involved with the Omaha pro-team until 1965. This included the Knights first 2 years in the CPHL (Central Professional League). In 1963-64 the Omaha Knights were crowned CPHL champions.

Congratulations to the Morrison family!