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.

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