Monday, March 7, 2011

A Day in the Life Of...

In the present day, we are all familiar with the daily grind and routine of a National Hockey League player. The gruelling travel schedule, back-to-back games and strenuous workouts (especially in the midst of a losing streak), are all part of the game. Yet, NHL players are considered the most generous with their time and money when it comes to assisting charities in their local communities.

So, has time and the players changed that much since, let's say, the late 1940s?


In December 1947, a newspaper article shed some light on the routine of a typical player on the Toronto Maple Leafs roster. The 1947-48 Leafs were defending Stanley Cup champions. The previous spring, they defeated the Montreal Canadiens to take the best-of-seven final 4-2. Being in possession of Lord Stanley, you would think management wouldn't tinker with a winning line-up. Think again. Conn Smythe traded 5 players - Gus Bodnar, Bud Poile, Gaye Stewart, Bob Goldham and Ernie Dickens - for Max Bentley and Cy Thomas. Additions to the program included Sid Smith, Les Costello and Phil Samis.

The Blue & White were popular coast to coast in Canada. The one exception being the Province of Quebec, with Montreal being the home base for the Habs. Public exposure, resulted in demands being placed on most of the players. Nick Metz estimated each Leaf signed 300 sticks per season. Also, they took time to sign autograph books, programs and plain old pieces of paper.

In the day, it was customary for players to attend speaking engagements. These social outings involved dinners and banquets which were linked to community clubs.



The player most in demand and at the top of the list for personal appearances? Well, that would be team captain Syl Apps. The trainer of the Leafs, Tim Daly, often tagged along to accompany the guest speaker and take part in any light banter.

Travelling by train resulted in very tight schedules. Players would have 30-minutes to shower/dress and make their way to Union Station in downtown Toronto. Under these rigid conditions, most of the guys still found time to sign autographs for kids who lined the hallways in Maple Leaf Gardens. Of note, Conn Smythe had strict requirements concerning the teams dress code. No matter how tight the schedule, no player emerged from the dressing room without a shirt or tie.

1947. A different time. A different place. Original Six hockey.

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