Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wearing of the Green

Exactly 77 years ago, hockey fans in Toronto were preparing to celebrate everything Irish. In this case, everything Irish would be one Francis Michael Clancy. Although Clancy never suited-up for the Toronto St. Pats, he did the have the opportunity to wear "Toronto Green".

On St. Patrick's Day, March 17,1934, the game between Toronto and New York Rangers was declared as being "Clancy Night".

Maple Leaf Gardens ("Where Sports History Is Made"), was a beehive of activity on the day in question. At 3:00pm, a junior playoff game was scheduled between New Liskeard and St. Michael's ("Can The Northerns Topple The Mighty "Mikes"?"). This was followed by the NHL action at 8:30pm. The above ad promised a "parade of floats and community singing of Irish songs." The Gardens crowd wouldn't be disappointed.

Kin Clancy became a Toronto Maple Leaf on October 11, 1930. Conn Smythe paid a steep-price for the star defenceman, sending Art Smith, Eric Pettinger and $35,000 to the Ottawa Senators. Clancy quickly became a fan favourite, putting his heart and soul into every performance.

A newspaper report described Clancy's style of play in this manner - "Clancy again showed the customers why the $35,000 the Leafs expended for him wasn't ill spent. He was up and around and attending to his own business and butting into everybody eles'. And with it all, he just showed that little extra finish which makes him a Clancy and keeps him above the others, who are just defencemen."

On St. Patrick's Day 1934, Toronto was ready to salute their number one Irishman. Maple Leaf Gardens was decorated to the tilt, with green and orange bunting. The Knights of Columbus Band and Choir filled the air with Irish tunes. And did I mention floats? Each float, in a pre-game ceremony, had a specific theme which was related to Clancy and his ancestry.

The first float was pulled out by New York Ranger star Ching Johnson. The float was a replica of a giant potato. When Johnson opened the door to the contraption, four players from the St. Michael's Buzzers came out. The remaining floats would follow this pattern of bringing an expectation that Clancy would emerge, then elevating the anticipation level when he failed to materialize. The subsequent floats included - Harold Cotton popping out of a high-hat; Ken Doraty filtering out of a pipe; George Hainsworth stepping out of a boot; Tom Daly, the Leafs trainer, in ginger-beer bottle; Red Horner in a boxing glove; New York Ranger Bill Cook in a shamrock; a harp with Joe Primeau.

Of course, the show-stopper was left for the finale. With Leaf captain Hap Day having the honours, he yanked a large throne to centre ice. Majestically perched on the throne, draped in distinguished robes, a crown firmly mounted on his head and wearing a white beard, was Francis Michael "King" Clancy. His teammates rubbed black shoe polish on Clancy's face to give him the authentic "Ole King Cole" look. Clancy and his family received gifts from the Board of Directors (Maple Leaf Gardens), Knights of Columbus, General Motors and his fellow players on the Maple Leafs.

As previously noted, Clancy did have the chance to wear "Toronto Green". In the first period, he wore a green uniform, but changed to the traditional Leaf outfit for the middle frame.

The luck of the Irish was with Toronto and King Clancy. They defeated New York 3-2.


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