Monday, May 23, 2011

Conn Smythe Trophy : The First Winner

The nameplate on this magnificent piece of silverware provides the essential details as to it's origin and purpose. it reads as follows...

CONN SMYTHE TROPHY
PRESENTED TO THE
NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
BY
MAPLE LEAF GARDENS LTD.
TO BE AWARDED ANNUALLY TO THE
OUTSTANDING PLAYER OF THE PLAY-OFFS
1965

Named after legendary Leaf owner, Conn Smythe, the trophy reflects one of Smythe's greatest contributions to the game - Maple Leaf Gardens. The four tier statue is a wonderful object of artwork, from top to bottom.

On the bottom base, sit two tiers of hardwood which have miniature silver maple leafs attached. The maple leaf insignia marks the year, player and team of each individual winner. The third tier has the trophy nameplate attached. As the naked eye moves upward, it meets the stunning silver replica of Maple Leaf Gardens. Rising from behind Toronto's former home (1931-1999) is a large silver maple leaf. The image is absolutely striking, as it brings together both the team and building. The silver maple leaf, representing the team crest. The glory years (1940s & 1960s), instantly come to mind. Also, it reflects another powerful visual - the rising sun coming out of the east, as it slowly makes it's way above the landscape.

In the 1965 Stanley Cup final, the Montreal Canadiens went the seven game limit against Chicago. In game seven, the Habs blanked Chicago 4-0 and won Lord Stanley on home ice.

Once the Stanley Cup has been won, everything else seems so  anti-climate. On May 1, 1965, in the Montreal Forum, this was not the situation. For the first time since the Richard Riots in 1955, league President Clarence Campbell was to make a Cup presentation. As expected, the Montreal faithful were relentless in their booing of Campbell.

There was another aspect which added to the drama. Not only was Campbell on the ice to present Lord Stanley's mug, but it was his job to announce the first winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy.

The inaugural recipient was Canadiens captain Jean Beliveau. The Forum crowd continued to voice their displeasure over Campbell, until Beliveau took the microphone.


In the regular season, Beliveau performed in 58 games, having missed 12 contests due to injury. It was a difficult year for Beliveau as his point production dropped to 43 from 78 the previous campaign.

The playoffs, which are considered as hockey's "second-season", supplied Beliveau the opportunity to shine in the semi-final and Cup final. Beliveau seized the moment and ran with it in spectacular fashion.

In game seven of the Cup final, Beliveau took immediate control by scoring 14-seconds into the first period. It was the only tally Montreal required in their 4-0 victory. Overall, Jean Beliveau would skate in 13 games during the 1965 playoffs. His 16 points came as a result of 8 goals and 8 assists.

Jean Beliveau - outstanding player of the 1965 playoffs. The first winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy in the Original Six era.

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