Monday, June 13, 2011

Stanley Cup Memories : Wally Stanowski 1942

It was the greatest come-from-behind victory in Stanley Cup final history.

On April 4, 1942, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings played game one of the Cup final in Maple Leaf Gardens. Detroit won both game one (3-2) and game two (4-2) on the road.

The final shifted to Detroit and the Red Wings defeated Toronto 5-2 in game three.

Down, but certainly not out, the Maple Leafs turned things around in game four. They downed Detroit 4-3.

Returning to home ice for game five, Toronto crushed Detroit 9-3.

The Leafs knotted the final at three games apiece, after blanking Detroit 3-0 in game six. The contest was played in the Detroit Olympia.

The incredible comeback was completed on April 18, 1942. Toronto finished off Detroit with a 3-1 victory in game seven.

Playing on Toronto's defence in the 1942 final was Wally Stanowski. During the playoffs in '42, Stanowski skated in 13 games, scoring two goals and adding eight assists for ten points. This was good for third-spot in playoff scoring.

At a recent NHL Oldtimers lunch, I sat down with 92 year-old Wally Stanowski and we chatted about hockey, including the 1942 Cup final.

In the 1942 Cup Final, Toronto lost the first three games - What approach did the team take to get back into the thick of it?

 Well after the third game, we had one of our executors of the team come in and he spoke to us about winning one game at a time. In the third game, Gordie Drillon had an opportunity to get the puck in our own zone, but the Detroit player who was twice the distance away than Gordie was, moved in picked the puck up, shot it and that's the way we lost the third game. So Smythe benched Gordie Drillon and also Bucko McDonald. We won the fourth game. Detroit had champagne ready to go and I think it went stale (laughing!).

How much of an influence was coach Hap Day?

 He was one of the better coaches. Smythe was still the boss, he said what to do and how to do it, so he was still in control.

In game six and seven, goaltender Turk Broda only allowed one goal - How important was Broda?

 He was good in the clutch.

Describe Syl Apps style as captain

 Very quiet. I liked Syl, but I don't think he influenced us that much because he was so quiet.

What was the mood like in the dressing room prior to game seven - was the team full of confidence?

 After we won game four it started to come back a bit. Smythe brought in Don Metz who played in the American Hockey League. Don Metz only played in 172 games with the Leafs, but he won five Stanley Cups.

What was it like playing youth hockey in Winnipeg?

 My first hockey was with what they called the playground division. It was 11 years-old and under. One player, Schultz was his name, his home was in the back of the rink, so we use to dress in a shack and walk over and clear the snow off the ice and play shinny. The older guys who belonged there would kick us off. Eventually, that changed because they said "okay their clearing ice anyway."

Which team was your favourite when you were a youngster?

 At that time the Rangers. There was quiet a few hockey players who played for the Rangers and they came from Winnipeg.

Favourite Player?

 Eddie Shore playing for Boston.

You played in New York for three seasons with the Rangers - Did you enjoy your time in the Big Apple?

 I loved New York. First class. First class without a doubt.

Who was your coach in New York?

 Frank Boucher the first year, then Lynn Patrick.

Describe your style of play as a defenceman

 Defensively, I think I was underrated. The game changed when they started shooting the puck into our zone just before they crossed the line. Most of the time I was responsible for lugging the puck out of the corners and they couldn't stop me. I would get the puck out of the danger zone.

Which forward gave you the most trouble?

 The Rocket from Montreal. He was strong. First of all, he was a left-hander playing the right wing, which means that the puck was on his right side and I'm checking him on the left side. It was hard to try and eliminate the puck from his stick. The first time I made a mistake with him and I thought I had him. I guided him towards the corner, I didn't want him to cut in front of me. He turned around and I just let go for a minute. He didn't score as he was in a bad position. I just made the position a little worse for him.

Travelling by train must have resulted in some terrific team bonding?

 Those days, we were so close to one another. I look at today and they go their separate ways. If you made a mistake, I would try and cover-up for you. Each player tried to help the other.

Your Pro career came to an end in 1951-52 with the Cincinnati Mohawks in the AHL - What happened?

 I had knee troubles, so the Rangers sent me down to Cincinnati. Clint Smith who was the coach there, kept me because he wanted to make the playoffs. I shouldn't have been there. I was playing with Pat Eagan. The rule was one defenceman in front of the net at all times. Well, I'm in my corner and who is there shoving me? Pat! And they start scoring goals against us. Finally, I said to Pat "Listen, you stay in front of that net and don't move - If it goes to your corner, I'll go after it." We had a system. I skated into his corner, somebody threw something on the ice and my feet gave away and I broke my leg. Both bones were broken above the ankle and I had a cast up to my hip for six months and another small cast for another three months. That was the end of my career.

Being a native of Winnipeg, what do you think of the City getting another NHL franchise?

 It is a question of whether they can afford it. They don't have the industry like Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal. I hope it goes over and there will be another Canadian team and that is what I like about it.

In addition to the 1942 title, Wally would win Stanley Cups in 1945, 1947 and 1948.

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