Friday, July 22, 2011

Hot, Hazy, Humid & Hockey

Blistering. Sizzling. No, I'm not trying to describe a Bobby Hull slap shot. These words are more reflective of the wicked temperatures which have engulfed most of North America. This, in combination with a nagging summer cold, has sapped all the energy out of my system. The air conditioning and recliner have become my major weapons in the battle against extreme heat.

Watching a baseball game on TV only added to the unpleasant conditions. Sweltering temperatures at field level seemed to be funnelling through my set. I had to escape in a hurry. Out of the corner of my eye, I discovered my escape route. A stack of hockey videos immediately sent cool feelings through my entire body. Images of ice and snow quickly filled my head. I had the burning desire to advance my Hockey Hall of Fame calendar to October and usher in a new hockey season.

The wonderful autumnal changes which occur and signal a new beginning for the hockey world. Since I couldn't wipe-out the rest of summer 2011, I chose another alternative - October 1966!

On October 22, 1966, the Toronto Maple Leafs opened their new campaign against New York in Maple Leaf Gardens. I was fortunate enough to tape this contest on Leafs TV as part of their Maple Leaf Classic Games.

The broadcast began with Leafs forward Brit Selby taking centre stage to receive the Calder Memorial Trophy. The presentation was made by Ontario Premier John Robarts. Joining the politico at centre ice was John Bassett, representing Leaf ownership,  and four photographers. Selby's crowning moment was followed by another silverware presentation.

Allan Stanley, the Leafs dependable defenceman, was introduced as the winner of an in-house award - the J.P. Bickell Memorial Cup. Named after the late Director of Maple Leaf Gardens, the Cup winner was selected by the Board of Directors at MLG. The winner would be someone who accomplished 1) a single tremendous feat 2) a season of spectacular play 3) remarkable service over a period of years. Allan Stanley was recognized for his outstanding play in 1965-66 and his selection to the Second All-Star Team. He was joined on defence by Chicago's Pat Stapleton. The First Team All-Stars defensive pairing combined Jacques Laperriere of Montreal and Chicago Black Hawk Pierre Pilote.

The starting line-up for Toronto included Red Kelly (C), Larry Jeffery (LW), and Ron Ellis (RW). On  defence, Tim Horton and Kent Douglas played in front of goalie Johnny Bower.

Coach and general manager, Emile Francis, sent out Phil Goyette (C), Don Marshall (LW) and Rod Gilbert (RW) to start the game for New York. The Rangers blueline was patrolled by Arnie Brown and Harry Howell. The starting netminder for the visitors was Cesare Maniago.

The opening goal came off Brian Conacher's stick at the 58-second mark of period one. It was his first National Hockey League goal. The play developed as Eddie Shack lead a rush up ice. Brit Selby scooped-up a loose puck in the Rangers zone. His pass found Conacher who was positioned in front of the goal. Conacher's shot cleanly beat Maniago.

At 5:10 of the opening frame, another Leaf rookie, Wayne Carleton, scored his first NHL goal. On a power play, Dave Keon gained control of the puck and skated between the Rangers red line and end boards. The crafty Leaf centre spotted an open Carleton, who buried his shot in the New York goal.

With 9:35 remaining in period one, the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast was beamed into homes across the nation. As pointed out by commentator Brian McFarlane, it was the first colour telecast from the Gardens. To accommodate the process, 54 incandescent, 5000 watt bulbs, were installed at the 90-foot level above the ice surface. Johnny Bower and Kent Douglas of Toronto, applied burnt cork under their eyes in order to counter the glare caused by the bright TV lights. A great shot of Terry Sawchuk, sitting at the end of the Leaf bench, showed him wearing sunglasses to protect his vision.

Another addition was a new score clock at centre ice. The 7000 lbs unit was the creation of Bob Wood and his staff. Wood, gained a reputation as the Gardens electronic expert.

The first period concluded with Toronto leading 3-1. Red Kelly netted Toronto's third tally at 11:15. Rod Gilbert put his team on the board at 14:47.

In the middle frame, both teams exchanged early goals. At 4:10, Rod Gilbert beat Bower for his second goal. Not to be outdone, Brian Conacher potted his second goal at 6:08, giving the Leafs a 4-2 advantage. Gilbert completed his hat trick at 12:52, pulling the Rangers to within one.

With less than five minutes remaining in the period, Maniago left the game to receive stitches to his chin. The damage was caused by John Brenneman's stick. Ed Giacomin stepped in to replace Maniago and the future Hall of Fame netminder finished the contest.

New York evened things-up at 4-4, when Wayne Hillman's shot from the point found the back of Toronto's net. Of interest, Hillman was playing against his brother, Larry, also a defenceman. The natives of Kirkland Lake, Ontario both wore sweater number two.

There was no scoring in the final twenty-minutes of play and both teams skated off the Gardens ice having earned one-point in a 4-4 draw.

For nearly two-hours, I was lost in the cool comfort of  viewing a hockey game. The heat associated with watching a baseball game vanished. A sign at the south end of Maple Leaf Gardens advertised an upcoming Ice Capades show from November 8 to 13, 1966.

Checking the forecast for the next day, I was hoping some relief was in sight. Instead, the talking-head spoke of humidex readings reaching close to 50c.

Time for another hockey game.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Providing a helping Hand

On June 20th, Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs hosted 'The Big Save', billed as Ontario's largest blood donor clinic. In conjunction with Canadian Blood Services, the clinic was held at the Air Canada Centre Centre.

Back in the 1940s, it was Howie Meeker of the Leafs providing a helping hand to the Red Cross.  Always a fan favourite, Meeker took the time to meet with a youngster and sign a hockey stick.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Correction Notice

It has been brought to my attention that a error was made concerning the calculations for Jacques Plante's total points. In the original story (Original Six Era : All-Awards Team) Plante is noted as being tied with Bill Durnan in points. Durnan was given the tie-breaker as he was a runner-up for two awards. Taking into account the fact Plante won the Hart Trophy in 1962 with the Montreal Canadiens, he deserves his rightful place as the starting goalie for the All-Award Team. The text in the original story has been altered to reflect the accurate information.

Sorry about that folks!

The Original Six Era : All-Awards Team

Last month, the National Hockey League held their annual version of the Academy Awards in Las Vegas.

I thought it would be interesting to look at the Original Six era with a focus on silverware distribution, Based on a points system, I have formed "The Original Six Era, All-Awards Team. This team consists of one goalie, two defencemen, one centre, one right winger and one left winger. Points were assigned to winners of each of the following trophies - Art Ross (Top Scorer), Lady Byng (Gentlemanly Conduct), Vezina (Fewest Goals Against), Calder (Top Rookie), Smythe (Playoff MVP), Hart (League MVP)  and Norris (Top Defenceman).

 The years range from 1943 to 1967. There were several exceptions. The Art Ross Trophy was first awarded in 1948 and the James Norris Memorial Trophy in 1954. In the Original Six era, the Conn Smythe Trophy was only passed out on three occasions - 1965, 1966 and 1967.

The Lester Patrick Trophy "for outstanding service to hockey in the United States", first came upon the scene in 1966. In 1967, Gordie Howe was named the winner along with Charles Adams and James Norris Sr. Since this is considered a "recognition" award, no points were applied to Howe's overall score.

Each winner of a individual award was given ten points. In the case of goalies who shared in a Vezina win, five points were awarded. Remember, this is only an exhibition, please, no wagering! Here is the Original Six Era, All-Awards Team.


Jacques Plante is perhaps the greatest goalie in the history of the Montreal Canadiens. His unique style of wandering from his net to play a loose puck was a definite plus for his teammates. Also, is the fact he took a stance and insisted on wearing a goalie mask, following a injury suffered against the New York Rangers in Madison Square Gardens.

Plante won a total of 6 Vezina trophies - 1956, 57, 58, 59, 60, and 1962. In 1962, as a member of the Canadiens, Plante captured his lone Hart Trophy win.


Perhaps, the most dominate and creative rearguard of the era, Doug Harvey scored 70 points. He captured the Norris Trophy in 1955, 56, 57, 58, 1960, 61 and 62. It has been said of Harvey that his skills allowed him to control the tempo of a game. His offensive talent and mind-set made him an important member of the Montreal Canadiens. Harvey's ability to see the entire ice surface, allowed him to fed the puck to his teammates, thus creating scoring opportunities.


The honour of being the very first recipient of the Norris Trophy in 1954 goes to Kelly. It was his lone win in this category. Kelly, laid claim to 4 Lady Byng trophies, but for our purposes is only being credited with 3. His final Byng win in 1961 came as a forward with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kelly's ability to make the seamless switch from defence to offence provides some insight into his sense for playing the game. An argument could be made concerning Pierre Pilote in this category. His 3 consecutive Norris wins (1963, 1964 & 1965) clearly gives him a edge over Kelly when it comes to being recognized as the leagues top defenceman. However, since the focus is on overall award winners,  the edge goes to the former Red Wings defensive ace.

In addition to 1961, Red Kelly won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1951, 1953 and 1954.


Stan Mikita, a smooth play making centre for the Chicago Black Hawks, gathered his points by winning three different trophies. As the NHL leading scorer, he had his name engraved on the Art Ross Trophy in 1964, 1965 and 1967. In the final season of Original Six play, Mikita captured the Hart and Lady Byng. Early in his National Hockey League career, Stan "The Man" was considered to be one of the nastiest players in the business. His ability to tone down this aspect of his game, resulted in Mikita being the unlikely winner of a Lady Byng Trophy. The Hawks were considered an offensive powerhouse as the Original Six era came to a close, thanks to the efforts of Mikita and teammate Bobby Hull.


It was a situation feared by most goalies who faced the Chicago Black Hawks. The play would often develop deep in Chicago's zone, leaving plenty of time for the head games to sink into the goaltenders exposed noggin. A defenceman for Chicago, holding the puck behind Glenn Hall's net, waiting and waiting, for one target to come into focus. The Hawks blueliner spots the blur out of the corner of his eye. It is time for him to make his move. Without hesitation, he delivers the puck right on the tape. The fuse has been set, as Bobby Hull takes over the show. In an explosion of raw speed, "The Golden Jet" races up ice. When he reaches the opponents line, he unloads a bolt of lightning directed at an under equipped goalie.

Considered to be one of the greatest goal scorers in NHL history, Hull won 3 Art Ross Trophies - 1960. 1962 and 1966. Hull was judged as being the leagues MVP (Hart) in 1965 and 1966. Also, in 1965, Hull won his only Lady Byng.


During the Original Six era, Gordie Howe and Maurice "Rocket" Richard were considered the best right wingers in the game. The two number 9's were front and centre as the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens ruled the league during the 1950s. Both Howe and Richard were skilled players, who didn't refrain from body contact. For Gordie Howe, this meant his stick became an extension of his arm. Buried in a corner with an opposition skater, Howe would jab, poke, slice and dice his counterpart. His physical escapades were a form of intimidation meant to enforce his dominance and the flow of a contest. Howe's overall body strength made him very difficult to move, once he parked himself at the edge of the crease. A typical Gordie Howe scoring chance came as a result of a rebound or scramble in front of the goal. He would create room, as his elbows would extend to protect the space he occupied. Howe possessed an accurate wrist shot and backhand.

As the feud continued between the arch rivals, Howe emerged over Richard, as the clear cut winner when it came to being crowned with individual awards. Over the span of his National Hockey League career, Howe won 6 Hart Trophies - 1952, 1953, 1957, 1956, 1960 and 1963. He won 6 Art Ross Trophies - 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1957 and 1963.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Maple Leaf Gardens Update

Prior to attending a meeting (June 28th) for members of the Society of International Hockey Research (Toronto Chapter), I decided to make a pilgrimage over to Maple Leaf Gardens. While walking along Wood Street, I snapped the following photographs.

Work continues to be performed on the windows and bricks.

On Church Street, I discovered a large opening, revealing a decent interior view of the Gardens (above photograph). Of particular interest is the area incorporating the domed portion of the roof. The dome is a stunning feature which enhances the overall appearance from an external perspective. It's peak is 150 feet from the street pavement.

A view of the dome - circa early 1930s
Just as interesting, is the interior design and construction of the dome. Situated directly in the middle of Maple Leaf Gardens, the rectangular area of the dome is 207 feet by 225 feet in size. The dome is constructed of 4 trussed ribs which are braced by a number of trusses. These trusses, in conjunction with roofing ribs, provide a base on which the roof decking is placed.

The roof of the dome is draped with steel sheets. These sheets are covered with a special paint and a coat of aluminum paint. Insulation was then placed on the sheets. The insulation is protected by a slate-surfaced, built-up covering. The entire roof (dome & flat surface) was put up in four weeks. An amazing accomplishment by any standard - 1931 or 2011.

The centre of dome was reached by walking/crawling along a number of cat walks. Back in 1931, a platform was built below the dome. In the days before the centre-ice scoreboard, a boxing/wrestling ring could be lowered for such events. The space also served as the location for lighting, audio speakers and radio microphones.

Of note along Church Street and Carlton, is the fact a number of bricks have been removed at street level.

As the above artists rendering reveals, much of the street portion of the redevelopment will incorporate storefronts. The top photo shows where workers have punched out existing bricks.

This would return the retail market back to it's roots at Maple Leaf Gardens. In the early 1930s, stores set-up shop at street level along Carlton and Church Streets. Those living in the community could visit Love & Bennett Sporting Goods at 62 Carlton. The United Cigar Stores were tenants in the prime location of 438 Church Street - nicely situated at the north-west corner of Church and Carlton. The space at 446 Church was occupied by JJ Beauty Parlour Supplies.

A member of the Toronto Maple Leafs roster even got into the retail action. Hap Day, captain of the Maple Leafs, opened Happy Day Pharmacy at 50 Carlton Street.

As I turned the corner at Church & Carlton, it felt as though I was entering the twilight zone. I was walking into a foreign area, as though I was transported to another era via a time machine.

The above photo reveals why one may lose their bearings while walking along Carlton Street. The marquee above the main entrance has been stripped bare. The final association with the name - Maple Leaf Gardens - has been removed. The lettering for the full name (facing south) and coming events (east & west) is no more. It is the final nail in the coffin. The name on the calling card changed forever. There will be no further mail addressed to Maple Leaf Gardens, 60 Carlton Street, Toronto, Ontario.

In the print depicting the completed renovations, the marquee is still in place. However, Maple Leaf Gardens is replaced by Ryerson University. A series of banners can be seen above the marquee, one being blue & white and spelling out Maple Leaf Gardens. Well, it's something at least.

Researching the City of Toronto Council Meetings for 1931, provided some historical background concerning the marquee. Prior to construction taking flight, Maple Leaf Gardens, Limited were operating out of offices at 11 King Street West. As part of the building process, they made an application to the Commissioner of Works concerning erecting a marquee.

The canopy was to be situated on the south wall and it measured 106 feet by 10 feet. The main components were steel and glass. The marquee would sit 10 feet 6 inches above the city sidewalk.City officials only concern pertained to encroachment (10 feet). It was the Commissioner's opinion MLG could proceed as planned. However, while working with a city solicitor, certain conditions would have to be met. It was required that Maple Leaf Gardens, Limited enter into an agreement with the city. This related to "clauses providing for (1) indemnification of the city against any action, claim, damage or loss whatsoever, and (2) in the event of the city council levying a tax on all such encroachments same will be paid."

The city was operating within the provisions set-out in by-law no.13252 (canopies, erection and maintenance of).

For millions of hockey fans, passing under the marquee/canopy was something special. It marked the main entrance to Toronto's hockey palace. The side panels telling everyone who glanced up "TONIGHT NHL HOCKEY." Most vintage film of the exterior usually includes a shot of the marquee, with fans making their way into the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As time passed and with taller buildings rising above 60 Carlton, the marquee took on greater significance. At street level, walking east from the College subway station on the north side of Carlton, the marquee was the only visual marking indicating Maple Leaf Gardens was within sight.

It was like a lighthouse guiding those at sea to shore.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Canada Day!!!

Today, marks the beginning of summer's first long-weekend!

What better way to celebrate Canada Day than taking a stroll down Canada's Walk of Fame. Located on King Street West in downtown Toronto, a number of individuals from the hockey community are recognized.

Here are some examples.