Friday, October 28, 2011

Getting to know Bob Beckett

It started with a photograph.

In January 1964, the Toronto Daily Star offered a series of forty-two action photos featuring players from the National Hockey League. The package was called Hockey Stars In Action. The photos, slightly larger than 4x6, were in glorious colour with the flip side providing a brief biography of the star depicted on the front.

Hockey Stars In Action - 1964
As a youngster, I received the set as a gift and poured over them every afternoon once I arrived home from school. One of my favourite players was Toronto Maple Leaf defenceman Carl Brewer. His image was moved to the front so it would occupy the top spot. The shot shows Brewer vigorously checking an opponent. Details identified the player being hounded by Brewer as Bob Beckett.

"In a typical play in this picture, Brewer is checking Bob Beckett of the Boston Bruins from behind," revealed the text.

Every time I glanced at the photograph, I couldn't help but observe the Bruin player engaged in the physical struggle with my hero. Not only did he have to contend with Brewer, but his focus also was on maintaining control of the puck. The enormous strain of this swashbuckling sword fight  is evident in his facial expression.

Often, I would wonder, who is this guy? Who is Bob Beckett?

During Christmas week in 2003, while watching a classic game on Leafs TV, my ears perked-up when Bill Hewitt's voice called out a member of the Boston Bruins. Quickly, I raised the volume on the TV and moved to the edge of my chair.

The Leafs TV broadcast went back in time to a trio of games played in the early 1960s. Action was limited to twenty-minutes from each contest. Boston and the Maple Leafs rung in the festivities with the opening face-off of period three from Maple Leaf Gardens on December 23, 1961.

At the 3:06 mark, Dick Duff brought the crowd out of their seats when he beat Bruins goalie Don Head. This made the score 5-2 in favour of Boston. Following this power play goal by Duff, Boston made a line change. With the drop of the puck, Hewitt went to work. At this point, I maneuvered down the cushion of my chair. One of the first names to come out of the speaker was Bob Beckett.

Playing on a line with centre Cliff Pennington and Dick Meissner at right wing, Beckett patrolled the left side. On this shift, Beckett picked-up a loose puck at centre ice and carried it into the Leafs zone. His shot on goal was deflected by Tim Horton and never reached the Toronto goal.

For most of the final frame, Beckett looked after his responsibilities in the Bruins end and sought out open ice when on offence. The only blemish came late in the period when Leaf captain George Armstrong scored while Beckett and company were on the ice.

Throughout the rest of the Leafs TV telecast, I thought about seeing Beckett. When Hewitt first called his name, the 1964 photo instantly flashed before me.

My next encounter with Bob Beckett came about a year-ago. While sorting through a stack of hockey cards at a local shop, one item caught my attention. For some reason the player looked familiar. I continued with the task at hand, digging deeper and deeper into the box. As time passed, my thoughts kept coming back to the card which captured my eye. Not being able to proceed any further due to my curiosity,  I started backtracking until the piece came into view. This time, I noticed a name sprawled down the left side. Against a black backdrop in white letters, I read the name - Bob Beckett.

The reverse side supplied additional data on Beckett: "A workman-like forward who exhibited both offensive and checking skills, Beckett was the prototypical NHL foot soldier. Unfortunately, his play did not inspire headlines which meant his subtle contributions were overlooked by the media though appreciated by general manager Lynn Patrick and coach Milt Schmidt."

Again, the Hockey Stars In Action picture appeared as a mental image in my mind.

Talking to the sales clerk, he informed me the card was produced by Parkhurst. It contained players from the 1956-57 NHL season and is known as the Missing Link set.

After sliding my loonie across the counter, I tucked the card into my pocket. At home, it was placed in my hockey card binder.

Although I knew a bit more about Beckett, he still seemed to be a mystery. The description on the card indicated he was a player who performed beneath the radar line. The type of teammate who's quiet contributions didn't go unnoticed by his co-workers and those in-charge.

Did these few short lines sum-up the Bob Beckett story?

Some 46-years after receiving Hockey Stars In Action, I attended my first lunch of the NHL Oldtimers group in March 2011. After filling my coffee mug, I turned to walk back to my table. However, I stopped dead-in-my-tracks when I observed a gentleman sitting nearby. Could it be?

My  inquiries confirmed what I thought. It was indeed Bob Beckett. It was time to finally answer the question - Who is Bob Beckett?

Earlier this month, I sat down with Beckett and started the process of getting to know Bob Beckett.

Born in Unionville, Ontario on April 8, 1936, Beckett first played organized hockey as a pee-wee in the Agincourt Minor Hockey League. Being a young lad, he naturally followed the National Hockey League. "I liked Syl Apps and I would listen to Foster Hewitt's broadcast every Saturday night," Beckett fondly recalled.

In 1953-54, Beckett suited-up for the Scarborough Rangers, a Junior "B" team which played in the Toronto suburb.

"Eddie Crouch coached me in Junior "B" in Scarborough and that was critical as he really worked with me," Beckett recalled.

The following campaign, Beckett graduated to the Junior "A" level in the OHA. He became a member of the Galt Black Hawks. Beckett was joined by future NHLers Floyd Smith and Hec Lalande. In forty-nine games, he scored 16 goals and put up 38 points.

When the Galt team folded, Beckett moved to the Barrie Flyers in the OHA to start the 1955-56 hockey year. In Barrie, he played for the legendary Hap Emms.

"I got along with Hap Emms. He liked me and made me the captain. He was a tough man and sometimes was over tough. He was very strategic. He always had a plan for every team. I remember we were playing St. Mike's and their star player was Frank Mahovlich. We had a player named Gord Loveday and Emms told him to follow Mahovlich wherever he went. If he goes to the bathroom, you go to the bathroom he instructed Loveday," said Beckett with a hardy laugh. " The Big "M" was strapped and he was their main man."

This strategy came in handy when Barrie faced the Kitchener-Waterloo Canucks in the 1956 OHA quarter-finals. Loveday's assignment was to shadow Stan Baluik. The best-of-seven affair went to eight games before the Flyers ousted the Canucks. In addition to Loveday's effort, Bob Beckett made a huge contribution. He pounced on goalie Claude Dufour for 10 goals in the opening round.

A newspaper report praised his offensive prowess, "Beckett with 16 goals and 20 assists during the regular season, has suddenly blossomed out as a scoring threat."

In the semi-finals, Hap Emms and his crew met St. Mike's. This is when Emms unleashed Loveday on Mahovlich as Beckett alluded to. Barrie pulled off the upset by eliminating the Majors. The best-of-five showdown went the distance with Barrie winning the deciding game by a score of 2-0.

As Barrie prepared to play the powerful Toronto Marlboros in the final, Boston Bruins general manager Lynn Patrick commented on the prospects in the organization. " I like Beckett.  He does a lot of work," commented Patrick.

On the subject of becoming property of the Bruins, Beckett told me, "I was actually scouted by Bob Davidson in Toronto. I was playing bantam at the time. He invited me to come down and practice with the Marlies. I didn't even know where Maple Leaf Gardens was. My brother took me down and we were late. I can remember the Marlies already being on the ice. They were all big guys. I said to my brother "Take me home, I'm not not going out there." So, we went home. Later, Baldy Cotton, who worked for Boston, scouted me and followed me in Junior."

Coached by former Leaf goalie Turk Broda, the Marlboros were rich in talent. Lead by captain Al MacNeil, their line-up contained many future NHL stars. Included in this category were Bob Pulford, Bob Nevin and Carl Brewer. They played up to expectations and took a stranglehold on the series by emerging victorious in the first three matches.

Thus, game four was a must-win situation for the Barrie Flyers. Playing on home ice, they were determined to force a game five. With forty-minutes in the book, the visitors held a 2-1 advantage. Then, Bob Beckett went to work. After scoring the opening goal in the first period, he notched the equalizer in the third. Taking a pass from defenceman Grant Morton from behind the goal, Beckett, off balance, beat netminder Len Broderick. The comeback was completed when Billy Forhan and Roy Patridge made the final score 4-2.

Playing game five in Maple Leaf Gardens, the defending Memorial Cup champions rose to the occasion. Fueled by Bob Pulford's four-markers, Toronto sent the Barrie Flyers packing. Scoring on a rebound off a shot by Morton, Beckett produced goal number 16 in 18 matches.

It was an eventful final year of Junior hockey for Bob Beckett. His play certainly caught the eye of Bruins management. When the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League required a reinforcement, they looked no further than the Barrie Flyers.

Beckett beamed with delight when he spoke of his first taste of professional hockey. "Hershey had some players missing and I guess they wanted me to have a shot and take a look at me. Baldy Cotton picked me up and drove me down there and I played in the game. At the time, Hershey had Don Cherry and Murray Henderson. Murray coached me in that game. It was a Sunday and Baldy drove me home right after. It was quite an experience."

Looking forward to getting his pro career in motion, Beckett attended the Bruins training camp in the fall of 1956. "I had a good camp and I was one of the leading scorers in the exhibition games," noted Beckett. When it came time to trim the roster, Beckett found himself a long ways from home.

"They sent me down to Victoria and I didn't do too well when I was out there. The playing coach had his favourites and some of us never got a chance. I spoke with Lester Patrick and asked if he could get me moved. That's when they shipped me to the Quebec Aces," said Beckett of his first year out of the Junior ranks.

He dressed for 16 games with the Victoria Cougars of the WHL and Beckett's numbers confirm the difficulty he experienced in getting his game going. He failed to register any points on the score sheet, but managed to accumulate 5-minutes in penalties.

Moving east to Quebec, Beckett hoped to get his game back on track. His new boss in Quebec was George "Punch" Imlach. The future head honcho of the Toronto Maple Leafs arrived in La Belle Province following World War Two in 1945.

"I consider him one of the best hockey men I've played for. Don't tell the Leafs that because they didn't like him," Beckett said with a chuckle. "He was a gentleman. When I first arrived in Quebec he picked me up at the airport. I had supper at his place and met his family."

If the Victoria episode was a downer for Beckett, the feeling quickly passed with his arrival in Quebec City. Not only did he recapture his knack for scoring by potting two tallies and two helpers in his first game, but the change in scenery built-up his confidence. After suffering a cut in his initial contest, he required stitches from the team doctor.

While the doc was patching up his patient, he said to Beckett, "Two goals, two assists, two stitches. If I put in a third stitch maybe you'll get a hat trick."

Sensing the physician could be on to something, Beckett replied, "Go ahead, doctor, put in the third stitch. Maybe I'll get the third goal."

Quebec hockey fans had the pleasure of watching some talented players perform with the Aces. Topping Imlach's list in this regard were Jean Beliveau, Gaye Stewart, Orvil Tessier, Joe Crozier, Marcel Bonin and Armand Gaudreault. Included on this list was Bob Beckett.

"Maybe they weren't all what you'd call great players, in comparison with Bobby Hull and Frank Mahovlich and some of those, but they were good hockey players," wrote Imlach in his 1969 biography Hockey is a Battle.

Like most young players, Beckett's goal was to someday reach the National Hockey League. At the age of twenty, Beckett understood he had to fine tune his skills and work hard. One of his great assets was his size.

"I wasn't the type of player that ran all around, but I wasn't afraid to go into the corners and hit someone. I didn't get many penalties and I had the odd fight. I was considered big at 5-foot-11-inches, 200 pounds. At that time it was a good size."

This physical edge didn't escape the watchful eye of Bruins management.

When Boston played the Detroit Red Wings on December 20, 1956, the two clubs scored one goal apiece and settled for a tie. Although happy with gaining one-point in the standings, the Bruins were concerned over an injury suffered by Vic Stasiuk.

With their big left winger out of the line-up due to a torn side-muscle, the Bruins turned to Quebec and summoned Bob Beckett.

The Christmas holiday resulted in Beckett getting his first exposure to life in the National Hockey League.

For Beckett, his short time up with the big league team was a learning experience.

"I can't remember too much about about it. I was nervous and a bit fearful as you want to do a good job. You don't think about things too much once you're called-up. The Boston players were always good to me especially being a young guy. They tried to help you out."

Late in January 1957, Beckett once again joined the Bruins for a few games. Following his two brief stints in late 1956 and early 1957 with the NHL team, he failed to produce a single point. On each occasion, Beckett returned to Quebec and waited for another opportunity.

On February 7, 1957 the Bruins travelled to Detroit for an encounter against the Wings. Detroit, one of the top clubs during the 1950s, were also one of the toughest. Jerry Toppazzini of Boston discovered this when Ted Lindsay introduced his hockey stick to Toppazzini's face. Suffering severe facial injuries in the February 7th game, it was expected the Bruin would be sidelined for the balance of the season.

Conferring with coach Milt Schmidt, general manager Lynn Patrick made the decision to go back-to-the-well one more time to promote Beckett.

Speaking to the media, Patrick explained the reasoning behind the move. "There were several reasons we thought why Beckett was our best substitute. Topper did most of the bumping for that line, so Beckett's size was a factor. Playing with tricky fellows like MacKell and Regan requires drive on the part of the third member of the line and he has that."

Not only did Beckett have to adjust to the NHL style of play, but he was about to be thrown into a new position. Having experience at both centre and left wing, he now was penned in as Toppazzini's replacement on the right flank.

His first contest with line mates Fleming MacKell at centre and Larry Regan at left wing, came on February 9th in Boston Garden versus the Montreal Canadiens.

Getting his feet wet, Beckett assessed his play. "I feel I've been doing a bit better since getting in good shape, but I hope I can start helping out with the scoring soon. I haven't been much help in that way yet," Beckett told the Boston press core.

This scenario would change in Beckett's next game. On February 10, Boston welcomed the Maple Leafs to town. Beckett gained an assist on a goal by Fleming MacKell, thus earning his first point in the National Hockey League. During this stretch on Boston's roster, Beckett added two more helpers - February 16th vs. Chicago (Larry Regan) and March 2nd vs. New York (Larry Regan) - giving him three points over 14 games. On March 9th, Beckett made his first visit to the Boston Garden penalty box for an infraction at 2:06 of the first period against a Red Wing.

And he lived up to Patrick's expectations relating to "bumping" the opposition. As a matter of fact, Lynn Patrick got an up close look at Beckett in full flight. In a game at Maple Leaf Gardens, Patrick was seated behind the Bruins bench. Beckett, in pursuit of Leaf forward Rudy Migay, sent his target flying with a solid check. Not only did Migay go for a tumble, but his stick left the playing area. The projectile struck Patrick and he required stitches to men a cut on his eyelid!

Recovered from his injuries, Toppazzini returned alongside MacKell and Regan on March 13th in Madison Square Garden in the Big Apple.

1956-57 Boston Bruins. Bob Beckett, first player back row left

In 18 NHL games during the 1956-57 schedule, the line on Bob Beckett was zero goals, three assists and two penalty-minutes. The chance to score an NHL goal was now out of his grasp as the return of Toppazzini marked his reassignment to Quebec. The trip back to Quebec City would be the icing-on-the-cake in a wild hockey year for Beckett.

The Aces were crowned champions of the Quebec Hockey League and took possession of two pieces of silverware. The first prize was the newly created Emile Genest Trophy for finishing in first-place. Next up was the Thomas O'Conell Memorial Trophy for being the last team standing in the playoffs. During this era, the QHL champs would play the Western Hockey League victors for the Edinburgh Trophy. The award was presented by the Duke of Edinburgh for the 1953-54 season.

Competition for the 1957 Edinburgh Trophy pitted Quebec against the Brandon Regals. Hailing from Manitoba, the Regals were guided by playing coach Don "Bones" Raleigh who was a former New York Ranger. The best-of-nine series opened on April 28th with all the games being played in the Province of Quebec. Quick out of the gate, Quebec built-up a four games to one series lead. With Brandon facing elimination, game six took place on May 9th. Going scoreless in the first five, Beckett would fire the game-winning-goal in game six and help his team capture the Edinburgh Trophy.

Over the summer of 1957, the Boston Bruins signed a new affiliation agreement with the Springfield Indians in the American Hockey League. Previously, they were sponsored by the Hershey Bears. Lynn Patrick's first step was to staff the Indians with personnel he was familiar with. The new general manager in Springfield was Punch Imlach, with Cal Gardner being named playing coach.

Changes were not restricted to the front office. Bob Beckett found himself in new surroundings. Wanting to have their prospects close to home, Beckett became a member of the Springfield Indians.

As fate would have it, the Hershey Bears and Springfield Indians met in the 1958 Calder Cup Final. The Bears jumped out to a three games to one lead. On the road, it was a must-win situation for the Indians in game five.

Hershey held a one goal advantage after one period. At 2:06 of the second, Beckett scored to even up the contest. Then, Gerry Ehman put Springfield in front at 13:10 of the final frame. This was followed by Bob Beckett's empty net goal at 19:27. The Indians lived for another day with their 4-2 win.

Faced with another do-or-die challenge, Springfield was hoping for a similar result in game six. In a close game, the teams went into the third tied at 1-1. The deadlock was broken at 16:55 when Willie Marshall took a pass from Dunc Fisher and beat goalie Claude Evans.

Bob Beckett would be denied a second straight championship as Hershey was king of the American Hockey League.

In his first trip through the AHL in 1957-58, Beckett beat the opposition goalies 17 times and finished with 33 points. During the year, he played in nine games with the Boston Bruins. Beckett still was unable to corral his elusive first NHL goal.

Looking forward to his sophomore season in the AHL, Beckett found himself on a new team. This came about when the Bruins, for the second consecutive summer, played musical chairs with their farm team. Dropped from the organization were the Springfield Indians and a new agreement was entered into with the Providence Reds.

The 1958-59 campaign was a case of mixing the new with the old for Beckett. The new part consisted of being in uniform for 32 games with the Reds.  Expecting more offence from Beckett, he only netted 5 goals for his new AHL club. In January 1959, he was shipped to his old playing grounds in Quebec along with Buddy Boone for Pete Panagabko. In 25 matches with the Aces, Beckett scored 6 goals.

Beckett, for the first time in his pro career would be anchored in one city. He spent the entire season in 1959-60 with the Providence Reds. In 57 games, he put up decent numbers, scoring 11 goals and adding 31 assists for 42 points. For most of the year, he was teamed with Stan Baluik and Danny Poliziani.

In the off-season, Providence owner Lou Piere, made a significant coaching change. Out was former Boston Bruin Jack Crawford. The owner and coach were embroiled in a contract dispute. Crawford's replacement behind the bench was another ex-NHLer, Phil Watson.

Watson's reputation as a coach can best described as fiery. While coaching the New York Rangers, he constantly battled with his players.

For Bob Beckett, his new coach in 1960-61 had the opposite effect. Taking Beckett under his wing, Watson's straight forward approach produced positive results. His first instructions pertained to Beckett's weight. He told his forward to drop 30 pounds. This added speed to Beckett's game and helped his overall conditioning. Lynn Patrick spoke of Watson "lighting a fire under Beckett."

Talking to the press, when both he and Beckett were promoted to the Bruins in 1961-62, Watson reflected on his time with Beckett in Providence.  Watson said, "He was my old reliable with the Reds. I used him as a regular left wing, he killed penalties and worked on our power play. He did a fine job for me and he knows I appreciated his work."

Beckett told me he had no beefs with Watson, despite the horror stories relayed by many players who toiled under the former New York Ranger. "I can't say anything bad about him. Sometimes he went overboard saying silly things. I've seen him bounce the medical table around the dressing room and cursing while doing it. I was quiet in the room and he never bothered me. He was always good to me."

The change in his game was evident on the ice. In 1960-61, Beckett put together his finest year in professional hockey. He regained his scoring touch by filling the net 22 times in 72 contests. His 34 assists brought Beckett's point total up to 56.

Red's general manager, Terry Reardon had glowing comments concerning Beckett. "Bob has always been a boy with plenty of potential. He has the size and weight and ability, but what he lacked was aggressiveness. For the past two seasons Bob has been using his weight more, and it has paid off. There's no one tougher than Bob in the corners, just ask the players."

Filled with confidence, Beckett was full of anticipation for the 1961-62 season. With Phil Watson now roaming behind the Bruins bench, Beckett made his return to the National Hockey League. "We understood each other in Providence and we understand each other here," stated Watson.

Beckett joined the parent club for a match-up against Detroit on October 26, 1961.

After two games at home, Boston hit the road for a tilt against Montreal on November 2nd. It would turn out to be a very special night for Bob Beckett. At 16:48 of the second period, with Boston in front 3-2, Beckett scored his first NHL goal. With assists going to Jerry Toppazzini and Cliff Pennington, Beckett beat Habs legendary goalie Jacques Plante.

Scoring Summary. Bob Beckett's first NHL goal, November 2, 1961

Over the next four games, Beckett went on a scoring binge. On November 5th he struck against Chicago. Beckett increased his production on November 8th by scoring twice against the New York Rangers. He was blanked on November 9th at home against the Red Wings. Then, the Maple Leafs came calling on November 12th. On a rush lead by teammate Charlie Burns, Beckett picked-up a loose puck and his shot beat Johnny Bower.

Unfortunately for Boston and Bob Beckett the good times didn't continue. As a result of a shake-up in January 1962, Beckett was sent down to Providence. Also on the move were goalie Don Head to Portland (WHL) and forward Terry Gray to Kingston (EPHL). Elevated  to the Bruins were goalie Bruce Gamble and two forwards, Larry Leach and Tommy Williams.

Splitting the year between Boston and Providence, Beckett scored 7 goals for Boston and 13 for the Reds. The player-coach in Providence was former Bruin captain Fernie Flaman. Following a slump in January and sparked by Beckett's return, the Reds turned their fortunes around earning a playoff spot in the process. Their top line down the stretch consisted of Orland Kurtenbach, Zellio Toppazzini and Bob Beckett.

In 1962-63, Beckett spent the entire year in Providence.  Early in the campaign, he played on a line with a couple of newcomers to the Reds, Willie Marshall and Norm Corcoran. Marshall, is considered one of the greatest stars ever to perform in the American Hockey League.

"He was smart. He didn't have size, but he could handle the puck and he knew how to score," Beckett told me about Marshall.

Statistics show Beckett played in 62 games with Providence in 1962-63. He contributed 12 goals and 25 assists for 37 points.

Bob Beckett's final year in pro hockey came in 1963-64. Like most players whose careers are winding down, Beckett took on a defensive role with the Reds. He was joined by Harry Ottenbriet, Ed Mazur and the three formed the BMO Line. Later, Larry Leach would replace Ottenbriet in the combination. Paying special attention to his defensive responsibilities didn't hamper Beckett's ability to hit the twine. His 29 points in 33 games were made-up of 14 goals and  15 assists.

Fernie Flaman raved about Beckett's ability to play a total game. "Bob's been our best two-way player this season and I'd definitely have to rate him one of our most valuable players."

I asked Beckett what it was like playing for his former teammate in Boston. "He really couldn't coach as he was still playing. He couldn't handle the team properly because it was impossible to both coach and play. He was a great guy. I remember when I first joined the Bruins he was captain of the team. He took me out after a game. He was a terrific gentleman."

1963-64 Providence. Bob Beckett, 3rd player from right, middle row

Known as an even tempered player, Beckett became the focus of a bizarre incident which took place on October 26, 1963. At the conclusion of play between Providence and Springfield, an altercation involving several members of the Reds and linesman Al Fontana erupted. Fontana came out punching as the matter escalated. Beckett and three other Reds were disciplined by AHL president James Balmer. Many were shocked with the revelation of Beckett's participation. This included Reds owner Lou Pieri. After further investigation, it was determined Beckett had nothing to do with the commotion as he wasn't even on the ice when the incident occurred! His $100 fine was successfully appealed and Beckett's reputation remained intact.

Beckett had his final go-round with the Bruins in 1963-64. Lacing up for seven NHL games, he recorded one assist.

In a total of 68 National Hockey League matches, Beckett posted 7 goals and 6 assists for 13 points. He spent a total of 18-minutes in the penalty box. He didn't see any playoff action with Boston.

Late in February 1964, Beckett broke a ankle and returned home to southern Ontario from Providence.

"I use to cut in off the right wing and once I got going it was hard to stop. On the play, goalie Cesare Maniago came sliding out and put his pad out. I went into the boards and broke my ankle," said Beckett in describing the play which lead to his injury.

On the subject of goalies, I asked Beckett about one of his teammates in Providence, Eddie Giacomin.

"I knew he was going to be good because he worked hard. I consider that I helped him quite a bit. He asked me to stay out and take shots on him after practice. He wanted to improve and he did."

Sensing the need for a veteran presence, the Portland Buckaroos secured Beckett's services and brought him to training camp to prepare for the 1964-65 season. Playing in the Western Hockey League, Portland coach and general manager, Hal Laycoe, had high hopes Beckett's ankle was on the mend. It didn't take him long to determine his prized acquisition couldn't make a go of it.

"I went to camp but I couldn't play because every time I put on my skates, the ankle would swell. Then arthritis set in. Even to this day there is soreness," stated Beckett some 47-years after attending his final pro camp.

Laycoe expressed his concern over the situation. "We recruit only a few players compared to most other teams in the League and when one of those is lost, particularly one that we were counting on as a potential all-star, it has to create a situation of major concern. It's next to impossible to replace a player of this caliber at this late date," voiced the ex-NHL defenceman.

Under these circumstances, Bob Beckett's professional hockey career came to an end.

Living and working in Providence was a joy for Beckett. He makes every effort to attend reunions, like the one which took place this summer. "It was great to see all the players. The City was a great place. The fans were amazing. They were behind us 100 percent.

The highlight of his career in the game he loved to play?

"Coming home and playing my first game in Maple Leaf Gardens. Everyone wanted tickets and wanted to see me play which was very nice."

Beckett told me a wonderful story involving his dad.

"The Rocket tried to hit me in one game and he bounced back and fell down. That is all my dad could talk about," said Beckett with a beaming smile.

When each hockey year came to a close, Beckett would return to his home in Ontario. "I had a summer job as a millwright. I took it up as a trade and kept at it following my hockey career."

By the mid-1960s, Beckett was back on the ice with the NHL Oldtimers. With his new teammates, he played in a couple of games per week and the club would practice every Sunday morning in Maple Leaf Gardens. On many nights, the Oldtimers would teach their opposition a thing or two. Going up against a much younger squad in the Varsity Blues from the University of Toronto, the former NHL stars played them to a 3-3 draw. Keeping pace with the fresh legs from U-of-T was Bob Beckett who scored one of the goals for the Oldtimers.

Bob Beckett, October 2011

Coming full circle, I asked Beckett about the photograph of himself and Carl Brewer.

"I remember it was in the Star Weekly Magazine. Most of the article was about Carl. He had his arms wrapped around me and I was sort of carrying him. The strain is visible on our faces. The play developed as I was coming around the net. I still get people sending me copies of the photo to autograph."

For many, it was the initial step in getting to know Bob Beckett.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Book Review - Pucks On The 'Net by Joe Pelletier

It is said variety is the spice of life. If this is indeed fact, hockey fans who also enjoy the written word, will be in for a treat with the latest effort from author Joe Pelletier. The recently released Pucks On The 'Net, is a wonderful read for anyone who possesses a love for the history of the game. It is a delightful collection of hockey stories and the characters who brought them to life.

This is Pelletier's first venture into the world of e-book publishing. In today's digital environment, some people still resist the rapid rise of technology. In a changing marketplace, the e-book is gaining popularity with each passing day. It is allowing more work to be produced, thus enhancing selection choices for the buying public. As with any consumer product, quality remains the number one requirement. For the reader of Pucks On The 'Net, the format is secondary as the content quickly becomes the main focus.

Pucks On The 'Net opens with the reader becoming acquainted with the author. In a section called Personal Stories, Pelletier reveals hockey memories from his childhood to present day. There are eight stories under this heading, each covering a different aspect of Pelletier's association with the sport. Two of the best are Two Minutes For Booking and Thank You Jack Falla.

As the title indicates, Pelletier delves into his love of hockey books in Two Minutes For Booking. He fondly recalls visiting the library at age six with his mother and exploring new surroundings. Not satisfied with kid books, he moved over to the Young Adult collection. There before him, stacked on shelves, was a vision that brought joy and happiness. As Pelletier put it, "I'm talking real hockey books about real hockey players and real NHL teams." The story continues as young Joe discovers the Adult section where there are even more books.

Fast forward to 2008 and we find Pelletier engaged in the process of writing his own material. While working on a piece for one of his websites,, he came into contact with author Jack Falla. The review pertained to Falla's Open Ice: Reflections and Confessions of a Hockey Lifer. After reading the review, Falla contacted Pelletier to express his thanks. Also, Pelletier built-up enough nerve to request an interview, which Falla consented to take part in. The encounter with the noted author and professor of journalism had a great impact on Pelletier. This becomes clear when Pelletier writes about the events following the interview. It is one of the most touching parts in Pucks On The 'Net.

Another marvelous reflection is called my 1972 Summit Series Confession. In 2002, Pelletier created the website,, which became a huge hit. It was the launching pad for his future success. His confession is both fascinating and provides an interesting perspective on the 1972 series.

I first became aware of Pelletier in 2005, when I picked-up a book he wrote. With Wayne Gretzky gracing the cover in a Team Canada jersey, I couldn't resist adding Legends of Team Canada to my library. A photo on the back cover featured members of the Canadian National Women's hockey team. The text above the picture was the final selling point: "From Paul Henderson to Vincent Lecavalier, from Wayne Gretzky to Hayley Wickenheiser, today's stars meet yesterday's heroes in these pages. Together they comprise the best that have ever represented our nation. These are the true legends of Team Canada."

Following his personal accounts in Pucks On The 'Net, Pelletier unleashes a wide variety of stories. Known for his player biographies at, Pelletier is at his best in crafting and presenting a total of twenty-nine hockey related tales over the remaining pages.Unique in nature, they cover a wide range of hockey history and are broken down into categories. For example, Crashing The Net covers goalies and Tough Guys the enforcers. Other sections include Pucks On The Net (a collection of various stories), International Ice, Last Line of Defense and Hockey Heroes.

Like any good narrative, the characters take a starring role. Pucks On The 'Net delivers big-time in this regard. Where else can you read about the exploits of Alfie Moore and Wayne Gretzky in the same publication? Pelletier should take a bow for bringing lesser known players to centre stage. It is a joy to read about Val Fonteyne, Camille Henry, Marcel Bonin, Don Saleski and Elizabeth Graham to mention a few.

Story after story generated a number of emotions and reactions. Reading Larry The Leech made me laugh. The Night Pat Quinn Knocked Out Bobby Orr put me in a nostalgic state. Who Is Better? Rocket Richard vs. Gordie Howe made me think. The Puck-Goes-Insky Buzinsky brought a smile to my face. Hockey's Most Important Players sent me scattering for pen and paper to create my own list. The mere mention of Mud March in The Best Names in Hockey History took me back to November 12, 1931 when he scored the very first goal in Maple Leaf Gardens on opening night.

Most of all, I was left wanting more.

With Pucks On The 'Net, Joe Pelletier has scored a hat trick. It is informative, entertaining and well written!

For further information, please visit

Friday, October 21, 2011

Digging into matters at Maple Leaf Gardens

Interesting news concerning items located in a time capsule at Maple Leaf Gardens. The find was made by workers conducting the renovations on the former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. News Story.

Of note, is the location where the items were found. Media reports pinpoint the front entrance as the main area of focus. The last redo of the main lobby occurred during the summer of 1993. The highlight of the work involved murals of Leafs greats and moments being installed. These were the creation of artist John Richmond. At the time, the work was described as being extensive, but there was no news of finding any hidden treasures.

In the past, this wasn't always the case. During the summer of 1990 construction crews began work on a new weight room for the hockey club/ This involved building a tunnel under the Hot Stove Lounge. While conducting their duties, workers made several important discoveries, including pottery estimated to be 100 years-old.

From a hockey perceptive, there was an even bigger catch. The prize being a trophy found in Conn Smythe's former office. The space was being transformed for Don Giffin who held the position of president following Harold Ballard's death. Reports depicted the item as being a sterling silver and valued at $15,000. It originated back to a tournament held between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks in western Canada. The competition took place after the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1936.

The two teams set out for the west with a series of matches scheduled for Winnipeg and Calgary, before reaching Vancouver for their showdown. The tour consisted of two games in Manitoba and three in Alberta. The B.C. portion also called for three contests.

For hockey fans east of Ontario, it was an opportunity to witness the game being played by NHL players. The action kicked-off in Winnipeg on April 16, 1936 and concluded on May 1st in Vancouver. On hand for the events was broadcaster Foster Hewitt. Many in the crowds were more eager to see the face behind the voice than the players themselves.

In Vancouver, the Leafs were crowned champions with total-goals being the determining factor. The Hawks won the first game 5-3, but Toronto bounced back with 7-2 and 3-2 victories.

News reports from the day painted this picture of the winners reward, "a handsome Gyro Club, Totem Pole Trophy." The Gyro Service Club sponsored the trip west for Toronto and Chicago.

While in Vancouver, both teams, when not battling on the ice, relaxed at The Commodore. It was considered the place to be when it came to enjoying the nightlife. Of course, the players were the toast-of-the-town. The orchestra saluted Toronto by cranking out "The Maple Leaf Forever", with Leaf players joining in. Not to be outdone, Chicago players pipped-up with a unique twist to the words by adding this chorus "Toronto Maple Leafs, runners-up forever".

With great anticipation, we await the details from this latest discovery.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Jets Have Landed

In a previous posting this week, I chronicled the original Winnipeg Jets first and last games in Toronto.

Prior to the reborn Jets visiting the Air Canada Centre last night, I heard an interesting discussion on the radio. The debate seemed to focus on one question - how much of a relationship is there between the WHA/NHL Jets and the current edition of the club?

As we all know, the 2011-12 Winnipeg Jets have only two things in common with their predecessor - their name and the fact they are based in the city of Winnipeg. Any statistical references must be associated with the Atlanta Thrashers. Not the 1979 to 1996 Winnipeg Jets.

I last witnessed a live game featuring an NHL club from Winnipeg on New Year's Eve 1986. Spending the final hours of 1986 in Maple Leaf Gardens, watching the Leafs, seemed to be a terrific way to close out the year. Besides, there was plenty of time following the game to ring 1987.

Like their first and last trips to Toronto, a buzz surrounded the contest on December 31, 1986. Once again, the Leafs were front and centre. In this case, there were no player transactions, but a former Leaf coach, Dan Maloney, was making his return as bench boss of the Jets. At the end of his run with the Leafs, Maloney encountered difficulties with several players. As an example. Miroslav Ihnacak experienced a rough go under Maloney.

While all parties involved tried to put their slant on the situation, Leafs forward Russ Courtnall put the matter into perspective. "He was our coach, for what that was worth. So we wanted to win. But in the back of our minds were the two points. The two points were more important than beating our old coach," Courtnall explained to the media in his post-game scrum.

And that is exactly what Courtnall and his teammates did. The New Year's celebrations started early with the Leafs 6-1 victory over the Jets.

With all of this in mind, I trekked down to the Air Canada Centre last night to watch Winnipeg's new entry into the National Hockey League.

Making the rounds prior to entering the rink, I chatted briefly with former Leaf Mark Osborne on the set of Leafs TV. He played for the Jets following a trade from Toronto in 1990-91. The next year, after 43 contests in Winnipeg, he was traded back to Toronto.

Mark Osborne on the set of Leafs TV

Taking my seat in time for the warm-up, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the Jets new uniform. My first thought was those players skating around in circles aren't the Winnipeg Jets I remember. An immediate disconnect to the original Jets occurred in my thought process.

The warm-up
In the time following the warm-up and opening face-off, I inspected the Winnipeg Jets line-up in the program. As I read the names, I couldn't help but think back to the 1986-87 Jets. The club I watched play in late 1986. Missing were guys like Dale Hawerchuck and Thomas Steen. In a way, it really didn't matter. I couldn't picture Hawerchuk or Steen in the 2011-12 style of jersey.

When the action got underway, my entire focus turned to the game at hand. Watching Nik Antropov and Kyle Wellwood, two former Leafs, brought back memories of their time in Toronto. The young players on Winnipeg, Zach Bogosian, Alex Burmistrov and Evander Kane are a joy to watch. Rookie Mark Scheifele appears to possess the skills to stick with the team. Both Burmistrov and Scheifele scored their first NHL goals last night. Then, there is the top-flight talent who are expected to soar each and every game. This includes captain Andrew Ladd, defenceman Dustin Byfuglien and goalie Ondrej Pavelec.

Opening face-off
The first forty-minutes of play belonged to the Jets who took a 3-1 lead.

Adding a touch of class to the festivities, the Maple Leafs organization acknowledged Winnipeg's return to big-time hockey. With 11:56 remaining in the first period, public address announcer Andy Frost made note of the Jets last appearance in Toronto on March 13, 1996. He welcomed them back to the NHL fold and the large ACC crowd gave the Jets a standing ovation.

The Jets bench during their welcome back salute from the Leafs organization
Stretching my legs in the first intermission, I ventured up to the Leafs Alumni Box. A large group of ex-Leafs were on hand to watch the proceedings. One of them being Bill Derlago, another player who performed for the Winnipeg Jets. He suited-up for 57 regular season games in 1985-86 and 1986-87.

Toronto dominated the final frame and tied the score at three goals apiece. Both teams failed to score in the overtime, but Toronto earned the extra-point in the shootout with Joffrey Lupul bagging the winner.

On a stormy evening outside the Air Canada Centre,  it was the Maple Leafs who created all the thunder and lightning inside. The Jets were grounded after two periods of play and couldn't get clearance for lift-off.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jetting off to Toronto

Tomorrow night marks the return of a National Hockey League team from Winnipeg to Toronto for a tilt against the Maple Leafs.

The Winnipeg franchise made their initial appearance in Toronto on December 29, 1979. Having survived the collapse of the World Hockey Association, the Jets were welcomed into the NHL for the 1979-80 season. Their final game in Toronto was played on March 13, 1996. The Winnipeg club was transferred to Phoenix in time for the 1996-97 campaign.

On both their first and final games in Maple Leaf Gardens, the Jets took a backseat to news surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Winnipeg hosted the Philadelphia Flyers on the Friday evening prior to jetting off to Toronto for their inaugural contest versus the Leafs. The Jets were in tough against the Philadelphia as Pat Quinn and his troops were in the midst of a 31 game undefeated streak. The Jets proved to be no match for the Broad Street Bullies who skated to a 5-3 victory. A record crowd of 16,038 watched the home side fail to put a halt to the Flyers run.

Although the Maple Leafs didn't play on the Friday night, they were the number one story leading off the nightly news. When subscribers to the Toronto Star opened their newspaper on Saturday morning, they were greeted with the following headline: LANNY McDONALD TRADE HAS SITTLER IN TEARS.

For most of the season, Leaf players were in a constant battle with Punch Imlach who held the general managers portfolio. Imlach, in his second-go-round in the position, was determined to establish his authority and let the players know who held the reins of power. As far back as training camp, he identified captain Darryl Sittler and his agent Al Eagleson as his main targets.

On the eve of Toronto's first regular season encounter against their new Canadian rival from Winnipeg, Imlach made a trade he knew would send his captain over the edge. In a transaction with Colorado, the Leafs GM shipped out Sittler's best friend and line mate Lanny McDonald.

There was little doubt Imlach had gotten into Sittler's head by using McDonald as a pawn. Following the warm-up of the Leafs/Jets game, Sittler removed the captains "C" from his sweater. Fans watching on Hockey Night in Canada followed the drama as it unfolded.

Under this backdrop, the Winnipeg Jets and everything else, took a backseat. Any anticipation of this new member to the NHL taking centre stage fizzled. Any buzz of the new-kid-on-the-block never materialized.

If the Jets thought Toronto would be off their game as a result of the commotion, they had another thing coming. The game was close following forty-minutes of action. Toronto held a 2-1 advantage on goals by Walt McKechine and Rocky Saganiuk. The Jets Bill Riley sandwiched a goal in between the two Leaf markers.

Winnipeg's hope of staying close in the final frame, disappeared quicker than the "C" off Sittler's jersey. The Leafs rifled four unanswered goals past Winnipeg goalie Pierre Hamel. Getting on the score sheet in the third for Toronto were Ian Turnbull, Bob Stephenson, Saganiuk and Tiger Williams. In goal for the Leafs was Paul Harrison.

Fast forward to March 13, 1996, when Winnipeg toiled on the Gardens ice for the final time as the Jets. Their swan-song in Toronto received about as much attention as their first engagement in 1979. Once again, it was a case of the Leafs stealing all the thunder. This time, it was Cliff Fletcher working behind the scenes implementing moves to shake-up his line-up.

The Jets potential final match in Toronto was overshadowed by Fletcher's make-over. Prior to the contest, Fletcher made a huge splash when he sent Kenny Jonsson, Darby Hendrickson, Sean Haggerty and a first-round draft choice to the New York Islanders. In exchange, Fletcher obtained the services of former Toronto fan favourite Wendel Clark, Mathieu Schneider and D.J. Smith, both defencemen.

Just in case this trade wasn't big enough to capture the headlines, Fletcher announced another move following the game. In a salary dump, the Leafs sent forward Dave Andreychuk to New Jersey for a couple of draft picks.

Like their initial visit to Toronto, the Winnipeg Jets final trip fell victim news wise to the Leafs off-ice activity. In a repeat performance from 1979, the game failed to be the lead story. In the same manner as Punch Imlach, Fletcher's wheeling and dealing made the game an after thought.

After regulation time came to a close, the two teams were unable to settle the matter in overtime. The game ended in a 3-3 draw. Toronto and Winnipeg exchanged goals in period one, with Andreychuk and Doug Gilmour connecting for the Leafs. Hitting the twine for the visitors were Keith Tkachuk and Mike Eastwood. The Leafs took the lead in the second thanks to Andreychuk's hot-hand.

The Jets would get the equalizer in the third. Their final goal in Toronto from that era would come off the stick of Mike Eastwood.

Reborn this summer, the new Winnipeg Jets make their first appearance tomorrow evening in the Air Canada Centre. Will Brian Burke step-up-to-the-plate and follow the tradition of pulling off a monster deal prior to these special visits by the Jets?

Welcome back Winnipeg!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Maple Leaf Gardens Update

Last week, I made another trip downtown and ventured over to Church and Carlton.

There isn't too much to report, as most of the activity is taking place inside the building. However, I observed one striking addition.

As the above photos depict, the storefront windows have been fitted, resulting in the Gardens appearance taking on a whole new look. Although a portion of the wonderful brickwork has been removed, the glass provides a completely different look. These photos were shot along Church St. where a number of stores were located in the early 1930s.

These photographs show the workmen going about their duties. A constant flow of workers were coming and going during my time on the site.

All along, I kept thinking back to the spring and summer of 1931, when the building was first put up. In a mere five to six months, the project was completed. The scheduled opening for the Loblaws/Ryerson remodel is this fall. From what I have witnessed, this goal will not be accomplished.

Conn Smythe must be rolling over in his final resting spot!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bring in the New!

Last night, the National Hockey League rung in the new season with a trio of games on the docket.

The Boston Bruins continued their Stanley Cup celebrations, then played host to the Flyers. Playing the role of party spoilers, Philadelphia squeaked out a 2-1 decision over Boston.

Out west, Stanley Cup finalists, Vancouver, battled the Pittsburgh Penguins. Trailing in the third period, the Canucks drew even with Pittsburgh, but fell in the shootout.

At the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the Maple Leafs and Canadiens added another chapter to their historic rivalry. The Leafs, hoping for a quick start to begin the season, shutout Montreal 2-0 with James Reimer blocking all shots directed at the Leaf goal.

The stage was set for Maple Leaf fans to party prior to the home opener
The event was held in Maple Leaf Square beside the ACC
The huge outdoor screen showed Leaf highlights
A popular attraction was the Leafs mobile truck which showed the history of the Leaf jersey
The 1967 sweater which serves as the third jersey in 2011-12

In 1942, Montreal and Toronto helped open the initial campaign of the Original Six era.

On the evening of October 31, 1942 Toronto and the New York Rangers met in Maple Leaf Gardens. While fans looked forward to a new hockey season, they couldn't be blamed if their attention was elsewhere.

The headlines in papers across the country kept them aware of events relating to fighting taking place in World War Two. This situation dominated the news. As the Leafs and Rangers were about to collide, troops in Egypt were in a struggle with their German counterparts.

Hockey was not immune when it came to supplying men for active duty. With a number of regular players in the service, roster positions were being filled by new faces.

For their opening contest in Toronto, New York's squad included a complete line composed of new youngsters. This combination included two 19 year-old players, Bill Goode and Lin Bend. The final spot was secured by 18 year-old Joe Bell. All three were members of the Memorial Cup champion  Portage La Prairie Terriers.

In goal, the Rangers went with rookie Steve Buzinski. He was signed by the Rangers as a replacement for Sugar Jim Henry who was on active duty.

Toronto, who were defending Stanley Cup champs, struck early against Buzinski. By the end of period one, the Leafs held a 3-0 advantage. Following the second period, New York trailed by a score of 4-2. The Leafs added 3 more tallies in the final frame and coasted to a 7-2 victory. 

The Leafs young players made a major contribution to the winning effort. Gaye Stewart, Dud Poile and Shep Mayer combined for 3 goals and 4 assists.

In Montreal, there was a similar story. Between the Habs and Bruins, four players were making their first appearance in the National Hockey League. New to the Bruins roster were Bill Shill, Don Gallinger and Jack Schmidt.

Although there was only one rookie to crack the Canadiens line-up, he turned out to be a significant find. The player in question was Maurice "Rocket" Richard. And it didn't take him long to become involved in the scoring. The first goal was scored in the first-minute of play by Tony Demers. Assisting on the goal was Richard.

The Bruins and Canadiens entered period two knotted at a goal apiece. Montreal took over in the second period building-up a 3-1 lead. The Habs limited Boston to one goal in the third, thus winning the contest 3-2.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Baz Bastien : A Training Camp to Forget

 With NHL training camps coming to a close, coaches and players prepare for the upcoming 2011-12 campaign. While veteran players worked on their timing and getting into game shape, rookies made every effort to impress and earn a spot on the opening night roster. The goal of all concerned was to avoid any serious injuries.

During training camp for the 1949-50 season, goalie Baz Bastien suffered a devastating injury that would bring his playing career to a sudden end.

After playing for the Toronto Marlboros in the OHA Sr. "A" League, Bastien joined the Cornwall Flyers (QSHL) in 1942-43. Like many individuals, Bastien's life went in another direction when he enlisted for military service during World War Two. When he returned in time for the 1945-46 hockey season, he found employment with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

With Turk Broda in the service, the Maple Leafs turned to rookie Frank McCool as their starting netminder for the 1944-45 season. McCool, a native of Calgary, Alberta didn't disappoint Conn Smythe and coach Hap Day. Of the 50 games he played in the Toronto goal, McCool posted a 24-22-8 record with 4 shutouts.

His outstanding play continued into the playoffs. In 13 contests, he won 8 and lost 5 with a 2.23 average. Of his 8 victories, 4 were shutouts. The 1945 Stanley Cup Final went to 7 games, with McCool and his teammates winning the deciding game 2 to 1 against Detroit in the Olympia. In addition to winning Lord Stanley, McCool was named winner of the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie.

Baz Bastien
Playing at the top-of-his-game, McCool's, biggest challenge - negotiating a new contract - was still ahead of him. He quickly found out it was much easier to face Rocket Richard than an NHL owner. To make matters worse, his opponent in this battle was Conn Smythe.

As the 1945-46 hockey year started, the Leafs were missing both Broda and his replacement, Frank McCool. Without a new deal, McCool was absent from training camp and not in the opening night line-up. When Toronto played their first regular season game on October 27, 1945, their was a new sheriff defending the Leafs goal - Baz Bastien. Fresh off his military service, Bastien was recruited by Leaf management with hopes he could repeat McCool's success from the previous season.

Starting his first National Hockey League game at home in Maple Leaf Gardens, Bastien and the Leafs played Boston to a 1-1 draw.

The Globe and Mail gave Bastien a good review for his opening night performance. "Facing organized NHL firing for the first time, Baz Bastien handled his assignment in good style. He had more work than Paul Bibeault, the ex-Leaf, at the other end of the rink. But neither goalie was overworked."

The only Bruin to beat Bastien was right winger Bill Shill.

On November 1, the Leafs hit the road for a tilt against the Montreal Canadiens. The defending Stanley Cup champions fell 4-2 to the Habs. As expected, with the first defeat of the new year, Hap Day was questioned about his goaltending situation. "Have you sent for McCool yet?" asked one member of the media. Not wanting to add further pressure upon his rookie, Day deflected attention away from his goalie. "No. Bastien played very well indeed. Canadiens have three lines with centres like Lach, O'Connor and Reay. I think if anything, they're stronger than last year," said the Leaf coach.

In game three on the 1945-46 schedule, the Leafs played host to the New York Rangers. Once again, the Leafs failed to support their first-year goalie as the Rangers coasted to a 4-1 victory.

On November 4, Toronto travelled to Chicago for an encounter against the Hawks. And things didn't get any better for the visitors. Chicago pounced on the Leafs and took a 3-0 lead by the 19-minute mark of the first period. They went on to trounce Toronto 7-4. Of course, all eyes were once again on Bastien. One scribe suggested Toronto's slogan was now "Keep cool, boys, without McCool, the worst is yet to come.

The era of Baz Bastien as the Leafs goalie came to an conclusion following their next game. Just as his time in the NHL started against Boston at Maple Leaf Gardens, it would end versus the Bruins at home. On November 7, Boston downed Toronto 4-3. The brunt of fan frustration towards the Leafs slow start fell squarely on Bastien. There were chants of "Bring back McCool" and Bastien heard from the boo-birds late in the game.

When the Leafs played in Detroit on November 8 to tangle with the Red Wings, they had a new starting in their line-up, Gordie Bell. Although there was a new face in the Leafs net, the result was the same. The Wings skated to a 3-2 win.

The contract dispute between McCool and the Leafs was resolved on November 21, 1945. On February 6, 1946, Turk Broda returned to action after spending three years in the military. The Leafs and Broda had to settle for a 3-3 tie against the Bruins in Boston Garden. Broda surrendered his first National Hockey League goal since the 1943 playoffs. He was beaten by a 30-foot shot off the stick of Boston defenceman Murray Henderson in the opening frame.

Following his stay with the Maple Leafs, Bastien was assigned to play for the Pittsburgh Hornets in the American Hockey League. From 1945-46 to 1948-49, Bastien spent most of his time guarding the Hornets net. In 1946-47, he split his time between Pittsburgh and the Hollywood Wolves of the PCHL. He was named to the AHL First All-Star Team in 1947, 1948 and 1949. In 1948 and 1949, Bastien had the fewest-goals-against in the AHL, thus earning him back-to-back Hap Holmes Memorial Awards.

In September 1949, Bastien and his Pittsburgh teammates were attending training camp in Welland, Ontario. During a training session, Don Clark took a shot from the blue line. Unfortunately, Bastien never saw the incoming shot which struck him in the face. The stricken goalie was transported to Welland Hospital where Dr. Henry McRea performed an operation to remove Bastien's right eye.

"I guess I've had it as far as goaltending is concerned, but I'm certainly not through with this game. I like hockey too much to drop it now and although I don't know exactly what I can do to stay with it I think I will find something," said Bastien concerning his future.

On October 17, 1949, the Maple Leafs and Hornets held a benefit night in Pittsburgh with proceeds going to assist Baz Bastien. A small crowd of 3,225 took in the game. It is believed many stayed away due to a steel strike. The parent club shutout Pittsburgh by a score of 4-0. A total of $4,804 was raised.

Bastien's goal of remaining in the game was accomplished on December 31, 1949. It was announced he would be taking over the coaching duties in Pittsburgh. His predecessor, Bob Davidson, would return to the Toronto management team

Aldege "Baz" Bastien remained in  the game until his death in 1983.