Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Howie Morenz Jr: The Name Game

One can only imagine the immense pressure.

First, there was the sad and difficult experience of having to deal with the sudden passing of your beloved father. The first undisputed superstar produced by the National Hockey League. A dad you shared with hockey fans all across the world. A dad whose name just happened to be Howie Morenz.

Secondly, there was the subsequent period of having to contend with the glare of the public spotlight being pointed directly in your path.

Following the passing of Howie Morenz on March 8, 1937 the Montreal Canadiens concluded their NHL commitments and headed out to Canada's east coast to take part in a Maritime hockey tour. Joining them on this trip was ten-year-old Howie Morenz Jr. In the final encounter, played in Moncton, New Brunswick on April 13, 1937, young Howie dazzled 5,000 spectators by scoring a goal.

The media, jumping all over this story, reported on the adventures of Howie Jr. Although this was only an exhibition series, along with the fact Morenz was still a boy, didn't prevent conversation on his future in the game. Writing in the April 14, 1937 edition of The Toronto Daily Star, Red Burnett provided his readers with this assessment. "Young Howie Morenz Jr. is showing early signs of hockey greatness. Like his late father the 10-year-old youngster appears to have the happy knack of knowing the shortest way to the goal."

In the fall of 1937, the Montreal Forum played host to the Howie Morenz Memorial Game The contest featured a collection of NHL All-Stars versus the Montreal All-Stars. For many, the highlight of this event took place when Howie Morenz took to the ice and skated with teammates who once shared the space with his dad.

There are good times and bad when an individual is the focus of public scrutiny and the Morenz family couldn't escape the negative side of being well known members of society. In mid-November of 1937, Howie's mother, Mary, received several disturbing telephone calls from unknown persons. The purpose of these contacts only inflicted more pain and tension to an already distraught household.

During the initial call, Mrs. Morenz was told to "be on your guard" as a plot was in motion to "snatch" her son. As a result, Howie Morenz received protection from the Montreal Police Department. The detectives assigned to investigate the matter speculated the threats came due Morenz participating in the Memorial game.

At the age of sixteen, Morenz continued to hear the comparisons with his legendary dad. This is clearly documented in a piece penned by the Vancouver Sun's Charles Edwards on November 20, 1942. The Vancouver scribe wrote, "Young Howie has the same sloping shoulders, the same deep through the chest look, that distinguished the late Canadiens star." In reply to a question concerning his dad's greatest asset as a hockey player, the tremendous speed he could generate when skating, Morenz stated, "I don't think I am anywhere near that speed."

Baz O'Meare of the Montreal Star set lofty goals for Morenz when he wrote, "there will come a night when high drama will ride the lists and young Howie will skate out with the lucky seven number on his sweater, the number that has never been worn by any Canadien since his dad passed on."

In October of 1943, Morenz joined the Montreal Jr. Canadiens in the QJHL. The jump from playing for Catholic High School to junior hockey was a major step and reflected his talents as a player. However, the comparisons to his dad weren't far behind. A story published in the Calgary Herald (dateline Montreal) on October 21, 1943 heralded his ascension up the hockey ladder. "Howie Morenz Jr., will play for the Canadiens in the junior amateur hockey association loop here this season, maintaining the Canadien tradition of his famous National Hockey League father, it was announced Tuesday."

Morenz spent four-years in the Quebec Junior Hockey League with Montreal. His best season came in 1946-47 when produced 42 goals in 27 games.

Following his time in junior, Morenz graduated to the Montreal Royals of the Quebec Senior League. In an interview with writer Len Bramson, Morenz addressed the question of his ability to turn pro being linked to the family name. "I know a lot of people think I am living off of my father's publicity, that's as ridiculous as it is stupid. When my dad died I was only 10-years-old up until that time I had a lot of privileges that other kids didn't have, but after he died I had to come the rest of the way by myself just like the rest of the fellows did, step by step."

His crack at professional hockey came in1948-49 with the Dallas Texans of the United States Hockey League. In 60 games, he notched 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points. This would be his only stint at the pro level.

Recently, I sat down with Howie Morenz Jr. to discuss his dad and his own life in hockey.

You were only 12-years-old when your dad passed away. Did you ever see him play in a National Hockey League game?

 I saw my father play in two hockey games. That was it. I was going to school and couldn't go to many games. By the time they got out of the Forum it was kind of late at night and a lot of times the players arranged to go out and eat with their wives. It would have interfered with my schooling. I don't know how much I should have been impressed, but he was playing well. He was fast.

Following the 1936-37 season, the Montreal Canadiens embarked on a Maritime hockey tour visiting Canada's east coast. You played with the team during their trip out east. What was that experience like?

 By golly, I played with all the oldtimers Aurel Joliat, Pit Lebine, Johnny Gagon, Albert Leduc and Lionel Conacher who played for the Montreal Maroons. Joffre Desilets, there is a name that crops up. He didn't stay in the league long, but he was a very nice gentleman. We had an incident going across from the mainland to Prince Edward Island. Three players were standing up - Aurel Joliat, Albert Leduc and Johnny Gagon - by the bow of the boat. The nose would rise-up and go crashing down on the ice. They didn't expect this and they were all standing wearing their raccoon coats which were a favourite in those days. They all ended up looking like a bunch of drowned rats with their fedoras capped with ice, snow and water! (Laughing!).

At the young age of 16, people were making comparisons between yourself and your dad. Did you feel pressure to follow in his footsteps?

 Well sure.  I always tried my best and enjoyed hockey. During the wintertime on the outdoor rink, I used to skate every night. After school I would do my homework, then bingo I was out on the rink. I loved hockey. Unfortunately, I wasn't another second-coming.

After playing for Catholic High School, you joined the Montreal Junior Canadiens in 1943 and were coached by former NHLer Wilf Cude. It must have been a big thing in your career to take the next step?

 Your stepping-up in class there. A lot of good young hockey players were in that league. I played four-years in junior and I had one really great year which made everyone think I was going to be the second-coming, but it didn't happen.

As you started in junior, your mom was quoted as saying you "will be larger than your dad because he continues to grow like a weed." You must have been very close to your mom following your dad's passing?

 Oh yes. My mother God Bless her, had a rough time after my dad died. She had a young family with three children, but we survived. Mom met another gentleman about three years later and they got married. His name was George Pratt. He became a step-father to me and treated us all well.

While still in junior, you had the opportunity to play in several benefit games which involved the Montreal Canadiens. Usually, you would play on the opposing team. In April 1946, you skated for an All-Star team which played the Habs. You got to play with the likes of Billy Taylor and Bob Goldham that must have been fun for a young player like yourself?

 Absolutely. It is funny you mentioned Bob Goldham because he is the one I remember most. He spent all kinds of time talking to me. I really appreciated that fellow.

In 1947-48, you moved to the QSHL with the Montreal Royals. Was it difficult making the jump from junior to senior hockey?

 I didn't have a particularly good year in '47-'48. I don't know why I didn't get to play with them a second season. I guess they (Frank Selke and the NHL Canadiens) were in a hurry to see what I was going to do as competition got a little tougher. So, they sent me to Dallas.

In Dallas during the 1948-49 season did you still hear the comparisons to your dad?

 There was a lot of propaganda when I first got there. The team got very little notice in the papers.

After one season playing professional for the Dallas Texans, you returned to the QSHL for a brief stint with the Valleyfield Braves in 1949-50.

 I had an accident while playing in a game. At the time, they put up glass partitions behind the nets and took away the chicken wire. I carried the puck into the offensive zone and a defenceman ran me into the post which was supporting the glass. I was knocked-out colder than a mackerel. They carried me off the ice and I came to in the dressing room. I started to have vision troubles. The club sent me to see Dr. Bromley Moore. He wrote Mr. Selke advising him I shouldn't continue playing hockey. If I got hit in my left eye in a fight, by a stick or a puck, any kind of accident, I would lose my eye. Selke told me he didn't want me to play with the Montreal Canadiens because if I got hurt in such a fashion after what happened to my dad, it wouldn't be good for hockey and it wouldn't be good for the Montreal Canadiens. He told me if I wanted to play for someone else on my own, they wouldn't interfere. I went and played in the provincial league and I got more money playing there than I did for the Montreal Canadiens.

Did you have a favourite Canadiens player after your dad's passing?

 I liked them all. As I got older, I started to measure the value of players. Then, players like Rocket Richard and Elmer Lach came along - all the great ones.

Your dad's death was a very public event. Did it help you deal with things?

 It helped me in my day-to-day life after I finished playing hockey. I was a curiosity because of his fame. It helped me a lot.

What did your dad teach you about the game?

 Skating. He started me at three-years-old and built a rink in the lane way which had to be used by cars and delivery wagons which came around at that time. The milkman. The breadman. He flooded it and no one drove over the rink made by Howie Morenz! He got me a pair of what was referred to after as cheese-cutters. Those were the skates you strapped to your shoes and they had two runners like a sleigh. You really had to run rather than skate. He was out there saying "No, no, you cut this way, cut that way." Finally, I got the hang of it. He took me down to CCM and they made me a real pair of skates. Then, I really got into it as I could skate fast.

In late December of 1950, your dad was at the top of the list of a Canadian Press poll naming Canada's greatest hockey player for the first-half of the century. Was this the greatest honour bestowed upon your dad?

 And how. Everybody I met after that, new and old, all said it was something I should remember all my life and I certainly do.

Tell us about introducing you sister, Marlene, to Boom Boom Geoffrion in 1951.

 She use to practice skating at the Montreal Forum and that is where they first met. I acted as an interpreter for them. Boomer's English wasn't good at the time, but he appreciated the fact I could speak French, so we got along okay.

What do think of the next generation with Blake Geoffrion of Nashville carrying on the family tradition?

 I've never seen him play. I hope he does real well because Bernie was a great player and I hope he inherited some of his talents.

What is your fondest memory in regards to your dad?

 It actually happened in the summertime. We were taking part in a regatta. He and a bunch of players got into a canoe race which they won by the way. The officials refused to recognize their win because they were professional athletes. We had a swim meet, which I didn't win, but came in second. I won a little trophy. He was happier than you can imagine.

Howie Morenz Sr.

Howir Morenz Jr. - 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Close Shave

Over the past month, many people in the hockey community have focused on men's health issues via the Movember campaign. Men were encouraged to grow facial hair in support of the cause. In Toronto, former Maple Leaf Wendel Clark shaved his legendary growth, then started the process of letting his "Mo" grow back.

As the month comes to a close, many guys will be picking-up their razors so they can return to their normal look. In conjuction with this, I found several vintage advertisements which are timely for the occasion.

The above ad features the centre of the Leafs famed Kid Line, Joe Primeau. It dates back to 1936.

Using the clever tag of "Five NHL Goalies Face-Off", this ad from the Original Six era includes Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk of the 1967 Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs. Between the Leaf netminding duo and the Canadiens tandem of Gump Worsley and Charlie Hodge, is New York's Ed Giacomin.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dr. Leith Douglas 1931-2011

Yesterday, Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun reported on the passing of Dr. Leith Douglas on September 15, 2011 at the age of 80. For 36 years, Dr. Douglas served as the Toronto Maple Leafs plastic surgeon. Story.

As pointed out in the Sun, Dr. Douglas was often captured on camera by those tuning in to view a Leaf game on television. Seated beside the Leaf bench, he would open and close the bench door as the club made line changes.

In his 1991 autobiography, "Sittler" (Sittler/Chris Goyens/Allan Turowetz), Darryl Sittler shed some insight on what it was like to be treated by Dr. Douglas. Then playing for the Detroit Red Wings, Sittler was in Toronto for a contest against his former club, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The early season game was played on October 1984. After being hit from behind by the Leafs Jim Korn in the final period of play, Sittler knew instantly he had suffered a serious injury.

Describing the injury, Sittler wrote, "my upper checkbone and bone around my eye socket had been broken in three places and my eye had slipped further into the socket."

Coming off the ice, the ex-Leaf captain sought medical attention from the Toronto plastic surgeon. Recognizing the seriousness of the injury, Dr. Douglas immediately had Sittler transported to hospital. As pointed out by Sittler, it was his experience that club doctors never disclose how bad an injury is to a player, until later in the process. This allows the player time to adjust mentally to his situation and time for the injury to stabilize.

Having spent the bulk of his playing time in Toronto, there is little doubt Sittler knew he was in good hands with Dr. Douglas on the case. Full Obituary.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 12, 1931

November 12, 1931.

In the scheme of things, it was just another day on the calender.

The morning paper indicated the city of Toronto was due to get milder temperatures, but scattered showers were also expected.

Opening The Globe newspaper, readers were greeted with news concerning Remembrance Day activities. A headline read, "Poppies and Laurel On Thousand Stones Prove Remembrance".

In Ottawa, a crowd of 50,000 took part in ceremonies. The first paragraph under the above mentioned heading set the mood. "For the thirteenth time, Canada stood momentarily silent today in mute recalling of that dramatic interlude on Nov. 11, 1918, when at 11 o'clock in the morning the magic order "Cease Fire" flashed across the thundering battlefields and brought peace to a war-weary world."

An advertisement for the McLaughlin Motor Car Co. Ltd. featured a 1931 McLaughlin-Buick Sedan. Billed as being a demonstrator with only 2,500 miles the asking price was $1200.

Another story of interest involved Dr. F.B. Mowbray who was one of the nations top surgeons. While conducting an operation, the good doctor collapsed and was given medical attention. Unfortunately, he didn't survive, passing away a sort time later.

On the local scene, a fire in the downtown core caused many people to stop and observe the fireworks. The two-story building located at 109 Victoria Street, became engulfed in flames when a fire broke out on the top floor. Responding in a timely fashion, fire crews successfully contained the blaze and fear of it spreading to adjoining buildings was averted.

With colder weather, readers were asked this question by Marvelube, the purest of motor oils, "Is your motor balky these cold mornings?"

Out west, the Regina Roughriders once again dominated senior football. The club won their sixth-straight Western Canada Senior Football championship by defeating Calgary 26-2.

In the Toronto Daily Star, a gallery of photographs filled an entire page. One photo of Academy Award winning actress Maria Dressler, pointed out she was born in Cobourg, Ontario. Another showed the All-Scottish Women's field hockey team strutting their stuff at the Westchester Country Club in New York State. A caption under the picture of the Hollywood Baby Orchestra pointed out no member was over the age of six.

At the Uptown Theatre, Lew Ayres had top-billing in "The Spirit of Notre Dame". The Tivoli was offering a preview of "The Dreyfus Case" with Cedric Hardwicke. Starting the next day, Loew's was screening "The Sin of Madelon Claudet". The text made certain to inform everyone the film was "introducing to the screen one of America's greatest stage stares - Helen Hayes."

The big news of the day for most of the folks living in Toronto could be found in the sports pages.

Reading a headline in The Evening Telegram, there was little doubt something big was about to happen on the Toronto sporting scene. If anyone forgot, the bold lettering supplied a reminder - "BLACK HAWKS MINUS MANAGER FOR OPENING OF GARDENS".

The Gardens in this case was Maple Leaf Gardens, located at the corner of Carlton and Church.

On November 12, 1931, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks played the very first hockey game in the soon-to-be historic building.

As indicated, Chicago came into Toronto at less than full strength from a management perspective. With Gregory Mathieson stepping down from his responsibilities, the role of coach and manager fell to a gentleman by the name of Iverson, who served as the Hawks physical director. As all this was going down, club secretary Bill Tobin, returned to the Windy City to consult with ownership. In the previous campaign, Chicago was guided by Dick Irvin.

No matter the blight of the visiting team, the new arena was front and centre. Writing in The Telegram, sports writer J.P. Fitzgerald had these words for hockey fans. "The opening of the new Maple Leaf Gardens to-night is a great step forward for hockey and hockey crowds. The class of hockey in this new home will not be any faster or better than in the old Arena, but it will give more people an opportunity to see this, the speediest game on earth in comfort."

National Hockey League President Frank Calder was quoted as saying, "Maple Leaf Gardens, the new home of Toronto Maple Leafs, in my opinion sets a new standard in construction of arenas suitable for hockey and kindred entertainment. It is a stands as a monument to the ingenuity of those who devised and planned it, and to the courage of those who in these days of timidity saw it through."

In an amazing feat, Conn Smythe and his management/ownership team moved the project forward to completion in five months during very tough economic times!

Legendary writer Ted Reeve writing in his column, "Sporting Extras", gave his readership the scoop directly from those in-the-know. "From what the boys tell us, it is a marvellous place, built on most modern lines and supplied with everything including an echo."

Due to the new hockey palace receiving a tremendous build-up, the game itself took a backseat to the pomp and circumstance surrounding the opening of the Maple Leaf Gardens.With political dignitaries in attendance and doing what they do best, talking, hockey fans were eager for the action to get underway.

For those who couldn't go to the game, they could at least follow the opening ceremonies and play-by-play action on the radio. With Foster Hewitt planted in the gondola fifty-two above ice level, the contest was broadcast over CFCA (8:30pm) and CKGW (9:00pm) radio.

The first goal in Maple Leaf Gardens was scored by Chicago's Mush Marsh at 2:30 of the first period. The Telegram described the historic goal in the following manner, "March got in fast and was Johnny on the spot for a pass from Cook to flip the puck over the bending Chabot." Of interest, March scored the final NHL goal at Arena Gardens on Mutual Street, when the Leafs and Chicago battled in the playoffs the previous spring.

Scoring the initial goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their new home was Charlie Conacher. According to news reports, the Leafs were buzzing around the Chicago zone most of the contest, but the Hawks stayed close to their checks not allowing many scoring chances. If the Leafs did break through the Chicago defence,  goalie Charlie Gardiner was up to the challenge. The Leafs out shot their opponent 51 to 38. The only player to beat him was Conacher. At 18:42 of the middle frame, the famed right winger of Toronto's Kid Line "accepting a pass from Joe Primeau, drilled a beautiful shot into the corner of the net," as described in The Globe.

A piece in The Evening Telegram best summed-up the entire affair of the grand opening and the game. "Well, you can't have everything and doubtless the Leafs will show better hockey when a bit of the shine wears off on the new furniture. Any way, it was a great house warming and those who were in charge of handling the monster crowds, both inside and out, deserve credit for the minimum of inconvenience which was caused to customers."

Today, marks the 80th anniversary of that very special evening on Thursday November 12, 1931. From that date to 1999, when the Leafs departed and the final National Hockey League game was played in the house built by Conn Smythe, an entire nation has banked a vault full of memories and dreams.

Happy 80th, Maple Leaf Gardens!!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Maple Leaf Forever

In Days of yore,
From Britain's shore
Wolfe the dauntless hero came
And planted firm Britannia's flag
On Canada's fair domain.
Here may it wave,
Our boast, our pride
And joined in love together,
The thistle, shamrock, rose entwined,
The Maple Leaf Forever.

The Maple Leaf
Our Emblem Dear,
The Maple Leaf Forever.
God save our Queen and Heaven bless,
The Maple Leaf Forever.

At Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane
Our brave fathers side by side
For freedom's home and loved ones dear,
Firmly stood and nobly died.
And so their rights which they maintained,
We swear to yield them never.
Our watchword ever more shall be
The Maple Leaf Forever

Our fair Dominion now extends
From Cape Race to Nootka Sound
May peace forever be our lot
And plenty a store abound
And may those ties of love be ours
Which discord cannot sever
And flourish green for freedom's home
The Maple Leaf Forever

On merry England's far-famed land
My kind Heaven sweetly smile
God bless Old Scotland evermore
And Ireland's Emerald Isle
Then swell the song, both loud and long
Till rocks and forest quiver
God save our Queen and Heaven Bless
The Maple Leaf Forever

~By Alexander Muir, 1867, Original Lyrics~

Ever since Conn Smythe first purchased the Toronto St. Pats and renamed them the Maple Leafs, Muir's "Maple Leaf Forever" has closely been associated with the hockey team. It has become a timed-honoured tradition on each opening night of a new season that it be played by the 48th Highlanders during pre-game ceremonies.

The following editorial ran in The Globe following the Leafs Stanley Cup win in 1932. It was their first season in Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Globe - April 11, 1932.


 The capture by the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Stanley Cup, emblematic of the professional ice-hockey championship, will send a reassuring thrill, not only through Toronto, but throughout all Canada. The centre of the hockey-playing population has been shifting southward so swiftly in recent years that there has been some wonder as to whether or not hockey pre-eminence would remain long in Canada. The laurels are in safe hands another year. Canada is first.

The Maple Leaf forever.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bill Barilko: Another Chapter

It is the type of news which immediately grabs your attention. Sure, the story may have been cold for an amount of time, but emotions quickly bubble to the surface with word of new developments.

Such was the case last month.

Any news relating to Bill Barilko of late usually surrounds an anniversary of a past event. In April, the hockey world celebrated the 60th anniversary of Barilko's famous playoff overtime goal on April 21, 1951, which captured the Stanley Cup for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

On October 16, 2011, a fresh new chapter was written. The wreckage of the Fairchild piloted by Dr. Henry Hudson and carrying Bill Barilko, returned to Porcupine Lake in northern Ontario. It was from there the two set-out on a doomed fishing trip in August 1951. On the return flight, the plane dropped from the sky and disappeared with no signs as to its location. The journey back home in mid-October was both historical and emotional. The story coming full-circle after sixty-years had passed.

Of course, this is only one of many chapters concerning this aspect of the story. Back in 1962, when the wreckage was first discovered and the human remains returned to the families, I was too young for the entire matter to register in my thought process. Throughout the years, I have been totally captivated by the Bill Barilko story. Any reference to his name, verbal or written, would peak my interest. In 1988, I devoured John Melady's book on the Leaf defenceman called Overtime, Overdue: The Bill Barilko Story. In 2004, I could hardly wait for the release of Kevin Shea's Barilko - Without a Trace.

Last week, I decided to go back in time. I wanted to experience what it was like to follow the Barilko story as it unfolded back in 1962, when the initial sighting took place.

In order to accomplish this, I made a visit to the Newspaper Reading Room in the Toronto Reference Library. I was ready to immerse myself in the news from 1962. Drifting back to an era when there were limited media sources and the written word ruled supreme.

The first headline I came across in the Toronto Daily Star on the subject of the renewed efforts to locate the Barilko crash site was on January 2, 1962. Situated beneath a photo of Princess Margaret greeting Frank Sinatra at Royal Festival Hall in London, the enlarged bold lettering caused me to take a deep-breath. It read, "Barilko Plane Believed Spotted In Barren Bush Near James Bay." The text detailed the exploits of pilot Gary Fields and his search for the wreckage. He discovered a "glinting heap of metal," but didn't take any bearings as to the exact location. As described in the headline, the area was barren bush, thus there were no points of interest to identify a specific spot.

On June 2nd, Fields and two forest rangers were expected to take to the air with one goal in mind - find the wreckage and bodies of Dr. Hudson and Bill Barilko.

With no Toronto Daily Star being published on Sunday, the next news on the search appeared the following day on Monday June 4, 1962. A short article, located under the Crossword Puzzle provided an update for readers. District forester Ted Hall, informed everyone as to the current status of their findings. For those expecting immediate results, the news would be disappointing. The search involving a beaver plane and helicopter were unable to spot the wreckage.

A fitting story beside the puzzle, under the banner, "Medications Can Relieve Depression", seemed like appropriate reading material for those following the sad tale.

The next breaking news of substance on the activity taking place up north was splashed across the front page of the Toronto Daily Star on Thursday June 7, 1962. The headline is both stunning and powerful. One can only imagine the impact it had on those following the story right from late summer of 1951 when news of the crash became public. Eleven-years later, their eyes were glued to seven simple, but gut-wrenching words, "The Long Search Ends - Find Barilko's Plane."

A photograph of a smiling Bill Barilko accompanied the piece, along with a caption which read "11-year mystery over."

As if this wasn't enough, the sub-headline above the story brought a jarring jolt which usually comes when being told bad news. The finality it implies is tough to swallow - "2 Bodies Strapped In Seats" - and the focus quickly sifts to Bill Barilko and Dr. Henry Hudson.

The content of the article is staggering and devastating. "The Skeletons were strapped in seat belts in the plane, partly submerged in swampy water, and the two men apparently were killed on impact," detailed one paragraph.

At this stage, I could only think of the Barilko family and their state of mind when told of the discovery. It must have been a relief to bring Bill's remains home and lay him to rest. Hand-in-hand with this is the trauma of experiencing the entire matter once again. The benefits of an 11-year buffer zone supplying little consolation. The stark reality of the situation making the crash seem as though it only happened.

All these thoughts came to mind as I sat in the library. The story took on a personal nature as I slumped back in my chair and took a break to soak in what I just read. Having meet Bill's sister, Anne Barilko-Klisanich this past June, I thought about the pain she must have endured from 1951 to 1962 and beyond. Lost in my thoughts, I suddenly recalled my conversation with Anne. Her stories about Bill and their shared times together helped to distract me from the horrible events surrounding the crash.

Checking the sports section of the Toronto Daily Star for June 2, 1962, it served as a  reminder that life goes on. Although it was the hockey off-season, the sports pages were not void of information pertaining to Toronto's boys of winter. The legendary Milt Dunnell, writing in his column, Speaking on Sport, provided his readers with updates on several Maple Leafs. Dunnell passed along word Leaf centre Billy Harris was starting a new job with a catering company. Also, Toronto left winger Frank Mahovlich was about to be married, but the date was being withheld to keep the unwanted at bay.

The previous day, the National Hockey League conducted their annual meetings in Montreal. The big news for Toronto hockey fans concerned Bert Olmstead. Being a key member of the freshly minted Stanley Cup champions for 1961-62, Olmstead's services were lost to the New York Rangers who claimed the veteran off the Leafs roster during the draft.

In the period from 1951 to 1962, Toronto's hockey franchise struggled on the ice, with Barilko's goal representing their final date with Lord Stanley's silver mug. As though it were destiny, with the Leafs winning the Cup in 1962, the remains of its last playoff hero were recovered.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Close, but no Cigar!

On Wednesday night, Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul recorded his first hat trick for the Blue & White. All three goals were scored in the middle frame against New Jersey's Martin Brodeur.

If Lupul had been successful in notching one more tally, he would have equalled an achievement set by Leaf left winger Harvey "Busher" Jackson seventy-seven-years-ago. On November 20, 1934, Jackson became the last Toronto player to score four goals in one period.

In a wild contest against the St. Louis Eagles, Jackson accomplished this feat by beating goalie Bill Beveridge four-times in the third period..

The Leafs entered the final period trailing St. Louis by a score of 2-1. With his team down by a goal, Jackson went to work early to pull the Leafs even. At the 80-second mark, Jackson's shot found the back of the St. Louis goal.

Harvey "Busher" Jackson
At 5:45, Jackson's back-hand shot gave Toronto a one goal advantage. It was the first lead for the Maple Leafs in the game.

Jackson completed his hat trick midway through the period, with Charlie Conacher and Nick Metz gaining assists. On the play, Beveridge "was drawn out of the cage by a melee in front of the net." With the goalie out of position, Metz passed the puck to Conacher. Following a pass from Conacher, Jackson flipped the puck into the net.

As the game was winding down, Jackson continued with his hot streak. Two St. Louis players, Bill Cowley and Irv Frew, were in the penalty box when Jackson struck for his fourth goal of the game. Earning assists on the power play goal were Conacher and Harold "Baldy" Cotton.

Fireworks in this game wasn't limited to Jackson's exploits. Police intervention was required in the second period "to calm the players" after several fights erupted. The first fight-card featured a battle between Cotton and St. Louis player Scotty Bowman (we know what you are thinking!). Charlie Conacher, who appeared to be a dominating force in this contest, entered the fisticuffs to help out his teammate.

The main bout cast Leaf defenceman Red Horner against Desse Roche. Following their exchange on the ice, the two combatants continued their physical tussle in the penalty box.

It will be interesting to see if any other Maple Leaf comes close to matching or breaking Jackson's four goal period in 1934.