Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An Honour for Bob Goldham

On Thursday June 16, 2011, family and friends of the late Bob Goldham gathered for his induction into the Halton Hills Sports Museum. The Hall of Fame induction Gala took place in Christ the King Secondary School. The former National Hockey League defenceman became a member in the athlete category.

Bob Goldham was born in Georgetown, Ontario on May 12, 1922. His mother Flora, managed the family home and carried out her responsibilities as a homemaker. On Main Street, Henry Goldham worked as a butcher, providing his family with food and shelter. Bob Goldham gained his education while attending Georgetown High School and Northern Vocational High School in Toronto. As a youngster, he excelled in several sports including lacrosse, rugby/football, track & field and basketball. Like most Canadian kids, Goldham also had a desire to play hockey. And in the late 1930s, there was no better place than Georgetown for a player to work on his game in a structured environment.

In 1936 a local citizen, Gordon Alcott, started a youth hockey organization in Georgetown. Sponsored by the Canadian Legion, the league was named the Little NHL. A total of 150 boys ranging in age from 8 to 13 years took part in the action. On Saturday mornings, the Little NHLers would take over the Georgetown Memorial Arena. At the midget level, teams were named after clubs in the National Hockey League. Bob Goldham suited-up for the Georgetown Leafs. Rosters were supplied with replica sweaters which matched their NHL counterparts.

From these beginnings, Goldham never failed to recognize the impact Gordon Alcott's venture had on his early development in hockey. He was the first graduate from Georgetown's Little NHL to advance all the way to big league competition. Within the community, he became a hero and role model. Young or old, people looked up to and admired this homegrown portrait of success. The lad who lived on John Street was going places. This trait would follow Bob Goldham throughout his life.

Bob Goldham never forgot his roots. In the early 1940s, Alcott formed another Little NHL in Copper Cliff, Ontario. By this time, Goldham was serving in the military and skating for Toronto Navy (OHA-Sr.). In January 1943, Goldham and his Navy teammates were scheduled to play a contest in Copper Cliff. Arrangements were in place for Goldham to visit with members of the Little NHL. As Gordon Alcott pointed out in a correspondence to Mr. & Mrs. Goldham (Jan.23, 1943), "Bob was so very good to come out to the stadium, right from the train and without break feast. The youngsters were certainly pleased to see him and they have been talking about him all week."


Bob Goldham with players from the Little NHL in Copper Cliff, Ontario. Photo courtesy of the Goldham family
The season prior to Goldham's expedition to Copper Cliff  he played in his first National Hockey League game with the Toronto Maple Leafs. On January 26, 1942, newspaper reports informed the hockey public Goldham was being summoned from the Hershey Bears (AHL). In an attempt to shore-up the defence, Goldham got the call from Hap Day.





Goldham's first contest, a road game, occurred in Boston Garden on January 27, 1942. He arrived in Beantown on game day from Hershey. Although Toronto and Boston skated to a 0-0 draw, Goldham's name appeared for the first time on an official NHL summary sheet. In the second period, he was assessed a two-minute minor penalty for tripping Dutch Hiller.

In the final frame, Goldham led a rush up ice and fed "a perfect forward pass to Schriner (Sweeny), who banged one off  the net posts from eight feet out," wrote a scribe in the Globe and Mail. The next day, part of the Globe and Mail headline read, "Goldham Turns In Impressive Chore."


Over 12 NHL seasons (Toronto, Chicago & Detroit), Bob Goldham participated in 650 contests and recorded 171 points (28 goals & 143 assists). In the playoffs, he played 66 games, scoring 3 goals and adding 14 assists. Goldham captured hockey's grand prize by winning 5 Stanley Cups. He gained a spot on the NHL Second All-Star Team in 1955. Also, he played in 6 NHL All-Star Games. Goldham's final campaign in professional hockey came in 1955-56 with Detroit.

One of Goldham's greatest skills was blocking shots. "It is my opinion that Bob was the first in the league to implement the defensive style of blocking shots, which was tremendously complimentary to the goalkeeper, " notes Glenn Hall. The Hall of Fame goalie had a front row seat, from where he could observe teammate Bob Goldham performing his magic game in and game out.



As if being associated with one illustrious institution (the NHL) wasn't enough, Goldham became an on-air talent with Hockey Night in Canada. In his autobiography, "Walking with Legends", Ralph Mellanby the former executive producer, described Goldham's style as a broadcaster.


He had character and an innately likeable manner that really came through and contributed directly to his great popularity. He wasn't controversial, but he'd tell it the way he saw it - plainly, and never with an edge
.In June 1946, Goldham married Elinor Alicia Platt. The couple raised three daughters - Patricia, Susan and Barbara. To get some insight into Bob Goldham, the family man, his daughter Barb answered some questions for Hockey Then & Now via email.

We just celebrated Father's Day. Describe your dad as a father and person

 I know that everyone thinks their Dad is the best, but my Dad really was. He was such an amazing person and that made him an amazing father. He was an intelligent man and used to edit all of my essays, even in university. He was so kind and generous. He would take us Christmas shopping and buy us whatever we wanted. We loved it because he never looked at a price tag! A girl's dream come true. He was very funny. He had a huge repertoire of jokes that he loved to tell over and over and we would listen, like we had never heard them before! He could light up a room when he walked into it, and he made everyone feel special. He was sincere and genuine. You never doubted his feelings. He was extremely athletic, and very handsome. I was so proud of him. Whenever we were out in public I would proudly hold his hand and wanted everyone to know that my dad was Bob Goldham and I was very happy to be known as his daughter.

What was it like having a dad who appeared each week on the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast?

 Well I was in high school, so all my classmates thought it was pretty cool. They always asked me if we were really rich. So I would ask my Dad and he would say that the bit of extra money from Hockey Night in Canada helped buy things for up at our cottage. He was very low key about it. We would also go shopping at Yorkdale, and people were always pointing and staring at my Dad and he would giggle and if they asked him for his autograph he would gladly oblige. He was a real people person. All my friends and boyfriends adored him and loved hanging out with him!
 I also went to most Saturday night games with my mom. We would wait for my dad after the game outside the Leaf dressing room and every week I got a ton of autographs. I was a huge fan of Jim Dorey, and Darrly Sittler, but unfortunately they were older than I was.

If there is anything else you would like to add, please do so

 I am a teacher and now I just supply teach. When I go to school I always take my Dad's hockey cards so I can educate the kids about my special dad. They are all so interested and I give them the website for hockey legends so they can learn more about him!
 Also, he died at the very early age of 69, and a day doesn't go by that I don't talk about him or think about him. I retell his jokes, or will hear a song on the radio that reminds me of him.
 I just wish that he was still around. My daughters are both athletic and he would have loved to watch them at their sport. My eldest is an avid skier and has even worked at a ski hill in New Zealand for a season. My youngest is on a Volleyball scholarship at a Division 1 school in the States. Unfortunately he died when she was only 6 weeks old.

You must feel very proud to have your dad inducted into the Halton Hills Sports Museum?

 We are all very proud and extremely grateful that Doug Wellington made it possible. It was a great night and I will never forget it and neither will my husband or children.



A Family Photo. Left to Right - Rod (Barbara's husband), Leah (Rod & Barbara's daughter), Patricia (Bob's daughter), Jimmy (Patricia's son), Barbara (Bob's daughter), Ali (Rod & Barbara's daughter), Margaret (Goldham cousin), Anne (Margaret's daughter). Missing from the photo is Bob's daughter Susan, who was present for his induction ceremony. Photo by Ron Stiel.

As Barb alluded to, the driving force behind Bob Goldham's induction was Doug Wellington. A friend of the Goldham family, Doug is Bob's biggest supporter. If you require information concerning Bob, the first person that pops into your thought process is Doug. For this piece, he was most helpful in supplying research material. He is a true gentleman, who loves sports. Like Bob, he has a passion for the game of lacrosse.


 To recognize Doug's efforts, Barb (L) and Patricia (R) presented Doug with one of Bob Goldham's vintage lacrosse sticks. Photo by Ron Stiel.

Joining Bob Goldham and Gordon Alcott (Builder-Hockey) as inductees were - Bob Hooper (Builder-Hockey), Bert Zonneveld (Builder-Soccer), John Dallison (Builder-Tennis), Clive Llewellyn (Athlete-Wrestling), Gerry Inglis (Athlete/Builder-Hockey).

Doug, always the team player, requested the following individuals/companies be acknowledged for their contributions.

-Mr. Dave Kenter and the Georgetown Hockey Heritage Council
-Mr. Ron Lefevre, VP & Director of the Bob Goldham Memorial Christmas House League Tournament
-Mr. Finn Poulstrup, Chairperson Halton Hills Sports Museum
-Mr. Steve Forman, Vice Chairperson, HHSM
-Mr. Bruce Andrews, Curator, HHSM
-Mrs. Glenda Nixdorf, Director and Secretary, HHSM
-Mrs Theresa Campbell
-Sherwood Copy
-Endzone Sports
-McKab Taxi
-Peel Landscape Depot
-McDonald's Halton Hills
-Art Affects

Monday, June 27, 2011

Making a case for Bill Barilko

Tomorrow, the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee will gather to elect the class of 2011. Last November, I wrote a piece calling for changes in the structure of  the selection process. In particular, reinstatement of the veterans committee - Full Story.

With the passing of time and a new perspective, it would be an error for the Hall to not be reflective come selection time.

One of the players who has slipped through the cracks is Bill Barilko. His case is unique in so many ways. Due to circumstances, Barilko's consideration requires a creative approach and an appreciation for the history of our great game.

Bill Barilko was born on March 25, 1927 in Timmins, Ontario. The 5'11" defenceman, played his entire National Hockey League career with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In 252 regular season games, Barilko registered 62 points (26 goals & 36 assists) and amassed 456 penalty-minutes. His playoff stats reveal he skated in 47 contest, scoring 5 goals and 7 assists. Barilko racked-up 104 penalty-minutes in post-season action.

In his autobiography, "Golly Gee - It's Me!", Howie Meeker provides some insight on Barilko's impact when he joined the Maple Leafs. "Holy jumpin' jehoshaphat, the guy could hit and hit like a ton," writes Meeker. Playing his first NHL game in the Montreal Forum on February 6, 1947, Barilko took on Maurice "Rocket" Richard. His huge hit on Richard was a peek at things to come. As Meeker phrased it, "the addition of Bill Barilko gave us four mentally and physically tough defenceman whom you didn't want to go into the corner with. If you got any of them mad or came out of the corner with the puck, you were dead. At that time I just did not realize the value of the four tough guys on defence. Barilko was something else, a hard rock from the north."

The physical aspect associated with Barilko, represented only one facet of his game. His ability to block shots added another dimension to his portfolio. Also, Barilko had a yearning to become involved in the offence. The classic and ultimate example of this came in game five of the 1951 Stanley Cup final. Leaf coach Joe Primeau voiced his concerns to Barilko about his wandering too far up ice. "Bill had been committing himself too much on offence," stated the former centre on Toronto's famed Kid Line. Primeau threatened to fine "Bashing Bill" if he didn't heed more attention to his defensive responsibilities.


Bill Barilko
In the overtime of game five, Barilko engaged all his hockey-smarts to engineer the most thrilling and dramatic goal in Leafs history. Prior to entering the Montreal Canadiens zone on the Stanley Cup winning goal, Barilko remained on the neutral side of the blueline. He didn't cross the line until he committed himself to going into full-flight for a loose puck. At 2:53 of O/T, Bill Barilko and his teammates would become World Champions.

Also patrolling the Leafs blueline for part of the 1950-51 campaign (including the playoffs) was Fernie Flaman. The book on Flaman is very similar to Barliko. Both were known for their bone-rattling checks and skill for blocking pucks. Over a 17 year NHL career, Flaman produced 208 regular season points. His aggressive physical play resulted in 1370 penalty-minutes. Flaman recorded 12 playoff points in 63 matches, while Barilko managed 12 in 47. As teammates, both shared in the '51 Cup victory. Prior to this, Barilko won Lord Stanley's silverware in 1947, 1948 and 1949.

Fernie Flaman became an honoured member in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990. Joining him in the players category were Bill Barber and Gilbert Perreault.

Now, observe the Big-Fat-Imposing-Wrinkled-White-Elephant sitting in the room, squeezing out every available inch of space. This creature is enough to send those sitting on their selection chairs, fleeing in every direction from the Hall of Fame. It is the perfect excuse to cease all discussion concerning Bill Barilko joining the club. The "time-served" element is indeed represented the the Big-Fat-Imposing-Wrinkled-White-Elephant. It is the foremost and often repeated argument connected to any talk relating to Barilko's eligibility for hockey Sainthood.

Bill Barilko passed away after being involved in a plane crash during the summer of 1951. The Maple Leafs failed to win a Cup from '51 until 1962. Following their championship in '62, the remains of Bill Barilko were discovered in June 1962.

The tragic events in August 1951 took Billy Barilko from loved-ones and deprived hockey fans of watching this skilled and entertaining athlete. His short lived career was like reading an exciting and gripping mystery manuscript, which is half-finished, when the author suddenly dies. The immediate question asked by all is, "How was this story to end?" Would the writer lose his knack for storytelling and come up with a lame final chapter? Or, would the main character take hold with the readers and result in an extended series of books?

Time after time, these same questions are presented when Barilko and the Hall of Fame are mentioned in the same breath. The Big-Fat-Imposing-Wrinkled-White-Elephant won't budge. In Barilko's case, it is an unfair and unnecessary argument. The time-served debate is an easy-way-out for those in opposition of Barilko's admittance into the Great Hall. Verbal explanations are empty thoughts with as much meaning as a head shake or shrug of the shoulders.

The end of Bill Barilko's short period with Toronto did not come in the usual hockey manner. Most NHL players leave the game due to injury or retirement, when their skills have diminished. He was taken from this world and hockey at the very young age of twenty-four.

On June 13, 1934, came news of the sudden passing of Chuck Gardiner, a goaltender with the Chicago Black Hawks. Three days prior to his death, Gardiner collapsed from a brain hemorrhage. He died at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnpeg at the age of twenty-nine.

The similarities between Barilko and Gardiner are eerie. Both died following their teams winning the Stanley Cup. Barilko scored the clincher in '51 for Toronto. In a newspaper headline it was noted relating to Gardiner, "DEATH IS SEQUEL TO SPECTACULAR SEASON IN WHICH HIS TEAM WON THE STANLEY CUP." The Hawks captured hockey's grand prize in the spring of 1934.

The Canadian Press dispatch described  Gardiner as "Happy-Go-Lucky." Another media report portrayed him as "ever smiling, affable, a keen but fair competitor." The same qualities attributed to Bill Barilko.

Gardiner played a total of seven NHL seasons, Barilko five. The Chicago goalie was "at the peak of a seven-year career," wrote the Canadian Press. After four cups in five campaigns, Barilko was in the same mountain-range.

A contemporary of Gardiner's was netminder Roy Worters. He played in the NHL from 1925-26 to 1936-37 (12 seasons). Worters won the Hart Trophy in 1929 as a member of the New York Americans. This was followed by a Vezina win in 1931. He entered the Hall in  1969.

Chuck Gardiner was enshrined in 1945 along with ten other individuals. Was the time-served question raised when he was selected? Georges Vezina, who joined Gardiner in the class of '45, played a combined 16 seasons in the NHA and NHL. Did this have any bearing on consideration for Gardiner?

In the case of Bill Barilko, is a different standard being applied?  Gardiner's raw talent put him in the same standing as Worters and Vezina. The fact his life was cut short and his playing career wasn't as long, didn't appear to be a factor in relationship to his being worthy for the Hall of Fame. Fernie Flaman gets in, but Bill Barilko's nomination falls short?

As Howie Meeker wrote concerning those championship teams in Toronto during the late 1940s, "The defensive backbone of our team was Turk Broda in goal with Mortson (Gus), Thompson (Jimmy), Boesch (Garth) and Barilko on defence." Not one defenceman from the three-peat Cup squads of '47-'48-'49 is in the Hall.

The Big-Fat-Imposing-Wrinkled-White-Elephant is growing with each passing year. And the room is getting smaller and smaller.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The First Amateur Draft

Although the playing action may have come to an end, the hockey world continues to spin.

Today, the movers and shakers representing 30 NHL franchises, gather in Minnesota for the NHL Entry Draft. The event is considered to be one of the most important on the NHL calendar. Player selections made this weekend will help mold rosters and provide a ray of hope for the future.

The concept of an amateur draft for hockey was conceived in the Original Six era. The National Hockey League wanted to move away from having it's members sponsoring amateur clubs. Back in the day, Montreal and Toronto maintained a huge advantage when it came to securing young talent. Parents and their off-spring, given a choice, would elect to sign with the Canadiens or Maple Leafs. By doing so, they would be living the dream of every youngster who ever laved-up a pair of skates.

In order to spread out the talent pool, President Clarence Campbell convinced the owners to go along with his idea for an amateur draft. It was Campbell's theory that with each team getting a decent slice-of-the-pie, it would make for a stronger league. The weaker clubs, being first-in-line when the draft took place.

The first draft was held on June 5, 1963, at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. NHL general managers could select individuals who were born between August 1, 1946, and July 31, 1947. Basically, making it a draft of 16 year-olds. These kids were not on clubs sponsorship lists as of May 1, 1963.

As one can imagine, at this stage of the game, most prospects who showed any degree of skill or promise, were already under the control of an NHL club.

The selection order was based on league standings following the 1962-63 campaign. Perhaps, taking a glimpse into the future, Montreal appeared in the number-one-hole instead of the Boston Bruins who finished in the cellar. In subsequent drafts, the Habs demonstrated the ability to maneuver up-the-ladder to secure their desired draft choice. Remember Guy Lafleur in 1971?

In 1963, the Montreal Canadiens selected centre Garry Monahan with the number one pick. The rest of round one went like this.

2, Peter Mahovlich (Detroit)
3. Orest Romashyna (Boston)
4. Al Osborne (New York)
5. Art Hampson (Chicago)
6. Walt McKechnie (Toronto)

The entire draft lasted four rounds. In round three, Detroit passed on making a selection, perhaps serving as a commentary regarding the slim pickings. In round four, it was Chicago's turn to refrain from participating. Of interest, only five players made it to the NHL - Monahan, Mahovlich, McKechnie, Jim McKenny and Gerry Meehan.


As noted in the above headline, 21 twenty-one players were selected. The fee for each transaction was $2000. In a strange twist, names of those chosen in the draft, were not immediately made known to the press. According to NHL rules, the players couldn't be moved without their consent. Also, the clubs couldn't approach their new prospects about turning professional until they turned 18. When a player reached this age, his rights owner would have 72-hours to place him on a negotiation or A-form list.


Peter Mahovlich
In November 1963, Peter Mahovlich, who went second to Detroit, was profiled by the Toronto Daily Star. Peter, the brother of Leafs star left winger Frank Mahovlich, was a member of the Hamilton Red Wings (OHA Jr. A). In his first 12 games with Hamilton, 17 year-old Peter scored 9 goals and 9 assists. Like the "Big -M", the younger Mahovlich patrolled the left side. His linemates were Jim Peters and John Gofton.

The coach in Hamilton was the legendary Eddie Bush. "He makes better moves now than Frank did when he was a Junior," Bush was quoted as saying in the story. "His weakest point is checking, but he can skate, shoot and stickhandle. If the kid wants to be an NHLer, I think he can," Bush said in describing Mahovlich's strengths and weakness.

In addition to the new amateur draft, teams took part in the Intra-League Draft. The most active club in this regard was Detroit. The Red Wings claimed Irv Spencer (Boston), Ted Hampson (New York) and Art Stratton (Chicago). At the time, Hampson played for Baltimore in the AHL, while Stratton skated for the Buffalo Bisons.

The other news from the 1963 meetings concerned Doug Harvey, who was left unprotected by the New York Rangers. No other club decided to take the plunge for his services. As Boston general manager Lynn Patrick put it, "There were 50,000 reasons why we didn't take Harvey." The 50,000 being a reference to Harvey's $30,000 salary, plus $20,000 for putting in a claim.

The trade of the draft, involved Harvey's current and former NHL teams. In a blockbuster deal, the Canadiens sent Jacques Plante, Phil Goyette and Don Marshall to the New York Rangers. In return, Montreal obtained goalie Gump Worsley, Dave Balon, Len Ronson and Leon Rochefort.

On the coaching front, Billy Reay was hired by the Chicago Black Hawks to replace Rudy Pilous.

The Hockey Hall of Fame named four new members. In the officials category, Bobby Hewitson became the fifth referee to enter the Hall. Joining the Hall as Honoured Members were three outstanding players - Ebbie Goodfellow, Joe Primeau and Earl Seibert.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Q & A with Paul Harrison

Last week, I wrote about the last Stanley Cup final featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. The year was 1967.


Paul Harrison
The final time these two historical franchises met in playoff competition was in 1979. The Leafs and Habs tangled in a best-of-seven quarter-final series. The starting netminders in the final game were Ken Dryden for Montreal and Paul Harrison for Toronto.

Paul Harrison, a native of Timmins, Ontario, played his Junior hockey in southern Ontario with the Oshawa Generals. His first taste of pro hockey came in the 1975-76 campaign. On October 11, 1975, Harrison participated in his first National Hockey League game. With Philadelphia visiting Minnesota, Harrison started in goal for the North Stars. The Flyers were defending Stanley Cup champions - talk about being thrown into the fire!

The twenty year-old goalkeeper gave up his first NHL goal at 2:56 of period one. The goal scorer was Rick MacLeish. Philadelphia cruised to a 9-5 victory, with Harrison facing 36 shots.

Harrison played in a total of 109 regular season contests. He posted a 28-59-9 record (4.22 Average),  with two shutouts. In the playoffs, he got into four games (157 minutes) going 0-1 (3.44 Average).

Paul Harrison was kind enough to participate in a Q & A session with Hockey Then & Now.

Who was your favourite player when you were a youngster?

 I adored Terry Sawchuk and Glenn Hall growing up and tried to copy all their moves on the outdoor rinks.

Which team was your favourite?

 The Blackhawks were my team mostly because of Glenn Hall and later Tony "O".

What was the highlight of your first game?

 My first game was in in 1975 in Minnesota against the defending champion Philly Flyers. No highlights here! I got spanked 9-5. I was totally overwhelmed by being on the same ice surface as Bernie Parent and Bobby Clarke.

Who was the coach that had the greatest influence on your career?

 Roger Neilson was the best. Being an old goaltender himself, his drills were always built around the goaltenders needs and ran with high intensity. He would keep you involved in the game even if you weren't playing, by keeping stats and looking for weaknesses in the opposing goalie.

Who was the teammate you enjoyed playing with the most?

 Mike Palmateer was the most exciting goaltender that I have ever seen. He was great on and off the ice as a teammate and friend. I believe we worked well together by pushing ourselves to improve with the focus always on the team and winning.

Who was the toughest player you played against?

 Jacques Lemaire always seemed to score the big goals for Montreal and was a fierce competitor. By the time I got to play against Bobby Orr, his knees were bad. I played a few games against Wayne, but retired before he really could put up big numbers against me.

What was the major highlight of your career?

  Playing the last game ever played between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup playoffs. We lost 5-4 in overtime.

What do think of today's game?

 I love the speed and skill of today's NHL. The goaltenders remind me a lot of the old table hockey goalies, who block shots by moving around the crease in a very controlled motion. I still love the butterfly, agile, goalies like Thomas and Luongo.

What have you been up to since you hung-up your skates for good?

 I will be starting my 28th year in policing with the OPP in September and primarily work in drug prevention. I also work with Ontario minor hockey programs helping them to fund raise via the NHL Alumni Hockey Dream Draw. Check out http://www.hockeydreamdraw.ca/ for more info.

 ~

Of note, is Harrison's reference to the 1979 quarter-final series against Montreal.

With Montreal holding a commanding 3-0 series lead, game four was played in Maple Leaf Gardens on April 22, 1979. In the previous contest, Toronto's starting goalie, Mike Palmateer, suffered a serious injury to his left arm. Although he was able to finish the game (a 4-3 loss in O/T), surgery was required the following day. His services were lost for the remainder of the playoffs.

Paul Harrison got the nod for game four, as his club was one defeat away from elimination.

In his game report for the Toronto Star, Hall of Fame journalist Frank Orr described Harrison's performance.


Harrison delivered a stellar game of goaltending for the Leafs and, with two seconds to play in regulation time, made a one-a-season save on Canadiens' sniper Jacques Lemaire.
 Lemaire drove a a 20-foot blast past the Leaf goalie's pad but Harrison snapped it off with his glove. The Leaf bench cleared to congratulate the goalie.

The Maple Leafs lost to the Habs 5-4 in overtime. The Canadiens scored on a power play, when Tiger Williams was assessed a high-sticking penalty against Larry Robinson. As is often the case in situations of this nature, Robinson scored the winning tally at 4:14 of overtime.

After the game, came this quote from Canadiens coach Scotty Bowman. "I've been in hockey a long time but I don't think I've ever seen a better stop," Bowman told the gathering of media concerning Harrison's stop on Lemaire.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What if it happened in Toronto?

The old joke goes like this, "I went to the fights and a hockey game broke-out." Last Wednesday, a new version was hatched with the tag line being, "I went to a hockey game and a riot broke-out." As you all know, civil disobedience was all the rage following the Canucks game seven loss to Boston.

From a distance, it seemed as though the people in Vancouver had lost their heads. Was this a case of hockey fans exercising their frustration by igniting fires, engaging in physical warfare and looting? Or, the criminal element seizing the opportunity to reek havoc and mob mentality taking hold?

In Toronto, our rioting is reserved for G20 meetings. I got to thinking about what it would take to get Maple Leafs fans pouring out into the streets.

On the hockey front, Toronto has developed an apathy towards their boys of winter. Expectation levels do not include a Stanley Cup or even a playoff berth. The Leafs poor play and subsequent record have become the norm.

 What situation would cause Leafs Nation to hit the pavement and start rioting?

 A false newspaper report from April 2012 provides an unlikely and truly unbelievable scenario.

DOWNTOWN STREETS TURN INTO BATTLEFIELD - CITY ROCKED BY CIVIL UNREST

April 1, 2012
Toronto, Ontario

 For many people who call Toronto home,  it conjured up vivid memories of the rioting during the G20 meetings in June 2010. For hockey fans, it dialed up images from the 2011 Stanley Cup final, when Vancouver lost to Boston.

 The intensity of last nights uprising far exceeded the events in 2010 and 2011. An estimated crowd of 2.5 million civilians converged on Toronto's downtown core. In no time at all, law enforcement realized they were trapped in a no-win-situation. "We were in the wrong place, at the wrong time," is how Police Commissioner Joe Friday described the predicament faced by his department.

 Mayor Dick Chevrolet, immediately called for military assistance. "This is much larger than any snowstorm," stated the civic leader.

 Management and players from the Leafs, went live-on-air to plead for a stoppage in the unruly activity. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, both obtained at the trade deadline, voiced their concerns to a national audience. New team owner, Jim Balsillie, feverishly worked his BlackBerry, sending text messages and emails, calling for calm to be restored.

 The authorities implemented every trick-in-the-book to disperse the huge gathering. Neon signs in Dundas Square alerted the public to a sudden and dramatic drop in the price of gasoline. to .50 per/litre. The Air Canada Centre offered to distribute sushi and caviar to the throngs of agitated individuals surrounding Maple Leaf Square.

 Toronto, known as "Hollywood North", became a goldmine to a film crew shooting a scene in the vicinity. The movie features a blockbuster cast - Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, The Rock, Mike Tyson, Will Smith, Claude Van Damme, Mickey Rourke and Mickey Rooney. The action/adventure flick has no script and is completely improvised. "The street demonstration blended in nicely with what we were trying to capture on film," said director Woody Allen.

 Veteran hockey observers could only shake their heads when asked to recall a similar reaction by Leaf fans. Throughout the media, there was only one question - Why did a glorious moment in team history turn so ugly?

 For the first time in six seasons, the Toronto Maple Leafs secured a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Sure, it was eighth-place and didn't come until the final contest. Still, it was a significant achievement for a struggling franchise, who's reputation took a beating in hockey circles. Prospects for a strong finish began to surface just prior to Christmas. A mid-season trade brought Rick Nash into the fold from Columbus. When coach Mark Messier lured former Red Wing Nicklas Lidstrom out of retirement, another hole in the Leafs restructured line-up was plugged. The acquisition of Crosby and Ovechkin, put their playoff run into overdrive.

 The Leafs 9-1 triumph over Ottawa in the final game of the 2011-12 campaign, eliminated the Senators from playoff competition. In the standings, Toronto racked-up 90 points and Ottawa finished with 88.

 So why all the trouble?

 The contest was broadcast on large outdoor video screens for those blanked from securing game tickets, but who wanted to be close to the action. The more a Leaf victory seemed certain, traffic increased as people made their way downtown.

 In a total state of euphoria, the pure joy of returning to playoff action was a jolt for long time Leaf fans. When years of mediocrity finally come to a close, polar opposites can be flung together to salute the changing times. These are the ingredients for a perfect storm.

 The conditions were ripe for hooligans to stir-the-pot. Their motivation fuelled by a need to inflict upheaval and massive amounts of alcohol. Surveillance footage clearly identified the culprits and those who simply got swept away in the crowd.

 "The degree of damage when a mob gathers is influenced/determined by lurking individuals who set fires and smash windows. They are not true fans," explained a gravel-voiced Mayor Chevrolet to the press.

 "It was a case of a celebration being hijacked and way too many bodies in a limited amount of space," summed-up Deputy Mayor Joe Chrysler.

 "Then, when you add in 500,00 protesters who were marching in support of a second National Hockey League team for the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), all hell broke loose," added Joe Friday.

 Concerned over the events, Jim Balsille indicated he may have to give consideration to moving some playoff dates to Hamilton.

 A group known as "Friends of the Buffalo Sabres in Southern Ontario",  have served notice they will descend on the Hamilton Coliseum should this occur.

 "Territorial rights are sacred," screamed spokesman Bill Irvine in a telephone interview from his Fort Erie home.

 The Canadian group will be joined by residents of Buffalo and Western New York.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Father's Day

The game of hockey continues to be a special bond between father and son / father and daughter. As toddlers, we were introduced to the game by dad. Our earliest memories are associated with hockey and dad was present every step of the way.

Traditions passed from one generation to the next in line. The Saturday evening ritual of viewing Hockey Night in Canada. How we play the game, from lacing our skates to taping our hockey stick. The early morning rides to hockey practice, after dad has put in a 60 hour work week. The dedication and hard labour of maintaining a backyard rink. Attending your first Junior or National Hockey League contest, with dad paying the way.

In Junior hockey, a flood of off-spring have followed in the footsteps of their famous dad's, who travelled the same path to reach NHL glory. In the OHL playoffs this spring, the Belleville Bulls were a prime example of this. Their roster contained several father/son combinations - Carter Sandlak (Jim), Dylan Corson (Shayne) and Bjorn Krupp (Uwe). Also, in the line-up were players with a family connection other than father/son. Former NHLer Andy Bathgate took delight in watching his grandson, also named Andy, perform for the Bulls. In goal, Malcolm Subban's career is being closely monitored by his big brother. Of course, we refer to P.K. Subban, who patrols the blueline for the Montreal Canadiens.

Back in 1961-62, another Junior organization could boast of having a large contingent of NHL bloodlines waiting in the wings. The team was the St. Michael's Majors.


The above photograph reveals how rich this talent pool was. Five NHL players are represented - Ken Mosdell (Wayne), Wally Stanowski (Wally), Des Smith (Gary), Harry Watson (Barry) and King Clancy (Terry).

The St. Michael's Majors were defending Memorial Cup champions in the fall of 1961. However, their line-up was undergoing a major face lift. A newspaper report, indicated ten players from the Memorial Cup team were lost due to age restrictions. Another three - Dave Dryden, Arnie Brown and Dunc MacDonald - were moved to the Toronto Marlboros due to student requirements.

Terry Clancy, a centre with St. Mike's, was a member of the '61 Cup team. Also returning for another season, were Andre Champagne, Billy MacMillan, Paul Colin, Tom Polonic and Barry McKenzie. The turnover, resulted in the door being opened for St. Mike's to take a look at left winger Barry Watson, defencemen Wayne Mosdell and Wally Stanowski and goalie Gary Smith.

It is fitting that Father's Day comes so close on the heels of the Stanley Cup final. We can think back and relish the time spent with dad (past or present), watching countless regular season and playoff games.


Wally & Wally
Golden memories, collected over many, many years. Like those shared by four-time Stanley Cup Champion Wally Stanowski and son Wally. The above photo of father and son was snapped in May 2011.

Happy Father's Day!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Game Seven Diary

7:53pm...While spacing-out during a break in the pre-game show, an ugly thought enters my noggin. What if the cable goes out?

7:58...A shot of Lord Stanley's silverware being lifted from a trunk, sets the scene for what is about to occur.

8:00...Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas appear on screen, donning their sweaters. The Vancouver goalie looks tall and slender, while Tim Thomas is short and round.

8:08...Another phone call, but the same old conversation, "Who do you think will win?" I provide the standard reply of "Well, the team that wants it more, I guess." Being an Original Six fan, I have a soft spot for the Bruins. On the other hand, it is great having a Canadian team in this position. Ultimately, national pride wins over. The only Boston player who takes me back to the Original Six era is Tim Thomas. Honourable mention goes to Mark Recchi.

8:16...The national anthems are being belted-out. The players look oblivious as to what is going on around them. They are lost in their thoughts.

8:20...The puck drop. An entire hockey season is narrowed down to one game, with the winner being crowned Stanley Cup champions.

8:25...An anxious moment around the Vancouver goal, as a loose puck sits in the goal crease.

8:31...The first commercial break comes after a Tim Thomas save on Henrik Sedin. A quick check of the snack supplies reveals a serious dent being inflicted in the chip/mix bowel. A case of nervous eating?

8:32...The crowd demonstrates their appreciation when an injured Mason Raymond takes a bow. His upper body is wrapped in a brace.

8:41...The second TV time-out takes place. Although there have been no huge scoring chances, Vancouver and Boston have set a nice pace.

8:43...Boston scores the first goal off the ensuing face-off. Patrice Bergeron from Brad Marchand at 14:47. It is Bergeron's first tally in the final - timing is everything.

8:51...The TV camera follows Tomas Kaberle during a a stoppage in play. For Leaf fans, it brings a smile, knowing this long-time member of the Blue & White is this close to winning all the marbles.

8:56...The first period is over. A couple of observations. The officials have made a decision not to become the focus of attention. Secondly, Tim Thomas is clearly on his game.

9:01...Coaches Corner. Don Cherry's coat looks like it was made from the material on my grandmother's old couch.

9:08...As the sun is setting, I decide to check the mailbox. Okay, so I forgot, there is a postal work stoppage/lock-out in progress. I take a glance to make sure none of my neighbours are watching.

9:13...A TV ad (Coors-Light "Who wants a cool one?") shows a mailman being chased into some bushes by a pack of dogs.

9:15...A crowd shot of William Shanter as the middle frame gets underway. Where is Scotty when we need him? "Beam me up a goal", Captain Kirk would demand if his pal was at his side.

9:22...To gage the atmosphere, I listen to the crowd noise. The large gathering resembles a father-to-be. They are quietly waiting for something good to happen. On defence, it is a collective inhale, then on offence all the hot air is exhaled.

9:29...Zdeno Chara turns the puck over, but recovers to prevent Burrows from getting Vancouver on the scoreboard. Another missed opportunity for the Cancuks. An excellent stop by big Number 33.

9:35... A wrap-around goal by Brad Marchand gives Boston a 2-0 advantage.

9:41...The first penalty goes to Boston. A commercial break provides Vancouver with some additional rest.

9:46...Disaster for the home team. A shorthanded goal by Patrice Bergeron at 17:35.

9:52...Forty-minutes of play is in the books. This game is slipping away. It is taking on the feel of a pre-season contest, as opposed to a game seven in the Cup final.

10:07...An advertisement for "Bud Camp" lifts my spirit.

10:11...The final period of 2010-11 is underway. Will Boston sit-back and protect the lead or continue on the attack?

10:17...I crank-up the TV located in the kitchen. Time to toast a few slices of french-bread, then coat them in peanut butter. While I'm at it, I pour a large glass of chocolate milk.

10:22...The Bruins failed to score with a Canuck in the sin-bin.

10:25...Glenn Healy references Tim Thomas' age and his accomplishments in game seven to those of Johnny Bower and Jacques Plante.

10:32...The Canucks go on the power play. Boston, had the best scoring chance in this two-minute span.

10:38...Looking at the Canucks 40th anniversary logo at centre-ice, I can't help but think of players like Orland Kurtenbach & Company.

10:41...With three-minutes remaining, Luongo is yanked for the extra-attacker. At 17:16, Brad Marchand scores into the open net.

10:45..."It's an Original Six Stanley Cup championship for Boston", declares CBC play-by-play announcer Jim Hughston, as game seven is put to rest.

10:50...The handshakes are over and Boston takes over the Rogers Arena ice surface.

10:51...Gary Bettman proclaims Tim Thomas as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner. I can imagine the smile on Glenn Hall's face. Roger Crozier glancing down and giving his approval.

10:53... The Stanley Cup is marched out and presented to captain Zdeno Chara, followed by assistant captains Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron. The next in line is Tim Thomas.

11:06...Time for the team photo at centre-ice. Although a relatively new tradition, it is a must each and every year.

11:27...The on-ice interviews with players and their family members continues. These are wonderful to watch, as the Cup winners share their special moment with loved-ones.

11:30...I can't help myself. I flip over to Leafs TV. They are showing game three of the 1964 Stanley Cup final, featuring Detroit and Toronto. The contest, played in the Detroit Olympia, took place on April 16.

11:37...Hockey Night in Canada signs-off. I miss the old HNIC theme song (now owned by TSN) which played over the closing credits.

11:45...Quickly switch over to the CBC affiliate in Vancouver. They are covering car fires and fights on the streets of the city.

11:50...Sportsnet and TSN continue with their Stanley Cup coverage.

11:52...The Vancouver police use teargas in an attempt to disperse a large crowd. It looks like a scene out of a western movie or TV show. The people moving like cattle,  as farmhands (riot police) try to maintain order.

12:01am...Canucks Connected is now on Sportsnet. Host Don Taylor is joined by John Garrett and Gary Valk.

12:08...CBC in Vancouver is in breaking news mode, as hockey has become the secondary story.

12:16...That's Hockey 2 Nite is on TSN. The panel is critical of Roberto Luongo.

12:30...On Leafs TV, former Red Wing Marty Pavelich is being interviewed by Frank Selke Jr. The contest from 1964 is in the first intermission, with Detroit leading 3-0.



12:45am...Turn off the lights (and TV), the party is over - the 2010-11 hockey season is a wrap.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs 1967

 From ocean to ocean the country went centennial crazy as each community tried to compete with its neighbours in the scope and ingenuity of the birthday binge. The nation indulged in an orgy of sports events, folk dancing, historical pageants, parades, and  youth exchanges.
 - From "1967 The Last Good Year" by Pierre Berton (1997)

In the National Hockey League, the two Canadian clubs were destined to compete with one another for bragging rights, as Canada celebrated it's 100th birthday.

The defending Stanley Cup champions from Montreal, failed to repeat as the league leader in points following the 1966-67 campaign. This honour went to Chicago, who's 41-17-12 record produced 94 points in 70 games. The Habs fell to second-place with 77 points (32-25-13). Sitting in third-spot were the Toronto Maple Leafs with 75 points (32-27-11). The final playoff-spot went to Emile Francis and his New York Rangers. Their 72 points (30-28-12) resulted in New York's first trip to post-season action since 1962.

There is little doubt, Chicago was the class of the league during the '66-'67 season. This fact is reflected when one checkouts the trophy winners for '67. The Hawks were a powerhouse on both offence and defence.

Stan Mikita lead the league in scoring, racking-up 35 goals and 62 assists for 97 points in 70 games. His assists total was a new NHL record. Mikita's scoring ability resulted in him winning the Art Ross Trophy as top scorer. Also, he was named the MVP and added the Hart Trophy to his display cabinet. In a case of role reversal, Mikita captured the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly conduct. His penalty-minutes only reached 12 for the year. By contrast, in his previous 7 campaigns (1959-60 to 1965-66), Mikita averaged approximately 106 PIM per-season.



Stan Mikita
On defence, goaltenders Glenn Hall and Denis Dejordy won the Vezina Trophy (fewest goals against). The Hawks only surrendered 170.

The other major winners for regular season play, were two defenceman. New York's Harry Howell won the Norris Trophy as top defenceman. Boston's Bobby Orr was named top rookie and presented with the Calder Trophy. It was Orr's first of many individual awards.

As Montreal edged Toronto by two points in the standings, they drew New York in semi-final action. Taking into account Chicago's weapons on offence and steady goaltending provided by Hall and Dejordy, New York was the desired opposition in opening-round play.

The Canadiens and Rangers opened their series on April 6. Montreal won games one (6-4) and two (3-1) on Forum ice. When the series shifted to Madison Square Garden, the Habs winning ways continued. They defeated the Rangers in game three (3-2) and required overtime in game four (2-1) to sweep the best-of-seven semi-final.

CA-NA-DA
Notre pays
CA-NA-DA
Lon-gue vie
 - Lyrics from the Canadian Centennial Song by Bobby Gimby

The Montreal Canadiens were about to make their third straight visit to the Stanley Cup final. More important, they were seeking their third Cup victory in as many years.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were faced with the difficult task of facing Chicago. Not only would they have to find a way to curb  Chicago's assets on offence, but mount an attack of their own when they controlled the puck.

The two teams faced-off in Chicago Stadium on April 6. The Maple Leafs had a new look, but this change wouldn't aid their cause in the goal production department. The cosmetic change pertained to a new jersey, in tribute to centennial celebrations. The 11-point Maple Leaf crest was replaced by a 5-point Maple Leaf.

Although Toronto lost game one by a score of 5-2, their strategy for defending against the mighty Hawks was crystal clear. The Leafs increased their physical play and hoped this would slow down the Hawks and create turnovers.

In game two, Punch Imlach's plan worked like a charm. A combination of physical punishment and aggressive forechecking, resulted in a 3-1 win. The Leaf goal scorers were Pete Stemkowski, Dave Keon and captain George Armstrong.

The series resumed in Maple Leaf Gardens for games three and four. The two clubs split the games in Toronto, with the Leafs taking game three (3-1) and Chicago bouncing back  in game four (4-3).

With the series tied at two games apiece, the pivotal game five was played in Chicago. For the contest, Imlach replaced Terry Sawchuk with Johnny Bower. After the first twenty-minutes, the score was knotted at 2-2. Bower, who  appeared to be out-of-sorts in the Leaf net, didn't start period two. Terry Sawchuk got the call from his coach.

There was no scoring in the middle frame. The Hawks held the advantage in shots with 15, while Dejordy blocked 9 at his end. The story, however, was Sawchuk. With Chicago on a power play, the Hawks came at Sawchuk with guns-a-blasting. Bobby Hull let a rocket go, which caught Sawchuk on an already injured shoulder. The Leaf goalie went down like a huge oak tree, which falls after the final blow has been inflicted by a sharp axe.

Sawchuk's courageous effort didn't go unnoticed by his teammates. In period three, the Leafs scored early, with Stemkowski's tally at 2:11. At 17:14, Bob Pulford scored an insurance marker and Toronto escaped the Windy City with a 4-2 win. The score sheet reveals Chicago fired 49 shots on the Toronto goal, with Sawchuk blanking his opponent over the final forty-minutes. The veteran puck stopper made a total of 37 saves.

The 1966-67 Leafs were mostly composed of older players, who had gone to battle many times in their NHL careers. However, in game six, back in Toronto, Imlach's kiddie-core went to work against the Hawks. The opening goal was scored by 25 year-old Brian Conacher. The first period intermission would arrive with the score tied at 1-1, thanks to Pat Stapleton's goal at 14:38.

Neither club would score in the second period. The lone penalty was assessed to Dennis Hull for charging.

With Toronto in a position to advance, Conacher and 23 year-old Pete Stemkowski fuelled the Leafs offence. The game winning goal was scored by Conacher at 4:47 and Stemkowski would add the icing to the cake at 13:06.



Brian Conacher
In a stunning upset, the Maple Leafs knocked-off the Chicago Black Hawks. The stage was set for the two Canadian representatives in the National Hockey League to fight-it-out for Lord Stanley's silverware.

North, south, east, west
There'll be happy times
Church bells will ring, ring, ring
It's the hundredth anniversary of
Con-fed-er-a-tion
Ev'ry-bo-dy sing together
 -Lyrics from the Canadian Centennial Song by Bobby Gimby

The "happy times" for hockey fans started on April 20, with the opening of the Stanley Cup final in Montreal. Prior to the first match in the Forum, Punch Imlach was fighting for any psychological/mental edge he could muster-up. His target became Canadiens goalie Rogie Vachon. The rookie netminder was to referred to by Imlach as being a "Junior B" goaltender.

If Imlach hoped for immediate results in game one concerning his verbal intimidation, he would have to wait. Montreal's attack in a 6-2 victory was lead by Henri Richard's hat trick and two goals from Yvan Cournoyer.

In game two, it was Johnny Bower's moment to shine. The ageless wonder shutout Montreal 3-0, stopping all 31 shots directed at the Leafs cage. The Toronto goals were scored by Stemkowski, Mike Walton and defenceman Tim Horton.

The most thrilling contest in the Cup final was game three, played in Maple Leaf Gardens. After regulation time, Montreal and Toronto had produced two goals apiece. It was a seesaw affair, with Jean Beliveau and Stemkowski exchanging goals in period one. In the second frame, Jim Pappin and John Ferguson concluded the scoring.

The first overtime period went scoreless, as Toronto out shot Montreal 9-7.

At 8:26 of extra-time in the second O/T, Bob Pulford would emerge as the hero for Toronto. Finding open ice in Montreal's zone, Pulford was in position to bury the puck, which arrived in his direction off a Jim Pappin backhander. Pulford would share the spotlight with Johnny Bower, who faced 62 Montreal shots.



Johnny Bower
The Maple Leafs game of musical chairs, pertaining to their goaltenders, continued in game four. In the warm-up, Bower suffered a groin injury and Sawchuk got the starting assignment. Fans attending the contest in MLG, hoping for a repeat of game three, went home disappointed. Game four had more of a resemblance to game one, as Toronto once again fell to Montreal by the identical 6-2 score. Furthermore, their supporters had to be concerned over the Leafs two goalies. Both were battered and bruised, with Sawchuk being the lone warrior still standing to face Montreal.

The Cup final returned to the Forum, with Montreal and Toronto both having two victories in the win column.

Montreal opened the scoring at 6:03, when Leon Rochefort beat Sawchuk. Toronto evened things-up when Pappin's long shot got by Vachon at the 15:06 mark.

In the middle frame, Toronto took control, netting three unanswered goals. The winner was notched by Brian Conacher, followed by tallies from Marcel Pronovost and Dave Keon.

Coach Toe Blake inserted Gump Worsley between the pipes to start the third period. The Canadiens attempted to ignite their firepower, but the Leafs were busy throwing a wet blanket over their efforts. The Leafs won game five by a 3-1 margin.

The Toronto Maple Leafs returned home needing one victory to take possession of the Stanley Cup.

Game six took place on May 2, 1967. Both clubs employed their respective styles in this important contest. The Habs were patrolling the trail, hunting for the first goal. The Leafs defence provided the perfect camouflage around netminder Terry Sawchuk, protecting the Leafs zone against unwanted predators. The first period ended in a 0-0 standoff.

The first goal would come from Ron Ellis at 6:25 of period two. Then, at 19:24, a goal credited to Jim Pappin, was one of those late period goals which tend to deflate a team.

For Montreal to get back into the thick-of-things, a quick goal was required in the final sixty-minutes. At 5:20, former Leaf Dick Duff got Montreal on the scoreboard, pulling his team to within one.

The game would come down to one play late in the final frame. With Gump Worsley out for an extra-attacker, Allan Stanley and Jean Beliveau drew the plum job of handling the face-off duties. With the drop of the puck, Stanley took out Beliveau. In a series of passes - Red Kelly to Bob Pulford, followed by, Pulford to George Armstrong - the Leafs moved the puck out of their end. As he reached centre ice, Armstrong leaned into a long shot, which travelled directly into the unprotected Montreal net.



The Toronto Maple Leafs won the final Stanley Cup in the Original Six era. George Armstrong would be credited with the final goal in the Golden Age of Hockey. Dave Keon would capture the Conn Smythe Trophy.

It was something we had in common - all of us, west coast loggers, Slavic farmers, habitants, bluenoses. A tiresome cliche hols that Canada has no heroes. Nonsense! How about Howie Morenz, Charlie Conacher, Bobby Orr? How about the Rocket? Boom-Boom? The Big M? The Golden Jet? The Great One? The nicknames are instantly recognizable to any Canadian. Gump Worsley is remembered today; the chinless comic-strip for whom he was named is forgotten. These, not the politicians, are the national heroes we revere.
 -From "1967 The Last Good Year" by Pierre Berton (1997)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2011 Playoffs : Vol.9

After five games in the 2011 final, both Vancouver and Boston had settled into two different patterns of play. In games one and two, played in Vancouver, the two teams participated in close-knit games, with Vancouver winning both contests by scores of 1-0 and 3-2 (O/T). When the final shifted to Beantown, the second pattern had developed. The games were no longer close on the scoreboard. The Bruins completely dominated, winning games three (8-1) and four (4-0). So what did we expect in game five on Friday in Van City - would the pattern hold? True to form, the Canucks edged Boston 1-0. After allowing 12 goals in two games on the road, Roberto Luongo and his teammates shut the barn door.
As these two thoroughbreds entered play last night in game six, a handicapper's charts and crystal ball painted a picture. The story, depicted on canvass, showed Boston, skating on home ice, once again following the pattern. The Bruins would have no difficulty in extending the final to a seventh and deciding game. Right?
Well, on Monday evening, the picture came to life. The Bruins scored early and often, coasting to a 5-2 win. In this contest, Luongo was chased from the Vancouver goal, after allowing 3 goals on 8 shots. As game seven approaches, the pattern set in previous games can be tossed out the window. There is a new question to be answered - Who wants it more, Boston or Vancouver?

Being an Original Six franchise, with a rich history, Boston has this one advantage over the forty year-old Canucks. The Bruins first National Hockey League season came in 1924-25. Since their inaugural campaign, Boston has produced some of the leagues greatest assets. They range from the Eddie Shore era to present day. Some would argue the best player ever to play the game was a Boston Bruin - Bobby Orr. Boston management called on their wealth of history prior to game four. Orr, waving a number 18 flag, in honour of Nathan Horton, whipped the Garden crowd into a frenzy. It was a marvellous sight to watch.

An interesting piece on Forbes.com concerning Jim Balsillie. According to Forbes, Balsillie has been told by the NHL he will be considered for a franchise in the future. In the meantime, he must remain a good citizen and cause no problems For Bettman & Company. The NHL's VP, Bill Daly, has dismissed Forbes contention. With the Toronto Maple Leafs apparently in play, I wonder where or if Balsillie fits into the picture? In the past, Balsillie had one focus - bringing a franchise to southern Ontario. Are the Leafs his point of entry - as a partner or majority owner? Or, are NHL owners salivating over possible expansion fees for a second club in the GTA/southern Ontario? There seems to be more questions than answers at this stage of the game.

Staying with the Maple Leafs, one further question has been addressed, while another remains up-in-the-air. The club has signed netminder James Reimer to a 3 year, $1.8 million per/season contract. The question  which remains outstanding - will they vigorously pursue free agent Brad Richards?

As predicted in this space, the Philadelphia Flyers have chosen not to ignore their dire goaltending situation. In a deal with Phoenix, the Flyers obtained Ilya Bryzgalov, who will be a free agent come July 1.

Congratulations to the Binghampton Senators (Ottawa), who were crowned American League champions last week (June 7). They defeated the Huston Aeros four games to two in the Calder Cup final.

On the topic of AHL news, comes word of a franchise relocation. As expected, the Manitoba Moose are on the move. With an NHL club now in Winnipeg, it was necessary to find a new home for the Moose. This off-season, they will roam across Canada and settle in St. John's, Newfoundland.

The Winnipeg No-Names have signed a new general manager to replace Rick Dudley. Now sitting in the GM's chair is former Chicago assistant general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. One thing is certain concerning Cheveldayoff - he will not have many day's off in his new capacity.

In the category of "You say tomato, I say tamato." The championship series in the NBA is referred to as "the finals", while in the NHL it is "the final".

Monday, June 13, 2011

Stanley Cup Memories : Wally Stanowski 1942

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

How much of an influence was coach Hap Day?

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

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

 He was good in the clutch.

Describe Syl Apps style as captain

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

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

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

What was it like playing youth hockey in Winnipeg?

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

Which team was your favourite when you were a youngster?

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

Favourite Player?

 Eddie Shore playing for Boston.

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

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

Who was your coach in New York?

 Frank Boucher the first year, then Lynn Patrick.

Describe your style of play as a defenceman

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

Which forward gave you the most trouble?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Friday, June 10, 2011

Montreal 1965 & 1966

The Montreal Canadiens last hoisted Lord Stanley after their Cup victory in 1960. Following an incredible run of five consecutive titles (1956-1960), the Habs were defeated by Chicago in the 1961 semi-finals. They would follow this pattern of first-round losses in 1962 (Chicago), 1963 (Toronto) and 1964 (Toronto).

Prior to the Original Six era coming to a close, Montreal would add two Stanley Cup banners.

1965

The biggest change in the Canadiens organization came off ice. The clubs managing director, Frank Selke, retired and his duties were taken over by Sam Pollock. On the ice, Bernie Geoffrion called it a career to become coach of the Quebec Aces (AHL). Geoffrion would return to the NHL in 1966 and play two seasons with New York. After being out of hockey for one year, former Canadien Dickie Moore signed with Toronto for the 1964-65 campaign. Cracking the line-up were Yvan Cournoyer and Ted Harris. On December 22, 1964, Montreal traded Bill Hicke to New York for left winger Dick Duff.

The Canadiens finished in second-place (36-23-11) with 83 points. They trailed 1964-65  league champs, Detroit, by 4 points. Toronto's fourth-place finish, resulted in the Leafs and Canadiens hooking-up in one of the semi-final series.

On April 1st, Toronto and Montreal began writing another chapter in their long rivalry. The Canadiens took games one (3-2) and two (3-1) in the Montreal Forum. The action shifted to Maple Leaf Gardens for the next two contests.

In game three, the defending Stanley Cup champions mounted a come-from-behind against Montreal. The Habs held a 2-1 advantage, until Andy Bathgate potted the equalizer. Then, in overtime, Dave Keon notched the sudden-death goal.

The scoring hero for Toronto in game four was Red Kelly. His two goals sparked the Leafs to a 4-2 win.

Game five, back in Montreal, saw the two clubs locked in a 1-1 draw going into period three. The game winning tally came off Bobby Rousseau's stick at 7:30. His long shot beat Johnny Bower in the Leafs goal. The final goal in Montreal's 3-1 triumph went to Jean Beliveau.



Bobby Rousseau

The Montreal Canadiens were sixty-minutes, plus any necessary overtime, away from returning to the Stanley Cup final.

On April 13th, Montreal and Toronto clashed in game six. The fans in Maple Leaf Gardens would be treated to an exciting game and got an added-bang for their buck. After regulation time, the score was knotted at three apiece. At 16:33 of the first overtime period, Montreal's Claude Provost put the Leafs dream of a three-peat to rest.

Montreal was joined in the final by Chicago. The 1961 Stanley Cup champions advanced by downing Detroit four games to three in the other semi-final.

The 1965 final had both teams quoting a phrase from the Wizard of Oz - "There's no place like home." Montreal won game one (3-2), game two (2-0) and game five (6-0) in the Forum. The Hawks won game three (3-1), game four (5-1) and game six (2-1) in Chicago Stadium. With the series tied at 3-3, a seventh and deciding game to declare a new champion was necessary.

Game Seven was played on May 1st in Montreal. Could Chicago put an end to Montreal's dominance on Forum ice? Well, the question was answered early. The game winning goal came 14-seconds after the drop of the puck to start period one.

Captain Jean Beliveau described the goal to reporters, "That first goal was a break. It went in off my shins. I had lost the puck to Pierre Pilote and he cleared to Ken Wharram but Bobby jumped him and rapped the puck at Duff. It caromed off Dick's stick on to my shins and then into the goal."

The final score was 4-0. Also scoring for Montreal were Dick Duff, Yvan Cournoyer and Henri Richard. All four goals came in period one. The shutout went to Gump Worsley.





In addition to the Stanley Cup, a new piece of silverware was presented. The Conn Smythe Trophy, named after the legendary Maple Leafs owner, recognized the outstanding player in playoff competition. The inaugural winner was Jean Beliveau.



Jean Beliveau

1966

Playing like defending Stanley Cup champions, Montreal finished in top-spot following the 70 game regular season. Their 41-21-8 record translated into 90 points.

While the Canadiens were the team to beat, Chicago's Bobby Hull topped the league in scoring. It was a record-breaking campaign for the "Golden Jet".

On the goal front, Hull became the first player to score more than 50 goals. In 65 contests, he hit the twine on 54 occasions. When factoring in his assists count of 43, Hull amassed a grand total of 97 points. This was one better than Dickie Moore's record of 96, set in 1958-59.

As a result of his scoring prowess, Chicago's Number Nine captured both the Art Ross Trophy (top scorer) and Hart Trophy (MVP).



Bobby Hull

The league champs were rewarded for their brilliant defensive play. Montreal allowed the fewest goals against - 173. For their efforts, Gump Worsley and Charlie Hodge won the Vezina Trophy. Montreal's  Jacques Laperriere was named top defenceman, thus becoming the third Hab blueliner to win the Norris Trophy.

For the fourth straight playoff, Montreal faced Toronto in the semi-finals. In Montreal for games one and two, the Maple Leafs were defeated on both occasions by scores of 4-3 and 2-0. The change in venue to Maple Leaf Gardens didn't brighten their fortunes. Montreal won both games in easy fashion and swept Toronto in 4 straight. The scores were 5-2 and 4-1.

The other semi-final featured Detroit and Chicago. This series required six games before Montreal's opposition was established. Powered by Norm Ullman, who led all playoff scoring with 15 points (6 goals & 9 assists), Detroit ousted Chicago four games to two.

The Cup final opened in Montreal on April 24th. Behind the outstanding goaltending of Roger Crozier, the visitors stole games one (3-2) and two (5-2).

In the final frame of game two, Crozier made two brilliant glove saves to keep his team in the hunt. With the score even at 1-1, Gilles Tremblay and Jean Beliveau fell victim to Crozier's reflexes.

"I still don't know how he got that shot of mine. It was one of my best. My aim was perfect but he caught it with his right hand and I had a lot of net to shoot at", said Montreal's captain in his post-game comments.

The tide turned once play resumed in Detroit. The Canadiens doubled-up Detroit in game three, with a 4-2 victory. In game four, Crozier suffered a knee/ankle injury at 5:48 of the first period. As a result, he left the game and was replaced by Hank Bassen. The Red Wings and Bassen couldn't hold a 1-0 advantage and fell 2-1.

With the series tied at 2-2, the two teams convened on May 3rd in Montreal for game five. A banged-up Roger Crozier once again took his position between the pipes for Detroit. Although not one-hundred percent, Crozier received little support from his teammates. The Habs experienced no difficulties in thumping Detroit 5-1.

The Detroit Red Wings entered game six on the brink of elimination. Unlike the previous contest, game six contained a tighter defensive effort by Detroit. Jean Beliveau opened the scoring at 9:08 of period one. In the middle frame, Leon Rochefort provided Montreal with a two goal margin. Detroit got on the scoreboard courtesy of Norm Ullman, who's goal came shortly after Rochefort's tally. At 10:30 of period three, Floyd Smith's marker brought the Olympia crowd out of their seats.

The overtime was short and sweet for the Montreal Canadiens. Henri Richard's controversial goal at 2:20 of O/T gave Montreal their second straight Stanley Cup. It was a bitter pill for Detroit to swallow.





Henri Richard

"They beat us on a bad goal Henri Richard scooped the puck into the net with his hand. I went after referee Frank Udvari but he was away back in the corner on the play, couldn't see what was going on. It was illegal, should have been called back", said a very frustrated Roger Crozier.

A newspaper headline declared, "Award sweetens bitter taste of defeat." This was in reference to Crozier being named the 1966 recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy.



Roger Crozier

Following the game, Sid Abel, coach of the Red Wings, was travelling to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. On a "special train" heading for Montreal, Canadiens coach, Toe Blake, and his squad were celebrating another Stanley Cup.