Monday, December 24, 2012

It's the Best Season of All




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Perfect Stocking Stuffer

Was there anything better than sticking your hand deep into your Christmas stocking and discovering a hockey magazine?

It is one of those childhood memories one never forgets!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Masked in Mystery

It was one of those wild and crazy games from the 1970's - April 8, 1971, to be exact.

The New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs met in game two of their quarter-final series at Madison Square Garden. When all was said and done, the two teams accumulated 160-minutes in penalties. The playoff record was 174-minutes, set by the Rangers and Bruins the previous spring.

Of all the fisticuffs which erupted during this contest, one stands out for most hockey fans.

Involved in a major dust-up were Ranger forward Vic Hadfield and Maple Leaf centre Jimmy Harrison. It was the second battle between the two in this contest.

Round two got underway with 4:42 remaining in the final frame. When Hadfield got the upper hand over his opponent, Leaf goalie Bernie Parent came to his teammates rescue.

Parent gave his version of the events. "He was all over Harrison, so I jumped in. Then, Hadfield ripped off my mask and threw it into the crowd. It's the only mask I had, so I couldn't play anymore," Parent told reporters covering the game.

In the opposite corner, tipping the scales at 190 pounds and standing six-feet tall was Vic Hadfield. "What the hell?" started Hadfield in his post-game remarks. "I don't feel any remorse about Parent losing his mask. He jumped me from behind when I was beating Harrison, so why should I care about his damn mask?" questioned Hadfield while completing his thought.

Like a bit-actor who steals the spotlight with a performance that comes out of nowhere, Bernie Parent's mask became the major focus on Broadway.

As pointed out in their comments, Hadfield tossed Parent's goalie mask into the crowd of 17,250 spectators during their confrontation.

Forget the other productions running in houses along the Great White Way, there was a new show in town, a drama soaked in mystery - "UNMASKED: THE HUNT FOR A FIBRE-GLASS MASK".

Taking a starring role in this company was Leaf executive King Clancy. As with any mystery story, a veteran sleuth  is required, lending his vast knowledge and lengthy experience to lead a search and rescue mission. Without hesitation, Detective Clancy sprung into action and Madison Square Garden became his beat.

He plunged into the seating area with one goal - to recover Parent's mask.

Once in the crowd, Clancy realised he entered foreign territory and got very little assistance from the natives. Wisely, he bailed.

"Geez I just charged over there and then discovered I was all by myself among several hundred hostile New Yorkers. And I didn't have Charlie with me," said Clancy after the fact.

The reference to "Charlie" being Charlie Conacher, a former teammate of Clancy's with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

During the 1930's, Conacher and Busher Jackson always kept an eye open for Clancy, who never backed down from a physical confrontation. Being small in stature, Clancy made-up for his size with a huge heart. He wouldn't skate away when it got hot in the kitchen.

Unfortunately for the legendary Maple Leaf, his never give-up attitude and willingness to engage the opposition, didn't translate into points for the judges marking their scorecards.

In Trent Frayne's "The Mad Men of Hockey" (1974), there is an excellent example of a typical altercation involving Clancy and how the Conacher/Jackson tandem came into play.

In Montreal one night, Clancy got involved with Harold Starr, a rugged Maroon, and in short order, as usual, he was on the bottom. Jackson, grinning, hollered to Coanacher, "C'mon, Chuck, let's make this one fight Clancy wins." They pulled Starr off Clancy and set King down on top of him and skated away. They'd gone only a few strides when Jackson looked back over his shoulder and shook his head. "It's no use, Chaz," he said. "Clancy's on the bottom again."

When it became apparent his mask wasn't going to suddenly materialize, Parent left the game and Jacques Plante replaced him.

Parent, who wore a mask manufactured by Plante's company, had a second shield, but he considered it to be inadequate. Dating back to his first stint in Philadelphia, the back-up mask wasn't packed away for the trip to Manhattan.

The next morning, Plante got on the phone to his business partner in Magod, Quebec, and the wheels were in motion to create a new mask. Already having a mold, the process was limited to constructing the facial protection.

Game three was on the calendar for Saturday April 10th. Leaf coach Johnny McLellan had no intention of changing his starting goalie. Any concerns over Parent not being fully equipped were laid to rest when his new mask arrived at 3:00am on Saturday.

It certainly can be said that Parent's new mask didn't serve as a good luck charm. New York went on to win the series four games to two.

In the past year, the mask Hadfield deposited into the MSG crowd has surfaced on the memorabilia scene.

Thus, bringing the curtain down on the long running saga of "UNMASKED: THE SEARCH FOR A FIBRE-GLASS FACE".

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

81 and Counting

60 Carlton Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Monday November 12, 2012.

"They open the new Arena to-night...The new Arena is expected to last our city for many years."
Sporting Extras by Ted Reeve
The Evening Telegram
Thursday November 12, 1931

The Memories & Dreams continue.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Passing of Dr. Hugh Smythe and Bill Ezinicki

Over the past week, the Maple Leaf family has lost several members from past glory years.

Dr. Hugh Smythe, son of Conn Smythe, served as a team doctor.  Details.

Dr. Hugh Smythe in January 2012

Bill Ezinicki won three Stanley Cups with Toronto in the 1940s. The native of Winnipeg became a golf pro following his career in the National Hockey League. Details.

A New Season

Despite there being no NHL hockey, options are available to hockey fans.

In Toronto, the Marlies offer an excellent alternative.

A look back at their recent success offers real hope for a championship and not the usual pipe dreams associated with the Maple Leafs.

The idea of being the top banana has become a foreign concept to many hockey fans living in Toronto. Sure, it happens in other hockey cities, but not here.

Some can recall when it did happen and are grateful for the memories.

For most though, it's something they simply cannot relate to - a professional hockey club in Toronto going on an extended run and playing for all the marbles.

Last spring, that all changed.

It was Christmas in June for Toronto Marlie fans, as their team advanced to the Calder Cup final.

Yes Virginia, hockey can be played in Toronto when temperatures are soaring and steaks are sizzling on the barbecue!

Although the Marlies were swept in four by Norfolk, a number of past clubs linked with the Toronto Maple Leafs have experienced Calder Cup success.

In fact, the very first winners of the Calder Cup  in '36-'37 were the Syracuse Stars, a  farm team of the Maple Leafs. For some reason, the Calder Cup wasn't presented to them in 1937. But the American Hockey League made up for this in 1996.

During a ceremony, former Stars player, George Parsons, was presented the Calder Cup.

On April 6, 1937, Syracuse opened the best-of-three final in Philadelphia against the Ramblers. The visitors were defeated 2-0, not exactly the start they were hoping for.

In the next two contests, the Stars got their game on track, defeating Philly 5-2 at home and 4-1 back in Philadelphia.

With two victories under their belt, Syracuse was in a position to take the final on April 11th.

Following a scoreless first period, Syracuse forward Normie Mann put his team on the scoreboard, netting two early in the middle frame.

Syracuse would add three more goals in period three, with Eddie Convey, Maxie Bennett and Norm Locking hitting the twine.

In goal for the Stars and recording a shutout in the 5-0 pasting of Philadelphia was Phil Stein.

The Syracuse Stars were crowned champions in the initial campaign of the International-American Hockey League. In 1940, the organization became the American Hockey League, with "International" falling by the waste side.

During the 1940s, the AHL Pittsburgh Hornets became a Toronto farm team. And by 1951-52 were good enough to advance against Providence in the Calder Cup final.

Up three games to two, the Hornets and Reds met in Providence for game six on April 20, 1952.

When regulation time didn't produce a winner, the two teams went to overtime.

They reached this point after Kenny Smith of Providence tied the game at two-all.

Scoring the other goal for Providence was Barry Sullivan. Pittsburgh scoring came from Andy Barbe and defenceman Tim Horton.

This set the stage for overtime.

At 6:08 of the second overtime period, Pittsburgh's Ray Hannigan notched the sudden death game winning goal, stunning a huge crowd of 6100 spectators jammed into  Rhode Island Auditorium.

For Pittsburgh fans, it was time to celebrate their first American Hockey League championship.

Like their confrontation with Providence in '52, the 1955 version of the Pittsburgh Hornets would capture another Calder title on the road.

Travelling to Buffalo for game six on April 10, 1955, the Hornets needed one more victory before they could hoist the Calder Cup.

With neither club capitalizing in period one, Pittsburgh came out blasting in the second. They built-up a 3-0 advantage and withstood a comeback attempt by Buffalo in the final frame.

Getting Pittsburgh the lead were Ray Timgren and Bob Solinger with two. Replying for the Bisons were Kenny Wharram and Frank Sullivan. Firing an insurance marker for  the Hornets was Willie Marshall at 19:37.

A collection of players belonging to the Maple Leafs (Bob Hazzard, Marc Reaume, Brian Cullen, Timgren, to name a few), gathered around captain Frank Mathers as he accepted the Calder Cup from league president John Chick.

Toronto's affiliation with Pittsburgh came to an end following play in 1955-56. The demolition of Pittburgh's home rink didn't leave the Leafs with much choice.

The hunt was on to find a new minor league team, where Toronto's prospects could be groomed and veterans could get another shot at making it to the NHL.

Looking to to perhaps limit their financial exposure, Leaf management, in conjunction with the Canadiens Frank Selke, agreed to jointly share an AHL team in Rochester, New York.

Known as the Rochester Americans, they took to the ice on October, 1956, for their first home date. The opposition being provided by the Cleveland Barons.

Those in attendance hoping to witness Rochester's first regular season win on home ice, had to settle for a 2-2 draw. The Americans held  1-0 and 2-1 leads, but couldn't maintain their advantage.

Scoring for Rochester were Mike Nykoluk and Earl Balfour. Responding for Cleveland were Cal Stearns and Bo Elik.

Being fierce NHL rivals, put a strain on Toronto and Montreal's co-existence at the AHL level.

Although both organizations held an equal ownership share, Montreal personnel operated the Rochester franchise. This resulted in Toronto having concerns as to how much effort was being put in to enrich their talent.

Prior to the 1959-60 campaign, Stafford Smythe looked to turn the tables. To accomplish this, there was only one direction to take - buy-out the Canadiens.

Montreal and Toronto held controlling interest, with each possessing a 27.5 percent share for a total of 55 percent. The remaining 45 percent belonged to the Rochester community.

By mid June 1959, the papers were signed, sealed and delivered.

Smythe and company cut the Canadiens a cheque, thus enabling Toronto to have complete authority over hockey operations in Rochester.

It was the beginning of a glorious relationship.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, with a talent pool of NHL ready players in Rochester,  became a powerhouse in the decade that followed.

Stanley Cup presentations crowning the Leafs champions occurred in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967.

The success engulfing the parent club became contagious and a trickle-down effect eventually reached the Rochester Americans.

Starting in the spring of 1965, Rochester went on a Calder Cup binge.

After winning a Stanley Cup in 1964 with Toronto, Jim Pappin, Gerry Ehman, Ed Litznberger, Billy Harris, Larry Hillman and Al Arbour became AHL champs in '65 with the Americans.

A 6-2 win over the Hershey Bears on April 30, 1965, gave Rochester their first Calder Cup.

In the final contest, Jimmy Pappin registered a hat-trick and Billy Harris accumulated five points. Scoring against Rochester goalie Gerry Cheevers, were Gene Ubriaco and Ralph Keller.

One year later, the Americans duplicated their accomplishment from the previous season.

Facing the Cleveland Barons in game six on May 13, 1966, the Leafs farm team needed one more victory to ensure the Cup remained in Rochester.

Playing in Cleveland, the Americans got off to a fast start. Goals by Brian Conacher, Larry Jeffrey and Jim Pappin, gave Rochester a 3-0 margin.

Jim Pappin's tally turned out to be the game-winning-goal, as Rochester skated to a 3-2 Calder Cup win. His low shot from 25-feet out got past Cleveland goalie Les Binkley.

Rochester's next trip to the Calder final came in 1968. In game six, on May 4, 1968, Rochester and the Quebec Aces were tied at two goals apiece after forty-minutes of play. In period three, at 14:11, Len Lunde scored to give Rochester a one goal advantage. At 15:27, Bob Barlow put the cherry-on-the-cake, providing his club with a two goal cushion.

A huge crowd of 11,711 spectators in Quebec watched the visitors defeat their team 4-2.

Despite the success their farmhands enjoyed in Rochester, Leaf ownership decided to sell the franchise. Motivation for such a move appeared to be financial. Toronto brass raked in $400,000, but lost 18 solid players.

The win in 1968 marked the final time an AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs won a Calder Cup.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Charlie: A Hockey Story

During an off-day from being on stage, Jim Sands was out promoting his production of Charlie: A Hockey Story.

He is in Toronto performing the play based on his uncle, Charlie Sands, who played for four NHL teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers.

Charlie Sands made his NHL debut late in the 1932-33 season with Toronto. During the 1933 playoffs, he replaced an injured Ace Bailey in the Leafs line-up.

In May of 1934, Sands was traded to the Boston Bruins in a cash transaction. He won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 1938-39.

After skating in 5 seasons with Boston and 4 in Montreal, Sands finished his NHL career in 1943-44 with the New York Rangers.

For more information, check-out

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fern Flaman: 1927-2012

My encounter with Fernie Flaman came right out-of-the-blue.

Walking down Bay Street in Toronto on a blustery November day, I kept my head down to provide additional protection from the harsh winds coming off Lake Ontario.

As I glanced over my right shoulder to observe the Air Canada Centre, I quickly returned my focus to the steps before me.

Looking up, I noticed a gentleman approaching from the traffic lights ahead. Wearing a seasonal trench coat, he travelled at a decent pace.

With each forward advance, I became more and more convinced the person coming in my direction had a familiar face.

Finally, a light went off in my head. All doubt erased as the gap between us became smaller. I was about to come face-to-face with Hall of Fame defenceman Fernie Flaman.

I thought about that day when I read about Fernie Flaman's recent passing.

Fernie Flaman played in his first National Hockey League game with the 1944-45 Boston Bruins. The next season, Flaman once again appeared in one contest for Boston. His early arrival in big league hockey was due to many NHLers serving  time in World War Two. With a thinning line-up, Boston, like many NHL clubs, turned to the youngsters in their system to fill-out the roster.

Flaman, took full advantage of the opportunity. From the 1946-47 campaign to 1949-50, he donned the Bruins uniform in 208 games.

While patrolling the Bruins blue line, Flaman developed a reputation for being a solid stay-at-home defenceman, who excelled in the physical game. When Flaman took to the ice, opposing forwards were wise to take note of their surroundings.

Early in the 1950-51 hockey year, Flaman's career took a turn north, when he was included in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Joining Flaman in the November 16, 1950 transaction were Ken Smith, Phil Maloney and Leo Boivin. Going in the other direction to Boston were Bill Ezinicki and Vic Lynn.

Commenting on the deal, Conn Smythe noted, "Flaman, an aggressive player, will be on call at Pittsburgh (AHL) if we run into further injuries."

"He's a good player and could be a replacement for Juzda (Bill), who has only a couple of seasons left," said Smythe of future plans for Flaman.

Following the exchange with Boston, Conn Smythe made a trip to Cleveland to watch his new acquisition play in a road game.

"Pittsburgh's defence played well. Fernie Flaman, Pete Backor, Tim Horton and Frank Mathers were all good," Smythe told the press upon his return to Toronto.

If Flaman had any concerns about being buried in Pittsburgh with the Hornets, there was no need for him to worry. When defenceman Hugh Bolton suffered a shoulder injury in a Sunday tilt against Boston, the Leafs summoned Flaman for a Wednesday game versus Montreal on December 20, 1950.

It didn't take Flaman long to make an impression on the 12,639 spectators in Maple Leaf Gardens. Not to mention, coach Joe Primeau and general manager Hap Day.

Just past the five-minute mark of period one, Flaman opened the scoring by beating Gerry McNeil in the Montreal goal.

Then, late in the game, Flaman exhibited his ability to engage in the rough stuff.

His comments following a battle with Canadiens rookie Tom Manastersky, gave Leaf fans some insight into the nature of their new defenceman. "Manastersky cross-checked me across the ear. There's no reason for anything like that, so I swung at him," said Flaman.

At practice the next day, Primeau worked with his new rearguard, teaching him the ins-and-outs of Toronto's defensive system.

Fernie Flaman's time in Toronto worked wonders for his game. It was the opinion of the brain trust in Boston that Flaman wouldn't progress beyond his physical contributions. Eventually, with age, even those skills would diminish.

Arriving in Toronto, Flaman was given a chance to enhance his abilities. Working with his coach made all the difference.

"There is a more personal touch to the coaching. There's more interest taken in the individual," Bill Juzda told reporter Al Nickleson, a point shared by Flaman in Nickleson's piece.

"That helps a lot. It not only makes you a better player, but it makes you want to be a better player, so you can show them their personal instruction hasn't been wasted," stated Juzda.

"After all, practice makes perfect. I think that's a big point in the Leaf system and is what helps to make them the best coached team," added Flaman.

By the time playoff action rolled around in 1951, there was a noticeable change in Flaman's style. And it didn't come at the expense of his ruggedness taking a backseat.

Writing in the Hockey News, Bob Hesketh outlined Flaman's evolving skills:

And he developed into more than it looked as though he would. With Boston he had never impressed people in Toronto with any skating ability. Now Hap Day, Smythe's number one assistant, claims that his stride has lengthened, he's digging and he's skating and carrying the puck with the best of the back porch boys

On April 21, 1951, Flaman and his Toronto teammates celebrated a Stanley Cup win over Montreal. The Cup winning goal coming in overtime, thanks to Bill Barilko's historic tally.

Flaman would remain a Maple Leaf until an off-season trade in July 1954 sent him back to Boston. On the same day, July 20th, 1954, the Leafs shipped forward Danny Lewicki to the New York Rangers. Sensing a need to replace Lewicki with another scoring forward, Smythe and company dealt Flaman back to his NHL roots for Dave Creighton.

Over the next seven seasons, Flaman piled his trade for Boston. He became team captain in 1955-56 and under his leadership, Boston advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1957 and 1958. Unfortunately for Boston, they went up against a powerful squad in Montreal and couldn't wrestle Lord Stanley's mug away from the Habs.

The ultimate recognition of Flaman's contributions to hockey came in 1990, when he was elected as an honoured member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

As I talked with Flaman on that November day, he told me he was in Toronto for the Hall of Fame weekend. Flaman explained he made the trip each year to welcome new inductees into the fold.

I will never forget my brief chat with Mr. Flaman.

Fern Flaman was born on January 25, 1927 in Dysart, Saskatchewan. He passed away on June 22, 2012.

During the Original Six era, Flaman skated in a total of 910 NHL regular season games, amassing 208 points (34 goals & 174 assists) and accumulating 1370 penalty-minutes. His playoff numbers include 63 games, 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points, and 93 penalty-minutes.

Fernie Flaman was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 1955, 1957, and 1958. He played in 6 NHL All-Star Games (1952, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959).

Friday, June 29, 2012

Enio Sclisizzi: 1925-2012

I last interviewed Enio Sclisizzi on June 4, 2012  for an upcoming project. As usual, Sclisizzi was more than willing to answer my questions and his thoughtful replies were music to my ears.

Coming off a medical procedure, I admired Sclisizzi's ability to move about, along with his upbeat approach.

Unfortunately, it was my final opportunity to sit down and chat about hockey with this true gentleman.

Enio Sclisizzi passed away this week at the age of 86.

In September 2011, I published an extensive interview with Sclisizzi, outlining his career in the game - A Chat with Enio Sclisizzi.

As pointed out in my previous story, Enio Sclisizzi's first taste of life in the National Hockey League came in April 1947, while suiting-up for the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings were engaged in a playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Growing-up in southern Ontario, Sclisizzi spent Saturday nights huddled around the radio listening to Foster Hewitt call Leaf games from Maple Leaf Gardens.

On April 5, 1947, Sclisizzi became one of the names filling the airways by Hewitt. In his debut performance, Sclisizzi and the Detroit Red Wings lost to Toronto by a score of 6-1.

Almost a year later, on March 20, 1948, Sclisizzi returned to Toronto and played his first regular season contest in the Gardens. And he did it in style. At 3:35 of the second period, Sclisizzi directed a 15-foot shot at the Toronto goal, which Turk Broda was unable to stop. The kid from Milton, Ontario was living the dream when he scored his first NHL tally versus the Maple Leafs.

Having played only 81 NHL games with Detroit and Chicago, the bulk of Sclisizzi's time in hockey came in the minor leagues.

In the American Hockey League, Sclisizzi was part of the 1949-50 Indianapolis Capitals, who captured the Calder Cup. The Detroit affiliate won the title in a mininum of eight games.

No matter where he laced-up his skates, Sclisizzi received high praise from those in-charge.

After spending part of the 1952-53 season with the Calgary Stampeders in the WHL, Sclisizzi switched sides and signed with the defending WHL champs in Edmonton.

"If Sliz comes through, and I'm sure he will, we can win it again," commented Edmonton coach Bud Poile.

When Sclisizzi joined the Buffalo Bisons (AHL) for the 1955-56 campaign, general manager Fred Hunt noted the reasons for the move.

"I wanted a proven scorer among our left wingers. Enio has always been a 30 or near 30 goal scorer in the American and Western Leagues. Last year with Edmonton, he scored 29 times. He was always a fluid skater and that type of player ages much less rapidly than one who labors on his skates," observed Hunt.

One of the most interesting aspects concerning Sclisizzi was the pronounciation of his last name. For Foster Hewitt, it became a nightmare. His difficulty in tackling this task, resulted in Sclisizzi changing his identity to Jim Enio. This all came about during training camp in 1948.

This situation would last until mid-January 1952, when Sclisizzi was called-up for a fifth time by Red Wings management. Watching their farm hand dazzle in Indianapolis, former NHL player Ott Heller informed Wings general manager, Jack Adams, of Sclisizzi's scoring prowess with the Capitals. He was leading the team in goals with 18.

Upon being summoned by Detroit, Adams made what the Hockey News called a "formal announcement."

"Adams specified that he would be known as Sclisizzi henceforth. The "Jim Enio" alias is a matter of the past," wrote Marshall Dann in the bible of hockey.

Enio Sclisizzi was born on August 1, 1925 in Milton, Ontario. He passed away on June 27, 2012.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Howe it is Done

When Gary Bettman presented the Stanley Cup to Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown, it marked the end to another post-season. Two of hockey's other grand trophies, the Memorial Cup and Calder Cup, had already been handed out.

Long departed from the list of championship silverware is the Avco Cup, which went to the last team standing in the World Hockey Association.

On May 19, 1974, the Houston  Aeros won the Avco Cup by defeating the Chicago Cougars 6 to 2. What makes this WHA final stand-out is one of the participants - Gordie Howe.

Still playing the game at 46, Howe was joined in Texas by his two sons, Mark and Marty. All three were in their first season suiting-up for Houston. While Gordie and Marty played together on a forward line, Mark patrolled the Aeros blue line.

Showing he still had gas left in the tank, Gordie Howe contributed four assists in the final contest versus Chicago. He collected helpers on two goals scored by Murray Hall and singles on tallies by Andre Hinse and Gord Labossiere.

In the dressing room, Howe was asked to compare winning the Avco Cup to winning the Stanley Cup. During his career in the National Hockey League, Howe captured four Stanley Cups with Detroit.

"This one probably means a little more, because of the three of us," said Howe, making reference to sharing the experience with Mark and Marty.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Crowning Victory

There is a new member in the Stanley Cup club - the Los Angeles Kings.

For the first time in franchise history, they were crowned champions,  thanks to their 6-1 victory over New Jersey. With a 16-4 run in post-season play, the Kings record shows they are deserving of the title.

The first 1967 expansion team to win all the marbles were the Philadelphia Flyers. They accomplished this historic feat in 1974.

On April 9, 1974, Philadelphia began their Stanley Cup adventure against Atlanta in the quarter-finals. Coach Fred Shero and his crew swept Atlanta and advanced to the semi-finals to meet the New York Rangers.

The best-of-seven went the distance, with the seventh and deciding game taking place on May 5th in Philadelphia. Having home ice advantage, the Flyers slipped by New York, defeating them 4-3.

Making their first Stanley Cup Final appearance, Philly opened on the road in Boston Garden on May 7, 1974.

After falling 3-2 in game one, the Flyers rebounded in game two, with a 3-2 overtime victory.

When the series shifted to Philadelphia, the Flyers dominated, taking both encounters. They won by scores of 4-1 and 4-2.

In game five, back in Boston, the Bruins delivered a wake-up call to Philadelphia. Facing elimination, Boston skated to a convincing 5-1 win.

On May 19, the two clubs met in Philadelphia for game six.

Looking for any advantage, the Flyers arranged for Kate Smith to be in attendance. It was only her second trip to centre ice in the Spectrum to perform God Bless America.

Flyer forward Bill Barber commented on the impact this had on him and his teammates. "She gets the fans jumping and they give us a lift," explained Barber.

As the Final progressed, it became evident Philadelphia would have to be more than the Broad Street Bullies. Their goon tactics could create mayhem, but more was required against a tough opponent like the Big Bad Bruins.

Hockey skills would win the Cup, not fear and intimidation. Thus, it came as no surprise when Boston and Philadelphia stuck to clean hockey in game six.

In game six, defence became a key component. The Flyers had a lot to deal with in this regard. Stopping Boston meant putting the brakes on Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito.

At 14:38 of period one, Philadelphia's Rick MacLeish opened up the scoring, beating Bruins goalie Gilles Gilbert.

"I saw Moose (Andre Dupont) fire the shot from the point when he blocked a Bruin clearing attempt. Then a defenceman blocked my view, so I just stuck out my stick and the puck hit and glanced past Gilbert," said Macleish when describing his goal.

From that moment on, Bernie Parent backstopped the Flyers to a 1-0 Stanley Cup winning victory.

Fans spilled onto the ice surface to join the Flyers in their celebration. This prevented NHL president Clarence Campbell from presenting Lord Stanley's mug at centre ice. Bobby Clarke accepted hockey's grand prize along the boards, as Campbell couldn't make it any further.

Now, it is time for the Los Angeles Kings and their fans to do some celebrating.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Putting in some Overtime

It is always a treat to open up the sports page and read a reference to the Original Six era.

Such was the case the morning following game two between New Jersey and Los Angeles. Going through various reports, many made mention that for the first time in 61-years, the first two encounters of the Cup Final went into overtime.

The last time this occurred was in the 1951 Stanley Cup Final, when Montreal and Toronto squared-off.

Game one in 1951 took place on April 11th at Maple Leaf Gardens. After regulation time, the score was knotted at two goals apiece. At the 5:51 mark of OT, Sid Smith sent the Leaf supporters home with the result they were hoping for.

A newspaper report provided a description of the sudden death game winning tally: "Sid Smith's winning goal was engineered by Kennedy, who bore into the Canadien zone, drew three checks before losing the puck which caromed around behind the goal. There, Tod Sloan and Bud MacPherson struggled for possession with Sloan getting it over to Sid Smith, who was unchecked. Sid picked it up, whirled out in front like a hoop around a barrel and slipped it into the far corner. McNeil never had a chance."

Game two of the Leafs and Canadiens Final got underway on April 14, 1951. The venue remained unchanged. Similar to game one, the score was tied at two-all following sixty-minutes of action. This time around, the scoring hero would emerge from the Canadiens roster. Early in the first overtime period, at 2:55, Rocket Richard worked his magic against Turk Broda and his teammates.

With no newspapers publishing on Sunday, the game story from the second contest appeared in editions printed on Monday April 16. Here is an account of the Richard goal. "The winning counter came on one of the Habs favourite plays. Doug Harvey moved over his own blue line, deked a Leaf to retain possession long enough for Richard to infiltrate the Leaf defence. Then Harvey fired a forward pass which the Rocket picked up and zoomed in on the helpless Turk Broda. Rocket left Leafs Gus Mortson standing still and deked Broda down and out before slipping it into the open cage."

While all five games in the '51 Final went into OT, game three in the Kings and Devils Final was won 4 to 0 by LA, with Jonathan Quick recording the shutout. On Wednesday night, with Los Angeles up by three games and the Stanley Cup in the building, the Devils extended the Final by defeating LA 3 to 1.

On April 21, 1951, Bill Barilko's overtime goal delivered another Stanley Cup championship to the city of Toronto.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fit for a Queen

Sixty-years is an awfully long time to be on the job. The same routine day-in and day-out. But, hey if you are enjoying the gig and having fun, why not carry on.

And how do you celebrate to mark such an extended period of loyal and successful service?

Well, your employer holds a huge Diamond Jubilee party in your honour, like the festivities taking place in England for Queen Elizabeth's longevity as head of the Monarchy.

Prior to becoming the Queen, young Elizabeth came through the ranks apprenticing as a Princess.

Trips abroad were a key part of her responsibilities. They provided an opportunity for Elizabeth to acquaint herself with the traditions and customs of countries her father served as King.

Once on foreign soil, the Queen-in-training could secure a better understanding of her future subjects by taking part in local activities. First-hand knowledge could be obtained by observing and asking questions. For example, what common bond units Canadians from coast to coast?

On an autumn afternoon in 1951, Princess Elizabeth discovered the answer by becoming one of us. The visitor from across-the-pond, along with Prince Philip, took a journey into Canada's soul. The path to finding what makes Canada, Canada, took the Royal couple on an adventure to Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

With Conn Smythe acting as tour guide, the two visitors were in good hands. There was no better individual to represent the game. Most Canadians treated hockey like a religion. Sunday, being a day for worshipping. Saturday, reserved for hockey.

For English speaking Canada, the Toronto Maple Leafs were Kings. In Quebec, the Montreal Canadiens sat on the throne. Saturday evening was Hockey Night in Canada. The nation linked together by the radio broadcast.

Conn Smythe
In his early years, Conn Smythe held two aspects of life close to his heart - love of country and love of hockey. In many ways, they were one in the same. Political riffs at home or conflicts on the world stage could be resolved in the same manner as a hotly contested match on the ice. The type of dust-up where combatants are unwilling to give an inch. Where physical strength and sheer willpower carry the same weight as shooting and passing.

Away from hockey, Smythe demonstrated his passion and dedication for the Empire by constructing a brilliant career in the military. He shared Wilfrid Laurier's belief that "when Britain was at war, Canada is at war, there is no difference at all."

Heading into World War One, Smythe took the following oath as part of  completing and signing his Attestation document on October 19, 1915:

I, Conn Smythe, do make Oath, that I will be faithful and bear Allegiance to His Majesty King George the Fifth, His Heirs and Successors, and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and Dignity, against all enemies, and I will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, and all of the Generals and Officers set over me. So help me God.

Smythe, didn't take these words lightly. They became a way of life for him. Later, he would evoke their meaning and intention when sending his hockey clubs into battle.

Rookies and veterans were expected to be "faithful and bear allegiance" to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They will "honestly and faithfully defend" the Toronto Maple Leafs. On and off the ice, Leaf players and Maple Leaf Gardens staff "will observe and obey all orders" laid down by Conn Smythe.

Having already fought in the Great War, Smythe jumped back into the fire when World War Two flared-up. It was a case of "you can take the man out of the military, but you can't take the military out of the man."

Once again, Smythe couldn't separate the two passions which dominated his being.

The following passage from his autobiography - If You Can't Beat 'EM in the Alley (with Scott Young, 1981, McCelland and Stewart) - provides insight into Smythe's state-of-mind:

...for years I had been talking to hockey players in military terms - telling them what real soldiers were like, how much they would do for their team, how much they'd give, and how brave they had to be to survive, when war came I had to face that. Had I been talking fiction or fact? Was I a fraud or did I live up to my own principles? I had made myself out to be a warrior and tried to make my players be warriors too. I thought it was up to me to lead by example.

When Princess Elizabeth arrived at Maple Leaf Gardens on October 13, 1951, Smythe escorted one of the "Heirs and Successors" through the front doors at 60 Carlton Street.

After spending so much time in Europe aiding the war cause, Smythe was more than happy to return the favour and play the role of host on his home turf.

The guest of honour proceeded to the seating area via a door which opened from the Gardens lobby. Seats in Box 50 were replaced by comfortable chairs. The Royal Box decorated with a huge Union Jack.

Once settled, the ceremonies got underway. Then, before a crowd of 14,000 spectators, the Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks engaged in a 15-minute exhibition.

During a recent interview with former Leaf Danny Lewicki, we chatted about what occurred almost 61-years-ago on October 13, 1951.
"Of course, it was a very exciting day for us," recalled Lewicki as he described the sentiment and mood of his teammates. "Just to think she would be there," marvelled the big forward explaining the anticipation of all those involved.

"We had one period in the afternoon just so she could see what hockey was all about," noted Lewicki.

"I remember the famous picture of Teeder (Leafs captain Ted Kennedy) bowing to her when he was presented to her. It was a very memorable afternoon, no doubt about it," stated the native of Fort William, Ontario.

Were the players provided with any specials instructions on how play the game - perhaps, with emphasis on skills rather than physical force?

"Not really, no. The only thing we were told was that we couldn't go up and speak to her on our own. Teeder was the only one who could go up there and bow or whatever, but we were not allowed to go near or say anything to her," replied Lewicki.

Danny Lewicki
I wondered if Leaf supporters were more interested in eyeballing Royalty or their heroes on the ice. After all, it isn't everyday a Princess and Prince hang out and enjoy a hockey game.

"I would think so. She was a very attractive lady. Most people would be watching her instead of the game," commented the Memorial Cup, Allan Cup and Stanley Cup winner at the end of our conversation.

From all accounts, Toronto and Chicago treated their special guests to a close-knit affair. No goals were scored and neither squad attempted to tone down the physical contact.

It didn't take Princess Elizabeth long to get into the swing of things. At one point, she sounded like a typical Canadian hockey fan, when she quizzed Smythe following a thunderous check, "isn't there going to be a penalty in this game?"

When a Leaf defenceman failed to get the puck to Ted Kennedy, Princess Elizabeth told Smythe "that was not a good combination."

Talking to Al Nickleson of the Globe and Mail, Smythe provided readers with his thoughts and impressions.

"They both enjoyed the game tremendously. That was apparent in the way Prince Philip roared with laughter at the upsetting body-checks and the way the eyes of Princess Elizabeth glowed as the players shot by her at full speed," informed Smythe.

Next on tap for the globe-trotting travellers was a encounter between  Montreal and New York on October 29, 1951 in the Forum. Danny Lewicki and company must have made a positive impact, as this time around, Elizabeth and Philip remained for the entire sixty-minutes of action.

Thanks to Floyd Curry's hat-trick, Montreal defeated New York by a score of 6 to 1.

Princess Elizabeth's first exposure to our grand game received high marks. Conn Smythe must have been pleased as punch with the results.

He would have expected nothing but an experience fit for a Queen.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Maple Leaf Gardens: School Days

In anticipation of moving their hockey program to the Peter Gilgan Athletic Centre at Maple Leaf Gardens, Ryerson University has put the wheels-in-motion to secure a prestigious event for the facility. They have made a bid to host the 2014 Canadian University Men's Hockey Final.

There is a rich history of university hockey having been played at Maple Leaf Gardens, dating from the early 1930s until the structure was put into mothballs following the 1998-99 hockey campaign.

From 1987-88 to 1996-97, the University of Toronto hosted the CIAU championship game. At the outset, games were contested at Varsity Arena, but from 1992-93 to 1996-97, the action shifted to Maple Leaf Gardens.

The final university game played at 60 Carlton Street, featured Guelph and the New Brunswick Reds. In the championship game, held on St. Patrick's Day 1997, Guelph emerged victorious edging their opponent 4 to 3.

In February 1963, Maple Leaf Gardens was the site of an exhibition between the Trail Smoke Eaters and a collection of college all-stars.

Trail, the 1960-61 World Champions, were preparing for the 1963 tournament in Stockholm. Prior to their stop in Toronto, the Smoke Eaters fell 3 to 2 in Windsor to the Bulldogs. From Toronto they travelled to Halifax to conclude their Canadian tour.

The College All-Stars were composed of players from Laval University, McGill, Montreal U., McMaster, University of Toronto and Ryerson Institute.

Getting their opportunity to shine under the big top, the College All-Stars rose to the occasion. They beat Trail goalie Seth Martin three times, while the opposition only connected once. Scoring for the All-Stars were Bill Mahoney (McMaster), Ward Passi (Uof T) and Raymond Cadieux (Laval). The lone Trail marker came off the stick of Harold Jones.

Since the opening of Maple Leaf Gardens on November 12, 1931, a steady flow of games involving students at various levels within the educational system have been on the docket.

Reviewing a list of hockey activities held at the Gardens, it reveals school names ranging from Upper Canada College and St. Michael's College to Neil McNeil and Northern Vocational.

An annual tradition was the Schoolboy Finals. Imagine the thrill of a high school athlete skating on the same ice as Dave Keon or occupying Johnny Bower's net. That was the case in February 1962, when Malvern were crowned kings, thanks to their lopsided 10 to 2 thumping of Humberside.

The last school to have its name in lights on the Gardens marquee were the 1998-99 squad from St. Michael's. Playing in the Ontario Hockey League, the Majors and Oshawa Generals met on March 19, 1999. Oshawa slammed St. Mike's by an 8 to 3 margin.

And which school set sail on the maiden voyage in Maple Leaf Gardens?

That honour goes to the University of Toronto Schools.

They were participating in the Sportsmen's Patriotic Association (S.P.A.) tournament. Designed as a pre-season event, teams from the OHA senior and junior ranks took part. In 1931, the junior series ran from November 16 to December 7. The grand prize for winning all the marbles was the Sportsmen's Trophy.

The University of Toronto Schools, established on September 12, 1910, served as a laboratory school for the University of Toronto faculty of education.

On the hockey front, their claim-to-fame was capturing the inaugural Memorial Cup in 1919. Their victory came at the expense of the Regina Patricisa.

Maple Leaf Gardens, fresh from celebrating its grand opening four days earlier, was the location for game one of the S.P.A. series on Monday November 16, 1931. The main attraction pitted the University of Toronto Schools against the Toronto Canoe Club.

Those supporting the University of Toronto Schools, would experience a very long and painful night. As noted in a newspaper story the following day, "the first game was all Toronto Canoe Club, with the University Schools hardly ever having a clear chance to go in on goal for a shot." The proof of this was reflected in the score - 10 to 0 - as TCC kicked-off the tourney with a shutout.

A future star for the Toronto Maple Leafs stole the spotlight on the evening of November 16, 1931. The scoring ace for the "paddlers" was Bob Davidson.

Tipping the scales at 185 pounds and standing at five-foot-eleven, Davidson was a Toronto native, born on February 10, 1912. He suited-up for the Toronto Canoe Club from 1928-29 to 1931-32. Like many of his counterparts from that era, Davidson pulled double-duty with another team. While employed with Cities Service Oil Company, the big left winger skated in the Toronto Mercantile Hockey League (1929-30, 1931-32 and 1932-33). The oil company sponsored a club known as Toronto Cities Service.

In the match with University of Toronto Schools, Davidson went on a scoring rampage. When the final bell rang, his name dominated the scoring summary. One source credits him with accumulating seven goals and one helper. Another account mentions the scoring sensation netting five goals and two assists. No matter which set of figures are correct, Davidson sparkled on offence.

It would be interesting to know if any members from the Leaf organization were in the building to witness the damage inflicted by Davidson on University of Toronto Schools. In their first outing in Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto only beat Chicago goalie Chuck Gardiner once, in a 2 to 1 loss. We do know Davidson and his father were in attendance to observe the pomp and circumstance on opening night.

The marksman for Toronto's first tally in their new home was Charlie Conacher. One can picture Conn Smythe salivating if he watched young Davidson's goal production.

Following his time with the Toronto Canoe Club and Toronto Cities Service, Bob Davidson joined the Marlboros chain. In 1932-33 he laced up skates for the junior squad, and in '33-'34 graduated to the senior Marlboros.

Davidson turned pro with the Syracuse Stars in 1934-35 (IHL), and also managed to appear in five contests with the NHL Leafs. The following campaign, he increased his time with the parent club, dressing for 35 encounters, and wearing the colours of Syracuse for another 13.

Over the next ten-years (1936-37 to 1945-46), Davidson became a key member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite his scoring prowess in junior, Davidson evolved into a solid and dependable defensive forward for Toronto.

Right from his first appearance, Davidson was meant to be a Maple Leaf. His first chance to perform in a regular season tilt came on January 31, 1935. Coach Dick Irvin and his team were at home to face the New York Rangers. Davidson, summoned from Syracuse to replace an injured Busher Jackson, skated on a line with Joe Primeau and Charlie Conacher.

Post-game reviews for Davidson's opening act indicated the Leafs had a hit on their hands.

"Bob Davidson, up from Syracuse to sub for Busher Jackson, did himself some good and though he was nervous making his big league debut, he showed speed and gameness," wrote Andy Lytle in the Toronto Daily Star.

"He was impressive indeed. He should remain with the Leafs for he fitted in like no youngster has been able to do since the time that Canacher and Jackson jumped from junior ranks into professional company," marvelled Bert Perry in the Globe and Mail.

After blasting the University of Toronto Schools in game one of the S.P.A. series, Davidson and his teammates tangled with Stratford in the second round. The outcome was much different. The Toronto Canoe Club lost 5 to 1.

On December 7, 1931, at Maple Leaf Gardens, the Toronto Marlboros squeaked out a 3 to 2 win over West Toronto to claim the Sportsmen's Trophy.

Although Bob Davidson and company were unable to defend their S.P.A. championship from the previous year, he would have many more opportunities in the future to display his skills on Gardens ice.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Los Angeles Kings: Retro 1967-68

As the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs progress, hockey fans become more familiar with and enchanted by the Los Angeles Kings.

But how many can recall the Los Angeles expansion team from 1967-68?

In the grand Tinsle Town tradition of studios like MGM and Warner Brothers, let's dim the lights and roll the film - in our case the videotape.

The curtain slowly rises, revealing the opening credits. It is showtime, the feature attraction is about to get underway - "Los Angele Kings: Retro 1967-68".

 I took a couple of hours to screen a Kings encounter against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The venue - Maple Leaf Gardens. The date - Saturday March 2, 1968.

The broadcast commensed with the drop-of-the-puck to begin period two.

To start the middle frame, LA coach Red Kelly, a former Leaf, sent out a forward line with Howie Menard, Terry Gray and Doug Robinson. On defence, Howie Hughes and Bill White patrol the blue line.

Starting in goal for Los Angeles, Wayne Rutledge. Spectators and those viewing on Hockey Night in Canada were hoping to see Terry Sawchuk between the pipes for LA. The previous spring, Sawchuk backstopped Toronto to a Stanley Cup championship. Both Rutledge (New York) and Sawchuk (Toronto) were claimed in the June expansion draft.

During the '67-'68 campaign, Rutledge took over the role as the Kings number one goalie. He got the nod in 45 matches (20-18-4 2.87 average), while Sawchuk performed in 28 (11-4-6 3.07 average).

Red Kelly couldn't turnover his lines quick enough to satisfy my anticipation. When Bill Hewitt called out a name, a memory or recollection relating to the player would fill my head. Seeing Bill White in LA colours reminded me that he did play for the Kings. Most of memories concerning the big rearguard are of his time with the Chicago Blackhawks.  The time between shifts lasted forever. None of those 45-second or one-minute mad dashes for those in the post-expansion era.

Next over the boards for LA were Eddie Joyal and his linemates, Bill Flett and Real Lemieux on the wings. Dave Amadio and captain Bob Wall took their position in front of Rutledge.

This line was replaced by the threesome of Gord Labossiere at centre, flanked by Ted Irvine at left wing and Lowell MacDonald at right wing.

Rounding out the Kings defence were Jim Murray and Dale Rolfe.

After a scoreless opening twenty-minutes, Toronto produced two tallies in period two. Hitting the twine behind Rutledge were Wayne Carleton and Ron Ellis.

Los Angeles experienced difficulty getting the puck deep. Their forwards were being stood-up at Toronto's blue line, unable to create clear lanes to the Leaf net.

At 18:16, Mike Pelyk went off for cross-checking. And it didn't take long for LA's power play to connect. Their mission accomplished in a mere four-seconds.

On the draw, Joyal faced-off against Dave Keon. The puck went to left winger Lemieux, who backhanded it to Wall at the left point. Spotting Joyal in the slot, Wall delivered puck-to-tape, and Joyal's shot went past Johnny Bower via the five-hole.

Early in the third, LA completed their comeback. At 6:20, Lowell MacDonald knotted the score at two goals apiece. Ted Irvine, positioned behind the net to Bower's right, quickly shifted a loose puck from his forehand to backhand. Waiting for his pass in front, MacDonald made no mistake depositing the disc behind Bower.

Momentum quickly shifted back to Toronto. Ron Ellis netted his second marker at 6:55 to restore the Leafs advantage. They increased the lead when Brian Conacher and Marcel Pronovost lit up the goal light. With a three goal cushion, Punch Imlach and his crew skated to a 5 to 2 victory.

Eddie Joyal proved to be LA's best forward. He got his team back in the contest by cutting Toronto's margin in-half. At seasons end, he topped the Kings point list with 57 in 74 matches.

Dale Rolfe exhibited some spark on defence. He didn't hesitate to lug the puck up ice, attempting to manufacture scoring chances. Foster Hewitt selected Rolfe as the third star.

This game turned out to Frank Mahovlich's last in a Leaf uniform. A week later, he returned to Maple Leaf Gardens as a Detroit Red Wing.

Was that really "Cowboy" Bill Flett sans the facial hair?

Colour commentator Brian McFarlane made note of Canadian actor Larry Mann being in the crowd. A huge Leaf fan, Mann switched his allegiance to Los Angeles when they entered the league. Based in southern California, Mann appeared in a number of television shows, including Get Smart, Hogan's Heroes and Dragnet.

To welcome Mann back to his home town, Punch Imlach's wife, Dodo, baked him a cake and hauled it down to the Gardens.

Final statistics for 1967-68 show the Los Angeles Kings amassed 72 points in 74 games (31-33-10), good for second place in the Western Division.

Their opponent in quarter-final play were the Minnesota North Stars. The series went to a seventh and deciding game, with the visiting North Stars advancing.  They outscored LA 9 to 4.

Despite their opening round loss, the Kings entered the record book after game two on April 6, 1968. Los Angeles became the first team in NHL history to record victories in their first two playoff games. They defeated Minnesota 2 to 1 and 2 to 0.

In 2012, the Kings organization hopes to top this by being crowned Stanley Cup champs.

A true Hollywood ending.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gretzky said What?

For a brief moment, I thought the heat was finally causing damage to my brain cells. Somehow,  messages were being scrambled or, perhaps, a simple case of not believing what was before my eyes.

What brought all this about? A headline at which read, "Gretzky: Playoff MVP Award Should Be Named After Beliveau".

Beliveau, being Jean Beliveau, the legendary captain of the Montreal Canadiens. The sports network quotes Gretzky from a piece penned by Larry Brooks of the New York Post.

"What I'd like to see is the Conn Smythe Trophy be renamed the Jean Beliveau Trophy, and have Beliveau come onto the ice with the commissioner to present the award to the MVP and then stay by the commissioner's side for the presentation of the Stanley Cup," explained Gretzky to Brooks.

As a youngster living in southern Ontario, Gretzky followed the exploits of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada. He watched with his grandmother, Mary Gretzky. During the broadcast, young Wayne shot rubber balls at his willing grandmother.

The Leafs were his team, although his favourite player was Detroit Red Wings star Gordie Howe.

Being a true student of the game, Gretzky always displayed a respect for the rich history of the sport. He showed an appreciation for those who built the game one brick at a time.

Howe was his hero, someone he admired both on and off the ice.

Gretzky met Gordie Howe in 1972 at the Kiwanis Great Men of Sports Dinner in Brantford, Ontario. At the time, Gretzky was 11-years-old.

When called upon to address the audience, Gretzky froze. Seeing his admirer struggling to get his words out, Howe sprang into action. He literally came to Gretzky's rescue.

"When someone has done what this kid has done in this rink, he doesn't have to say anything, " Howe told those in attendance.

At the age of 16, Gretzky joined the Soo Greyhounds to begin his time in Junior "A" hockey. Through his agent, Gus Badali, Gretzky insisted on being assigned the number 9, in honour of Gordie Howe. Unfortunately for Gretzky, Brian Gualazzi, a three-year veteran, already laid claim to the number. And coach Murray MacPherson wasn't about to make him relinquish it.

To start the season, Gretzky wore number 19, then 14, but he couldn't get use to not pulling a number 9 jersey over his head.

When Phil Esposito was traded in November 1975 from Boston to New York, the Rangers encountered a similar dilemma. Donning sweater number 7, Esposito's number in Boston, for New York was Rod Gilbert. No one, including New York's new acquisition, expected Gilbert to give-up the number he possessed since arriving on Broadway in the early 1960s.

Rod Gilbert hung up his skates for good after the 1977-78 campaign. On October 14, 1979, prior to a contest between New York and Washington, Gilbert's retired number 7 was lifted upwards to the rafters in Madison Square Garden.

Back in '75, the solution in Manhattan called for Esposito to wear 77, instead of 7.

If this pleased Espo, the Soo Greyhounds were of the opinion Gretzky should have no problem agreeing to a similar compromise. In the wink of an eye, Gretzky switched from 14 to 99.

Gordie Howe and the famed number 9 meant that much to Gretzky.

Later in his career, Gretzky made certain Howe was present, no matter the location, if he was on the verge of overtaking his idol in the NHL record book.

This concern and desire to recognize those who paved the way, makes Gretzky's current statement relating to Beliveau a tad puzzling.

Sure, most of us can understand that on one hand he is attempting to honour a Montreal icon.

In the same vain, he is making light of Conn Smythe's enormous contributions. Why rob Peter to pay Paul?

It can be said Conn Smythe saved professional hockey in the city of Toronto in 1927. The Toronto St. Pats, playing in the National Hockey League, were not performing to expectations on the ice, and this reflected on the box office receipts. Ownership, suffering from financial hardships, received an offer to purchase from interests in Philadelphia.

Sensing the consequences of selling to a group south of the border, Smythe assembled an ownership group and put in an offer.

History was put in motion. Smythe changed the team name to Maple Leafs, and Maple Leaf Gardens emerged on the Toronto landscape in November 1931. Stanley Cups followed and Hockey Night in Canada became an institution, first on radio, then TV.

This is one suggestion by the Great One that isn't so great.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sticking it to the Opposition

When I saw this vintage ad for Northland hockey sticks, one player popped into my thought process - Bobby Hull.

To this day, the image of Hull gaining speed from deep inside his own zone, then unloading a wicked blast, is embedded in my mind. As a youngster, it captivated my imagination. Looking back, it was my expectation that Hull might mortally wound a poor goalie, who was just trying to do his job!

For goalies in the Original Six era and beyond, it was a nightmare.

In his autobiography, Johnny Bower wrote, "facing Bobby Hull, let me tell you, it was scary no doubt about that."

"He had about the hardest shot in the National Hockey League as far as I'm concerned," noted the Hall of Fame goalkeeper for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"When he would wind up with that warped stick of his, look out. He had such good control of that stick, and there was no whip in it. It was hard as a rock. Just like a stiff golf club," wrote Bower in The China Wall - The Timeless Legend of Johnny Bower - with Bob Duff.

For hockey fans, it was a sight to behold. A Bobby Hull rush could bring the crowd out of their seats. The anticipation of what he was going to do with the puck, would keep them standing, holding their breath until it was time to exhale.

"Of all the shots in a hockey game, the one best loved by the fans and dreaded most by goalkeepers is the slap shot, " wrote Hull in his 1967 autobiography (Hockey Is My Game with Jim Hunt).

"The goalkeeper can see even less of it, because it's coming straight towards him. Usually the only chance a netminder has to stop a slap shot is by getting his pad in front of it, and I have heard at least one say that even through his pads the puck had a bite of a branding iron," noted Hull in another passage.

"Any player with experience will usually know the first time he uses a stick whether or not it suites him," the Golden Jet advised his young readers.

For Bobby Hull, his weapon of choice was the Northland Custom Pro.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An Honour for Cummy Burton

It is always a special occasion when a former member of the Original Six era is saluted by his community.

Last week, I highlighted the NHL career of former New York Ranger Bill McDonagh,  who enters the Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame on June 13, 2012.

This time around, a profile of Cummy Burton's National Hockey League journey with the Detroit Red Wings. He joins McDonagh as the newest inductee from hockey's golden age to be recognized by the Hall in Sudbury, Ontario.

A native of Sudbury, Burton tipped the scales at 170 pounds and measured five-foot-ten during his time in the game. Playing right wing, he started his junior career in 1952-53 with the Windsor Spitfires.

After one campaign in Windsor, Burton finished out his time in the OHA with the Hamilton Tiger Cubs. He spent a total of three years (1953-54 to 1955-56) in Hamilton, a club sponsored by the NHL Red Wings.

In his final year with Hamilton, Burton got the telephone call every player dreams of answering. He was being summoned by Jack Adams and the Detroit Red Wings.

Beyond the normal relationship between player and team, there was another connection involving Detroit and Cummy Burton. His uncle, Larry Aurie, was a former star with Detroit.

Aurie, spent 12 seasons in the Detroit organization, beginning in 1927-28 with the Cougars. Small in size - five-foot-six, 148 pounds - Aurie, patrolled the right wing. He captured two Stanley Cups (1936 & 1937), and topped the list for goal production in 1936-37. He lead the NHL by beating opposition goalies 23-times.

Cummy Burton fell under the influence of his famous uncle at an early age. Prior to playing junior, young Cummy would practice with the Oshawa Generals (OHA), who were coached by Aurie. It was a case of a mentor taking every opportunity to pass on his knowledge to a willing student.

Once Burton joined the junior ranks in Windsor, Aurie would travel from his Detroit home to observe his nephew in-action.

"Larry was like a brother to me," stated Burton when assessing his bond with Aurie.

The hard work paid-off in mid-March 1956 when the Red Wings came calling. Upon completing his final year in Hamilton, Burton joined the Red Wings to participate in practices.

His status changed when forward Murray Costello suffered a broken nose. Burton took his spot on the roster, having been called-up under the terms of the amateur tryout agreement.

Since his retirement in 1938-39, following one last game in a Detroit uniform, no player wore Aurie's number six. Although the number wasn't officially retired, Jack Adams kept it in mothballs.

When the opportunity arose for Burton to pull a Red Wings jersey over his head, consideration was given to his wearing number six. It would serve as a tribute to Uncle Larry.

"I don't want to wear number six until the day I join the Red Wings as a regular. I'll save it until I'm big enough for it," said Burton, who wore number twenty-one for three matches late in 1955-56. Also, he suited-up for three contests in the 1956 playoffs.

In 1956-57, Burton skated for the Edmonton Flyers in the Western Hockey League.

The next year, 1957-58, Burton once again found himself in the big-show with Detroit. He split the season between the Red Wings (26 games) and the Edmonton Flyers (35 games).

Watching Cummy Burton perform on video, provides insight on his style of play.

From the archives, I dusted-off a tape container with the label reading October 12, 1957. The two combatants were the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. In the line-up for Detroit was Cummy Burton.

Broadcast from Maple Leaf Gardens, the start of period two was just getting underway. Both clubs, having registered three goals apiece.

Early in the second, Detroit coach Jimmy Skinner sent out a line with Forbes Kennedy at left wing, Dutch Reibel at centre, and Cummy Burton at right wing.

It didn't take Burton long to get the attention of a national audience.

Inside the Leafs blue line, Kennedy propelled the puck behind Toronto's net. Marc Reaume, a defenceman for Toronto, gained control to the left of the Leafs cage and began to move up ice. As he skated forward, Reaume had difficulty maintaining possession. This caused him to peer down, putting himself in a vulnerable position. Cummy Burton, cruising along the right wing, had a line on Reaume.

And he didn't misfire.

Reaume, "took a terrific crash there, a good solid body-check," is the way Foster Hewitt described the play for those watching on Hockey Night in Canada.

The massive hit levelled Reaume. It was as though he skated right into a brick wall. Dazed, the Leaf rearguard was unable to get up for several moments. He required medical attention and seemed to be favouring his left shoulder.

At first glance, like so many others plying their trade in the game on October 12th,  Burton didn't appear to be an overly aggressive player when it came to physical contact. His walloping of Reaume was an indication Burton didn't shy away from a chance to take-out an opponent.

Later, Hewitt made reference to Burton as being "a rugged player."

Similar to his counterparts in the Original Six era, Burton played a positional game. His assignment being to protect his side of the ice. This was accomplished by going up and down his wing and looking after his responsibilities.

On offence, Burton pursued loose pucks, diligently forechecking to wrestle the frozen disc of vulcanized rubber away from Toronto. The aim, to apply pressure, hoping for a turnover.

When action shifted towards Detroit's end, Burton went on defence, looking to pick-up and snag his check. He would become entangled with his opponent, using a glove or stick to gain any advantage.

With time dwindling down in the later stages of period three, Burton demonstrated some jam on offence.

At Toronto's blue line, he scooped-up the puck along the right boards. He eluded Leaf winger Sid Smith by cutting to the middle. Sensing open ice, Burton set his sights on Toronto goalie Ed Chadwick. Using defender Jimmy Morrison as a screen, Burton fired a low shot. His scoring chance being denied by Chadwick, who kicked-out his skate to deflect the puck.

The visitors from the Motor City, departed Toronto with a 5 to 3 victory.

There is a twist when investigating Burton's point totals in the National Hockey League. Reference guides and other sources supplying statistical data, all credit Burton with accumulating two points. Both recorded in the assist column.

I came across at least three separate scoring summaries, which indicate he was awarded an assist on a goal.

The first two pertain to helpers in early 1957.

In a 6 to 3 loss in Montreal on November 2, 1957, Burton received an assist on Don Poile's goal at 9:10 of period three.

On November 9, 1957, Burton and his teammates visited Maple Leaf Gardens for a tilt against Toronto. At 12:54 of the final frame, Forbes Kennedy scored to pull Detroit even with Toronto at three-all. The officials gave a lone assist to Burton.

Of note, a game story written by the Star's Red Burnett, provides a description of Kennedy's tally. "In the ensuing scramble Cummy Burton caromed a pass off Jim Morrison's skates to Forbes Kennedy, who snapped it past Chadwick," wrote the Star scribe.

It is possible, Burton may have been stripped of his contribution towards Kennedy's goal. This makes sense as the puck hit Leaf defenceman Morrison, prior to landing on the stick of his linemate.

Cummy Burton's last kick-at-the-can with Detroit came in 1958-59. He was recalled from the Seattle Totems in February 1959.

With the Boston Bruins venturing into the Olympia on March 3, 1959, Cummy Burton produced his final NHL point.

And this wasn't just another late season encounter.

Billed as "Gordie Howe Night", the Detroit ace was showered with numerous gifts and tokens of appreciation. None bigger than a brand spanking new station wagon, containing several important passengers - Mr. & Mrs. Howe - Gordie's father and mother. It was the first chance for Mr. Howe to see his son perform in an NHL game, in-person.

Thanks to Marcel Pronovost, the home team jumped out to a first period lead at the 11:01 mark. The helpers going to Johnny Wilson and Cummy Burton. Detroit built-up a 2 to 0 margin, but Boston fought back with goals in the second and third periods. The contest ended in a 2 to 2 draw, with former Red Wing Johnny Bucyk beating Terry Sawchuk for the equalizer.

The Windsor Daily Star, described Pronovost's goal (Wilson/Burton) as follows:

Johnny Wilson out fought Don McKenney for the puck in the corner and Cummy Burton flicked the disc back to Pronovost, a couple of strides inside the Boston zone. He moved up and let fly a low, 30-footer that caught the cage past Lumley's right side for his seventh goal of the season.
Over a span of three seasons, Cummy Burton laced up his skates for 43 NHL regular season games. All with the Detroit Red Wings. Come playoff time, he took part in three post-season matches, but didn't register a point.

So, what became of the idea for Burton to wear his uncle's number six? The plan being he would don a number six jersey once he earned a regular spot in Detroit's line-up.

That time came following the Wings training camp in 1957.

A brief passage appearing in the Hockey News on October 12, 1957, shed light onto how the Wings were going to proceed when assigning numbers.

"...Burton is a nephew of the late Larry Aurie and will wear the famed number six that Aurie wore so well for Detroit...," informed the bible of hockey.

Harry Lawrence "Little Dempsey" Aurie, passed away on December 11, 1952.

There is little doubt he would have given his stamp-of-approval for Cummy to be the next-in-line to wear his number six. Not to mention, his nephew being inducted into the Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Coaches Corner

While researching an obituary on Jerry Toppazzini, I came across an interesting coaches poll conducted late in the 1957-58 season.

Appearing in the Toronto Daily Star (March 1958), it provides wonderful insight into the state of the game, and identifies players who were performing at the top of their game.

The coaches involved were Milt Schmidt (Boston), Rudy Pilous (Chicago), Phil Watson (New York), Sid Abel (Detroit), Billy Reay (Toronto) and Toe Blake (Montreal).

As mentioned in the Toppazzini obit, he was selected as the top penalty killer. Listed below are the other choices made by the bench bosses for the '57-'58 campaign.

Best and fastest skater - Henri Richard, Montreal

Smartest player - Gordie Howe, Detroit

Best passer and playmaker, Gordie Howe, Detroit

Hardest shot - Boom Boom Geoffrion, Montreal

Most accurate shot - Maurice Richard

Best stickhandler - Larry Regan, Boston

Best man on breakaway - Maurice Richard, Montreal

Best puck carrier - Gordie Howe, Detroit

Best referee - Eddie Powers

Best fighter - Fern Flaman, Boston

Best defensive forward, checker - Red Sullivan, New York

Best hustler, hardest worker - Red Sullivan, New York

Hardest bodychecker - Leo Boivin, Boston

Most underrated - Tom Johnson, Montreal

Most improved - Forbes Kennedy, Detroit

Best goalie on screened shots - Terry Sawchuk, Detroit

Best goalie, man against man - Terry Sawchuk, Detroit

Best defensive defenceman - Doug Harvey, Montreal

Best attacking defenceman, Bill Gadsby, New York

Nine of the above players played in the Stanley Cup final, which featured Montreal and Boston.

Montreal, who were in the midst of winning five consecutive Cups (1955-56 to 1959-60), captured their third straight prize on April 20, 1958. Montreal's 5 to 3 win in Boston Garden gave them a four games to two Cup victory.

The coaches poll providing a nice snapshot on the skills of those players who helped their clubs make it to the final.

Friday, May 18, 2012

More of the Blues

Recently, I penned a piece on the St. Louis Blues being the first 1967 expansion club to reach the Stanley Cup final - Full Story.

Coming across a VHS copy of the Blues first regular season tilt in Toronto, I couldn't resist watching the game. It was played on December 30, 1967.

The night previous to their encounter with Toronto, St. Louis hosted Pittsburgh at home. The Blues edged their opponent 2 to 1, with Gerry Melnyk connecting for the game-winning-goal.

Instead of departing for Toronto immediately after their Friday evening game, St. Louis travelled by air on Saturday morning. They arrived at noon, which left little time to prepare for the Leafs.

Toronto fans, hoping to see a couple of  established NHL stars now donning a Blues uniform, would be disappointed. Glenn Hall was a scratch due to the death of his father on Christmas Day. Former Canadiens winger Dickie Moore was sidelined with cracked ribs.

After spending many, many hours working on research, it is a pleasure to witness footage of events on tape, as opposed to digesting newspaper reports and content contained within a biography or historical account. Having just finished the research for the Blues Cup run in 1968, it only added to the anticipation of viewing the telecast from late 1967.

For the opening face-off, coach Scotty Bowman sent out a line consisting of Red Berenson (centre), Don McKenney (left wing) and Gerry Melynk (right wing). On defence, Barclay Plager and Jimmy Roberts patrolled the blueline. The starting netminder was Seth Martin.

Right from the get-go, it was evident Toronto found their skating-legs before St. Louis. At 1:36 of period one, Mike Walton scored to give Toronto the lead. The distinctive tone of public address announcer Paul Morris telling one and all of the vital statistics. The Leafs would add two more tallies in the opening frame (a second by Walton and one by Jim Pappin) and head into the intermission up by three.

Goalie Seth Martin was forced out of the game at 10:20 of period two with a pulled groin muscle. The Leafs were in command having built-up a 5 to 0 margin.

Martin's replacement, Don Caley, had a stunning resemblance to another goalie - Terry Sawchuk. Bill Hewitt and Brian McFarlane, working on the broadcast for Hockey Night in Canada, both commented on this aspect.

Caley had the Sawchuk "look" down-pat. His mask was similar to the legendary puck-stopper, who began his career with Detroit, and Caley adapted what has come to be known as the Sawchuk Crouch. While most in the goaltending fraternity kept the top portion of their body straight, Sawchuk bent over at the waist. This allowed him to maneuver more quickly on his skates and provided improved vision of screened shots.

Once in his cage, Caley was peppered with warm-up shots from his teammates. This is one tradition which sadly disappeared over time. For those who weren't fortunate enough to see an NHL battle in-person, it was a rare opportunity to witness the process.

Although the Leafs hammered St. Louis 8 to 1, the lopsided score didn't dampen the experience. There was so much to take-in. Don't forget, almost forty-five-years has passed since the NHL doubled in size.

Of course, the first thought is to compare the quality of the '67 game with the present day product. Very quickly, it becomes evident pursuing this avenue is a waste of time. Way too many factors come into play - different era, different equipment, different ice conditions, different coaching methods, different mentality - to accurately determine how much the game has improved or not improved.

One aspect remains in place - hockey is hockey - no matter the generation. The pure enjoyment of soaking-up two rivals fighting for every inch of ice never becomes mundane.

Here are some observations from December 30, 1967.

It was interesting how the flow of action wasn't all north-south. On numerous rushes, the last option involved a routine shoot-in. Instead, stickhandling and passing became key skills.

The most physical player for either squad was Bob Plager. A big, rugged defenceman, Plager dished out several punishing hits. Also, he didn't hesitate to expose himself to injury by dropping low to block shots. Without any head protection, a wicked blast could inflict major damage.

Away from the conflict at ice level, it was a delight to bask in the atmosphere and mood surrounding the event.

To start, the broadcast was recorded in glorious black and white. For many of us, this is the format we recall being on our TV screen as we enjoyed a soft drink and a snack, while watching with family and friends.

Crowd shots captured by the camera provided insight on the importance of attending a game at the Gardens. Both men and women, young and old, dressed in their Sunday-best. Sure they didn't make much noise, but their response to situations, good or bad, didn't seem contrived or over-the-top.

Then, there is the venue - Maple Leaf Gardens.

All eyes and attention glued to the ice surface, with no markings or signage causing a distraction. The place for promotion or marketing wasn't on the ice or boards. The location for this sort of material was situated away from the action.

Behind Johnny Bower, at the south-end of the Gardens, were two signs divided by a clock framed in a Christmas reeve. One sign read "MERRY CHRISTMAS", and the other "HAPPY NEW YEAR".

At the north-end, a sign promoted an upcoming game to be held at 60 Carlton. On January 7, 1968, the Italian Nationals were scheduled to take-on the Canadian Italians.

When the final bell rang to mark the conclusion of play between Toronto and St. Louis, balloons were dispersed from the Gardens rafters.

"We wish everyone, everywhere, a very happy, prosperous New Year, 1968," said Bill Hewitt to a national audience.

For the St. Louis Blues, it would be both a prosperous and happy New Year. Their initial trip to Toronto was one stop on their long journey to the Stanley Cup final.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Honour for Bill McDonagh

On June 13, 2012, Bill McDonagh will be inducted into the House of Kin Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame - Full Story.

McDonagh's brief period in the National Hockey League came with the 1949-50 New York Rangers. Weighing 150 pounds and standing five-foot-nine, McDonagh played left wing. He became property of the Rangers in a cash transaction, which occurred in the summer of 1949.

The Rangers '49-'50 regular season started with an encounter against Montreal in the Forum on Saturday October 15, 1949. It also marked McDonagh's debut in a Rangers uniform.

Montreal defeated the visitors from Broadway by a score of 3 to 1. In a losing effort, New York goalie Chuck Rayner faced 37 shots, and kept his team in the contest. The game was tied at one-apiece after forty-minutes of action. Third period goals by Elmer Lach and Rocket Richard led to Montreal's win.

Of note, McDonagh made his one and only appearance in an NHL Summary Sheet (other than being listed in the line-up). In the middle frame, McDonagh was assessed a minor-penalty.

The next night, New York was in Boston to help the Bruins kick-off the home portion of their season. With McDonagh in the line-up, the teams skated to a 2 to 2 draw. Scoring for New York were Edgar Laprade and Buddy O'Connor. Hitting the twine for Boston were Paul Ronty and Kenny Smith.

Prior to the opening face-off, NHL President Clarence Campbell, presented the Lady Byng Trophy to Bill Quackenbush. Another Bruin, Ronty, was awarded the Charles F. Adams Memorial Bowl. Voted on by Boston fans, it acknowledged the player deemed most effective during home dates in Boston Garden.

New York continued on the road, with an encounter versus Detroit on October 19, 1949. McDonagh and his teammates were no match for the defending league champs (the Wings finished in first place with 75 points in '48-'49). Detroit goalie Harry Lumley, missed out on a shutout when Buddy O'Connor scored in the final-minute of period three. The Red Wings coasted to a 6 to 1 victory.

After their tilt in the Motor City, the Rangers headed to Toronto for a match at Maple Leaf Gardens. McDonagh was a scratch, and didn't play for New York.

Bill McDonagh's performed in his final NHL game on October 25, 1949, in Chicago Stadium. In a close-knit contest, the Rangers earned their first win of the young season.

Chicago took a first period lead on a goal by Metro Prystai. Over the next forty-minutes, Rayner kept the Black Hawks off the scoreboard. The next two tallies were scored by Alex Kaleta and Edgar Laprade, giving New York a 2 to 1 win.

Former NHL players Cummy Burton and Jimmy Fox will also be entering the Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame in June. Burton, will be featured in an upcoming story.

Monday, May 14, 2012

New York Rangers 1939-40

With their 2 to 1 victory in game seven over Washington, the New York Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference Final. The Rangers are the lone Original Six franchise still in the hunt for Lord Stanley's silverware.

The Blueshirts from Broadway last won the Cup in 1994 against Vancouver. Fifty-four-years prior to this, the 1939-40 squad was the last Manhattan team to celebrate winning the big prize. Their first championship came in 1927-28, followed by another in 1932-33.

In 1939-40, the New York Rangers were guided by Lester Patrick and Frank Boucher. At the management level, Patrick served as general manager, and Boucher as assistant GM. Behind the bench, the roles were reversed, with Boucher as coach, and Patrick in the position of assistant coach.

Boucher, a superstar player for New York, was coming off his first year coaching the New York Rovers in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League. After one term directing the Rovers, he was elevated to the parent club. His appointment was announced in July 1939, during a press conference held in the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa.

Under Boucher, the New York Rangers finished in second-place with 64 points, three shy of league leading Boston. Following 48 regular season contests, New York amassed 27 victories, 11 defeats and 10 draws. In one stretch, they went 19 games without a loss.

Despite being a rookie NHL coach, Boucher proved be to no slouch at his craft. With a fresh face in-charge, came fresh ideas.

When the Rangers were attempting to pull-off their 20th game without a loss, they found themselves in-tough against Chicago. Late in the final period, New York trailed Chicago by a score of 2 to 1. As time ticked down, Boucher went to work, and introduced one of his new concepts. In the second intermission, he briefed goalie Dave Kerr on his strategy.

The plan was unique. With approximately 1:30 remaining, Boucher pulled Kerr, who was replaced on the ice by Ott Heller. At this point all-hell broke loose. Lester Parick, who was positioned by the penalty box, started yelling at his coach, stressing he had too many players on the ice. Paul Thompson, the bench boss for Chicago, heard Patrick shouting at Boucher. The Hawks coach immediately voiced his concerns to the referee.

Lester Patrick & Frank Boucher
Instead of action continuing, the on-ice official whistled down the play, and assessed a penalty against New York. No one took note of New York's net being empty. And this included the "Silver Fox", Lester Patrick!

Protests made by Boucher were ignored by the referee. The Rangers fell 2 to 1 in Chicago Stadium. In defeat, Boucher started a trend which is now the norm.

That wasn't the end to Boucher's trailblazing ways. In 1939-40, he focused on special teams, with attention to how his team performed when down-a-man.

It was customary for NHL coaches to concentrate on defence when their opponent went on the power play. Boucher, acting on a suggestion by Ranger Neil Colville, decided to try something different. His team would mount an attack, rather than sitting back and protecting the area within their blueline.

Like any decent coach, Boucher drilled this new philosophy into his team during practice.

Once everyone was in sync, Boucher implemented his new innovation. A forward line consisting of Mac Colville, Neil Colville and Alex Shibicky, were instructed to penetrate the offensive zone. Their objective being to hem-in the other team and create turnovers. Hopefully, these would be converted into scoring chances. While the forwards went deep, defenceman Art Coulter patrolled the oppositions blueline.

Writing in his autobiography ("When The Rangers Were Young" with Trent Frayne), Boucher described the results. "Over the season we outscored our opponents almost two to one when we were shorthanded," w Boucher.

When action turned up-ice to the Rangers end, Boucher had another trick up his sleeve - the box defence. In this alignment, Ranger players defending against a power play, formed a box. This forced play to the perimeter, resulting in low percentage scoring opportunities.

New York opened the 1940 playoffs at home against Boston on March 19th. The two clubs participated in a Semi-Final series (best-of-seven), while Chicago faced Toronto in a Quarter-Final series (best-of-three). The other Quarter-Final pitted Detroit against the New York Americans.

The Rangers won their showdown by eliminating Boston four games to two. In three of their four victories, goalie Dave Kerr posted a shutout.

Following their Quarter-Final wins, Detroit met Toronto in a best-of-three Semi-Final. The Leafs swept Detroit, setting the stage for the Stanley Cup Final to begin on April 2, 1940.

Although New York held home ice advantage, only two matches were held in Madison Square Garden. Due to a circus being booked into the Garden, games one and two would be it for local fans to stand and cheer their team.

Realizing the importance of this, New York made the most of getting some home-cooking. They won both encounters before heading north to Toronto.

In games three and four at Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto evened the series with 2 to 1 and 3 to 0 wins. The heroes were Hank Goldup, who scored the winning goal late in game three, and Turk Broda, who shutout the visitors in game four.

Game five was a thrilling affair, with the score tied at one apiece after sixty-minutes. The extra-time extended to the second overtime period, when Muzz Patrick scored to put his team one victory away from a parade along Broadway.

On April 13, 1940, Toronto was faced with a do-or-die scenario. Once again, the drama hit a fever pitch, when two tallies by New York in the final frame forced overtime. A goal by Alf Pike at 10:01, knotting the score at two-all.

New York thought they scored a third marker at 17:14, when Phil Watson grabbed a loose puck in the crease and sent it past the goal line. The go-ahead-goal was waived-off by referee Bill Stewart. He ruled that Bryan Hextall, who was on top of Broda, made it impossible for the Toronto goalie to make a save.

Hextall, played on New York's third line with Dutch Hiller and Phil Watson. A native of Grenfell, Saskatchewan, Hextall would make-up for his faux pas at 2:07 of OT.

As Hiller carried the puck into Toronto's zone, he lost possession. His linemate Phil Watson, gained control of the black disc along the boards. Heading for the Toronto cage was Hextall. After taking a pass from Watson, an open Hextall lifted a back-hand into the net.

It was the Rangers second Cup win on Maple Leaf Gardens ice. Seven-years to the day, on April 13, 1933, New York captured all-the-marbles with a 1 to 0 victory over the Blue and White.

Looking back on the Rangers Cup win in 1940, Boucher heaped nothing but praise on the men who made it all possible. "It was the best hockey team I ever saw," noted Boucher.