Monday, January 30, 2012

Concussions: Then & Now

Over the weekend, there was breaking news concerning the medical condition of Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby. While many in the hockey world believed his absence was due to concussion-like-symptoms, a new twist was thrown into the mix. According to media reports, Crosby is also suffering from a "vertebrae abnormality in his neck."

This raises some interesting questions. Are the concussion symptoms and neck problem one in the same? Are they two separate medical issues? Was Crosby's injury misdiagnosed with subsequent treatment focusing on the concussion, when in fact, his treatment should have been on his neck?

On Thursday morning while attending the media conference for the Maple Leaf Gardens time capsule, Dr. Hugh Smythe shed some light on the subject of concussions - then and now. Upon reviewing his comments, it was as though he peered into a crystal ball in anticipation of the Crosby related events over the weekend.

"As you may know, I was the team doctor (Maple Leafs) for twenty-five-years," stated Dr. Smythe in his opening remarks.

In his memoir, "If You Can't Beat 'Em in the Alley," Hugh's dad, Conn Smythe, wrote about seeing his son's potential for entering the medical profession. "I thought when he was a child that he would become a doctor. He would dissect things to see how they worked. He was gentle, kind, and precise," observed the Leafs boss. His assessment was bang-on as Hugh went on to become a specialist in Rheumatology.

Prior to joining the Leafs medical staff, Hugh lived the dream of every Canadian youngster. While still attending  school. he would spend his evenings, when the Leafs were in action, at Maple Leaf Gardens tending to his duties as Toronto's stickboy. Smythe has pleasant memories of the Leafs playoff run in 1942. Trailing the Detroit Red Wings by three games in the Final, young Hugh watched as his dad's team stormed back to win the next four contests and lay claim to the Stanley Cup.

Dr. Smythe, looking at the current state of  hockey injuries and how they are assessed, provided an historical perspective based on knowledge gathered during his time in the game.

"Nobody ever had to stay out of the game more than a week with a concussion," said Smythe. In most cases, it was his opinion a neck injury was inflicted upon a player, not a concussion. "Among the symptoms of whiplash and chronic whiplash are headaches, dizziness and being unable to sleep. It took me a long time to learn how to do more than guess to make a proper diagnosis. If you know the diagnosis, the treatments are not difficult," explained the 84-year-old Smythe.

"Imagine a guy like Sidney Crosby being out about a year. They would have killed me if any Leaf player was out over a year," said Dr. Smythe with a smile.

I asked Dr. Smythe if today's game was more violent, thus accounting for the increase in concussions over the past several seasons? "Are you telling me someone was more violent than Gordie Howe? Hundreds of people tried to show they could dominate Howe and everyone of them got bruises for their effort."

When discussing the current concussion problem, many point to the role equipment plays in the equation. Dr. Smythe offered his opinion in this regard. "On the sports pages they recently reported on the Final of the World Rugby Championships. The New Zealand All-Blacks won over France. You saw the pictures of what they were wearing (equipment wise)? None! That's what the Leafs had. When I was growing-up, I had the Saturday Evening Post for shin-pads."

Words of wisdom for all to consider.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Time in a Copper Box: The Maple Leaf Gardens Time Capsule

The mere mention of a time capsule evokes memories of a past event.

On April 21, 1986 a large television audience sat glued to their sets watching as host Geraldo Rivera opened a secret vault in Chicago's Lexington Hotel. Why such interest in this vault at this location? The answer is simple - Al Capone.

The noted gangster who ruled the underworld during the 1920s and 1930s was the individual responsible for constructing the vault. Speculation was rampant as to what was inside. The theories ranged from gold and cash to dead bodies.

As usually happens when something is hyped to the extreme, the outcome tends to be a downer. When Rivera and his team finally cracked through the door, all they discovered was a load of dirt and an empty bottle.

It could be the nature of the process, but one can hardly avoid building-up feelings of anticipation when attending or watching an event like the one taking place in 1986.

With this in mind, I made my way down yesterday to the George Vari Engineering & Computing Centre at Ryerson University to attend a media conference. It was time to identify the contents contained within a time capsule discovered at Maple Leaf Gardens in the autumn of 2011.

Upon entering the atrium level, the items from the capsule were on display for all to view. It was a huge relief not to have the same results as the Capone/Rivera experience.

The time capsule was the home for 80-years for the following 12 pieces as described in the media release.

A four-page, typed letter from the directors of Maple Leaf Gardens describing the design and construction details of the new arena.

A stock prospectus for Maple Leaf Gardens.

Four newspapers from September 21, 1931 including the Toronto Daily Star, The Globe, The Mail and Empire and the Evening Telegram.

Three official hockey rule books, one each for the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, the Ontario Hockey Association and the National Hockey League.

A Red Ensign Flag.

1931 Toronto Municipal Handbook.

A small ivory elephant with fragments of a blue ribbon.

 These items were stored in a homemade copper box, then placed behind the cornerstone at Maple Leaf Gardens. The ceremony for the cornerstone took place on September 21, 1931. Checking newspaper reports from the next day, there was no mention of the time capsule.

Most intriguing of all the items is the ivory elephant. Although its meaning and importance is not known, there was plenty of speculation. The general consensus being it represented a symbol of good luck.

Sheldon Levy, President of Ryerson University provided his thoughts. "I do believe the whole box suggests a sense of risk and a sense that people were unsure of the times during the depression. Whether it would all work. Would the investment come true. The elephant to me was a sense of I wish us luck."

Dr. Hugh Smythe, son of the legendary Conn Smythe, spoke of a family connection to an ivory elephant. "In the First World War my father who became a prisoner of war and as a prisoner of war he met a Russian by the name of Logvinoff. He gave my father his boots as my father's were shot-up. So Logvinoff who had two pairs of boots he gave my father one pair. As he learnt later it was typical of Logvinoff as it was his best pair of boots he gave to my father. After the war he came to Canada and married a Toronto girl. He moved to Shanghai and was an importer/exporter. He sent us a number of things including an ivory elephant which we still have."

Obviously, this wasn't the elephant in the time capsule, but it does indicate Conn Smythe was in possession of a similar item. Also, Dr. Smythe pointed out his father wasn't on the Board of Directors at this time and only served as an employee. Thus, his exposure to this project could have been limited or his participation wasn't required at all.

Another mysterious part of the discovery relates to the copper box. In particular, the inner lid. Once opened, a hand-engraved inscription was noticed. It read "M.B. Campbell 124 Lindsay Ave 9/21/31." It was pointed out to all assembled at Ryerson that very few details were known about M.B. Campbell.

After the gathering I decided to conduct some detective work at the Toronto Reference Library. A check of city directories supplied some valuable information. The records show a Milliard B. Campbell living at 124 Lindsay Ave in Toronto, Ontario. He was employed as a draftsman at Ewart Armer and Byam Ltd. - consulting engineers. The president and general manager was Frank R. Ewart. They were located on 36 Toronto Street. Their office was in the Excelsior Life Building.

Of course, this information doesn't shed light on Campbell's input or why his name is on the lid. However, it does help to provide some background as to his complete name and occupation.

As for the other findings, Arne Kislenko a professor of history at Ryerson University, provided some insight. He is of the opinion that by including the amateur rule books there was some doubt if the pro game would take-off. He made reference to the difficult financial times in 1931, with the depression raging on and unemployment at 30 percent.

President Levy indicated the ivory elephant could have an impact on the current Toronto Maple Leafs. "We have found the good luck charm for the Maple Leafs. They are now on the road to the Stanley Cup," stated the longtime hockey fan.

Perhaps, it is one white elephant the Leafs wouldn't mind being in the room. With the ivory elephant safely hidden in a copper box tucked behind the cornerstone, Toronto's NHL team were crowned Stanley Cup champions 7 months later in April 1932.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New York Islanders: Then & Now

Back in the early 1980s, when tickets to a New York Islanders game were offered, there would be no hesitation in grabbing them as quickly as possible. Then, making a rapid exit out the door before someone rescinded the offer.

During the Islanders heyday, they captured four Stanley Cups. Their All-Star line-up was a joy to watch with players like Denis Potvin, Billy Smith and Mike Bossy leading the way. Getting a crack to watch those future Hall of Fame members in-person was at the top of the wish list for most hockey fans.

All these thoughts rumbled through my noggin when I attended the Leafs and Islanders game on Monday evening. Prior to heading down to the ACC, I decided to investigate the history on the visitors from Long Island relating to their first regular season trip to Toronto.

It was well into the 1972-73 season before the NHL's newest franchise from New York State journeyed north for an encounter against the Maple Leafs.

Under coach Phil Goyette, the first year expansion club had a mix of young and veteran talent. As they prepared to tangle with the Leafs, Ron Stewart was out of the line-up due to injuries. However, forward Ed Westfall and defencemen Arnie Brown were older players familiar to Toronto hockey fans when they skated out onto the ice for a mid-week contest on January 10, 1973.

The young talent and hope for a brighter future came from right-winger Billy Harris. The prized rookie was the crown jewel in the Islanders roster. "He's had very few bad games for us, the only problem is to keep him from becoming frustrated," Goyette told the Toronto media.

In addition to Harris being an ex-member of the Toronto Marlboros, Leaf faithful looked forward to a former fan favourite making another appearance at Maple Leaf Gardens. There was no mistaking the chap wearing sweater number nine for New York - Brian "Spinner" Spencer. When he patrolled the wing for Toronto, Spencer's no-nonsense approach to the game, and his ability to stick his nose into sticky situations, made him one of the most popular on the squad.

Entering the game, the Islanders only accumulated 12 points in the standings with four wins and the same amount of tie games. Those gathered at the Gardens expected the Leafs to sail to victory over their weaker opponent. Toronto iced a team which featured Dave Keon, Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson and Darryl Sittler in the forward positions. The defence core included Brian Glennie and Mike Pelyk in the rotation.

In goal for New York was Gerry Desjardins, with Ron Low getting the nod over Jacques Plante in the Toronto crease.

As expected, the Leafs didn't disappoint their supporters. Goals by Paul Henderson and Errol Thompson gave the home team a 2-0 advantage after one period of play.

The two clubs exchanged goals in period two with Dave Keon beating Desjardins for his 19th goal of the campaign. As time was ticking down, Billy Harris notched his 11th while the Islanders enjoyed a power play. The goal came at 19:15.

Heading into the final frame, Toronto held a 3-1 lead. Over the remaining twenty-minutes, both clubs scored, Henderson his second of the night for Toronto and Brian Lavender for New York.The Leafs headed for the showers with a 4-2 victory.

Following the final whistle, Foster Hewitt's three star selections were announced. The first star was Paul Henderson (scoring his 200th and 201st goals of his NHL career), followed by Dave Keon and Gerry Desjardins. Despite being on the losing end, the Islanders goalie kept his team close while facing almost 50 shots on net.

Some 39 years later, on January 23, 2012, the circumstances were very similar. The Islanders came to Toronto with a roster lacking skilled personnel, but with one name providing hope for a better tomorrow - John Tavares. Like Billy Harris and others in the 1970s, pieces need to be acquired to get the best out of Tavares game-in and game-out. It is vital management secures a "Bryan Trottier" to help Tavares develop and mature with each passing season.

On the night, Tavares and his teammates were held-at-bay as Toronto shutout the Islanders 3-0. Scoring for the Blue and White were Matt Lombardi with two and a single tally from sniper Phil Kessel. Blocking all 25 New York shots directed at his net was Jonas Gustavsson.

In his game report for The Globe and Mail, Jim Mirtle wrote this about Tavares, "While Tavares looked dangerous at times cycling the puck in the offensive zone, he had only three shots on goal and appeared frustrated after the game in the dressing room."

Sounds familiar, doesn't it Billy Harris?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Getting a Share

Over the past week, there has been news coverage on NHL Alumni taking part in the Winter Classic Alumni Game. The most recent event involving former players of the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.

As the press clippings reveal, the Alumni received very little in way of financial compensation for their participation. A figure of $200.00 was quoted in one piece for certain players, plus travel and accommodation for those who incurred such expenses. In cases where players didn't bring hockey sticks, they were being sold in the dressing room at $50.00 a pop.

Looking at the other side of the ledger, the numbers are much brighter. Since the National Hockey League doesn't release for public consumption the exact final figures relating to the Alumni match, one can only surmise the gate receipts were huge. One number being bantered about is 4 million-dollars. Then, there are parking and concessions to factor into the equation.

The pay-off for Alumni lacing them up one more time? A lousy couple-of-hundred dollars, a plane ride and hotel room.

In the next round of CBA negotiations, it is vital the NHLPA takes steps to rectify this injustice and seek a fair cut from the pot. Sure, most of those taking part are not in dire-straights when it comes to the bottom-line. However, there are others in the membership who are hurting and could do with a boost in their pension cheques.

Another generation of Alumni who can no longer take to the ice are being ignored. In particular, those who skated in the Original Six era. There is absolutely no reason why they cannot, in more substantial numbers, be involved in events surrounding the Winter Classic weekend.

How about a massive Alumni luncheon or dinner, featuring NHL players from each of the previous decades? If fans will flock in enormous amounts to a football stadium for an Alumni encounter, imagine the results if they had the opportunity to sit-down a break bread with one of their heroes. Such a gathering would allow the spotlight to also focus on hockey's rich history. It wouldn't be limited to the Alumni representing the two teams playing on New Year's Day. Hand-in-hand with this would be merchandise sales and autograph sessions.

No matter how you dress-it-up, Alumni Games are nothing more than Oldtimers Games. Same game, different name. And who originated the concept of Oldtimers Games? Well, in the early 1950s players from prior generations came up with the idea to aid community needs.

Two teams, Red and White, would be composed of a starting line-up sure to dazzle anyone venturing out for a night of fun and hockey. In goal, Phil Stein could go up against Roy Worters in the opposing net. On defence, the crowd could watch Flash Hollett, Cy Wentworth, Dit Clapper and Lionel Conacher defend within their respective bluelines. Up front, they could cheer Nels Stewart, Billy Taylor, Lorne Duguid, Busher Jackson, Roy Conacher and Charlie Conacher, as they buzzed around the opposition goal. When the starters required a rest, 8 alternates of similar stature were more than ready to hop over the boards and join the action.

In the late 1950s and 60s, the banner was lifted by individuals like Sid Smith, Wally Stanowski, Bob Goldham, Ivan Irwin, Bob Beckett, Danny Lewicki and Murray Henderson to mention a few. The Conacher family tradition continued with Pete Conacher, Charlie's son, hitting the ice. Eventually, most of the Original Six clubs would form an Oldtimers squad and once again thrill their followers.

Certainly, local Alumni Games should benefit charities and other associations who need assistance. However, the NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game is a unique situation. Since it takes place on the national stage, would it not be a terrific chance for Alumni to reap the rewards for building-up the Alumni/Oldtimers event to the current status it now enjoys?

Why not distribute the profits from the Alumni Game and other related functions into the pension pool. The additional cash being earmarked towards maintaining or increasing the dollar amount of the pension for guys who gave-up their weekends to travel and raise money in small towns.

The players who toiled in the Golden Age of the game. Yet, who couldn't survive only on their hockey salary and were forced to work summers to provide for their families. If they were lucky. It was a time when those pulling an Original Six sweater over their heads were reluctant to disclose injuries suffered on the ice. Any hint of weakness could result in a one-way ticket to the minors and reduced pay. A physical impairment hampering their ability to engage in fruitful employment during the off-season. Injuries could linger and remain for a lifetime. Their quality of life suffering long after leaving the pro scene. Despite these circumstances, they didn't hesitate to hit the road and confront wicked winter conditions as they made their way to the next town and the next game. How could they not - people with greater and more stressing needs required their help.

Gains made from recent legal victories cannot be allowed to become stagnant. The efforts of Carl Brewer and Sue Foster, along with a host of former players, should continue in the next CBA battle.

The heart and soul of the Original Six era, they gave back to the game. Now, it is time for the current generation and the National Hockey League to give back, not only to the game, but to those who gave birth to the NHLPA and laid the groundwork for the success enjoyed by both sides.

Adding insult to injury is an ugly legacy.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Tiny Leaf Fan

A number of teams in professional sports have celebrity fans who can't stand to miss a minute of action when their favourite team engages in competition.

In the case of film director Woody Allen, it has been documented he would request actors pick-up their pace during shooting. All Allen would tell them is the New York Knicks are playing at 8:00pm.

Allen, in his early movies, would even write scenes where his beloved Knicks become part of the story. In one script, Allen is attending a house party given by a friend. After making the rounds, his character discretely vanishes to a quiet bedroom. Instead of spending time with those gathered for the occasion, he sits on the bed watching the Knicks play on TV.

In the early 1940s, after seeing his first hockey game, a seed was planted for a future celebrity to become an ardent fan of a National Hockey League franchise. Born in New York, you would think the Rangers were the team which interested the new fan. It was not to be.

The Original Six team lighting a spark under Herbert Khaury was the Toronto Maple Leafs. Okay, so you don't know who Khaury is. You probably will recognize his stage name - Tiny Tim.

Noted for his appearance - a tall lanky individual with a large nose, frizzy long locks and loud colourful apparel - Tiny Tim became part of the celebrity culture in the 1960s. His act incorporated vintage vaudeville songs and a ukulele. Tiny Tim's voice, described as being "high falsetto" by a music reviewer, is what grabbed the attention of those taking in his performance. His version of "Tip-Toe Through the Tulips" became an instant hit.

After getting some notice in the New York music scene, Tiny Tim was ready for the national stage. His TV work included guest-spots on Laugh-In, Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason shows. His most noted TV appearance came on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.

On the evening of December 17, 1969, the singer (at the time in his late 30s or early 40s, the exact year of his birth being a mystery) married his 17-year-old bride Miss Vicki, with a national TV audience as wedding guests.

Just how did this odd-character come to admire the Leafs? "I wanted to have a team so I looked at the standings in the newspaper and there were six teams to pick from. The Toronto Maple Leafs were third or fourth then, which was in the early 1940s. Maple reminded me of maple syrup and leafs reminded me of tree leaves, and it all reminded me of nature, and I like that, so I chose them," Tiny Tim told writer Bill Libby in a 1969 interview.

With the passing of time, he became more and more engrossed. Tiny Tim would follow the team via Foster Hewitt's broadcasts which could be picked-up over the New York radio airways.

Attending Leaf games when they visited Madison Square Garden to play the Rangers, Tiny Tim stood out like a rotten tomato. If Toronto was winning, he would often be chased out of the Garden by angry and disgruntled New York fans.

Down the road, as he became well-known and his celebrity status grew, Tiny Tim started sending Leafs coach and general manger Punch Imlach letters and telegrams. He wasn't shy in lending a helping hand to the Toronto boss. In his piece, Libby provided some insight on the nature of Tiny Tim's correspondence.

When Imlach traded forward Jim Pappin, Tiny Tim fired-off the following dispatch to Imlach, "No Pappin, no playoffs." The four-time Stanley Cup champion, Imlach, and the darling of American pop-culture, Tiny Tim, would eventually come face-to-face. Imlach surprised Tiny Tim while he was being interviewed for a Hockey Night in Canada segment.

Tiny Tim passed away in 1996 after suffering a second heart attack (his first came in September, followed by another in late November). He went out doing what he liked best. He died several hours after thrilling his Minneapolis fan base with a final dose of "Tip-Toe Through the Tulips".

Also, checking-out as a lifelong fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ron Caron

Last week brought news on the passing of former hockey executive Ron Caron. He died on January 9, 2012, at the age of 82 in Montreal.

His association with the Montreal Canadiens began in 1959. Caron's first duties with the Habs were in the scouting department. He served as a scout for the Montreal Junior Canadiens. Next up for Caron was a crack at coaching the Junior squad.

Like most executives from his era, Caron worked his way through the organization. In 1968-69, he was elevated to the post of coach and general manager with the Montreal Voyageurs in the AHL.

Caron reached the NHL when he was appointed head scout of the Canadiens. Later, he held the position of director of recruitment and player personnel. He worked his way up to gain the title of assistant general manager with the Original Six franchise.

He would finally get the opportunity to run the show in 1983 when he became general manager in St. Louis. Under Caron's watch, the Blues won two division titles.

A former Montreal Canadiens captain articulated Caron's approach to the game. "He was a very hard worker. He was always passionate about everything he did," stated Jean Beliveau in reference to Caron.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Coming Face to Puck

At times I come across a photo which truly depicts how difficult the conditions could get for goalies who played in the Original Six era. The lack of protection provided by inadequate equipment only added their misery. At least their chest protectors could cushion a blow inflicted by a rocket released from Bobby Hull's banana blade. When it came to the face area, the goalies were left helpless.

 The above photo shows Boston Bruins goalie Eddie Johnston coming face to puck in an Original Six contest played in the 1960s.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Detroit vs. Toronto: Rivalry Night

Billed as Rivalry Night, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings took to the Air Canada Centre ice last Saturday night. Besides two valuable points in the standings, bragging rights were on the line as the winning side would claim the lead in the overall series between the two clubs. Going into the contest, Detroit and Toronto played each other 643 times with each Original Six franchise winning 275 games and 93 resulting in a draw.

In a highly entertaining game, the Maple Leafs pounced on the visitors taking a 3-0 lead into the first intermission. The middle frame turned sour for the Leafs and their supporters. Goals by Todd Bertuzzi and Niklas Kronwall allowed the Motor City visitors to pull within one. This set-up an exciting final twenty-minutes of action. After controlling play in the second, the Red Wings continued pouring it on in the third. Their efforts were rewarded when Jiri Hudler beat Jonas Gutavsson to even the score at 3-3. The eventual winning goal came off the stick of Joffrey Lupul at 7:10 allowing the Leafs to escape with a 4-3 victory.

Toronto and Detroit played their final regular season game in the Original Six era on March 15, 1967. The setting was Maple Leaf Gardens with 15,479 spectators taking in the event. Also on this date, Leafs coach and general manager George "Punch" Imlach was marking his 49th birthday. There is little doubt the only birthday present on Imlach's wish list was two-points.

The starting goalies were Terry Sawchuk for the blue & white and Roger Crozier for Detroit. Like the contest last Saturday evening, the Maple Leafs held the advantage as they headed to the dressing room to rest and prepare for the next period of play. Bob Pulford opened the scoring, but Paul Henderson and the Red Wings quickly responded. Late in the period, Jim Pappin gave the Leafs a 2-1 lead.

Over the final forty-minutes, Detroit nibbled away at Toronto's slim lead. The only scoring in the middle frame came courtesy of Wings sniper Gordie Howe. His 22nd goal of the 1966-67 campaign made the score 2-2.

The outcome of this match would be decided in period number three.

It didn't take the Wings long to crash Imlach's birthday party. At 1:04, rookie call-up Doug Roberts lifted his team to a 3-2 advantage. Hall of Fame writer Frank Orr described the goal in the Star - "Howe and Roberts buzzed Leafs net for several seconds, forcing Terry Sawchuk to stop three shots before Roberts shoved it home."

Detroit finished off the Leafs when Paul Henderson produced his second tally of the night. The Wings departed Toronto with a 4-2 win.

With the National Hockey League landscape changing with expansion the following season, the luster of any Original Six match-up has only grown in importance and nostalgic significance over subsequent years. The rich history and past battles of these six teams means something to those who watched their heroes battle for Lord Stanley's mug year-in-and-year-out.

On Saturday January 7, 2012 it was no different.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hockey and a Law Degree

We are all familiar with Ken Dryden's pursuit of his legal studies while playing goal for the Montreal Canadiens.

Back in the early 1930s another player dedicated his time to becoming a legal eagle. His name in Don McFayden.

Born in Crossfield, Alberta, McFayden played his junior hockey with the Calagary Canadians. He won a Memorial Cup with the Canadians in 1926.

At the conclusion of his junior career, McFayden was faced with two options concerning his future. First, was the more travelled path of playing in the WCHL. An alternative for McFayden included not only restricting himself to participating in the game, but extending his studies. This way, he could have the best of both worlds - sports and academics. Thus, he opted to play for Marquette University.

It was at Marquette that McFayden experienced one of his greatest feats in hockey. "During the collegiate playoffs, Marquette a lowly western school, went east to Boston and defeated the big eastern champions Harvard University 4 to 2," said McFayden reflecting on his time at the school.

Marquette's victory over Harvard took place in 1930, the same year McFayden got the nod as the starting centre on the All-American Hockey Team.

In 1930-31, McFayden turned pro with the Chicago Shamrocks in the AHA. In 1931-32, he lead the league in assists, accumulating 17 helpers in 48 games.

McFayden faced another important decision when Jim Norris purchased the Detroit Cougars in 1932. The Cougars, who would later undergo a name change to Red Wings, purchased many of the Shamrocks players. One of them being McFayden.

Instead of joining Detroit in the NHL, McFayden elected to stay in Chicago. On September 2, 1932 he was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks by the Shamrocks for cash. Just as important, he continued his studies by taking classes at the university of Chicago Law School. He earned his degree in 1935.

McFayden played four seasons with the Black Hawks from 1932-33 to 1935-36. He described his style of play in the following manner, "I never was much of a scorer. Usually I was sent out to prevent somebody from the other side scoring goals."

His greatest thrill in the National Hockey League? Winning the Stanley Cup in 1933-34. "That final game when Mush (Marsh) scored the only goal against Detroit and we won 1-0, must be the second biggest night I had in hockey."

After his stint as an active player came to an end, he served as a linesman in the NHL and continued plying his trade in the law industry. He worked the lines until 1942.

During World War Two, McFayden served in the U.S. Navy. After spending most of his time away from Canada, McFayden became an American citizen. At sea, he was assigned to the Destroyer U.S.S. Sutherland. On ship, his responsibilities included working as a navigator.

Following his military service, MacFayden returned to his law career in Chicago and later in the State of Florida.

In 179 NHL regular season contests, he scored 12 goals and 33 assists for 45 points. In post-season action, McFayden skated in 11 games, producing 2 goals and 2 assists.

Don McFayden passed away on May 26, 1990 at the age of 83.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Year, Old Stories

With 2012 underway, we all look forward and wonder what the New Year has in store for us. It is also a time to reflect on the past. From a hockey perspective, it is always fun to explore the rich history of the game.
Being in a nostalgic frame of mind, we take a peek back to January 5, 1950.

For the hockey fan waking-up and scurrying to get a glance at the morning newspaper, they had the opportunity to investigate NHL results from the previous evening.

In Toronto, the Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks skated to a 4-4 draw. Writing in the Toronto Daily Star, Red Burnett described the contest "as wide-open as an Australian bookie's office." The implication being offence was the dominating factor.

After period one, the tilt was even a two goals apiece. Chicago took a 2-0 lead, but Toronto got back into the game on goals by Rudy Migay and captain Ted Kennedy.

The Hawks scored the first goal in the middle frame when former Leaf Gus Bodnar beat goalie Turk Broda. Toronto was on the power-play when Bodnar scored with assists going to Bep Guidolin and Ernie Dickens.

Similar to the opening period, Toronto mounted a comeback to turn-the-tables on Chicago. At the end of forty-minutes, Hap Day's Leafs returned to the dressing room up by a goal over the visitors. Tallies by Vic Lynn and Howie Meeker made the score 4-3.

Under coach Charlie Conacher, Chicago erased the Leafs advantage with Gaye Stewart's marker at 3:55 of period three.

At Madison Square Garden in New York, the Rangers and Red Wings were involved in a more defensive struggle.

Tony Leswick
Fans arriving late at the Garden, missed Pentti Lund's goal after only 29-seconds of action. His shot beat Wings netminder Harry Lumley between-the-legs. On the power play, Detroit's Joe Carveth tied the game with Sid Abel and Gordie Howe getting helpers on the play.

  New York's winning goal was scored by Tony Leswick early in period three at 4:14. The Rangers out shot Detroit 32-21 on their way to a 2-1 victory. The win bolted New York into sole possession of second place in the standings. It wouldn't be long before New York was sharing the second spot with another team.

The only scheduled game on January 5, 1950 pitted the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens. There was a festive atmosphere in the Montreal Forum with the Habs celebrating their 40th anniversary. Prior to the drop-of-the-puck, President Clarence Campbell took centre stage to honour goalie Bill Durnan with the Vezina Trophy, which he captured the previous campaign.

When Montreal and Boston left the playing surface for the second period intermission, the score was knotted at 2-2. The Canadiens burst-out to a 5-2 lead in the final twenty-minutes on two goals by Billy Reay and one from Leo Gravelle. At 14:48 the Bruins Milt Schmidt closed out the scoring.

Montreal recorded a 5-3 victory and earned two points for their effort, thus pulling them even in second place with the New York Rangers.

Aside from hockey, came news Irene Strong was named Canada's outstanding female athlete for 1949. A 20-year-old hailing from Vancouver, Strong was noted for her swimming accomplishments and the fact she held 19 Canadian records.

The poll, conducted by Canadian Press, made mention of twenty names for consideration. Of particular interest was the fact Turk Broda's bride fell into this category. And just what was her call to fame? Well, the spotlight was focused on Mrs. Broda for talents to assist her hubby in keeping his weight down!

In a constant battle to reduce his waistline, Broda was a target in Conn Smythe's rampage to have every player on the Leafs roster fall within a determined weight limit.

January 5, 1950. A blast from the past. Hockey from the Original Six era.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

For hockey fans living in Toronto, the only way they could see their beloved Maple Leafs play on January 1, 1965 was to visit a local theatre. With the Leafs in Boston to play the Bruins and no home TV coverage for those wishing to take in the contest, there was no other alternative if you wanted to view the  game.