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.