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".




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