Monday, June 23, 2014

In The Good Old Summertime

When the Los Angeles Kings were crowned Stanley Cup champions on June 13th, it brought another year of hockey to an end.

It was time for summer and hockey's off-season.

For the NHL Oldtimers, the summer was kicked-off with their annual barbeque. The event took place on the very first day of summer and was hosted by Al and Lorraine Shaw.

Above: Wally Stanowski and Jerry Junkin are deep in conversation as they sit in the shade on the deck. Wally is still wearing his New York Rangers cap in support of his former team. He was traded to the Rangers following his 1948 Stanley Cup win with the Maple Leafs. In exchange for Wally and Elwyn Morris, Toronto obtained Cal Gardner, Rene Trudell and the rights to Frank Mathers.
 Above: Sue Foster, author (with Carl Brewer) of the wonderful book - "The Power of Two" - Carl Brewer's Battle with Hockey's Power Brokers - is pictured here with Janet Anderson. The following passage comes from the Acknowledgments in her book:
There are literally hundreds of wonderful people within the hockey community who have constantly rallied around me with their love, encouragement and interest: I cherish your presence in my life. Special mention to Al Shaw, Jim Anderson and their wives (Lorraine & Janet) for all their love and the contribution you make to the NHL Oldtimers.

 Above: Blaine Smith enjoys a beverage under the tent. His Dad, Sid Smith, still holds an NHL record. On April 10, 1949, he scored 3 power play goals in a Stanley Cup final game against the Detroit Red Wings - 65 years later, the record still stands.
Above: Former Boston Bruin, Bob Becket (R), shares a laugh with Blaine Smith. On November 2, 1961, Bob scored his first National Hockey League goal. It was scored against Montreal goalie Jacques Plante.
Above: To celebrate the arrival of summer, the DCAT Chorus filled the air with delightful tunes. Details on the chorus can be found at their website DCAT Chorus. For further information, please contact Rhonda Marks-Would at
 Above: The crowd looks on as the DCAT Chorus belts out another song.
 Above: George Storey signs an autograph for another guest. His Brother, Red Storey, was not only an NHL referee of note, but a star running back for the Toronto Argos from 1936 to 1941.
 Ivan Irwin embraces the lovely Jennifer Anderson. After joining the Rangers from Montreal, Ivan's new coach, Frank Boucher, said this about his new defenceman, "He's all I thought he was - and more."
* Note: Edited at 11:00 am, June 23, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

King of Kings

As the Stanley Cup final shifts to Los Angeles for game five, here is a look back to the Kings when they first became part of the National Hockey League.

The city of Los Angeles gained an NHL franchise on February 9, 1966.

At a meeting held in New York, word came down that Jack Kent Cooke (California Sports Inc.) had emerged victorious in his pursuit of a big league team for LA. The Canadian businessman prevailed over several groups, including one fronted by Clarence D. Martin. He represented Dan Reeves (Los Angeles Rams) and Bob Reynolds ( Los Angeles Angels). Martin previously worked in Washington as an under-secretary of commerce. Also, he was close to the powerful Kennedy family. Another person hoping to get his foot-in-the-door was Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson.

Reeves, already had a connection with the game, as he and Jim Piggotf, who hailed from Saskatoon, were co-owners of the Western Hockey League Los Angeles Blades.
Jack Kent Cooke

"I feel like I'm now one echelon above the president of the United States," Cooke told UPI upon hearing the news of his successful bid.

After gaining entry into the exclusive NHL playground, Cooke was asked how he would sell hockey's top league in California. "I'm going to build on Canadians to spark the draw," Cooke advised a newspaper reporter. "You know how many Canadians or Americans of Canadian extraction there are in the metro area? Seven hundred thousand, that's how many. They'll form a nucleus of the proper breed."

To help him enlighten Californians of the NHL brand, Cooke hired Ed Fitkin as his director of public relations. Fitkin had a long history in the game, first working as a sports writer in Toronto, then in publicity at Maple Leaf Gardens. After his stint of employment with Conn Smythe, Fitkin joined the CBC.

In addition to his public relations duties, Fitkin served as general manager of the LA Wolves, a team owned by Cooke that played in the United Soccer Association. Also, he sat beside play-by-play man Jiggs McDonald doing colour on radio (KNX) and TV (KTLA).

Former NHL player, Larry Regan, was hired by Cooke to beat-the-bushes for talent in advance the expansion draft. He became the Kings first general manager. "I probably have 600 players in my book," Regan stated in an interview. "Of that number, 120 are in the NHL now - most of them unavailable. I pay a lot of attention to the top six on each American Hockey League club and the bottom six on each NHL team. The difference in those two grades is maybe 10 per cent.

All of Regan's scouting missions paid-off when the National Hockey League expansion draft took place in Montreal on June 5, 1967. Holding the first overall selection, the Kings chose veteran goalie Terry Sawchuk from the Toronto Maple Leafs. During the 1966-67 campaign, Sawchuk recorded his 100th shutout and backstopped the Maple Leafs to a Stanley Cup victory over Montreal. In a later round, Regan and his staff selected another goalie, Wayne Rutledge.
Larry Regan

Also at the draft, Cooke signed his first coach. Once again, an ex-Maple Leaf was front and centre. Like Sawchuk, Red Kelly was a member of Toronto's '67 Cup team.

It was Kelly's intention to retire after winning the Cup and become a coach. Apparently, Kelly negotiated his release the previous summer in exchange for playing the 1966-67 season in Toronto. However, the Leafs weren't going along with the plan. As the draft progressed they put Kelly back on their list, thus retaining his rights. This move prevented the Kings from getting Kelly as their first bench boss.

Before leaving Montreal, the Kings and Maple Leafs resolved their differences. "Punch and I have reached an agreement whereby Ken Block goes to Toronto in exchange for Red Kelly, who becomes the official coach of the Kings," announced Cooke in a statement to the press.

Another important move made by the organization was purchasing the American Hockey League team in Springfield. The Kings gave the job of grooming their young talent to Johnny Wilson, who had played for several NHL teams in his career. The acquisition also helped to stock the parent club with warm bodies. In particular, with Dale Rolfe and Bill White securing jobs on the Los Angeles defence.

Recognizing the need for the community to form a bond with their new team, even before they hit the ice, Cooke held a team-naming contest. When the totals were tallied, 7,634 people thought "Kings"
would be a suitable name. A fan base was formed when members who belonged to the Los Angeles Blades fan club, switched their allegiance to the Kings.

The Los Angeles Kings roster in their first year of operation ('67-'68) was typical of an expansion club trying to find its way. Frank Orr, a highly respected hockey writer the Toronto Daily Star, provided the following breakdown of the Kings line-up:

Kings' top forward line to date has been Brian Kilrea between Ted Irvine and Lowell MacDonald. Ed Joyal pivots Real Lemieaux and Bill Flett, while Gord Labossiere centres Terry Gray and Brian Smith. Three refugees from the Springfield Indians - Dave Amadio, Bill White and Dale Rolfe - plus Bob Wall and Jacques Lemieux form the defence corps.

To start the year, Los Angeles held their home games at the Long Beach Arena and the LA Sports Arena. Red Kelly's troops began the season with home wins against Philadelphia and Minnesota. This was followed by draws in Oakland and St. Louis and a win over the Hawks at Chicago Stadium..

On December 30, 1967, the Kings were finally able to play in their new home, The Forum. Jack Kent Cooke had nothing but praise for his new building. "The Forum is easily the most beautiful of its kind anywhere, including the new Madison Square Garden in New York," said the proud owner. "This place is so beautiful it is breathtaking."

Unfortunately for Cooke and company, the Philadelphia Flyers won the first regular season contest at The Forum. They downed the Kings 2-0 with Ed Hoekstra scoring the first goal in Forum history.

Shortly after being awarded the right to operate an NHL club, Cooke was asked to comment on expectations when it came to winning a Stanley Cup. "I don't expect to win in 1967 or 1968. Let's talk about 1969, when we've had two full years of play," responded Cooke to the inquiry.

While Cooke may not have had a part in organizing a Stanley Cup parade, he did lay the foundation for a very successful franchise, as the current team hopes to earn the Kings second championship.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

1928: A Unique Stanley Cup Final

In today's hockey world certain things are taken for granted.

Imagine Henrik Lundqvist or Jonathan Quick going down with an injury and not having a back-up to take their place. Of course, NHL rules wouldn't let such a thing happen.

Or picture this scenario materializing prior to the New York and Montreal 2014 semi-final series. Due to a scheduling conflict or a lack of foresight, New York is forced to play all their games on the road.

Obviously, both of these circumstances wouldn't occur in the modern game, but this wasn't always the case.

Back in 1928, the Montreal Maroons and New York Rangers hooked-up in the Stanley Cup final. The first three contests in the best-of-five series were scheduled to be played at The Forum in Montreal. Games four and five should have been booked for Madison Square Garden, but the dates weren't reserved on the calendar.

"No provision was made by The Garden for Stanley Cup hockey games," Seabury Lawrence wrote in The New York Times, advising his readers as to why the Rangers wouldn't be travelling back to NYC for their portion of the final.

Instead of watching Frank Boucher and the Cook's battle the Maroons, New York hockey fans, hungry for live-action, were shutout. If they went to MSG for hockey, they were out-of-luck, as the circus had taken over the building.

The other unique situation occurred in game two on April 7, 1928, when a scary incident left the Rangers without their star goalie. Once again, Lawrence of The Times explains what happened:

The dramatic element entered into the picture when Lorne Chabot, Ranger goalie, was badly hurt when Nelson Stewart, right wing of the Maroons, drove a a disk into the Ranger goalies left eye.

Chabot was unable to continue between the pipes, leaving the Rangers in a bind. To rectify their goaltending situation, they first sought permission to use Ottawa goalie Alex Connell, who was taking in the game. The Maroons refused to agree and New York was forced to look in-house.

Under the rules of the day, Chabot had ten-minutes to recover and if he was unable to proceed, New York had to put a substitute in net. The NHL defined substitute as someone under contract to the club.

The only in-game alternative for New York was their manager, Lester Patrick. Even by today's standards, Patrick, then 44 years-of-age, was considered too old for the task. With their back-to-the-wall and Patrick under contract, New York had no other choice but to use their manager.
Lester Patrick

In a recent communication with Leo Bourgault, he pointed out that his Dad (Leo Sr.), who played for the '28 Rangers, "offered to put the pads on when it happened, but Lester declined, he needed all his defencemen and the rest is a great story."

By all accounts, it is indeed a great story.

 "Patrick played a great game, stemming off numerous attacks by the strenuous Maroons, and was wildly applauded by the crowd," noted The Times as Patrick lead his team to victory.

With Chabot out for the remaining games, Patrick moved to find a replacement.

When game three began, there was a new face in the crease for New York, Joe Miller. A native of Morrisburg, Ontario, Miller started the 1927-28 campaign with the New York Americans and participated in 28 contests (8-16-4), but was sent down to the Niagara Falls Cataracts (Can-Pro League).

Miller became property of the Boston Bruins when they claimed the Americans didn't make him available on waivers. He remained in Niagara Falls on the understanding he would serve as a "relief goalkeeper in the NHL" when called upon.

Although New York was shutout 2-0 in game three, Miller's reviews were positive. One scribe wrote,  "...had it not been for his sterling work, the locales would have won by a larger margin."

It all game down to one contest to determine hockey's champion for 1928 after Miller blanked the Maroons in game four by a score of 1-0.

Joe Miller

Joe Miller continued his brilliance in the fifth and deciding game. As one article described Miller,  "gave one of the greatest exhibitions of goalkeeping ever seen on local ice, and it is doubtful if his performance has ever been beaten in the annals of organized hockey."

Backed by Miller's outstanding work in the net and two goals from Frank Boucher, the New York Rangers were crowned Stanley Cup champions thanks to their 2-1 victory.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Who won the Game?

While doing research on New York's Stanley Cup win in 1933, I came across an interesting article relating to an executive with the Rangers.

It chronicles how William F. Carey, the president of Madison Square Garden, spent his evening in Toronto when his club defeated the Maple Leafs and won the Cup on April 13, 1933.

Upon arriving at 60 Carlton Street, the address of  Maple Leaf Gardens, Carey developed a case of the jitters and didn't set a foot inside the building. Instead, he made his way to a restaurant on the other side of the street.

He didn't budge until 10:00pm and only did so as the establishment was closing for the night.

A check of the Toronto City Directory narrows the hunt for the eatery visited by Carey. The newspaper story reveals that "he (Carey) walked across from the rink and entered a small restaurant." On the south-side of Carlton, the only applicable address is #65 which housed the Garden Restaurant. It was right next to the Imperial Bank of Commerce at 67 Carlton. The bank still occupies this building in 2014.

Once he got bounced from the restaurant, Carey "wandered out on Carlton Street and while ambling along came to a small repair shop for automobiles."

Possibilities concerning the identity of that business are reduced when searching the City Directory. The only commercial enterprise of this nature, Newton and Magee Auto Repairs, is listed at 28-30 Carlton.

Therefore, at some point Carey returned to the north-side of Carlton Street. He killed more time at the auto repair shop before noticing an increase in pedestrian traffic.

This motivated him to continue his walk. The time had arrived to discover what happened at 60 Carlton.

"Who won the game?," Carey asked the first person he encountered.

"The Leafs," Carey was told.

As the story reports, "immediately Mr. Carey's hopes sank to a low ebb."

Another voice gave him a reason to consider he may have been duped into thinking his team lost the contest. "Well, that ends the hockey season," said someone passing by. This could only mean that the Rangers downed Toronto. If it was the other way around and Toronto came out on top, there would have been another game.

An affirmative reply confirming the Rangers victory came after Carey made an additional inquiry.

Carey finally knew the correct answer to "Who won the game?"

His time had come to enter Maple Leaf Gardens.

Here is a link to William Carey's bio from the Hoosick Township Historical Society -  Bio

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cooking up a Stanley Cup: NY Rangers 1933

Every National Hockey League team looks for a secret ingredient which will help them win hockey's grand prize.

In 1933, the New York Rangers looked their resident cook, Bill Cook, to work his magic in the kitchen.

On April 13, 1933, the Rangers and Leafs tangled in game four of their best-of-five Cup final at Maple Leaf Gardens. New York held a 2-1 advantage in games won and needed one more victory to close out the series.

After playing sixty-minutes of scoreless hockey in game four, Bill Cook turned-up the heat in the kitchen.

Ranger goalie, Andy Aitkenhead, looks on as three of his teammates tend to Maple Leaf centre Joe Primeau

When seven-minutes and thirty-four-seconds of overtime had gone by, dinner was ready. And it was the Maple Leafs who were cooked.

Toronto found themselves in a sizzling frying pan when Alex Levinsky and Bill Thoms were both in the penalty box, giving New York a two-man advantage. To help generate offence, Lester Patrick employed five forwards on the power play.

The play leading up to the Stanley Cup winning goal began at centre ice with Butch Keeling gaining possession of the puck and working his way towards Toronto's zone.

Joseph C. Nichols of The New York Times described what happened next:

 Breaking away instantly, Butch sped along the left alley far into Toronto's territory. Bill Cook accompanied him on his journey, travelling along the right lane near the side boards. As Red Horner (a Leaf defenceman) approached Keeling in an endeavour to steal the disk from him, the latter transferred it quickly and precisely to the fast-skating Bill, who took the pass easily.
 Not breaking his stride a bit, the Ranger swooped in on Chabot, and when the Leaf goalie sought to come out of the cage to topple his adversary Bill lifted the puck swiftly into the far corner.

While Bill Cook and the rest of the Rangers feasted on their victory, Toronto's fans suddenly lost their appetite.

The New York Rangers had won their second Stanley Cup since entering the NHL in 1926-27.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Rangers: 1928 Cup Victory

As the New York Rangers launch another campaign to capture Lord Stanley's mug, we look back to their very first trip to the Stanley Cup final in 1927-28.

With their best-of-five Cup final knotted at two games apiece, the New York Rangers and Montreal Maroons met on Saturday April 14, 1928, to decide a champion.

In a hard fought contest, the Rangers emerged from a defensive battle to hand the Maroons a 2-1 loss.

Two goals by Frank Boucher gave the visiting Rangers what appeared to be a comfortable lead late in period three. But at the 17:50 mark, Merlyn Phillips pulled the Maroons to within one goal.

"The Rangers were down to five men as the game ended, but the Maroons could not crash through for another one...," noted Seabury Lawrence in The New York Times.

Along with Frank Boucher, Rangers goalie Joe Miller made a huge contribution. Before Boucher's second tally, he held-off the Maroons, who were pressing for the equalizer. "A battle royal raged around Miller, and only more heroic work by the little goalie saved the situation," detailed The Times. "Twice he came out of the net to bat the disk away, once the whole length of the rink."

What makes Miller's accomplishment stand-out is the fact he replaced New York's regular netminder, as Lorne Chabot was sidelined due an eye injury. Miller was loaned to the Rangers by the New York Americans to fill-in for Chabot.

Much like Miller's performance 86 years-ago, Henrik Lundqvist will have to be on the top of his game if New York hopes to add another Stanley Cup to their trophy case.