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.

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