Monday, June 29, 2015


One of the great pleasures of spending time with Wally Stanowski came when he told a good ole fashion hockey story.

Like this one about when he arrived in Toronto to face the Oshawa Generals at Maple Leaf Gardens to determine the 1938 Memorial Cup champion.

"That was with St. Boniface," Stanowski told me back in February 2012. "It was terrible the first time. Artificial ice is a hell of a lot slower than natural," which Stanowski skated on in his hometown. "Our first practice at the Gardens, if you threw a pass to your teammate it wouldn't get there because the puck was slow. It took a while to get adjusted."

Then, Stanowski got to the meat of the story.

"It kind of surprised me," Stanowski said after informing his visitor of a bribe letter he received at his downtown Toronto hotel room between Memorial Cup games. "I was supposed to skate behind the net and pretend I was lacing my skate, which meant I'm going to go along with it."

After thinking the situation over, Stanowski, then an 18 year-old kid, knew he had to do the right thing.

"I gave the letter to my manager," Stanowski stated 73 years later. "I was going to do it as a gag, but I didn't just in case we lost."

And what compensation were the gangsters promising Stanowski for his co-operation?

"They offered me $100," he replied without a hint of regret that he didn't sell-out. His reward came when the St. Boniface Seals won Canada's junior title.

On June 28, 2015, hockey lost one of its oldest storytellers when Wally Stanowski passed away at the age of 96.

I first met Wally Stanowski when I began attending the hockey oldtimers lunch in Markham, Ontario. Over time, I interviewed him on numerous occasions for my blog and other projects I was working on.

Despite his advanced age, Stanowski's memory remained intact as he remembered the past.

Walter Peter Stanowski was born on April 28, 1919, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

"My dad was a blacksmith and mother didn't work," Stanowski stated in a lengthy interview I conducted for The Society for International Hockey Research in June 2014.

"My mother bought me a pair of skates for $2.95 and they were brand new," Stanowski recalled of his opportunity to ditch the lady blades he had been wearing. "They were size 9 and at that time I was wearing size 5, but I was suppose to grow into them," he said with a chuckle. "That is how tight money was in those days."

Due to the turbulent financial times in the 1920's, Stanowski's dad had doubts about hockey as a career for his son.

"My dad didn't want me to play hockey. He wanted me to be a blacksmith. He used to do some welding and repair all the wagons with wooden spokes. He made carts for the farmers as he was pretty good with his hands."

When asked if he played organized or pond hockey as a youth, Stanowski answer was one that many generations could relate to.

"We had quite a few open-air rinks in Winnipeg. They also built a cabin at the rink. The boards were about two-and-half feet high and the rest was snow, which we cleaned off before playing shinny."

While strutting his stuff on the outdoor rink, little Wally Stanowski's favourite hockey player was Boston's Eddie Shore. "He was an all-round type of player," Stanowski said of Shore's ability to execute at both ends of the ice.

Before becoming a teenager, Stanowski's first taste of organized hockey came in a playground league. "We played another outdoor rink team. There must have been 10 more more of those outdoor rinks."

While in junior with St. Boniface, the New York Americans added his name to their negotiation list.

"I attended their training camp at Calgary in 1938. I remember being told to slow down that I already made the team and I had nothing to prove."

There was a reason the New York Americans didn't want Stanowski displaying his "A" game at camp. "I didn't know they made a deal with Toronto," Stanowski said of the agreement between the two clubs. "Toronto had the rights to pick any player from the camp. That's why they told me not to skate so hard and take it easy. That's how I became a Leaf."

After winning the Memorial Cup, Stanowski turned pro with Toronto and spent the 1938-39 season in the American Hockey League with  Syracuse.

He joined the Maple Leafs defence in 1939-40. His first coach in Toronto was Dick Irvin, who was behind the Maple Leafs bench in 1932, when they captured the Stanley Cup in their first year at Maple Leaf Gardens.

"He was a bad coach," Stanowski said of his new mentor. "He didn't teach me a thing. I thought here I'll learn something, but no."

In 1940-41, Hap Day, a former Leaf defenceman took over the coaching duties in Toronto. "Hap was very good. He got instructions from Smythe, but he did a lot of good things on his own."

His partner on Toronto's blue line was Bingo Kampman, with Stanowski being the take-charge guy.

"I was the one with the Leafs that if a puck came into our zone and I could get hold of it, they couldn't stop me from getting it out of our zone.

Stanowski's ability to effortlessly skate up ice and participate on offence, then motor back to attend to his defensive responsibilities was the greatest asset of his game.

"I would say as far as skating is concerned, in my opinion, Stanowski was the fastest skater," Boston Bruins legend Milt Schmidt told me in 2012, when I asked him to name the top speedster on Toronto's defence in the 1940's.

No one would argue with Schmidt's appraisal of Stanowski.

And that included Conn Smythe. On October 18, 1939, he described Stanowski's style of play to a local reporter.

"He plays defence as though he was swivelled at the hips. He skates sweepingly with legs spread out. You can rock him but he is harder to knock down than Joe Lewis," Smythe said of his rookie rearguard.

Under new coach, Hap Day, Stanowski's game flourished in his second  term in Toronto. He earned a spot on the 1941First All-Star Team, joining Boston's Dit Clapper. This achievement was one of Stanowski's fondest memories.

In season three, Stanowski and his teammates reached hockey's tallest mountain. As a result of winning the 1942 Stanley Cup, Stanowski and the other Maple Leafs remain a part of hockey history. Unable to gain a win in the first 3 games against Detroit, the Leafs took the next 4 contests and remain as the only club to accomplish this feat in the Stanley Cup Final.

Like many players from that era, Stanowski's NHL time was interrupted due to World War Two. He returned to Winnipeg along with his friend and fellow Leaf, Pete Langelle, and served as physical fitness instructor in the RCAF. While in the service, Stanowski skated for the RCAF Bombers.

Upon being discharged, Stanowski returned to the Maple Leafs and added three more Stanley Cups - 1945, 1947 and 1948 - to his trophy case.

His Stanley Cup in '48 was bittersweet, as it marked the end to his wearing the Blue & White.

The background on his escape from the Maple Leafs and Conn Smythe is another delightful story that can only be told by Stanowski.

Decked out in a comfortable blue plaid shirt and with a stream of smoke billowing from the bowl of his pipe, Stanowski sat back in his chair during one of my visits and told me about his trade to the New York Rangers in June of 1948.

"That year they didn't play me and I thought I've got to go to a team where I can play."

To accomplish this, Stanowski knew he would have to be proactive in getting the ball rolling.

"I told a Toronto reporter of my intention to quit hockey and go into business on my own. He was the only one I told. My wife didn't even know."

Like a hunter who sets a trap, Stanowski took cover and waited for his trap to work.

"I knew the reporter would take that information up to Smythe. He was a tattletale and he would get a favour from Smythe."

As the story goes, the reporter did go to Smythe with the information and shortly thereafter, Stanowski was traded to the New York Rangers. This transaction only occurred after Stanowski talked with Frank Boucher, who ran the Rangers.

"I understand you are going to quit," Boucher said to Stanowski.

"I have no intention of quitting," Stanowski told his future employer.

Secure in the knowledge he had a commitment from Stanowski, the Rangers manager made the deal with Smythe.

Aware that he could lose one of his assets without getting a return, Smythe took the bait planted by Stanowski. He wasn't going to call Stanowski's bluff.

In New York, Stanowski played a full season in 1948-49, but he wasn't so lucky for the balance of his time in Manhattan.

When the Rangers came to Toronto for a contest on January 21, 1950, their coach, Lynn Patrick, commented on the impact injuries were having on his club.

"Injuries, especially the one to Wally Stanowski. That one really hurt. Wally was the key man in our defence in front of Rayner. To make matters worse, we don't know how long he will be out."

A knee problem kept Stanowski on the sidelines for an extended period of time, and he only saw action in 37 contests during the 1949-50 campaign.

At training camp preparing for the 1950-51 season. Stanowski suffered an ankle injury, which hampered him from getting into game shape.

"He missed six or seven games early in the season and with six defencemen hasn't had much chance to play himself into condition," Frank Boucher said of Stanowski's slow start.

But the worst and final injury of Wally Stanowski's hockey career came on December 23, 1951.

The career-ending mishap took place during an encounter between the Cincinnati Mohawks and Indianapolis Caps. An American Hockey League farm team of the Rangers, Stanowski was assigned to Cincinnati to begin the 1950-51 hockey year.

The Mohawks and Caps were locked in a 3-3 tie after sixty-minutes of play and went to overtime. But 47-seconds into the overtime period, Stanowski's skates got tangled with the boards and he broke his left leg. That would be Wally Stanowski's last game as a professional hockey player.

In his retirement, Stanowski continued to lace-up his skates and play hockey for the NHL-Toronto Oldtimers. Billed as "The Whirling Dervish" due to his flamboyant skating style, Stanowski continued to entertain crowds with his moves.

I last spoke with Wally Stanowski prior to the Chicago-Tampa Bay Stanley Cup Final and I asked him which club had the best chance of being crowned hockey's new champion.  Needing no time to ponder his answer, Stanowski quickly told me Chicago would emerge victorious, the old pro demonstrating he still kept in touch with the game and could spot a winner.

The lunches on the first Monday of each month won't be the same now that Wally is gone. As the oldest living former Toronto Maple Leaf, he was the elder statesman of the group.

Similar to a hockey dressing room, Wally had his usual spot in the restaurant. When someone called attention to him, all eyes knew exactly where to turn to find Wally. That will no longer be the case, but we will have his rich and wonderful stories to remember him by.


As we edge towards the backside of June, it will be just a matter of time before I flip the page on my Hockey Heroes (Hockey Hall of Fame Collection) 2015 Calendar.

This month featured  a wonderful shot of Toronto Maple Leaf defenceman, Jimmy Morrison, battling two Chicago Black Hawk players for the puck.

As the calendar photograph (above) reveals, Morrison is engaged with George 'Red' Sullivan, as the two men lock/cross sticks in an effort to gain control of the rubber. While this is going on, Bill Mosienko (HHOF class of 1965) applies the lumber to Morrison's back. Looking on are Chicago's Harry Watson (HHOF class of 1994) and Toronto's Parker MacDonald.

At the Oldtimers lunch on the first of June, I couldn't resist snapping the above picture of Jimmy holding the calendar. Although not a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Jimmy Morrison was inducted into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame in late January of 2013.

Bill Mosienko played his entire National Hockey League career with the Chicago Black Hawks. A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, he skated on Chicago's famous 'Pony Line' along with Max Bentley and his brother Doug Bentley.

One of the highlights of Mosienko's career came on March 23, 1952, when he set a National Hockey League record for the fastest three goals. In a contest at New York's Madison Square Garden, Mosienko beat Rangers goalie, Lorne Anderson, who was called-up from the New York Rovers, for three goals in 21-seconds.

Harry Watson's finest year, statically, came in 1948-49. During the regular season (60 games), Watson produced 26 goals and added 19 assists for 45 points. Of the 26 goals he scored, one stands out above the others.

On March 5, 1949, at Maple Leaf Gardens, Watson connected for 2 goals against New York Rangers netminder Chuck Rayner. His second of the game, just past the 10-minute mark of the third period, was Watson's 100th NHL goal.

Jim Vipond, writing in The Globe and Mail, described Watson's 100th:

 Watson had the play all to himself, stealing the puck from a Ranger defenseman's {sic} stick and waltzing in on an exasperated Rayner.

Vipond may have decided to use 'exasperated' due to the fact Toronto defeated New York 7-1. Obviously, Rayner didn't receive much support from his teammates.

Harry Watson looking over his 100-goal puck

In addition to the Maple Leafs, Watson skated for the Brooklyn Americans, Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Black Hawks.

Watson's last National Hockey League campaign was in 1967-57 with Chicago. At the end of his career he had amassed 236 goals in 809 league games.

Friday, June 26, 2015


As we head into the National Hockey League Draft tonight in Florida, all eyes will be on Connor McDavid. Projected to be the first overall selection by the Edmonton Oilers, McDavid's arrival in Edmonton will be the most anticipated by a hockey player since Wayne Gretzky joined them in 1978.

On June 8, 2015, while in Toronto to attend a charity event, Gretzky spoke about McDavid during a media scrum.

"Hockey is an amazing sport because when Gordie Howe retired everyone said, well what's going to happen to the game," Gretzky remarked concerning the impact of an icon leaving the scene. "When Wayne Gretzky retired the same question (was asked)."

"We just seem to have all these great people coming along," Number 99 noted about hockey's succession process when it comes to future superstars.

On McDavid going to his former hockey home, Gretzky stated, "Connor is a nice young man and everything I've seen of him and read, he's going to absolutely love Edmonton. The people in Edmonton are going to treat him with kid-gloves and be patient."

Commenting on what awaits the most prized asset in the class of 2015, Gretzky said, "It's a big step for him to go from junior hockey to the NHL. I got a little bit lucky as I went from junior hockey to the WHA."

Gretzky left little doubt that all the praise being heaped upon McDavid as hockey's 'Next One' is justified. "I think Connor McDavid is the best player we've seen since Lemieux and Crosby. I think he is going to have a great career in Edmonton."

Did he get the chance to watch the draft lottery live when Edmonton won the top selection?

"We watched it live," Gretzky told the assembled media. "I told my wife we had to watch it, but she said, 'why do we have to watch it, Edmonton's going to get the pick.' She predicted it, not me."

Later, during a panel discussion, Gretzky once again touched on the aspect of new young talent coming up to replace the giants of the sport when they hang up their skates for good.

"Well, the kids come along like Crosby to Stamkos and Toews,"Gretzky said echoing his previous comments on this subject.

And there is no better example of this than Gretzky himself. Back on November 2, 1978, when he was dealt from Indianapolis to the Edmonton Oilers in a transaction between the two WHA clubs, a hockey legend was making his exit from the game.

On November 1, 1978, the day before Wayne Gretzky was shipped to Edmonton, Bobby Hull announced his retirement as a player with the WHA Winnipeg Jets.

Prior to jumping to the World Hockey Association in the summer of 1972, Hull was an NHL superstar with Chicago. In 1961, his name was engraved on the Stanley Cup and in two subsequent seasons Hull was named the winner of the Hart Trophy (NHL-MVP).

While the door closed on 'The Golden Jets' brilliant career, a key was turned on another to welcome 'The Great One.'

In his first year of pro hockey, Gretzky had only 8 games under his belt with the Indianapolis Racers prior to his move to Edmonton. The following campaign, Gretzky was in the National Hockey League as the Oilers were part of the NHL-WHA merger. The merger also resulted in Hull briefly returning to the ice to play 27 games for Winnipeg and Hartford in '79-'80.

By this time, the guard had changed and Gretzky represented the games future.

As Connor McDavid looks forward to life in the National Hockey League, I wondered if Gretzky had an itch to get back into the game in some capacity.

"No, but listen, everything I have in my life is due to hockey," Gretzky answered in response to my question asked during his press availability. "I have enough going on in my life right now."

Included in this mix was a planned trip to last weekends U.S. Open, one of golf's elite tournaments.

"We're going to the U.S. Open next week with our grandson and hopefully, our son-in-law does well,"    Gretzky noted of his future plans.

Gretzky's son-in-law, Dustin Johnson, was in contention for his first win of a major, but his putter let him down on the final hole during Sunday's last round.

Tonight and over much of this weekend, it will be Connor McDavid's turn in the spotlight. And I'm sure we will hear Wayne Gretzky's name mentioned a few times.

Monday, June 22, 2015


Over the weekend, Al and Lorraine Shaw hosted their annual NHL Oldtimers BBQ. It was a picture-perfect day weather wise with pleasant temperatures and plenty of sunshine.

The three gentlemen in the above photo - (L to R) Mr. (Bob) Beckett, Mr. (Gary) Collins and Mr. (Danny) Lewicki - look like they could have had featured roles in Quentin Tarantino's film 'Reservoir Dogs'.

Decked out in their shades, you would think these guys had just pulled off a major heist! Of the three, Mr. Beckett appears to be the muscle and the guy asking, "Are you looking at me?"

The one downer during the Saturday afternoon festivities came when Al informed the gathering that Wally Stanowski would not be attending. Unfortunately, Wally is back in the hospital. The 96 year-old Stanowski is the oldest living former Toronto Maple Leaf.

I spoke with Wally prior to the Chicago-Tampa Bay Stanley Cup Final getting underway and he stated, without hesitation, that the Hawks would be crowned Cup champions. And his prediction came true when Chicago defeated Tampa Bay in game six. It was Chicago's first Stanley Cup title on home ice since April 12, 1938.

And what was Wally Stanowski up to on that evening back in 1938?

The answer - Wally was playing for the St. Boniface Seals as they battled the Oshawa Generals in game two of the Memorial Cup showdown at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

As the copy under the above photo notes, "The Star cameraman has caught the high-stepping defenceman in the act of applying his brakes during one of his trips down ice in practice. Wally has all the earmarks of a coming star and is billed a future Toronto Maple Leaf."

Wally went on to win four Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs starting in 1942 and adding three more - 1945, 1947 & 1948 -  after he returned serving time in World War Two.

We hope and pray Wally has a speedy recovery and is able to join us at the July lunch!

Sunday, June 21, 2015


One of the fun things about viewing the television coverage after a Stanley Cup champion is crowned, comes when the players mingle with their families.

Watching a father and son displaying raw emotions is a special moment to witness. The two of them embraced in a hug with no words being spoken. A thankful son, who knows the sacrifices his dad  made to help him climb hockey's highest mountain. A grateful father, who knows he played an important role in his boy fulfilling a life-long dream.

Another special bond in the hockey world exists between former/current professional players and their offspring. This is a completely different dynamic with unique pressures and expectations. In this grouping the public perception is the elders have already set the standard and the youngsters are expected to meet or exceed them.

There is little doubt the son of the local dry cleaner isn't carrying the same weight on his shoulders, while playing youth hockey, as the kid with the last name Morenz or Conacher. Sure, the dry cleaners lad can be filled with anxiety at the thought of letting his pop down and not performing at a certain level. Also, we have all heard the horror stories of the overbearing parent that drives their child to the brink if they aren't making the grade.  However, the public and media don't scrutinize their progress in the game. But that can't be said of Howie Morenz Jr., Pete Conacher and other youngsters who had big shoes to fill. In their cases, they had to live in the shadows of two iconic NHL superstars.

I have interviewed both Howie Jr. and Pete and their recollections of growing up in a famous hockey family are very similar. Although the spotlight was focused directly on them at a very young age, neither Howie nor Pete felt their dad applied undue pressure to join them in the family business.

I've also discussed this topic with Blaine Smith. His dad, the late Sid Smith, played his entire National Hockey League career with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Blaine told me he had the full support of his dad and it was never an issue or problem if he didn't follow the same career path as his dad.

Blaine kindly lent me the above pictorial gallery, which appeared in the February 1966 edition of Hockey Pictorial magazine.

In a very subtle manner, the text hints that because dad is a pro hockey player, "...big leaguers past and present also may have future NHL stars on the way up." Again, a very slight reference, but the seed was planted for the readers to ponder the question, "does Sid Smith's son have what it takes to make it to the NHL?"

Behind the scenes, hockey was a game father and son shared and loved with a bond that couldn't be shattered or destroyed by outside forces.

A lesson the entire hockey community could learn from on this Father's Day.

Monday, June 15, 2015


Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks on becoming the 2015 Stanley Cup champions after defeating Tampa Bay 2-0 in game 6!

Chicago last celebrated a Cup title on home ice back in April of 1938, when the Hawks and Maple Leafs met to decide the Cup winner.

The first two games were played in Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Hawks prevailed in the opener by defeating Toronto 3-1. The Leafs rebounded in game 2 with a convincing 5-1 victory.

After splitting the first two contests in Toronto, the best-of-five Final resumed in Chicago for games 3 and 4.

At Chicago Stadium, Toronto got out to an early lead when Syl Apps opened the scoring early in the first period on the power play. The Hawks knotted the score at 1-1, when Carl Voss found the back of the net at the 16:02 mark of the middle frame.

The eventual game winning goal was scored by Chicago's Elwyn 'Doc' Romnes, but it came with controversy as the following passage from a game report reveals:

 The Toronto team argued hotly that Romnes' shot hit a goalpost and never entered the net, but they lost the argument when referees Campbell and Dye accepted the word of goal judge John McLean, who hails from Detroit.

Down a game, the Leafs needed a huge effort in game 4 on April 12 to stay in contention for the Stanley Cup. By one account, the "Leafs had an edge in speed and territorial drive." But like in game 3, they weren't able to get their scoring in gear. Toronto's lone goal in game 4 came in the first period and was scored by Gordie Drillon. Prior to Drillon's goal, Chicago's Cully Dahlstrom put the Hawks on the board.

In the middle frame, Carl Voss and Jack Shill scored to open up a 3-1 advantage for Chicago.

Mush March concluded the scoring in the final twenty-minutes of play when he beat Turk Broda late in the period.

Chicago's 4-1 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs was their second Cup win at Chicago Stadium. Their very first Stanley Cup in 1934 was also won on home ice.

LEFT: Referee Mickey Ion makes an effort to separate Leaf forward George Parsons from Chicago defenceman Roger Jenkins.

MIDDLE: Jack Shill of the Black Hawks is stopped by Turk Broda at point-blank-range as Reg Hamilton looks on.

RIGHT: A group of players push and shove during a stoppage in play.

In an interesting twist, the Stanley Cup wasn't in the building for Chicago's crowning moment in 1938.

Lloyd Davis, a member of The Society for International Hockey Research, unearthed an article from the April 15, 1938, edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune, which confirms this fact. A portion of the text written by Charles Bartlett notes:

 Manager  Bill Stewart, miracle man of modern hocky {sic}, and two of his players, Doc Romnes and Jack Shill, were seated in the Chicago Blackhawk {sic}headquarters yesterday morning when a drayman delivered a long crate from Detroit. They pried it apart and promptly swooned in unison, for it contained the Stanley cup {sic}, emblematic of the world title which they won last Tuesday night.

The article also stated that "one of publicity director Joe Farrell's agents dug up the fact Detroit custodians of the cup {sic} were so certain that the Hawks could not win that they withheld it for delivery to Toronto."

It appears no official explanation came from the National Hockey League.

Tonight, despite the Cup being fashionably late in arriving, fans in the Windy City got their long awaited chance to swoon at the sight of Lord Stanley's gift to hockey.


As the 2015 Stanley Cup Final shifts to Chicago for tonight's game 6, the Blackhawks have the opportunity to win hockey's biggest prize on home ice.

The Chicago Black Hawks entered the National Hockey League in 1926-27 and captured their first Stanley Cup in 1934.

Taking on the Detroit Red Wings in the best-of-five Final, Chicago won games one and two, but Detroit survived to play another game by downing the Hawks 5-2 in game 3.

At Chicago Stadium on April 10, 1934, Chicago took another crack at winning their first Cup.

In a tightly played defensive battle, Chicago and Detroit were unable to convert their scoring chances in regulation time.

During the first overtime period, the scoring drought continued with goalies Wilf Cude for Detroit and Charlie Gardiner for Chicago not allowing a puck to get past them.

The scoreless encounter continued until the 10:05 mark of the second overtime period.

A penalty to Detroit's Ebbie Goodfellow for tripping Chicago forward Tommy Cook, set the stage for Chicago to bring down the curtain on the show.

On the power play, Chicago's first two rushes failed to result in a scoring chance.

"Then March (Mush) drove in from the right pulling loose from Buswell (Walt), and slashed a shot into the cage behind Cude," is how a report in The Globe and Mail described the Stanley Cup winning goal.

One of the stars for Chicago in the post-season was netminder Charlie Gardiner. In addition to winning the Cup, Gardiner was the Vezina Trophy (fewest goals against) winner for 1933-34.

Roger Jenkins, a defenceman with the Hawks, came to the aid of his goalie several times in game 4. Here is one example from a game story:

 Gardiner had his toughest moment (in the third period) when Emms (Hap) ripped a hard one at him. The Hawk goalie went down, and only a determined effort by Jenkins kept Goodfellow from shooting, Jenkins cleared, and the attack was broken up.

While the regular season was in progress, Jenkins told Gardiner that if Chicago won the Cup, he would push him around a city block in a wheelbarrow.

True to his word, the day after winning the Cup, Jenkins took Gardiner for his wheelbarrow ride. An AP story noted this happened "in a driving snowstorm."

When their adventure ended, Gardiner told his teammate, "Now, I hope you will have more faith in your team next year."

Unfortunately,  Charlie Gardiner wasn't alive when the Chicago Black Hawks took to the ice to defend their Stanley Cup title in 1934-35. On June 13, 1934, Gardiner passed away three days after he suffered a brain hemorrhage.

Paying tribute to Gardiner, former Chicago manager, Tommy Gorman, said, "Gardiner was without doubt the greatest single factor in the winning of the Cup by the Hawks."

Chicago's first Stanley Cup.

Thursday, June 11, 2015



On Monday evening, the 2nd Annual Night For Change to end bullying took place in Toronto. It was presented by The Canadian Safe School Network and Mike Wilson, The Ultimate Leafs Fan.

Celebrity host Brian Burke, president of the Calgary Flames, is a major supporter of this cause, especially when it comes to homophobic bullying.

In February of 2010, Burke's son, Brendan, was killed in an automobile accident in Indiana.

"It's been mere months since young Burke revealed his sexuality (that he was gay) to the hockey world last November, a brave moment he shared with his father...," noted The Globe and Mail in their reporting of Brendan's death.

"The important thing is that it started a discussion...and people realize there could be a gay person next to them in the locker room," Brendan Burke told the newspaper in an interview shortly after he made his revelation.

Brian Burke threw his full support behind his son when he came out and continues to help those who have to endure homophobic bullying.

For the 2nd Annual Night For Change, Brian Burke enlisted several powerful celebrity guests to bring awareness and raise funds for the charity.

And there is no bigger name in the game than Wayne Gretzky.

Upon his arrival on the turf of The Ultimate Leafs Fan, Gretzky spoke with the assembled media.

"I think we're trying," Gretzky said when asked if enough is being done to stop bullying in the schools. "I think we've come a long way in life and society. You're always worried about bullying and kids being mean. You want to stay on top of it so events like this and awareness are so important. It's going to be an exciting night. We're all very proud and privileged to be here. If we can help somebody in some small way, this is what a night like this is all about."

When contacted by Brian Burke, No. 99 didn't hesitate to offer a helping hand.

"I'm here for a couple of days and I was working tomorrow and the next day. Brian called me last week and I said I'm going to be in Toronto, so I'll come in early and I flew in on a red-eye last night to be here for him. He's a good friend and I'm happy to be here."

As for the timing of a gay hockey player coming out in the NHL, Gretzky said, "It's not a question of when it's going happen, if there are people who are not of what we think is the course of life, so be it. Time will tell as far as that goes."

"What we're trying to do here tonight is end homophobia and bullying," Brian Burke said prior to moving inside.

Later, he touched on several other points.

"We believe a child shouldn't be afraid walking down a hallway. What we talk about is taking three steps. One is to teach and practice acceptance, the second is to take a positive step on behalf of the LGBTQ community and the third is to end homophobia and bullying."


After finishing his press scrum, Gretzky made his way with Mike Wilson to the inner sanctum where The Ultimate Leafs Fan collection is housed. Gretzky was joined by Brian Burke for Mike's guided tour.

"It's the most amazing private collection of any team's memorabilia in the world," Burke told me prior to heading downstairs. "There's no collector anywhere with a better collection about one particular team. It's breathtaking. I've spent hours down there looking and I could spend hours more."

In response to naming a favourite item in the collection, Burke stated, "actually the older it is the better I like it because I didn't get to watch that era. The whole thing is amazing; everywhere you turn you're looking at something special."

And how does his own collection stand-up against Mike's?

"I collected some Leafs memorabilia while I was here and I could maybe get one-quarter of the room filled with the stuff I have."

Burke agreed that the surroundings made a terrific backdrop for the event.

"It's a great venue for us and for Mike and Deb to host us here. It is the second year in-a-row and for Wayne Gretzky to agree to appear it's going to be a magical night."

Gretzky only made it down several steps before he was stopped in his tracks by a pair of Frank Mahovlich's gloves. "Are those from 1972?" Gretzky asked and of course his assessment was correct.

Once he entered the room, The Great One attempted to take in as much as he could. Following closely behind, I watched as his eyes darted from one item to another.

The picture above shows Gretzky pointing at a Glen Green limited edition from the 1987 Canada Cup. Gretzky pointed out to Mike that he had never seen this piece. Looking at the photo, you can see that it captured Gretzky's interest. Although the work isn't an original, Mike advised that it is tough one to get and is coveted in the collecting community.

Having an appreciation for the history of the game, Gretzky spent a few moments to observe the Leafs dressing room door (above) from Maple Leaf Gardens.

The moment I was waiting for came when Gretzky reached the display case featuring memorabilia from his hockey career.

It was apparent that the collection of his sweaters, pucks, sticks, trophies and all the other items were bringing back memories to the player who provided hockey fans with a few of their own.

But one article, in particular, grabbed Gretzky's attention and it had nothing to do with hockey. Tucked away on the right-side of the display case, Mike informed his guest that the piece he was looking at was his contract with NBC when he hosted Saturday Night Live.

"Where in the bleep did you get that?" Gretzky inquired. The above photo shows him leaning forward to get a better look at the document. The smile on his face says it all.

On the hockey front, I asked the NHL's all-time leader in goals (894), assists (1,963) and points (2,857) if he had an itch to get back into the game?

"No, listen everything I have in my life is because of hockey. I have enough going on in my life. We're going to the U.S. Open next week and hopefully, my son-in-law, Dustin Johnson (PGA member), does well in Seattle. Then, we spend the summer in Idaho. My life is good and I love hockey."


Over the past while, Mike Wilson has hosted a series of monthly hockey talk sessions, which have been named 'Inside the Room'. As part of the charity event, Mike moderated a group discussion between Wayne Gretzky, Brian Burke, Brendan Shanahan (president of the Toronto Maple Leafs) and Gretzky's former teammate in Edmonton, Paul Coffey. All three of the ex-NHL players are Honoured Members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In his opening remarks, Mike noted, "this is the ultimate panel for me to host and moderate."

One of several intriguing topics of discussion raised by Mike was how has the game changed since Gretzky, Coffey and Shanahan last skated in the National Hockey League.

"The players are bigger, faster and stronger," Gretzky told the jam-packed room. "It's completely different in the sense that the imagination and creativity is probably not what it was like when we played. But the players as athletes, from the goaltender out are better. It's just a better game. The game is watched more today than it ever has been and that is because these athletes are better than we were. Twenty years from now the players will be better than the players of today."

Gretzky expanded on this point by noting how future generation throughout time have left their mark on the game.

"We always asked what's going to happen when Bobby Orr or Gordie Howe retires, or Mario Lemieux retires. Well, the kids come along like Crosby to Stamkos and Toews. They are good kids; good players and people want to see them play. It's all positive for the game of hockey."

Brendan Shanahan addressed the following question - in the future will individual clubs worldwide be given the chance to challenge for the Stanley Cup?

"I don't see it in the immediate future, but I truly think the Stanley Cup is considered by the rest of the world as the world championship. When I started playing hockey I didn't think there would be teams in Phoenix and Florida. To imagine that there would be a division in Europe competing for the Stanley Cup, well there is one thing I've learnt and that is never say never."

Paul Coffey commented on the changes he would like to see in today's game.

"One thing I would like to see and every team would like to have one, is a defenceman who can make the stick-to-stick pass. I know early in Edmonton when you went back you were not allowed to dump the puck along the boards. That was your last resort."

Brian Burke tackled the topic of equipment changes in the NHL.

"The league has made changes.You can't wear hard-capped shoulder or elbow pads anymore and the goalie equipment is shrinking."

He went to explain to explain the philosophy behind the changes.

"If I go to hit Brendan Shanahan, my risk should be as great as his. If I only had the hard-capped equipment and he didn't, it wouldn't be the same risk. The goal is to get the equipment on the same level so we're both taking the same risk."

The final word went to Wayne Gretzky.

"Eddie Belfour's jersey (Team Canada) is here," Gretzky said while gesturing to a display case to his left. Eddie was one of the goalies for Team Canada in 2002. I was fortunate to be part of the team (manager) and I called Eddie and told him, 'I can't lie to you, Marty Brodeur and Curtis Joseph are the two goalies. If you don't want to be part of this team because you're not going to play, that's okay, no one is going to know.'"

He said, "Wayne, I'll come and sharpen skates."

"I'm so proud to see Eddie's jersey here as we won a gold medal in 2002."

Talking to Paul Coffey, Gretzky asked, "do you believe this place?" A clear indication The Great One was impressed.

In an email Mike Wilson informed me of an interesting comment Brendan Shanahan made about the collection. Mike wrote that Shanahan told him the viewing "inspired and motivated him."

When the next hockey season gets underway, it might be a good idea for Shanahan to arrange a visit to Mike's for his 2015-16 squad.

What better way for a group of young players to experience the Leafs historic past. Imagine Jonathan Bernier examining Johnny Bower's paper-thin chest protector and comparing it to the present day goalie equipment. Then, tell him how Bower wore the flimsy protector while stopping bullets from the stick of Bobby Hull.

There is little doubt the entire roster would depart with a greater appreciation for the past and be motivated to restore the winning tradition. The impact of the collection is that powerful as Brendan Shanahan pointed out. It tells the story of Stanley Cup champions through the pieces left behind by prior generations.

From Bill Barilko and Ted Kennedy to Dave Keon and Johnny Bower, all the Leaf legends are in this room. One can't help but be intoxicated by the rich history covering every inch 'Inside the Room'.


When all was said and done, the word 'change' took on several different meanings as a result of the 2nd Annual Night For Change. 

To start, a large amount of 'change' was raised for The Canadian Safe School Network. Mike Wilson estimated that around $100,000 would be going to them to help wipe-out bullying.

In the auction alone, a successful bid of $15,000 allowed one gentleman to look forward to playing a round of golf with Wayne Gretzky and Dustin Johnson.

Just as important, a 'change' in awareness was hopefully gained by the press coverage this event received. The print and electronic media were well represented and they got the message out to the public.

Any gathering of this nature doesn't get off the ground without meticulous planning and organization. Thanks to Mike's and Deb's big hearts and generosity, The Night For Change was a dazzling event from start to finish. The same can be said of those working behind the scenes at The Canadian Safe School Network.

Looking down from above, Brendan Burke can't help but smile and be extremely proud of his dad.

*Edited June 11, 2015 5:08pm.

Friday, June 5, 2015


To borrow one of Johnny Carson's bits, I will summon Carnac the Magnificent to provide a riddle pertaining to the last three Inside the Room events hosted by Mike Wilson, who is also known as The Ultimate Leafs Fan.

Carnac: "What do you get when you combine a new hockey league, men in striped shirts and two disc jockeys?"

Before Carnac opens the envelope to reveal the answer, here are some really really huge clues.


Clearly an initiative of Toronto Maple Leafs co-owner Stafford Smythe, the Metro Junior A League began to take shape in June 1961. What fuelled its formation was the decision by St. Michael's College School to opt out of OHA Junior A hockey.

Talking to The Globe and Mail, Stafford Smythe stated, "we had to make a choice between St. Mike's and our partners in the league and we chose St. Mike's."

As for St. Mike's, their decision to leave OHA Junior A hockey was based on two factors - scheduling and educational demands.

The rival league, hatched by Smythe, got off the ground in time for the 1961-62 season. The teams participating in year one were the Toronto Marlboros, St. Mike's, Whitby Mohawks, Brampton 7-Ups and Unionville Seaforths.

Ironically, St. Mike's dropped out in year two and were replaced by another Catholic high school in Toronto, Neil McNeil. Other adjustments included Unionville becoming Knob Hill Farms and Whitby changed their name to the Whitby Dunlops. Also, the Oshawa Generals joined the loop with a 14-year-old Bobby Orr in their line-up.

In the second season, it became apparent the Metro Junior A League was struggling. The quality of play wasn't up to par with their adversary and this was reflected in the attendance figures.

By the time 1963-64 rolled around, the Metro Junior A League had folded. The only survivors were the Toronto Marlboros (with the top rated talent from Neil McNeil/St. Mike's) and the Oshawa Generals.

In their first contest upon returning to the OHA Junior A League, the Marlboros defeated the St. Catharines Black Hawks by a score of 7-4. It was the first step in their journey to winning the 1964 Memorial Cup.

After Mike Wilson's opening remarks, he passed the baton to noted hockey writer and historian, Kevin Shea, who provided a history of the Metro Junior A League. Then, a panel of former players from the league talked about experiences.

Left to Right: Doug Kelcher, Jim McKenny, Muni Hoffman and Ken Broderick

Doug Kelcher was a member of the Unionville Seaforths.

"Cliff Simpson was our coach," Kelcher pointed out about the first campaign in Unionville. "The next year the team became Knob Hill Farms. Dr. Kennedy, who was a chiropractor up in Unionville, met with Steve Stavro (who went on to become owner of the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs) and the name was changed."

Kelcher left little doubt that Smythe and the Marlboros controlled the comings and goings in the new league.

"In Unionville we started the season and a guy came over and introduced himself, 'Hi, I'm Wayne Carleton,' said the kid. He was 14-years-old and his dad drove him down from Beaton. The story we got was the Marlboros had a rule that you couldn't play for them until you turned 15. So, the minute Wayne Carleton turned 15 he went to Toronto and we got Ray Winterstein."

An injury suffered by Kelcher while playing for Knob Hill kept him on the sidelines until the playoffs. However, by that time he decided to go elsewhere. "I had signed with the New York Mets," Kelcher told us.

"I was only 15-years-old when I came to Toronto," stated former Leafs defenceman Jim McKenny. "My mother wouldn't let me leave home. I stopped going to school in Ottawa until my mother let me come to Toronto."

"They really stressed education at Neil McNeil. The second day I got there, Gary Smith took me under his wing. He didn't have any books, just a racing form, so our afternoons were spent at Greenwood race track."

"I liked playing in the league and I had a couple of buddies who played for Whitby, Billy Smith and Billy Collins, I knew from Ottawa," recalled McKenny.

"It was one of the most memorable times in my hockey career," beamed Muni Hoffman. "I had only played a month or two with the Marlboros junior B team, which that year was the Lakeshore Goodyears. Then, I came up to the Toronto Marlboros."

"Turk Broda was our coach and he had cataracts. He couldn't tell the time on the clock. He would always be asking the trainer how much time was left in a game, especially in the third period," said Hoffman of his coach.

"Prior to the Metro League starting up, I had played two years with the Marlboros," stated goalie Ken Broderick. "I was cut from the Marlboros and sent to the Brampton 7-Ups. I was expecting to earn $60 a week, which was the going rate for a third year junior player."

Unfortunately for Broderick, no one in the "Stafford Smythe League" got that kind of change. Instead of accepting Smythe's terms, Broderick decided to play for the Ryerson College hockey team while attending school.

"The first night Brampton played, they lost 8-0. I got a call the next morning and was informed that Stafford Smythe wanted to meet with me."

When he got to Smythe's office at the family gravel pit, things turned nasty.

"He called me every name in the book for not reporting to Brampton. He said, 'I'll see to it that you never play a game of professional hockey."

Not intimidated, Broderick stood his ground.

"Mr. Smythe, I'm going to Ryerson and I'm in the graphic arts management program and I expect I will go into printing sales," stated Broderick of his future plans and at the same time letting Smythe know he wasn't going to be dependant solely on hockey to make his living.

Buck Houle, Smythe's liaison with the Brampton club, also attended the meeting and asked Broderick to step into another office so they could talk.

"He told me, 'you'll get your $60 a week, just report to Brampton,' and that is how I ended up with Brampton."


For a change of pace, Inside the Room featured the other guys who shared the ice with some of hockey's biggest stars, the referee's.

Left to Right: Bryan Lewis, Ron Wicks and Bruce Hood

"We were the best money could buy," joked Bruce Hood to start off the evening.

When you get a group of on-ice officials together in one room, there is a question that always tops the list - How and why did you become a referee?

"I started in Georgetown doing kids hockey and it ended up being better than delivering newspapers," said Bryan Lewis of his first venture wearing the stripes. "The worst thing then, as it is now, was parental abuse, but once you got through that it was nothing."

"I started in Sudbury and played in the midget league," Ron Wicks informed the audience. "When I stopped playing, I offered to referee in the league. I was scouted by Bob Davidson, who was the chief scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He sent my name to Carl Voss, who was the NHL referee-in-chief. I took two weeks off as a tax assessor for the city of Sudbury. I came down here (Toronto) to do a few exhibition games and low and behold I got hired for $40 a game. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. And I stuck around for 26 years."

"I was playing intermediate hockey in Milton and I also worked at the rink," began Bruce Hood when talking about how he got his start. One night during a junior game, the referee couldn't make it, so they asked me if I would do it. I drove out to the guys house and got his sweater and whistle. I enjoyed being the referee and that is how I got started."

During the Q&A period, this question was asked of all three members of the panel - Can you remember a favourite game you worked?

"My one-thousand game, it was the only time my mother saw me work live and the game was played in Montreal," advised Bryan Lewis.

"My first game, I was just turning 20 years-old and my knees were banging together," noted Ron Wicks. "I was pinching myself and asking 'what in the hell 'am I doing here?' I remember Clarence Campbell, the president of he league, coming in and saying I missed an off-side by 20-feet. I must have improved because I lasted 26 years."

"My first game, which was played in Toronto," replied Bruce Hood. "I remember going out on that ice and I couldn't feel anything below my waist."


 On tap for this occasion were former Q107 sports guy John Gallagher and current Q morning man John Derringer. The 'Mighty Q' is a Toronto radio station which plays classic rock.

Although a substantial amount of the talk focused on the current state of the radio industry, the two guests spoke about the field of sports broadcasting.

John Gallagher (L) and John Derringer

"I was the annoying little guy playing street hockey in Montreal," stated Gallagher. "I was always leaning on my stick being Ken Dryden and doing the play-by-play. The Leafs would always lose for some strange reason," he said, not hiding the fact the Montreal Canadiens remain to be his favourite NHL team. "I always wanted to be in broadcasting and I got lucky very early."

"In 1979, I started with CFTR (now 680 News) the top 40 station," noted Derringer in his very distinctive voice. "I got hired there when I was going into grade 11 at St. Mike's. My brother worked there and I asked him if I could get a job at the station. He got me a job as a producer," noted Derringer of his first big break. "The first sporting excitement I felt was living in Edmonton in 1983 and 1984, when the Oilers started on their roll."

"I got the gig at Q107 and started doing a segment called Sports Shorts," noted Gallagher, who went on to work in television at City TV with former Leaf defenceman Jim McKenny.

"It was to be about the lighter part of sports," stated Derringer of the Sports Shorts concept. "We went more for the humour," advised Derringer, which didn't come as a surprise for a rock station not noted for their sports coverage.

"Back in the 1980's, we had this great music (classic rock) in common with the players. You could go to a place like The Madison and Wendel Clark would be hanging out there with his teammates," recalled Derringer of a different time in the media-athelete relationship.

"With the Leafs, we were wide-eyed back then," said Derringer, who later worked at the Fan 590 an all-sports station. "When you look back to the 80's, for the most part they made the playoffs. They made the playoffs,  but quickly got blown-out. There was nowhere near the kind of negative energy or anger about the Leafs then, as there is now. To sound kind of wide-eyed and looking more at the personality standpoint of the team did make sense then."

Derringer commented on how times have changed. "Now a days, if you went on the radio in this town and regularly expressed your opinion of the Leafs being awesome because they are in the NHL and only lost a game by the score 6-3, you'd be laughed out of town."

` ` `
Now, back to Carnac for the answer....

"What do you get when you combine a new hockey league, men in stripes and two disc jockeys?

Drum role...

"Metro Junior A League Night, Referee's Night and Q107 Night!"

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"Hawks will win the Cup" Wally Stanowski

Each year prior to the Stanley Cup Final, everyone has an opinion as to which of the two teams will ultimately hoist the Stanley Cup and have bragging rights until next season.

As the Final is about to get underway this evening with Tampa Bay and Chicago going to battle,  I sought out the opinion of someone who knows what it takes to get the job done.

Wally Stanowski, the oldest living former Toronto Maple Leaf player, won his first Stanley Cup in 1942. The previous season, Stanowski was named to the First All-Star Team for his outstanding performance on Toronto's blue line. The '42 Cup win is an important part of hockey history due to one factor. The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Leafs in the first three contests, but Stanowski and his teammates fought back to win the next four and capture Lord Stanley's silver mug.

Since 1942, no National Hockey League club has been able to repeat this feat in the Stanley Cup Final.

After returning from military service (RCAF), Stanowski went on to win three more Cups in 1945, 1947 and 1948.

When I spoke to Stanowski about the Tampa Bay-Chicago Final, his reply came without an ounce of hesitation. "Hawks will win the Cup," he told me. Stanowski pointed out that Chicago is the more skilled club and they know how to win.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Bob Nevin - Talk of the Town

As the calendar turns to June, that can only mean one thing, another talk at the Oldtimers lunch!

This month, I gave a speech on former Leaf, Ranger, North Star and Los Angeles Kings forward Bob Nevin. The soft-spoken right-winger was born in South Porcupine, Ontario, and travelled south when his family moved to Toronto.

A product of the Toronto Maple Leafs system, Nevin won a Memorial Cup with the Toronto Marlboros in 1956 and Stanley Cups with the Maple Leafs in 1962 and 1963.

While mostly identified as a Toronto Maple Leaf, Nevin's next stop in his NHL career highlighted his strengths on the ice and leadership abilities.

On February 22, 1964, a controversial trade sent Nevin, Dick Duff and a package of prospects to the New York Rangers in exchange for Andy Bathgate and Don McKenney.

Rangers coach, Red Sullivan, was more than happy to have Nevin in his line-up. "He's very good in the corners and as good as he's been, I know he can be better," Sullivan said shortly after the trade.

At the end of the 1963-64 season, New York goalie, Jacques Plante, commented on the contributions made by the two ex-Leafs. "The morale of the team seemed to change for the better when Duff and Nevin started going for us."

The degree to which New York held Nevin's leadership skills came on February 5, 1965. Immediately after a trade sent long-time Ranger Camille Henry to Chicago, Nevin was named team captain, a position previously held by Henry.

Another highlight from Nevin's time in the Big Apple came on February 18, 1968. On that date, the Rangers opened the new Madison Square Gardens, which was built above Penn Station. As the New York Times noted in their game story, "Bob Nevin, the team captain, scored the first New York goal after snaring a face-off pass from Phil Goyette."

Bob Nevin remained a Ranger until a trade on May 25, 1971, sent him to the Minnesota North Stars.