Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Two of the three big moves by the Toronto Maple Leafs this summer involved their coaching staff and front office. The first came when they inked Mike Babcock to become their head coach. Then, last week, Brendan Shanahan announced the hiring of Lou Lamoriello as the Leafs new general manager.

Sandwiched between these two off-ice acquisitions was the trade of Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A three-time Stanley Cup champion with New Jersey, Lamoriello comes to Toronto with solid credentials and a city hoping he can turn their beloved team into contenders.

In the Original Six era, the Leafs made one of their biggest and most successful GM appointments when George "Punch" Imlach was promoted to run the historic franchise.

On Friday November 21, 1958, Imlach, then serving as assistant general manager since joining the Leafs in the summer of '58, had the word 'assistant' removed from his job title.

He became the Leafs first general manager of substance since Hap Day walked away from the job following the 1956-57 season. When Day left the organization, Howie Meeker got the nod to replace him, but the former Leaf forward and Calder Trophy winner was fired prior to the next campaign getting underway.

Once Meeker split the scene, a hockey committee, known as the Silver Seven (Stafford Smythe, John Bassett, George Mara, George Gardiner, Jack Amell, Bill Hatch and Ian Johnston), became involved in the hockey operations side of the Maple Leaf Gardens Limited, with Stafford Smythe holding the post of chairman.

While Lamoriello's surprise hiring generated significant media coverage, including the front cover and 8 pages in the Toronto Sun sports section, news of Imlach's elevation to general manager pales in comparison.

The two local newspapers - Toronto Daily Star and The Telegram - along with Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, each ran a single story on Imlach taking over from the Silver Seven.

The Globe and Mail

The Telegram

No matter the era or generation, little has changed when it comes to the expectations of a new commander when taking control.

Here are some quotes attributed to Imlach upon named general manager.

"This team can make the playoffs, but some changes will have to be made. Now that I'm responsible, I intend to make them."

"Our club has proved before that it thrives on a lot of work and it is going to be getting it in the next few weeks."

"...There won't be any ducking of the issues. If I'm going to be shot I'd rather sooner be shot as a lion than a lamb."

And the following comment made for public consumption by Stafford Smythe, representing the ownership, is as applicable today as it was in 1958.

"Imlach has full authority to make whatever changes he sees fit. His main objective is the playoffs. I have dumped the whole building on his shoulders."

How often have we heard ownership sing a similar tune when bringing in a new Admiral to correct a ship that is off course?

In addition to being general manager, Punch Imlach became the Leafs coach late in December of 1958. Unhappy with his clubs performance, only 5 wins in the first 20 games of the 1958-59 schedule, Imlach dismissed Billy Reay and moved behind the bench.

As Stafford Smythe stated when Imlach took over a team that had little success since Bill Barilko's Stanley Cup winning goal in 1951, "It will be Imlach's problem to correct this."

Punch Imlach, in his dual role, made an immediate and lasting impact. While wearing two hats, he brought the winning tradition back to Toronto and captured four Stanley Cups.

Hopefully, for fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Lou Lamoriello will join Imlach as a four-time Cup winner in his new job of reshaping the Blue & White.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


"The main thing, I think, was that 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." 
 - Conn Smythe commenting about deciding to join the military and fight in World War Two with the Maple Leaf players he encouraged to enlist.

Throughout the history of hockey the battles on the ice have been compared to military confrontations. As Conn Smythe's quote indicates, management often used the conditions facing a soldier fighting in a conflict between countries to motive their warriors on skates.

I came across a couple of newspaper photographs this week, which could easily be used as an example of a game situation being compared to a military procedure or manoeuvre.

A concerned Colonel stands over one of his wounded soldiers as the rest of the regiment forms a human wall to protect from a further invasion.

With the opposition outnumbered, the defence adapted a formation to protect their territory from being penetrated. Enough soldiers were back to handle the lone shooter and his comrade on the right flank.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


The June edition of 'Inside the Room', hosted by Mike Wilson (The Ultimate Leafs Fan), featured three popular broadcasters - Brian McFarlane, Joe Bowen and Jiggs McDonald - from the game of hockey.

Most of us are familiar with their work, taking into account the number of years we have watched and listened to them over the airways. After countless hours of broadcasting, they still get a gleam in their eye when recalling how they broke into the big leagues.

Here are their stories about getting that first-crack to move behind the microphone on the big stage.

~ ~ ~

Brian McFarlane, on going from CBS to joining Hockey Night in Canada...

"I got a job with CBRB in Toronto and that led to a job with CBS. I auditioned for Hockey Night in Canada. I did a great interview with King Clancy, but they told me I was too young and they hired Ward Cornell. That same week, CBS called and said we'd like a guy who can get on skates and go around the ice and do interviews. And that's how I broke into television, not with Hockey Night in Canada, but with CBS."

Later in time, McFarlane was hired by Hockey Night in Canada and after working behind the scenes he was ready for a new challenge.

" I asked, why don't you put me in the gondola with Bill Hewitt? I guess it didn't dawn on them that I might be a fit in there. I was there for the next 17-years."

Danielle Iverson (that PR thing Inc.) models Brian McFarlane's HNiC jacket, which everyone enjoyed seeing and trying on!

~ ~ ~
Joe Bowen, on a phone call he will never forget...

"My dream was to replace Johnny Bower and I failed miserably," Bowen said of his attempt to become a goalie with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Prior to becoming the voice of the Maple Leafs, Bowen was working for a radio station out east.

"Allan Davis called me one day from Toronto and told me Ron Hewat was going into radio sales and wouldn't be broadcasting Leaf games anymore. I had bought a house in Halifax where I was working at the time. I sent my resume in and a tape, but nothing happened over the summer."

Then, came the call Joe Bowen will never forget.

"One day after having done the morning sports run, I got a phone call from a gentleman named Len Bramson. He said, 'Joe, we've listened to your tape and we'd like to fly you in this weekend to do an exhibition game between the Leafs and Edmonton Oilers as an audition for the job'."

The kicker is, Bowen thought he was talking with Allan Davis.

"I said, Allan go bleep yourself and don't be yanking my chain! Then, there was a silence and I said, you're not Allan Davis. He said, 'no I'm Len Bramson and this is the first time anybody has told me to take my job and shove it up my bleep, before I even offered it'."

"Ten-minutes later, he called me back and told me that was one of the greatest audition telephone calls he ever had and offered me the job," Bowen recalled of how their telephone conversation ended.

"Thirty-three-years-ago I arrived in Toronto and we still haven't won a Stanley Cup."

~ ~ ~

Jiggs McDonald, on his first job interview with Los Angeles Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke...

"I'm going to tell a story here tonight that I've only told maybe four or five people at the very most," McDonald stated.

And with a line like that, he quickly got the attention of everyone.

" I had applied for the job in LA and got information back from Mr. Cooke. Everything was done in writing because telephone calls were too expensive. I still have a lot of the correspondence. They were down to five candidates and I was one of the final five. I was informed that Mr. Cooke was coming to Toronto and will be at the Royal York Hotel and he wanted to meet with me."

"It's Valentine's Day night," McDonald noted of his scheduled job interview with Cooke.

"I showed up and had to wait as Mr. Cooke was in a meeting. When the door opened and three gentlemen walked out," and McDonald was surprised as to the identity of one person in Cooke's party.

"Out of the room comes Jack Kent Cooke with Larry Regan, who had been hired as his general manager and Red Kelly."

Putting two-and-two together, it became obvious to McDonald that Red Kelly, who was still playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, wasn't meeting with Cooke and Regan to make dinner arrangements for them. He was certain the three were talking about Kelly working for the expansion Kings and his gut-feeling was correct.

"If you fast-forward to the expansion draft, the Leafs protected Red. A deal was supposedly done between LA and Toronto, but Stafford Smythe said, 'no, this isn't going to happen'. Then, all hell broke loose and you can't imagine what was going on at the LA Kings draft table."

McDonald, who landed the play-by-by job with Los Angeles, provided insight on what happened next.

"I had the responsibility of going over to the Leafs hotel and getting Mr. Imlach and Mr. Smythe into a cab and bringing them back to Mr. Cooke's suite. It was loud, it was long, it was profanity laced, but somehow they got it sorted out and Red Kelly became the Kings first coach."

~ ~ ~
Left to Right: Brian McFarlane, Joe Bowen, Mike Wilson and Jiggs McDonald

Three stories from three of the best, "Inside the Room".

Sunday, July 12, 2015


On Thursday afternoon, family and friends of Wally Stanowski gathered together to say one final goodbye to "The Whirling Dervish"as a Memorial was held in the west end of Toronto. The event was organized by Wally's four children - Adair, Adrian, Skip and Craig.

Earlier in the week, Wally's life and hockey career was celebrated at the Oldtimers luncheon in Markham, Ontario. On Thursday, a number of the regulars who attend the monthly lunch, turned out to join the Stanowski family to remember Wally.

Upon entering the room where the Memorial was held, one could not avoid seeing a number of wonderful photographs, which showed Wally at various stages of his life. Below, are several examples of the pictures along with a couple taken at the Memorial.

Wally out and about. The bag he is carrying would indicate that he is about to go on a road trip.
Wally with some teammates. Pictured from left to right: Wally, Bucko McDonald, Pete Langelle and Bob Goldham.

These marvellous shots were taken in front of Maple Leaf Gardens. Pictured from left to right: Howie Meeker, Gus Bodnar, Bill Barilko and Jimmy Thomson.

Skip Stanowski, behind the microphone, introducing Paul Patskou, who made a wonderful video presentation covering Wally early in his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Wally's daughter, Adrian, spoke about her dad.

The St. Boniface Seals team photo, which was taken after they captured the 1938 Memorial Cup at Maple Leaf Gardens. 

Wally's oldest daughter, Adair told a very touching story about her dad. When Adair was a young girl, her mother and father gave her a doll ornament, which later broke into pieces. At that point, Wally went into action and painstakingly glued the ornament back together. This ornament was one of only a few personal items that Wally took with him when he moved from his house to a retirement home. Clearly, this item was very sentimental to Wally and meant a lot to him.

A very young Wally Stanowski.

Skip Stanowski and former Toronto Maple Leaf, Ron Hurst, sharing a moment. Ron spoke on behalf of the Oldtimers. He said a few words about Wally and told several jokes to the delight of those in attendance. I could picture Wally looking down from above and laughing then, leading the applause  following Ron's last joke. Adrain pointed out in her talk that Wally had two families - his wife Joyce and their four children and his second family, being his hockey family. Over the past week, there have been countless stories about how much the monthly Oldtimers lunch meant to Wally. 

Representing the Oldtimers lunch from left to right: Pete Conacher, Bob Tindall, and Lorraine & Al Shaw.

 Bob Beckett and Bob Nevin.

Left to Right: Gord Sammon, Jim Morrison and Ivan Irwin.

Left to Right: Betty & Gary Collins with Jerry Junkin.

Standing left to right: Bob Beckett, Jim Anderson and Gary Collins, with Jerry Junkin (sitting).

This final photo shows Wally and teammate Garth Boesch reading The Boston Daily Globe.

With his passing, Wally Stanowski has now joined the ultimate Oldtimers hockey team. I can imagine him pairing-up with his former partner on the Leafs defence, Bingo Kampman, and rushing the puck up ice to score a picture-perfect goal against Charlie Rayner. On his next shift, Wally finds a wide-open Sid Smith and dishes the puck off to the left winger, who beats Rayner for Toronto's second goal.

Upstairs, the game just goes on and on. And Joyce is in the stands watching Wally work his magic.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


The first Oldtimers luncheon, since Wally Stanowski's passing, took place on Monday afternoon in Markham, Ontario.

At Wally's table, framed copies of newspaper articles covering his death, were positioned behind an unopened bottle of ale.

After lunch, several speakers were scheduled to talk about Wally and his career in the game of hockey.

Ron Hurst, recalled the first time he met Wally...

"I first met Wally when he was wearing a Sammy Taft hat. He was a famous hatter and his shop was next door to Shopsy's in Toronto. He took the time of day to speak to me when I was a junior."

Pete Conacher, remembered playing with Wally on the Oldtimers hockey team...

"After I finished playing hockey, I joined the Oldtimers and played 13 years with them. Wally and I drove in the same car to those games. It was an experience I will never forget. Wally was special. We had guys in the room like Ron Hurst, Bob Goldham, Jackie Hamilton, Ike Hildebrand and Sid Smith, but Wally was the leader, on and off the ice. He had a great career and was a great guy. We are going to miss him."

Ivan Irwin
Ivan Irwin, told a couple of wonderful stories about Wally, his friend and teammate.

The Boston story...

"Frank Brimsek got cut and at that time you only carried one goaltender. The Bruins had 10-minutes to get him stitched-up and back on the ice. With the break in the action, Hap Day turned to Wally and told him to get on the ice and warm-up. Wally had been parked on the Leaf bench since the beginning of the game. Wally skated around twice and was going to sit down, but Day told him to warm-up properly. Wally went back out and started skating. The organist in the corner started playing a waltz and Wally got into the stride of the waltz. He was coasting along and the Boston crowd started to clap for him. He started to do a bit of Sonja Henie with one leg up and skating backwards!"

On Wally's career-ending injury...

"Someone had thrown a coin on the ice and he skated right over it. Wally was a fast skater and he went into the boards. He put his foot right through the boards. After about three weeks, the team told him he could go home. Wally's car was in Cincinnati and it had a gear shift and clutch. He couldn't drive the car because his cast went all the way up his leg. I cut-off a Northland hockey stick and taped it to the clutch so he could shift gears. I thought he was going from Cincinnati to Toronto, but his wife was out in Vancouver. So, Wally drove all the way out to Vancouver and picked up his wife. While he was out there, Wally decided he might as well see San Francisco. He drove there and had trouble with the hills!"

"Wally was a character and he was a beautiful character. I have a lot of fine memories about him. He was a good one."

Paul Henry, a long-time friend of the Stanowski's, spoke about the family he has known since 1955.

"I met Wally in 1955, when I was 10 year-old boy. He gave me my first pair of tacks. He had quite an impact upon me as a young boy. He was an amazing creature of habit. He loved his Wednesday steam-baths and he loved his fishing trips."

"He had 4 kids, one every five years. They were pretty special children. Skip went on to be a winner with the St. Mike's junior 'B' team and won an All-Ontario championship. He was the MVP at Cornell University, when they won the national title in 1967. He was the MVP on a team anchored by goaltender Ken Dryden. Adair and Adrian are both great ladies, teachers and impact people in life. Craig was one of the very first Canadians to win a track and field scholarship at the University of Iowa. Joyce (Wally's late wife) was a dynamite lady and her home was like my second home."

"It will be a long time before we get over the loss of Wally. My deepest sympathies to the family. We have a lot good memories. I also have four children. The minute Wally used to come into our home every weekend, when he came fishing, he would want his love and kisses. And the kids wanted their potato pancakes!"

John Kovalcik, who was Wally's dentist, spoke about what the Stanowski family meant to him...

"I've had the good fortune of knowing Wally and his family for many years. Joyce always warmly welcomed me into the household and family. Wally shared stories and jokes and every single time we had a chance to spend time together was truly memorable. When I had the chance to think about Wally's passing, it was a shock to all of us, it literally took the wind out of the knees. I knew things were going to be different. Wally has now entered the Hall of Fame Of Life and I think we should all cherish the memories."

Skip Stanowski
The final speaker to make his way to the microphone was Wally's eldest son, Skip Stanowski. His talk was uplifting, but also pulled at the heartstrings.

"This is not a time for tears," Skip began, setting the tone for his talk. "It is time for laughter, joy and to remember."

Then, he touched on what the monthly luncheon meant to Wally.

"My father loved this place. He loved coming here. He loved everyone who was associated with this event. He lived to come here. If he was still alive today, I would take him out of St. Joe's (St. Joseph's Hospital) on a gurney and get him here on IV and he would be happy."

Skip revealed that it wasn't necessarily the game of hockey that motivated his dad to return month after month.

"It wasn't the hockey thing that he thought of, it was the people. He just loved to talk to old friends and new friends."

A blanket of silence covered every inch of the room when Skip talked about Wally's last day on this earth.

"We had a super visit on his last day which was Sunday (June 28). He was lying in bed and he couldn't speak, but he could hear. I said to him, you're not going to make the next luncheon. He kind of nodded and I said, I'm not going to see you anymore. His eyes popped open and he knew he was going to go. He was in a lot of pain, but it didn't last long. He knew when his time was up. If he could have been here today, he would have, but he is here in spirit."

In closing, Skip saluted Al Shaw for his work in keeping Wally's beloved Oldtimers lunch going from year-to-year.

"To Al Shaw, who has done an unbelievable job with this organization, I want to express my appreciation for all the things you've done for my dad. It's not the time for tears, but to tell funny stories and keep the thing going."

Before Al Shaw brought the curtain down on the tribute to Wally Stanowski, he had this last message for his good friend.

"Do me a favour Wally, keep your stick on the ice and we'll see you again up there soon."