Sunday, June 28, 2020

REMEMBERING WALLY

Remembering the great Wally Stanowski, who died on this date back in 2015 at the age of 96.

He was an All-Star defenceman and a four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was a rookie with the Leafs in 1939-40. Also, he played for the New York Rangers.

Wally was an encyclopedia of hockey knowledge and always had an opinion on different aspects of the game. He was the heart and soul of our Original Six Alumni lunches and is missed by our group.

One of my best memories of Wally was interviewing him on a cold February afternoon at his home. Wally talked hockey and only stopped for an occasional puff on his pipe.


Above is a picture of Wally that appeared in the March 27, 1948, edition of the Toronto Daily Star. The caption read: "That's Wally Stanowski piloting the electric razor in the middle panel. He's still the steadiest performer the Leafs have in front of Broda." The reference being to Toronto goalie Turk Broda, who backstopped the Leafs to the 1948 Stanley Cup victory.

Friday, June 26, 2020

EDDIE JOHNSTON'S PLAYOFF STREAK

Eddie Johnston made his NHL debut in goal for the Boston Bruins in 1962-63. At the beginning of the season, Bob Perreault was given the starting job between the pipes by Bruins coach Phil Watson. Perreault, like Johnston, was in his first NHL season. When Boston sputtered out of the gate, they replaced Watson with Bruins' legend Milt Schmidt in November.

By mid-December, Perreault was being hampered by injuries. In one game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Perreault was sent to the sidelines in the third period after suffering both knee and ankle injury. As a result, the bulk of the goaltending duties were being handled by Johnston.

A rookie at 27, the opportunity to gain confidence came with each game. And Johnston saw a lot of pucks. Asked after a rather busy outing if he was aware he faced 41 shots, Johnston replied, "I handle that many every night I play."

During Johnston's first six years, the Bruins failed to make the playoffs, but they turned it around when Bobby Orr arrived on the scene. Also, Johnston gained a new partner in the crease when Gerry Cheevers joined the Bruins.

Johnston's best performance in the playoffs came in 1972, when he went on a hot streak.

On April 8, 1972, Johnston notched his one and only playoff shutout. It came in game three of the Bruins quarter-final series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The two clubs split the first two contests in Boston.

At Maple Leaf Gardens, Johnston replaced Cheevers, and earned his first win in the '72 playoffs. In fact, it was his first ever playoff win.

"Johnston shutout [the] Leafs, 2-0, with brilliant goaltending," noted a story on the game. Both Boston goals came on the power play with Mike Walton and Bobby Orr doing the damage.

The next night, Johnston was back to face the Leafs and was peppered with 42 shots on goal. Toronto held a 4-2 lead early in the third period, but goals by Ed Westfall, Phil Esposito, and Ken Hodge gave Boston a 5-4 come from behind win. It was his second win in the '72 playoffs.

After the 5-4 victory, Bruins' forward Wayne Cashman talked about his goalie.

"We got big saves from Eddie. I guess we have such an offensive team nobody notices our goaltending. But through the season I'd think we average 30 shots against, and even when we were down tonight, Eddie kept us in the game."

On the second straight road win, Boston coach, Tom Johnson, said, "When you lose a game like that on your home ice it really flattens you." He added, "And it should lift our guys just as high as it sinks [the] Leafs."

Despite backstopping his team to two decisive wins, the Bruins went with Gerry Cheevers in game 5. Boston eliminated the Leafs with a 3-2 win.

In the semi-finals, Boston and St. Louis played game one on April 18, at Boston Garden. At practice the day before, Johnston was informed by Tom Johnson that he would start in the opener.

The Bruins had little difficulty with the Blues as they handed them a 6-1 loss. It was Johnston's third win in the '72 playoffs.

"They usually check pretty closely," said Johnston in his post-game comments. "I guess they figured they had to open up. Maybe they were trying to steal one in our rink." While Johnston had a relatively easy game, he did have a scare in the middle frame when Bobby Orr toppled Garry Unger and sent him into Johnston's right leg. "It felt like it locked. Just a cramp, but it's okay."

Sticking to his plan to alternate his goalies, Johnson turned to Gerry Cheevers for game two. Once again, Boston hammered St. Louis by a score of 10 to 2, and jetted to St. Louis with a two game advantage.

Little changed for the Blues when they hosted Boston in game three on April 23. The Bruins didn't take their skate off the gas pedal and downed St. Louis 7-3. It was Johnston's fourth win in the '72 playoffs.

As one article noted, "[The] Blues wilted in the face of Boston goaltender Ed Johnston's sharp reflexes and the overwhelming Bruin firepower that produced two goals each by John McKenzie and Mike Walton."

Now in a position to sweep the series, Cheevers and his teammates defeated St. Louis 5-3.

When the Stanley Cup final opened on April 30, Boston held home ice advantage over the New York Rangers. In a closely played contest, the Bruins edged New York 6-5. Although he didn't play, Johnston provided his analysis of the game.

"The best goalkeeping all afternoon came after it was tied  5-5," said Johnston. "Giacomin [New York's goalie] had to be fabulous or we'd have won it about 8-5. And Cheesy stood his ground when Vic Hadfield got in tight and made him shoot wide."

Eddie Johnston got his turn in the crease in game two on May 2. In another closely knit played game, the Bruins emerged with a 2-1 win. It was Johnston's fifth win in the '72 playoffs. New York Rangers forward, Vic Hadfield, heaped praise on Johnston for his work.

"The big man for them was Johnston," Hadfield told the press. "He stole us blind, made two tremendous saves on Jean [Ratelle] in the first period."

In the confines of Madison Square Garden, the Rangers rebounded with a 5-2 victory. Gerry Cheevers was in net for the loss. In the opinion of Johnston, his partner in the goaltending union couldn't be faulted for the defeat.

"Gerry didn't have a chance on those first three power play goals. We gave their point-man, Park [Brad], too much time, allowed them to wind up and fire bombs. Those two that Park scored travelled so fast they smoked. No one stops that kind. Give the Rangers credit for a big game in a must  situation, but we'll stop them on Sunday and finish it off at home."

Eager to see his prediction through, Johnston returned to the cage for game four in New York on May 7. He faced 23 shots in a 3-2 victory. It was Johnston's sixth win in the '72 playoffs. But he knew there was a lot of hockey left for the Rangers to crawl back.

"[The] Rangers are a disciplined team. They'll come out flying in Boston on Tuesday night."

Fully aware of Johnston's streak of six wins in the '72 playoffs, Tom Johnson made the decision to start his hot goalie in game five at home on May 9. It was now up to Johnston to make his prediction whole and help his team win the Stanley Cup in front of the hometown crowd.

Eddie Johnston's streak in the '72 playoffs came to an end when the Rangers outscored Boston 3-2 and extended the Cup final to a sixth game in New York. Johnston reflected on the loss in the Bruins' dressing room.

"I had the winner all the way until it hit Dallas Smith and changed direction," said Johnston of Bobby Rousseau's game-winning tally. "If Dallas hadn't moved into the picture it would have been routine. But that's the way it goes. You have to take the good with the bad."

Not wanting to go to a seventh and deciding game, where anything could happen, the Bruins knew the importance of winning game six in New York. With Gerry Cheevers back in goal, the Boston Bruins captured the Stanley Cup by blanking the Rangers 3-0.

In 7 games, Eddie Johnston posted a 6-1 record and a 1.86 average. His six victorious were the most for the padded warriors chasing the Stanley Cup in 1972.

EDDIE JOHNSTON AGAINST THE LEAFS IN THE QUARTER-FINALS

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

MAX QUACKENBUSH: 1928-2020


Max Quackenbush, a defenceman who played in the NHL with Boston and Chicago, passed away last month at the age of 91.

At Del La Salle Oaklands High School in Toronto, Quakenbush was a member of the team that won the OHA Junior "B" championship in 1946. While playing at centre, he went on a rampage during the regular season when he scored 18 goals and 13 assists in 8 games.

By the time Quackenbush joined the OHA Junior "A" Windsor Spitfires in 1947-48, he became a defenceman, but this didn't stifle his offensive skills. In 35 games, he put up 30 points, and served as captain of the Spitfires. 

During the season, Quackenbush left the Spitfires and joined the Hettche Spitfires of the International Hockey League. The team was located in Windsor, so geographically, it wasn't a big move. His play didn't suffer with the upgraded level of competition, as Quackenbush and the Hettche Spitfires advanced to the IHL final against the Toledo Mercurys. On March 14, 1948, Toledo defeated the Spitfires by a score of 9-6 and captured the Joe Turner Memorial Trophy. They took the best-of-seven final in five games. 

The next step for Quackenbush was to the United States Hockey League with the Omaha Knights, a farm team of the Detroit Red Wings. In Omaha, Quackenbush continued to work on his game with an eye towards impressing the Red Wings management. In particular, Jack Adams, who was Detroit's GM.

In 1949-50, Detroit assigned Quackenbush to the Indianapolis Capitals of the American Hockey League. This was the perfect situation for Quackenbush to shine. Most of Detroit's hottest prospects performed on this team and displayed their ability to trample over all comers. This was especially evident when the playoffs got underway.

Indianapolis swept through the post-season by winning the Calder Cup in the minimum number of eight games. It was the first time in AHL history that this feat was accomplished. In game four of the final against Cleveland, the Capitals took a 2-0 lead in the second period. The goal was scored by Pat Lundy at the 12:33 mark. The play developed when Quackenbush sent a long pass from deep in his own zone to Lundy at centre ice. Then, Lundy fired a shot, which was screened by Cleveland defender, and his blast found the back of the net.

As Barons coach, Bun Cook, said after the game, "I thought that was the one that beat us ... we had been trying to watch him (Lundy) and stop that."

Unable to fully bounce back from the tally set-up by Quackenbush, Cleveland fell to the Capitals by a score of 3-2.

The following year, Quackenbush returned to Indianapolis, but his stay in the Hoosier State would come to end in December 1950. On December 5, the Boston Bruins obtained Quackenbush in a deal that sent defenceman Steve Kraftcheck the other way. This trade was a loan, with Detroit retaining the rights to Quackenbush. The transaction resulted in Max joining his big brother, Bill, on the Bruins' defence. A future Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Bill Quackenbush, became a Bruin when the Red Wings traded him to Boston on August 16, 1949. 

It was on Bill's recommendation that Detroit signed his younger brother and it wouldn't be a stretch that the elder Quakenbush had some say on Max making his way to Boston. 

In a Boston Globe article, Max Quackenbush talked about playing alongside his sibling on the Bruins' blueline.

"Bill knows all the tricks and habits of the other teams. He coaches me on them both on and off the ice. Don't think it isn't a big help either for a rookie. These fellows up here are smart and they can make an awful fool of you if somebody doesn't help you."

Quackenbush elaborated on the difference between the AHL and NHL.

"In the American League the players scramble all over and you can make mistakes without them being costly. But up here it's all position. The players stay where they are supposed to and if you make one mistake - boom, the puck's in the net."

On New Year's Day 1951, the Bruins were at home in Boston Garden for a holiday tilt against the New York Rangers. Early in the third period, Max Quackenbush scored his first NHL goal, with brother Bill earning the lone assist. His 55-foot shot eluded Rangers' goalie Chuck Rayner. 

Over the course of his National Hockey League career, Quackenbush scored four goals and added seven helpers for 11 points. His playoff action was limited to one series. That came in 1951, when the  Bruins fell to the Leafs in five games of the semi-final.

Prior to the 1951-52 season, Quackenbush found himself on the move when Detroit, who held his rights, shipped him to the Chicago Black Hawks. The Bruins couldn't reach a deal with Detroit for his services. That was followed by him being sent to the AHL St. Louis Flyers. In what can only be described as a blow to his ambition of remaining in the big league, Quackenbush kept a positive attitude. St. Louis was a farm team of the Chicago Black Hawks and Quackenbush got into 14 contests with the Hawks.

Starting in 1952-53, Quackenbush played for the Calgary Stampeders of the Western Hockey League. He remained a Stampeder until his retirement following the 1954-55 campaign. The highlight of his time with Calgary came in May 1954 when they captured the inaugural Edinburgh Cup. The series pitted the WHL champs against their counterparts in the Quebec Hockey League.

In a quiet off-season move in July 1955, the Montreal Canadiens obtained Quackenbush from Calgary. But prior to camp opening in September, Quackenbush told the Habs of his intention to retire.

Maxwell Joseph Quackenbush was born on August 29, 1928, in Toronto, Ontario. He died on April 17, 2020.

Friday, May 15, 2020

DOUG MCKAY: AN NHL GAME TO REMEMBER



It's a dream shared by everyone that has laced up a pair of skates and played the game of hockey. The dream that takes place when one closes their eyes and conjures up images of playing in a National Hockey League contest.

For Doug McKay, who died this week at the age of 90, his dream unfolded in the spring of 1950. He was born on May 28, 1929, in Hamilton, Ontario.

A product of the Detroit Red Wings' organization, McKay played his junior hockey with the Windsor Spitfires in the OHA, and graduated to the Indianapolis Capitals in 1949-50. The Caps were Detroit's farm team in the American Hockey League.

In his first year with Indianapolis, McKay, who played left wing, scored 16 goals and produced 37 points in 65 contests. 

When the playoffs rolled around, Indianapolis went on a tear and achieved a record that had never been accomplished in the AHL. Backed by goalie Terry Sawchuk, the Caps sailed through two playoff rounds and won 8 straight games to win the Calder Cup. On April 14, 1950, the Capitals downed the Cleveland Barons 3-2 to capture the best-of-seven final, and become the first team in AHL history to go undefeated in the post-season.

Immediately after the game, Detroit's GM, Jack Adams, announced that Doug McKay, Al Dewsbury, Jimmy Peters, and Gordon Haidy were summoned from Indianapolis to join the Red Wings. The explanation given for the reinforcements being airlifted was Detroit's semi-final battle with the Toronto Maple Leafs that went the distance of seven games.

Doug McKay played his one and only NHL game on April 15, 1950, when the Red Wings faced the New York Rangers in game three of the Stanley Cup final. The contest took place in Toronto due to the fact the Rangers home at Madison Square Garden was previously booked by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. 




One reporter noted that McKay, who also had experience playing at center, "Spelled off Abel a couple of times." Sid Abel played between Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay and the trio were known as the Production Line.

The Red Wings were victorious in game three as they blanked the Rangers 4-0 at Maple Leaf Gardens. 

On April 23, game seven was played at the Olympia. Detroit captured the Stanley Cup in double overtime when Pete Babanco scored the Cup-winning goal.

Monday, May 11, 2020

ORR'S SECOND CUP-WINNING GOAL - 1972

When it comes to Bobby Orr and the Stanley Cup, much of the attention is given to his electrifying Cup-winning goal on May 10, 1970, against the St. Louis Blues.

 On a give-and-go play with Derek Sanderson, Orr got off his shot, then was lifted off the ice as Blues' defenceman Noel Picard got his stick entangled in Orr's skate. With his entire body stretched out and his stick raised in celebration of the goal, Orr flew through the air prior to making a landing.

Yesterday (May 10, 2020), was the 50th anniversary of the goal. And it wouldn't be the last time Orr scored a Cup-winning goal.

In the 1972 playoffs, the Boston Bruins earned a berth in the Cup final by defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis. They faced the New York Rangers as the final got underway on April 30, 1972, at Boston Garden.

When the final shifted to Madison Square Garden for games three and four, the Bruins held a two game advantage. They split the two contests in New York, which gave Boston a commanding 3 games to one lead. In need of a road victory, the Rangers won game five by a score of 3-2.

Still on the brink of losing the final, the Rangers hosted the Bruins on May 11, 1972.

Once again, Bobby Orr led the Bruins to the promise land as they blanked the Rangers 3-0 to capture the Stanly Cup. Orr's first period goal was all Boston needed scoring wise to win the game. His Cup-winning goal was scored at the 11:18 mark.

"He opened the scoring on a first period power play, spinning away from a Bruce MacGregor check and directing a screen shot that goaltender might see if he watches a replay today," wrote Dan Proudfoot in The Globe and Mail.

In his humble way, Orr recognized his teammates' contributions.

"Give Cheevers [Boston goalie, Gerry] the credit," said Orr. "It was a 19-man job with everybody working together. Winning the Cup again is still a big thrill. It's a wonderful feeling."

In the Rangers' dressing room, their captain, Vic Hadfield, reflected on Orr's brilliant play. He began by answering his own question.

"You want to know what turned the game around? It was the same thing that turned the whole series around - Bobby Orr. We were even in face-offs, even in power plays and even in penalty killing. Everything was pretty even except they had Bobby Orr."

The last word goes Orr, who was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.

"I have to rate this tops because we won here [at MSG]. We had a lot of pressure on us. It started in training camp and just kept mounting. Now we can relax."


Sunday, May 10, 2020

THE GOAL - 50TH ANNIVERSARY



"If you are a young boy growing up in Canada and play the game of hockey, you almost certainly have the dream of someday winning the Stanley Cup. I was no different. It's difficult to put on paper what it feels like at the moment you suddenly realize that you did just win. I can tell you that it was a mixture of excitement and relief, and winning it the first time only made me want to repeat the experience again and again. Regardless of your profession, when you get to the top of your chosen field, however you measure that, it is a thrill you'll never forget. In the world of hockey, the top of the mountain was, and always will be, a Stanley Cup Championship."

- Orr: My Story, By Bobby Orr -

Friday, May 8, 2020

REMEMBERING PAUL RONTY: 1928-2020


Last month, former NHL center Paul Ronty passed away at the age of 91. 

In 1920, his parents, Heikki and llma Ronty, left their homeland of Finland to settle in Toronto, Ontario. They resided in East York, a suburb in Toronto's East End.

Ronty excelled in several sports, including hockey, baseball and golf.

I spoke with Sandy Air, who played against Ronty in both hockey and baseball when they were teenagers. 

"He was a good baseball player, we played in the North Toronto Baseball League," said Air during our late afternoon telephone interview. Both Air and Ronty played the hot corner at third base. "He was a good hitter," stated Air of his counterpart on the diamond. Air was a member of the Century Cleaners club.

Looking back at a number of news reports from the 1940s, it becomes evident that Ronty had no troubles making contact with the ball. In May 1947,  Ronty's Peter Woods team faced the North Toronto Lions in a junior contest held at Eglinton Park. "Paul Ronty was a star hitter for the winners, having a triple with the bases loaded and a single." This is one example of Ronty's skill when he settled in at home plate.

On the ice, Ronty and Air competed against each other in junior "B" hockey in the OHA. Ronty skated for the Toronto Chevies Aces and Air suited up for Victory Aircraft. In a game on February 26, 1945, the Aces defeated Victory Aircraft 3-2 at Maple Leaf Gardens. Ronty and Air both scored a goal and an assist.

"He never played junior "A" hockey," stated Air of Ronty's early career. "Paul went from junior "B" to the Boston Olympics in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League. He had very good offensive skills and was a good all-round athlete."

During hockey's off-season, Ronty, when not on the baseball field, hit the links. "He was an excellent golfer and the first guy to take me out for a round," remembered Air of Ronty's kind gesture.

Ronty, who was property of the Boston Bruins, was assigned to the Boston Olympics for the 1945-46 season. His 44 points in 49 games, earned him a promotion the following year to the American Hockey League to play for the Hershey Bears. 

In his first year in Hershey, Ronty continued to work on his game and produced 59 points in 64 contest.

His first crack at breaking into the NHL with the Bruins came in 1947-48. Ronty started the season with Boston, but didn't see any ice time and was sent to Hershey. He was summoned by the Bruins several times as an injury replacement and subsequently was returned to the Bears. 

The major concern about Ronty was his slight stature as he hit the scales at only 150 pounds. He stood at an even six-feet. Boston general manager, Art Ross, expressed fear that the opposition would "break" Ronty "in two." One reporter referred to Ronty as "a gangling 19-year-old youngster."

A knee injury to Milt Schmidt resulted in Ronty being called up for a match on February 8, 1948, against Detroit at the Olympia. 

On his third time up with the parent club, Ronty demonstrated he could handle the rough and tumble action of the National Hockey League. With the Bruins in hot pursuit of a playoff spot, they needed Ronty to assist in the hunt.

And down the stretch, Ronty didn't disappoint as he played between wingers Kenny Smith and Johnny Peirson.

The Bruins hosted the Rangers on March 10, 1948, at Boston Garden and their 6-3 victory put them closer to obtaining a playoff berth. A United Press story noted, "Combining beautifully with another rookie, Johnny Peirson, Ronty sparked a tiring Boston to its win with a splendid exhibition of stickhandling in the third period."

Boston clinched a playoff spot when they defeated the Red Wings 5-1 in Detroit. The Bruins were ousted in their semi-final series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In five playoff games against Toronto, Ronty earned four assists.

After his solid performance, Ronty spent his first full season with the Bruins in 1948-49. If there were any lingering doubts he couldn't handle the physical warfare, Ronty proved such concerns weren't necessary. He withstood the rigors of a 60 game schedule and recorded his first 20 goal season in the NHL.

Although he experienced personal success, Ronty and the Bruins were once against bounced from the playoffs by the Maple Leafs in the semi-final. In five games, Ronty scored one goal and two assists.

During the playoff series against Toronto, Red Burnett of the Toronto Daily Star, spoke with Chicago Black Hawks' coach Charlie Conacher. A star with the Leafs, Conacher played on the famed Kid Line alongside Joe Primeau and Harvey Jackson.

While speaking with Burnett, Conacher told him, "For my money, Paul Ronty's the best player in the NHL this season." Conacher elaborated on his statement. "Before Ronty, Ken Smith was just a killer of penalties. Now he's a 20-goal man. Johnny Peirson was no ball of fire until they put him with Ronty and he got 22 goals. Ronty himself got 20 and for my money he was responsible for most of those 62 counters. That line kept Clapper's [Boston coach, Dit Clapper] gang in there and Ronty was the man who made it tick."

In 1949-50, the NHL schedule expanded to 70 games and Ronty kept up his production on offence by netting 23 goals and 36 helpers for 59 points. His meagre 8 penalty minutes, resulted him finishing third in the balloting for the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly conduct.

Ronty's last year with the Bruins was in 1950-51. His numbers dropped to 10 goals and 22 assists in 70 games. In September of 1951, he was shipped to the New York Rangers for Gus Kyle and the rights to Pentti Lund.



He got off to a slow start in the Big Apple and didn't score his first goal with the Blueshirts until November 14, 1951. In dramatic fashion, with the Rangers' net empty, Ronty scored the equalizer at the 19:18 mark of the third period. His goal delighted the fans at Madison Square Garden as the Rangers tied the Leafs 2-2.

After the 1952-53 season, Ronty was voted the Rangers' MVP by the New York Hockey Writers' Association. He registered 54 points in 70 games. He was the second youngest Ranger to receive the honour.

His time in New York came to close on February 20, 1955, when he was claimed on waivers by the Montreal Canadiens. Ronty was seldom used by the Habs and only played in four regular season games and five playoff contests. He failed to earn a point with Montreal. Ronty retired after his brief stint with the Canadiens.

He played in 488 NHL games and scored 101 goals and 211 assists for 312 points. Ronty saw action in 21 playoff dates and posted 8 points. He played in four NHL All-Star Games - 1949, 1950, 1953 and 1954.

Paul Ronty was born on July 12, 1928. He passed away on April 22, 2020, in Newton, Massachusetts.