Monday, May 27, 2019

STANLEY CUP BLUES


After an absence of 49 years, the St. Louis Blues will once again make a return visit to the Stanley Cup final. The Blues advanced with a 5-1 victory over San Jose in game six last Tuesday.

One of six expansion teams to enter the NHL in 1967, the St. Louis Blues ownership consortium was headed by Sid Salomon, Jr., and his son, Sid Salomon III. The Salomon family was granted the franchise on April 6, 1966.

 The hockey department was led by general manager Lynn Patrick and Scotty Bowman. At first, Bowman served as assistant GM and assistant coach under Patrick. A veteran of the hockey wars, Lynn Patrick was a former NHL player, coach and general manager. He had hockey in his blood, following in the footsteps of his iconic father, Lester Patrick. The plan was for both men to work the bench with Patrick directing the forwards and Bowman looking after the defencemen. In training camp, the arrangement was shelved, with only Lynn Patrick remaining behind the bench. Bowman's new spot was in the press box to observe the play from up high and report back to Patrick what he witnessed.

After 16 regular season games, Patrick decided his time was better spent tending to his duties as the general manager. In his place, Bowman descended from the press box to become the head coach. On November 22, 1967, Bowman coached his first NHL game. The Blues lost that night to the Montreal Canadiens 3-1.


The hockey club assembled by Patrick and Bowman was typical of an expansion team. The roster included castoffs with NHL experience and hungry minor pro players hoping to land a job in hockey's top league.

Between the pipes, the Blues had Glenn Hall and Seth Martin. Hall was left exposed in the expansion draft by Chicago after sharing the Vezina Trophy (fewest goals against) with Denis Dejordy. Hall led all goalies with a 2.38 average in the 1966-67 season. Although he was about to celebrate his 36th birthday, there was no reason to believe Hall was washed-up. The Blues gambled that Hall would be a key ingredient to their success and the move ultimately paid off.

A trade on November 29, 1967, brought Red Berenson and Barclay Plager from the New York Rangers. Berenson, a Stanley Cup winner with Montreal in 1965, led the Blues in point production with 51. Plager became the Blues' tough guy and led the NHL in penalty-minutes with 153.

Gerry Melnyk, who spent time with Detroit and Chicago, finished second behind Berenson with 50 points. He doubled his previous best of 25 points with the Detroit Red Wings in 1960-61.

Also up front, NHL newcomers Frank St. Marseille, Tim Ecclestone and Gary Sabourin made the most of their opportunity to be in the line-up. Others with NHL action in their portfolio, like Don McKenney, Ron Schock, Larry Keenan, Bill McCreary and Terry Crisp, all made a contribution.

Scotty Bowman's philosophy of defence wins championships was evident in the construction of the Blues' defensive core. Al Arbour made his debut in 1953-54 with the Detroit Red Wings and went on to win four Cups (Detroit, Chicago, Toronto). Jimmy Roberts was claimed in the expansion draft from Montreal, where he won the Cup in 1965 and 1966. The brother-act of Bob and Barclay Plager kept the opposition on their toes. Also, Noel Picard and Fred Hucul were in the mix.

A native of Verdun, Quebec, Bowman got his start in the Montreal Canadiens organization. It didn't come as a surprise that Bowman and Patrick were on the hunt for personnel with a past or present  connection to Montreal. In June of 1967, the Blues signed legendary Habs defenceman Doug Harvey to a contract and sent him to Kansas City to be a playing-coach with their farm team. When the playoffs rolled around, Harvey's new assignment was to patrol the Blues' blueline. Another Canadiens legend, Dickie Moore, was signed as a free agent on December 3, 1967. To further solidify their defence, St. Louis claimed Jean-Guy Talbot, who played with Montreal from 1954-55 to 1966-67, on waivers from Detroit on January 13, 1968.

Their best days may have been behind them, but Harvey, Moore and Talbot brought experience to the room, and Bowman knew this would be beneficial, especially at playoff time.

Besides using Roberts and Talbot on the blueline, Bowman didn't hesitate to place them on the wings, when a spark was necessary.

The St. Louis Blues hit the ice at home on October 11, 1967, against the Minnesota North Stars. The contest ended in 2-2 draw. Larry Keenan, who played two games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1961-62, scored the first goal in team history. They sputtered out of the gate and by the time Bowman took control, the Blues were cellar-dwellers in the West Division. After losing to Montreal in his debut, Bowman's squad fell two more times before turning their fortunes around. The Blues went 23-18-14 to close out the schedule. This was good for third-place and a finish that left them only three points behind front-running Philadelphia.

They were the first team from the 1967 expansion to reach the Stanley Cup final in 1968. And their journey to play for the Cup didn't come easy. In both the quarter-finals (Philadelphia) and semi-finals (Minnesota), it took the Blues seven games to advance.

A huge underdog going into the final, St. Louis had the difficult task of trying to upset the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs coasted to the final, as they swept Boston and lost only one game to Chicago in the semi-finals.

Looking down his bench, Scotty Bowman knew the former Habs in his line-up - Picard, Harvey, Berenson, Roberts, Talbot, Moore -  were aware of what it would take to slay Goliath.

The 1968 Stanley Cup final opened on May 5, in St. Louis. For those expecting Montreal to cruise, game one showed St. Louis wasn't about to concede an inch. It took double-overtime for the Canadiens to emerge with a 3-2 victory.

Over the next three contests, the pattern of one-goal decisions continued, with Montreal being on the winning-side. They won game two by a score of 1-0, and took game three, on home ice, 4-3 in overtime.

On May 11, Montreal was in a position to win the Cup at the Forum.

In the first period, Dick Duff's third goal of the playoffs opened the scoring and gave Montreal a 1-0 lead. The Blues, knowing their Stanley Cup dreams were on the line, played with a sense of urgency in the middle the frame. A CP story the next day described how they bounced back with two goals:

The Blues took over in the second period when Cameron (Craig) beat Lorne (Gump) Worsley in the Montreal nets at 6:53. Cameron poked the puck behind Worsley from the corner of the crease after teammates Al Arbour and Tim Ecclestone had dug the puck out from the corner in successive attempts. 

A power play goal by Gary Sabourin at the 7:50 mark, then gave St. Louis a 2-1 advantage:

Gary Veneruzzo moved the puck from behind the Montreal goal and took it out to the face-off circle before slipping a perfect pass across to the waiting Sabourin.

Not to be denied, the Canadiens didn't let their fans down. Goals by Henri Richard and J. C. Tremblay in the final twenty-minutes of regulation time, sparked Montreal to a 3-2 victory and the chance to hoist the Cup. After the game, Toe Blake announced his retirement as the Canadiens coach.

While Montreal captured the big prize, one member of the St. Louis Blues was recognized for his outstanding play in the playoffs. That player was goalie Glenn Hall. He was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Playoff MVP. The award was named after the legendary owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His son, Stafford Smythe, commented on Hall's accomplishment. "Hall is well deserving of the trophy. He had three terrific series. If (the) Canadiens had been able to break through his goaltending they would have bombed St. Louis."

Glenn Hall's role in helping the Blues stay competitive in the post-season, is documented in Tom Adrahtas book - Glenn Hall: The Man They Call Mr. Goalie.

Coach Scotty Bowman said of his veteran goalie: "He's the reason we went as far as we did ... After all, a guy really accomplishes something when he goes into a series with the Canadiens as Glenn Hall did ... and comes out of it with the Conn Smythe Trophy. Being the outstanding player in a series where you have so many great players is really something."

Teammate Dickie Moore said: "Without Glenn Hall, a tremendous goalie and person, we would never  have been in the finals."

And what did Hall, who broke into the NHL with Detroit and won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 1961, think of his contributions and the accolades that came with it?

"I consider this more a team trophy (the Conn Smythe) than an individual honor. I think they must have considered the Blues' overall effort when they selected me ... It was one of the most satisfying honors I've ever received. I'd like to think I've never worked harder than I did this season. And I'd like to think that no hockey team ever worked harder than the Blues."

Asked to explain his success in the playoffs, Hall stated, "I was more relaxed this year. In Chicago, they said, 'Win.' Here they said, 'Play well.' When you're a farmer, if you miss a strip of field, nobody gets too excited. But in hockey if the puck gets past you, people get upset."

St. Louis returned to the Stanley Cup final in 1969 and 1970. Like their experience in 1968, the Blues were swept by Montreal in '69, and swept by the Boston Bruins in 1970. Game 4 on May 10, 1970, at Boston Garden, will always be remembered for Bobby Orr's overtime Cup-winning goal, and the iconic photograph that captured the moment.

Tonight, St. Louis will once again battle Boston in the 2019 final, and hope they can chase away the Stanley Cup blues.






Monday, May 13, 2019

IN APPRECIATION OF RED KELLY (1927-2019)



On the day of Red Kelly's Funeral Mass, the morning started with a heavy rain, but by the time family, friends and teammates arrived at Holy Rosary Church in Toronto, the rain had stopped. It was fitting for a man who brought sunshine to those he knew.

As the draped casket made its way up the main aisle, Red Kelly was surrounded one last time by six of his former teammates - Frank Mahovlich, Bob Baun, Dick Duff, Ron Ellis, Dave Keon, Ed Shack - who served as honourary pallbearers.

In his homily, Monsignor Robert Nusca told a wonderful story of when Kelly's statue on Legends Row at Scotiabank Arena (previously known as the Air Canada Centre) was about to be unveiled. The Monsignor lightheartedly asked Kelly if the statue could come to the parish and be on display. Kelly responded, "No, no, no Father!" Not giving up, Monsignor Nusca asked, if they could bring candles and place them around the statue. Kelly gave the same reply, "No, no, no Father!"

Once the laughter inside the church subsided, Monsignor Nusca got to the heart of the story. Red Kelly, a soft-spoken and humble man, wasn't going to allow a statue of himself to be placed on the grounds of his house of worship or agree to candles being placed around it.

Since his passing on May 2, 2019, the flood gates have opened on memories of Red Kelly.

The first thing that hit me was Kelly died on the 52nd anniversary of his eighth and final Stanley Cup. On May 2, 1967, the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated Montreal in game 6 to capture the Cup. About a week prior to the anniversary, I watched a tape of game 6 for a story I was writing on who scored the game-winning goal - Jim Pappin or Pete Stemkowski?

With game 6 fresh in my mind, I remembered Ron Ellis scoring the Leafs' first goal. On the play, Kelly carried the puck into Montreal's zone to the left of Canadiens goalie Gump Worsley. As Kelly entered the faceoff circle, he shot the puck as Habs defenceman, Terry Harper, was impeding his path to the net. Kelly's shot was stopped by Worsley, but Ron Ellis was in perfect position for the rebound and he put the puck in Montreal's net.

I thought of, what turned out to be Red Kelly's second-last NHL point, again when Ron Ellis took his spot to serve as an honorary pallbearer.

It was a Saturday night ritual in our household to watch Hockey Night in Canada. That's how I became acquainted with Red Kelly. My dad told me Punch Imlach acquired Mr. Kelly to go against the likes of Jean Beliveau. The Leaf coach and GM made Kelly a forward after his years on defence with Detroit. Also, the fact Kelly wore a helmet made him very visible on the TV screen, and easier to notice when sitting way up in the grays at Maple Leaf Gardens.

In 1971, I received a book for Christmas titled "Red Kelly" written by Stan Obodiac, who was the publicity director at Maple Leaf Gardens. By that time, Kelly had hung up his skates and was in the coaching ranks. But through this book I learned more about the player we had watched on the tube.

One passage perked my interest when I retrieved it off my bookshelf the day Kelly died. It read: Red's idol was centreman Joe Primeau - called Gentleman Joe. On the swamp, when other kids wanted to be Conacher and Jackson (Primeau's linemates on Toronto's famed Kid Line), Red would call out, "Here comes Primeau down the ice!"

Still in grade school, I wanted to know more about this player called "Gentleman Joe." I made a visit to the school library and devoured all the information they had on Primeau. Decades later, I still have a great appreciation for the Kid Line and the Leafs of the '30s.

In 1947, Red Kelly won a Memorial Cup with the St. Mike's Majors. His coach was Joe Primeau.

As fate would have it, I sat in a pew at Holy Rosary next to Joe Primeau's granddaughter, Suzanne.

Kelly joined the Los Angeles Kings after winning the Cup in 1967 with the Leafs. He was hired by Jack Kent Cooke to coach his expansion club. The Kings' first captain, Bob Wall, and their first play-by-play announcer, Jiggs McDonald, attended the funeral.

His next stop behind the bench was with the Pittsburgh Penguins. On their Twitter account, the Penguins noted in a post: The Pittsburgh Penguins organization mourns the loss of Hockey Hall of Famer and former Penguins head coach Red Kelly ... Our thoughts are with the Kelly family, their friends, and the hockey community.

During the summer of 1973, Kelly became the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Several Leafs of that era - Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald, Jim Gregory (GM) - were on hand for the final farewell to Red Kelly. All three were honourary pallbearers.

Outside the church, McDonald spoke about his former coach and mentor.

"More than anything, he was a hero to us all, how he lived his life, how he opened his house to total strangers and made them feel comfortable. That's what family is all about. The hockey world is famous for family and he kind of showed us the way."

I was fortunate to attend the Leafs' home opener on October 4, 2006, when they honoured Red Kelly's number 4. The following quote by Kelly comes from "Game Day" the official program: "As a kid, I dreamed of making the National Hockey League. I dreamed about playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs and dreamed about winning the Stanley Cup. But I never, ever dreamed of them putting my number up at the top of the Gardens which, of course, now has been replaced by the Air Canada Centre. It is a great honour ... one that I never imagined."

On February 1, of this year, the Detroit Red Wings retired Kelly's number 4.

One of the highlights of the Original Six Alumni Christmas Lunch, was the annual appearance by Red Kelly. I remember the time I told Kelly I had a big surprise for him. As we walked a short distance, I could see a look of puzzlement on his face. Once we reached our destination, I told Kelly he may recognize the gentleman sitting at the table. The first words out of Kelly's mouth were, "Phil Samis, I can't believe it!" Samis and Kelly were both part of the St. Mike's hockey program in the 1940s.

As part of the research for my book on Bob Goldham, I interviewed Kelly. Goldham and Kelly were teammates on Detroit for six seasons. I questioned him about his confrontation with Montreal's Butch Bouchard in game 5 of the 1955 Stanley Cup final. I was curious because it resulted in Kelly being assessed his first-ever misconduct penalty. It seemed completely out of character for Kelly, who was awarded the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for gentlemanly conduct in 1951, 1953 and 1954. It came in his eighth NHL season and there was a lot of fuss made over it.

"The play was in the corner and I just came in over the blueline, behind the play," Kelly told me. "Bouchard was still at the blueline and everyone was watching the play in the corner. All of a sudden, I felt a whack on my ankle. I thought he had broken my ankle as he came down hard on it. That is when I took a swing at him, but I missed. He took a swing at me and missed. Everybody piled in, Bouchard was a big guy, so fortunately, they broke it up."

It is a great example of how Kelly handled himself on the ice. He didn't go looking for trouble and it took a lot to get a physical reaction out of him. Kelly's even-temper kept him focused.

He was a skilled player and concentrated on helping his team win. Red Kelly joined the Detroit Red Wings in 1947-48, and played in the Motor City until he was traded to Toronto on February 10, 1960. He contributed to eight Stanley Cup championships (equally split between Detroit and Toronto), was the first winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy in 1954 as the top NHL defenceman, was a First Team All-Star seven-times as a defenceman and twice as a Second Team All-Star. Also, he won a fourth Lady Byng with Toronto in 1961.

But as the death notice published in the Toronto Star noted, "More than all the awards, nothing meant more to Red than his beloved family."

Leonard Patrick "Red" Kelly was 91 years old when he died.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

PAPPY OR STEMMER?

Yet another year and another anniversary since the Toronto Maple Leafs last captured the Stanley Cup on this date in 1967. Eager to avoid a seventh and deciding game, the Leafs 3-1 victory in game 6 at Maple Leaf Gardens over the Montreal Canadiens put an end to the Cup final.

In the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs, several Cup-clinching goals instantly come to mind. Bill Barilko's overtime thriller in 1951 is an example. Going further back, Pete Langelle's goal in the 1942 final, cemented the Leafs historic comeback from being three games down to Detroit to win game 7.

But how many can recall the Leaf who scored the Cup-winning goal in 1967?

Officially, the goal was given to forward Jim Pappin, who skated on a line with Bob Pulford and Pete Stemkowski. But there is more to the story.

More than a half century after the '67 Cup win, videotape evidence shows that someone else may have scored the goal. And looking at a replay, one can understand why Stemkowski thinks he may have scored the goal.


The play began when Pulford sent a pass up the middle of the ice to Pappin, who then fed the puck to Stemkowski. Once inside the Canadiens blueline, Stemkowski dropped the puck to Pappin and headed to the front of the net. Pappin went wide towards the left boards and made a backhand pass towards the net, where Stemkowski was tangled up with defenceman Terry Harper.


As the above screen-grabs show, Pappin's pass appears to go straight to Stemkowski and the puck doesn't change direction until it hits his leg or right skate. Also, Stemkowski seems to have gained a territorial advantage over Harper, thus allowing himself to be in-line with the puck. Bill Hewitt, calling the play-by-play, identified Stemkowski as the goal scorer.

"I didn't even know whether I touched it," Stemkowski told me in an interview. "The defenceman with me was Terry Harper. It happened so quickly."

Also, the video shows referee John Ashley talking to Stemkowski after the goal celebration. Stemkowski is seen shrugging his shoulders after his discussion with Ashley. The veteran ref asked Stemkowski if the goal was his. He shared his reply to Ashley with me, "I'm not sure, I don't think so."

There was a reason Stemkowski was hesitant to come right out and take credit for the goal. He knew Pappin was up for a bonus if he led all goal scorers in the playoffs. And Habs captain, Jean Beliveau, was nipping at his heels. Also, he was aware that his teammate was having a swimming pool installed in the summer. A newspaper story the next day quoted Stemkowski as saying, "Pappy wanted to beat out Beliveau. I told the referee the puck hit Laperriere." In fact it was Terry Harper who was engaged with Stemkowski.

When the dust settled, Stemkowski got credit for the Leafs second tally at the 19:24 mark of the second period. For the goal to go Stemkowski, someone witnessed or strongly felt the puck hit his body prior to getting past Montreal goalie Gump Worsley. It gave the Leafs a 2-0 lead heading into the final frame of regulation time. In the third period, Dick Duff pulled Montreal to within one goal of his former team. George Armstrong's empty net goal at the 19:13 mark gave Toronto a 3-1 margin which they held onto to win the Cup.

Shortly after Armstrong's goal, the Gardens crowd was made aware of a correction on Toronto's second goal. It was changed from Stemkowski to Pappin. Obviously, between the time the goal was scored and the time of the correction, further consideration was given to Stemkowski's reluctance to claim that the puck hit him.

I asked Stemkowski how he felt about the change. "I had no emotion at all. I was just happy to win because if we didn't it meant a trip to Montreal for game 7 and we didn't want to go back to Montreal."

If only there was video assistance (with increased tv camera angles/Net Cam and tools to enhance an image) back in 1967 to help the official scorer with his task. The fact a player wanted to help a teammate earn a bonus wouldn't be part of the equation. Then, there is the question of conclusive evidence - Pappy or Stemmer?





Sunday, April 28, 2019

WHAT WOULD'VE BEEN A SPECIAL BIRTHDAY

Today marks the 100th birthday of former Leaf great Wally Stanowski, who passed away on June 28, 2015.

In junior hockey, Stanowski won the Memorial Cup with the St. Boniface Seals in 1938. He joined the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1939 and quickly became known for his skating ability. In an interview with Boston Bruins legend Milt Schmidt, he talked to me about what skills Stanowski brought to the table in terms of Toronto's defencemen. "I would say as far as skating is concerned, Stanowski was the fastest skater."

Due to his talent to effortlessly glide up and down the ice, Stanowski earned the nickname of "The Whirling Dervish."

Conn Smythe described his prized rookie's style as follows:

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.

After winning the Stanley Cup in 1942, Stanowski returned to his hometown of Winnipeg and joined the Air Force. He made a triumphant return to the Leafs in 1944-45 and won his second Stanley Cup. Stanowski would go on to capture two more Cups with Toronto in 1947 and 1948. In 1941, he was named to the NHL First All-Star Team.

I had the great pleasure and honour of meeting Wally at the monthly Original Six Alumni lunch. Later, I interviewed him for several projects, including my book on Bob Goldham. Being the last living teammate of Goldham on the historic 1942 Stanley Cup team, Wally's insights were most valuable. The '42 Leafs are the only NHL club to lose the first three games in the Cup final, then bounce back to win the next four.

The interview was conducted at Wally's home on a cold February afternoon. The image of Wally sitting in his favourite chair wearing a blue plaid shirt with a steady stream of smoke billowing from his pipe, remains with me to this day.



Saturday, April 20, 2019

BACK IN THE SPRING OF '59

Toronto Maple Leafs, who consider accomplishing miracles as part of a day's work, catapulted their way into the Stanley Cup final here tonight with a dramatic 3-2 win over the crippled Boston Bruins.
-The opening paragraph in Rex MacLeod's game story on game 7 in 1959.

It was in the spring of 1959 that the Toronto Maple Leafs last won a playoff series against the Boston Bruins. Currently, the two are embroiled in the opening round of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The semi-finals in '59 went the distance with game 7 taking place April 7, 1959, at Boston Garden. The Bruins extended the series when they defeated the Leafs 5-4 in game 6 at Maple Leaf Gardens.

After forty-minutes of play in the deciding contest, Boston held a narrow 2-1 lead over the visitors. Their second tally was scored by Leo Boivin. The Bruins defenceman went full steam up the ice and beat Toronto goalie Johnny Bower for an unassisted goal.

In the third period, the Leafs took over the game. Writing in the Globe and Mail, Rex MacLeod described the two goals that gave Toronto a come-from-behind, series-winning victory. The equalizer was scored by Bob Pulford at the 8:36 mark.

Bobby Pulford, an outstanding, hurtling rusher for the Leafs in this game, tied the score at 8:36 of the third period when he barged down the centre and fired at Bruins' gallant goalkeeper, Harry Lumley, from the Boston blueline.
Lumley stretched forward to stop the shot but Pulford streaked in and knocked the puck out of his grasp and into the net.



Leafs' forward, Gerry Ehman, continued his hot-hand by scoring his sixth goal of the series at the 17:27 mark of the final frame.

Then came a series of agonizing close calls at each end until Ehman caressed a rolling puck which Frank Mahovlich had dealt him and drilled it into the far side how the net from about 25 feet out on the right wing. Mahovlich, who specialized in some amazing rushes that did not pay off earlier, took care of the Boston defence of Fernie Flaman and Jim Morrison, so that Ehman could concentrate on his shooting chores.



 The game 7 triumph enabled the Leafs to advance to the Stanley Cup final against Montreal. The Canadiens were gunning for their fourth straight championship and had no difficulty retaining the Cup with a 5-3 win in game 5 on home ice. The lone Maple Leaf victory was in game 3 at the Gardens on April 14, 1959. Dick Duff's overtime goal on Jacques Plante gave Toronto a 3-2 win.

Although the Leafs couldn't pull off an upset against the Habs, they benefitted greatly from the experience. Since Bill Barilko's overtime, Cup-winning goal in the 1951 final, Toronto hadn't made a Cup final appearance until eliminating Boston in 1959. Between 1951 and 1959, the Leafs failed to make the playoffs twice and were bounced in the semi-finals four-times by Detroit.

With "Punch" Imlach, hired in the summer of 1958, making the hockey decisions for the organization, there was a renewed optimism that the Leafs were heading in the right direction. The nucleus for future success was in-place. Toronto's roster included goalie Johnny Bower and a solid defence that included Baun, Horton, Stanley and Brewer. Up front, there was Harris, Mahovlich, Pulford, Stewart, Armstrong and Duff. Waiting in the wings was one of the greatest Leafs of all-time, Dave Keon. Veteran "Red" Kelly would be acquired in a 1960 trade and make the switch from defence to forward. Also, Imlach assembled a supporting cast that made important contributions.

The accomplishments in the '59 playoffs were the first steps to regaining their winning ways and having success in the playoffs. Everyone had a role and Imlach drove them to meet his expectations. There was no room for passengers on the Imlach express.

Another important factor was having Bert Olmstead in Toronto. He was acquired on June 4, 1958, at the Intra-League draft. Olmstead won four Cups with Montreal and this made him attractive to Imlach as leader for his young team in Toronto. Olmstead established himself in this role and as the photo below shows, he didn't hesitate to stand at the chalkboard and formulate plays for his teammates.



The next year, 1960, the Leafs once again faced the Canadiens in the final, but were swept by their rival. In 1961, Toronto was ousted by the Detroit Red Wings in the semi-finals. Everything came into place for the Leafs when they captured the first of their four Cup wins in 1962 at Chicago Stadium on April 22.

 And for many, the climb back to respectability and Stanley Cup parades began in the 1959 playoffs.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

THE GREATEST COMEBACK

The Toronto Maple Leafs miracle recovery in the 1942 Stanley Cup final against Detroit is considered to be one of the greatest comebacks in hockey history. Coach Hap Day and his club lost the first three games and found themselves in a deep hole. The only way out was to win the next four in the best-of-seven showdown.

Game 5 took place on April 14, 1942, at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Leafs took a deep breathe and didn't exhale until a 9-3 victory was in the books. Toronto took a 2-0 lead in the first period and Bob Goldham scored an unassisted goal at the 1:59 mark of the middle frame.

In his rookie season on the Leafs defence, Goldham, who was called-up from the American Hockey League in January of '42, scored his most important NHL goal in game 6 on April 16, 1942.

On the road, the Leafs knew the Red Wings would be eager to close out the final and win the Cup in front of their fans at the Olympia. Also, Detroit wanted to avoid a game 7 in Toronto's barn. For Toronto, it was win or wait until next year. In a high stakes battle for both clubs, it was no surprise game 6 turned out to be a hard fought battle.

After a scoreless first period, the Leafs struck first when Don Metz put Toronto on the board early in the second period. His goal came at the :14 mark.

It remained a close contest with neither team being able to score in the second period following Metz's tally. The game was up for grabs and too close to call as the final twenty-minutes of regulation time got underway. The next goal would be crucial.

At 13:32 of period three, Bob Goldham took centre stage. His goal gave Toronto a 2-0 advantage and took the wind out of Detroit's sails. Billy Taylor closed out the scoring at the 14:04 mark and the Leafs were successful in their attempt to force a game 7 at the Gardens.

While researching my book - Bob Goldham Outside the Goal Crease - I found a recording in the CBC Archive of Goldham's goal in game 6 as described by Foster Hewitt. Here is a shortened version of what I wrote in the book regarding Hewitt's call:

Manipulating his voice to reach different stages of emotion, Hewitt's approach is similar to a boxing announcer. His tone when the puck is dropped reflects the call of two opponents landing punches, but not causing damage. "From the faceoff it goes to the blueline, here's a shot, Broda kicked that one out," Hewitt states into his microphone.
He maintained his business-like style as Sweeney Schriner and the Red Wings played catch. "Schriner rolled it, but not out. Shriner then rolled it to centre ice and Detroit shoot it back in." They resembled two fighters, keeping just enough distance to exchange routine jabs.
When Detroit blinked, Schriner found an opening and Bob Goldham dove in for the kill. "Schriner gets it, shoots it ahead," is how Hewitt voiced the next move by Schriner. At this point, Detroit flinched.
Foster Hewitt, as though stopping on a dime and changing direction, went from calling harmless jabs, to describing wicked left-right combinations, followed by nasty upper-cuts. Not only did he kick the intensity level into overdrive, Hewitt held his listeners in spellbinding suspense.
"Here's a breakaway," opened Hewitt. "Goldham going right in," he cried as the Leaf charged into Detroit's zone. "He's right in," Hewitt said, adding to the drama. His sound level and pitch increasing with every word.
The fast developing play left little time for details. Those would come later. "He shoots, he scores," blasted Hewitt in his customary fashion, when Goldham deked Mowers with his clutch move.
"Goldham scores for the Maple Leafs, going right down on Schriner's pass to draw Mowers right out of his net and bang it home to make it 2-0 for the Maple Leafs," he said, putting the final brush stroke in place. Saluting Goldham, Hewitt mentioned he "went in there like a veteran."

On a roll, the Leafs took game 7 on April 18, 1942, to complete their historic comeback. They defeated Detroit 3-1. It was the first and only time an NHL team roared back from losing the first three games in a Stanley Cup final to win the next four and capture Lord Stanley's Cup. Goldham earned an assist on Pete Langelle's game-winning goal. In July of 1942, Goldham joined the Royal Canadian Navy and didn't return to the Leafs' line-up until the 1945-46 season.

Bob Goldham's contributions to the Leafs stunning comeback cannot be underestimated. In June of 1942, hockey writer, Elmer Ferguson, wrote the following about Goldham's performance in game 6:

It was Goldham who fought back, savagely, effectively, impatiently brushing aside the mop of hair dangling in his eyes, his mouth set in hard, fighting lines, Goldham met the surgingWings drives, snared the puck time after time, (and) fought his way out. Wings are specialist on the ganging attack plan. They beat (the) Canadiens that way, they swept the jaded Leafs off their feet in the opening games of the final series. But Goldham refused to be swept. He was the one Leaf player able to carry the puck out, foil the Detroit smashes, help protect Broda strong-hold a defence so well executed that the Leafs won the game 3-0, and forty-eight hours later, took the series.






Thursday, April 11, 2019

FOR THE FIRST TIME: BOSTON & TORONTO 1933

Tonight, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs will play game one in their first round series of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. The opening contest will take place at the TD Garden in Boston.

To discover the first time the Bruins and Maple Leafs played against each other in a playoff series, you have to go way back to 1933.

On March 25, 1933, the two teams faced-off for the first time in hockey's second season at Boston Garden. And the initial game set the tone for future battles between the two clubs.

A newspaper report summed up the intense competition:

It was the first game of the best three-in-five between the Leafs and the Bruins for the National Hockey League championship. And what a bitterly fought, gruelling, nerve-wracking game it was! For 74 minutes and some seconds, the crippled Leafs (with "Ace" Bailey and "Red" Horner out of the line-up) - conceded slight chance here to even hold the powerful and full-strength Bruins in check - looked every bit as good as their opponents. They even outplayed this much-fancied Boston team in the first period; held them on even terms through two more bruising periods, and, then, in overtime, gave such a display of sheer grit and courage that it seemed impossible to beat them.

Despite the glowing review of the Leafs' performance, Boston prevailed in overtime by a 2-1 score. At the 14:14 mark of extra-play, Marty Barry ended the game. On the play, Dit Clapper picked-up a loose puck and fired a shot on Toronto goalie Lorne Chabot. The rebound landed on Barry's stick and his backhander found the back of the net.


Of interest, the skirmishes weren't restricted to the ice:

During the second intermission, Frank Selke (the Leafs assistant general manager), who was rooting strongly for the Leafs, was attacked by a Boston fan. "Ace" Bailey attempted to help Selke and he, too, was attacked. However, quick interference by the police and the ejection of the two fans who started the trouble prevented it from spreading. Selke was bruised over the eye, but he gave as good as he received and so did Bailey.

The tradition continues this evening.