Monday, February 17, 2020

BRIAN GLENNIE: 1946-2020

When former NHL defenceman Brian Glennie passed away on February 7, talk turned to memories of his time on the ice, especially with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Glennie played his junior A hockey with the Toronto Marlboros and was captain when the Marlboros captured the Memorial Cup in 1967. Prior to joining the Leafs in 1969, he was a member of the Canadian National Team, Rochester Americans (AHL), and the Tulsa Oilers (CHL).

Like many defencemen from Glennie's era, he wasn't expected to be a scoring machine. His first NHL goal came against the Los Angeles Kings on November 19, 1969, at Maple Leaf Gardens. Late in the third period, Glennie used his glove to corral a high pass from Leaf forward Mike Walton. His shot beat Gerry Desjardins in the LA goal. Glennie's tally was the equalizer in a 4-4 draw.

Over his ten year NHL career, nine with Toronto and one with Los Angeles, Glennie scored 13 more goals to go with 100 assists. The stat that best defines his style is the 621 minutes Glennie spent in the penalty box.

From the outset, Brian Glennie knew the role he would play if he wished to remain in the National Hockey League. And that was a physical defenceman who could use his strength to battle the opposition.

He took his role seriously and the summer before his first training camp with Toronto, Glennie participated in a fitness regiment with Lloyd Percival. The goal of working with the fitness guru was to increase Glennie's conditioning and make him ready to earn a roster spot with the Leafs.

"Any defenceman needs agility, and I know I'm lacking in that," said Glennie of a weakness in his game. "And the more strength you have in your upper body, the more chance you have of handling somebody like Beliveau in front of the net."

Reviewing numerous game reports of Leaf games, Glennie's rough and tumble style shines through. In a November 1972 contest against the Buffalo Sabres it was noted that Buffalo "opened the game as though derisive of the ability of the Leafs' defence to stop them." That changed when "Glennie quickly brought them up short with some hard hits."

Glennie's weapon of choice was the hip check.

The following account is from November 1976: "While the Leaf forwards were providing firepower, defenceman Brian Glennie was scattering Minnesota North Stars around the Toronto end, including one jarring hip check that knocked left winger Pierre Jarry out of the Stars' lineup for several weeks with torn ligaments in his left knee."

Speaking to a reporter, Glennie explained what he brought to the table. "I can do certain things well. My greatest plus is that I hit well. That makes other players keep their heads up looking for me, and that's why I'm on the Toronto Maple Leafs."

After watching Glennie drop Dave Fortier and Denis Potvin of the New York Islanders, veteran hockey writer Jim Vipond wrote, "Glennie hits like Jim Corrigall." At the time, Corrigall was a defensive lineman in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts.

Throughout his career, Glennie was hampered by various injuries, including several shoulder inflictions that required him to go under the knife. This resulted in him wearing a neck brace. Also, he missed action for a prolonged time due to a broken jaw.

"I'm a hitter. That's my style, and when you hit people, things are more likely to happen," said Glennie when talking about his injuries.

Due to his hit and destroy missions against the opposition, Glennie often found himself with a target sign on his back. That was never more evident than when the Leafs and Detroit Red Wings went to battle on November 5, 1975, at the Gardens.

All hell broke loose after Glennie "knocked Wings' centre Bryan Hextall to the ice with a thumping, but clean bodycheck," Don Ramsay wrote in The Globe and Mail. Unhappy with the treatment of his teammate, Detroit tough guy and enforcer Dan Maloney, sought revenge against Glennie. Maloney tackled Glennie from behind and inflicted a number of punches before bringing Glennie to a landing on the ice. Glennie was transported to hospital with a suspected concussion.

 There were more fireworks when Ontario Attorney General Roy McMurtry charged Maloney with assault. A charge that resulted in Maloney's acquittal.

In 1972, Glennie was added to the Team Canada roster for The Summit Series, but he didn't see any action in the eight game showdown. His addition made sense taking into account Glennie's experience playing on the big ice surface with the Canadian National Team, and his ability to hit. But when Canada lost game one in '72 against the USSR, it became obvious that finesse needed to be employed to stay competitive. That left Glennie on the sidelines, but he was in the line-up for exhibitions games in Stockholm and Prague.

Off the ice, Glennie's sense of humour was often evident. On his lack of converting scoring chances in the offensive zone, he told a member of the media, "Why don't you write about the big 747 Jumbo floating in on goal." When Team Canada returned home, they were saluted at Toronto's City Hall. Eager for some home cooking, Glennie asked, "Has anybody got a cheeseburger?" And on the topic of Glennie and food, and his strength, his Swanson Hungry Man commercial with Lanny McDonald was a huge success. In the ad, Glennie rips off the fridge door when McDonald declares, "When Brian gets hungry, he goes wild." Once he devours the product, Glennie becomes a "pussycat."

Brian Alexander "Blunt" Glennie was born on August 29, 1946, in Toronto, Ontario. "Hockey was his life,"noted the published death notice. "Blunt enjoyed being the life of the party and playing many practical jokes at the expense of his buddies. In his later years, he struggled with many health issues and moved to Ottawa to be closer to his grandchildren."

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


Very sad news today as it was announced that Canadian award-winning newspaper columnist Christie Blatchford has passed away.

Writing was in Christie's blood as her grandfather was noted sports writer Andy Lytle. At the Toronto Daily Star, Lytle covered the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL from 1934 to the late 1940s. When he joined the Star in February 1934, sports editor Lou Marsh told his readers that, "Andy would get in their hair and stick there."

The same applied to his talented granddaughter.


Monday, February 10, 2020


Many remember defenceman Bobby Baun for his overtime goal in game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup final against the Detroit Red Wings. Earlier the game, Baun suffered an injury that he described in his autobiography as a "broken small bone on the outside of my leg, just above the ankle."

After receiving medical attention, Baun returned to the Olympia ice to score the biggest goal of his National Hockey League career.

But for many who played against Baun, it was his crushing hip checks and physical play that they remember. Teamed with partner Carl Brewer on the Leafs' blueline, Baun wrote how the two worked together:

We defencemen relied on our wingers to watch their checks. And if I missed the man I was trying to hit, I expected my defence partner to provide some backup. Carl and I had it worked out pretty well: one of us would stay a little in front of the other. I played on the right side, so if the puck carrier was coming down Carl's wing, I'd be about six feet to his right, and a little bit behind him. If the puck carrier was on my wing, Carl would move a bit to the left, and back me up. If the puck was coming down the middle, I moved forward and took him out, either straight up and down, or sometimes with my hip, like a cross-body block in football. With any luck, that would send the puck carrier airborne.

Here are some newspaper photos from the 1970-71 season that show Baun lowering the boom as only he could.

Thursday, February 6, 2020


On February 6, 1947, the Toronto Maple Leafs looked to their farm system to plug several holes in their line-up. As a result, the call went out to defenceman Bill Barilko and forward Sid Smith.

Below is the text and photos from a previous story I wrote on their first two games as a Leaf...

The two new recruits made their NHL debut against Montreal on February 6, 1947, in the Forum. Game one for the two rookies saw Barilko taking aim at "Rocket" Richard and Smith getting acquainted with his new linemates - Ted Kennedy and Howie Meeker.

With no game scheduled on Friday, Sid Smith looked forward to his first home game in Maple Leaf Gardens on Saturday February 8,1947. The visitors were Boston. In the third period, with an assist from Howie Meeker, Sid Smith would score his first National Hockey League goal. A newspaper account details the play:

..out of one of these attacks, Meeker snaffles the puck, lays Sid Smith a pass. Smith hasn't seen much of the puck in his two games in the big time. He recognized it right away though and handled it as if he was born with a rubber plant in his mouth. He had a blond, burly and willing Fernand Flamon to out shuffle, and he did. Then from the wrong side backhanded a shot into the far corner.

Toronto defeated the Boston Bruins 5-2 with both Sid Smith and Bill Barilko netting their initial NHL goals.

Monday, February 3, 2020


Late last year, Tim Hortons began a new ad campaign that featured Wayne Gretzky. The storyline revolved around a young Gretzky in 1968 being taken to a coffee shop to meet Toronto Maple Leaf defenceman Tim Horton, who was signing autographs. This was during the early stages of Horton rolling out his now popular chain of coffee shops.

Fast-forward to current day, and Gretzky is seen in the commercial with his father, Walter, and they are rummaging through a box containing memorabilia. They come across the napkin which was signed by Horton.

I made an immediate connection with the commercial, as I have my own version of the ad.

When my dad took me to Leaf games at the Gardens in the 1960s, we always made our way to the dressing room so I could collect autographs. In a moment I will never forget, Tim Horton signed a piece of paper to me.

He was so physically strong on the ice and when he got an opponent in his clutches, they seemed to disappear. I recall that I hesitantly stuck out my hand to shake his hand, and for a second, I thought Horton would crush it in the process.

Decades later, like Wayne Gretzky, I still have the Tim Horton autograph, and although the paper may have faded, the memory hasn't faded.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020


On the weekend of January 29-30, 1949, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks, engaged in a home and away series. The first game occurred at Maple Leaf Gardens, with the Leafs taking a 4-2 decision.

The above action photo shows the play at ice level on Saturday night with a collision between Toronto's Harry Watson, and Bob Goldham of the Hawks.

On Sunday night, Toronto reporters covering the game at Chicago Stadium had their first glance at Chicago's new press box. Allan Nickleson of The Globe and Mail supplied this review:

Toronto newspapermen covered the game from Chicago Stadium's new press box ... overhanging at one end, it reputedly cost a cool $45,000 has ample space, but beyond that doesn't compare with Maple Leaf Gardens for its clear view of both ends ... the Stadium box here houses television with its telescopic lens radio and press.

Like the previous night, the contest ended in a 4-2 score, but this time Chicago emerged victorious.

From his position in the new press box, Nickleson described the goal that put the contest out of reach for the Maple Leafs:

With the lightning-fast Hawks having a slight edge in the overall estimates, they made certain of the victory in the last eight seconds of the game. With Turk Broda out of the nets in favour of a sixth Leaf forward, Cannonball Bill Mosienko grabbed the puck in his own end during the Leaf ganging attack. He roared down the centre, with Jim Thomson in pursuit, fired a 40-footer into the empty cage as he was crowed into the boards.

On the play, Chicago defenceman Bill Gadsby earned an assist.

Monday, January 27, 2020


On this date in 1951, Jean Beliveau scored his first goal as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.