Friday, March 18, 2011

Keeper of the Goal and Rink

If one travels around the City of Toronto, they are bound to pass a number of construction projects. These developments are mostly condominiums or large housing communities. Very seldom, is there news relating to a hockey arena/complex being built. The last major construction in this regard was the MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke, Ontario The lack of ice time has been a major headache for many hockey organizations within the City. The rise of woman's hockey and industrial leagues, has caused a constant battle to secure decent hours relating to ice rental.

Last week, came news of the Leaside Arena Expansion Project. A second rink will be built beside Leaside Memorial Community Gardens. The Leaside Gardens was built in 1952 and is home to the Leaside Skating Club, Leaside Hockey Association and Toronto Leaside Girls Hockey Association.

Here is an interesting piece of trivia concerning Leaside Gardens. In March of 1952, it was announced that former Leaf goaltender, Phil Stein, would be the first manager of the new facility. At the time, Stein was the Assistant Recreation Director in Leaside.

Phil Stein was a native of Toronto, born on September 13, 1913. His youth was spent playing in the St. Joseph's and Leslie Grove playground in the east end. In the 1930-31 season, he joined the Toronto Marlboros of the Ontario Hockey Association. For most of his professional career, he played in the I-AHL/AHL with Syracuse, Providence and New Haven.

The 1939-40 campaign was an important year in Stein's hockey resume. As property of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was loaned to Omaha (AHA). He played in 6 games with the Omaha Knights, posting a 2.67 average. In mid-January of 1940, Stein got the call that every player hopes to answer. He was being called up by the big-league club and would play in a National Hockey League contest.

On the night of January 18, 1940, the Maple Leafs played host to the Detroit Red Wings. Due to an injury suffered by starting netminder Turk Broda, Phil Stein occupied the Leafs goal crease in Maple Leaf Gardens. Stein performed admirably, only allowing two Detroit goals in a 2-2 draw. He was beaten by the Wings Gus Giesebrecht and Syd Howe. Detroit had taken a 2-0 second period lead, but the Leafs bounced back in the final frame, getting goals from Gus Marker and Bingo Kampman.

The reviews in the press were positive relating to Stein's first venture into NHL action.

The way some of the boys performed in the first 40 minutes you would think that they had discovered a stranger in the Leaf cage and had decided to see for themselves whether or not the newcomer knew anything about stopping pucks. Not that the Wings had that many shots on goal, but certainly there was a total absence of smart defensive work. "Give the Rangers that many scoring chances and they would have a dozen goals in a period," said one rail-bird during a rest period. He wasn't far from right either.
 Stein had no chance whatever on the two shots that breezed past him. Both were well-executed efforts as far as they went, although they could have been stopped had Phil's "team-mates" been lending any sort of a helping hand.

Phil Stein was scheduled to start the next Leaf game (Jan.20/40) against the New York Americans. It would be his second straight start at home. However, fate stepped in and changed the plans for Stein and Broda. During the warm-up, Billy Taylor's shot struck Stein on the chin and opened a nasty gash. The Leaf goalie required stitches and medical treatment treatment from team physician Dr. Rush. It was determined that Broda would replace Stein in the Leaf goal.

The following week, Stein was loaned to the Providence Reds (International-American Hockey League). Reds goalie Paul Goodman, was summoned by the Chicago Black Hawks to replace a struggling Mike Karakas. Ultimately, Karakas was returned to Chicago after a salary dispute with Providence.

Phil Stein would conclude his career with a two year stint (1940-41 to 1941-42) in the American Hockey League tending goal in New Haven. Also, he played a season, 1942-43, of local hockey in Toronto.

The official opening of Leaside Gardens took place on October 6, 1952. The brand spanking new edifice was christened with a Blue (Toronto Maple Leafs) and White (Pittsburgh Hornets/AHL) game. Ted Kennedy of the Leafs and Willie Marshall of Pttsburgh took part in the ceremonial face-off. Before a packed house of 2,005 spectators, the two teams skated to a 2-2 tie.

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