Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oldtimers Hockey

With each passing year, one tends to reflect on the past. The same question popping up in your thoughts - What if I had done this or that? Sure we all have regrets. From a hockey point of view, I still shake my head at missed opportunities. I recall seeing King Clancy and Ace Bailey at Leaf games in Maple Leaf Gardens, but it never crossed my mind to have a picture taken with them or to collect an autograph.

One regret I don't have was attending my first Oldtimers Game on March 23, 1980. The game was held in Maple Leaf Gardens and featured, for the most part, former players who played for Toronto and Montreal. The initial attraction was seeing the likes of Frank Mahovlich and Jean Beliveau, stars who I watched as a youngster. As the years have passed, I truly appreciate the fact I witnessed guys like Ivan Irwin, Wally Stanowski, Sid Smith, Cal Gardner, Pete Conacher, Ken Mosdell and Dickie Moore perform.

In retrospect, the line-up of talent for both teams represented decades of hockey history.


2. Ivan Irwin D
3. Harry Howell D
4. Bob Wall D
6. Wally Stanowski D
7. Norm Ullman C
8. Sid Smith LW
9 Andy Bathgate C
10. Keith McCreary LW
11. Bob Nevin RW
14. Pierre Pilote D
12. George Morrison LW
17. Cal Gardner C
19. Peter Conacher LW
20. Larry Carriere D
21. Mike Pelyk D
22. Jim Pappin RW
23. Eddie Shack LW
24. Dick Duff LW
27. Frank Mahovlich LW
1. Johnny Bower G
29. Marv Edwards G
Coaches : Punch Imlach - Bobby Baun


2. Claude Laforge LW
3. J.C. Tremblay D
4. Jean Beliveau C
5. Leon Rochefort RW
7. Bill Hicke RW
8. Jean-Guy Gendron RW
14. Claude Provost RW
15. Robert Rousseau C
16. Henri Richard C
17. Jean-Guy Talbot D
18. Ken Mosdell C
19. Dollard St. Laurent D
20. Phil Goyette C
21. Gilles Marotte D
22. John Ferguson LW
23. Andre Pronovost LW
24. Junior Langlois D
29. Dickie Moore LW
1. Lorne Worsley G
30. Gerry Desjardins G
31. Claude Lussier G
Coach : Claude Lavoie

Both teams were padded with players who never donned their colours. For example, Ivan Irwin and Harry Howell never wore the Blue & White of Toronto. Gilles Marotte and Gerry Desjardins never suited up for Montreal. In the case of George Morrison, he didn't even play in the Original Six era. He skated for the St. Louis Blues in 1970-71 and 1971-72. Of note is defenceman Larry Carriere. His final NHL season was in 1977-78. Following the Oldtimers Game on March 23, 1980, he signed a 5-game tryout contract (April 5, 1980) with Toronto. Upon his return to the NHL, he played in 2 games and recorded 1 assist.

The referee was Red Storey with Bill Friday and Maurice "Rocket" Richard serving as linesmen. And leave it to Red Storey to hand out some gems in the penalty department. Eddie Shack was assessed a penalty for "Not being tough enough to knock the referee down." Montreal was awarded a penalty shot as a result of an infraction. No big deal, right? Think again. The player taking the penalty shot was Habs goalie Gump Worsley. Of course, he scored on his counterpart in the Leaf goal Johnny Bower. There was more fun. Ivan Irwin flipping out and losing his wig. Norm Ullman, implementing a double-bladed stick. Punch Imlach pouring a bucket of water over Red Storey!

The concept of organized Oldtimers hockey was hatched in the early 1950s. At first, it was meant to be a one-time event. The inaugural Oldtimers Game took place on January 25, 1952. Originally scheduled to be played in Bala, Ontario, the venue was switched to a larger rink in Bracebridge, Ontario. The demand for tickets was that huge. The gate receipts would go to the Bala Lions Club and Canadian Legion. The Oldtimers, Team White and Team Red, held a joint training camp at Maple Leaf Gardens. The first venture in Bracebridge was so successful, a second game was arranged to be played in Peterborough, Ontario on February 16, 1952. Lionel Conacher was elected as President of the National Hockey League Oldtimers Association. Their constitution called for 100% of the funds raised being turned over to charities. After the first outing, the group received 25 requests for future games. In 1959, after a lull in competition, former Leaf Sid Smith rejuvenated the format with a game benefiting the United Appeal.

Here is a picture from the early 1950s. The players are listed below.

 Back row, left to right : Bob Haggert (trainer), Ross Knipfel, Lorne Dugid, Lionel Conacher, Earl Robertson, Charlie Conacher, Dit Clapper and Doug Smylie. Front row : Yank Boyd, Jack Stafford, Turk Broda, Bert Conacher, Rhys Thompson and Roy Conacher.

As for the game in 1980, it was a typical Oldtimers affair. In a high-scoring contest, Toronto defeated Montreal 8-7. It certainly wasn't a disappointment seeing the Big "M" play again. He scored 2 goals for Toronto.

With the passage of time, I savor the fact I kept my souvenir program (above) from March 23, 1980. Over the years, I have met and talked with a number of players who participated in the Oldtimers Game. My research work has filled in their past history and accomplishments. Irwin, Stanowski, Smith, Gardner, Conacher, Mosdell and Moore are no longer just names in a program. They have lost the tag of simply being Oldtimers.

Regrets? One. Too bad I wasn't older and wiser in 1980. How does that old saying go, "If only I knew then, what I know now." In the same vain, I'm grateful to all those who have documented the rich history of the game, thus connecting the dots from one generation to another.

Over the next couple of days, we will explore a different version of an "Oldtimers Game" and how the current game shapes up.

Tomorrow : The Old Boys of St. Mike's
Friday : Oldtimers 2011

1 comment:

  1. Just found my dad's souvenir album from this game, wish I could have been there to see it myself


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