Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Brooklyn: Then & Now

Red Dutton
Not since 1941-42 has a National Hockey League team been associated with Brooklyn, New York. Under manager and part-owner Red Dutton, the New York Americans played their regular season home games in Manhattan at Madison Square Garden. They entered the NHL in 1925, one full campaign prior to the New York Rangers.

Seeking a new identity for his franchise in '41-42, Dutton arranged for the Americans to practice at Brooklyn's Ice Palace. Also, he changed their look by adding "BROOKLYN" across the front of their sweaters. Why Brooklyn? "I've always regarded Brooklyn as one of the finest sports centers in the world. The way the fans support baseball and football Dodgers convinced me they would be just as rabid for hockey," explained Dutton.

It was his intention for the Americans to play full-time in a new arena to be built in Kings County. In the meantime, Dutton's squad would continue to perform at the Garden in the Big Apple, but insisted his players live in Brooklyn.

Dutton's dream of a move to Brooklyn crashed and burned in late September of 1942. On September 16th, Dutton was informed that no dates were available for the Brooklyn Americans to skate on MSG ice for the upcoming season of 1942-43. In a power play by Lester Patrick and the New York Rangers, they forced Brooklyn out of the league, thus becoming the only face on the New York hockey market. Dutton and the Americans simply ran out of time to make alternative plans.

"We're out of the league because Madison Square Garden forced us out, and for no other reason. We're out because Madison Square Garden didn't have any dates available for us this coming season. And you can't keep an NHL franchise with no ice to play on," stated Dutton after attending league meetings in Toronto on September 24th and 25th.

The Brooklyn Americans played their final home game in MSG on March 15, 1942. The opposition was provided by the Toronto Maple Leafs. A crowd of 8,976 took in the contest. The starting goalies were Turk Broda for Toronto and Chuck Rayner for Brooklyn.

Following forty-minutes of play, Brooklyn built-up a 4-1 advantage over the Leafs. The Amerks got two goals from Murph Chamberlain, with Norm Larson and Wilf Field chipping in a goal each. Toronto's Dave Schriner beat Rayner in the first period.

Toronto stormed back in the early stages of the final period, narrowing the gap to 4-3. Notching goals for the visitors were Bob Goldham and Billy Taylor. Toronto's comeback was wiped-out when Chamberlain completed his hat trick and Mel Hill scored late in the game. The Brooklyn Americans departed Madison Square Garden with a 6-3 victory.

Now, 70-years later, residents of Brooklyn will finally have the opportunity to experience NHL hockey in their own backyard. On October 2, 2012, the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils will play an exhibition game at the new Barclays Centre in Brooklyn. The facility will be the new home of the NBA New Jersey Nets.

There is talk the Islanders could be wetting-their-feet concerning Brooklyn. Owner Charles Wang has been rebuffed in his efforts to construct a new arena on Long Island. Their current lease expires in 2015.

Hockey in Brooklyn - Then & Now.

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