Sunday, January 14, 2018

Canucks Penalty Box, 1948

The Vancouver Public Library recently released some terrific old hockey photos online, the one above  was titled simply Vancouver Canucks vs Skyhawks Hockey Fight, April 14, 1948. It shows some heated action in the penalty box, but does not name any of the players pictured. The Skyhawks were the San Diego entry in the old Pacific Coast Hockey League.
Checking the Society for International Hockey Research Database, the bleeding #10 of SanDiego is identified as Arley Carlson. Left-Winger Carlson was 24 years old at the time in his fifth professional season. In 1947/48 he posted 12 goals, 41 points in 43 games for the Skyhawks. Carlson was born in Virginia, Minnesota and would go on to star with the amateur Rochester (Minnesota) Mustangs for seven years. Virgina, Minnesota is also the hometown of Jeff, Jack and Steve Carlson of the movie Slap Shot fame. From what I can find,  although his age would fit, Arley Carlson is not the father of the movie brothers, but the odds are he is related to them.
To the right hand of Carlson is another Skyhawk identified through the SIHR photo database as Stan Warecki. The 22 year-old Warecki potted 37 goals in 47/48, second on San Diego and his 16 goals in 14 playoff games topped the league.
The Canuck player in the penalty being addressed by Carlson is a little harder to identify, seeing as he is facing away from the camera. However, on the front of his sweater is a partially obscured number that can appears to be either 2,3,8 or 9. Defenceman Chuck Millman wore #2 and is pictured below. 

#3 on the Canucks that season was ex-NHLer Mac Colville, shown below. His hair and jaw-line don't seem to match the player in the photo.
Another possibility is #8 Bob Ballance, shown next. He could quite well be the player facing Carlson in the photo. The Canucks #9 that year belonged to Bernie Bathgate, but he didn't play in the playoffs that season. The player must be either Millman or Ballance.
A look at shows the Canucks and Skyhawks both finished third in their divisions in 1947/48. San Diego had 67 points in the 66 games finishing nine behind first place L.A. Monarchs while Vancouver's 71 points were 16 in arrears of Seattle Ironman. Vancouver knocked off Tacoma and Seattle before reaching the final, San Diego had beaten San Francisco and Fresno in the Southern Division.  The teams split the first two games in San Diego each winning by a 3-2 score. Back in Vancouver, the Canucks found their scoring legs, winning game three 7-5 on April 12, 1948 and 7-6 on April 15. This photo must be from that April 15 match and simply mis-labelled. The following day, in Game five, Vancouver would take the championship with a 7-3 victory.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

NHL All-Stars of the 1980s, circa 1979

I recently picked up an old issue of Hockey Digest at the local flea market from December 1979, (OK it was a part of a self-bought Christmas present...self-buying your presents is really the only way to go). One of the first articles in the magazine was titled as shown above, "Here Are The All-Star Teams of The 1980s!". In the article, author George Vass makes bold predictions on who would be the stars of the next decade.
The All-Stars of the 80s were selected as seen below:
The author makes the rather bold statement while selecting his teams of the 1980s; 
"In fact, though it's taking a risk considering that injuries can cut short the most promising careers, it's possible to pick hockey's All-Star Team of the 1980s with  the assurance that one is not likely to be very far off."
Well...he was indeed very far off in his picks. The problem was, there was a slew of Stars, Hall of Fame players,and All-Time greats just starting their careers in 1979 or soon thereafter. Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Michel Goulet, Mike Liut, Pete Peeters and Ray Bourque were mere days into their NHL careers at the time the article was written. In the next year or two Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri, Peter Stastny, Denis Savard and Dale Hawerchuk would join the league. All could be considered for All-Star teams of the 1980s. A few that the author selected definitely would not.
Perhaps the most absurd pick in hindsight for All-Star team of the 1980s is David Shand on Defense. After, back-to-back solid seasons as a 21 and 22 year old, Shand played only 207 games with 36 points before retiring in 1985. Perhaps he could have become Rod Langway, but he did not. Another pick that seems ridiculous in retrospect was Ron Sedlbauer. After notching 40 goals for the 78/79 Canucks, he played only two more seasons potting 45 total goals. The one thing that links these two would-be stars of the 1980s is the fact they both were eventually traded to the early 80s Maple Leafs. Apparently this was their downfall.
The point is further illustrated when looking at the two goalies that Vass selected as the goalies of the 1980's. Both Mike Palmateer and Don Edwards finished their careers with the Leafs in a season they posted a Goals Against Average of over 4.78. Hardly player of the decade numbers.
In selecting Bossy, Trottier and even Doug Wilson, Vass did select a few of the players who would be in the conversation for players of the decade. Perhaps though he should not have been so cocksure of his selections, and picked fewer future Leafs of the early 1980s. If he really needed a Leaf of that era, he would have been better off picking Rick Vaive and his future three consecutive 50 goal seasons...ahh hindsight.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The First Game

Montreal Arena, site of Toronto's first NHL game
100 years ago today, the NHL and the Maple Leafs franchise began. The Montreal Wanderers defeated the Toronto Arenas by a score of 10-9. Below are a few descriptions of that very first game from newspapers of the day.
Toronto World newspaper, Dec 20, 1017
"About 700 people witnessed the initial professional hockey game of the season at the Arena, when the Wanderers won from Toronto by a score of 10-9. The play was somewhat ragged at times, and the visiting team (Toronto) was weak in goal. The Torontos had the better of the argument most of the game, but neither Hebert, who was the Toronto goalkeeper in the earlier part of the game, nor Brooks, in the second session, stopped the Wanderers shots as they might have done. Wanderers used Lindsay thruout and he proved more serviceable to the home team than either Hebert or Brooks."
"The visitors' forwards, Skinner, Denneny and Noble, were fast and good shots, and Randall and Cameron made excellent defence."
Harry Cameron
Montreal Gazette newspaper, Dec. 20, 1917
"Had either Heberts or Brooks shown any ability to stop shots, the Torontos would have no doubt won, as they had the best of the play the greater part of the time...Toronto, with a better man in nets will have to  be reckoned with this winter. Their forwards Skinner, Denneny and Noble are fast and good shots. While Randall and Cameron make a splendid defence. The Wanderers were lost without the two Cleghorns."
"Toronto played better hockey in the closing period than in either of the other two and outplayed the locals by three to one...The visitors were in better condition than the locals and finished much fresher. The Redbands held the lead accured early in the game by playing three men on defence allowing only two men to make the trips up the ice. "
Toronto would indeed shore up their goaltending a week later when they brought back future Hall of Famer  Hap Holmes from Seattle of the Pacific league. Holmes help guide them to a first place finish in the second half of the season (which was in truth only 8 of the 22 total games each team played).
Toronto dispatched Montreal Canadiens to win the NHL Championship and went on the win the Stanley Cup over Vancouver. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Unidentified Leafs Photo #10

Here's a great shot of the Leafs in their room from the good people at Vintage Sports Images. The two main players are easily identified as Dick Duff and Billy Harris; but the question is, when was the photo taken?
Duff and Harris played together on the Leafs  from 1955/56 February 22, 1964 when Duff was dealt to New York Rangers in the Andy Bathgate trade. The photo could be from any one of these nine seasons, or could it?
Checking the NHL Uniform Database it is confirmed that the Maple Leafs added a tie-down to their sweater collar for the 1958/59 season. Therefore this photo can only be from 1955/56, 56/57 or 57/58.

These three seasons were the first three in the NHL career of Billy Harris, by the 57/58 campaign he produced 16 goals and 44 points. That same season, Duff scored 26 goals and 49 points. They finished first and second in Maple Leafs point scoring that year.  A really nice photo behind the scenes of hockey life in the 1950's.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Punch Imlach's Hockey Tips, 1962

This little beauty is the latest addition to The Den, Punch Imlach's Hockey Tips issued by Chex cereal in 1962. This 32-page, thick-stock paper, full colour booklet was originally obtained by sending in two box-tops of Chex cereal. The one I picked up is in just about perfect shape and looks real nice on the shelf with the  How to Play Goal Booklet by Johnny Bower and the How to Play Forward Booklet by Dave Keon that were put out by Coca-Cola a few years later.
Coach Punch covers all the facets of hockey with the help of his star players on the Maple Leafs.
Red Kelly helps illustrate the golden rule of hockey, "Always keep that head up".
As a defenceman, Tim Horton apparently must "Stop the puck with his body, hands, stick, and so on." Not sure what "so on" refers to, but it probably hurts.
Dave Keon reminds us that when stick-handling, "Stick blade lies flat on ice". I can attest by experience, this is true.
The Big "M" Frank Mahovlich shows how to rip a back-hand shot.
The goalie equipment of a generic Leaf goaltender, Johnny Bower didn't start wearing a mask until the late sixties.
The teeth guard looks like it would be fairly painful to wear. The helmet really is only slightly more than decoration.
Apparently there was a hockey stick colour for girls called "lipstick", how "1962". Also check out the Protective Cap that girls were to wear, basically a shawl with a pad in the back. That will definitely prevent a concussion.
A personal message from NHL referee-in-chief Carl Voss.
Punch Imlach finishes his hockey tips with advice to "drink plenty of milk" and "do not smoke". Fifty-five years later these words still hold true kids. This message is endorsed by Nitzy's Hockey Den.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Unidentified Maple Leafs Photo #9

Here's a very cool vintage hockey photo that came to me with zero identifying information. It's from my pals at Vintage Sports Images and shows a melee between some old Leafs and Wings. Simply looking at the faces, we can see that the #19 Leaf at the left is the one and only Bill Barilko and the Red Wing on the right looks to be a very young Red Kelly. 
Barilko and Smythe
A young Leonard "Red" Kelly 
Let's start with Barilko. Although more known for wearing his retired number 5, Barilko actually wore #19 more than any other number during his career with the Leafs. He only wore 5 in 1950/51, when he scored the Stanley Cup overtime winner. The previous two seasons, Barilko sported # 19, and his first two years he was #21. So, seeing Barilko with #19 in this photo means it can only be either 1948/49 or 1949/50. 
In regards to Red Kelly, he began his career with Detroit in 1947/48 and by 1949/50 he was named to the 2nd All-Star Team, his first of eight straight All-Star selections. 
Over the two seasons in question, only one Maple Leaf wore #18, Bill Juzda, a scrappy defenceman who helped them win two Stanley Cups over his four seasons.
The Red Wing standing is identified by looking through roster headshots of the years in question. The player is quickly pinpointed as Rightwing, Jimmy Peters.
Jimmy Peters
Jimmy Peters
Jimmy Peters was a Red Wing for only two years, 49/50 and 50/51. This means the photograph must be from the 1949/50 season, as Barilko would have been wearing #5 in the latter year. The Wings and Leafs played each other 14 times in the 49/50 season with Detroit prevailing overall with an 8-5-1 record. Detroit finished first in the NHL with 88 points, 14 more than third place Toronto. They met again in the semi-finals with the Wings winning in overtime of the seventh game by a score of 1-0 on a goal from Leo Reise. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Unidentified Leafs Photo #8

Here's another great old image from the archives of Vintage Sports Images here in North Van. This one is a great action shot of the Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. In net for the Leafs is obviously Johnny Bower, but who are the rest of the guys?
At first glance, the #19 Leaf appears to be Kent Douglas and checking the photo records it sure seems so. Also, Toronto wore this specific uniform with the bordered Leaf logo from 1963/64 through 1966/67. Douglas was the only player to wear #19 in that period.
As for the Bruins #19, the only ones to wear it over this time frame were Doug Mohns, Reggie Fleming and John McKenzie. Pie McKenzie was a right-shooter and the guy in the photo is not Doug Mohns. It has to be Reggie Fleming in 1965/66 as he was traded to the Rangers on January 10, 1966 for...McKenzie.
Doug Mohns
Reg Fleming
So, if it's 65/66 we can now easily visually identify the Bruin in the back as Tommy Williams using various photo databases. Williams was a member of the USA Olympic squad that took the Gold Medal in 1960.
Tommy Williams
The Bruins hosted the Leafs in 65/66 three times prior to Fleming being traded and Bower played only two of them (Nov 14 and Dec 19). The one other difference between these two games was the referee. Art Skov worked the November game, Bill Friday the December one. In the background of this photo, along the boards we see referee...Bill Friday. 
This means that the photo is from Sunday, December 19, 1965; a game won by Toronto by a score of 3-1 with Bower making 28 of 29 saves. Boxscore is here.

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