Thursday, February 11, 2016

Esso NHL Pocket Schedules

Last weekend I picked up a 1962/63 Esso NHL Pocket Schedule at the flea market. After getting it home to the Den, I realized I now had four different years of Esso Schedules from this era. Time to start going out of my way and looking for some more. The first one I picked up a few years ago was the the 1958/59 one (pictured above and below). The artwork of the kids playing pond hockey is really nice on this one. The great thing about the schedules from this time is that since they were only issued by Esso Canada, they always featured the only two Canadian NHL teams, Montreal and Toronto. Just another piece of Maple Leafs memorabilia for me to collect.
The 62/63 schedule featured photos of two vintage Cup winning teams, you guessed it, Montreal and Toronto. Pictured were the first Stanley Cup winning teams from each city, Montreal A.A.A. and Toronto Blueshirts.
1963/64 features more terrific artwork of the Habs and Leafs. This schedule was courtesy of Sullivan's Esso Station in Edmundston,  New Brunswick as seen by the stamp on the front.
1966/67 shows some nice black and white action photos of Canada's teams.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

John Scott and Other Fleeting All-Stars

All-Star game Most Valuable Player John Scott may never play another game in the NHL. Sure his appearance in the mid-season spectacle was entertaining, but facts are facts. He is 33 years old, playing in the AHL and the Montreal Canadiens want no part of him on the big club. Also, the role for his kind of player has dwindled to pretty much non-existant. So, how strange would it be if John Scott's last ever NHL game was the All-Star game? Very strange indeed, but it has almost happened a few times in the past.
In the past, the All-Star game would pit the Stanley Cup champions from the previous season against a team of the top players throughout the rest of the NHL. These exhibitions usually took place just prior to the regular season. Often times, a fringe player on the Cup-winning squad would soon be sent down to the minors, never to return  to the NHL. The following guys are the ones who came closest to having an All-Star game being their last NHL game.

1939 was the third official All-Star game and the first time the All-Stars played against a single team, the Canadiens. There were two Montreal players in this game that played very little in the NHL afterwards. Forward Earl Robinson was a longtime Montreal Maroon who had been acquired by the Canadiens just two weeks prior to the 1939 All-Star affair. He was 32 years-old at the time and would play a mere 11 more games with the Habs before joining New Haven of the AHL. He played two more seasons there before retiring from pro hockey. His teammate and goaltender Wilf Cude wound down his career soon after the 1939 All-Star match. 
Earl Robinson
Cude had been Montreal's regular goalie since 1935, but after giving up five goals to the All-Stars he played only seven more games that season going 1-5-1 before joining Robinson in New Haven. Three more games the following year and the 30 year-old Cude retired from hockey only 10 games after his All-Star appearance.
Wilf Cude
Keith Allen
Longtime Philadelphia Flyers coach/GM/executive Keith Allen played in the 1954 All-Star game with Detroit but played only 18 games that season to wrap up his brief NHL career. He would be elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame's Builder wing in 1992.
Norm Corcoran
Detroit Red Wing, Norm Corcoran skated in the 1955 All-Star game and only 2 games with the Red Wings that year. Traded to Chicago in January 1956, he played only 23 more NHL games. He played out his career in the AHL until the 1965/66 season.
Stan Smrke
After playing four games for the Canadiens in 56/57, Stan Smrke made the team out of training camp and played in the 1957 All-Star game. After five more games, the 29 year-old minor league scoring star was returned to Rochester. In 1959/60 he would lead the AHL with 40 goals but never played in the NHL again.
Gerry Ehman
Gerry Ehman played in the 1964 All-Star game with Toronto and it likely would have been his last NHL game if not for expansion three years later. He hadn't been an NHL regular since 59/60 but was a reliable AHL scorer mainly with Rochester. He played four games for the Leafs in 63/64 but the All-Star match would be his last ever with Toronto. He was immediately returned to Rochester and promptly led the AHL with 85 points. After three more terrific AHL seasons, the 35 year-old was mercifully traded to expansion Oakland where he returned to the NHL for four productive seasons.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

50 Year Old Maple Leaf Gardens Architectural Model

Harold Ballard and Mr. Allward, the architect, examine the model
A while back I wrote about a plan by Harold Ballard in the mid 1960's to expand Maple Leaf Gardens:

Recently I received an email from a reader by the name of Stewart Maclean who was interested in this article for one reason, he was the owner of the actual architectural model that Ballard had built in the 60's of the proposed expansion. Apparently Maclean acquired the model in 2000 just prior to the auction of many of Maple Leaf Gardens artifacts (I personally grabbed one of the Grey seats at this time). He tells me it was in relatively good condition but the Gardens "did not keep/store things well. It was very dusty and had the appearance of water damage." Maclean then proceeded to find an architectural model company to restore the model. It turned out that the owner of the company he chose was a huge Maple Leafs fan and was the sole person to work on the restoration, putting hundreds of hours into the project.

Looking at the great photos that he sent me, one can see that Maple Leaf Gardens could have had a potentially drastically different look if the plans had gone through. The interior additions had a slight Boston Garden feel to it with the distinctive staggered stacking of seating sections. 
Model with roof dome removed. 
The exterior presented the feel of the renovated Montreal Forum which would be done around the same time as the ill-fated Gardens reno.
Full model, pre-cleaning
Maclean went on to describe how the model is equipped with wires and batteries  for lighting inside the building that were no longer working. He was told the model would have to be disassembled in order to be re-wired up to modern standards. He opted not to go that route to keep the cost down. He did however have a new acrylic cover made to protect the model in the future and plans to proudly display it in his own Maple Leafs museum. He concluded by saying, "It should make for a rather interesting conversation piece, don't you think?" I certainly do.

Detail of the label of the model
Great view of the proposed overhang above Carlton Street
The iconic corner of Church and Carlton with the proposed overhang

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Unidentified Players in Leafs '65 Book

I finally got a copy of the fantastic book pictured above. It's filled with never-before seen photos of life in Maple Leafs training camp which took place in Peterborough, Ontario in September of 1965. Stephen Brunt adds a great essay to introduce the book with the stories and details of the era. As a lover of all things Maple Leaf history, this book was nearly perfect. The only minor problem is the fact that there are two players pictured at Leafs camp who are unidentified by Brunt and the fine hockey historian, Paul Patskou who aided in the book.
The first one is shown below and referred to merely as "unidentified Leaf prospect".
To the Society for International Hockey Research photo database I went. Toronto's farm system in 1965/66 included Rochester Americans of the AHL, Victoria Maple Leafs of the WHL and Tulsa Oilers of the CHL. It didn't take long to find a reasonable match for this un-named prospect. I am fairly certain it is Marty Desmarais who was a 20 year-old fresh out of junior with the Calgary Buffaloes in September 1965. I shared via email with hockey historian Paul Patskou and he said, "Not any of the players I showed the pictures to knew who those 2 players were.  I don’t know anything about Marty Desmarais but it certainly makes sense."
Marty Desmarais with Long Island Ducks
Desmarais would play five games with Victoria of the Western League that year and the rest of the season with his hometown Calgary Spurs of the Western Canada Senior League. He played his entire career in the Eastern and International leagues, before playing one last year of Senior level in 1976/77.
The second player that Patskou was referring to was the guy below who is known in the book as "Unidentified Rochester player". This one was a bit more difficult to figure out who it is. As Patskou said, he showed these photos to many of the Maple Leafs old-timers while researching the book and nobody knew who this was.
Again, using the SIHR photo database, the best guess I have is that it may be Tom Polanic pictured below with the Minnesota North Stars in the early 1970's. As Paul Patskou pointed out though, "One of the interviews I did was with Tom Polanic but I don’t think I showed him the photos.  But it sure looks like Tom. The only thing is the player in the photo looks much older than Tom would have looked.  He was at the training camp and told some great stories.  It sure gives me something to go on." Indeed, Polanic would have been only 22 in September 1965, but in the photos below he was only 26 or 27. Perhaps he simply looked older than his age.
Tom Polanic
One other possibility, a guy who's age looks more in line with the un-named player is Fred Hucul. He would have been 33 at the time of the photo but only slightly resembles guy in the photo. Below is Hucul in 67/68 with the St.Louis Blues. I wish I could find a photo of the back of his head to see if the bald-spot matches. 
Fred Hucul

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Jack Hamilton, Youngest Four Goal Game Ever

Sam Bennett of Calgary scored four goals on January 13 thus becoming the third youngest player to do so in the NHL. Only Bobby Carpenter in 1981/82 and Jack Hamilton in 1943/44 were younger. 
Hamilton was the youngest at 18 years, 6 months, 3 days old when he scored his four goals on December 5, 1943. The Canadian Press story about the game published on Dec. 6 detailed Hamilton's feat;
Youthful Jack Hamilton scored four goals and had one assist Saturday in the most successful performance of his short National Hockey League career as Toronto Maple Leafs defeated New York Rangers 11-4 before 9,359 fans.
Hamilton, elevated from Toronto junior ranks in mid-season last year, obtained his four goals by finishing off ganging plays in which his linemates, Jack McLean and Windy O'Neill figured prominently.
Before Saturday, the nine players who coach Happy Day had alternated on Toronto's third line had amassed only six goals in 14 games.
The trio of Hamilton, McLean and Thomas "Windy" O'Neill collected 5 goals and 12points on this night.
The Rangers, to that point in the season had gone winless in 14 games, picking up only one tie. After this rout they had been outscored by 82-40. Ranger goaltender Ken McAuley was in the midst of his rookie season and would play all but one of New York's 50 games that year. He finished with a record of 6-39-5 and a GAA of 6.24.
Hamilton's exploits lifted his season totals through 14 games to 8 goals and 5 assists good for sixth place on the Leafs. He would manage 12 more goals over his last 35 games to finish with an even 20 on the year. He would join the military the next year and play 13 games for Cornwallis Navy of the Halifax City Senior League. Hamilton returned to the Leafs in 45/46 scoring 16 points in 40 games. He would play the next nine years in the top-tier minor leagues before retiring as a professional and playing Senior hockey until 1958.
The boxscore from Hamilton's four goal game is below.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Was Bill Shvetz' Only NHL Game Missed in the Official Records?

Bill Shvetz was a career minor league defenceman who's nickname was 'The Destroyer'. He played nearly 1,000 professional games in the Western, Quebec and American Hockey Leagues, and according to the official records he never played an NHL game. Recently however, a post on a hockey chat forum raised the question of whether he may have actually played a game. A mention was made of a Montreal Gazette article about the opening game of the 1954/55 NHL season when Chicago visited Montreal.
In an addendum to the article about Montreal's 4-2 season-opening win in the Gazette, there was one line that stated,"Bill Shvetz made only one appearance for the Hawks and nearly scored. His shot hit the post." (see below from the Oct 7, 1954 Montreal Gazette).

In addition, sports columnist 'Dink' Carroll made mention of Shvetz playing when he was promptly traded two days later. 
One more mention of Shvetz in the October 7 opener is the boxscore from the Chicago Tribune the following day (below). He is clearly in the lineup, but did not collect an official statistic. Did he play that one shift or not?
One issue with verifying if Shvetz did play or not is the fact there is very little mention of him, especially when one may expect it. Below is a Chicago Tribune clip from the day of the game, it mentions the large influx of rookies into the Black Hawks lineup but makes no mention of Bill Shvetz. He had been selected in June 1954 by Chicago in the inter-league draft from Calgary of the Western League. He was only 24 at the time but like many others in the six-team NHL had not gotten his chance at the big time yet. 
Chicago defender, Gus Mortson appears to have been a late scratch for this first game of the season and in fact played 65 of the 70 games that season. Is it possible that Shvetz was a late fill-in for Mortson and managed to get on the ice for at least one post-hitting shift? If Dink Carroll says he did, I'd like to believe him.
Oct 7, 1954 Tribune
Either way, Shvetz' time in the Hawks organization was short-lived as he was traded to Montreal on October 9 for the rights to Dick Gamble. 
Oct 11 1954 Gazette
Shvetz, playing for the Montreal Royals of the Quebec league and playing some Left Wing in addition to Defence, scored 20 goals in 1954/55. He also led the circuit in PIMs with 161. The following year the rights to both Gamble and Shvetz reverted to their original teams and Shvetz went back to Calgary. He played twelve more seasons in the Western and American leagues never again getting a sniff of the NHL. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Greatest Game Ever, 40 Years Later; Part 2

"Probably the most important and far-reaching sporting contest ever held in this country." This is how Montreal Gazette writer Tim Burke described the New Years Eve 1975 game between Montreal Canadiens and the Soviet Central Army. He continued,"The Canadiens resurrected one of our proudest heritages and enshrined it with an un rivalled display of determination and sportsmanship."

In Burke's analysis "the fact the Canadiens had to settle for the most lopsided tie in memory; 38-13 in shots on goal, takes nothing away from their stupendous effort against a great and dauntless opponent." He summarized that Montreal was, "supreme in all facets of the game, save goaltending and shooting."
The Soviet Central Army team had just managed to tie the Montreal Canadiens 3-3 despite being outplayed by all accounts. In referring to the aforementioned goaltending of Ken Dryden, Bob Gainey offered, "Do you realize that it was more than an hour between the warmup and the time the Russians got their first shot (10:03 into the game), no goaltender can be inactive that long without it affecting him." The Soviets put four weak shots on Dryden in the first period and only three in the second. Two of the three second period attempts ended up as goals. However, Dryden after the game refused to use his lack of work as an excuse,  "I wasn't cold because I'd broken into a nervous sweat at the beginning of the game. I had an awful lot of shots at my glove and tonight they were just dropping out of it." Coach Scotty Bowman described the first goal when Dryden stopped Boris Mikhailov's shot with his glove at shoulder level, then let it drop into the net, "I think there was a good chance that if Dryden doesn't stop it, the puck goes over the net."
Burke describes how the Canadiens employed Gerry Duggan who charted all their games since Bowman took over. Duggan said, "The Canadiens in the first period didn't give up the puck in their own end once, the first time that's happened since I've been charting them. In the second period they gave it away in their end just once, and in the third period five times." Larry Robinson added, "We made only four mistakes in the whole game and they scored on three of them. On the fourth one, they hit the inside of the crossbar,"- Popov's shot at 14:11 of the third period.
Burke also hinted that, "There is a suspicion that the Forum ice was 'slowed down' for this one -bumpier and chipper than usual - to impair Central Army's precision passing. If so, it may have cost Steve Shutt the winning goal. "At 15:39 of the third period, Shutt had - or thought he had - the winner on his stick about five feet out and his whole side of the net open, thanks to another beautiful pass from Pete Mahovlich. But when he made the shot, the puck wasn't there. 'Darn it,' he said afterwards, 'the ice was chewed up enough to get the puck weaving and dancing a little."
Canadiens superstar Guy Lafleur was a bit more blunt with his analysis of the game, "I didn't learn a thing from them. It was an easy game. We proved tonight that our system is still good. We can dump the puck in and still be more dangerous than them." He went on, "After their power plays I wasn't even tired. That never happens with an NHL team. You just wait at the line. You don't have to skate at all to keep up with them."
Even Soviet coach Loktev agreed, "This was not one of our best performances. Most of our problems came as a result of Montreal's style of play. Their checking was very effective, they played their positions well and they worked very hard. Montreal played a very fine hockey game."
It was a fine hockey game indeed.

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