Saturday, August 16, 2014

John Brophy, A Mean Son-of-a-Gun

John Brophy was head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs for two and a half seasons in the late 1980's. He had been a hard-playing defenceman in the old Eastern Hockey league from 1955 through 1973. Playing in cities from Baltimore and Charlotte to New Haven, Long Island and Philadelphia he collected 3699 PIM's in 1064 games. Brophy began a role as playing coach in 1968 while with the Long Island Ducks. 

He was suspended and fined over his career many times for transgressions including; "attempts to assault referee", "physically abusing referee", "deliberately shooting puck at referee", "jabbed stick at fan after fan bit him", "pushing linesman during fight", "pushing referee to the ice", "throwing stick at referee", "throwing object at referee". Needless to say, he had anger issues. 

When he finally got his chance at an NHL coaching job, his attitude did not change. He guided the Leafs to a 70 point season in 86/87 and upset St. Louis in the first round of the playoffs before losing in seven to Detroit. The following year he coached one of the worst teams to ever qualify for the NHL playoffs when his Leafs 52 points beat out Minnesota by one point in the Norris Division. He would be replaced by George Armstrong 33 games into the next season with a record of 11-20-2.

I stumbled upon this gem of a description of one of Brophy's Maple Leaf practices from 1986. It's written by the Canadian Press and published November 26, 1986 before a big game in Detroit against the hated Red Wings. 

Head coach John Brophy laid the lumber on his players yesterday to emphasize that he expects them to play a tough, physical brand of hockey against the Red Wings in Detroit tonight. The last time the teams played, Nov. 15, fights and brawls led to four player ejections and 290 penalty minutes.

"I hope we play physically; we certainly intend to," Brophy said following a practice session during which he played defence, chopping and hacking to demonstrate the kind of aggressive hockey he expects from his players. "I don't see any other way we can win in there. They've been waiting for this one."
Standing in the slot during practice, Brophy's stick came up and probed the gut of Chris Kotsopoulos. Then the point of his stick blade found the back of Jerome Dupont's knee. Brophy hammered the shaft of his stick down on the shoulder of Val James, then swept the skates out from under him twice.

"You either win in here (the slot), or you lose your job," Brophy announced to his defencemen." "Obviously, you have to be discreet about it, but you have to stay between the net and the puck. You don't run around slashing and poking people, but you do things off the shot."

Just imagine a coach in today's game hacking and slashing his millionaire players during practice. Incidentally, Toronto beat Detroit that night by a score of 3-1. There were five fights and three game misconducts in the game.
Brophy in his playing days with Philadelphia Ramblers

Friday, August 8, 2014

Anatoli Firsov Scores Six Goals In Half a Game

January 23, 1969. The terrific Anatoli Firsov, one of the greatest players in the history of Russian hockey, scored six goals in an international game. Six goals in a game, it's been accomplished before and since...the thing is, Firsov did it by the six minute mark of the second period or in 26 minutes of elapsed game time. Big deal you say? It was probably against a second rate national squad like Romania or Denmark, right? Wrong.

Anatoli Firsov scored six goals in less than half a game against the Canadian national team, on Canadian soil. In fact he collected back-to-back NATURAL hat-tricks. The game was part of the Soviet National team's Canadian tour and took place in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Firsov scored the first six goals of the game and the Soviets would go up by a score of 10-0 after two periods and win by a final score of 10-2. Firsov was actually benched for the second half of the game and didn't even dress for the third period. Sure, it wasn't Team Canada '72 or '76 the Russians were playing, but it was still Canada. The home team included past and future NHLers Jack Bownass, Ab DeMarco, Bob Murdoch, Gerry Pinder, Fran Huck and Chuck Lefley.

Two of Firsov's six goals deflected off a Canadian defender's stick but the Canadian Press still described a "a virtuoso performance amid the clockwork play of the Russian team". Even after Firsov left the game his linemates Vladimir Vikulov and Alexander Maltsev each collected two points to finish with five and six points each. Both would go on to play in the 1972 Summit Series but Firsov would not. Even though he was perhaps their best player, Firsov was left off the 1972 squad by coach Vsevolod Bobrov who had taken over for Anatoly Tarasov, whom Firsov outwardly supported.

Firsov was such a talent that he was pursued by many Western clubs beginning in 1969 when Los Angeles Kings GM Larry Regan offered the Russians three Kings for him. Montreal tried to bring him over in 1974 for a salary of $100,000 per season and he was selected by the Cleveland Barons in the 1972 WHA draft. He would have one more fine season in 1972/73 with Red Army Moscow scoring 25 goals in 33 games before retiring for good in 1974. Firsov was elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 1998.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

More Rare Leafs Turofsky Photos

Last week I posted some very cool Turofsky photos of the Maple Leafs of the late 40's that a reader sent me from their own collection. There are so many great ones I had to share some more.
These first three are just terrific shots of Leaf captain Syl Apps in the latter stages of his Hall of Fame career.

Here's a very young Bill Barilko. He's probably 20 years old in this photo.

Here's one actually signed by 23 year old Howie Meeker, then in his second year in the NHL.

Another autographed photo, this one of another youngster, Sid Smith. He would go on to be a three-time NHL All-Star.

The final shot is of Ted "Teeder" Kenendy who at 22 years old had already completed his fifth NHL season on the way to the Hall of fame.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rare Maple Leafs Photos

Syl Apps and Ted Kennedy with The Cup
I received a very cool email this past week from a reader of my blog. Attached to it were the images of over thirty old photographs of the Toronto Maple Leafs. They were Turofsky photos from likely the 1947/48 season. Nat and Lou Turofsky were official team photographers of the Leafs from the early 1930's until the time of each of their deaths in 1956 and 1959 respectively. 

My new blog friend  Kim informed me; "My dad lived in Woodstock, Ontario and attended many Leafs games.You could order these pics from the 3 old Turofsky albums at 50 cents each. He would do a lot to get an autograph, too. Back in the day you could yell at the boys and hope for a signature." Kim also told me the Hall of Fame was interested in one of the photos as they did NOT have it in their collection of 19,000 Turofsky images. The one in question is the image below of Captain Syl Apps holding the Stanley Cup while Conn Smythe and Hap Day shake hands. I'm pretty sure Kim will let the Hall have that one.

I actually own one of those old Turofsky Albums from which you could order these prints. I wrote about it recently;

So, perhaps for the first time ever on the internet, here is that image.

Smythe, Apps and Day posing with The Cup

Check out some of the other fantastic photos below including Turk Broda posing with both the Cup and the Vezina Trophy. His 2.38 Goals Against Average was tops in the NHL in 1947/48.

Below, Coach Hap Day is pictured embracing the Cup along with I believe Don Metz and Wally Stanowski.

This is a great shot of the Leafs three Hall of Fame Centremen; Teeder Kennedy, Max Bentley and Syl Apps. In the early 1980's writer Dick Beddoes proclaimed that youngster Wayne Gretzky would have been a fourth line Centre on the '47 and '48 Leaf squads because of these three fellows. He may have been right.

I'll post a few more of these great photos soon including a few that Kim's father did manage to get autographed by the players.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Maple Leaf Cup of Coffee; Jack Forsey

Jack Forsey had a terrific rookie season for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942/43. He played in 19 of the team's 50 games and notched 16 points. This 0.84 points per game in his first season are equaled or bettered by only 116 other men in National Hockey League history. Of these 116 players, an amazing 40 are or will be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Among these players, Jack Forsey is the only one to never play another game in the NHL after his fine rookie campaign. What happened to Jack Forsey?

Born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Forsey starred for the the junior Calgary Jimmies before joining the senior Kimberly Dynamiters. At age 23, he went to England to play professionally for the Earls Court Rangers. It was after his first season here that he represented Canada at the World Hockey Championships in spring of 1937. His 8 goals in 7 games helped Canada secure the Gold medal. Forsey returned to Canada in 1939 and excelled for the Sherbrooke Red Raiders of the Quebec Professional League finishing second in points with 83 in 41 games.

It was this off-season in the summer of 1940 that Forsey signed with Baltimore of the EUSHL but before he played a game with them he reneged and signed with Cornwall of the Quebec Senior League. This prompted a ruling on Forsey's case by the CAHA at their annual convention to prevent players from signing with multiple teams. He was ordered to pay $25 to cover the Baltimore scout's travel expenses in signing him or else be suspended. After a solid year with Cornwall, he finally made the jump to the AHL as a 28 year old with the Providence Reds for the 1941/42 campaign.

Following a fine season in the AHL  (46 points in 52 games), Forsey finally garnered interest from an NHL squad. He spent the 1942/43 season bouncing between Toronto and Providence, producing well at each level. While with the Leafs he was usually lined up alongside the likes of team leading scorer Lorne Carr and Mel Hill, which helped in his production. 

Perhaps the main reason for Forsey's short NHL career was World War II. Prior to the next season, he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force, but upon being rejected due to a broken nose he was sent to Red Deer for basic training. He spent that year with Red Deer Army Wheelers in the Alberta National Defense League playing with and against such established stars as Dave Schriner, Alex Kaleta, Mac Coville and Max and Reg Bentley. He did not play at all in 1944/45 due to military service and by the time the 1945/46 season rolled around Forsey was 32 years old. This brings us to the other main reason that Jack Forsey played only one year in the NHL, his age. 

Among the 117 players who counted at least 0.84 points per game in their first season only Bill Cook, Didier Pitre and Sergei Makarov were older; the first two are in the Hall while the third one probably should be. As it was, Forsey remained out west after the war playing senior hockey everywhere from Red Deer and Kimberley to Regina and Saskatoon before ending his career with the Kamloops Elks of the Okanagan Senior League. At age 36 he scored 20 goals for the Elks and helped them advance to the 1950 Allan Cup.

Jack Forsey was 84 years old when he passed away in Salmon Arm, B.C. in 1998 and is buried in Calgary.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Shorty Horne, The Death of a Maple Leaf

Young Players Star as Leafs Shutout Hawks - That was a headline in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper on November 16, 1928. The article was referring to Toronto Maple Leaf youngsters Andy Blair and George 'Shorty' Horne. It went on to state;
"Blair and Shorty Horne, a star with Stratford in the Can-pro circuit last season, bounded squarely into the limelight with two quick goals in the second period. It was 'Youngsters Night', for the kids of the Leaf team ran wild for practically the entire time they were on the ice..."

The article then went on to describe Horne's play that game; 
"Short Horne jumped into the limelight with two brilliant rushes and then combined with Andy Blair on a pass in front of the goalmouth that made Gardiner step lively...Irwin and Gottselig gave Chabot close ones and then Shorty Horne broke down right wing, stickhandled around the defense and swept in to beat Gardiner for the Leafs' second tally."

Less than a week later the young star was at it again as Toronto beat Montreal Maroons 4-1; 
"Shorty Horne was the Toronto star of the night. He was on the receiving end of two brilliant three men combination efforts, resulting in the first two Leaf goals."

Most fans of hockey history will have some familiarity with Andy Blair. He played nine NHL seasons collecting 157 points and a Stanley Cup with the Leafs in 1932. But who was Shorty Horne? Horne would go on to finish 25th in the NHL with 9 goals in 39 games in 1928/29 in his first full NHL season and his hockey future looked bright. Alas, he would never play again after that campaign. He perished that summer in an outdoor accident.

Born in Sudbury, Ontario in 1904, George Horne grew to a height of only 5 ft 6 in earning him his nickname. He starred with the Sudbury Wolves juniors and North Bay Trapper seniors before signing as a free agent with Montreal Maroons in October 1925. He went scoreless in 13 games for the Maroons and was eventually claimed on waivers by Stratford of the Can-Pro league in February 1927. It is here that Shorty Horne began to flourish as a professional player. He lead the league with 32 goals in 40 games and once again caught the eye of an NHL squad. The Toronto Maple Leafs purchased his rights from the Maroons on October 1, 1928.

Following his successful first year with Toronto, teammate Hap Day called him one of the most promising players in the league. That summer he returned home to Sudbury as a 25 year old, up-and-coming NHL player, and future star. On July 31, 1929 Horne joined a pair of childhood friends and another man on a prospecting trip by canoe on Lake Sagotosky, about 150 km northwest of Sudbury. The four men were intending to assess some mining claims when an unexpected storm formed. They were paddling their heavy canoe about 100 yards from shore when large waves began flooding the boat. Eventually capsizing, they clung to the overturned canoe. The men decided to swim for shore and removed their heavy clothing and boots to aid in the effort. Shorty Horne was not able to remove his boots. Horne became exhausted attempting to swim with the boots still on his feet. He vanished below the waves, unable to resurface.

The three others searched in vain before deciding to hike seven miles through the bush to find help. Police and government officials searched for four days before finding the body of George Horne. His funeral would be held in Sudbury and was attended by Maple Leafs Hap Day, Art Smith, Ace Bailey, Red Horner and Conn Smythe.

In a preview of the upcoming NHL campaign the following November, the Associated Press referred to the Maple Leafs "cruel blow suffered during the summer when Shorty Horne, one of their most brilliant young players, was drowned in Northern Ontario". The hockey world would never find out how brilliant Shorty Horne could have been.

Special thanks to Hockey Heritage North for details about the tragedy.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Maple Leaf Cup of Coffee; Norm Armstrong

Time to look at another of the men who scored but one goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their brief appearance with the team, this week it's Norman "Red" Armstrong. Born in Owen Sound, Ontario Armstrong made his debut as a Maple Leaf in December of 1962. He was called up from Sudbury Wolves of the Eastern League to replace an injured Bob Nevin.

Armstrong turned pro two years prior, joining the Charlotte Checkers at age 22. He would play a mere 7 games with Toronto collecting a goal and an assist. His goal came in the first shift he played in the big leagues and the strange thing is, this first shift was late in the third period of a blow-out game against Boston.
His goal assisted by Bob Pulford at 15:18 of the final frame made the score 7-1 in favour of Toronto, a game the Leafs won 8-2. Below is a photo from the game on December 15, 1962 as well as the box score.


Upon the return of Bob Nevin, Armstrong was returned to Sudbury and eventually joined the Rochester Americans late in 1962/63. This would prove to be a beneficial arrangement for him as he would play most of the next ten seasons for the Amerks and retire as one of their most popular players ever. Armstrong produced seasons of 29, 30 and 32 goals in the AHL and was an inaugural member of the Rochester Americans Hall of Fame in 1986. Unfortunately, Red Armstrong was not around to appreciate this honour. On July 23, 1974 he lost his life in an industrial accident while working at a steel mill in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. 

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