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. 
                                   







Saturday, July 5, 2014

Maple Leaf Cup of Coffee; Ray Ceresino


I'm going to be looking at little-known Maple Leafs players of yesteryear, specifically those who had but one taste of the big time in the National Hockey League. All of these guys have a story to tell, the first is Ray Ceresino who played 12 games with the Leafs in December 1948, scoring but one career NHL goal.

 "A rookie and a veteran last night clicked for the Leafs. Ray Ceresino, former Port Arthur and Oshawa junior star, got his first NHL goal with less than three minutes left to beat the Bruins. He got it on a rink-wide pass from Max Bentley." This description from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is of the first and only NHL goal for Ray Ceresino. The marker came on December 12, 1948 after having been elevated from the AHL Pittsburgh Hornets two weeks prior. 

On December 1, The same newspaper reported; "Ray Ceresino, brilliant little left wing of the Pittsburgh Hornets, has been recalled by the parent Toronto Maple Leafs for a tryout tonight when the Leafs meet the Red Wings at Detroit." Ceresino had been a junior star with the Oshawa Generals, tallying 53 points in 28 games in 1946/47 to place 7th in league scoring. After one more season in the junior circuit he graduated to the AHL's Pittsburgh Hornets, farm club of the Maple Leafs. 
Having played regularly with Les Costello and fellow Port Arthur, Ontario native Rudy Migay in Pittsburgh, Ceresino produced at a point per game pace over the first 22 games of 1948 before his chance in the bigs. He would have the honour of skating alongside future Hall of Famer Max Bentley in his stint with the Leafs. In fact his one and only goal was assisted by Bentley and proved to be the winning mark against the Bruins.

Ceresino lasted 12 games with Toronto before being returned to Pittsburgh on Jan 3, 1949. He finished his rookie professional season in the AHL with 22 goals and 38 points in 47 games. He was traded at the start of the following season to Cleveland along with Harry Taylor and the loan of Tod Sloan for Bob Solinger. With the Barons, Ceresino was part of three AHL Calder Cup championships in the 1950's. After two different stints with Seattle Ironmen and Victoria Cougars out west, he returned home to play a year of Senior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Indians before retiring in 1957. Ray Ceresino is now 85 years old and still has an NHL game-winning goal, assisted by a Hall of Famer brag about.

Cersino's only NHL goal
Ceresino's only NHL assist





Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mike Modano in The Hall, Why Not Mark Recchi Too?

So, Mike Modano has been elected to hockey's Hall of Fame. I guessss he's a Hall of Famer. It's just that when I think Hockey Hall of Famer, Modano doesn't really jump out at me. Then again, neither do Clark Gillies, Bernie Federko, Dick Duff and many more. The hockey Hall is relatively easy to gain election (tell that to Eric Lindros), and because of that I don't really have a problem with Modano. I just would have put Mark Recchi in before him.  

Recchi and Modano were both rookies in 1989/90 even though Recchi had played 15 games the previous season and they finished 5th and 2nd respectively in Calder Trophy voting (behind old-man Makarov). They both retired 21 years later. Modano was integral in the winning of his one Stanley Cup in 1999 and Recchi was a large part of winning three Cups. In Recchi's first Cup he finished second in scoring with 34 points behind only Mario Lemieux. Modano also was second in scoring during his Cup year as well as the following year when Dallas dropped the Final to New Jersey.

In regular season play Recchi garnered three Second Team All-Star selections to Modano's one. Recchi placed top-four in All-Star voting on three other occasions and Modano four other times. Modano had three top-ten finishes in Hart Trophy voting finishing seventh twice while Recchi had a sixth and a ninth place finish over his career. Internationally speaking, Modano helped the USA win the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and the following spring Recchi was a part of Canada's World Championship squad. 

In terms of raw numbers, Recchi is 12th in career points with 1533 points and Modano 23rd with 1374. Modano never finished in the top five in scoring, his best being an 8th, 9th and 10th place. Recchi's best finishes in points were a 3rd, 4th and 5th. 

Perhaps the most interesting comparison of the two is found on www.hockey-reference.com. The site has a category called Similarity Score in which they find players whose careers had "similar quality and shape". On Mark Recchi's page his most "similar" player is Stan Mikita, then next is Modano. On Mike Modano's page, his most similar player is, you guessed it, Mark Recchi.

In the end, Mike Modano is probably a deserving Hall of Famer it's just that I'm not sure if he deserves enshrinement before Mark Recchi.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Les Binkley; 14-year old Allan Cup Rookie


Les Binkley was a fine goaltender of the first expansion era of the NHL. After having played 12 quality seasons in the high minor leagues with teams from Baltimore and Charlotte to Cleveland and San Diego, he finally got his shot at the NHL thanks to the 1967 expansion to twelve teams. Drafted by Pittsburgh at the age of 31, Binkley played almost 200 games over five seasons with the Penguins before jumping to the WHA in 1972. He wound down his career at the age of 39 after four years with the Ottawa/Toronto franchise.

Amazingly, Binkley got his start in high-level hockey way back in 1951 at the age of 14. As a member of his hometown Junior B Owen Sound Mintos, he was asked to join the senior Owen Sound Mercurys on their quest for the Alan Cup. He travelled and practiced with the team that included two ex-NHLers (Jack Ingoldsby and Pat McReavy) as well as former AHL scoring leader Tom Burlington.

In Stan and Shirley Fischler's 1971 book "Up From The Minor League of Hockey", Binkley describes how he actually got the call to play one of the important Allan Cup playoff matches;

"As things turned out, one of the teams we faced in the playoff was from Sarnia, Ontario (The Sailors). Well we were in Sarnia at the time, and I was walking around the town with some of the men on the club. It was then that I got the shock of my young life: the coach said he wanted me to play goal that night because the regular goalie (Bob Gillson) was sick.  Well, when I heard that I got good and nervous, and by the time I got down to the rink that night I was so nervous I couldn't even put my gear on straight. After all, it's all right to practice against Seniors, and it's fine to play well against kids your own age, but this was the Allan Cup playoffs. Somehow I managed to get out on the ice and I played as well as I could, but we lost 5-2."

The Society for International Hockey Research database does indeed show Binkley having played a game at age 14 during this Allan Cup run, but it lists him having yielded eight goals, not five. I found a google news score of a game from March 31, 1951 in which Sarnia beat Owen Sound by a score of 8 to 5. Anyway you look at it, a 14-year old playing with and against ex-pros is extremely impressive. Binkley's Owen Sound Mercurys went on to capture the Allan Cup in 1951 with a small contribution from a 14-year old goaltender.

A still youthful (20-yrs old) Binkley playing for Charlotte of the EHL


Monday, June 16, 2014

1954 NHL Oldtimers Game


In front of 10,000 spectators at Montreal's Forum, the NHL Oldtimers' Associations of Ontario and Quebec put an an entertaining display of hockey expertise. The date was Wednesday, January 6, 1954 and when all was said and done the Quebec masters beat the Ontario elders 11-9. This was the first meeting of the ex-NHL stars and was organized by Ontario's Lorne Duguid and Albert 'Battleship' Leduc of the Quebec Association. The proceeds of the match went to helping handicapped children.

The array of former stars was truly mind-boggling, pictured above is the elderly version of Toronto's famed Kid Line (left to right, Charlie Conacher, Joe Primeau and Busher Jackson. Other Ontario stars included Dit Clapper, Nels Stewart, Billy Taylor, Cy Wentworth and goaltender Roy Worters. Charlie Conacher, who was joined in the match by brothers Bert, Roy and 52-year old member of parliament Lionel. Charlie and Roy notched two goals each while ex-Bruin Bill Cowley counted six assists. 

Nels 'Old Poison' Stewart
 The Quebec squad was led by two goals from Syd Howe and sported stars such as Toe Blake, Sylvio Mantha, Ken Reardon, Buddy O'Connor and Hooley Smith. However, the greatest ovation of the evening was given to ex-Canadiens goaltender Bill Durnan when he skated out halfway through the second frame to replace Claude Bourque. Afterwards Durnan stated what most of the players were probably thinking, "It's pretty tough getting back into the game. You find out you're not what you thought. After the first minute I thought I couldn't breathe."

Sadly, less than five months after this game, The Big Train, Lionel Conacher would die while playing a parliamentary softball game in Ottawa. He collapsed at third base after stretching a single into a triple. A fitting way to leave this world for Canada's Athlete of the Half-Century.






Monday, June 9, 2014

1964 Maple Leafs Calendar, Stanley Cup Victory

Here's some great pics from the 1964 Toronto Maple Leafs calendar. They show the Leafs celebrating 1963 Stanley Cup victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Toronto beat Detroit by four games to one, winning the last game by 3-1. They had finished first overall in the NHL that season with 82 points in 70 games, this marks the last time in franchise history that the Leafs would pull of this double feat.

The image below shows NHL President Clarence Campbell presenting the jubilant Leafs with the Cup. The inset shot pictures Frank Mahovlich enjoying a celebratory beverage. The bottom picture has Gardens Vice President (and future crumudgeon) Harold Ballard toasting the win with Toronto Mayor Donald Summerville. On the right we see Punch Imlach topping up the Cup with another round of victory drink.


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