Thursday, October 23, 2014

Just who IS pictured on Bryan Maxwell's Rookie Card?

Time for another look at Ken Reid's terrific new book, Hockey Card Stories. Reid shares the strange story of the rookie card of Bryan Maxwell. His first card was issued while he was with the WHA's Cincinnati Stingers in 1976/77. The only problem is, it's not Maxwell pictured on his rookie card. Reid's book describes it;

Few players, I am sure, would like to be airbrushed on their first ever hockey card. But it's not the doctoring that Maxwell talks about all these years later.
"That's not even me," says Maxwell. So, of course, after all these years, there's no mystery as to who the man on the card is...right?
"I don't know who is on my Cincinnati card," says Maxwell.

There have been cases of the wrong player being shown on a sports card, but usually the identity of the player has been figured out somewhere down the road. It seems strange to me that nobody has yet figured out who really is on Maxwell's rookie card. Let's try, shall we?

Firstly, it's easy to determine that the player on the card is wearing an air-brushed Cleveland Crusaders jersey leaving only the black shoulder trim. Bryan Maxwell had been acquired by Cincinnati from Cleveland after the 75/76 campaign. The actual Crusaders jersey is below and we can even see the faint white stitching between the collar and shoulder that is still visible on the Maxwell card. 


The question is, who played in Cleveland that year that made it on the card instead of Maxwell? The Society for International Hockey Research has a database with team player photos, looking through the 75/76 Crusaders there are only three guys that even slightly resemble the guy on the card.

Terry Ball is the biggest stretch, and he's far too old to be the guy in the photo. He has to be ruled out.


Barry Legge looks a bit more similar to the mystery man, but his chin is much less broad and pointier than him. He's out.
Lyle Moffat is closest to resembling the faux Maxwell, but honestly it's tough to make a case that it's him.

What if the guy had played with the Cleveland Crusaders even earlier than the 75/76 season? Card companies have been known to use photos that are three or four seasons old in their issues. A look through all the Crusaders rosters back to 1972/73 finds nobody who even remotely looks like the fake Maxwell. What next? While I was in the SIHR database I had a quick glance at the photos of the rosters of every single WHA team from 1975/76 as well as the ones that had become extinct prior to that. The results...nothing. There is not ONE single WHA player that looks like the guy on Bryan Maxwell's rookie card.

And that brings us to a good old fashioned dead-end. The only theory I have is the guy in the photo was not even a player. In some rare cases in the past a young trainer, bat-boy or front office executive would trick an unsuspecting photographer and find their way onto a card. Below is the 1969 Aurelio Rodriguez card that is actually a photo of the Angels bat-boy. Could this be what happened in the case of Bryan Maxwell?
He himself says hasn't a clue as to who's on his card. Perhaps Maxwell was in on the joke and is still refusing to give it up after all these years. What's your guess?


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How To Play Goal by Johnny Bower


I picked up this little beauty on the weekend, it's a small booklet issued by Coca-Cola in 1966. The instructional book is chock-full of tips on playing goal from Toronto Maple Leaf, Johnny Bower. More importantly, it's also filled with fantastic comic-book style images of the goaltending legend in action. Check them out below.

Bower, straining to touch his toes. Nice Bicycle though.
Bower's crouch position depends on his level of back pain.



Obviously Mike Palmateer learned the kick-save from this book as a young boy.
How to bobble a puck in the air AND on the ice.

This one's titled, "Too many Habs!"
Perfect execution of the upper-sternum save.

The fruit of all that labour.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Stompin' Tom and the Hockey Song; The Mystery Album Cover


I recently picked up this original LP album of Stompin' Tom And The Hockey Song. I don't even own a turntable record player, I just had to have this piece of Canadiana. The album was issued in 1972 on Boot Records and was Connors' ninth album issue. It has a great picture on the front of a hockey scene involving the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. For licensing reasons all official team logos and numbers had to be painted out of the image. As a hockey history buff, I just had to determine who the players are in the photo.

The game is a home game for Montreal and the goaltender is obviously Ken Dryden, this alone helps to narrow it down to which season the photo is from. Dryden famously came up to the Habs at the end of the 1970/71 campaign and would lead Montreal to the the Stanley Cup. In those six regular season games and through the playoffs of 1971, Montreal and Toronto did not play each other. Since the Stompin' Tom album came out in 1972, the photo has to be from the 1971/72 season.

Toronto visited Montreal only three times in 1971/72; Dec.22/71, Jan.19/72 and Mar.22/72. With the help of my pal and fellow hockey history nut, Dave Jackson, we have used simple face and hair recognition as well as whether the player shot left or right to figure out who's who.
close-up of left side of album
Here's a close up of the left side of the pic. I'm fairly certain the Canadien coming in from the left is the right shooting Phil Roberto. Compare to the photo below (the Hab on the right). The Leaf player he is hooking appears to be Jim Harrison. Compare the sideburns and hair as well as the taping of the socks and ankles, all matches.
Phil Roberto (right)
Jim Harrison
This brings us to the Montreal defender right in the middle of the photo, detailed below on the left. At first glance I thought it was left-shooting defenceman Pierre Bouchard by the poofy, flowing hair. Closer inspection however shows that his skates are obviously CCM Tacks (you can see the logo on his right boot starting with "T') and as far as I know, Bouchard always wore molded plastic skates even right up to the end of his career. Below is a pic of him from a 1970 Montreal postcard set with his molded plastic skates.

close-up of right side of album
Pierre Bouchard
Next I noticed that it appears there is a number "1" on this players right arm that was missed in the airbrushing, so my next thought was the player could be Serge Savard who wore number 18. The problem is, Savard also wore the same plastic boot skates that Bouchard did (see next pic) Next I looked for left-shooting Canadiens with a number "1" as the first of their number (10 through 19). The options in 1971/72 were Yvan Cournoyer (definitely not him), Rejean Houle (#15) but I'm fairly certain he was wearing a helmet on the ice at this point. Henri Richard was #16 and Marc Tardif #11, but this is definitely neither of them. The last option is a back-checking Larry Pleau who wore both #8  and #17 in 71/72. He's the second photo below and you can see that his hair and skates match, so I'll go with a tentative yes for him.
Serge Savard w/plastic skates
Larry Pleau
The last guy to identify is the Leaf closest to Dryden, and both myself and Dave are certain it's the high-scoring minor leaguer Guy Trottier. This guy has a "1" visible on his left arm meaning his number is either 11, 21, 31 etc. Trottier was #11 and had the pronounced ears that the guy in the picture does.
                                               

Determining which of the three games from 1971/72 this photo was taken is tough as Dryden played in all three and full lineups of the games are next to impossible to find. I'm fairly confident the players I named are accurate, below is a clipping from the Montreal Gazette on Jan. 20, 1972. This could very well be the game in which the Stompin' Tom cover took place.





Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hockey Previews of Yesteryear

1980/81 Petersen's Preview
 The NHL new season kicks off tomorrow, I figured I'd post some old preview magazines from the Den collection. As to be expected, Gretzky was the predominant cover boy throughout the 1980's. Most of these magazines are long out of print and a few are fairly rare.
1980/81 Hockey News Preview
1981/82 Hockey Scene Preview
1981/82 Preview
1982/83 Inside Hockey Preview
1984/85 Hockey Scene Preview
1984/85 Hockey Illustrated Preview
1988/89 Inside Sports Hockey Preview
1991/92 Inside Sports Hockey Preview

Friday, October 3, 2014

Jimmy Mann Wanted More Hockey Cards

Mann's Rookie card
I have started reading the terrific new book from Ken Reid titled "Hockey Card Stories". One of his first tales is about ex-goon Jimmy Mann and the fact that he had cards issued for two of his NHL seasons. Reid exlplains;
This (rookie card pictured above) is one of the few (hockey cards) out there of Jimmy Mann. He played in the NHL until the 1987/88 season. He wasn't always up in the Big Leagues for the final few years of his career, but he says that's not why he stopped showing up on cards. He has his own theory as to why he only had three cards.

"My second year is when I hit Paul Gardner."

"Eagleson (NHLPA Head and Gardner's lawyer) blackballed me for the rest of my career with cards. After that hit, I never had a card. He blackballed me because I broke Gardner's jaw and finished his career, and Eagleson never put my name in for another card again."
Rookie season PIM Leader card

I wrote about this very incident a few years back here and actually got a nice email from Gardner himself about it. An interesting theory from Mann, but I really think it's a bit far-fetched for him to think he was blackballed and short-changed some hockey card issues. Honestly, if anything, Jimmy Mann had TOO MANY hockey cards made of him and not just because I'm slightly biased towards Gardner. I'll give Jimmy Mann his rookie card issue for 1980/81 as it was his rookie year and he played 72 games. Even his 81/82 issue is questionable as he played a mere 37 games with only 6 points and 105 pims, but when you look at who he may have replaced in the next few sets it's difficult to justify his inclusion.

These are the guys who Mann would have had a chance to replace for the 1982/83 set. He had a similar season to his second year with 37 games but this time only 5 points and 79 pims.

43 Denis Cyr RC
44 Bill Clement
48 Steve Konroyd RC
59 Howard Walker RC
75 Glen Sharpley
80 John Barrett RC
86 Greg Joly
118 Tom Roulston RC
316 Normand Aubin RC
322 Billy Harris
342 Marc Crawford RC
352 Gerry Minor
354 Gary Lupul RC
382 Craig Levie RC
387 Bryan Maxwell

There is no way Mann was going to replace a rookie card with the numbers he put up in 81/82 and even the cards of Clement, Sharpley, Harris and Maxwell were more deserving than Mann's. Greg Joly and Gerry Minor were about the only two that Mann may have had a case against, hardly conspiracy worthy.

The 1983/84 O-Pee-Chee issue offered even less players that Mann could have bumped from the set, especially after putting up a season of 1 assist, 73 pims in 40 games.

8 Mats Hallin RC
88 Greg Meredith RC
131 Ken Solheim RC
132 Bob Manno
229 Garry Howatt
294 Rick Lapointe
382 Wade Campbell RC

Again, rookie cards are fully acceptable and really the only one that was less deserving than Mann to be included was Bob Manno who did not even play in the NHL in 82/83 spending the year playing in Italy. He was however an All-Star the year previous and had signed as a free-agent inthe summer of 1983.

Jimmy Mann would never again play even a half season in the NHL in his career so no cards were warranted after 1984. I question if even his second season issue of 1981/82 was even deserved. I think he may have deserved ONLY his rookie season card. Check out the players who were not included in the set with their stats from 80/81 (GP-G-A-P). Mann in his second year remember was 37-3-3-6.

Bobby Schmautz, Van 73-27-34-61
Merlin Malinowski, Col 69-25-37-62
Jean Pronovost, Wash 80-22-36-58
Joe Micheletti,Stl 63-4-27-31
Craig Norwich Col 34-7-23-30
Wes Jarvis, Wash 55-9-14-23
Tim Tookey, Wash 29-10-13-23
Lance Nethery, NYR 33-11-12-23
Phil Esposito, NYR 41-7-13-20
Ralph Klassen, Stl 66-6-12-18
Terry Murray, Phi 71-1-17-18
Doug Smail, Win 30-10-8-18
Serge Savard, Mtl 77-4-13-17
Dave Lumley, Edm 53-7-9-16
Anders Steen, Win 42-5-11-16
Ray Neufeld, Hart 52-5-10-15
Chris Nilan, Mtl 57-7-8-15
Larry Playfair, Buf 75-3-9-12
Guy Lapointe, Mtl 33-1-9-10
Jack Carlson , Minn 43-7-2-9
Barry Melrose, Tor  75-3-6-9

Phil Esposito's last season doesn't get a card, but Jimmy Mann's second one does? Also Hall of Famers Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe aren't included nor are fine seasons by Schmautz, Malinowski and Pronovost. How about guys who never got a card made of them, Wes Jarvis, Tim Tookey, Anders Steen or real-life Hanson brother Jack Carlson?

I think Jimmy Mann should be happy with the fact that he at least had two seasons worth of hockey cards. 
Mann's rather un-deserving 2nd year card

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Maple Leafs Training Camps of Yesteryear


Training camp methods have certainly changed over the years, I did some google.news digging and found some good descriptions of Toronto Maple Leafs training camps from years gone by.

1930
The Leafs have encountered wintery conditions in the Parry Sound district. On Sunday some of them attempted to motor to that town, but had to turn back after reaching the Muskoka district because of the snow drifts on the highways. Most of the players took their golf sticks to the camp, but reports from there tonight are that unless mild weather comes soon, the outlook for golf is poor indeed.
Come to Parry Sound for camp, bring your golf sticks, enjoy the snow drifts! 

1938
"Yesterday was the last rehearsal for fancy-skating. Sonja Henie has her partner."
This read the not posted in the Leafs hotel lobby by Maple Leafs coach Dick Irvin after a lacklustre practice by his men.
Apparently this "burned up" his 15 Maple Leafs, 16 Syracuse Stars and the six amateurs invited to camp. The Canadian Press described, "in two bruising practice games at nearby Galt Arena the hockeyists bounced each other around with no quarter asked or given. Many a battle threatened in the fast going as tempers flared after stiff body-checks.
Forget fancy stats of nowadays, the Leafs were fancy skating over 70 years ago, much to the displeasure of coach Irvin. "Sonja Henie has her partner." I love it.


1962
The Stanley Cup Champion Toronto Maple Leafs had better not be too many pounds over their respective playing weights when they arrive at their Peterborough training camp Sept 7.
The Leafs general manager will allow his charges seven pounds grace. But they must be able to do a minimum of 20 push-ups, 20 sit-ups and 30 knee-bends.
Imlach gave the order yesterday and also announced that Leafs will play a 15-game pre-season exhibition series across Canada and in the Western United States. The tour would take place from Sept 14 through Oct 4 stretching all the way from Kitchener, Hull, Victoria, Vancouver, San Francisco, Portland, Chilliwack, Edmonton and Calgary.
I assume Phil Kessel can do 20 push-ups, I hope. A 15 game, cross-continent pre-season tour, I wonder if the NHLPA would go for that these days.

1985
The two-hour practice  was barely over and the veteran players of the Toronto Maple Leaf were back in the dressing room doing 10 km sprints on stationary bikes. The rookies were relaxing, drinking juice. "Come on, let's show these goddamn kids," screamed mustachioed defenceman Brad Maxwell.
Head coach Dan Maloney was in his in his office, sizing up the 1985/86 Leafs for a sparse audience of only four reporters-only one from Toronto. At that precise moment, a dozen kilometres southwest at Exhibition Stadium, the Kansas City Royals were practising and there more local reporters on the field than players.
Imagine, only four reporters at a Leaf camp. Kind of makes today's expert intermission analysis of a split-squad game a bit of an over-kill. 


Monday, September 22, 2014

A Maple Leafs Fan and a Realist

Here we go again. 

Another year, another training camp, another season filled with hope for my Toronto Maple Leafs. It's been the same way every year for the last 50 seasons just about. The hope that this will be the season in which the Leafs finally climb the summit once again. Each and every season for the past 46 years, they have failed. As a realist I ask myself, is this season really going to be any different from the past? I doubt it.

I've been a die-hard Leafs fan since my childhood in the late 1970's and early '80's. I've seen a LOT of hope and potential come and go. From the potential arriving in the form of draft picks like Gary Nylund and Dan Hodgson, to the acquisition of my favourite Stastny brother, Marian. The drafting of Wendel Clark first overall brought excitement, as did the trade for Doug Gilmour six years later. The 1990's brought repeated deep playoff runs aided by electrifying goaltending from the likes of Felix Potvin and Curtis Joseph and yet still no payoff in the form of the ultimate goal. The last ten years has been pretty much a write-off. So where does that leave us Leaf fans as a new season approaches?


The current edition of the Maple Leafs sports a fair bit of hope and potential by way of Gardiner, Rielly, Kadri and some day maybe Nylander. There is excitement provided by Kessel and vanRiemsdyk, and Bernier and to some extent Reimer can at times be electrifying in net. This is where the realist in me has to step forward however.

Do the Leafs really have enough offense to compete with the big boys in the East and the even bigger boys in the West? Their defence core is adequate if not stellar, but their erratic play keeps them well below the level of Boston or New York. The goaltending has the potential (there's that word again) to be the strength of this team, but is it comparable to that of Boston, New York or even Montreal? Even the most optimistic Leaf fan would have to say no.

So, realistically the only real chance the Leafs have to even make it to a Stanley Cup Final would be a series of fortunate events in their favour and their star players all getting hot at the right time, the way Montreal did last season before their luck turned. Is that enough to keep a fan going for another year? Apparently so. 

Why do I and many others follow each and every game with such passion when deep down we have to know the reality of our chances? I wish I knew the answer, but for me it comes down to the tought that if the Leafs ever did indeed climb that mountain after almost 50 years (so far)...it will be that much sweeter having hung on through the whole ride. I know it's not likely, but I damn well am not packing it all in now. One of these years the have to get it right, don't they?


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