Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Maple Leaf Cup of Coffee; Bill Burega


Bashin' Bill on the Toronto Maple Leafs blue line in the 1950's. The first thought is this is a reference to Bill Barilko the great young defender who perished in a plane crash in 1951. However, there was another Bashin' Bill...Burega, who had but a mere cup of coffee with the big club in 1955. Over these, his only four NHL games Bill Burega collected his only point, an assist and four minutes in penalties.

"Booger", another of Burega's nicknames was by all rights a poor-man's Barilko. Five years younger than Barilko, Burega was cut from the same cloth as a legitimate hard-checking defenceman, ending up in near the top of the penalty minute parade in every league he played. He was an inch taller and slightly heavier than Barilko but lacked the offensive talents of Barilko who scored at least  five goals in each full NHL season he played. While Barilko was scoring the winning goal for the 1951 Stanley Cup, 19 year-old Burega was helping his junior Winnipeg Monarchs make the Memorial Cup Finals only to lose to Barrie.

Burega turned pro in 1952/53, playing for the Glace Bay Miners in the Maritime Major League before joining the Maple Leafs organization in September 1953. He would bounce between Ottawa and Quebec of the QHL, Pittsburgh Hornets of the AHL and Winnipeg Warriors of the WHL. It was the fall of 1955 when he was really noticed by the Leaf brass, putting him on the radar for promotion to the big club. 

Canadian Press - Sept.16, 1955
Bill Burega continued as No.1 man on the Leaf thump parade.The first day in camp Burega collided with Bob Baun. Burega was cut for four stitches and Baun eight. The rugged Pittsburgh Hornet, making his second bid as a permanent Leaf, handed out at least five crushing body-checks causing smiles to the faces of general manager Hap Day and coach King Clancy.

Again, a month later his aggressive play was noted in the press.

Quebec Chronicle - Oct. 15, 1955
In an exhibition game played in Winnipeg, featuring the New York Rangers versus the Winnipeg Warriors, Bill Burega, blueline operator for the Warriors caused the New Yorkers considerable consternation with his bulling tactics on the Warrior blueline, especially opposing defencemen Jack Evans and Lou Fontinato. This caused Ranger coach Phil Watson to comment, "That Burega ain't wild, he's crazy!" Bashin' Bill will be the object of a lot of comments before the season is very old. 

In the new year of 1956  Burega was called up as an injury replacement on the Maple Leafs blue line. The boxscore of his only NHL point is below, a helper on Earl Balfour's goal with three minutes left in a 6-5 loss to the New York Rangers on January 14, 1956.

He was returned to Winnipeg for the remainder of the campaign and helped them to the Western League Championship, his third in three seasons (Quebec Aces 53/54, Pittsburgh Hornets 54/55 also). Burega played one last AHL season with Buffalo in 1956/57 (below) before playing his last six years in the Western League, finishing his pro career with Vancouver in 64/65. Burega continued at the Senior level mainly with the Kingston Aces of the OHA before hanging up the blades for good in 1970.




Saturday, August 30, 2014

Norm Ullman's First Professional Goal


Here's a gem I found on ebay this week. It's a puck that was said to used by Hall of Famer Norm Ullman to notch his first ever professional hockey goal in 1953. The link to it can be found here. The listing says the puck comes from Ullman's personal collection and has carved onto it "N.Ullman First Pro Goal" as well as "Dec. 29th, 1953" with the "3" backwards. 



The puck apparently comes with a certificate of authenticity. I managed to find the boxscore of this game and low and behold, there's Ullman with his goal. He was called up on an emergency basis from the junior Edmonton Oil Kings in the midst of a 56 goal, 101 point season. His goal was assisted by team leading scorer Enio Sclisizzi and Don Poile. This was Ullman's only pro game of 1953/54 before returning for a full campaign the next. He would collect 59 points in 60 games in 54/55 before finally graduating to the NHL and the parent Detroit Red Wings. 

A pretty cool piece of hockey history.




Thursday, August 21, 2014

Glenn Hall, Playmaker



I was watching a bit of the NHL Network's Pioneers series a few days ago. It was a half hour bio/interview with Mr. Goalie, Glenn Hall. Near the end of it, I saw this...

http://youtu.be/QcteEVEyhnI?list=UUkoJHSS6M7nvYPWGN6TIIbw

It was shown without any description or reference to it, simply a highlight of Hall's career. I just had know what the heck was going on in this clip. From what I could derive, the game took place on February 16, 1969 when Minnesota visited St. Louis and the Blues won 6-0.
At the start, Hall is seen bolting from the net on what can only be assumed is a delayed-penalty on Minnesota.
As the Blues defender (Barclay Plager) clears the zone, Minnesota's Bill Goldsworthy stabs at it and pokes it directly into Hall's path.
Hall takes the opportunity, and skates with the puck for a bit. Knowing he'd be penalized for handling the puck past the centre line, he dishes the puck to teammate Terry Crisp.
#12 Terry Crisp turns the North Star defender inside out (it may be #10 Ray Cullen on a backcheck).
He then beats North Star goaltender Garry Bauman with a fairly long shot. 
Crisp then celebrates with Red Berenson.

To top it all off, this goal was a shorthanded marker. The boxscore shows the goal as follows;

STL : Crisp 5 (Hall, Plager Ba) (SH) 9:38 

An extremely rare first assist for a goaltender. Hall recorded only three assists with St. Louis and only 10 over his entire career, but at least one of them was a real beauty.


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;

http://nitzyshockeyden.blogspot.ca/2013/11/194849-hockey-album.html

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.

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