Sunday, September 28, 2008

1976 Canada Cup, Orr vs. Potvin

Pictured is the book I picked up while in Toronto last month. It was published in 1976 right after the first ever Canada Cup tournament. The book is just loaded with photos, text (by Scott Young) and Game Summaries for each game. The ’76 Canada Cup was an attempt by Hockey Canada and Alan Eagleson to capture once again the magic that was the ’72 Summit Series. Canada, of course won the tourney, beating the Czechs in the final on Sittler’s OT goal.
The tournament was basically the swan-song for one Robert Gordon Orr, as he was returning from yet another knee operation. His 1975-76 season had consisted of a mere 10 games and an amazing 18 points. He didn’t actually arrive to Canada’s training camp until two weeks in, he remained at his Parry Sound hockey school easing the knee back into shape on his own. Orr would excel throughout the tournament being awarded the MVP and placing on the All-Star Team along with Sweden’s Borje Salming.
Recently while sitting around the hockey dressing room, one of my friends challenged that Denis Potvin may have outplayed Orr in the ’76 Canada Cup, (this pal of mine is a huge Islanders fan). After he was ridiculed for blasphemy by all present, I thought I’d look into it further.
Having this fantastic book as a resource for each and every game allowed me to really analyse the argument. At first glance, Potvin does actually seem at least equal to Orr, each leading Canada with 9 points in the 7 games. Potvin actually beats Orr in +/- rating, 10 to 8, and +5 to +1 in the two final round games. Hmmm, we may be on to something here.
I decided to create a pointing system for each goal or assist scored depending on how important the tally was. Points scored in the 3rd period are obviously more valuable than points in the first, unless of course the first period point stands up as a winner. Scoring during the later stages of the tournament is more important than scoring in preliminary round routs. What follows is the rating system I came up with.

I believe the assigned point weighting is both fair and accurate. Next, I went game by game for the top defensemen in the tourney; Orr, Potvin, Salming, Jiri Bubla and Alexander Gusev.
Both Orr with 3 assists and Potvin with a goal and assist started off well in an 11-2 romp over Finland. Each of their points worth only one point in my scoring system. Game two, a 4-2 win over USA saw Orr earn assists on each of the first two goals in the first period and 4 rating points. Potvin assisted on the 3-0 goal. The 4-0 win over Sweden saw Potvin shutout and Orr assisting on the last goal.
In the meantime Salming was leading Sweden to a win over the US and a suprise tie with the Russians. He tallied a total of 5 points though the first 4 games before scoring two power-play goals in the 3rd period to beat the Czechs 2-1. These 7 points give him 20 rating points over the 5 games in which he played.
The fifth game for Canada was a do or die against the Russians. Potvin assisted on two big goals in the first period of the 3-1 win earning 10 rating points in the process. Game one of the finals versus the Czechs saw Orr score 2 goals and a helper with Potvin tallying one of each in a 6-0 win for Canada.
The final game, the 5-4 OT win for Canada saw Potvin assist on the first two goals with Orr not registering a point. In the end Potvin's 9 points translate to 27 rating points while Orr's 9 give him 14 points. At the very least, Potvin should have been a tournament All-Star with Orr, this however bumps Salming, and his 20 rating points. Perhaps Orr was more of a sentimental pick as most knew his career was pretty much done. He would, of course, only play 26 more games over the next three seasons tallying 29 points. See the follwing chart for final numbers for the top defenseman.

Reggie Dunlop 1925-2008

Not you coach...
Let's all pause and have a moment for Ol' Reg.
Pictured above is one of my many stills from Slap Shot, showing Coach Reggie sitting in the study of esteemed writer Dickie Dunn. In this scene he's planting the story of the Florida sale. "Dickie, they've already built the rink!", he implores the gullible scribe.

Here we see Reggie getting a phone call from Suzanne Hanrahan, we all know were that leads. This is right after Morris has asked if "anyone has been to The Palm Isles in this town?" Apparently Morris had a nice time with the barmaid last time.

Newman had stated that this was one of the favourite roles of his career. Even though he really couldn't skate all that well, and was 51 at the time of filming, he pulled it off. That's what great actors do.

That reminds me Reg, I was coaching in Omaha in 1948 and Eddie Shore sends me this guy...........but, we'll leave it at that for now.

You'll be missed coach.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

1979 Gretzky WHA Magazine

"He Signs! He Scores!"....I'll say, this is one of the more rare Gretzky covers I own. The Saint John's Edmonton Report was a regional magazine geared more towards business. He is pictured doing a cute little jump-step against the Stingers of Cincinnati featuring Mike Gartner, Robbie Ftorek, Mike Liut and a young punk named Mark Messier.This is the Feb. 9, 1979 issue right after the Wayner signed a contract on his 18th birthday.
Peter Pocklington, being the astute businessman he was (to go with his arseholery) had foresight in signing Gretz to a 'personal services' contract. He knew that when the WHA would soon to be absorbed into the NHL, most contracts would be voided. A personal services deal would bypass that and keep him his property. He was signed through to 1999 at ONE MILLION (Dr.Evil voice) dollars per year. The only caveat was a renegotiation option after 10 years....we all know where this lead.

1934 Leafs Wings Western Tour

About a year and a half ago I had a great garage sale find. It was a nicely kept box of each and every page of the Vancouver Sun from April 1934. Each original page was trimmed clean and kept in order. I bought it because on my initial look through the box I glanced the picture above on one of the pages. I took it home and started flipping through it, apparently the Leafs were in the midst of a western barnstorming tour with the Wings which would culminate at the Denman Arena in Vancouver. Seeing as I had recently joined the Society of International Hockey Research, (mainly as research and connections for my kids book) I figured I would write an article and submit it to their yearly journal. What follows is the actual published article for the journal which is distributed to all members, currently 354 worldwide. (sweet eh?)

ON APRIL, 5, 1934, the Vancouver Province reported plans for an NHL exhibition tour through western Canada. Toronto’s Conn Smythe had confirmed the tour via long-distance phone call with the Vancouver Gyro Social Club. The games would take place in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Trail, British Columbia. The charity series would pit Smythe’s Maple Leafs against a reinforced Stanley Cup finalist Detroit Red Wings. Five Wings regulars were unable to make the trip, which prompted the addition of three Western Canada-born players: Chicago star Paul Thompson, Montreal Maroon Baldy Northcott, New York American Art Chapman, plus Ottawa Senator Flash Hollet and the entire top line of the IHL’s Detroit Olympics.
The Leafs of 1933-34 had finished the season with the league’s best record of 61 points in 48 games. They had lost in a hard-fought semifinal to the Red Wings by a score of 1-0 in the fifth and deciding game. During the season, they had tallied an amazing 174 goals, five shy of the league record at the time and 54 goals better than any other team that year. They were led by the legendary Kid Line of Charlie Conacher, Busher Jackson and JoePrimeau. King Clancy, Red Horner and 38-year-old goaltender George Hainsworth were the stalwarts on the defensive side. Primeau was unable to partake in the western tour, as he was fighting appendicitis.
The Wings had trailed the Leafs by only three regular seasonpoints, and at the time the tour was announced were in the midst of taking eventual champion Chicagoto a penultimate game in the Stanley Cup Finals. They were led by Larry Aurie, Ebbie Goodfellow, HerbieLewis and Wilf Cude, a young goalie from Wales who was trained in Western Canada.
Advance ticket sales for Vancouver could be ordered by mail for $1.60 (Boxes and Promenade), $1.05(Reserved Seats), or 80 cents (Rush Seats). 500 galleryseats would be available on game nights for 25 cents each. The Denman Arena was home that season to the Vancouver Lions of the North West Hockey League, a minor professional league. The arena would burn to the ground just over two years later in August 1936.
On April 12 at 10:30 pm the teams boarded the train from Toronto to Winnipeg. They arrived in the ‘Peg on the morning of the 14th, and played that evening.
Saturday, April 14:Toronto 12, Detroit 8 at Winnipeg Amphitheatre
The first game was tight early on, with the Leafs holding a 2-1 advantage after one frame. However, after two periods,the score was 9-6 in the Leafs’ favour, and it finished 12-8. The Wings had been reinforced by the Leafs’ Charlie Sands and Alex Levinsky, who had just been traded to the Rangers. Busher Jackson notched a hat trick and five points while Conacher tallied four points.

Monday, April 16:Detroit 9, Toronto 8 (OT) at Winnipeg Ampitheatre
The second game proved to be quite evenly played throughout, with Detroit leading 4-3 after one period. At the end of the second the match was tied at six apiece,and regulation time ended 8-8. Paul Thompson provided the Wings’ winning marker just over four minutes into extra time. This game was the only one in which Art Chapman appeared. He may have been a last minute addition to the Wings, as he was a Winnipeg native, and proved to be a fine choice, tallying two goals and two helpers. Even with 17 markers on the board, the goalies apparently were stellar, as reported in the Province:“They [Hainsworth and Cude] had no chance on any of the drives that went up on the score sheet.” Thompson’s winner came right after he had tied the match with two minutes on the clock. The Leafs’ Conacher notched a hat trick, as did Charlie Sands for the Wings, on loan from the Buds.
While traversing the country the NHL stars were welcomed by throngs of fans who just wanted to catch a glimpse of them. In Regina they were greeted by school children up before breakfast, in search of an autograph. In Lethbridge a crowd of 2,000 people turned up at the station for a mere look. During an hour stopover in Medicine Hat, the players were toured around town by the proud citizens. Farmers would come to outlying stations just to see the teams go through.
The touring NHL players certainly caused a stir wherever they stopped or passed through.
Wednesday, April 18:Toronto 8, Detroit 5 at Trail, BC
Prior to their arrival in Trail, the players were greeted by 400 fans in Nelson, BC. En route to Trail, the players left the comfort of their coach car and rode in the baggage car in order to gain better views of the Kootenay scenery. It was also reported that, “In the afternoon, the teams had a 15 minute workout, at which all the kiddies in Trail were admitted … there being no accommodation for them at night.”The packed Trail rink bore witness to another highscoring affair highlighted by King Clancy’s performance.“His rushes every time brought roars of ‘The King,’ ‘The King,’ and he was the spearpoint of dozens of attacks,”reported the Province. Clancy ended the match with three points and two penalties.
Upon their arrival on the coast via the Kettle Valley Railway, the party settled into the luxurious Hotel Vancouver. The players were treated to a wide range of events with an itinerary of luncheons, dinners, radio jamborees and a Sunday church service. One off-day featured the players being chauffeured up to Grouse Mountain Chalet for a “Stag dinner.” Most of the boys were set to try the numerous golf courses in the area. Word has it that Conn Smythe carded an 88 at Shaughnessy, and Charlie Conacher an 84 at Point Grey. Some of the lads it seemed were into the more basic joys as told by Bob Elson of the Province. “I was just about to ask Alex Levinsky how he was going to like the big town when he spotted Wilf Cude escorting two attractive young ladies out the front door. ‘My gosh,’ said Alex,‘it didn’t take him long…’ The last I saw of him, he was fast overtaking Mr. Cude and company.”
Saturday, April 21:Toronto 5, Detroit 5 (OT) at Denman Arena (Vancouver)
Prior to this game, Conn Smythe offered up a $500 prize to the team that won the three-game set in Vancouver. The legendary ex-Vancouver Millionaire, CycloneTaylor, served as referee. The ice was water-logged due to summer-like temperatures, and was the main cause of a lackluster first frame. The Wings led 1-0, but the fireworks were soon to come. The Leafs tallied the next four markers to hold a 4-1 advantage halfway through the third. The Wings battled hard, and equalized it with only 1:26 to play. Overtime proved just as entertaining; LarryAurie gave the Wings the lead two minutes in, and Red Horner salvaged the tie for the Leafs with a last-minute tally. Referee Taylor singled out Herbie Lewis, Hec Kilrea, Conacher and Jackson as standouts in the affair.
Monday, April 23:Detroit 8, Toronto 4 at Denman Arena (Vancouver)
Game two in Vancouver featured far superior ice conditions, in part due to arena staff operating sprinklers on the roof during the day. This kept the interior of the rink cooler and made the ice harder. The Wings reciprocated Toronto’s 4-1 lead from the previous game, but the Leafs could not counter. Detroit pulled away to win 8-4, led by the stellar play of goaltender Cude.
Thursday, April 26:Toronto 7, Detroit 5 at Denman Arena (Vancouver)
The headline said it all, “Toronto’s Hefty Machine Goes Into High Gear.” The final score was flattering to theWings, as the Leafs held a 7-3 lead in the third. Conacher finished off Toronto’s scoring with a natural hat trick. A scoreless ten minute overtime to determine a series winnerwas played to no conclusion. The Province commented,“… the only thing that remains to be settled is which team wins Conn Smythe’s $500 which he offered for the winner of the series. Both teams won a game, tied the other.”
In the end, Conn Smythe was greatly impressed with the reception the players received across the country. He told Bob Elson of the Province, “You know, we had heard all about this – the interest the radio broadcasts had aroused – but we didn’t realize what hockey really meant to Canada.”
There you have it, my first ever published hockey research.

Worst All-Star Ever

The worst All-Star selection ever, no I don't mean selection to the mid-season game where 40 guys are picked. Lots of players have been put on those teams on the basis of half a good season which basically amounted to their career highlight, (1982 Leaf D-Man Bob Manno). I'm talking the First and Second league-wide All-Stars selected after each season since 1930-31.

At a quick glance it seems the first ten or so years of post season all-star teams are littered with non-descript, middling defensmen. Ivan "Ching" Johnson of the Rangers made four straight teams including a First Team in '32 while racking up 13 points in 47 games. Habs Sylvio Mantha was a second teamer in '31 and '31 with 11 and 10 points respectively. Cy Wentworth and Art Coulter, (see what I mean about non-descript) made up the 1934-35 Second team D-Line with 13 and 12 points each in 48 games. I know, I know...different era. Eddie Shore and King Clancy were about the only two even remotely offensive defenders and were pretty much a lock for each years post season stars. About the only real ommission would have to be the '35 team not including rookie Leaf, Flash Hollet who had 10 goals and 26 points. He was second in defense scoring to only Shore, I suppose there was a thinking that the 'rooks' had to earn their stripes. Hollet would go on to set the record for defenseman goals ten years later with 20.

The '40's offer some more defense All-Star selections on the weak side. Guys like Jack Stewart, Butch Bouchard and Ken Reardon garnering spots while never scoring more than 16 points. Perhaps their greatest asset was size, all pushing 6ft and at least 180 lbs, when most forwards were much smaller than that. There really were no other choices for defense all-stars other than the big bulls that did their job effectively.

1949-50 has two poor selections starting with Leaf Gus Mortson as a First Team defender with three goals and 17 points in 67 games. Bill Gadsby and his 35 points apparently wasn't enough to take a spot on even the second squad. Ranger left winger, Tony Leswick and his 44 points took a second spot behind Ted Lindsay while Terrible Ted's team mate Sid Abel and his 34 goals and 69 points was shut out.

1953-54 perhaps saw the worst numbers for a First and Second team centre. Montreal's Ken Mosdell somehow 'earned' a First team nod with 46 points in 67 games and Leafs Teeder Kennedy was second with 38 (!) points in 67 matches. In fact there really wasn't much to pick in the way of centres in an era dominated by Wingers Howe, Richard, Lindsay, Geoffrion.

Most of these examples could not really be labelled "worst all-star ever", just all-stars with not the greatest numbers from fairly weak crops of positions. We have to jump all the way to 1973-74 to get truely egregious selection.

Now I don't really like dumping on one-eyed, dead guys but....the Flyers Barry Ashbee as a second team selection that year was brutal. Ashbee, 34 and in his fourth season had just tallied his lowest points in a year with 17 in 69 games, all be it with a nice +54 plus/minus rating. In the second round of the Flyers run to the Cup he was hit in the eye by a deflected puck and never played again....he would be dead in three years form lukemia as well. Like I said, dont want to throw him under the bus, but come on....That season defensemen who were more deserving;
rookie Denis Potvin with 54 pts, Guy LaPointe 53 pts, Carol Vadnais 59 pts, Dick Redmond 59 pts and even Ashbee's team mate Tom Bladon with 34 pts.

Along those lines, Jim Schoenfeld's 79-80 second team nod was a bit of a slight to the very under-rated Red Wing, Reed Larson who had 22 goals and 66 points. Larson was in a run of scoring at least goals in five straight years, and never did garner a post season all-star. Also deserving that year Barry Beck, Ron Greschner and Doug Wilson each having at least 58 points.

That brings us to my selection of worst all-star ever....Mr. Brian Engblom of the Habs. He was second teamer that year over 3 (three!) point-a-game defenseman; John Van Boxmeer, Craig Hartsburg and Randy Carlyle. Sure, sure he was an all-round defender, he did things that didn't show up on the stat sheet....that's great, I'm really proud of him. In my mind, an all-star DOES things that show up on the stat sheet. That's the same bogus thinking that won Rod Langway consecutive Norris Trophy's soon thereafter. I hate "stay-at-home" defensemen, I wish they would heed the advice of their nickname, we don't need you.

Now, as for Rod Langway who went with Engblom to Washington the next season, how he won those Norris's over Coffey, Bourque, Potvin or Mark Howe is beyond me. Great, he had long reach and was born in Taiwan....was it his well kept moustache? We'll never know.
I'l give him an all-star spot each of those years, but the year after his last Norris, 84-85, he snagged another second team slot with a measley 4 goals and 26 pts. At least in the two previous years he was ripping it up with point totals in the low 30's.'re telling me he was more deserving than Potvin's 68 points or Scott Stevens 65.

On the same lines, Brad McCrimmon really pulled a heist when he got second team honours in 87-88. He joined the deserving Bourque, Stevens and Gary Suter. Where was Coffey that year, in his first season with the Pens, playing only 46 games due to injury. He still scored 67 points, a 117 full season pace. You may say, 'he only played 46 games though', tough 1967-68 a gentleman named Robert Gordon Orr was a first teamer AND Norris trophy winner while scoring 31 points in, you guessed it 46 games played.

To conclude, I'd love to pick Barry Ashbee as the worst all-star ever, but my conscience wont let me....sorry Brian Engblom.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hockey's Most Gentlemanly Star

I recently had a request for an article on Dave Keon from a pal who worships him as much as I do Gretz. I do not own the magnificently crafted patch pictured above, but as soon as I discovered it's existence, I NEED it. Keon was always known as one of the most gentlemanly superstars of all-time. In looking at his career numbers, it’s hard to argue that fact.

Keon tallied nearly 1000 NHL points while serving only 117 PIMs. In the WHA he was an even cleaner skater with 291 Pts and 20 PIMs. I figured dividing Points by PIM would give a good idea of a players’ cleanliness. I’ll call it a Byng Rating after the trophy. Keon’s NHL Byng Rating is 8.42 Pts/PIM, his WHA 14.45, overall a combined 9.92 Byng. The idea is to see how this stands up against other superstars over the history of the game. I decided to take the top 100 Point scorers in NHL history as an initial source of superstars. This list will take us from The Great One all the way down to Ivan Boldirev at 866 Pts.

Some of my initial hunches to have a high Byng number didn’t even come close to Keon. Mike Bossy at 5.36, Gretz 4.95, Rick Middleton 6.29, Jean Ratelle 4.62, Lafleur 3.39 and Pierre Turgeon at 2.94 Pts/PIM. Then I ran the numbers for Butch Goring. 888 Pts and 102 PIMs gives a Byng of 8.71, just besting Keon's NHL mark. I then went to the all-time list of Lady Byng Trophy winners to round out my list.

Bobby Bauer of the famed Kraut Line checks in with a 7.22 rating and Leaf great Syl Apps a 7.71 Byng…Keon and Goring still in the lead. Digging deeper turned up two Byng Trophy winners with exceptional career Byng ratings. Buddy O’Connor of the 1940’s Habs and Rangers has a career 11.68 Pts/PIM and Clint Smith of the same era Rangers and Blackhawks has a career 16.54 Byng Rating. Smith tallied 397 points in 483 career games with a miniscule 24 PIM, only serving as much as 6PIM in one season. The question may be posed, are these guys considered “stars” let alone superstars?

Buddy O’Connor actually won the 1948 Hart Trophy and had three top-four finishes in assists. In addition, he was named Canada's athlete of the year for '48. I think anyone who has ever won an MVP in any league could be considered a star….even Lindros or Theodore. Clint Smith’s credentials are even more sparkling. He had four top-five point finishes over eight years, topping out with 72 points in 50 games in 1944. That same year he set the record for most assists in a season with 49. Oh yeah, both fellas are enshrined in hockey's hall of fame. Pretty, pretty good.

To answer the initial query, Dave Keon is ONE of the most gentlemanly superstars ever, but not tops in my rankings. My vote goes to Clint Smith.
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