Thursday, September 11, 2008

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.

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