Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Eve 1967; Fifth-String Goalie Al Smith Plays

From the Canadian Press: December 30, 1966 the headline reads "Newest Toronto game is naming the goalie."
"Terry Sawchuk is still out with back trouble and Johnny Bower is acting as referee in practices until his broken right hand heals. Punch Imlach says he won't know until later today which of his far-flung goalies will be called up. Bower's replacement could be Gary Smith of Rochecter Red Wings or his teammate, Bobby Perrault. Al Smith of Victoria Maple Leafs is another consideration as is Al Millar of Tulsa Oilers and Bob Whidden of the Toronto Marlboros junior club."

Johnny Bower's hand was broken a few days prior when he stopped a Frank Mahovlich slapshot in practice and Sawchuk had been sidelined since Dec. 8. Third goalie, Bruce Gamble was ruled out for the New Year's eve game against Chicago after taking a Jim Pappin shot in the face during practice a day after Bower was injured. Luckily Gamble was wearing a mask.

Ultimately it was Al Smith called up to take on the Black Hawks, he had played parts of two games with Toronto the previous season allowing two goals in 62 minutes of play. He would however not fare so well against the high-flying Hawks on New Year's Eve 1967. Ken Wharam and Doug Mohns scored in the first followed by Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito before Pappin made it 4-1 after two periods. Dennis Hull rounded out the 5-1 win as Chicago fired 35 total shots at Smith. Gamble was able to return the following day, kicking out 42 shots as Toronto beat the Rangers 2-1.

Al Smith was sent back to Victoria for the remainder of the year where he finished with a 24-26-5 record and a 3.20 GAA. He worked his way through the Leaf farm system playing in Tulsa in 67/68 and Rochester in 68/69 before being claimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Intra-League draft. He went on to play 233 NHL games as well as 260 WHA games with the New England Whalers.His 3.25 career GAA in the World Hockey Association ranks as the best all-time in that circuit.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day 1991, Pens 12 - Leafs 1

Twenty-one years ago today, Leaf call-up Kevin Maguire opened the scoring in Pittsburgh. Maguire, known more for his toughness notched the first goal of the game with an assist to Todd Gill. It was all downhill from there for the Leafs and goalie Grant Fuhr. Pittsburgh scored the next TWELVE goals to win 12-1.

Fuhr was aerated for all 12 goals making only 20 saves on 32 shots in the worst game of his career. It was far from his fault alone. Daniel Marois and ex-Pen, Mike Bullard were minus six on the evening and Peter Zezel clocked a minus five. As for Pittsburgh, the usual suspects were doing most of the damage as Mario Lemieux had 2 goals and 7 points. Joe Mullen potted 4 goals for the second consecutive game and also had 2 helpers, Kevin Stevens tallied 2 goals and 6 points as well. Second-year Jaromir Jagr chipped in a pair of goals to the onslaught.

The debacle in Pttsburgh may have been the final straw, and the catalyst for a major trade for Toronto. After losses to Detroit and Quebec, on January 2, Toronto General Manager Cliff Fletcher pulled the trigger on the biggest trade in team history. Sitting with a record of 10-25-5, the boss proceeded to fleece the Calgary Flames andin the process turn around a franchise. Fletcher aquired Doug Gilmour, Jamie Macoun, Ric Nattress, Kent Manderville and Rick Walmsley for Gary Leeman, Alex Godynyuk, Jeff Reese, Michel Petit and Craig Berube.

Gilmour would score 49 points in 40 games after the trade while Toronto pulled out of the doldrums to finish the season at a 20-18-2 clip. The Leafs fell three points shy of the playoffs, but would be serious contenders for years after.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Spengler Cup, Canada Primed and Ready

No NHL hockey until at least mid-January means pumped up rosters for not only the World Juniors, but also the prestigous Spengler Cup tournament. Canada will be sending perhaps it's best sqauad ever to to Davos, Switzerland. The NHL stars that will be wearing the maple leaf starting December 26 are as follows:
(current Euro league stats GP-G-A-P)

Tyler Seguin (Biel)    27-24-14-38

John Tavares (Bern)    23-16-22-38

Patrice Bergeron (Lugano) 19-11-17-28

Jason Spezza (Rapperswil)   26-9-17-26

Jason Williams (Ambri-Piotta) 29-11-12-23

Jason Demers (Karpat FIN)   30-5-16-21

Matt Duchene (Frolunda FIN)  20-4-10-14

Sam Gagner (Klagenfurter) 18-10-8-18

Cam Barker (Texas AHL) 23-3-5-8

Also playing are Ryan Smyth and Carlo Colaiacovo who have not played anywhere this season.

The goaltenders for Canada are Jonathan Bernier who has played 13 games for Heilbronner Falken of the German Second Division with a 2.57 GAA and Devan Dubnyk who has yet to play this year.

Ex-NHLers on the squad and currently playing in Europe are:

Byron Ritchie (Bern)   30-13-22-35

Josh Holden (Zug) 30-10-10-20

Brett McLean (Lugano) 31-7-16-23

Derrick Walser (Rapperswil) 10-0-4-4

Travis Roche (Bern) 16-2-11-13

Of course, the other teams at the Spengler Cup will also benefit from the lockout as host Davos will have their share of NHL stars:

Joe Thornton 28-7-22-29
Rick Nash      17-12-6-18
and Patrick Kane added from Biel (15-9-8-17).

Mannheim Eagles boast Dennis Seidenberg (23-1-13-14) and Marcel Goc (16-3-13-16).

Vitkovice HC has NHL defenders Roman Polak(22-2-6-8) and Filip Kuba (11-0-4-4).

Personally, I will definitely be checking out some Spengler action to go with the World Juniors. Should tide me over until mid-January, after that, if there's still no NHL I guess it's back to National Geographic documentaries for me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

This Day in 1980's Leaf History; Dec. 12, 1984

Sick of waiting for the asses of the NHL and PA to solve their seemingly minuscule differences, I'm going to delve into a topic near and dear to my heart...the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1980's. Why this time period? The Leafs of the 80's were awful. They never had more than 71 points in a season and won only two playoff series. But, this was my childhood and for some reason I still loved them. In lieu of looking at current NHL hockey, let's look at this day in 1980's Leaf history; a decade of crap.

"No Joke-Leafs Now Worst Team" exclaimed the headline by the Canadian Press on December 12, 1984. The Vancouver Canucks had won their second in a row the previous night to climb ahead of Toronto and out of the NHL's basement. The Leafs 4-19-5 record was one point behind the Canucks.

In an attempt to break their 10-game winless streak, Toronto called up their second new goaltender of the week. Rick St.Croix was summoned from St.Catherines of the AHL and sent 20 year-old Allan Bester down. Just a few days before, Toronto re-called Tim Berhardt and sent Ken Wregget to the farm.

With the Leafs struggling as they were, the Gardens faithful had recently taken to donning paper-bags on their heads and chanting, "We want Albert". This was a nod to the popular Canadian Tire commercial of the time in which a player rises to stardom after being shunned on the pond as a child.
Check it out below.

Man, that brings back memories. I'm still not sure why Albert wore his first name on his sweater's nameplate. Anyway, the Leafs sure could have used a player like Albert.

St.Croix and the Leafs would surprise the second overall Philadelphia Flyers on this night with a 6-3 victory, prompting paper-bags to be thrown aside for the moment. The Flyers would lead 2-0 after one before the Leafs finally woke up. Peter Ihnacak potted two and Stewart Gavin one as the Leafs scored three on 18 shots against Pelle Lindbergh. Bill Derlago, Mirko Frycer and Gavin with his second rounded out the Leaf 6-3 win.

Alas, the chants for "Albert" and the bag-headed fans returned soon after as Toronto dropped 11 of the next 12. By January 10, they possessed a record of 6-30-5 for 17 points. At this point they were fully entrenched in the league basement, 8 behind Vancouver. They finished the season with 48 points, still last overall. They would draft their "Albert", Wendel Clark  with the first overall pick in 1985.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

When Toronto Was So Bad, the NHL Cancelled the Season

Recently, in looking at the various seasons of nonsense that my Toronto Maple Leafs put forward during the 1980's, I realized their worst single year didn't actually take place in that decade. The worst season in Maple Leaf history wasn't suffered by a squad known as the Maple Leafs even. It came in 1918/19, the second year of the National Hockey League, when the Toronto franchise was known as the Arenas. Sure the 1980's gave us four of the five worst seasons in club history, but they were all slightly better percentage-wise than the 1918/19 campaign. In this season, Toronto won 5 games, lost 13 and things got so bad for the Arenas that by February of the 18/19 season, they offered to withdraw from the league to enable Ottawa and Montreal to start their playoff earlier. Ultimately, Toronto was so bad that the NHL ended it's season early.

The Toronto Arenas of 1918 were coming off a year in which they finished tied atop the newly incorporated National Hockey League with the Montreal Canadiens. Toronto bested Montreal in the NHL Finals by a total goal count of 10 to 7. They went on to host the Vancouver Millionaires in the Stanley Cup Finals winning by 3 games to 2. The defence of the Cup the following season did not start off very well, and got worse from there.

Toronto opened the campaign on December 23 with a 4-3 loss at home to the Canadiens. The headlines in The Toronto World newspaper read; "Canadiens Waltz Away With Opener". Toronto did apparently carry the play for most of the match and led 3-2 with five minutes to play when Jack MacDonald, then Newsy Lalonde notched goals to steal the victory. Arenas goal-keeper Hap Holmes was "the bright shining light for the locals. He played in midseason form and turned aside a dozen shots that looked dangerous". Toronto defender Harry Mummery had wired from Brandon that he was suffering in the hospital with the flu and expected to arrive in Toronto about Jan. 1. According to The World, even at this early stage of the season, "He is needed".

Game two for Toronto was played on Boxing Day in Ottawa. Before 6,000 fans and they were bested by the speedy Senators 5-2.  They would fall to 0 and 3 with a 6-3 loss in Montreal on Dec 28, a game that featured new goaltender Bert Lindsay. Previous year's Cup winning goalie Hap Holmes had bolted for the west coast and his former team the Seattle Metropolitans. Holmes had played two previous years for Seattle, winning the first Stanley Cup for an American squad in 1917. Apparently it only took two losses for Holmes to see what was in store that year in Toronto. Bert Lindsay (Terrible Ted's father) was signed as a free agent on December 28, 1918 to take over the goaltending duties.

Toronto won it's first match on New Years Eve, beating Ottawa 4-2. They then proceeded to lose the next three straight, culminating with a 13-4 loss in Montreal on January 11 to fall to a 1 and 6 record. The headlines after the latest debacle proclaimed; "Blueshirts Given a Sound Trouncing, Canadiens Win Uninteresting Match in Montreal". The article described the play of the game, "The Toronto forwards and defence played far below their standard, and left the greater portion of the work to be done by Goalkeeper Lindsay. He was unequal to the whole job, and the blue shirted players were given a sound trouncing...Lalonde was the outstanding player in the game, he scored four goals and retired at the conclusion of the second period and witnessed the final twenty minutes from the stand."

The destruction at the hands of the Canadiens seemed to awake the Toronto squad as they won the next two matches at home, 5-2 over Ottawa and a return routing of Montreal 11-3 on January 21. The headline in The World for this game was particularly descriptive; "Listless Frenchies Beaten Eight Goals." According to the game report, "Newsy Lalonde was not with the visitors, and without him it was a team that could do nothing right. The Montrealers played as if they didn't care how soon it was over. About four thousand fans viewed the contest and were pleased with the local win, but were not taken with what was offered by the Frenchies." The paper continued with talk of legendary Georges Vezina's game,"Eleven goals against Vezina is something to talk about. It will hardly be seen again, and this was one of the sweet pills for the local fans to roll around in their mouths."

Unfortunately for Toronto, this would amount to the highlight of the season for them, as they would win only two of their final nine games. They reached rock-bottom on February 1 when they lost in Montreal by a score of 10-0. On this occasion, the newspaper was far more respectful in declaring; "Les Canadiens Turn Right Round and Wallop Toronto." In describing the affair they said,"The play was too one-sided to be interesting, Torontos playing like a lot of school boys against seniors."

After losing 9-3 in Ottawa on February 20, The Arenas were officially eliminated from playoff contention and their General Manager Charlie Querrie was asked if they "would disband after tonight's hockey game at Ottawa as was rumoured to be the case. He replied: 'We are willing to quit, or we are willing to continue to the end of the season - just whatever the league says. There are two games to be played here, and two away, but if we quit now the games at the coast could be played earlier.'  Upon hearing of Querrie's comments, 'The Ottawas immediately got in touch with President Calder and proposed the Ottawas and Canadiens should play four out of seven games to decide which club should go to the coast to play for the Stanley Cup.'

This is indeed what happened. Whereas the previous NHL season extended to March 6 and the following one went to March 13, the 1918/19 regular campaign had it's last game on February 20. So, instead of the 20 games each team played in the inaugural NHL season, and the 24 games in the third season the second season saw each team play only 18 games and also saw the first best of seven series in NHL history due to the ineptitude of Toronto. The NHL would go a full twenty years before reverting to the best of seven format in playoff competition in 1938/39.

When all was said and done, The Arenas technically withdrew from the NHL on Feb 20, 1919 only to be incorporated once again as The St.Patricks prior to the next season with much the same ownership group.  The Canadiens would best Ottawa by four games to one in the extended NHL Final and travel west to face Hap Holmes and Seattle. This series would be tied at two wins and a tie apiece before being cancelled due to the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1919.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

This Day in 1980's Leaf History; Dec. 1, 1988

Sick of waiting for the asses of the NHL and PA to solve their seemingly minscule differences, I'm going to delve into a topic near and dear to my heart...the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1980's. Why this time period? The Leafs of the 80's were awful. They never had more than 71 points in a season and won only two playoff series. But, this was my childhood and for some reason I still loved them. In lieu of looking at current NHL hockey, let's look at this day in 1980's Leaf history; a decade of crap.

Thursday, December 1, 1988; Bernie Nicholls goes off.
In front of 11,924 spectators at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, the Kings dismantle the Leafs by a score of 9-3. Bernie Nicholls counts EIGHT points in this cakewalk to assume the leadership in NHL scoring ahead of Mario Lemieux and teammate Wayne Gretzky.

Toronto came to the West Coast with a record of 11-13-1 and sat in second place of the Norris Division behind Detroit. The Kings, although they sat third in the Smythe with a 16-9-0 mark, had scored 133 goals in 25 games; a full 18 goals more than any other NHL squad. Their fire power would be on full display this evening.

Bobby Carpenter, Dave Taylor and Luc Robitaille scored in the first, all with helpers from Nicholls to give L.A. a 3-0 lead. Taylor (from Nicholls) and Bernie himself scored before the game was half over and Vinny Damphousse got the Leafs on the board. Nicholls tallied a shorthanded goal to make it 6-1 after two and give him six points on the night. He would increase that to eight points and the Kings had a 9-1 lead when Daniel Marois and Danny Daoust scored meaningless goals in the last 1:07 of the game. Final score 9-3, Glenn Healy stopped 25 of 28 shots for the win, while Kenny Wregget was aerated for nine goals on 39 shots. Leaf d-man Rick Lanz was a minus five on the day, while King Steve Duchesne was plus six.

The big night for Bernie leap-frogged him over Mario and Wayne for the NHL scoring lead with 63 points in 26 matches. Lemieux stood at 61 (in 22 games) and Gretz at 60. Mario was just getting rolling though, as he ended December with 43 points in 14 games, while Nicholls put up 30 points. By the All-Star break in February Lemieux had wrestled full control of the NHL scoring lead away from Nicholls and Gretzky as he sat with 141 points in 51 games. Gretz was well back with 117 and Bernie was tied for third with Steve Yzerman with 113 points.

As for Toronto, General Manager Gord Stellick denied in the press that their next game in St.Louis two nights later would decide coach John Brophy's job status. Stellick said, "We've been having reports like that before every game for the last three weeks. I'm out of reactions." Toronto would of course lose to the Blues 3-0. It still took six more winless games however before Brophy was turfed and replaced with George Armstrong. Their 11-20-4 mark had dropped them to fourth in the Norris and "Army" couldn't do much more than Broph. They finished a slightly better 17-26-4 yet still fell to last by season's end, out of the playoffs again. Both Stellick and Armstrong were gone by the next season.

Rookie Wayne Gretzky; The 15th Best Centre in NHL

Check out what I found in this old hockey magazine (Sports Special Hockey, Spring 1980). It was published in the fall of 1979, just as Wayne Gretzky was beginning his NHL career after a season in the WHA. Conventional wisdom was that "The Kid" would have a difficult time adjusting to the rigors of the best league in the world.

The Centreman rating chart from this magazine was probably fairly indicative of how many in the hockey world felt about the 18 year-old wunderkind.
Very interesting rating system they came up with. I have no issue with Trottier being rated the NHL's best Centreman in the fall of 1979. Sittler, Dionne and Bobby Clarke in the top five work for me too...Ulf Nilsson ranked third though? Sure he'd scored 66 points in 59 games of his first NHL season the year prior after four straight years over 114 points in the WHA, but ranked higher than Dionne?

The rankings give perfect 5.0's to Nilsson in Passing, Stick-handling, Back-Checking and Skating. He scored lowest (3.5) at Durabilty and Corner play, both are apt. Trottier's lowest rank was a 4.0 in the Big Play category, a score which would surely be raised soon after as Trotts had yet to garner six Stanley Cup victories before he retired.

As for Gretz, he is scored no higher than 3.5 in any category (He got that in Passing, Stick-handling, Skating and Power Play) and was given a mere 2.5 in Durability and Strength in Front. I'm not sure how one rates the durability of an 18 year-old who has yet to play an NHL game, and in the end this would prove to be one of his strong suits.

Gretzky would soon start to make a mockery of these rankings as he would sit fifth in league scoring by the halfway point of the 1979/80 season. After 40 games Gretzky had notched an impressive 60 points, still 30 behind the amazing year Marcel Dionne was having. By the end of the season, Gretzky had made up the difference with 77 points in his final 39 games. Another guy to come into his own in the second half was fellow WHA grad, Hartford's Mike Rogers who didn't even make the top 15 centres in th chart above. Rogers would crank out 65 points in his final 40 games and finished fifth in NHL scoring proving the 'experts' wrong.

In the end, the chart proved to be nothing more than pre-season frivolity as guys who didn't even get ranked (Bernie Federko, Kent Nilsson, Pierre Larouche) out-performed most of the guys on the list. Gil Perreault was inexplicably ranked 12th among centres in the pre-season chart only to finish fourth in NHL points with 106. However, nobody was more slighted than Gretzky, who would go on proving critics wrong for 20 years.

Although, I belive it was the year after that Toronto writer Dick Beddoes said Gretzky would be no more than the fourth line centre on the late 1947/48 Leaf squad. This team featured Hall of Famers Syl Apps, Max Bentley and Teeder Kennedy down the middle. Maybe Dick had a point...however, that debate is for another time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

This Day in 1980's Leaf History; Nov. 25, 1987

Sick of waiting for the asses of the NHL and PA to solve their seemingly minscule differences, I'm going to delve into a topic near and dear to my heart...the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1980's. Why this time period? The Leafs of the 80's were awful. They never had more than 71 points in a season and won only two playoff series. But, this was my childhood and for some reason I still loved them. In lieu of looking at current NHL hockey, let's look at this day in 1980's Leaf history; a decade of crap.

On Wednesday Nov. 25, 1987 Toronto lost 5-3 at the New York Rangers to fall back to .500 for the last time that season. With a 10-10-2 record, they were actually still tied atop the (S)Norris Division with Chicago. The Leafs had scored 95 goals to that point, third most in the entire league.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for the Leafs was the play of 21 year old, fourth year defender Al Iafrate. Jumping to the NHL as an 18 year old and the fourth overall pick, "Skis" had seasons of 21, 33 and 30 points. He started 1987/88 on fire with 6 points and a +7 rating in the first two games of the season, and by this point in late November Iafrate had 12 goals, 9 assists and 21 points in 22 games. Even more impressive, he was a +17 rating.

However, it was all downhill for Iafrate and the Leafs after that. In the next 15 games before the New Year, Toronto went 4-9-2 and not coicidentally Iafrate cooled off with 2 goals and 8 points. Worse even, he was a -7 in those 15 games.
The second half of the season was even worse.

From January 1st onward, Iafrate's stats were 40-8-15-23 and an amazing MINUS 50 +/- rating.
Toronto stumled along at a 7-30-6 clip to finish with a dismal 52 points. This of course was good enough to snag a playoff spot in the Norris as Minnesota finished with 51 points.

The Leafs took on the first place Red Wings who had 93 points and the results were predicatable.
After surprising Detroit with a 6-2 win in game one, the Wings won 6-2, 6-3 and 8-0 at Maple Leaf Gardens in game four. The Leaf faithful were so disgusted with the latter performance they littered the ice with boos and garbage afterward promting Leaf Todd Gill to comment,"They can boo all they want, but when they start throwing things it gets scary. It's not very nice getting pop thrown in your face and having change bounce off your head."

The Leafs would steal a 6-5 overtime win in game five before dropping a 5-3 game to mercilessly end the 87/88 campaign.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

25 years ago today; Coffey traded to Pittsburgh

"It's not fair to the players who are working hard now to keep going if I can ice a better team by trading Paul." said Glen Sather, a few days before he actually did pull the trigger on a trade. New York Rangers, Detroit, St.Louis, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were the teams making serious pitches at Slats.
One report had the Red Wings ofering Adam Oates, two 1st-rounders and cash for Coffey. Detroit coach Jacques Demers was stunned by Edmonton's refusal. Another rumour was the Flyers offering Doug Crossman, Scott Mellanby and a 1st-round pick. Perhaps the craziest rumour was a three team trade involving Pittsburgh, Rangers and the Oilers wih the main players being James Patrick, Bob Froese and a Penguins 1st-rounder.
In the meantime, Coffey himself stayed in shape by skating with a Junior B team in Toronto. He and his agent, Gus Badali had begun their holdout mere minutes after Canada's victory over Russia in the Canada Cup on Sept. 15. They wanted the Oilers to renegotiate the last two years of Coffey's $325,000 contract. The demand was from between $600,000 and $800,000.

In the end, the deal went down as a seven player swap with the Pens, Edmonton getting Craig Simpson, Dave Hannan, Moe Mantha and Chris Joseph for Coffey, Dave Hunter and Wayne Van Dorp. Pens GM Bob Johnson proclaimed,"He's a world-class player. He's going to look great in black and gold."

Prior to his first game with Pittsburgh Penguin Doug Bodger said Coffey told him "Don't give me the puck too hard because I won't have my timing yet." After the match Bodger said,"Holy geez. I wonder what it's like when he does have his timing," as Coffey produced three assists in a 6-4 win over Quebec. He also had about 27 minutes of ice-time.

 At the time of the trade, Pittsburgh sat one point out of the playoffs with a 7-10-4 record, and Coffey would indeed help lead them over the .500 mark. They finished with 81 points yet still had fallen to sixth and last in the ultra competitive Patrick Division. Coffey would finish with 67 points in 46 games for Pittsburgh. The Oilers who were only point ahead of Calgary when the trade was made, finished in second place in the Smythe, but of course went on to win their fourth Stanley Cup in five years even without Coffey.

Monday, November 19, 2012

NHL Lockout is good for my mind.

I'm getting smarter by the week. I really believe that, and I have the NHL lockout to thank. With no hockey to dominate my television viewing, I have ample time for much more informative and educational programming.

The three games per week that I would usually watch translate into a good nine hours of quality time spent elsewhere. Last week for instance, instead of watching the Leafs lose to St. Louis and Pittsburgh I engaged myself in Nova on PBS and CBC's The Nature of Things. On top of that, being Remembrance Day week, National Geographic had a fascinating program called "Inside World War II".

So instead of lamenting another shoot-out defeat by the Leafs, David Suzuki informed me all about the lives and behaviours of urban squirrels. Rather than ruminating on why Randy Carlyle has not turned around the Penalty-Killing, I learned the intricacies of how NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars. Instead of wondering aloud about the "James van Riemsdyk playing Centre experiment", I was regaled with heart-wrenching stories from WWII veterans on National Geo.

With no NHL hockey, I also have no fantasy hockey or drafts to attend to. In lieu of running my draft at work or maintaining 4 separate Yahoo Fantasy Hockey teams, I have far more time for my Against the Spread NFL pool (in which I've already won a week in our 16 man pool) and I've also delved into the sordid world of Yahoo Fantasy Basketball (I actually won my first two head-to-head weeks).

As for getting my fix of Canadiana that the NHL usually provided, I have quite enjoyed TSN's CFL documentaries "Engraved on a Nation" and in the process learned about how the FLQ in Quebec affected the 1969 Grey Cup.

So, as it stands I'm really not missing NHL hockey at all, if anything I'm grateful for the free time that I'm using to broaden my mind. Thanks Gary and Donald. And if you could hold off on the negotiations for a while more, next week David Suzuki is going to teach me about evidence that Vikings were in the Arctic centuries before Columbus. Looking forward to it!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

This Day in 1980's Leaf History; Nov. 18, 1981

Sick of waiting for the asses of the NHL and PA to solve their seemingly minscule differences, I'm going to delve into a topic near and dear to my heart...the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1980's. Why this time period? The Leafs of the 80's were awful. They never had more than 71 points in a season and won only two playoff series. But, this was my childhood and for some reason I still loved them. In lieu of looking at current NHL hockey, let's look at this day in 1980's Leaf history; a decade of crap.

Wedsneday, November 18, 1981. Toronto rolls into the Hartford Civic Centre with a record of 5-9-3, last place in the Norris Division. The Leafs had however just beaten the Philadelphia Flyers at Maple Leaf Gardens by the score of 4-0 in their previous outing. The Whale was faring even worse than the Blue and White as they languished in the basement of the Adams Division at 2-8-7, a full 10 points behind fourth place Quebec. Despite their record, Toronto had surrendered only 3 more goals than they had scored to this point in the campaign, perhaps they were better than they had been showing.

Hartford sported a roster of ex-WHA stars Blaine Stoughton, Mark Howe, Paul Shmyr, John Garrett and ex-Leaf Dave Keon. Keon was in his final professional season and at 41 had a respectable 7 points in 17 games to that point. To this mix, the Whalers had just added 18 year-old Ron Francis.

On this day Francis was playing in his second ever NHL match after being recalled from junior Sault Ste. Marie where he put up 48 points in 25 games. The 4th overall draft pick from just a few months earlier would soon show he belonged, starting with this very game against Toronto.

Leafs Vincent Tremblay squared off in net against John Garrett and Toronto jumped out 1-0 on Borje Salming's seventh goal of the young season five minutes in. A minute later, Keon evened the score before Ron Francis collected his first ever NHL point with an assist on Doug Sulliman's tally. Then Hartford exploded in the second.

Sulliman and Garry Howatt beat Tremblay seven seconds apart less then two minutes into the period (Francis collecting another helper), then Ronnie 'Franchise' picked up his first ever goal two minutes later. Before seven minutes had elapsed in the middle frame Blaine Stougton scored his 13th to make it 6-1 Hartford. After two it stood 7-4 for the Whalers and Tremblay was yanked for the third. Teams traded a goal each in the third as 'Bunny' Larocque stopped 4 of the 5 shots directed his way. Francis ended up with a goal and two assists, Keon a goal and an assist and Doug Sulliman had four points.

Somehow, Toronto would play exactly .500 hockey from this point until the middle of January at which point Harold Ballard unloaded Darryl Sittler to the Flyers. They stumbled to a 5-24-4 record the rest of the season and 16 points out of a playoff berth. The Whalers would actually finish with 60 points, four more than the Leafs and Francis ended up a fantastic rookie year with 68 points in 59 games. Another day, another season in a Leaf decade of crap...again, my childhood.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bob Pulford, Legitimate Hall of Famer

With Hall of Fame week just wrapping up, the same old debates on who should or should not be included in the Hall resurface. One of the go-to names as an example of Hall of Famers who are undeserving of inclusion is Bob Pulford. The question is; Is it fair to use Pulford as a Hall of Fame "whipping boy" or is he truly worthy of inclusion?

Pulford's raw stats (1079 Games, 281 Goals and 643 Points) don't exactly scream Hall of Famer, however, he was much more than the raw numbers. In his prime, Pulford was possibly the greatest defensive forward in the game. He was Bob Gainey before Bob Gainey...with more scoring punch. During the first five years the NHL counted Shorthanded Goals as an official stat, Pulford had the most. If the Selke Trophy for defensive forward was around in the 1960's, he undoubtedly would have won it on multiple occaisons.

 In the  Weekend Magazine supplement of Canadian newspapers on Jan. 15, 1966 there is a three page article about Pulford written by Andy O'Brien titled "Bob Pulford: He's So Good You Don't Notice Him". In it are the following quotes which really sum up what Pulford was as a player.
"Pulford is one of my private headaches," says Gordie Howe, "because he has to be classed as one of hockey's greatest forecheckers. There's a deep knowledge of the game in his forechecking - hook, poke check, strength of arms, quickness, the whole bundle of wax." "Pulford is a piece man," says coach Milt Schmidt of the Boston Bruins."Any time he's near you he gets a piece of you. He's possibly the most combative of the modern players." As far back as March 1960, coach Sid Abel of the Red Wings tagged Pulford "the most dangerous of the Leafs."

On top of his defensive excellence, Bob Pulford scored the 14th most goals during the 1960's, only 14 less than Dave Keon and 11 less than Andy Bathgate. Perhaps one of his biggest goals came on
April 11, 1964 in the first game of the Stanley Cup finals versus Detroit. "Bob Pulford scored with just  two seconds remaining in regulation time to give Toronto a 3-2 win before 14,075 fans in Maple Leaf Gardens Saturday night. Red Wing ace Gordie Howe, the all-time scoring leader in National Hockey League playoff competition, described Pulford's unassisted breakaway goal as "a perfect play". Howe chased Pulford as the Toronto centre raced in on Terry Sawchuk in Red Wings nets and backhanded a shot into the upper corner at 19:58 mark of the third period.  "Pulford had one stride on me," Howe said after the game. "But when he changed sides and went to his backhand he had me. It was a perfect play." The 28 year-old Pulford, noted for his penalty killing and clutch scoring, said he didn't know how he got the goal. "It was from about 20 feet out," he said. "I don't know how I got it, but any shot is good if it goes in. You don't think. You just take a quick look and shoot." 

Even early in his career, Pully was recognized as an extremely valuable asset by his coach Punch Imlach. In the summer of 1960 it was reported; "New York Rangers were to have offered Andy Bathgate, Larry Popein and Eddie Shack to Toronto for Bob Pulford, Dick Duff, Ron Stewart and Billy Harris. Leafs said no. The Leafs indicated that any proposal meaning the loss of Pulford wouldn't get anywhere." Imlach thought so highly of Pulford he offered the following when asked about an exchange of Ranger Bathgate for Pulford; "They're asking me to give up a battleship for a rowboat."

After the 1962 Stanley Cup finals in which Toronto won their first Cup in eleven years, Imlach stated; "Actually, I think our success can be attributed to our three centres - Keon, Pulford and Kelly. Those three are better than any three of the Hawks, and I'm including Stan Mikita in there."

Most arguments against Pulford's Hall of Fame credentials centre around the belief that he gained inclusion merely because he was a member of the Leaf Cup victories of the 60's. This of course plays a part in it, but let's look at exactly how big a part of those wins Pulford was. Among the nine skaters who played in all four Cups (1962, 63, 64 & 67) here is what they produced (GP-G-A-Pts);

Mahovlich             47-13-26-39
Keon                      48-22-15-37
Armstrong              45-17-20-37
Kelly                      48-10-26-36
Pulford                   48-15-19-34
Horton                    48- 7- 25-32
Stanley                   48- 2- 17-19
Baun                       46- 2-  9- 11
Shack                      40- 2-  2-  4

So, on top of all of his defensive excellence Pulford was as much a point producer as anyone on the Leafs. Incidentally, each of the top seven on the list are members of the Hall of Fame.
The crowning achievement for Pulford came April 25, 1967 in Game three of the Stanley Cup finals as described by the Canadian Press;
Bob Pulford, an apple-cheeked veteran of 83 playoff games, scored his first ever overtime goal last night to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Canadiens and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final. The 31 year-old Pulford connected after 28 minutes and 26 seconds of spine-tingling extra play during which Johnny Bower and Montreal rookie Rogatien Vachon.

Overall, the inclusion of Bob Pulford in the Hockey Hall of Fame is well deserved in my opinion. I have no problem with defensive excellence being rewarded by the Hall, and Pulford was one of the best.

Friday, November 9, 2012

This Day in 1980's Leaf History; Nov. 9, 1985

Sick of waiting for the asses of the NHL and PA to solve their seemingly minscule differences, I'm going to delve into a topic near and dear to my heart...the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1980's. Why this time period? The Leafs of the 80's were awful. They never had more than 71 points in a season and won only two playoff series. But, this was my childhood and for some reason I still loved them. In lieu of looking at current NHL hockey, let's look at this day in 1980's Leaf history; a decade of crap.
Saturday Nov. 9, 1985. The Leafs collect their first home point of the season. After six straight losses at Maple Leaf Gardens, they tied St. Louis 2-2. The point gave them a grand total of 4 on the season with a record of 1-11-2. Coach Dan Maloney said afterward, "We're not barnstorming, but we're making some progress. A point each night - that's progress to me. It's a hell of a lot more than we were doing before."
Tim Bernhardt turned aside 23 shots and Miroslav Frycer had a goal and an assist. In the third period  rookie Wendel Clark fought Blues defenceman Ric Nattress, five of his 227 PIMs that season. Clark would notch 34 goals and finish second to Calgary's Gary Suter in Calder Trophy voting. Frycer, in the midst of a career season ended up leading the team with 75 points in 73 games.
Amazingly, after such a putrid start to the season the Leafs still made the playoffs with a measly 57 points, thanks to Detroit's historic 40 point season. Toronto upset first place Chicago in the first round with a three game sweep then took St. Louis the full series games before losing 2-1 in game seven.
Toronto ended up one game away from meeting Calgary in the Stanley Cup semi-finals. This was pretty much the highlight of the decade for a young Leaf fan.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Happy 88th Birthday Johnny Bower

The living legend Johnny Bower turns 88 years old today (or 89). Check out the link below for a clip from Showdown 1978 featuring a 54 year old Bower in net against Andy Bathgate and George Armstrong, awesome footage!
Bower now sits second overall in all-time North American professional hockey wins, counting his AHL and WHL totals.

 Happy Birthday China Wall!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This Day in 1980's Leaf History; Nov. 7, 1982

Sick of waiting for the asses of the NHL and PA to solve their seemingly minscule differences, I'm going to delve into a topic near and dear to my heart...the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1980's. Why this time period? The Leafs of the 80's were awful. They never had more than 71 points in a season and won only two playoff series. But, this was my childhood and for some reason I still loved them. In lieu of looking at current NHL hockey, let's look at this day in 1980's Leaf history; a decade of crap.
Thirty years ago today, Sunday November 7, 1982. The Maple Leafs lost in Chicago to the Blackhawks by a score of 7-3. The Hawks peppered Leaf goalie Michel "Bunny" Laroucque with 22 shots in the first period and held a 4-0 lead in the twelfth minute of the game. John Anderson would make it 4-1 with just over four minutes left in the first and rookie Peter Ihnacak brought them withen two with four seconds remaining.
The Leaf comeback stalled however in the middle frame as they managed only five shots on Murray Bannerman. Tom Lysiak scored Chicago's fifth of the game and Peter Marsh and Bob McGill fought late in the period, both also collecting Game Misconducts. Leaf Miroslav Frycer scored early in the third to gain faint hope before Lysiak and Doug Wilson finished off the scoring. Lysiak would finish with two goals and two helpers, Wilson a goal and two assists.
The loss left Toronto with a 2-7-5 record, their 9 points tied with Detroit for basement of the Norris Division. Larocque, on the downward end of a fine career mainly as a back-up goaltender was traded in the New Year to Philadelphia for Rick St.Croix. In parts of three seasons with Toronto Bunny proved he was a far better back-up than a starter, or at least far better behind Montreal's defence than Toronto's. He left Toronto with a record of 16-35-13 and 4.90 GAA.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Maple Leafs Programme Project

I've started another blog dealing solely with my quest to collect a Leafs program from every year they've been around. It can be found here;

OK, maybe not EVERY season in Leafs history. My first one is from 1930, the last season at The Mutual Street Arena, finding any ones before that will be extremely difficult and expensive. I'm happy trying to find a program of every season from 1930 to perhaps the mid-1980's. I don't really have a desire for anything more recently issued.

Anyway, I'm about half finished. Follow along as I post new (old) programs and if anyone has a lead on ones I need, let me know!

Anyway, I'm about halfway finished. Follow along as I post new (old) programs. If you have a lead on anyones I need, let me know!

Friday, November 2, 2012

2 goals in 3 seconds. Pro hockey record.

The Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League equalled a professional hockey record by scoring two goals in three seconds last night. The victim of the goals was goalie Ben Scrivens of the Toronto Marlies in the 3-0 Abbotsford victory.
With the score tied 0-0 in the third period, veteran defenceman Steve McCarthy scored a beautiful shorthanded goal on Scivens. On the ensuing faceoff Abbotsford centreman Ben Street went forward with the puck, "I tried to go forward myself and got pretty good wood on it. I got it high enough that he didn’t pick up on it. I picked the right club, I guess.” Apparently Scrivens somehow lost the puck in the air, it happened so fast there is no video evidence of it.
The record of two goals by one team in three seconds beats the NHL record accomplished five times, last by Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 15, 1995. The record does however equal the record in the ECHL set by Roanoke Valley vs. Hampton Roads on Jan. 22, 1993.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

1965/66 Victoria Maple Leafs, Team Photos

I picked up these vintage photos recently. They're glossy, about 5"x7" and most of them are autographed by the old Western Hockey League Victoria Maple Leafs. The team-issued pics are from the 1965/66 season when they finished in 2nd place with 84 points in 72 games. Victoria went on to win the WHL's President Cup over the Portland Buckaroos.
Victoria was the middle team in the Maple Leafs farm-system along with the Tulsa Oilers and the Rochester Americans.
Steve Witiuk had played 33 games for Chicago Blackhawks in 51/52 and totalled 1228 games and 950 points in his WHL career. Sandy Hucul was one of the all-time great minor league defencemen notching 502 points in 1256 WHL games.

 Defenceman, Claude Labrosse totalled 988 games in the minors. Larry Keenan had played two games with Toronto in 61/62 and would be selected in the expansion draft by St.Louis in 1967.

 Bill Shvetz's minor league career totalled 1095 games, 497 points and 2123 penalty minutes. John Sleaver had played 13 games with Chicago in the mid 1950's and had 63 points in 65/66 with Victoria.
 Gord Redahl potted 23 goals for Victoria in 65/66 and was a veteran of 18 games with Boston in 1958/59. Dick Lamoureux would play 1055 WHL games scoring 215 goals and 533 points.
 Mike Labadie was another of the "cup-of-coffee" NHL vets, playing 3 games with the Rangers in 52/53. He totalled 1080 games and 874 points in the high minors. Bob Barlow led Victoria with 43 goals in 65/66 and his minor league career totalled 1388 games, 552 goals and 1164 points. He would go on to score 16 goals for the Minnesota North Stars in 1969/70.
Aut Erickson was a regular defender with Boston in the late '50's and would go on to play one playoff game during the Stanley Cup championship run in Toronto in 1967.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Leaf's 1964 Record Album, Let's Talk Hockey

 I picked up this beauty recently, a full LP record album from 1964 featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs. I haven't tried playing it, but it looks to be in fine shape. The record came with a cool insert booklet outlining all the lessons learned. Some cool shots of old Leaf greats.
 Leafs were coming off their third consecutive Stanley Cup victory, so people did indeed want to know a few of their training secrets. However, this album could have just as easily been titled, "How to Win One More Cup in the Next 50 Years". Ouch, a self-zinger.

 Johnny Bower showing how to play your angles and displaying his famous poke-check.
 Tim Horton giving Dave Keon his attention as well as showing the "old-fashion" way to block a shot. No laying down on the ice back in the '60's, they'd rather take a puck to the face.

Andy Bathgate demonstrating the all important art of "stick-gripping". This one must have been for the introductory level hockey player.

Friday, October 19, 2012

J.C. Lipon, CHL Scoring Leader on a tear

J.C. Lipon is on a fair bit of a roll. Back-to-back player of the week awards in the Western Hockey League will attest to that. In the month of October, Lipon has ripped off 11 goals and 11 assists in only 7 games for the undefeated Kamloops Blazers.

Overall Lipon has 27 points in 11 games, 4 points ahead of his linemate Colin Smith. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who went undrafted in the WHL Bantam Draft and was passed over in the last two NHL drafts. Who could really blame the scouts? In each of his first two WHL seasons, Lipon scored only 3 goals before breaking out for 19 last season. The smallish (6ft, 181lbs) Lipon also had 65 points in 69 last year, but who saw this year's outburst coming?

Perhaps the Colorado Avalanche saw this coming. Prior to the lockout, Lipon was invited to the Av's training camp along with Smith who was drafted in the 7th round of the 2012 draft. Of course the lockout put an end to that. If he continues at anything close to his current pace it would assume that J.C.Lipon will be receiving much more attention from professional squads.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NHL Lockout, Let's watch Slap Shot!

In lieu of showing NHL hockey, TSN in Canada is showing the movie Slap Shot this evening. I for one think it's a great idea although, if you don't own your own copy of the movie you're not a real hockey fan. There is however something about the "collective experience" of watching a broadcast of a movie. So, in honour of this and the fact that the movie is celebrating it's 35th anniversary this year, we look at what happened to the characters of Slap Shot, post 1977.

Reg Dunlop
Player/coach Dunlop did indeed take the same job in with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA. Unfortunately for Reg, the team ceased operations before he could even unpack his moving truck. He would however sign with the Indianapolis Racers and ended up playing Right Wing with a 17 year-old Wayne Gretzky for 8 games in 1978 before that franchise folded a month later. Dunlop would then move to suburban New York City where he invested in his ex-wife Francine's beauty salon. This venture also failed by the mid 80's and Dunlop returned to his childhood home outside Des Moines, Iowa where he grew Soya Beans until his death in 2008.

Dave, Steve and Jeff Hanson
The trio graduated from the Federal League to the WHA in 1977/78 when they joined the Quebec Nordiques. Upon joining the NHL two years later when the leagues merged, the brothers enjoyed great success for many years as the Nords became the only team in hockey history with TWO full forward lines of brothers. They also famously endorsed Fanta Grape and Orange Sodas in a series of popular commercials which they continue to this day.

Ned Braden
Braden returned to his alma mater of Princeton where he coached the hockey team to three national titles. He now lives in upstate New Hampshire.

Joe McGrath
Returned to his roots after the Chiefs folded and became coach of the International League's Omaha Knights (where he had coached in 1948). McGrath finally retired from hockey in 1979 and became a successful fashion show promoter until his death a year later.

Denis Lemieux
Lemieux would join the NHL's Montreal Canadiens in 1978 and shared in the Vezina Trophy in 1981 along with Dennis Herron, Rick Walmsley and Bunny Larocque with each goalie playing exactly 20 games. He retired from hockey in 1988 and  is now an certified allergist. He runs a thriving allergy clinic in his hometown of Thetford Mines, Quebec.

Morris Wanchuk
"Mo" signed as a free-agent with the Southern Hockey League Pensacola Manatees. Played here until 1986 when he took over as coach. He retired in 1995 and currently lives in a retirement community in a southern state.

Jean-Guy Drouin
Joined the Nova Scotia Voyageurs of the AHL in 1978 and would have 12 short stints with the Montreal Canadiens throughout the early 1980's. Perhaps his greatest moment came when he assisted on the Round Two overtime winning goal to defeat the Hartford Whalers in 1986 on the way to Montreal's Stanley Cup win.

Billy Chalesbois
Played with Colorado Rockies the New Jersey Devils where he mentored the likes of Joe Cirella and Ken Daneyko. Became part owner/head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors in 1987 and currently lives in semi-retirement in Humboldt, Saskatchewan.

Ogie Ogilthorpe
Remained with the Syracuse Bulldogs in the Federal League until retiring in 1988 having collected over 386 games in suspension over his career. Is now a pastor in La Pas, Manitoba.

Andre "Poodle" Lucier
Returned to semi-seclusion in Northern Quebec where he married the widow of Denny Pratt, victim of an unfortunate tragedy.

Tim McCracken

Known for his "scalpel-like precision" as a player, McCracken would retire from hockey in 1979 enrolling at Rutgers Ophthamalogy school. He founded the Lasik eye surgery method in 1985 and currently enjoys retirement in Butte, Montana.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

NHLers in Europe

A look around the European leagues at how some of the locked out NHL players are doing.
Stats are as of  Oct 11, 2012 (GP-G-A-Pts)

Czech League
Tomas Plekanec, Kladno 8-7-7-14
Jaromir Jagr, Kladno 8-4-8-12
Jiri Tlusty, Kladno 8-6-4-10

Jagr returns to his hometown squad of Kladno which he originally joined all the way back in 1984/85. Plekanec sits in 3rd place in league scoring and Tlusty may be primed for a breakout season. Or, maybe he's just playing with two stars on his line.

Ales Hemsky, HC Pardubice 7-2-3-5
David Krejci, HC Pardubice 3-2-0-2

A couple of other Czech natives not having quite the start they would have liked.

Michal Neuvirth, HC Sparta Praha 6gp-3.58GAA
Tuukka Rask,  HC Plzen 3gp-2.87GAA
 Ondrej Pavelec, Bili Tygri Liberec 6gp-4.62GAA

Seems the goalies are having a fairly rough beginning to the season as well.

Kontinental Hockey League
Evgeni Malkin, Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4-1-6-7
Sergei Gonchar, Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4-0-5-5
Pavel Datsyuk, CSKA Moskva 3-0-4-4
Ilya Kovalchuk, SKA St. Petersburg  2-0-3-3
Alex Ovechkin, Dynamo Moskva 2-1-1-2
Jiri Hudler, HC Lev Praha 4-0-1-1

Not a lot of goals being scored by these NHL stars.

Swiss League
Brooks Laich, Kloten 5-3-5-8
Joe Thornton, Davos 8-3-5-8
Logan Couture, Geneve-Servette 6-2-5-7
Rick Nash, Davos 4-4-1-5
John Tavares, Bern 3-2-3-5
Tyler Seguin, Biel 5-1-4-5
Patrice Bergeron, Lugano 1-2-2-4
Jason Spezza, Rapperswil 6-2-2-4

Finnish League
 Jussi Jokinen, Karpat 8-2-8-10
Valtteri Filppula, Jokerit 8-4-5-9
Erik Karlsson, Jokerit 6-1-4-5

Swedish Div 2
Anze Kopitar, Mora 6-2-6-8
Patrik Berglund, Vasteras 6-3-1-4

Stanley Cup winner Kopitar slumming it in the Swedish second division Allsvenskan.

British League
Anthony Stewart, Nottingham Panthers 4-1-2-3

Now this is what we call slumming it. Stewart under a point per game in England.

Germany Div 2
Chris Stewart, Eispiraten Crimmitschau 5-2-5-7
Wayne Simmonds, Eispiraten Crimmitschau 5-1-6-7

Tomas Tartar, SHK 37 Piestany 8-5-5-10

Tartar is poised to join Detroit if we have an NHL season, and may be ready to contribute,

Russia Div 2
Alex Semin, Sokol Krasnoyarsk 4-2-2-4

Semin playing for his hometown team in what is basically the Russian minor league.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A.H.L. Pool

It's hockey draft time...and there is no hockey. Well, no NHL hockey that is. Many stars have been sent to the AHL as happened in 2005 with Eric Staal, Jason Spezza and Dustin Brown.

I've created my own AHL box pool, where you pick one player from each group of four. They are yours for the entire season, regardless of whether or not the NHL comes back. For instance, I included Jeff Skinner even though he may not start with Charlotte of the AHL. He has the option to go if and when he wants to start playing and if the NHL comes back, you get his NHL stats too.

Check it out. All are welcomed to join.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Summit Series '72, The First Reunion in 1985

Esposito and Howe, ceremonial face off conducted by Ed Kea
 January 25, 1985. Friday night at Maple Leaf Gardens. I was lucky enough to attend the first reunion of Team Canada 1972. They played a team of All-Star Oldtimers before a sold-out crowd at Maple Leaf Gardens to raise money for the Phil Esposito Foundation. $130,000 was made to help former NHL players in need of assistance. Former St.Louis Blue Ed Kea represented the players after recovering from a career-ending head injury two years before.
Tony Esposito
The game itself was won by Team All-Star by the familiar score of 6-5 on a winning goal by Gordie Howe. Phil Esposito said afterwards,"It was terrific. I'm really, really excited that it was a sellout. You can't turn back the hands of time and you can't do the things you did 12 and a half years ago, but people don't forget." He added, "Team Canada '72 was one of the best things that happened to us, as players, and to come here and have a reunion like this and have this kind of reception from the people is phenomenal."
Also scoring goals for Team All-Star were Jim McKenny, Bobby Lalonde, Walt Tkaczuk, Dick Duff and Johnny McKenzie. Canada's scorers were Dennis Hull, J.P. Parise, Ron Ellis, Stan Mikita and of course...Paul Henderson.

Perhaps the greatest part of the evening for myself was when after the game I got the autographs of Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr. Pictured are the photos I personally took at the game.

Espo addressing the crowd

Paul Henderson introduced

Stan Mikita
Post-game hand shakes

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