Monday, January 2, 2012

Kladno beats Leafs Subs, 34 years ago today.

January 2, 1978, Super Series 1978 rolled into Maple Leaf Gardens in the form of Czechoslovakian team Kladno. The problem was, Leaf owner Harold Ballard and coach Roger Neilson wanted very little to do with the exhibition game. Ballard declared,"We're not going to bust our butts trying to kick theirs. These games are utterly stupid, a very foolish way to do business." Toronto was in the thick of the Adams Division race with a 21-10-4 record battling Boston and Buffalo for top spot.

Coach Neilson didn't dress stars Borje Salming, Lanny McDonald and Mike Palmateer. He claimed Salming and McDonald were hurting and he wanted them ready for NHL play on Wedsneday saying that, "The game isn't as important as the one against Colorado." He started Gord McRae in net saying,"I wanted to use McRae because he hasn't seen much action this year." The only two regular Leaf defenders to play were second year man Randy Carlyle and rookie Trevor Johansen. Part-timer Mike Pelyk and minor-leaguer Greg Hotham replaced Salming and the actually injured Ian Turnbull.

McRae was beaten on several long shots, no thanks to his green defence corp as Kladno built a 3-0 lead within seven minutes of play in the first period on goals from Jaroslav Pouzar, Peter Stastny and Miroslav Krivacek. All three ended up with two goals each and Kladno held a 6-4 advantage after two periods. Darryl Sittler countered with two goals and Errol Thompson, Scott Garland and George Ferguson had one each for Toronto.

The sell-out crowd at Maple Leaf Gardens certainly didn't appreciate Neilson's decision to bench his stars as they booed McRae and Pelyk throughout the match. Also voicing their displeasure in Neilson was Kladno coach Bohuslav Prosek who said afterwards,"We always play to win. So far I'm disappointed with the Canadians because they have little team work. The players don't seem to co-operate with each other."

Perhaps in the end, Neilson made the right call as the Leafs would go on to beat Colorado 5-0 two days later on the strength of a Mike Palmateer shutout, two goals from McDonald and two assists from Salming. The much-maligned Mike Pelyk also had two helpers in the defeat of the Rockies.

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