Friday, August 31, 2012

Summit Series '72, The Russians First Practice

From the chronicles of The Montreal Gazette and The Canadian Press.

The Russians flew through two practice sessions at St. Laurent Arena and observers were hard-pressed to find a skater who was even breaking a sweat, despite some gruelling end-to-end rushes. Head coach Vsevold Bobrov watched with seeming disinterest from the bench as his assistant Boris Kulagin ran the drills. One member of the Soviet entourage said, “In Russia, the coach plans strategy. His trainer and his assistant work out the players.

The team laughed and joked it's way all the way through the demanding workouts. Then, at the end of the session, Bobrov ordered several more demanding rink-length sprints. The superbly conditioned Soviets laughed their way through these. Although impressive to outsiders, coach Bobrov lamented afterward that, "the shape of the players is not up to mark".

Vladislav Tretiak, who appears to have the inside track to start in Saturday night's Forum opener, looked sharp in the initial drills. Lackadaisical Alexander Sidelnikov, however, was beaten repeatedly on three-on-one rushes.
At a press conference after practice, Tretiak offered his thoughts on Team Canada. "The Canadians are very strong shooters," he said, "I expect them to shoot very hard during the game." In addition he said, "I saw films if the 1972 Stanley Cup playoffs. But, I've never seen them playing live."

Meanwhile the following day, Friday Sept. 1, Team Canada broke camp in Toronto and flew to Montreal...on two separate planes. Sinden would name his Game One roster later that day. Red Berenson admitted, "It has been an excellent camp, Harry Sinden has done as much as anyone could do in three weeks. But we're certainly not in mid-season form, not in conditioning or timing. We're going to have to get it together at least enough Saturday night to win that opening game."

Berenson and the rest of the players agreed however that any further training camp would be of no benefit. "We've had enough of this." exclaimed Ron Ellis, "It's time to get to work".

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summit Series '72, The Russians Arrival & Sinden's Predicitons

 The Russian team on the bus from the airport, Tretiak at far left of photo.

The Russian hockey delegation arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal on Wednesday, Aug 30 at about 5:00am Moscow time. The players dined by candle-light down the hall from the press conference where the Russian brass met the media. Most of the team was too tired to eat, sipping Cokes and eating a light meal, mainly salad. They then retired to their rooms to prepare for Thursday's 10:00am practice at the St. Laurent Arena in the north end of Montreal. This would be followed by another on-ice session at 8:00pm.
Russian head coach, Vsevold Bobrov stated, "We shall have to play in Canada at 3:00am Moscow time. We will also have to adjust ourselves to the quite peculiar size of Canadian playing grounds." He added, "However, I think these difficulties will be overcome."
Meanwhile Harry Sinden continued his pre-series worrying over his players and their expectations for the series. Specifically he reacted to defenceman Don Awrey's comments when he said, "The pressure will be fantastic - it'll be like playing the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals on the first night of the season." When this comment was relayed to Sinden he offered, "Awrey thinks it's going to be like a Stanley Cup game. Has he got a surprise coming to him when the band strikes up those national anthems at eight o'clock. He's never been in anything like this. It'll make the playoffs seem like a scrimmage."
Sinden continued his rant, this time throwing in a few predictions, "This isn't going to be a cakewalk. You can't humiliate the Russians. Oh, we'll beat them because we're better. But the games, they'll be decided by one or two goals. Saturday night (Game One)...3-1, maybe 4-2 for us. That's what I hope. Twenty-two million Canadians are demanding that we win - absolutely demanding it! You'll be remembered for a year for beating Russia. You'll be remembered for the rest of your life if you lose. That's pressure baby." Sinden finished his diatribe with, "Believe me, we'll beat 'em but not by much, and it's going to be life-and-death." Well, he did add after his game one prediction, "That's what I hope" perhaps knowing in the back of his mind that it would be more of a battle than he was letting on. He certainly nailed his last prediction;

"Believe me, we'll beat 'em but not by much, and it's going to be life-and-death."  

Coach Vsevold Bobrov (2nd row) and Assistant Boris Kulagin (front right)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Team Canada '72, Intra-Squad Game 3

From the Canadian Press, Aug 28, 1972. With less than one week before the first game with the Russians, Harry Sinden expresses some concern about the impending pressure the series will inflict on his squad.
 Right now Harry Sinden is worried more about 'poise' than conditioning of Team Canada for it's forthcoming exhibition hockey series with the Soviet Union. “I hope we don't get so high that we're emotionally stupid. We could forget to put the puck in the net.”

Comparing his current squad to his Whitby Dunlop team of 1958 Sinden says, “These Team Canada pros are more poised and mature than we were. But under the pressure of what winning the series means to Canada there might be a tendency to lose some poise. When that happens, you lose some of your ability.

'Shoot that Puck' Sinden tells troops
This was the headline in the Montreal Gazette on August 28, 1972 as Sinden continues to hammer home his demand to keep pressure on the Russian goaltenders.

Too many members of Team Canada are passing the puck...and passing the buck in the process. “The drop pass – it's a lousy play every time,” Harry Sinden moaned yesterday as he stepped up his squad's shooting drills and outlawed the annoying practice. “It's a lazy man's way of playing the game,” he explained. “The open man should be driving for the net not hanging behind the puck carrier.”

He's been hollering for two weeks: “Shoot, Shoot!” But his orders have had little impact. Sinden's strategy in the Canada-Russia series is built largely on a bombardment of the Soviets nets, hopefully taking advantage of real or imagined weaknesses of their goaltenders. To that end, he has instructed his players to fire away on every available opportunity tonight in the final tuneup game.

In other news, Team Canada got clearance yesterday from Boston Bruins to play Bobby Orr against the Russians as soon as the young defenceman feels his ailing left knee is ready. Rumours swirled that Orr would start scrimmaging today. “No, not for a few more days,” Orr answered, admitting there was still some pain.

John Ferguson said earlier yesterday that Orr might be ready for the game at Vancouver, but the Boston defenceman said he doubted he would be in shape for any of the Canadian games.

Aug. 28, 1972 Intra-Squad Game Three

Montreal Gazette Sports Editor, Ted Blackman describes how Sinden's decision for the opening game roster was made easier by the lack lustre effort of some of the players.

Harry Sinden's worrisome chore of separating the gold from the glitter simplified itself last night as a handful of possible starters loafed their way out of the opening lineup, conclusive intra-squad game. Harry's Horses walloped Fergy's Ponies 6-2, scoring four unanswered first-period goals, and it became clearer every minute the majority of the personnel to play in Saturday's Russia-Canada opener were on the head coach's side. “A lot of guys weren't working out there,” Sinden said. “Some people we were counting on didn't play well. Some of them might think it's going to be Howdy Doody Time against Russia. They're dead wrong. And they've made some of my decisions a lot easier.”

Again, the most surprising line of the three-week camp offered most of the entertainment. Bobby Clarke, centering Leafs' Paul Henderson and Ron Ellis, scored one goal and Henderson chipped in two. Hadfield, Gilbert and Redmond also scored for the winners. All six were put behind Tony Esposito, although Sinden said “he didn't have a chance on any of them.” Still he may have lost in a close race for the opening-game assignment with Ken Dryden, flawless in his best performance.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Team Canada 72, Intra Squad Game 2



Contnuing look at Team Canada's preparation for the 1972 Summit Series through the articles of Montreal Gazette Sports Editor, Ted Blackman.
Aug 25, 1972
Cracks in Team Canada’s seemingly invincible armor appeared yesterday as Harry Sinden eliminated a workout to give his exhausted troupe a breather and began grappling with one of his most critical decisions…the conservation of stamina.
“My coaching practice has always been to get the maximum ice time out of the best players.” Sinden explained, “But I may have to change my style for this series. We play those first four games in a seven-day period and we may have to use four lines on a near-equal basis.”
“You just die out there. You want to go all out but when you’re suffocating, gasping for air literally, it’s physically impossible to push yourself,” explains Brad Park in reference to the heat in Maple Leaf Gardens.
Sinden also stated, “I won’t name my team until the last possible moment – the afternoon before the first game. It’s something I want to delay as long as possible because, let’s face it, some people are going to be left off. I don’t want them sagging now.”
-Sinden has scheduled two weigh-ins a day from now on to “get a better idea of the shape they’re in”
-even though Bobby Orr hasn’t pushed it, Sinden feels there’s been noticeable improvement in three days and said, “he tells me he feels better.” It appears as if Orr will begin scrimmaging in a few days.
Aug 26 Intra Squad Game 2
'Ratelle Chosen Captain for Opener'
That was the headline in the Montreal Gazette on Aug 28, 1972. Coach Harry Sinden added, “That’s right. If he makes the team.”  Any doubt was erased during the second Red/White Intra Squad game when Ratelle scored three goals as Sinden’s squad beat Ferguson’s 4-2.  6,783 Maple Leaf Gardens fans saw another hellbent scrimmage with few loafers. Ratelle was easily the best, beating Ken Dryden three times, and yet he hasn’t hit his peak yet. “No, I’m only 85 percent,” he says “Should be ready by Saturday. “Eighty-five,” Phil Esposito moaned, “I wish I was that eighty-five.”
Frank Mahovlich and Wayne Cashman scored for the losers. Paul Henderson got the other goal for Sinden’s squad.
Sinden has four co-captains (Ratelle, Mikita, Phil Esposito and Frank Mahovlich) but only one can perform the official handshake and exchange of pins with the Russian representative at centre ice. He elected to go with Ratelle, the only one of the four born in Montreal.
Another order of business for Sinden was the concern about Stan Mikita. Along with Frank Mahovlich and Yvan Cournoyer he formed the hottest line through the first week of camp. However, they have gone dry since, mainly due to Mikita’s pulled groin injury. “No doubt about it,” Sinden states, “We’re not getting the puck to Frank and Yvan.” Sinden is now looking for a potential playmaker for the high-scoring wings if Mikita’s condition doesn’t improve. He may have to try Clarke or Pete Mahovlich at centre in the final tune-up game.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Team Canada 72, The Return of Bobby Orr

Further look at Team Canada's 1972 training camp through the first-hand accounts of Montreal Gazette Sports Editor, Ted Blackman.

Aug. 23, 1972

Bobby Orr skated with Team Canada after arriving in camp yesterday. He took part in three-on-two rushes, skating cautiously as if he had nitroglycerine sewn in his shin guards. “Sure he can skate – and if it was a Stanley Cup final he might even play,” said Weston Adams Jr, president of the Boston Bruins. “But to Boston, this isn’t important. Canada will beat Russia any way and to ask us for Orr’s services, before he’s fully prepared, is not reasonable.” He continued, “We’re being pressured and we don’t like it at all. I don’t mind making sacrifices to help Canada beat Russia, but I’m not about to tolerate the abuse of the Boston Bruins franchise.”

Orr was greeted by cries of “Moses, Moses,” as he skated onto the ice, Team Canada was glad to see him. Orr said he believes checking in with Team Canada will speed up his recovery since, by his own admission, he’s his own worst enemy. He said he hadn’t done the exercises prescribed by Karl Elieff, the physiotherapist at Maple Leaf Gardens. “You need someone to push you, Orr said. “Karl helped me three or four years ago when I had surgery on the knee and he pushes me. “I’ll be wearing a brace all the time now. I should have been wearing it this summer because I stumbled a couple times and twisted the knee.”

After the practice Orr spoke of his prospects for playing, “This is only the second time I’ve skated this summer and it feels all right, but I’ll be able to say more in five or six days. All I know is that after I’m able to go all out, it’ll take me 10 days to reach perfect condition.” He added, “If I can play against the Russians in Moscow, I’ll be satisfied. No, the Bruins won’t intervene. They know that if I say I’m ready, I’m damn well ready.”  

 I was somewhat surprised to hear how cavalier Orr seemed to be toward his knee-injury and rehabilitation. Imagine nowadays if the Penguins sat by idly as Sidney Crosby neglected his physiotherapy and rehab. Also, the fact Orr should have but wasn't wearing a knee brace all summer seems outrageous. Then on top of that, for him to admit that he 'stumbled a couple times and twisted his knee'!?? Times have certainly changed.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Team Canada '72, the First Intra Squad Game

Notes from Aug. 19 & Aug. 21, 1972 Montreal Gazette by Sports Editor, Ted Blackman

-Regular season prices will be charged for the three Team Canada exhibitions. “If I charge full prices for Leaf exhibition games, could I charge anything less for something better than an all-star game?” Harold Ballard explained.
 -Members of Team Canada will receive as much as $5,000 each from the receipts from the intra-squad games. “We only told them about it the other day -  long after they’d agreed to play for their country for nothing, Harry Sinden said. “It could be as low as $1,500 per man or as much as $5,000. But it’s much more likely to be $2,500 or so. They play the Russia-Canada series for nothing, but I insisted we owe professional athletes something for using their valuable services in other games.”
-During practice yesterday, Sinden worked on power-play and penalty-killing techniques once again stressing that his players shoot at every opportunity. Dale Tallon crashed Dennis Hull into the boards and then hollered at the Russian scouts in a thick accent: “Is dat de hittink you like to see, Boris? Vel, ve got lots more.”

-Sinden also confirmed Bobby Orr would arrive at Team Canada’s camp today for rehab of his knee under supervision. Orr himself said, “I tried skating three weeks ago and it was no good. There was too much soreness in the left knee. But, on Sunday, I put in an hour of skating and shooting (at his hockey school) and there are no ill effects. So I may as well do my skating with the guys at Team Canada camp. At the same time, I can step up therapy I should be doing anyway.”

On the prognostication front, two Canadian experts predict some major upsets by the Soviets. Herb and Gerry Pinder say the Russians will win their games in Moscow and quite likely some in Canada. Both brothers played for the Canadian National team for several years. Herb was one of the few North Americans to have scouted the World Championships last spring in Prague while he was recruiting players for the WHA’s Calgary franchise. The brothers describe their concerns, starting with Herb;
“With the Nationals we played against both the NHL and the Russians many times and believe me, we did better against the NHL than the Russians. I know people think former members of the Nationals are prejudiced about this series, because if the NHL does badly, then it makes the Nationals look better” Herb continued, “Time of the year is a big factor. The Russians will have an edge in conditioning regardless how hard Harry Sinden works his players.”  He also believes the use of European referees in Russia will work against Team NHL. “I’m not saying this is going to happen, but it could. You could see the refereeing so bad that they pull out and come home. People don’t know how bad it can get. You have to see it to believe it. You could see a guy lke John Ferguson just going nuts about the officiating.”
Herb Pinder refutes the myth that Russians can’t shoot and have bad goaltending. “Just because they don’t shoot from over the blueline we say they can’t shoot. They shoot hard and they don’t waste shots. The Russian goaltending isn’t as bad as we like to believe. If it was so bad, why are international championship games always low scoring.”

Perhaps a few of the Team Canada brass should have heeded the warnings from the Pinders.

Aug. 22, 1972 - Intra Squad Game 1
Notes on Team Canada’s first full Red/White game on Aug 22, 1972 from the chronicles of Montreal Gazette Sports Editor, Ted Blackman.

Team Canada filled two nets last night as Harry’s Horses beat Fergies Ponies 8-5 in a display of offensive overkill. Hitless action – and lapses by drooping netminders – contributed to a wide-open game that produced brilliant skating and a quick pace despite 80-degree heat in Maple Leaf Gardens. A smallish crowd of 5,571 thoroughly enjoyed the gem-a-minute spectacle.
“Better than any All-Star game I’ve ever seen,” Harry Sinden said. “The shooting was great and the conditioning…well, I was surprised to see them going as well as they were in the last five to eight minutes of the game.”

The goaltenders, though, are still short on the keen edge. Ken Dryden, outstanding during early stages of camp, was beaten six times. He also made a few dandy saves, but admitted he was not quite in satisfactory form. “What this game showed me is the big difference between 15 minutes taking shots in a scrimmage and what it’s like to play a full game,” said Dryden, who worked 60 minutes compared to 30 for Tony Esposito Eddie Johnston. “The heat dulls your concentration.”

Dryden was slow, as a result, on the first of Red Berenson’s two third-period goals that iced the game for Sinden’s squad – and put a dent in John Ferguson’s wallet to the tune of $35. Berenson’s winner was a 35-foot slapper through Dryden’s legs.
Fergy’s club fell behind early, but Phil Esposito’s domination of the slot turned into two goals for him in the second period and Sinden fell behind 4-3. But Berenson – with Mickey Redmond and Pete Mahovlich – pivoted a line that scored four goals in the second half. “I felt pretty good at the finish,” said Pete, who scored an empty-net goal with a rink-long golf shot. “You should.” said brother Frank. “You did nothing out there.” “And where were you when the losers needed your leadership?” Pete shot back.

Sinden said he thought the goaltending was good. When the score was mentioned, he amended his observation. “There were a lot of good saves. The shooting we’ve been stressing was here tonight. That was a lot of firepower you saw. When you consider the conditions – eight days’ training and torrid heat – it was a pleasing performance.”

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Team Canada 72, Training Camp Continues

A continuing look at the how Team Canada's preparation progressed as chronicled in the newspapers of the day. Again, mainly looking at the writing of Ted Blackman, Sports Editor of the Montreal Gazette who was covering the proceedings.

Aug 16, 1972 – On Ice Practice Day 3
Under the headline, “Shoot high, glove side, Team Canada told”, Blackman relays the thoughts of Harry Sinden after analyzing video of the Russian team.

Sinden took Team Canada into the classroom for the first in depth look at the enemy and came away convinced that while the Russians have improved at most aspects of hockey, they haven’t developed their goaltending in more than a decade. Which isn’t really news, but confirmation of his theory. “We’ve got to shoot often, and when we do we’ll score” Sinden said as they watched videotaped recordings of the last five world championship games involving the Russians.
“The Russians are weak with the glove on high shots,” Sinden pointed out as a Russian goalie allowed a 70-foot shot by a Czech to bounce off his chest pads into the crease, where it was slapped into the net by a cruising teammate. “See that” he said, “The goalie should have caught that one…but they don’t like handling the puck with the glove. That’s where we’ll drill them. High and to the glove side.”

Sinden conceded that the Russian net minders are as quick as the NHL masters, nimble on their feet in close, but can’t cope with the rising shot from 25 to 30 feet out. And he said they rarely step beyond the crease to cut down an angle. “They haven’t gotten any better in net since I played them,” Sinden said, a member of the 1958 world champion Whitby Dunlops. “The wingers have changed. They didn’t use to pass or shoot off the wing. From the sharp angle, so to speak. Now they do.”

Viewing the tapes, Sinden also corrected a misapprehension about the Russian penalty-killing tactics. He thought their front men hung back at centre ice, waiting for the play to develop, but discovered they now forecheck as NHLers do. “But they do have one glaring penalty-killing weakness and I’m not going to discuss it,” he said, it’s something we hope to exploit.”
Day 3 Notes

-Brad Park was hit in the left cheek when a Yvan Cournoyer block attempt of a Dennis Hull shot caught him. “We’re lucky,” Sinden said after x-rays showed only a bruised cheekbone that will keep him from practicing tomorrow. When asked if anyone had informed the Rangers of the close-call on their star defender Sinden said, “I certainly didn’t.”

-Richard Martin missed practice to attend a Montreal-area golf tournament that carries his name.
-Jocelyn Guevermont missed as well, for a softball tourney under his name.

Aug 17, 1972 – On Ice Practice Day 4
In attendance at Maple Leaf Gardens for today’s workout was two Russian scouts, Arkadi Chernyshev who carried the title “Sport Master and Honored Scout” as well as Boris Kulagin, co-coach of the Soviet squad.

Their presence did not escape the players, as pride in their performance bordered on the boastful. When Frank Mahovlich slapped a veritable bullet behind Ken Dryden, Stan Mikita hollered in their direction: “How’d they like that little steamer?”
After the practice the two Russians met the media. When asked if Canada might win all eight games Kulagin’s eyes narrowed. “I can assure you that won’t happen,” he said.

The two conceded Russia – and Canada – will learn much from the outcome (of the series). “You have always been surprised by our team play and we have always been surprised by your individual play,” Kulagin said. “We have a Russian proverb – all is known by comparison. This will give us a chance to compare our systems.”
Day 4 Notes

-Paul Henderson and Rod Gilbert were excused from the afternoon scrimmage because of stomach cramps brought on by the stiff workouts.
-both Phil and Tony Esposito were absent because of hockey school commitments.

-Yvan Cournoyer missed the morning session for the same reason, then doubled his sprints in the afternoon.

-The players will be given Sunday off entirely, and Team Canada, a first-class operation, will offer them airfare home to visit their families.

 Aug 18, 1972 – On Ice Practice Day 5

"Team Canada Power Play: Power Plus" read the headline as Coach Sinden works on special teams with the formidable talent at his disposal. For his first unit Sinden went with a quintet of Phil Esposito, Frank Mahovlich, Yvan Cournoyer with Stan Mikita and Brad Park on the points.
 “Gotta be 3,000 career goals out there,” Pete Mahovlich moaned as he sank on the bench after trying largely without success, to kill off some of the 60-minute shorthand situation.
With the Russian scouts still looking on and scribbling furiously in the stands, Sinden’s super troop blitzed a beleaguered Tony Espostio and all who tried to stand in it’s way. Mahovlich and Esposito tapped each other’s passes in at will, both unbudged as they stood firmly in the slot or at the corner of the net. Cournoyer had a picnic on passes from Mikita at the left point.

“It’s going to work out all right, I think,” Sinden said, “Especially if the Russians maintain their penalty-killing style. But I’ll imagine they’ll change.” Sinden’s penalty-killers worked in Russian formations lifted from video tapes and were utterly unable to prevent the bang-bang passing that led to each shot on net.
After running his power play against what he expected to be Russia’s penalty-killing method, Sinden then tried to duplicate a Russian power play while employing the NHL-style shorthand process. “We’ve decided that the reason the Russians throw the puck around so well is that their opponents have always given them too much room,” he explained, “They play 15 feet back when the point man has the puck. We’ll be more on top of them. And the Russians do the same thing when they’re a man short, if they play back on us, we’ll throw it around too and wait for the sure shot. They may be able to make room on the bigger rink in Moscow, but we’ll be on top of them here.”

Sinden said earlier this week he hoped to exploit an undisclosed weakness in the Russian penalty-killing method, but won’t elaborate. It could only be the Russians’ habit of crouching in a box formation to block the net, thereby keeping the attacks at bay. The Czechs and Swedes, however don’t have the shots to crack this fortress. It may be a different matter when the Big M lets one of his blue darters go in the general direction of a Ruskie’s head.
Day 5 Notes

-The Russian scouts took in the movie ‘The Godfather’, and thought it was repulsive. “No mafia in Russia, I guess,” Pete Mahovlich said. “Just the government.”
- Brad Park returned to practice after sitting out a day. He played chess solitaire during his one-day recuperation. “The whites won,” he reported.

After a full week of two-a-day practices, Team Canada was given Sunday off. They would re-convene on Monday to prepare for the first of three Intra-Squad games on August 22.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

First Practice for Team Canada, 40 years ago today

Today is the 40th anniversary of the moment Team Canada transitioned from names on paper into a flesh and blood hockey team. Aug 14, 1972 at Maple Leaf Gardens was the date of the squad's first ever on-ice appearance. Using mainly quotes and descriptions from Ted Blackman of the Montreal Gazette who was on the scene, the following are some of the main notes and observations from the first few days of training camp. (Blackman's word's in italics)

Aug 13, 1972- Players Report, Medicals Conducted
32 players checked in on time and coach Harry Sinden said only “a few look paunchy” as a result of summer loafing. All look fit. Alan Eagleson described the medicals as more detailed than those for normal team training camps and said every player who suffered an injury during the last six months would be x-rayed. “We don’t want some NHL owner saying we returned damaged goods when they were damaged when they got here.”
Sinden said there would be a full blown scrimmage every morning at nine and conditioning exercises would form part of the afternoon curriculum. Players will do 20 minutes of calisthenics in the hallway before hitting the ice. Sinden also named four co-captains – Frank Mahovlich, Phil Esposito, Stan Mikita and Jean Ratelle. And, ending the confab on a happy note he said there would be no curfew during camp. “But John Ferguson (assistant coach) will be sitting in the lobby every night at midnight,” quipped Eagleson.
 Dennis Hull was the first to arrive today and reveals that he wouldn’t be here at all, except for brother Bobby’s insistence. Dennis said after Bobby was banned, he decided to boycott the series. “But Bobby said that would be foolish, that it wouldn’t accomplish anything and that I should go.”Denis said. “He told me someone had to represent the Hull family”

Aug 14, 1972 – On Ice Practice Day 1
Coach Sinden began formulating his plans and roles for various players very early in the camp.

“If we’re ahead by one goal with three seconds left to play and they’ve got an extra man on the ice for a faceoff in our end, Mikita will take the faceoff.” Sinden said. “I’ve got Clarke for the same job. Mikita will handle most of the big faceoffs and Clarke will have his share.” Sinden said the Brothers Mahovlich would be the primary penalty killers, as they are with Montreal.
Montreal’s Ken Dryden, of course, is the No.1 goalie in camp but the Sept. 2 assignment in the opener will go to the hottest hand in the ‘intramural’ scrimmages. Sinden expects the exhibitions to be heatedly contested – “after all, there are jobs on the line…jobs in a pretty historic game.”
After a morning long picture session, all but goalie Eddie Johnston (attending his father’s funeral) and Cournoyer (away for a day to open his hockey school) hit the ice at precisely 2:30 pm. Within two minutes streams of sweat began to flow freely as Sinden whipped them through largely-unfamiliar calisthenics . “They’re new to some people, but not the Bruins.” Sinden said of the exercises that took up more than one hour of the 100-minute workout. “Did I invent them? No, I stole everything I got. These were borrowed from one of Lloyd Percival’s books.” Sinden’s pace was torrid beside usual league workouts and he thought the regimen was well-received. “These guys are in a lot better shape than I expected. I wanted to find out just how good they might be and I’m pleased.”

 Aug 15, 1972 – On Ice Practice Day 2
Just as Sinden had stated, Dryden appeared to be solidly entrenched as the number one option in goal.
Ken Dryden made two of his typically brilliant stops on Redmond and Parise, causing coach Sinden to remark “This guy’s ready now, would you believe it?” Dryden was beaten, and barely, by Paul Henderson. But that evened out because Henderson scored on Tony Esposito at the other end too. The goalies switched sides after Henderson, Rod Seiling and Marcel Dionne had given their side a 3-0 edge.

Sinden saw very early on that the line of Clarke, Henderson and Ellis would be a valuable one to Team Canada. A full two weeks before the first encounter with the Soviets he prophetically praised the trio as one of his best.

Henderson, aided by the dynamic Bobby Clarke and hard-working Ron Ellis was one of the two best units on the ice. “That could be a great line,” Sinden said. “Perfect balance. Paul is the big goal scorer, Clarke can make the plays and forecheck and Ellis is always going to head back with his wing. Clarke can forecheck knowing Ellis will always be back there. They won’t get caught up the ice.”
Team Canada continued under Harry Sinden's rigorous regime and planned to play full inter-squad games on August 22, 26 and 29 in preparation for the Soviets.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Maple Leafs Swedish Experiment, 1963

“I foresee a lot of Europeans trying out for the National Hockey League in the near future. Sweden has made tremendous strides in hockey recently, so have Norway, Finland, Switzerland and West Germany. They are catching up to Canada in developing good, young hockey players.” New York Rangers General Manager Muzz Patrick is quoted by the Canadian Press on Aug 20, 1963. He was referring to the fact that Swede Ulf Sterner had agreed to report to the upcoming Rangers training camp.
In 1963, the 20 year-old Sterner had been a large part of Sweden’s surprise showing in the World Championships and counted a hat-trick in Sweden’s 5-3 win over Canada. According to Patrick, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs were also high on signing Sterner before the Rangers beat them to the punch.
Speaking of ‘Punch’, Leafs General Manager Imlach was not to be shutout of the European invasion as two other members of Sweden’s silver medal winning squad, goaltender Kjell Svensson and forward Karl Oberg were invited to attend Toronto’s 1963 training camp. The two players showed well in early stages of the camp in Peterborough, Ontario and joined the squad on an exhibition western road trip in late September. Svensson had apparently had a rough go of it early on as the CP reported on Sept. 23 that he suffered a partially paralyzed right arm from a shot by Larry Jeffrey during a game against Detroit. Svensson had taken over for Johnny Bower in the third period of a 6-1 loss. A few days earlier in another game with Detroit Svensson had once again replaced Bower in the third and stopped 10 of 11 shots in a 6-6 draw. The only man to beat him, Gordie Howe.

Meanwhile, Karl Oberg was chipping in as well. In Vancouver against the WHL Canucks he notched a goal as the Leafs won 6-3, assisted  by Eddie Shack. Svensson gave up 2 goals in his third period of play to Bob McCusker and Buddy Boone. A couple days after this match the Leafs played in Vancouver once again a squad of WHL All-Stars that included among others Don Cherry.
By the time the Leafs had returned to Toronto to play the NHL All-Stars in the season kick-off, the experiment was over.  Oberg and Svensson had been let go and returned to Sweden. Goalie Svensson returned to Sodertalje and competed for his country in the Olympics and World Championships until he retired in 1970. Oberg returned home to play for Djurgardens as well as  in two more Olympics before retiring in 1973.

As for Sterner, he would play a mere four games for the Rangers with no points but scored 44 points in 52 games with Baltimore of the AHL before returning to star at home. He played regularly until 1978 and amassed 304 goals in Swedish League play. He also returned in 1989/90 at age 48 to play one game with Hammaro HC of the Swedish Second Division.

I own the program pictured above, from the exhibition game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Leafs with their two Swedish tryouts. According to the Vancouver Sun, this was the first time the programs had been sold for 50 cents after being 25 cents previously. Also, apparently there was only 500 of this program printed due to a problem at the printing press. The Exhibition Forum in Vancouver still stands today and is used really only during the two-week Pacific National Exhibition each summer.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Table Hockey, circa 1948

I picked up this beauty a few weks ago at a local garage sale. I immediately recognized it as an early Munro table hockey game, and had to have it for the den. Donald H. Munro was the inventor of table hockey and started making wooden games at his Toronto home in 1932. They would eventually be sold in Eaton's Catalogue and various sporting good stores and were marketed as "6 Man National Hockey" games.

A detail of the woven net with the "goalie" peg.
The beautiful leaf logo at "centre ice".
I believe my game was manufactured and sold in 1948.

 The official rules that came with the game are as follows.

A game of skill - 2 to 6 players
A steel ball is used instead of a puck
Use finger tip only on controls

Rules: Play is started by shooting puck from shooter and continues until a goal is scored or puck goes out of play. Puck is out of play when it is motionless behind goal net or caught between goalie and goal post. Play or side scoring first ten goals, wings or can be played in three periods of a minute or more a period. Ball must stay in net to be counted.
Penalty: When a player (or side) knocks puck out of rink, opposing player (or side) takes penalty shot.
Penalty Shot: Only the goalie of the penalized side is allowed to play against entire team of his opponent until goal is scored or puck is out of play.
Game should be played on a flat and level surface. If there is more play at one end of game than the other, insert a thin piece of cardboard under rubber bumper or foot to adjust level.

Looks pretty, pretty good on the den wall.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sylvanus Apps, Olympian

Most good hockey fans will know that all-time Toronto Maple Leaf great Syl Apps was an Olympian before turning to pro hockey. After starring with the Hamilton Tigers in OHA senior hockey with 22 goals in 19 games, Apps represented Canada in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The 21 year-old would finish tied for sixth place in Pole Vault with a leap of 13 feet, 1 and 5/32 inches.

Later that summer, Conn Smythe signed the highly touted player who was regarded as the best amateur player in the country. Apps would step in to replace the retired Joe Primeau between Busher Jackson and Charlie Conacher. The future Hall of Famer would end up leading the NHL with 29 assists and collected 45 points in 48 games winning the Calder Trophy in the process.

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