Saturday, August 31, 2013

Schinkel to Shack to Schock

In recently reading an autobiography on Eddie Shack "Clear The Track", his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins was highlighted by playing on a colourful line. Early in the 1972/73 season he was team up with fellow veterans Ken Schinkel and Ron Schock. The Pittsburgh media blandly dubbed them the "Sh"-line. Personally, I feel a hockey line made up of the names Schinkel, Shack and Schock deserves a little more colourful description. I decided to work up a little poem about their brief time together. What follows is a first draft of a possible future illustrated story.

The Penguins were young but these three were old,
As a line together their time was quite brief.
They played with a flow that was matched by their names,
The goals they scored were beyond one's belief.

The first one was Schinkel, the old veteran soul,
An original Penguin playing his last pro campaign.
He had slogged in the minors for year after year,
When put on this line he found youth once again.

The centreman of this trio went by the name Schock,
He had been a Bruin, a Seal, a Blue then a Pen.
The engine of this line as he dished to his mates,
A playmaking pivot from beginning to end.

The last one of the mix was the one they called Shack.
The longtime old Leaf had been a part of four Cups.
Picked up from the Sabres a few months before,
Still the master entertainer as his career wound up.

It started on opening night 1972 with the Kings in town,
Midway through the second they scored; Schinkel to Shack to Schock.
In the last period they beat Vachon once again,
The game-winning goal; Schinkel from Shack and Schock.

Near the end of that month the three struck once again,
They opened scoring for the Pens: Schinkel to Shack to Schock.
They snuck another past the Seals 'tender Meloche,
The names that rolled off the tongue; Shack from Schinkel and Schock.

On the 18th of November, Pittsburgh bested the Flames six to one,
Half a minute into the game, who were the first to knock?
The names that rattled inside Dan Bouchard's head,
Why of course it was; Schinkel to Shack to Schock.

Near the end of November the Maple Leafs came a-calling,
Alas the Penguins were poor hosts and won in a cake-walk.
The line that would notch the back breaking goal,
Scored by the former Maple Leaf; Shack from Schinkel and Schock.

However, the magic for these three did not last very long.
By the turn of the new year, the coach was sent for a walk.
The new coach they named was the veteran Schinkel.
This ended forever the line of Schinkel and Shack and Schock.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Inside The Leafs Dressing Room, 1964

Following are excerpts from a Toronto Maple Leafs game program of Saturday November 28, 1964. The story, penned by Leaf P.R. Director Stan Obodiac, provides an interesting look inside the workings of an NHL dressing room almost 50 years ago. My thoughts and observations are added.

"After three Stanley Cups," says Bob Haggert (Leaf trainer), "they are basically the same guys. Tommy (Assistant trainer Nayler) and I know them pretty well. Habits don't change." Tonight for example, Ron Stewart, Kent Douglas and Johnny Bower were the first ones to report to the dressing room. Stewart never fails to pick up a copy of  the insert pages of the programme. "I like to see if I'm still in the lineup," he jokes.  He usually was in the lineup as he totalled 1,353 games over his NHL career.

"The last one in is always Horton," says Haggert. "He just seems to make it at 6:59. He has to get on that ice at 7:30, you know.  But the last out tonight will be George Armstrong and Allan Stanley. The veterans take their time."  I get to my own beer-league games earlier than Horton did for NHL games. I am similar to Armstrong and Stanley in that I'm a veteran that takes his time leaving the room afterwards.

Tommy Nayler points to the west side of the dressing room and confides: "That's where the quiet ones sit- Stanley, Horton, Moore, Ellis, Brewer, Kelly. Never hear a peep out of them." Allan Stanley has always been silent; Tim Horton comes in late and has to concentrate on putting on his equipment; Dickie Moore is new to the club; Ron Ellis is the rookie; Carl Brewer frowns on chit-chat; and Red Kelly is unusually silent, in the room, for a politician. Kelly of course was a working Member of Canadian Parliament at this time.

There are some wonderful physical specimens among the Leafs. Bower obviously has the enduring physique. (Is 'enduring' another way of saying 'chunky'?) Frank Mahovlich is amblingly strong. "Horton and Shack appear to be the strongest," says Nayler. "But some of these guys don't depend on hockey alone to keep them in shape. Stanley goes for walks. Shack goes bike riding. Bower goes running."  'Stanley goes for walks?' What do the rest of the guys do, 'crawl' to and from the rink. When 'walking' is listed as a workout for a professional athlete, you know times were different.

Trainer Haggert admits that all equipment has now been standardized; not as many idiosyncrasies are present. "Every year we put in a new set of gloves and new set of pants," Bob said. One set of gloves per season, nowadays some guys use three or four per GAME.  "However, Terry Sawchuk uses a heavy stick-hand glove, while Johnny Bower likes it as light as he can get it. Kent Douglas has a fibre-back glove. It is almost the same as a goalie. And he blocks a lot of shots." A goaltender-like blocker glove for a defenceman, wonder if that would fly now.

"Bower is the biggest TV watcher on the whole team," say the trainers. "Any time he parks he watches TV." Nayler said: "Eddie Shack is the most talkative. Has to be. But I would have to flip a coin to decide  who is the most humorous on the team- The Chief (Armstrong) or Ron Stewart. Bobby Baun is the biggest eater." Nice honour to have, Biggest Eater.

It seems though that the best dressers are Bob Baun and Andy Bathgate. "No wonder about Bathgate," someone quipped, "he's outfitted by Esquire and topped off by Vitalis."
I knew Vitalis was some kind of hair product, apparently Andy took pride in his coiffure.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Team Canada 1972, What Might have Been

Guy Lafleur, if he had played in the 72 Summit Series

"No way. Can you imagine what our fans would say if we allowed Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito to play for Canada in that series and either...suffered an injury that might prevent them from playing with us for a year or more?" This was the concern of Weston Adams Jr, president of the Boston Bruins as quoted on April 20, 1972. After being speculated and discussed since February 1972 at the Olympics in Sapporo Japan, the series was set to go. Early on however, controversy stirred as to who exactly would be representing Canada.

Bruins GM, Milt Schmidt agreed with his boss saying, "My only interest would be to see the Russians play the Bruins for the world championship...or whatever team wins the Stanley Cup." In the Vancouver Sun a few days later, the legendary Jim Coleman responds to the American naysayers suggesting that Team Canada should be made up strictly of players from Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. In the Vancouver Sun on April 25, 1972 he suggests;

 "No one invited the Americans to stick their noses into this private little shinny tournament...Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs have membership on the board of Hockey Canada. Thus, (they) are the only professional hockey clubs which are involved directly in the Canada-Russia series. Vancouver Canucks also have a representative on the board of Hockey Canada but, the Canucks don't count for a hill of beans. The Canucks are Canadian in name only. The Canucks are controlled by a group of carpet-bagging Americans (Tom Scallen's Medicor group out of Minnesota). Forget them. Let's have no more crap from Blathering Bill Jennings (NY Rangers president), Wet Ears Westy Adams or any other American club owner."

Pretty harsh stuff from Mr. Coleman. NHL President, Clarence Campbell weighed in on the situation, "the three Canadian teams in the NHL are committed...but I think this will be broadened. There are many Canadians playing for American teams who would want to play for a Canadian team against Russia. I am certain about this." Of course, in the end Campbell was correct. Other than players who jumped to the WHA that summer, all Canadian players were allowed to play by their respective club teams and the NHL. The question is, what would a Team Canada have looked like if made up of players from only the three Canadian based NHL squads? Let's turn on the old What-if Time Machine and have a look.

Below is my 35 man Team Canada 1972 camp roster selected from only the Canadiens, Leafs and Canucks excluding WHA jumpers, with their 1971/72 stats.

  • Pete Mahovlich 75-35-32-67
  • Dave Keon 72-18-30-48
  • Jacques Lemaire 77-32-49-81
  • Norm Ullman 77-23-50-73
  • Henri Richard 75-12-32-44
  • Darryl Sittler 74-15-17-32
  • Orland Kurtenbach 78-24-37-61
  • Yvan Cournoyer 73-47-36-83
  • Ron Ellis 78-23-24-47
  • Guy Lafleur 73-29-35-64
  • Bobby Schmautz 60-12-12-25
  • Claude Larose 77-20-18-38
  • Rick Kehoe 38-8-8-16
  • Frank Mahovlich 76-43-53-96
  • Paul Henderson 73-38-19-57
  • Marc Tardif 75-31-22-53
  • Andre Boudrias 78-27-34-61
  • Rejean Houle 77-11-17-28
  • Wayne Maki 76-22-25-47
  • Don Lever 63-61-65-126 (OHA)
  • Steve Shutt 58-63-49-112 (OHA)
  • Guy Lapointe 69-11-38-49
  • Serge Savard 23-1-8-9
  • Jacques Laperriere 73-3-25-28
  • Brian Glennie 61-2-8-10
  • Jim McKenny 76-5-31-36
  • Jocelyn Guevermont 75-13-38-51
  • Dale Tallon 69-17-27-44
  • Bobby Baun 74-2-12-14
  • Dennis Kearns 73-3-26-29
  • John Van Boxmeer 56-30-42-72 (JrA)
  • Ken Dryden 39-8-15, 2.24
  • Jacques Plante 16-13-5, 2.63
  • Dunc Wilson 16-30-3, 3.62
  • Michel Larocque 3.45 (OHA)
Bold names are players that were at least in a small part a member of the actual 1972 Team Canada. A few names that at the time were considered rather strong omissions to Harry Sinden's 35 man camp invitee list were Dave Keon and Jacques Lemaire. Jacques Laperriere was indeed initially invited but turned down the offer. I've included a few junior players and youngsters to round out camp as Sinden did with the likes of Larocque and Van Boxmeer.

With eight members of my squad playing large parts of Canada's actual victory in 1972, and the additions of players like Keon, Lemaire, Ullman, Richard, Lafleur and Plante, I think this squad would have a fairly good chance in squeaking out victory against the Russians back then. The one thing they would be missing that the actual team had was the big-body presence and leadership of Phil Esposito.

Dave Keon as a fictitious member of Team Canada 1972

Monday, August 26, 2013

1967/68 Toronto Maple Leafs Official Fact Book

 Here's the latest addition to the actual Hockey Den, the team Fact Book issued for the 1967/68 campaign. Toronto of course had just won the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in the 1960's, and alas this would be the last for a while.

At least our history was well documented and beautifully preserved in the books, guides and programs that I collect from the era. It may be a lifetime ago, but man it sure displays nicely in a den.

 Here's a few of the interior layouts, firstly showing the last Cup winning squad and below, the great Tim Horton.
 The back of the guide had a terrific ad for Becker's Milk. This, for anyone who grew up in Southern Ontario will bring back many childhood memories. Becker's along with Mac's had small convenience stores in pretty much ever village, town and hamlet and I believe still exist in some. My neighbourhood Becker's was a three block jaunt up the hill where I purchased many a pack of hockey cards or stickers as well as a Creamsicle for the walk home. When I had an extra quarter I'd pick up one of my favourites, a chocolate covered/ marshmallow broomstick. A real cavity opener, that one.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Joe Ironstone, Toronto's Perfect Goaltender

The headline in the Montreal Gazette said it all; "IRONSTONE HERO OF BRUINS-LEAFS GAME". The article begins;
"Playing with their backs to the wall and with Joe Ironstone, an unknown quantity in big league hockey, guarding their citadel, the Toronto Maple Leafs battled the sturdy Boston Bruins through 70 minutes of guerilla-like hockey to a scoreless draw."
The run-on sentences continued;
"The hero of the night, however, from a local standpoint, was Ironstone, leading net-guardian of the Canadian Professional Hockey League, who came to the aid of the Leafs when Roach (regular goaltender, John Ross Roach) was stricken with an attack of gall-stones which necessitated his removal to a hospital. Ironstone, who has a string of shutout records to his credit secured while guarding the Toronto Falcons net, gave an impressive display against the Bruins. He was a little unsteady on his feet, but his numerous, brilliant saves won plaudits of the fans."

This would prove to be the only game that Ironstone would ever play for Toronto. He had played 40 minutes of a game two seasons prior for the New York Americans, allowing three goals. For Toronto in the 1927/28 season, he had been a call-up from the Toronto Falcons for whom he would post seven shutouts and a 1.77 GAA. A teammate on this squad was future Maple Leaf star, Joe Primeau as well as past and future NHLers Bert Corbeau, George Patterson, Art Smith and Carl Voss.

Ironstone would play three more seasons in the minor-pros before returning home to Sudbury, Ontario. Here he played senior hockey, retiring after taking the Falconbridge Falcons to the Allan Cup in 1936. He remains the only goaltender in NHL history with a shutout in half of his career games and the only Maple Leaf with a shutout in his only game. The perfect goalie.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Overtime Winner that Almost Wasn't

Here's another good little hockey history yarn as told by Toronto Maple Leaf great Joe Primeau.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Canadiens were playing in the Montreal Forum on Christmas Eve, 1931. The regulation 60 minutes had ended in a one-all tie. Pit Lepine had scored for the Flying Frenchmen mid-way in the first period, and King Clancy had tallied for us at about the same stage in the third period.
Neither team opened up at anything like full tilt in  the rather slow 10-minute overtime and, as I staged face-offs with Howie Morenz he began to beef, mildly enough, about having to play through a meaningless overtime on Christmas Eve. 
There had been no scoring in the overtime when the siren sounded to end the game. Both teams were on their way to the dressing-rooms when we were called back by referee Cooper Smeaton. The timekeeper, it seems had sounded the siren a little more than 10 seconds too soon. We had to go back on the ice to finish the affair. 
Before Smeaton came to centre-ice with the puck, Morenz said to me:
"When he drops the puck, just let it lie there. We can use up their 10 seconds that way."
I didn't make any reply, but I didn't think that I should get involved in any game-stalling episode. I decided that I would simply slap the puck out of the face-off area, and thus give somebody else a chance to stall, if he wanted to.
As the referee got ready to face-off, Morenz wheeled on him and declared:
"This is a sheer waste of everybody's time, especially on Christmas Eve. Even the fans want to get away. With only 10 seconds left to play, there's no time for anything to happen. It's a farce!"
However, Smeaton dropped the rubber and I, quite aimlessly, cleared it over toward the left boards.
Then something happened - and how!
At that moment, for some unknown reason, Busher Jackson was steaming at full speed down our left wing. He was never able to explain the sudden move.
Anyway, Jackson took that puck in stride, simply fled past the surprised Canadien right winger, skated up to the defence and used a rear-guard as a screen for a terrific, ankle-high shot.
Morenz and I were still parked, almost stock-still, at centre ice. We had been left so far out of Jackson's rush that there was no point in trying to get in on it.
We heard the shot ring in a goalpost; then saw the puck flash into the cage behind Hainsworth.
You should have heard Morenz then!
I was really called down as we got ready for just one more face-off. I had been just as surprised by Jackson's move as Howie had, but the timing of my freak pass had been perfect, and I guess Morenz thought the play had been planned.

There is no doubting that this story took place pretty much as described, but as usual, the teller may have exaggerated a few things or in this case, Primeau may have downplayed his involvement. The December 25, 1931 Montreal Gazette has a story with the headline;

"Canadiens Lose To Toronto, 2-1 With 5 Seconds To Go";
With five seconds to go in the overtime session last night, Harvey (Busher) Jackson, Maple Leafs dashing left winger, broke up what looked almost certain to be a tie. 

It's here were Primeau appears to be slightly less innocent than he painted himself.

It was a beautifully-executed effort, for Primeau drew the Canadien defence neatly together and flung a perfect pass to the dark-haired Torontonian who was tearing in on his wing. Hainsworth was beaten by a biting shot low to the far corner.

It would appear that the winning scoring play happened not from a face-off but during the regular course of play. Also, there is no mention of the teams leaving the ice surface prematurely only to be called back. Still, this story passes basic inspection and remains a great, small part of hockey history.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Andy Blair and the Four-man Disadvantage

Here's another fine tale from the long lost days of hockey history. It is regaled by Toronto Maple Leaf defenceman Hap Day;

Only once in all the years I've been associated with Conn Smythe have I seen him totally at a loss for an answer, and really stumped.
It occurred around the 1928/29 season, and it was Conn's first winter as active coach of the Maple Leafs. Here I should explain that Smythe made frequent use of the word "strategy" while checking up  on the players.
One night we were playing in Ottawa, where the Leafs hadn't won a game from the powerful Senators for a long time. However, the Toronto squad was playing extremely well; the score was 0-0 in the third period.
Suddenly, we ran into a most unusual string of four quick penalties, all of them to our defencemen. Our four rear-guards, Art Duncan, Red Horner (then in his first year with the Leafs), Art Smith and myself, were all in the penalty box at one time. This was in the days before the delayed ruling. Thus, the club was left with just goalie Lorne Chabot, and one forward, Andy Blair, on the ice. Blair was the proud possessor of a Bachelor of Arts degree, he sported a little Joe College type moustache and he carried a handkerchief  up the sleeve of his jersey while playing hockey. In those days too, he had a nervous hesitation in his speech when he was under exceptional stress.
Blair proceeded to give the greatest one-man defensive-forward show I've ever seen. He was simply magnificent, and so was Chabot in goal. Long-armed Andy's sweeping, flailing stick seemed to be in the way of every Senator attack as he frantically skated and spun.
Blair and Chabot almost got away with their impossible task, too. It wasn't until just before the first of our penalized defencemen got back on the ice that King Clancy, finally scored a goal. The goal beat us 1-0.
But I've skated right past the main point in my story.
When the last of our defencemen was thumbed to the penalty box, and Blair realized that he was still 
going to have to stay out there to check the whole Ottawa team, he leisurely skated over to the Leaf's bench. Andy looked appealingly at Conn, but the coach didn't speak.
Blair fidgetted; he pulled off his gloves, took a handkerchief from his sleeve and daintily blew his nose while the whole rink watched and waited.
Finally, Andy coughed, and said;
"W-well, S-s-mythe, w-what's the s-strategy n-n-n-ow?"

Such high drama from Smythe and his gang. The question is, did it really happen though? Were the Leafs really penalized four times within a two minute span? This one proved to be a toughie.
Firstly, the year which this is supposed to have happened is hard to nail down. Given that Andy Blair was the principle of the story and it happened in Ottawa against the Senators, we are left with a three year window. Blair's first year was 1928/29 and the Senators would be no more by the 1931/32 season.
This leaves only nine possible games in which this could have occurred, and none of them ended 1-0 in favour of Ottawa. Perhaps Hap Day got the final score wrong, this still leaves only a few likely games to check.

On March 16, 1929 Toronto lost 2-0 in Ottawa. The game, however was not scoreless into the third period and there is no mention in the write-up in the Montreal Gazette about a four-man disadvantage. Also, in no period were there penalties to all Toronto defenders. Only Art Smith and Art Duncan received penalties.

The following season, the Leafs lost by a 2-1 score at Ottawa, but Toronto actually scored first in this one at 5:40 of the first period. Again, three of the four Leaf d-men survived un-penalized.
Six weeks later Toronto again lost 2-0 in Ottawa, both of these goals however were scored in overtime, by Frank Finnigan, within twenty seconds of each even strength.

The final season in which the tale could have happened was 1930/31 and Toronto did not lose in Ottawa that year.

So, as great a story as this was, it seems that Day may have been exaggerating some. The odds that it happened exactly as Hap Day described are fairly low.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Goaltender Lorne Chabot gets a Penalty...Game Over.

I enjoy reading obscure hockey tales in old books and magazines and I enjoy even more doing a bit of research to either prove or disprove the accuracy of the actual events that happened whenever possible.
Here's a good one from the memories of Maple Leaf boss Conn Smythe.

The most baffling, most mystifying situation I've run into in hockey took place around the 1931/32 season. The layout of Boston Garden differs from Maple Leaf Gardens; there's no aisle around the rink just behind the boards in Boston. Many corridors, like the one in front of the dressing-rooms in Maple Leaf Gardens, extend from the rear promenade to rink-side, and the team's dressing-rooms are in one end of the rink, not at the sides.
On this particular night, I had been detained in our dressing-room by some Boston friends. I finally got away, to start the long walk down the rear promenade that would take me to the corridor leading out to the Leafs' bench at rinkside.
As I left the dressing-room, I knew by the noise of the crowd that the game had started. I was all by myself in the wide hall under the seats and I couldn't see the crowd or the ice surface. Seconds later, the crowd broke into wild cheering that only a goal can cause.
I scooted into the nearest corridor leading to rinkside, looked down the ice and couldn't see a goalie in our net. Lorne Chabot wasn't there; the goal cage was empty, and the scoreboard read Boston 1, Toronto 0.
Puzzled, I turned away from the boards and resumed my walk through the corridors toward the bench. I had just reached the rear promenade again when another outburst of cheering shook the rink.
I ducked into the next corridor and ran out to rinkside. There was still nobody wearing the big pads in he Leaf's net, and the scoreboard showed Boston 2, Toronto 0.
Now I really wondered what was going on!
By this time, I hadn't very far to go to reach our bench. This may read like an overdone movie script, but a third storm of cheering reached my ears, and for the third time, I ran back to rinkside. There was still no goalie in our cage, and the score was 3-0 Boston!
Just then referee Bill Stewart came skating along the boards. I reached out and grabbed his arm. After I had told him that I didn't know what was going on and hadn't seen a thing, Stewart rapidly explained the situation. During the very first rush of the game, Chabot had tripped Cooney Weiland, the Boston centre man, and had been sent to the penalty box. Goalies had to serve their penalties in those days. A defenceman or a forward had to take the goalie's place in the net. Alex Levinsky had attempted to act as our goalkeeper, and the Bruins promptly scored on him. That ended his career as twine-tender. Coach Dick Irvin then put big Red Horner into the net, in the hope that he'd fill up more space. Boston scored again. So, out came Horner, and into our net went Charlie Conacher. Another Boston shot was fired, and the score was 3-0. I think I was still shaking my head in disbelief when I finally got to our team's bench. 

A great little yarn by The Major, but did it really happen as he said? This one was fairly easy to check out thanks to Google News Archives and a few hockey database sites. Looking at the 1931/32 campaign, Toronto played in Boston three times. They as a matter of fact allowed at least three goals in all three games tying 3-3, losing 3-0 and losing 6-2 on March 15, 1932. Searching "Maple Leafs" with Google News around that date  I find a Canadian Press write-up in the Calgary Herald dated March 16, 1932. Bingo.

The story begins, "A penalty to Lorne Chabot, Toronto goalie, in the early minutes of play at Boston, spelled defeat for Maple Leafs. While Chabot rested in the penalty box, after referee Bill Stewart had waived him from the ice for tripping Weiland, Bruins ran in three easy goals, two by Marty Barry and the other by George Owen as Red Horner, King Clancy and Alex Levinsky took turns in the Toronto net." There you go! I wish they could all be this easy. Smythe's story had it perfect except for confusing Conacher for Clancy as one of the Leaf 'goalies'. The element of the story that Smythe fails to recall is what happened after he tracked down referee Stewart. The article mentions that Stewart "had to halt the action in the first period to order Manager Connie Smythe off the Toronto the Toronto bench after being grabbed by him. This episode turned into a minor riot when several of the Leafs engaged in arguments with the spectators."

Ahh yes, Old Tyme Hockey.

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