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.

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