Monday, June 16, 2014

1954 NHL Oldtimers Game

In front of 10,000 spectators at Montreal's Forum, the NHL Oldtimers' Associations of Ontario and Quebec put an an entertaining display of hockey expertise. The date was Wednesday, January 6, 1954 and when all was said and done the Quebec masters beat the Ontario elders 11-9. This was the first meeting of the ex-NHL stars and was organized by Ontario's Lorne Duguid and Albert 'Battleship' Leduc of the Quebec Association. The proceeds of the match went to helping handicapped children.

The array of former stars was truly mind-boggling, pictured above is the elderly version of Toronto's famed Kid Line (left to right, Charlie Conacher, Joe Primeau and Busher Jackson. Other Ontario stars included Dit Clapper, Nels Stewart, Billy Taylor, Cy Wentworth and goaltender Roy Worters. Charlie Conacher, who was joined in the match by brothers Bert, Roy and 52-year old member of parliament Lionel. Charlie and Roy notched two goals each while ex-Bruin Bill Cowley counted six assists. 

Nels 'Old Poison' Stewart
 The Quebec squad was led by two goals from Syd Howe and sported stars such as Toe Blake, Sylvio Mantha, Ken Reardon, Buddy O'Connor and Hooley Smith. However, the greatest ovation of the evening was given to ex-Canadiens goaltender Bill Durnan when he skated out halfway through the second frame to replace Claude Bourque. Afterwards Durnan stated what most of the players were probably thinking, "It's pretty tough getting back into the game. You find out you're not what you thought. After the first minute I thought I couldn't breathe."

Sadly, less than five months after this game, The Big Train, Lionel Conacher would die while playing a parliamentary softball game in Ottawa. He collapsed at third base after stretching a single into a triple. A fitting way to leave this world for Canada's Athlete of the Half-Century.

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