Thursday, July 31, 2014

Maple Leaf Cup of Coffee; Jack Forsey

Jack Forsey had a terrific rookie season for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942/43. He played in 19 of the team's 50 games and notched 16 points. This 0.84 points per game in his first season are equaled or bettered by only 116 other men in National Hockey League history. Of these 116 players, an amazing 40 are or will be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Among these players, Jack Forsey is the only one to never play another game in the NHL after his fine rookie campaign. What happened to Jack Forsey?

Born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Forsey starred for the the junior Calgary Jimmies before joining the senior Kimberly Dynamiters. At age 23, he went to England to play professionally for the Earls Court Rangers. It was after his first season here that he represented Canada at the World Hockey Championships in spring of 1937. His 8 goals in 7 games helped Canada secure the Gold medal. Forsey returned to Canada in 1939 and excelled for the Sherbrooke Red Raiders of the Quebec Professional League finishing second in points with 83 in 41 games.

It was this off-season in the summer of 1940 that Forsey signed with Baltimore of the EUSHL but before he played a game with them he reneged and signed with Cornwall of the Quebec Senior League. This prompted a ruling on Forsey's case by the CAHA at their annual convention to prevent players from signing with multiple teams. He was ordered to pay $25 to cover the Baltimore scout's travel expenses in signing him or else be suspended. After a solid year with Cornwall, he finally made the jump to the AHL as a 28 year old with the Providence Reds for the 1941/42 campaign.

Following a fine season in the AHL  (46 points in 52 games), Forsey finally garnered interest from an NHL squad. He spent the 1942/43 season bouncing between Toronto and Providence, producing well at each level. While with the Leafs he was usually lined up alongside the likes of team leading scorer Lorne Carr and Mel Hill, which helped in his production. 

Perhaps the main reason for Forsey's short NHL career was World War II. Prior to the next season, he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force, but upon being rejected due to a broken nose he was sent to Red Deer for basic training. He spent that year with Red Deer Army Wheelers in the Alberta National Defense League playing with and against such established stars as Dave Schriner, Alex Kaleta, Mac Coville and Max and Reg Bentley. He did not play at all in 1944/45 due to military service and by the time the 1945/46 season rolled around Forsey was 32 years old. This brings us to the other main reason that Jack Forsey played only one year in the NHL, his age. 

Among the 117 players who counted at least 0.84 points per game in their first season only Bill Cook, Didier Pitre and Sergei Makarov were older; the first two are in the Hall while the third one probably should be. As it was, Forsey remained out west after the war playing senior hockey everywhere from Red Deer and Kimberley to Regina and Saskatoon before ending his career with the Kamloops Elks of the Okanagan Senior League. At age 36 he scored 20 goals for the Elks and helped them advance to the 1950 Allan Cup.

Jack Forsey was 84 years old when he passed away in Salmon Arm, B.C. in 1998 and is buried in Calgary.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Shorty Horne, The Death of a Maple Leaf

Young Players Star as Leafs Shutout Hawks - That was a headline in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper on November 16, 1928. The article was referring to Toronto Maple Leaf youngsters Andy Blair and George 'Shorty' Horne. It went on to state;
"Blair and Shorty Horne, a star with Stratford in the Can-pro circuit last season, bounded squarely into the limelight with two quick goals in the second period. It was 'Youngsters Night', for the kids of the Leaf team ran wild for practically the entire time they were on the ice..."

The article then went on to describe Horne's play that game; 
"Short Horne jumped into the limelight with two brilliant rushes and then combined with Andy Blair on a pass in front of the goalmouth that made Gardiner step lively...Irwin and Gottselig gave Chabot close ones and then Shorty Horne broke down right wing, stickhandled around the defense and swept in to beat Gardiner for the Leafs' second tally."

Less than a week later the young star was at it again as Toronto beat Montreal Maroons 4-1; 
"Shorty Horne was the Toronto star of the night. He was on the receiving end of two brilliant three men combination efforts, resulting in the first two Leaf goals."

Most fans of hockey history will have some familiarity with Andy Blair. He played nine NHL seasons collecting 157 points and a Stanley Cup with the Leafs in 1932. But who was Shorty Horne? Horne would go on to finish 25th in the NHL with 9 goals in 39 games in 1928/29 in his first full NHL season and his hockey future looked bright. Alas, he would never play again after that campaign. He perished that summer in an outdoor accident.

Born in Sudbury, Ontario in 1904, George Horne grew to a height of only 5 ft 6 in earning him his nickname. He starred with the Sudbury Wolves juniors and North Bay Trapper seniors before signing as a free agent with Montreal Maroons in October 1925. He went scoreless in 13 games for the Maroons and was eventually claimed on waivers by Stratford of the Can-Pro league in February 1927. It is here that Shorty Horne began to flourish as a professional player. He lead the league with 32 goals in 40 games and once again caught the eye of an NHL squad. The Toronto Maple Leafs purchased his rights from the Maroons on October 1, 1928.

Following his successful first year with Toronto, teammate Hap Day called him one of the most promising players in the league. That summer he returned home to Sudbury as a 25 year old, up-and-coming NHL player, and future star. On July 31, 1929 Horne joined a pair of childhood friends and another man on a prospecting trip by canoe on Lake Sagotosky, about 150 km northwest of Sudbury. The four men were intending to assess some mining claims when an unexpected storm formed. They were paddling their heavy canoe about 100 yards from shore when large waves began flooding the boat. Eventually capsizing, they clung to the overturned canoe. The men decided to swim for shore and removed their heavy clothing and boots to aid in the effort. Shorty Horne was not able to remove his boots. Horne became exhausted attempting to swim with the boots still on his feet. He vanished below the waves, unable to resurface.

The three others searched in vain before deciding to hike seven miles through the bush to find help. Police and government officials searched for four days before finding the body of George Horne. His funeral would be held in Sudbury and was attended by Maple Leafs Hap Day, Art Smith, Ace Bailey, Red Horner and Conn Smythe.

In a preview of the upcoming NHL campaign the following November, the Associated Press referred to the Maple Leafs "cruel blow suffered during the summer when Shorty Horne, one of their most brilliant young players, was drowned in Northern Ontario". The hockey world would never find out how brilliant Shorty Horne could have been.

Special thanks to Hockey Heritage North for details about the tragedy.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Maple Leaf Cup of Coffee; Norm Armstrong

Time to look at another of the men who scored but one goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their brief appearance with the team, this week it's Norman "Red" Armstrong. Born in Owen Sound, Ontario Armstrong made his debut as a Maple Leaf in December of 1962. He was called up from Sudbury Wolves of the Eastern League to replace an injured Bob Nevin.

Armstrong turned pro two years prior, joining the Charlotte Checkers at age 22. He would play a mere 7 games with Toronto collecting a goal and an assist. His goal came in the first shift he played in the big leagues and the strange thing is, this first shift was late in the third period of a blow-out game against Boston.
His goal assisted by Bob Pulford at 15:18 of the final frame made the score 7-1 in favour of Toronto, a game the Leafs won 8-2. Below is a photo from the game on December 15, 1962 as well as the box score.


Upon the return of Bob Nevin, Armstrong was returned to Sudbury and eventually joined the Rochester Americans late in 1962/63. This would prove to be a beneficial arrangement for him as he would play most of the next ten seasons for the Amerks and retire as one of their most popular players ever. Armstrong produced seasons of 29, 30 and 32 goals in the AHL and was an inaugural member of the Rochester Americans Hall of Fame in 1986. Unfortunately, Red Armstrong was not around to appreciate this honour. On July 23, 1974 he lost his life in an industrial accident while working at a steel mill in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Maple Leaf Cup of Coffee; Ray Ceresino

I'm going to be looking at little-known Maple Leafs players of yesteryear, specifically those who had but one taste of the big time in the National Hockey League. All of these guys have a story to tell, the first is Ray Ceresino who played 12 games with the Leafs in December 1948, scoring but one career NHL goal.

 "A rookie and a veteran last night clicked for the Leafs. Ray Ceresino, former Port Arthur and Oshawa junior star, got his first NHL goal with less than three minutes left to beat the Bruins. He got it on a rink-wide pass from Max Bentley." This description from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is of the first and only NHL goal for Ray Ceresino. The marker came on December 12, 1948 after having been elevated from the AHL Pittsburgh Hornets two weeks prior. 

On December 1, The same newspaper reported; "Ray Ceresino, brilliant little left wing of the Pittsburgh Hornets, has been recalled by the parent Toronto Maple Leafs for a tryout tonight when the Leafs meet the Red Wings at Detroit." Ceresino had been a junior star with the Oshawa Generals, tallying 53 points in 28 games in 1946/47 to place 7th in league scoring. After one more season in the junior circuit he graduated to the AHL's Pittsburgh Hornets, farm club of the Maple Leafs. 
Having played regularly with Les Costello and fellow Port Arthur, Ontario native Rudy Migay in Pittsburgh, Ceresino produced at a point per game pace over the first 22 games of 1948 before his chance in the bigs. He would have the honour of skating alongside future Hall of Famer Max Bentley in his stint with the Leafs. In fact his one and only goal was assisted by Bentley and proved to be the winning mark against the Bruins.

Ceresino lasted 12 games with Toronto before being returned to Pittsburgh on Jan 3, 1949. He finished his rookie professional season in the AHL with 22 goals and 38 points in 47 games. He was traded at the start of the following season to Cleveland along with Harry Taylor and the loan of Tod Sloan for Bob Solinger. With the Barons, Ceresino was part of three AHL Calder Cup championships in the 1950's. After two different stints with Seattle Ironmen and Victoria Cougars out west, he returned home to play a year of Senior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Indians before retiring in 1957. Ray Ceresino is now 85 years old and still has an NHL game-winning goal, assisted by a Hall of Famer brag about.

Cersino's only NHL goal
Ceresino's only NHL assist

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