Friday, January 30, 2015

Howie Harvey, Doug's Goaltender Brother

I am currently reading Bruce McDougall's excellent book, "The Last Hockey Game". It is a fantastic account of the behind-the-scene doings of the players and events of the Stanley Cup Final clinching game of May 2, 1967. Yes, the last time the Maple Leafs won the Cup when they topped the Canadiens four games to two in the final. The book is not just for Leafs and Habs fans, it's a terrific snapshot of how the NHL used to be in the  final days before expansion full of seldom heard stories and anecdotes.

One of the quick stories is about how hockey players were able to play through pains and injuries, it centres around a  little known goalie, Howie Harvey;

"(Red) Kelly remembered  a kid named Howie Harvey, who went to St. Michael's College, the Catholic high school in Toronto where Kelly and several teammates had played junior hockey. Harvey was a goalie, good enough to earn a tryout one fall with the Leafs. At the tryout, Harvey watched a deflected puck hot Leafs' regular goalie, Baz Bastien, in the face. The puck dislodged Bastien's eyeball, rendering him blind in one eye.
Most other players, after seeing such an accident, would simply have adjusted their pre-game ritual and kept right on playing...
Howie Harvey was an exception. Harvey skated to the bench, took off his gloves, leaned his stick against the wall, unbuckled his goalie pads and quit pro hockey on the spot. Even Harvey's big brother Doug, an all-star defenceman with the Montreal Canadiens, couldn't entice him back to the game."

An interesting little bit of hockey lore, but is it true? Howie Harvey was indeed a star goaltender and younger brother of Hall of Famer Doug Harvey. The two actually were teammates with the Montreal Junior Royals in 1944/45 and the senior Montreal Royals the following year. At that point, still being junior eligible, Howie was acquired by St. Michael's College Majors in Toronto. Here, he played in a star-studded lineup that included Red Kelly, Fleming Mackell, Rudy Migay and Ed Sanford. After helping St. Mikes to the 46/47 Memorial Cup, Howie Harvey graduated to the senior Toronto Marlboros for two seasons.
Howie Harvey & Red Kelly celebrating the 1947 Memorial Cup win
The database of the Society for International Hockey Research states plainly that Harvey retired for a different reason all together; "Retired because of a persistent skin rash, Sept. 21, 1949." So, what caused this promising young goaltender to quit the game he excelled in, was it his witnessing a gruesome injury, or was it a skin condition?   It was training camp for the 1949/50 campaign when the event in question happened. I managed to find a newspaper article detailing it;

Sept 20, 1949 Pitt Post Gazette
Bastien did indeed suffer the career ending injury in practice, but it was with the AHL Pittsburgh Hornets, farm team of the Maple Leafs, not during a Leaf practice. Also, no mention of Howie Harvey is made in the article. An article from two days later does however mention Harvey, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Sept. 22, 1949 is below;

Harvey himself is quoted,"I was bothered with a skin ailment last winter. I don't think I can stand another season of it." There we have it. Howie Harvey was indeed slated to replace Baz Bastien in the Pittsburgh Hornets net and would have essentially been one step away from goaltender of the Maple Leafs. In Kevin Shea's 2008 book, "St. Michael's College:100 Years of Pucks and Prayers", Harvey's skin problems are detailed, "severe allergies eventually forced him to leave the game he loved. Following games, Harvey's hands and face would swell considerably. Toronto's team doctor's suspected that Howie was allergic to material used in his hockey equipment, but they were never able to diagnose what it was that caused the reaction. Majors teammate and future NHLer,  Benny Woit is quoted,"The gloves and the pads bothered him and he used to get pretty sick on the ice." 

Benny Woit also added regarding Howie Harvey, "He would certainly have gone to the NHL. He was as good as any of them up there."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Tim Horton biography (drawing a blank on the name of it at the moment) mentions the same story. Allergic to his own equipment.

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