Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Vancouver PNE Forum

1931, shortly after opening
1961/62 Vancouver Canucks Program Header
The arena at the Vancouver Pacific National Exhibition Forum was the premier facility in the city for over three decades. Built in 1931 at the corner of Hastings and Renfrew on the East side of the city, it replaced the much larger Denman Arena as the main rink in town after the latter burned down in 1936. The structure remains one of the oldest current or former hockey arenas in Canada. Only Galt Gardens in Ontario, built in 1922 is older. Windsor Arena was built in 1925, but as of last year was being used as a salt storage facility by the local road works department, I believe it is slated for demolition.
Construction, 1931
Originally with a capacity of 5,050 the Forum became home to the Vancouver Canucks of the Pacific Coast Hockey League in 1945. By 1952, the loop was known as simply the Western Hockey League and the Forum would remain the Canucks home until 1967. This was the year the Pacific Coliseum opened right next door, providing a far larger home for the hockey club.
Many future and former NHL players skated for the Canucks at the Forum including Andy Bathgate, Johnny Bower, Bruce Gamble, Emile Francis, Bryan Hextall, Orland Kurtenbach, Allan Stanley, Gump Worsley, Lou Fontinato and Don Cherry.
Vancouver Canucks 1946
2015, view from South-West
I was recently able to explore some of the hidden nooks and crannies of the eight decade old building.at the Forum and took a few photos.

Not sure what's behind this door
Sprinkler room entrance
Utility corridor
Under the stands
Utility room

Closeup of the 50 year old bench seating
Roof support pillars

A couple wider shots of the stands
Since hockey vacated the Forum, the building continued to host concerts and trade shows. The ice-plant was removed in the early 1980's and placed put to use in the neighbouring Agridome (also on teh PNE site). As recently as 2010 the Forum served as Accreditation Centre for the Vancouver Olympics.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hockey Card Cameos

1981/82 #292 Tony Currie
Mike Palmateer, Pat Ribble, Perry Turnbull
Above is one of my favourite cards from my childhood days. No, I wasn't a big Tony Currie fan, but I always liked that fact that my favourite goalie Mike Palmateer sneaks in the left side of the photo. Currie's teammate Perry Turnbull also pops into the foreground. Twenty years ago, I got Palmateer to sign this card and as he laughed at it he put a little arrow pointing towards himself. It got me thinking about other players who have made un-credited cameos on others hockey cards.
1972/73 #76 Phil Esposito, NHL Action
Pat Stapleton, Ken Hodge, Tony Esposito, Pit Martin

1973/74 #150 Dave Keon
Paul Henderson, Norm Ullman, Steve Atkinson, Tim Horton, Don Luce
These are two of the busiest hockey cards ever, the Keon card is almost a team photo. The Esposito is especially cool as it pictures the two superstar brothers in action each. Also in the photo are Pat Stapleton battling Phil and Espos linemate Ken Hodge. The helmeted guy in the foreground is I believe Pit Martin when compared to the following picture of Martin in the 1971 Finals. 
The Keon card is fairly easy to identify the players, except for the Sabre behind Tim Horton. Using the sihr.com database to compare the face I would have to say it's Steve Atkinson. The linesman dropping the puck is a tough one, may very well be Ray Scapinello who started his career in 1971. See pic below.
Next up is the fantastic final issued Bobby Orr card. Although put out in 1978, it pictures Orr as a member of Team Canada during the 1976 Canada Cup. Who's that peaking out beside Bobby while sitting on the bench? None other than the second greatest defenceman of the era, Denis Potvin in his distinctive Northland helmet.
1978/79 O-Pee-Chee #300 Bobby Orr - Special Collectors Card
Denis Potvin
The same set as Orr's final card included the rookie card of another Hall of Famer, Mike Bossy. Also pictured on the card, jostling with Bossy for position, is #22 of the Capitals, Bobby Lalonde.
1978/79 #115, Mike Bossy
Bobby Lalonde
1979/80 #150 Ken Dryden
Yvon Lambert
The following year of O-Pee-Chee cards had two terrific cameo appearances on the final cards of two more Hall of Famers. Ken Dryden is having a leisurely warm-up skate in a game that looks like he's not starting (judging my the lack of goal stick in his hands), while behind the distinct face of Yvon Lambert is skating past.
The Gordie Howe of the same year also pictures two easily identifiable players in the background. The photo is from the season prior during a WHA game between the Whalers and Oilers and also shows Edmonton's Brett Callighen and Howe's fellow geezer teammate John "Pie" McKenzie.
1979/80 #175 Gordie Howe
Brett Callighen, John McKenzie
1982/83 #107 Wayne Gretzky In Action
Dave Hutchinson
These two early Gretzky's have nice cameos. Chicago's tough guy Dave Hutchinson is shown trying to take teh Great One out with a hip-check. Gretz seems unconcerned.
The one below shows an out of focus future Hall of Famer Mike Gartner and two unidentifiable Oilers on the right side.
1981/82 #125 Wayne Gretzky Super Action
Mike Gartner
1975/76 #100 Bobby Orr
Tom Lysiak
The first Orr here took a bit of work to figure out who's behind him. The only piece of evidence is a tiny number 12 on the skates of the player. Since, it's definitely an Atlanta Flame player, we can safely say it's Tom Lysiak. The last one shows number 5 of the Kings, the distinctive silver-haired Harry Howell. The King goalie sprawled out is none other than Gary Edwards, identified by his disticntive mask as seen below.
1972/73 #58 Bobby Orr, NHL Action
Harry Howell, Gary Edwards

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Infamous Bobby Rousseau Penalty Shot

Here's another cool story from  Bruce McDougall's excellent book, "The Last Hockey Game". In it there is a quick mention made of Montreal Canadien Bobby Rousseau scoring a penalty shot goal against Boston's Bruce Gamble...with a slap shot. This incident is also mentioned by other credible and excellent sources like Joe Pelletier's greatesthockeylegends.com and Dennis Kane's terrific Canadiens site denniskanemontrealcanadiens.wordpress.com . Kane's site also includes a photo of said event. The only thing is, I'm just not all that sure the event actually happened as described over the years.

If we take the details at face value, it's easy to narrow down the occaisons when Rousseau scored against Gamble while he was in Boston. Gamble was only in Boston for two seasons, 1960/61 and 1961/62. Rousseau played a mere 15 games as a rookie in 60/61, so there are minimal games to look at. There are only two goals Rousseau scored against Gamble when he played for Boston; Feb. 15, 1962 and March 10, 1962. Both of these goals had two assists awarded, therefore were not penalty shots.

So, Rousseau never did score a penalty shot goal against Gamble while Gamble was a member of the Bruins. What if we find all the goals Rosseau scored on Gamble, period. Where any of these ones on a penalty shot?

Rousseau Game vs. Gamble with Toronto, Goals noted
Feb 20, 66
Mar 2, 66 Goal
Mar 16, 66 Goal
Dec 21, 66 
Jan 11, 67
Jan 25, 67
Mar 22, 67
Dec 20, 67
Jan 30, 68
Mar 20, 68 2 Goals
Nov 14, 68
Dec 11, 68
Dec 26, 68
Feb 19, 69 Goal
Mar 6, 69
Mar 26, 69
Oct 15, 69
Nov 26, 69
Feb 11, 70
Mar 15, 70
Mar 25, 70 Goal
Using the Hockey Summary Project we can see that not one of these goals was scored via a penalty shot. What now? Perhaps the story was twisted over the years. Maybe it was indeed a penalty shot goal against Boston, but not on Bruce Gamble. Following are Rousseau's goals against Boston over the years.

Rousseau Goals vs Boston
Jan 12, 63
Feb 10, 63
Feb 14, 63 
Mar 7 63 2 Goals
Mar 17, 63
Nov 17, 63
Jan 1, 64
Jan 4, 64
Feb 20, 64
Nov 6, 65
Nov 7, 65
Dec 8, 65
Mar 9, 66
Mar 26, 66
Oct 22, 66
Oct 23, 66
Mar 15, 67 2 Goals
Mar 26, 67
Nov 25, 67
Jan 13, 68
Dec 22, 68
Mar 29, 69
Nov 1, 69

None of these were scored on a penalty shot...except February 14, 1963. The Canadian Press even mentions it;
"Bobby Rousseau scored on the penalty shot, at 1:50 of the third period. Jean-Guy Talbot of Montreal was sitting out a major penalty when Rousseau stole the puck from Boston's Doug Mohns, but was grabbed from behind by Murray Oliver as he broke into the clear.
Referee Art Skov immediately awarded the penalty shot and Rousseau beat Johnston with a hard drive into a low corner."

"A hard drive into a low corner," on a penalty shot, sure does sound like a slap shot. It also sure does look like what's happening in the photo above, but the photo says it's Bruce Gamble in the net. Seeing as we can't see a number on the tender, and they both caught with their left hand the only distinguishing feature to determine who the goalie is may be the hairline.
Gamble is on the left, pictured during the same era as the photo of the alleged penalty shot goal. Johnston is the second two shots. To me, the goalie in the photo has a higher, more "widow's peak" hairline that would seem to match Gamble's. So, where does that leave us? 

It seems the photo of Rousseau scoring on the long slap shot is in fact against Bruce Gamble, but I'm fairly certain this is not the penalty shot goal that has been re-told many times. Perhaps Rousseau was simply on a breakaway when he decided to wind up and hammer it. This has to be from either the Feb. 15 or March 10 1962 games. It looks like the actual penalty shot goal on Johnston from the following year may be the one that has been regaled over the years, just with the wrong goalie in net.

With thanks to one of my readers, I am now able to verify that on February 15, 1962 Bobby Rousseau did in fact score with a slap shot on a penalty shot against the Bruins Bruce Gamble. I did mention that this date was onr of only two that Rousseau scored against Gamble while he was with Boston, the problem with looking through multiple boxscores manually is that I missed the second  goal that he scored during the 9-1 blow-out that day. He tallied a shorthanded marker in the third period against Gamble in addition to his one earlier that had two assists.

In checking the Montreal Gazette's game report (which I didn't do originally thinking he only scored the one goal) we see it all clearly now;
"The feature of the game was Rousseau's penalty shot, awarded by Referee Frank Udvari after Bobby was pulled down from behind by Jerry Toppazzini. The rookie appeared as cool as a veteran as he skated in and let go a 35-foot slap-shot that went cleanly through Gamble's legs.
'I made  mistake,' said Rousseau afterwards. 'Jean Beliveau told me to shoot but I know he didn't mean a slap shot or for me to let it go so far out.' "

So there it is. The slap-shot on a penalty shot happened on February 15, 1962, and he may very well have repeated the feat almost exactly a year later against Eddie Johnston. Needless to say, the man enjoyed the slap shot.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Phil Kessel = Rick Vaive

"He's a lot like Lanny McDonald, when he's coming down that wing. If they get him the puck, he doesn't waste too much time letting it go. He's got a very quick release."
The above quote is from November, 1983 by Pittsburgh Penguins (ex-Maple Leaf) defenceman Randy Carlyle prior to a game against the Leafs. Carlyle was referring to Leaf captain Rick Vaive but could have just as easily been referring to a guy he would coach 30 years later, Phil Kessel.
Is Phil Kessel the Rick Vaive of the current era?

Both Vaive and Kessel were/are elite goal scorers that were/are much maligned by media and fans alike. Neither could ever do enough to appease the masses and always seemed to be under the most intense scrutiny, both on and off the ice.

Both snipers were acquired via trade by the Leafs at a very young age, Vaive from Vancouver at 20 years old, Kessel from Boston at 21. Each of them quickly developed into top-flight sniping wingers. In consecutive seasons (1982-84), Vaive finished fifth, seventh and fifth in the NHL in goals. Kessel has finished fifth, sixth and is currently just outside the top-ten in goals. In those same years, Vaive placed sixth each season in All-Star voting at Right Wing. In the past three seasons Kessel has placed fifth, fourth and third at Left Wing.

Neither Vaive nor Kessel were known for their defensive play but more than made up for it with their elite level shooting ability. Vaive was known for his hard accurate slap shot coming down the wing, while Kessel is renowned for his world-class, stick bending wrist shot. The one thing Kessel does have on Vaive is his play-making ability, he truly is an under-rated passer with a great vision of the ice. Vaive was however a far tougher player usually racking up well over 100 PIMs while Kessel consistently garners Lady Byng votes.

Dec, 19, 1986 Montreal Gazette
One other huge similarity between Vaive and Kessel is the fact they were and are lightning rods for criticism when their respective teams' struggled, which is often. Phil Kessel has been called "uncoachable" and  a "coach killer". Similar sentiments were directed at Rick Vaive thirty years before. In a Canadian Press article from December of 1984, longtime Leaf great Borje Salming blamed the media for trade speculation involving Vaive;

"It's part of hockey," he said of the rumoured shakeup, "Nobody likes it but you can't do anything about it. I've been here 12 years and you can't get too serious about it or you go crazy." Salming said the media had picked on Vaive because the team was slumping and the captain was seen as the team's 'big gun'.

Sounds familiar.
As much as Kessel has to endure crticism from the media and fans, at least he doesn't have to deal with another element of criticism that Vaive did, from his owner. In March 1984 in a Canadian Press story titled Ballard won't open the vault for star Vaive, Leaf owner and crumudgeon Harold Ballard shows how not to treat a star player;

When it was suggested that Vaive rated a salary in line with the game's other superstars, Ballard responded: "If you play with a lot of guys who can't play hockey and you get a lot of goals, that doesn't signify that you're the greatest, does it? If he (Vaive) was playing on the old Montreal Canadiens and Toronto clubs, he's probably be just a mediocre player."

Wow. This really is more a statement of the calibre of players that Ballard surrounded Vaive with than of Vaive himself. Just another of the countless head-shaking comments from the worst owner in league history.

In the end, Vaive of course lasted two more seasons after this comment before being traded to Chicago prior to the 87/88 campaign. His 0.50 career goals per game ranks him 19th in NHL history and makes him one of the most under-appreciated over-vilified stars the game has ever had. Like it or not, it would seem that Phil Kessel is following in pretty much the same footsteps.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Maple Leafs Worst Month Ever

Atrocious. Abhorrent. Embarrassing.
Nothing more need be said about the current state of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Currently on an amazing 3-17-1 run, they just completed their worst January in team history. Below are the Leaf's worst months ever.
Maple Leafs Worst Months Ever with Goals For/Goals Against
1-12-0  .077 March 1988 (1OTL) 35-63
1-8-0    .111 October 1985 (1 OTL) 30-41
1-11-1  .115 January 1984 (1 OTL) 36-71
1-11-1  .115 January 2015 15-39

Each of the months in the 1980's included an Overtime Loss which were not counted as a point back then. The fact that this January also had an OTL and the fact they scored a comically low 15 goals, and had the worst goal for/against ratio of the four months in question make it the worst month in team history.

As for worst month in NHL history, the Leafs January was awful but not the worst ever. Below are some of the terrible months of the worst teams in NHL history.

Team, Date, Record, Goals For/Against
Ottawa October 1992 1-9-1 .136  (1 OTL) 25-61
Ottawa November 1992  1-13-0 .042 27-60

Quebec March 1990 1-13-1 .060 (1 OTL) 43-78

NYR  November 1943  0-9-1 .100 25-51
NYR  February 1944 0-8-2 .100 27-64

Winnipeg November 1980 0-8-3 .136 37-72
Winnipeg December 1980 1-12-2 .120  38-66
Winnipeg February 1981 1-9-2 .125 34-66

Kansas City January 1976  0-13-1 .041 34-82

San Jose December 1992 1-13-0 .071 (3 OTL) 50-81
San Jose January 1993 0-13-1 .036 25-59

Washington November 1974  1-10-2 .115  35-80
Washington December 1974 1-12-1 .107 26-77
Washington January 1975 1-11-1 .115 29-63
Washington March 1975 1-12-0 .077 30-85

As awful as the San Jose record in January 1993, their goal scored for and against ratio was still better than the Leafs last month. The epic Washington Capitals expansion season is illustrated here in detail and their December 1974 and March 1975 are the only ones listed above with a worse goal ratio than Toronto's recent effort.

To top it all off, Toronto is currently on a 10 game losing streak to equal their longest streak ever.

1967 10 game losing streak
15 goals for - 47 goals against

2015 10 game losing streak
10 goals for - 30 goals against

The current streak does however include one of those fake Overtime Loss Point and the 1967 streak had a slightly worse goal for/against ratio. Therefore, the current stretch is not quite the worst run in Leaf history. So, we got that going for us.

That 1967 stretch did however occur in a Stanley Cup winning campaign. I can say with certainty, this season will not end with the same.

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