Friday, June 26, 2015

1980 Toronto vs Montreal Oldtimers Game

Whatever happened to NHL Old-timer games? As a kid in the 1980's I attended quite a few great Old-timer matches, from second-tier affairs in my hometown Newmarket, Ontario rink in front of 1,000 spectators to full houses at Maple Leaf Gardens. I saw two great ones at the Gardens back in the day. One was the famous Flying Fathers hockey squad against a team of Toronto Maple Leaf oldsters. 

The Flying Fathers were a team of actual Roman Catholic priests led by ex-Leaf Father Les Costello. Costello was a member of the 1948 Leaf Cup winners as a rookie. He retired to the priesthood in 1950 and helped form the Fathers in 1963. The game I saw took place March 18, 1984 against a Leaf team that included Johnny Bower, Red Kelly, Andy Bathgate, George Armstrong, Norm Ullman, Ron Ellis, Sid Smith and Frank Mahovlich. They were coached by King Clancy and Bob Baun, Bobby Orr was a linesman. A true spectacle for a young young fan like myself. 

My next Old-timer game, and one of the best ever staged also happened at Maple Leaf Gardens. It was on January 25, 1985 and pitted the first reunion of Team Canada 1972 against a team of NHL Old timer stars. I wrote about it here a few years ago; 

The highlight for me this evening was getting down to ice level during an intermission and getting an autograph from Bobby Orr. Even at 13 years of age and never having seen him play live, I knew it was something special to meet him.
This brings me to a game that I didn't actually attend, but it may rival the Canada '72 Reunion for best ever. This one showcased the past greats of the Montreal Canadiens and the Maple Leafs on March 23, 1980. Once again played in front of a packed Gardens the game included the likes of Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Jacques Lemaire, Dickie Moore, Gump Worsley, Frank Mahovlich, Johnny Bower, Harry Howell, Pierre Pilote, Andy Bathgate, Cal Gardner and Howie Meeker. A veritable wing of the hall of fame took to the ice. 

In addition to these stars, Rocket Richard assisted Referee Red Storey as an official. At this time, Mahovlich was only 42 years-old and had played as recently as two years prior in the WHA. "Did you see Henri Richard?" he asked after the game,"He still has that speed." The 48 year-old Beliveau admitted,"I've been on skates only once, just for exercise, since we played this game in Montreal a year ago. I'm definitely out of shape." One guy who certainly was in shape was 34 year-old Jacques Lemaire who had just finished a season as player coach in Switzerland and would return there for one more season.
The oldest of the old-timers to play in this game were 57 year-old Ken Mosdell and Meeker and 59 year-old Cal Gardner, father of NHLers Paul and Dave. Gump Worsley actually scored a goal in this game. When referee Red Storey awarded Montreal a penalty shot, goaltender Worsley took it and scored on Bower who "did't exert himself on the play". You gotta love old-timers games.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Toronto Toros vs Winnipeg Jets, Rare WHA Photos

Steve Cuddie, Norm Beaudin, Carl Brewer, Gilles Gratton
Time for a few more rare photos from the collection of photo journalist Doug Petepiece. These ones show another exhibition match at the Ottawa Civic Centre prior to the 1973/74 WHA campaign. The first shot is a great one of legendary goaltender Gilles Gratton. Yes, the guy who believed he was a re-incarnated Spanish Conquistador. 

Norm Beaudin had a few cups of coffee in the NHL, 13 games with St. Louis in 67/68 and 12 with Minnesota in 70/71 all toll collecting 3 points in the 25 games. He jumped to the WHA in 72/73 and exploded for 103 points, then was even better in the playoffs. Beaudin had one of the greatest playoffs in professional hockey history as the Jets lost the inaugural WHA championship in five games to the New England Whalers. Beaudin collected an amazing 13 goals and 28 points in teh 14 playoff games. This upcoming season of 73/74 however, he plummeted to 55 points. 
Brit Selby, Ab McDonald, Carl Brewer
The above shot has in the foreground, former NHL rookie of the year Brit Selby. He won the award for the Maple Leafs in 1965/66 and is the last Leaf to win the Calder Trophy (thanks to Gary Suter beating Wendel Clark in 85/86). Standing over the fallen Carl Brewer is Ab McDonald. A veteran of 762 NHL games, this would be his last professional season.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Toronto Toros vs Cleveland Crusaders, Rare WHA Photos

Wayne Hillman, Gerry Cheevers, Bob LeDuc
Here is some more terrific, never-seen photos from Doug Petepiece. The game is a pre-season match between the WHA's Toronto Toros and Cleveland Crusaders. It took place prior to the 1973/74 season at the Ottawa Civic Centre. 

Gerry Cheevers of course, was beginning his second season with Cleveland after jumping to the WHA in the summer of 1972. He had helped the Boston Bruins to Stanley Cup wins in 1970 and 1972, then was first team All-Star and goalie of the year his first in the WHA. Cheever would leave the Crusaders in January of 1976 and return to Boston for five more years.

Bob LeDuc (pictured above) was a long time AHL veteran with the Providence Reds before going the  Ottawa Nationals for the inaugural WHA season. He was high scoring junior with the Sudbury Wolves, winning the Northern Ontario Junior scoring title in 63/64, 21 points ahead of the same-aged, future NHLer Wayne Maki. LeDuc had back-to-back 22 goal seasons his first two in the WHA.
Gary Jarrett, Wayne Hillman, Gerry Cheevers, Steve King
Grant Erickson (below) was in his second of three seasons with Cleveland and would score 23 goals in the 73/74 season after 15 the previous. He was a veteran of 6 NHL games, 4 with Minnesota in 69/70 and 2 with Boston in 68/69, where he scored his only NHL goal.
Wayne Carleton, Tom Simpson, Grant Erickson, Pat Hickey

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Toronto Toros vs Los Angeles Sharks, Rare WHA Photos

L to R. Gavin Kirk, Steve King, Steve Cuddie, Alton White, Carl Brewer, Steve Sutherland, Les Binkley, JP LeBlanc
My pal Doug Petepiece has come through once again with some fantastic, never-before-seen old hockey photos. Doug, a photo-journalist since the 1970's sent me a bunch of great pics showing World Hockey Association game action. This batch is from a pre-season game in Ottawa just prior to the 1973/74 season. The Toronto Toros who had just transferred from existing as the Ottawa Nationals are battling the Los Angeles Sharks at the Civic Centre.

I have identified most of the players, some great names from the past. The first one shows ex-Maple Leaf Carl Brewer in one of his first games back after being retired for the 1972/73 campaign. Also pictured is Alton White of the Sharks who was the second ever professional black hockey player after Willie O'Ree. White had tallied 20 goals for Los Angeles the previous year.
Jim Niekamp, Pat Hickey, Gavin Kirk, Paul Hoganson
The above shot shows Pat Hickey in one of his first professional games after being drafted from the junior Hamilton Red Wings. He'd score 26 goals as a 20 year-old rookie. The Shark defender sprawled on the ice is possessor of one of the greatest nicknames in history; Jim "Shitter" Niekamp. I had a quick search to find where it originated to no avail, I'll have to re-visit that one later.
Les Binkley, Steve Sutherland, Wayne Dillon, Tom Serviss
Toros coach Billy Harris is shown behind the bench below. He had coached Ottawa the previous year and would lead the Toros to second place in the East this year. The following year the ex-Maple Leaf coached the WHA's Team Canada as they played the Soviets in the 1974 Summit Series. To the right of the image is another ex-Leaf and Bruin in Wayne Carleton. He had seasons of 42, 37 and 35 goals in the WHA.
Coach Billy Harris, Carl Brewer, Rick Sentes, Wayne Carelton

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Meet Lester Patrick

In game two of the Stanley Cup finals, Andrei Vasilevskiy became the first goaltender to gain his first playoff win in relief since 1928. Due to the unexplained injury of Tampa Bay's regular goalie Ben Bishop, the 20 year-old rookie was thrust into action. In getting his first win in relief he is the first since Lester Patrick to accomplish this feat. Of course, Patrick was more than twice the age of Vasilevskiy when he did it. With quotes from the Montreal Gazette the story went as follows.

Hall of Famer, Lester Patrick was 44 years old and the coach of the New York Rangers during the 1928 playoffs. He had played only one full season (as a skater) since he was 36. Game two of the 1928 finals against the Montreal Maroons was when the Silver Fox, Patrick was needed to save the day. It was early in the second period when Rangers goalie Lorne Chabot "jumped in the air to stop a backhanded shot from the stick of Nels Stewart." Unfortunately for Chabot he misjudged the shot and the "puck caught him over the left eye. He fell in a heap to the ice, writhing in agony."After heading to the Rangers room, doctors realized the injury was serious, "He was immediately removed to the Royal Victoria Hospital, suffering from a hemorrhage of the anterior and posterior chambers of the eye."
Lorne Chabot
A long delay in the game ensued while officials from both teams decided the course of action. The Rangers, unlike the Maroons did not carry a spare goaltender. The Maroons had for two seasons carried Flat Walsh as a substitute in case of injury to starter Clint Benedict. Alex Connell of Ottawa and Hugh McCormick of the London minor league squad were both in attendance, and both refused by the Maroons. "Lester Patrick, exhorted by his players to fill the breach, donned a uniform, strapped on the pads, set a black cap at a rakish angle over his shock of grey hair and, for the first time in his long, distinguished career in hockey, took up a post as a regular goalkeeper." Odie Cleghorn, manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates had replaced Patrick behind the bench.

"Don't let them shoot," roared Cleghorn from the bench. The Ranger players sized up the situation. They decided that Patrick wanted only long shots to handle and that Cleghorn wanted them to keep the Maroons from getting to close quarters with the relief Ranger goalie." Apparently the strategy worked like a charm as the Gazette points out,"Not once from the time Patrick entered the nets did the Maroons ever get close to the veteran." 

One shot did get past Patrick when Maroon, Jimmy Ward beat him with one of those long shots but the whistle had barely beaten the shot, calling an offside. Alas, Montreal did in fact finally get one to tie the game "when Nels Stewart raced in on the left, following a whistling shot by Hooley Smith, picked up the rebound unmolested, and with Patrick on his hands and knees at the near goal post, drove by him to the far corner for the tying counter."
Nels Stewart

Patrick and the Rangers would however even the series, winning just over seven minutes into extra time on a "scrambled goal by Frankie Boucher". With the series tied going into the third match, it was decided by the teams and NHL president Frank Calder that New York could use a replacement keeper. It was mutually agreed that former New York Americans goalie, Joe Miller would be the fill-in. Miller had actually played 28 games for the Americans in that 1927/28 season before being shipped to Niagara Falls of the Canadian Professional League.
Joe Miller
Miller performed wonderfully for the Rangers. Miller and New York lost the following game 2-0 but then proceeded to win by scores of 1-0 and 2-1 to capture the Stanley Cup. Miller would be traded to begin the following season with Pittsburgh and in 1930/31 they would become one of the worst teams in NHL history. Miller played all but one game as the Pirates went 5-36-3. Lorne Chabot would recover, but the second game of the 1928 final was his last as a Ranger. Prior to the next season he was traded to Toronto along with $10,000 cash for John Ross Roach. There, he would anchor the Maple Leafs to their first Stanley Cup in 1932.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Maple Leafs 1932 Stanley Cup Win by Lou Marsh

I was recently sifting through the online archives of the Toronto Star newspaper and came a cross the account of the Maple Leafs' first Stanley Cup victory. The April 10, 1932 account of the game by the legendary Lou Marsh reads like poetry at times. The writing of the day certainly was more flowery and descriptive than today, but Marsh took it to the highest level. I've posted the entire write-up but have highlighted some of the best prose below.

"There is the unmistakable answer to the slimy insinuations of the Slippery Sam’s who insidiously sent it out over the “grapevine route” that the Maple Leafs would toss off Saturday night’s third Stanley Cup game for the sake of two more big gates for the Gardens and their club."

Apparently there was talk that the Leafs, after winning the first two games of the best-of-five on the road, they would rather extend the series to enjoy at least one additional home gate. Marsh took great exception to this notion.

"And what a lacing the Leafs gave Colonel Hammond’s Hussars in their emphatic answer to the murderous attack upon the integrity of professional hockey."

I had to look up hussar, it refers to a variety of light cavalry. Hammond was of course the original president of the New York Rangers.

"There never was a moment when the issue was in doubt – never a second when that mob of hockey-mad fanatics doubted the integrity of the team or its ability to trounce the Patrickmen."

"Stop me if you have heard this before – No team you ever saw would have beaten those Leafs Saturday night! They were a team – a real team. Every man jack was in there and starring – doing his bit plus."

This third game, even though only a 6-4 win for Toronto was apparently dominated by the Leafs throughout. Patrickmen refers to coach Lester Patrick.

"Lester Patrick tried everything in a hockey general’s repertoire to stem the avalanche of speed. His big, burly defence men hurled themselves into the Leaf forwards relentlessly and his forwards not only tried to match speed with speed but crashed as recklessly as dervishes crashed Gorden’s squares of British redcoats."

Although difficult to confirm, I'm assuming this reference pertains to the American revolution.

"And the crowd acknowledged their keen, rugged, plucky effort by cheering them to the echo as they fraternized with the joy-mad Leafs and together – victor and vanquished – they dragged their weary, battered bodies to the showers."

After the game, the Maple Leaf Gardens faithful applauded the efforts of the plucky Rangers before they exited the ice surface.

"The Leafs stepped out like quarter horses – all hot and raring to go."

I may get this line tattooed across my back, it's so great.

"In the last two minutes of play young Chuck Conacher, 205 pounds of TNT, let one of his smoke shots go from away over by the fence just inside the blue line. Roach, as game as a badger, threw himself in front of the sizzler and it hit him under the heart. The terrific impact drove him back into the nets, but he straightened up again and the puck was cleared."

Here, Marsh describes an incident were Ranger goaltender John Ross Roach was nearly incapacitated by a drive from Leaf Charlie Conacher.

"The Mighty Man from Ottawa – just a wan drawn shadow of the sturdy warrior who started out last November for the Leafs – battled his way down and made the play for Blair’s first goal, which was the opening tally, and he laid it into every Ranger attacker who came roaring down his side of the defensive area."

This could be no-one other than The King, King Clancy that is. 

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