Saturday, July 25, 2015

Toronto Maple Leafs at Seattle Totems, Oct. 2, 1968

The Seattle Totems in October 1968 were a real good hockey club. They had won back-to-back Western League championships the previous two years. The Totems would prove they were a good team this evening by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs who were only a year removed from a Stanley Cup victory. I recently picked up this program from the game to add to my den collection.
The pre-season game was played in front of 5,262 fans at the Seattle Centre Coliseum. This was Toronto's third visit to Seattle having won 7-4 in 1962 and 7-1 in 1964. Jim Armstrong started in goal for the Totems, Bruce Gamble for Toronto. Leaf rookie Rick Ley opened the scoring at 15:55 of the first period before Totem Don Chiz tied it on a power play early in the second. Halfway through the game, Don Head and Al Smith replaced the goalies for Seattle and Toronto respectively. 

Around two minutes after the goalie change, Bob Courcy put the Totems ahead after a pass from Guyle Fielder. Early in the third, Wayne Carleton tied it off a rebound of a Ley shot. The winner was scored by Marc Boileau off a Ray Larose rebound and Seattle held on for the victory. Afterwards, Leaf coach Punch Imlach said, "We could have jumped into a big lead in the first period and the game would have been over." Totem coach Bill MacFarland was a bit surprised by the outcome himself, saying, "I didn't think we were in that good condition."  

Seattle would go on to finish fourth in the Western League in 68/69 led by Fielder's 94 points and Courcy's 43 goals. They were swept in the playoffs by eventual champion Vancouver Canucks. Toronto would also finish fourth in the NHL's Eastern Division and were also swept by the Boston Bruins. Seattle lost the first two games of their series by scores of 7-1 and 6-0. Toronto's first two playoff losses were even worse, 10-0 and 7-0.

Seattle would not win another championship before the Western League folded after the 1973/74 season. Toronto...also...has not won a championship...since. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

WHA Ottawa Civics, The Two Week Franchise

Tom Earl, Daryl Maggs, Mark Lomenda, Gary MacGregor, Garry Swain
"Please let the fans make up their own minds," Henry Feller told a press gathering. "Let them decide if they want pro hockey here. We have to average 7,000 or 8,000 in the remaining 19 home games for a break-even point." Feller was a director of the Founders Club who had interest in buying the WHA's Denver Spurs club. Ivan Mullinex, owner of the Spurs had brought his team to Ottawa in an attempt to drum up interest and save his investment. The date was January 2, 1976 and Mullinex was in debt to a Denver bank to the tune of $1 million dollars. This same day, the newly christened Civics lost their first game under the new moniker by a score of 2-1 at Cincinnati.

Star of the team, Ralph Backstrom said after the game, "Our first official notice of the move hit us when we entered the Cincinnati rink and the names on the big scoreboard read: Stingers and Civics. Until that moment we were under the impression the move out of Denver was still only a rumour." After losing the following day (January 3) at Houston by 4-2 the Civics travelled to Minnesota for their third game in three nights. Dan Borgeson scored two goals, both assisted by Backstrom and 33 year-old rookie Lynn Zimmerman made 38 saves for a 5-2 win. Gary MacGregor, Rick Morris and Brian Lavender scored the other goals in the the first ever Civics victory.

By Monday the 5th of January, two days before the Civics home debut, there was a buzz of excitement in the city of Ottawa. Michael Houghton, an executive of the Ottawa based Founders Club said, "We're beginning to get the feeling that people are going to respond." Civics coach Jean-Guy Talbot exclaimed, "Give us support and we'll play well for you. There are a lot of the boys happy about going to Ottawa."
Mike Rogers, Garry Swain, Gary MacGregor, Al Hangsleben
The two photos of the first Civics home game above are from the files of photojournalist Doug Petepiece. The New England Whalers were visitors on that Wednesday "opening" night of January 7 and they spoiled the evening with a 3-2 victory. As seen, the Civics continued wearing the Spurs logo and uniform as there simply was no time for an updated one. A near capacity 8,457 fans showed up at the Ottawa Civic Centre to see the Civics debut, an encouraging number indeed. Still, this wasn't enough to prevent owner Mullinex from panicking. 
The day after the Civics Ottawa debut and despite the public support, Mullinex told the Founders Club that they had ten days to come up with a reported $1.5 million to purchase the team or he would call the whole thing off. In the mean time, at practice the following day, coach Talbot praised the response his team received from the community, "Imagine how young second-year pros like Gary MacGregor and Frank Rochon felt to hear the club get a standing ovation before and after the game! Remember they played in Chicago (the franchise transferred from Chicago Cougars to Denver the previous off-season) when there was no financial support or interest. They they were in Denver this season with an average of about 3,000 or so." The optimistic coach continued, "It's encouraging to get such support and to have many friends willing to wish you well."

After the loss at home to New England, the  Civics ventured out onto the road once again and lost 8-5 to the Phoenix Roadrunners and 6-5 in overtime in Winnipeg. Backstrom scored a pair in Phoenix while Rob Ftorek notched a hat-trick for the Roadrunners. Civics coach Talbot stated after the Winnipeg game, “Nearing the end, I could see we were getting tired. We were on the road all day, travelling from 5am (from Phoenix) to 6pm (to Winnipeg). Our guys really gave it an all-out effort though and Zimmerman really played well.” Phoenix coach Sandy Hucul commented afterward, “In view of their situation, you’ve got to give them a lot of credit.”
Brian Lavender explained how the players were handling their situation, "It's like being on one continuous road trip. You're living in the hotel all the time, and you really don't know where the hell you're at. All we can do is play the best hockey we can, and wait." Lavender finished with a wishful thought, "This team really needs a home, dammit, I hope this can be it."

L to R: Gordie, Marty Howe, Larry Hale, unidentified, Andre Hinse
By this point, a day before their second home match against Gordie Howe and the Houston Aeros, the decision on the Civics future was imminent. The Founders Club had made an offer of purchase to Mullinex although it was rumoured to be $500,000 lower than he was asking for. A spokesman for the Civics wasn't optimistic over the latest developments. It was suggested that unless Mullinex had a change of heart, it was unlikely the club could operate in Ottawa. The final outcome was expected to be known prior to the Aeros game.
Don Larway, Cam Newton

An even larger crowd than the first game was on hand to see Gordie Howe, his sons and the Houston Aeros. 9,355 saw Gord Laboissiere win the game 5-4 in overtime as Houston outshot Ottawa 55-25. Late in the game, an ominous announcement was heard in the Civic Centre advising that there would be an emergency meeting in Toronto in two days to deal with the future of the Ottawa franchise.

Newton, Ted Taylor #14, John Arbour #5, Maggs #4,  Don Borgeson #12

In fact, right after the game it was announced that Ralph Backstrom had been dealt to New England in what would be the first of many chips to fall. Also rumoured to have been dealt were Maggs, Baltimore, Rochon and Lomenda to Indianapolis and MacGregor to Cleveland. WHA vice president Bud Poile stated that, “The whole Denver-Ottawa situation will be thoroughly discussed and decisions will be made Saturday.” in reference to the emergency meeting.
Bryon Baltimore #18, Gordie, Newton
In the end, it was all over swiftly. Ben Hatskin, the league’s board chairman said after the Toronto meeting,  “The World Hockey Association announced today that the Ottawa Civics have formally ceased to operate.” Mullinex rejected the final low-ball offer of $1 million by the Founders Club, and no further interest in running a hockey club. His easiest course of action was to simply walk away. All rumoured transactions were approved and the rest of the squad was declared free agents. Bud Poile was now tasked with the job of revising the schedule, “The important thing is to make sure no one loses any home dates if it’s at all possible.”
 When it was all said and one, Poile was successful, and in fact there were two extra games added to even out the home dates. Edmonton, Winnipeg, Quebec and Toronto all played 81 total games in 1975/76.
Under the name Civics,  the franchise had a 1-6 record and were outscored 30-24. Ralph Backstrom would go on to collect 33 points in 38 games with the Whalers and play one more season with them before retiring. Daryl Mags would settle in nicely with Indianapolis and be named to the 1st All-Star team on Defence the following year. He would finish his career playing 5 games for the Maple Leafs in 1979/80. Brian Lavender retired from hockey when the Civics folded.  Gary MacGregor would play play until 1982 finishing with a season in Mannheim Germany. MacGregor died of a heart attack in 1995. Jean-Guy Talbot would coach the New York Rangers for the 1977/78 campaign, posting 73 points and losing in the first round of the playoffs.

The city of Ottawa certainly did answer the question of whether they would support professional hockey with two near sell-outs of the Civic Centre. However, it would have to wait another 16 years until getting another chance to support a big league team.
Lineup in the program from the last game of the Ottawa Civics

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Maple Leafs Programme, 1942

Here's the latest addition to my Hockey Den and to my quest to collect a program for every year of Maple Leaf Garden's existence. This one is from opening night of the 1942/43 season between the New York Rangers and the defending Stanley Cup champs Maple Leafs. The cover features a great photo of Pete Langelle scoring the winning goal in Game 7 of the 1942 Cup Finals. 

The Maple Leafs would win this home-opener by a score of 7-2. I found a Canadian Press write up on the game; 
"In surprisingly simple fashion, Toronto Maple Leafs conquered New York Rangers, 7-2, Saturday in their opening National Hockey League game before 11,777 fans to pick up the thread where they left off in the Stanley Cup finals last season. 
President Frank Calder of the National Hockey League presented Leafs the Stanley Cup pennat they won last season in a brief pre-game ceremony. The first puck was faced by Pte. Alex Chisholm of the Toronto Scottish Regiment, who won the Military Medal at Dieppe."

Gaye Stewart potted two goals and an assist and Hank Goldup recorded a goal and two helpers. Lorne Carr, Bucko McDonald, Shep Mayer, Bud Poile and Billy Taylor all chipped in two points.
Being at the height of World War II, the program is filled with wartime ads and articles, one is below. The game was also the debut of Rangers goaltender Steve "The-puck-goes-inski" Buzinski who would play only eight more games with the Rangers posting a career goals against average of 5.92.

Toronto would finish 3rd in the NHL in 42/43 and lost in the semi-finals to Detroit in six games. New York stumble to a mere 11 wins and 30 points in the fifty game season.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Quebec Nordiques vs Birmingham Bulls, 1977

Matti Hagman, Dale Hoganson, Wayne Wood
Here's some more fantastic old photos from the files of photo-journalist Doug Petepiece. These show World Hockey Association pre-season action between the Toronto Toros and the Quebec Nordiques  from an exhibition game prior to the 1977/78 season. I was able to identify most of the players.

The first and second photos were taken in quick sequence and show Finnish import Matti Hagman battling Dale Hoganson in front of the net. Hagman had topped the Finnish league in goals as a 19-year old and repeated the feat in 1974/75. He was then drafted by the Boston Bruins whom he joined in 76/77 to score 11 goals and 28 points over a full season. After beginning the following campaign even slower, the Bruins sold Hagman to the Nordiques on December 1, 1977. Hagman produced an impressive 56 points in 53 games but would return home to play for Helsinki after the season he'd play the next two there including 79/80 when he scored a fantastic 87 points over 36 games.

The NHL came calling once again for Hagman and he signed as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers prior to the 80/81 season. After seasons of 53 and 59 points Hagman returned to Finland one last time. He played 10 more years, leading the circuit in scoring three more times.

In the second photo, Bordeleau and Westrum join the scrum in front of Wood. Bordeleau was a veteran of 205 NHL games and scored 21 goals for the 1970/71 St. Louis Blues.
The next photo, I'm fairly confident of the players I identified, except the #16 Bull behind Wayne Wood's net. I believe it's Gord Gallant as there is a clear "ant" visible at the end of the player's nameplate. Gallant was the only player of the three years the Bulls existed that had a name ending in "ant" and he had played the previous season with the team but would not make the squad in 77/78.

This scenario presents a bit of a problem though. If this is a pre-season game in September of 1977, Hagman would still be with the Bruins as he wouldn't become a Nordique for over two months. This is of course assuming that these photos are from the same game. Either way, it's a tough one to figure out.
Joe Noris, Bob Fitchner, Gord Gallant?, Wayne Wood, Jim Turkiewicz, Curt Brackenbury
The last photo is another slightly puzzling one. It shows Bulls Chris Evans battling #16 of Quebec in front of Wood. The thing is, the only player to don the #16 for the Nords during the 77/78 regular season...the very same Chris Evans. He would be claimed on waivers from the Bulls on Nov. 1, 1977. This further confirms that this pic (and all of them, if indeed they are all from the same game), was a pre-season match. Obviously it is a right-handed shooting #16 who did not make the regular season roster. 

Perhaps it's safe to assume that the first two pics are from after December 1 when Hagman joined Quebec, and the last two are from the pre-season prior to Gallant being cut and Evans being acquired by Quebec.

Chris Evans, Wayne Wood

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