Tuesday, September 22, 2015

1942/43 Toronto RCAF Flyers

Above is a fantastic photo from the City of Toronto Archives showing the Toronto RCAF Flyers celebrating a victory. They were a war-time team of mostly professional players who were enlisted in the Canadian military during World War II. The Flyers played in the Ontario Hockey Association Senior circuit for two seasons. The problem with the photo is that none of the players are identified. Thanks to the Society for International Hockey Research database, I have attempted to put names to as many of these men as possible.

Using simple visual recognition of the database photos side-by-side with the above photo, I have managed to name the following fairly confidently. 

First Row, Left to Right:
Norm McAtee, Johnny McCreedy, Lloyd Gronsdahl, Duke Scodellaro (Goalie), Murray Henderson, Unknown, Joe Primeau

Norm McAtee is certainly the first player on the bottom left, he won back-to-back Memorial Cups with the Oshawa Generals scoring the winning goal in 1939. He would play 13 NHL games for the Boston Bruins in 46/47 and was elected to the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. The second player is definitely Johnny McCreedy who had played the previous season in the NHL with the Maple Leafs scoring 15 goals in 47 games helping to win a Stanley Cup. With the RCAF Flyers in 42/43 he tallied 22 points over 12 games. McCreedy was stationed overseas the entire following year and returned to help the Leafs win another Cup in 44/45. I'm fairly sure the third guy from left is Lloyd Gronsdahl who had played 10 games the previous year with the Bruins, his only NHL stint. 

The goaltender pictured fourth from left on the bottom is Dulio 'Duke' Scodellaro. He helped backstop the Trail Smoke Eaters to the World Championship (along with McCreedy) in 1939. He allowed no goals in the four games he played during the tournament. After the war, Scodellaro returned to play with the Smokies until retiring in 1952. Beside him may very well be Murray Henderson, the big defender who would go on to play seven solid seasons with the Bruins. Beside him is another unidentified player with his fist in the air celebrating. Last one on the bottom row is ex-Maple Leaf great Joe Primeau who's brother Jim was the coach of the Flyers. This makes sense as he is the only player not in hockey gear that is also not in miltary garb. This was the only coaching stint of Jim's career, Joe would go on to coach the junior and senior Toronto Marlies in 1945 and eventually the Leafs. He would lead these squads to Memorial, Allan and Stanley Cup victories.

Second Row, Left to Right:
Wally Wilson, unknown
There are two guys jammed between the front front and back rows, the one on the left is Wally Wilson. He was a teammate of McAtee on the championship Oshawa Genrals squads and led the 42/43 Flyers with 25 points in 10 games. Wilson would play one season in the NHL with Bruins, collecting 19 points in 53 games. The guy directly beside Wilson wearing the beret is also unidentified. 

Third Row, Left to Right:
Unknown, Unknown, Ralph Wycherley, Pat McReavy, Unknown, Ernie Dickens, Unknown, Norm Tustin

The first two guys in military wear are unidentified. The third from left is very likely Ralph Wycherley who had played parts of the previous two seasons in the NHL with the New York/Brooklyn Americans. Partially obscured beside him is likely Pat McReavy who had the most NHL experience on the squad at the time. He had played parts of the last four years with Boston and Detroit. He won a World Championship Gold with the Sudbury Wolves in 1938 and retired after a 1951 Allan Cup win with Owen Sound. Next in the beret is also unidentified, beside him is Ernie Dickens. He played 10 games with the Maple Leafs in 41/42 and played 13 playoff games helping to win the Stanley Cup. After the war he played most of five seasons with Toronto and Chicago. Of the last two guys on the right, the first is unidentified and the last one is Norm Tustin who played 18 games for the New York Rangers in 41/42. 

The RCAF Flyers won eight of twelve games during the 1942/43 OHA season, one point behind Toronto HMCS York. They beat St. Catherines Saints two games to one in the quarter finals before beating Toronto Army in two straight. The scores in these two games were 7-6 and 11-1 in the clincher. They met Toronto HMCS York in the OHA Final losing the first game before winning the championship with three straight wins. The photo above is likely from the final game on March 15, 1943 which the Flyers won 8-5 at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Flyers went on to the Eastern Canada Allan Cup playoffs, getting past Sudbury in three straight games before meeting the Ottawa Commandos in the Semis. After losses of 6-4 and 12-0, the Flyers won game three 8-1 before losing the series in game four by a score of 5-2 on April 5. The Commandos went on to beat Ottawa RCAF to advance to the Allan Cup. They won the Allan Cup over Victoria Army led by NHLers Alex Shibicky, Ken Reardon, Neil and Mac Coville and 'Sugar' Jim Henry in goal.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Turk Broda's Wartime Adventures

"No More Hockey", Says The Turk. 'Six-Teeth' Goal Did It; this was the headline of The Maple Leaf newspaper of the Canadian Armed Forces in Britain on January 8, 1946. The article continued, "the stocky happy-go-lucky Broda appeared serious in his assessment that his bulky frame will never again be a target for flying pucks. Broda was practising at Amsterdam with a CFN all-star team when a puck fired from three or four feet out caught him flush in the mouth and dislodged six teeth. "Can ya imagine," gesticulated the portly Turk, flashing at the same time the replaced "biters" furnished by a considerate army dentist, "getting it from some joker after catching the best from the best of 'em."

Broda had been a member of the Canadian Armed Forces for almost two and a half years after playing seven full seasons with Toronto. If Broda was to be trusted, his career almost came to an end before he even returned to NHL play. At this point, he was in the process of being repatriated and would soon return to Canada. The article concluded; "the six-teeth goal, he says, is the last one to be scored on him. But if a Canadian Forces series comes to pass before the ship gets ready to sail- well, he might get in there once more 'to help the guys along'."

Of course within a month, the Turk would be back in Toronto and tending goal for the Maple Leafs. He played his first game February 6, 1946 in Boston, backstopping the Leafs to a come-from-behind 3-3 tie and played in each of the final 15 games of the 1945/46 season. Unfortunately, the rust was slow to be shaken off for Broda as he posted a pedestrian record of 6-6-2 with a 3.53 goals against average. Toronto finished in fifth place, five points out of the playoffs. Broda would be back in form the following year as he led the Leafs to their first of four Stanley Cups in five years.
As strange as Broda's Army career came to a close, the start of it was even more bizarre. The headline from October 15, 1943 says it all; "Turk Broda Taken From Train And Put Into Army". Now, Broda wasn't attempting to desert his obligations to the military, he was merely trying to do it on his own accord. Having received a military call-up notice Broda simply wanted to travel from Toronto to Montreal and enlist there. It turns out he had been offered $2,400 on top of his military salary to play hockey for a senior team in Montreal. Although Broda was being accompanied by an Army Sergeant-Major, his enlistment deadline of midnight had passed and he was taken to the local Stanley Barracks by the RCMP.

Broda's incident was far from the first time a professional athlete had taken a 'gift' to join a certain military club, but it certainly raised the public's awareness of the practice. Jim Coleman of the Globe and Mail wrote,"The army can obviate a lot of criticism by announcing immediately that Broda will play no hockey this winter-regardless of where he is stationed." A Globe and Mail editorial added,"The advantage of sports to the services is to keep the men physically fit and mentally alert but when hockey teams in different centers begin to compete for outstanding players who have received their draft notices, then it is time for the military authorities to step in."

In the end, Broda would not play for either the Toronto or Montreal Army squads. He would play the role of a 'ringer', helping out a few teams including the San Diego Skyhawks of the Southern California Senior League in a series of exhibition matches. He also played a game for the Petawawa Grenades in the Ottawa Valley Senior circuit before being stationed in Britain where he played on some barnstorming Army teams. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Unidentified Vintage Photo, Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings

Mackell, Kennedy, Stewart, Lindsay, Chadwick
The photo above is a beautifully re-coloured photo originally found in the Toronto Archives. It has been painstakingly re-coloured by Mark Truelove of  www.canadiancolour.ca . This is only one of the many terrific works he has on his website, many of them sports related. The only problem with using city archive sites is usually, there are no names attached to the images describing the photo. This is where the fun begins.

Firstly, the one thing this photo does have is an exact date. April 16, 1949, the day the Maple Leafs became the first team ever to win the Cup in three straight years. Toronto had finished the 1948/49 season under .500 with 57 points in 60 games, losing  five of their last six regular season games. They got hot at the right time though. In winning the Cup, they won eight of nine games including a four game sweep of the first place Red Wings in the final. 

The problem with this photo is that no numbers are visible, fortunately the faces are fairly easy to identify. Of the four players in the picture, the two Maple Leafs are obvious to most fans of old time hockey. On the left is Fleming Mackell, and next to him is captain Ted Kennedy. 19 year-old Mackell would score 6 points in 9 playoff games in 1949 while Kennedy led the Leafs with 8. The Red Wing facing camera is a left shooter judging by his right hand holding the top of his stick and facial identification pegs him as defenceman Jack Stewart. (see below for comparison)
The Red Wing with his head turned away from the camera offers one great clue. Look carefully at his stick and you see the number "7" hand-written in multiple places on it. None other than Ted Lindsay. The hairline and profile of the face match as well. One other confirmation is the fact that he is just about the same height as Mackell who is at the same depth of field in the photo as him. Lindsay stood 5'8", Mackell 5'7". The official attempting to break up the melee appears to be be Bill "Big Whistle" Chadwick who is listed as having worked the game. Compare to the photo below and it looks to be him.

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