Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Greatest Game Ever, 40 Years Later; Part 2

"Probably the most important and far-reaching sporting contest ever held in this country." This is how Montreal Gazette writer Tim Burke described the New Years Eve 1975 game between Montreal Canadiens and the Soviet Central Army. He continued,"The Canadiens resurrected one of our proudest heritages and enshrined it with an un rivalled display of determination and sportsmanship."

In Burke's analysis "the fact the Canadiens had to settle for the most lopsided tie in memory; 38-13 in shots on goal, takes nothing away from their stupendous effort against a great and dauntless opponent." He summarized that Montreal was, "supreme in all facets of the game, save goaltending and shooting."
The Soviet Central Army team had just managed to tie the Montreal Canadiens 3-3 despite being outplayed by all accounts. In referring to the aforementioned goaltending of Ken Dryden, Bob Gainey offered, "Do you realize that it was more than an hour between the warmup and the time the Russians got their first shot (10:03 into the game), no goaltender can be inactive that long without it affecting him." The Soviets put four weak shots on Dryden in the first period and only three in the second. Two of the three second period attempts ended up as goals. However, Dryden after the game refused to use his lack of work as an excuse,  "I wasn't cold because I'd broken into a nervous sweat at the beginning of the game. I had an awful lot of shots at my glove and tonight they were just dropping out of it." Coach Scotty Bowman described the first goal when Dryden stopped Boris Mikhailov's shot with his glove at shoulder level, then let it drop into the net, "I think there was a good chance that if Dryden doesn't stop it, the puck goes over the net."
Burke describes how the Canadiens employed Gerry Duggan who charted all their games since Bowman took over. Duggan said, "The Canadiens in the first period didn't give up the puck in their own end once, the first time that's happened since I've been charting them. In the second period they gave it away in their end just once, and in the third period five times." Larry Robinson added, "We made only four mistakes in the whole game and they scored on three of them. On the fourth one, they hit the inside of the crossbar,"- Popov's shot at 14:11 of the third period.
Burke also hinted that, "There is a suspicion that the Forum ice was 'slowed down' for this one -bumpier and chipper than usual - to impair Central Army's precision passing. If so, it may have cost Steve Shutt the winning goal. "At 15:39 of the third period, Shutt had - or thought he had - the winner on his stick about five feet out and his whole side of the net open, thanks to another beautiful pass from Pete Mahovlich. But when he made the shot, the puck wasn't there. 'Darn it,' he said afterwards, 'the ice was chewed up enough to get the puck weaving and dancing a little."
Canadiens superstar Guy Lafleur was a bit more blunt with his analysis of the game, "I didn't learn a thing from them. It was an easy game. We proved tonight that our system is still good. We can dump the puck in and still be more dangerous than them." He went on, "After their power plays I wasn't even tired. That never happens with an NHL team. You just wait at the line. You don't have to skate at all to keep up with them."
Even Soviet coach Loktev agreed, "This was not one of our best performances. Most of our problems came as a result of Montreal's style of play. Their checking was very effective, they played their positions well and they worked very hard. Montreal played a very fine hockey game."
It was a fine hockey game indeed.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Greatest Game Ever, 40 Years Later; Part 1

"That goal was one of the greatest moments of my life," declared Yvan Cournoyer about his 1972 Summit Series Game 8 tying goal in the third period. This statement was made mere days before he and his fellow Montreal Canadiens were to play the Soviet Union on New Years Eve 1975. As the 40th anniversary approaches of the game many call the greatest ever, let's look at the anticipation from players and media alike in the days before the historic match.
Cournoyer's teammate on both the '75 Habs and '72 Team Canada, Pete Mahovlich said, "After Paul Henderson scored that winning goal, I wanted to cry. We had come so far to take victory away from the Soviets." In this updated version of the Russia/Canada matchup, the Central Army team and the Soviet Wings would play four games each against eight different NHL teams. "This series is very important to me, Cournoyer said, "because a lot of people are trying to say that the Russians are better than us." He added, "Our guys will be ready. Every team in the NHL has pride and the players want to do their best."
Mahovlich added,"I wouldn't mind another full series against them... this time, we know what to expect."
As for the Soviets, Central Army head coach Konstantin Loktev flat out stated, "We do not like players like Ferguson (former Canadien, John) because of their style of play. Because there are so many good ice hockey players in Canada I can't understand why some of your players have switched to a rough style of play." Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak chimed in with his pre-series thought, "All the games here are going to be interesting and difficult because I know Esposito, Hull, Clarke and Cournoyer but I know very little about players on the other teams, and they all know me well."

The Soviets first test was against the New York Rangers on December 28th and they passed with flying colours besting the Rangers by a score of 7-3. Defenceman, and one of six Montreal Summit Series veterans, Serge Savard said," I want to win badly but I don't feel any extra pressure because the Rangers lost. Did anyone expect them to win?" The day before the New Years match, Mahovlich exclaimed, "I think if we play the right way, we can beat them. If we can allow them fewer than three or four goals, I think we've got a heck of an opportunity to win. If they score that many, it's not going to be Kenny's (Dryden) fault."
As for Dryden, he didn't hide his feelings about beating the Russians, "It's a very big thing as far as I'm concerned. I don't understand that other attitude, that sort of professional cool, it's simply a way of underscoring whatever you do." Mahovlich summed up his pre-game thoughts, "We have no excuses and we're not making any. If we lose, we'll lose to a better hockey club for that game. And if we win, we'll be the better hockey club for that game."He finished by saying,"It's like Bobby Clarke says, You get a hell of a lot of satisfaction out of playing the best. I know I do."
Montreal Gazette writer, Al Strachan laid out the Canadiens roster that would line up for the game;

Lafleur, Lemaire, Lambert
Cournoyer, Mahovlich, Shutt
Tremblay, Risebrough, Wilson
Roberts, Jarvis, Gainey

Robinson, Bouchard
Lapointe, Van Boxmeer
Awrey, Savard

Strachan, along with his fellow Gazette writers made predictions in the December 31st edition.
"It won't be a high scoring game," commented Strachan, Canadiens win 3-2. Tim Burke called it 6-4 for Montreal saying, "Seldom have I seen the Canadiens in as good physical condition as they are right now." Doug Gilbert was the one hold out for the Soviets predicting an 8-4 Russian victory. He was however amazingly close in predicting what actually transpired as he summed up his comment, "I go to the Forum hoping for the most exciting tie in the history of hockey - and expecting the Soviets to pull out all stops and win 8-4."
He came close to nailing it.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Boston Bruins 1972 Coloring Book

Now, I'm about the farthest thing from a Boston Bruins fan. But this recent find, this right here, may be one of the cooler items in my den. A Bruins colo(u)ring book issued in about 1972. It's in pretty damn great shape too, no childish colouring attempts at all.  Behold the 1970's awesomeness below.
If the name wasn't on the page, would you know this is Bobby?
The greatest Bruin ever.
This depiction of Derek Sanderson may be the most 1970's thing ever.
Powerplay, showing players NOT on the first unit.

Espo, Create your own background!
Pie, just terrific.
Espo potting one against the New Jersey Generics 
Sanderson attempting to fornicate with the net, no surprise.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

An 11 Point Night in 1943 for Walter 'Pinky' Melnyk

Walter 'Pinky' Melnyk. Not a household name perhaps. He never played in the NHL, but played parts of two seasons in the American Hockey League prior to WWII. In 1942/43 Melnyk was a member of the terrific Victoria Army team in the Vancouver Island Senior Hockey League. Having won the league championship, the Army advanced to play the Vancouver RCAF Fliers of the BC Mainland Senior League.
During regular season play the Army scored almost at will, counting 127 goals over 20 games while compiling a 12-7-1 record. Led by ex-NHLers Bill Carse, Joffre Desilets and Nick Metz, Victoria Army dispatched Victoria RCAF and Victoria Navy in five straight games to meet the Vancouver Fliers in the BC Provincial Championship. 
After winning the first game 10-1, they destroyed the Vancouver squad by a score of 18-5 in game two on March 3, 1943 at New Westminster's Queens Park Arena. This was the game that saw Pinky Melnyk's eruption for eleven points. The boxscore is below.
Surprisingly, Melnyk did not register a point in the first 17 minutes of the first period before collecting a goal and assist in the last three minutes. Melnyk and line mates Sam Kennedy and Mel Lunde struck early and often in the second frame. Melnyk alone notched three goals and an assist before the period was twelve minutes old. He added another helper at 16:06 of the period and found time to receive two penalty minutes as well. 
After the break, Melnyk's line notched two goals in a nine second span, six minutes into the third to give him 5 goals and 4 assists. Two more assists in the 10th and 12th minutes upped Melnyk's total to a ridiculous 11 points on the evening. Crazily, Lunde had scored an un-assisted goal before Melnyk's last point and Lunde assisted on Kennedy's goal without Melnyk's help at 14:01 of the third. 
All tolled, Pinky Melnyk, Lunde (4 goals, 4 assists) and Kennedy (4 goals, 5 assists) combined for an amazing 28 points on the night.
Victoria Army went on to beat the Fliers 4 games to 1, then knocked off Calgary Currie Army 3 games to 2 and Winnipeg RCAF Bombers 3 games to 1 to advance to the Allan Cup Finals. They would meet the Ottawa Commandos who boasted NHL stars Mac and Neil Coville, Joe Cooper, Ken Reardon, Alex Shibicky and most importantly, "Sugar Jim" Henry between the pipes. The Commandos bested Victoria 3 games to 1 with no game decided by more than two goals. 
When the dust had finally settled, the line of Pinky Melnyk, Sam Kennedy and Mel Lunde combined for 82 points during the 18 game Allan Cup run, 28 of which were collected in that one fantastic game on March 3, 1943.
Melnyk missed the 1944/45 season due to Military Service but returned to star with the Minneapolis Millers of the USHL. Sam Kennedy also missed 44/45 due to Military Service and also returned to play in the USHL. He would also have a 27 game stint with Indianapolis of the AHL in 46/47. Mel Lunde played the 43/44 campaign with the Nanaimo Clippers before being sent overseas for active duty. He would be killed in action in Normandy on June 13, 1944.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The First Vancouver Canucks Team, 1945/46

Above is a great photo from the Vancouver Archives of the Pacific Coast Hockey League, Vancouver Canucks. The photo is at he Vancouver Forum during the first ever season with the Canucks  name used in Vancouver during the 1945/46 season. Pictured left to right are Chuck Millman, Doug Norris and coach Paul Thompson.

It is fairly common knowledge that the name Canuck was an ode to a popular comic book character of the time. According to Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame; "
Owner Coley Hall won the franchise rights in a poker game. Out for a mid-summer stroll, Hall’s bookie Arthur Rennison suggested the ‘Canuck’ moniker as a nod to wartime comic book character Johnny Canuck."

Chuck Millman was a six-foot tall defenceman from Hamilton, Ontario who scored 32 points in 55 games for the Canucks that season. He would play four seasons in Vancouver before retiring in 1950. Doug Norris was not an actual member of the Canucks in 45/46. He had played with the Vancouver RCAF Seahawks the previous three years and appears to have spent most of 1945/46 overseas even representing the RCAF All-Stars in Wembley England. Norris had also been a member of the World Champion Trail Smoke Eaters in 1939.

The coach, Paul Thompson was a retired veteran of 13 NHL seasons. He won the Stanley Cup in 1928 with the Rangers and in 1934 and 1938 with Chicago. In 1936, Thompson finished second in NHL scoring and was named Second Team All-Star. He had been head coach of Chicago since his retirement in 1939 before becoming the inaugural coach of the Canucks.

His squad finished atop the PCHL in 45/46 with a record of 37-21-0. They beat Portland Eagles 3 games to 2 and Hollywood Wolves 4 to 1 in the final. A member of those Wolves was 18-year old defenceman Bill Barilko. The youngster would collect 103 PIMs in 38 games that season before playing 18 games with the Maple Leafs the following year.

After being crowned PCHL champions, the Canucks advanced to play the Boston Olympics in the United States Amateur Championships. The seven game series would take place entirely at the Canucks home, the Vancouver Forum. Even still, the Canucks went down 3 games to 1 before roaring back to win the last three games and the Walter A. Brown Cup. The 1945/46 Vancouver Canucks were inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
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