Thursday, May 12, 2016

Detroit Red Wings Exhibition Game in Vancouver, 1959

Here's a real nice photo from the City of Vancouver Archives showing Gordie Howe playing the Western Hockey League Vancouver Canucks at the PNE Forum. There are no labels or date attached, but I believe I've narrowed it down.

First of all, we see that Gordie Howe is wearing the Captain "C" for Detroit, a position he surprisingly only held between 1958 and 1962. Seeing as the Canucks goalie's face is visible clearly, he should be identifiable. Checking the Society for International Hockey Research photo database I looked at Canuck goaltenders of this era. It's fairly easy to name the goalie as Hank Bassen when compared to the photo below. This really aids in dating the photo, as Bassen played for the Canucks for only one season, 1959/60. If this is a pre-season game with Detroit, it must have then taken place in late September or early October of 1959.
This season, Bassen would lead the WHL in Wins with 44, shutouts with 5 and Goals Against Average with 2.45. He would then help the Canucks win the Patrick Cup as playoff champs. Bassen was then claimed in the Inter-League draft by Detroit in July 1960. In 1960/61 he split duties with Terry Sawchuk and convincingly outplayed the Hall of Famer. Bassen finished with a .500 record and 2.87 GAA, Sawchuk was four games under .500 with a GAA of 3.13. Bassen would go on to start the first ever game for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1967. His son, Bob Bassen would play 765 NHL games in the 80's and 90's.

A search for a note about this game proved fruitless, but I found three Red Wings games out West that fits the time period. The Wings were on a nine game exhibition tour of Western Canada and the U.S. If they were in Edmonton on Sept. 26, 1959, Seattle on Sept 27th and Spokane, Washington on the 29th.

Next, I came across a game program from this very game listed on eBay, check out the cover below. However, among the program images included in the listing, there is no actual date for this game but included with the program the seller added a newspaper clipping of the game. 

There is the date, handwritten on the clipping; October 1, 1959. The clipping says this was the ninth and final game of the Red Wings Western tour, a game won by Detroit by a score of 9-2. But wait, what's that at the bottom of the game boxscore? The two goalies listed are Sawchuk and Bentley. Bentley? This would be referring to longtime WHL goalie Bev Bentley who would play this upcoming season with Seattle Totems. Compare the photo below of Bentley with a closeup of the goalie in the archive pic.

There's no way that's Bentley in the archive photo. If that's not Bassen, I'll eat my hat. And I have a lot of nice hats. I'm thinking that the Canucks must have recruited the previous season's Coast Division All-Star Bentley to bolster their squad, and he and Bassen split duties against the Wings.

So, the date of this game was October 1, 1959 and I'm sticking to the goalie being Hank Bassen. One other player that is easily confirmed in the archive pic is Canucks number 5 who is defending Howe. It is none other than defenceman Larry Cahan seen below. Cahan would go on to be named to the 2nd All-Star team in 59/60 posting 11 goals and 33 points.
Larry Cahan

1 comment:

LJC said...

Very interesting your post here! I just came across it doing some research. I have a page dedicated to the Seattle Totems. The Red Wings came to Seattle on September 27, 1959. The Wings won 5-4. Bentley was in goal that night. Cheers.

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