Wednesday, November 30, 2016

1953/54 Victoria Cougars Program

14 cents
Recently, I picked up this beauty at a collectibles show. A 63 year-old game program from the old Western Hockey League. The game was at the Victoria Memorial Arena between the visiting Vancouver Canucks and the hometown Cougars on January 11, 1954. The Cougars featured up-and-coming 24 year-old Andy Hebenton who would score 21 goals this season, his fifth of top-level minor pro hockey. After an 80 point season for Victoria in 1954/55, Hebenton finally graduated to the New York Rangers and stayed in the NHL until 1964. 
On the other end of the scale, 35 year-old Billy Reay was in his first season as player/coach with Victoria after eight full years playing with the Montreal Canadiens. In 1957, Reay took over as Head Coach for Toronto Maple Leafs and in 1963 he began a 14 year stint as Head Coach in Chicago with the Black Hawks.
All-time great, Lester Patrick
70 year-old Lester Patrick was the President of the Cougars after having been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947. Lester even coached one game for the Cougars on Jan. 25, 1952 before ascending to the president's chair for good.
Andy Hebenton, on his way up
Billy Reay, on his way down
The opposition goaltender on this evening was one, Lorne Worsley, who had yet to earn his famous nickname. After having played 50 games the previous year with the New York Rangers (where he went 13-29-8), Worsley was returned to the Western League and the Canucks. In 53/54 he would lead the circuit with 39 wins and a 2.40 goals against average. He was named WHL goalie of the year and won the Leader Cup as League MVP.
24 year-old, pre-Gump, Lorne Worsley
Another future Hall of Famer toiling for Vancouver in this match was defenceman Allan Stanley. He had played the five previous years with the Rangers in the NHL before being sent down in 53/54. Stanley would notch an impressive 36 points in 47 games this year and never returned to the minor leagues again.
Vancouver ended up first place in the WHL in 53/54 with 85 points in 70 games, Victoria was fifth with 65 points. The Cougars lost four games to one to the Calgary Stampeders in the first round while Vancouver lost to the same Stampeders by four games to two in the WHL Finals. 
Fantastic Back Cover

Friday, November 25, 2016

Leafs Rookies, Circa 1929/30

A quarter of the way through the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs have three of the top four scoring rookies in the NHL. The top five rookies in points are as follows: (G-A-Pts)

Patrick Laine, Winnipeg 12-6-18
Auston Matthews, Toronto 8-8-16
Mitch Marner, Toronto 7-9-16
William Nylander, Toronto 6-9-15
Zach Werenski, Columbus 5-10-15
The Leafs have their best rookie crop in at least a generation. In looking at the top three Toronto rookies on their own, it can arguably be said that they are the best Leafs crop of first-year players in over 85 years. Sure, Toronto has had some nice rookie groups enter the league at the same time through the years;

1985/86 Wendel Clark, Steve Thomas & Dan Hodgson
1982/83 Peter Ihnacak, Walt Poddubny, Dan Daoust
1979/80 Laurie Boschman, Rocky Saginiuk, Rick Vaive, Bill Derlago
1973/74 Borje Salming, Lanny McDonald, Ian Turnbull, Inge Hammarstrom
1955/56 Dick Duff, Billy Harris, Earl Balfour
1952/53 George Armstrong, Tim Horton, Ron Stewart, Eric Nesterenko, Leo Boivin
1946/47 Howie Meeker, Joe Klukay, Gus Mortson, Vic Lynn, Jimmy Thomson
1943/44 Ted Kennedy, Gus Bodnar, Jack Hamilton
1936/37 Syl Apps, Gordie Drillon, Jimmy Fowler

However, the greatest crop of Maple Leafs rookies in one season was in 1929/30 when three guys embarked on Hall of Fame careers and would become one of the greatest lines in history.
Charlie Conacher, Joe Primeau and Busher Jackson.
Truth be told, Matthews, Nylander and Marner are having better first seasons than the Hall of Famers did 87 years ago. This may sound like nonsense, but facts are facts. I'm not saying that the current Leaf super-rookies will all one day become enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but their first twenty games are substantially better than the legends of yester-year.

Matthews, Marner and Nylander have all played 20 games or about a quarter of this season. In 1929/30, the league played 44 games and below are the NHL rookie scoring leaders after the same amount of games in 1929/30. Statistics are from the Montreal Gazette of January 7, 1930. The League standings are shown first.
Rookie Leaders Jan.7, 1930

Ebbie Goodfellow, Detroit 10-6-16
Tom Cook, Chicago 4-10-14
Nick Wasnie, Montreal 8-5-13
James Jarvis, Pittsburgh 7-4-11
Charlie Conacher, Toronto 8-2-10
Joe Primeau, Toronto 2-7-9
Frank Ingram, Chicago 4-4-8
Busher Jackson, Toronto 4-2-6
Baldy Northcott, Mtl Maroons 4-0-4
George Massecar, NY Americans 3-1-4

this list also shows how fleeting and varied careers can be; the three Leafs and Ebbie Goodfellow all had Hall of Fame careers, Tom Cook, Nick Wasnie and Baldy Northcott had serviceable if not spectacular careers, James Jarvis, Frank Ingram and George Massecar (whom I honestly had never heard of before yesterday) all played just around 100 NHL games.

So, after the same amount of games in 1929/30, the Toronto future Hall of Famers sat 5th, 6th and 8th in rookie point scoring with some fairly un-impressive totals. Average goals per game back then was 5.91 compared to today's 5.40. If anything, the old-timers should have been slightly more productive than the current newbies. Of course the Leafs all got into gear over the second half of their first full seasons and the final rookie leaders were as follows;

Goodfellow 17-17-34
Cook 14-16-30
Conacher 20-9-29
Primeau 5-21-26
Wasnie 12-11-23
Jarvis 11-8-19
Jackson 12-6-18
Ingram 6-10-16
Northcott 10-1-11
Massecar 7-3-10

The Leafs finished 3rd, 4th and 7th in the rookie race with Conacher leading in goals and Primeau in assists. Of course there were only these ten rookies that played a significant amount of games in 1929/30. It will be highly impressive, if not un-precedented, if Matthews, Marner and Nylander can finish in the top-five in league rookie scoring with likely 70 plus rookies playing at least half their team's games. We shall see.

Monday, November 21, 2016

1988/89 Signed Maple Leafs Stick

Recently I picked up this stick at the Vancouver Flea Market for a fairly reasonable price. It's signed by members of the Maple Leafs 1988/89 squad. I wasn't necessarily in the market for a late-80's signed Leaf stick, but it was a price I couldn't pass up. It actually makes a nice foil for my signed Leafs 62/63 stick, a team that finished first place in the NHL and won the Stanley Cup. The 88/89 team, not so much.
Gary Leeman
Led by Eddie Olczyk's 90 points, Gary Leeman's 75 and Vinny Damphousse's 68 (who are all on this stick) the Buds finished with 62 points, only one ahead of last overall Quebec. Olczyk was in his second and best season with the Leafs. He would be traded to Winniped in 1990 for Mark Osborne, Dave Ellett and Paul Fenton. His 90 points in 88/89 ended up being his career high. This year proved to be Leeman's breakout season as the following season he would notch the second ever 50 goal campaign in franchise history with 51. Of course he'd be traded to Calgary a few years later in the trade that netted Toronto Doug Gilmour.
Daniel Marois
1988/89 was Daniel Marois' rookie season and he produced a respectable 31 goals and finished 6th in Calder voting.
Eddie Olczyk
Dave Reid
Checker extraordinaire, Dave Reid put up a plus/minus of +12 for Toronto in 88/89 over 77 games. Amazing on a team that scored the third least goals and gave up the fourth most.
Dan Daoust
Dan Daoust was n the midst of his second last NHL season and produced only 12 points in 68 games.
Brad Marsh
Steady Brad Marsh was the only Leaf defender to play more than 65 games in 88/89, playing in all 80. He also his ninth best scoring season with one goal (his tops was 3 in 84/85).
Allan Bester
Allan Bester had perhaps his best season in 88/89 going 17-20-3 for a team that was 18 games under .500 He also put up a 3.80 goals against average which put him 13th among NHL goalies who played at least 40 games.
Vincent Damphousse
Damphousse was in his third NHL season and would finally blossom the following year with 94 points.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Red Kelly and The Ultimate Maple Leaf Den

Yep, Me and "Red" Kelly
So, I met "Red" Kelly last week. 
Actually, I didn't JUST meet the hockey legend, I chatted with him for twenty minutes. This encounter didn't just take place on the street or in a restaurant, it happened in the museum-like basement of Ultimate Leaf Fan, Mike Wilson. 
As a member of the Society for International Hockey Research, I was lucky enough to attend the Meet and Greet event for their Annual meeting in Toronto last week. This was graciously held at the home of Mike Wilson, who told me he is not the self-proclaimed "Ultimate Leaf Fan" but was bestowed this moniker by none other than ESPN. Anyway, as a lifelong Leaf fan and collector myself, I was excited enough to gain entry to the Ultimate Leaf Den. Little did I know I would also meet one of the greatest living hockey players there as well. 
Mike Wilson 
Bathroom door with Original
Maple Leaf Gardens Signage
After I picked up my nametag and met a few hockey authors and the host himself, I descended into the Museum/Basement. Even the walls of the staircase were lined with mostly familiar vintage Leafs memorabilia, then I turned the corner at the bottom of the stairs and saw Leonard "Red" Kelly standing there chatting with author/historian Paul Patskou. I had met Paul earlier but had many online exchanges with him, and he said,"Hi Chris let me introduce you to Red Kelly."
Paul Patskou, Myself and "Red" Kelly
I shook his hand and said something like "An honour and a pleasure to meet you Mr. Kelly." Then, as the hockey historians we are, Paul and I proceeded to ask Mr. Kelly questions, but mainly listened to him for the next twenty minutes. Paul had met and worked with Kelly numerous times in the past but seemed just as excited as I was to chat with the legend. For his part, "Red" Kelly was as gracious as can be and his mind and voice are still sharp as a tack at 89 years-old. What follows is the best of what I could remember of our chat, some of the stories I had read before but it was still very cool hearing it from the man himself.

On the aftermath of the Richard Riot in 1955;
When we left Montreal, going to Detroit I said, “What happens if they throw a bomb at The Olympia and we have to forfeit the game? We might lose our streak, because we’d won seven in a row. (Detroit had actually won 8 straight going into the final game of the regular season, the forfeit they got in the riot game clinched them first place over Montreal.) So I told Adams this, he never said I told him, he says as if he did. But what they did was, they told them to put extra guys at the doors of The Olympia and that if you went in with a package they’d check you.” (The final game went off incident-free and Detroit won 6-0)

On Ted Lindsay being traded from Detroit to Chicago in the summer of  '57 after helping form the NHLPA union;
We all knew why Lindsay was traded to Chicago.

On his broken ankle late in the 58/59 season with Detroit;
After I broke my leg, they put me in a cast.  The team lost three games in a row there and they took my cast off and asked me if I think I could give it a go. I played the rest of the season with a broken leg and couldn’t turn properly to the one side. I remember Hull coming down on me and I would let him have the one side I could turn to, that way I could defend against him.

On training camp back in the day;
I would always have to stay home and finish working my farm when training camp started. I usually reported two weeks late and was still in far better shape than anyone else. Others were trying to lose weight, I had to put ON weight.

Kelly's Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup Ring 
On his trade from Detroit to Toronto;
I had no idea I was being traded, but wanted nothing to do with the Rangers. I got a call from Clarence Campbell after I refused to go (to New York) and retired. He said Adams is going to suspend you, if he does you’re out of hockey; playing, coaching, refereeing, anything. I said I thought about it all night, I’m not changing my mind. I told Les Patrick of the Rangers that I was retiring that it had nothing to do with the Rangers. (within a few days Jack Adams worked out a trade to Toronto, Kelly agreed to that one) The first time Detroit came to Toronto after the trade, I found it strange playing against my old teammates of twelve and  a half years and was perhaps a bit easy on them. Then Howe followed me into the corner with his stick like this (hooking up around the chest) and his elbow up as usual, and said, “How’s your wife?”, because Gordie of course had introduced us years earlier.  He wasn’t letting up a bit, and I never did on those guys ever again. (Toronto won that game 7-1) 

On his change of positions from Defence to Centre;
Imlach told me when I came over, “If we’re going to win the Cup we have to beat Beliveau. I need you to shut him down.”

On equipment and skates back in the day;
Today’s players are no faster than we were. A few of the players were measured once as skating 30 mph. (I asked him then, 'Can you imagine if you wore the skates they have nowadays and how much better you’d have been?' and he replied) I don’t think it would have made a difference, our skates were just fine. Although in Detroit once I remember turning in the corner and losing an edge and falling. I showed them to our trainer afterwards and he looked quickly at them and said nothing was wrong. When I was traded to Toronto, I showed them to Tommy Naylor and he measured the steel and said one edge was higher than the other, that’s why I was losing my edge.

On his coaching career and why he retired as a player;
When I started coaching (with expansion Los Angeles), they wanted to sign me to play for another four years. They also said though, if I wasn’t cutting it on the ice after a few years they’d put me to work other ways, like selling tickets or something. I said “Hang-it!” and no thanks to the playing part of the offer.
Throughout our chat, Kelly stood there sipping on his Diet Coke as others came and went. And yes, I did let others have a chance to talk with him, I couldn't forget I still had the amazing Leaf museum to explore. Incidentally, I noticed there were a few things in the collection of the Ultimate Leaf Fan that I had in my own collection and I wasn't sure if Mike had them. I asked him if he had a Dave Keon Skate Sharpener still in the box, or a 1930 Game program from the Mutual Street Arena. He thought for a little while and answered 'no'. Perhaps I'll start calling my own den in North Vancouver the Ultimate Leaf Den, West.

Leafs Locker Room Door
Gardens Ushers Cardigan

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