Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The First Game

Montreal Arena, site of Toronto's first NHL game
100 years ago today, the NHL and the Maple Leafs franchise began. The Montreal Wanderers defeated the Toronto Arenas by a score of 10-9. Below are a few descriptions of that very first game from newspapers of the day.
Toronto World newspaper, Dec 20, 1017
"About 700 people witnessed the initial professional hockey game of the season at the Arena, when the Wanderers won from Toronto by a score of 10-9. The play was somewhat ragged at times, and the visiting team (Toronto) was weak in goal. The Torontos had the better of the argument most of the game, but neither Hebert, who was the Toronto goalkeeper in the earlier part of the game, nor Brooks, in the second session, stopped the Wanderers shots as they might have done. Wanderers used Lindsay thruout and he proved more serviceable to the home team than either Hebert or Brooks."
"The visitors' forwards, Skinner, Denneny and Noble, were fast and good shots, and Randall and Cameron made excellent defence."
Harry Cameron
Montreal Gazette newspaper, Dec. 20, 1917
"Had either Heberts or Brooks shown any ability to stop shots, the Torontos would have no doubt won, as they had the best of the play the greater part of the time...Toronto, with a better man in nets will have to  be reckoned with this winter. Their forwards Skinner, Denneny and Noble are fast and good shots. While Randall and Cameron make a splendid defence. The Wanderers were lost without the two Cleghorns."
"Toronto played better hockey in the closing period than in either of the other two and outplayed the locals by three to one...The visitors were in better condition than the locals and finished much fresher. The Redbands held the lead accured early in the game by playing three men on defence allowing only two men to make the trips up the ice. "
Toronto would indeed shore up their goaltending a week later when they brought back future Hall of Famer  Hap Holmes from Seattle of the Pacific league. Holmes help guide them to a first place finish in the second half of the season (which was in truth only 8 of the 22 total games each team played).
Toronto dispatched Montreal Canadiens to win the NHL Championship and went on the win the Stanley Cup over Vancouver. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Unidentified Leafs Photo #10

Here's a great shot of the Leafs in their room from the good people at Vintage Sports Images. The two main players are easily identified as Dick Duff and Billy Harris; but the question is, when was the photo taken?
Duff and Harris played together on the Leafs  from 1955/56 February 22, 1964 when Duff was dealt to New York Rangers in the Andy Bathgate trade. The photo could be from any one of these nine seasons, or could it?
Checking the NHL Uniform Database it is confirmed that the Maple Leafs added a tie-down to their sweater collar for the 1958/59 season. Therefore this photo can only be from 1955/56, 56/57 or 57/58.

These three seasons were the first three in the NHL career of Billy Harris, by the 57/58 campaign he produced 16 goals and 44 points. That same season, Duff scored 26 goals and 49 points. They finished first and second in Maple Leafs point scoring that year.  A really nice photo behind the scenes of hockey life in the 1950's.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Punch Imlach's Hockey Tips, 1962

This little beauty is the latest addition to The Den, Punch Imlach's Hockey Tips issued by Chex cereal in 1962. This 32-page, thick-stock paper, full colour booklet was originally obtained by sending in two box-tops of Chex cereal. The one I picked up is in just about perfect shape and looks real nice on the shelf with the  How to Play Goal Booklet by Johnny Bower and the How to Play Forward Booklet by Dave Keon that were put out by Coca-Cola a few years later.
Coach Punch covers all the facets of hockey with the help of his star players on the Maple Leafs.
Red Kelly helps illustrate the golden rule of hockey, "Always keep that head up".
As a defenceman, Tim Horton apparently must "Stop the puck with his body, hands, stick, and so on." Not sure what "so on" refers to, but it probably hurts.
Dave Keon reminds us that when stick-handling, "Stick blade lies flat on ice". I can attest by experience, this is true.
The Big "M" Frank Mahovlich shows how to rip a back-hand shot.
The goalie equipment of a generic Leaf goaltender, Johnny Bower didn't start wearing a mask until the late sixties.
The teeth guard looks like it would be fairly painful to wear. The helmet really is only slightly more than decoration.
Apparently there was a hockey stick colour for girls called "lipstick", how "1962". Also check out the Protective Cap that girls were to wear, basically a shawl with a pad in the back. That will definitely prevent a concussion.
A personal message from NHL referee-in-chief Carl Voss.
Punch Imlach finishes his hockey tips with advice to "drink plenty of milk" and "do not smoke". Fifty-five years later these words still hold true kids. This message is endorsed by Nitzy's Hockey Den.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Unidentified Maple Leafs Photo #9

Here's a very cool vintage hockey photo that came to me with zero identifying information. It's from my pals at Vintage Sports Images and shows a melee between some old Leafs and Wings. Simply looking at the faces, we can see that the #19 Leaf at the left is the one and only Bill Barilko and the Red Wing on the right looks to be a very young Red Kelly. 
Barilko and Smythe
A young Leonard "Red" Kelly 
Let's start with Barilko. Although more known for wearing his retired number 5, Barilko actually wore #19 more than any other number during his career with the Leafs. He only wore 5 in 1950/51, when he scored the Stanley Cup overtime winner. The previous two seasons, Barilko sported # 19, and his first two years he was #21. So, seeing Barilko with #19 in this photo means it can only be either 1948/49 or 1949/50. 
In regards to Red Kelly, he began his career with Detroit in 1947/48 and by 1949/50 he was named to the 2nd All-Star Team, his first of eight straight All-Star selections. 
Over the two seasons in question, only one Maple Leaf wore #18, Bill Juzda, a scrappy defenceman who helped them win two Stanley Cups over his four seasons.
The Red Wing standing is identified by looking through roster headshots of the years in question. The player is quickly pinpointed as Rightwing, Jimmy Peters.
Jimmy Peters
Jimmy Peters
Jimmy Peters was a Red Wing for only two years, 49/50 and 50/51. This means the photograph must be from the 1949/50 season, as Barilko would have been wearing #5 in the latter year. The Wings and Leafs played each other 14 times in the 49/50 season with Detroit prevailing overall with an 8-5-1 record. Detroit finished first in the NHL with 88 points, 14 more than third place Toronto. They met again in the semi-finals with the Wings winning in overtime of the seventh game by a score of 1-0 on a goal from Leo Reise. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Unidentified Leafs Photo #8

Here's another great old image from the archives of Vintage Sports Images here in North Van. This one is a great action shot of the Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. In net for the Leafs is obviously Johnny Bower, but who are the rest of the guys?
At first glance, the #19 Leaf appears to be Kent Douglas and checking the photo records it sure seems so. Also, Toronto wore this specific uniform with the bordered Leaf logo from 1963/64 through 1966/67. Douglas was the only player to wear #19 in that period.
As for the Bruins #19, the only ones to wear it over this time frame were Doug Mohns, Reggie Fleming and John McKenzie. Pie McKenzie was a right-shooter and the guy in the photo is not Doug Mohns. It has to be Reggie Fleming in 1965/66 as he was traded to the Rangers on January 10, 1966 for...McKenzie.
Doug Mohns
Reg Fleming
So, if it's 65/66 we can now easily visually identify the Bruin in the back as Tommy Williams using various photo databases. Williams was a member of the USA Olympic squad that took the Gold Medal in 1960.
Tommy Williams
The Bruins hosted the Leafs in 65/66 three times prior to Fleming being traded and Bower played only two of them (Nov 14 and Dec 19). The one other difference between these two games was the referee. Art Skov worked the November game, Bill Friday the December one. In the background of this photo, along the boards we see referee...Bill Friday. 
This means that the photo is from Sunday, December 19, 1965; a game won by Toronto by a score of 3-1 with Bower making 28 of 29 saves. Boxscore is here.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Maple Leafs Most Goals First Two Games of Season

Firewagon hockey. That's the only thing to call it. 15 goals for and 7 against in the first two games of the 2017/18 season for the Toronto Maple Leafs makes for fun hockey-watching. It is the most goals the Leafs have ever scored in the first two games of the season. Exactly 100 years ago, when the franchise was known as the Arenas, they potted 20 goals in the first two games and somehow lost one of them. 
In fact, the Leafs are the first team in 27 years to score at least seven goals in each of their first two games of the season. In 1990/91 the Penguins opened the year with back-to-back 7-4 victories. In those two games the line of Kevin Stevens,  John Cullen and  Mark Recchi 9, 9 and 6 points respectively. 
The Maple Leafs of 2017 have nine different players with at least three points and only Kadri and Matthews with four. Slightly more balanced scoring that the 90/91 Pens. The previous record for the Leafs was 13 goals in the first two games of 1978/79. They won by scores of 3-2 and 10-7, led by 9 points from Darryl Sittler, 6 from Lanny McDonald and 5 from Borje Salming.
The most goals the Leafs have scored in the first THREE games of a campaign (not including the Arenas of 1917/18 who scored 27 goals) is 18 in 1981/82. In the third game of that season Toronto won 9-8 at home over Chicago (a game I attended as a kid). The third game of the 2017/18 season is at home against Chicago (who also have 15 goals in 2 games). More firewagon hockey tonight?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Unidentified Maple Leafs Photo #7

I sure loves me some old hockey photos! Here's another from Vintage Sports Images, a great pic of Gordie Howe and the Red Wings playing the Maple Leafs. Let's start with the goaltender. A look at the Society for International Hockey Research visual database from the late 1940's through the 50's (to hook up with the fact Howe is playing) and we can conclude it is Ed Chadwick. The Leafs goalie progression went from Turk Broda to Harry Lumley to Ed Chadwick (below) who played every game in 1956/57 and 57/58. This is definitely not Broda or Lumley in the photo. Johnny Bower then took the helm of the Leaf net afterward.
Ed Chadwick
So it is either 56/57 or 57/58, now to the other players. Leafs #3 is Jim Morrison who wore that number for a four year span. #17 for the Leafs in both of these seasons was Dick Duff, seen checking Howe. 
The Red Wing battling Morrison in front of Chadwick is #16, a young Norm Ullman who wore that number his first three seasons before switching to #7. The Leaf on the right edge of the photo is a right-shooter, likely a defenceman. Over these two seasons that could only be Jimmy Thomson or Tim Horton and I'm fairly sure it is Horton.
The Leafs finished in fifth and sixth place missing the playoffs in each of these seasons. Detroit finished first in 56/57 and third the following year only to be bounced in the first round each time.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Canada Cup 1987 Game 3, 30 Years Later

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    Well that was quick... 26 seconds in. I recall that 16 year-old me did not enjoy that start.

This past Sunday was the 30th anniversary of Game 3 of the 1987 Canada Cup so I decided to rewatch the game in it's entirety. Five years ago, TSN re-broadcast all three final games and they now reside at the bottom of my PVR list with the trusty "lock" beside them so as not to be deleted, ever.
I aso figured, what the hell, may as well live tweet the game as if 16 year-old me had the miraculous tools of the internet, iPhone and twitter. The results are here, complete with screen grabs of the game.

  1. I mean come on, Canada's 1st powerplay we put out Messier, Gretzky, Lemieux, Bourque, Coffey. Also, Dan Kelly was a legend.

  2. Oh dear lord, Fetisov with a sick outside/inside move and it's 3-0. Teenage me was beside myself with distress. 

  3. How does Gretz miss this!? At least we go on a PP halfway through the 1st. Need a goal!

  4. Uh boy, Bourque blows a tire and Khomutov beats Fuhr in final minute if 1st. 4-2 Soviets

  5. Gretz and Lemieux have been quiet, need them to wake up. PP coming up almost halfway through the game. 

  6. And just like that, from Ducky's office, Brent Sutter ties it. 2nd assist to our boy Crossman.

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    Hawerchuck with as tenacious a goal as you'll ever see. The well-dressed late 80s crowd celebrates. 

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    Gretzky button-hooks & finds a streaking Coffey 3 mins into the 3rd. Mylnikov makes his best save of the night. Should have been 6-4 now.

  9. "OK Mario, in about 15 minutes I'll give you a sweet drop pass and you beat Mylnikov's glove like a rented mule." 

  10. Another one Wayner probably wants back at the end of a 2 minute shift. He shot wide. Should be 7-4 now.  

  11. Lomakin to Semak as Hartsburg loses him in front of the net, and we're tied. I recall I wasn't happy when this happened. 

  12. "The Hook" by Hawerchuk on Bykov, uncalled by Koharski. Left Lemieux unchecked to enter the zone.

  13. Stelnov down to block Gretzky's lane to Murphy. The only person in the building who thot that was an option. Mario still not even in frame.

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    Glove high. Pandemonium. I always remembered Mylnikov falling back, defeated, hanging on the crossbar for a second. 

  15. Weasel Eagleson just had to get into the on-ice celebration. Literally seconds after the final buzzer. 
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