Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Unidentified Maple Leafs Photo No.5

Here is another unidentified hockey photo from the archives of Vintage Sports Images in North Vancouver, and this one is a toughie. It shows the Maple Leafs playing the Red Wings, but what makes it difficult is that most players faces are at a profile angle making it harder to identify them. Firstly, looking at the uniforms, the Leafs used this configuration from 1938 to 1958 excluding 1945 - 1948 when the lettering was red. I know the photo is black and white, but I'm pretty sure the text on the Leaf crest is not red. As for Detroit, they also had an extended period of time using this uniform. The only thing that changed was the 'Winged Wheel' crest which became sleeker and less stout in 1948. That dates the photo somewhere after 1948 up to 1958.

 The main figure in the image is the Leaf enlarged below.
Using only player headshot in the SIHR database and the direction of the player shooting hand, I am fairly confident that this is Howie Meeker.
Howie Meeker
Howie Meeker
Meeker began his career in 1946 and played until 53/54, so that narrows it down a bit more. The Leaf beside Meeker I believe is Rudy Migay who began his career in 1949. It's a difficult angle to be certain but I feel the nose shape and slightly pointy chin match Migay's headshots below.
Rudy Migay 
Rudy Migay
Next up is the fallen Red Wing defender sporting #3 on his back and appears to be a left-handed shot with the knob of his stick in his right hand. During the era in question the Wings had a few guys wear the number. In 1949/50 and 50/51 Clare Martin played regularly wearing the number but he was a right shot. In 1951/52 Benny Woit took over the number but he, like Martin was a right shot. Woit changed to #5 the next year when Marcel Pronovost joined the club. Pronovost was indeed a left shooter and wore the number until 1965. His closeup and headshot are below.
Marcel Pronovost
So, if this is Pronovost pictured, the photo is very likely from the 1952/53 season, Meeker's last semi-regular campaign. Meeker played 25 games that year and only 5 the next before retiring. The three players to the right and background of the photo are quite difficult to I.D. I'm having trouble figuring out the Leaf sprawled behind Pronovost, even though his face is visible (blurry, but visible).
The two distant guys could be only a few guys, judging by their shooting hand and faint facial recognition. The Red Wing is likely Benny Woit or Bob Goldham and the Leaf is likely Jim Morrison or Hugh Bolton.
Overall, as tough as this one was to figure out, I'm quite confident it's from 52/53 and that the main players pictured are correct.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Unidentified Canucks Photo

Time for another unidentified hockey photo from the good folks at Vintage Sports Images. It comes to me with zero info other than what is in the photo itself, which is quite a lot actually. 
Firstly, the Canucks wore this jersey with the "V" on the jersey sleeve for their first two years of existence 1970/71 and 1971/72. Next, all the numbers of the skaters are visible which makes for easy identification. Starting at the left is #16 Ted Taylor, a Left Winger who wore the number in both of these seasons. Taylor had been a career minor-leaguer, having played for the Western League Vancouver Canucks the two seasons prior. Taylor potted 36 goals in 69/70 in the high minors but scored only 11 and 9 goals his two NHL Canuck seasons. 
The Boston Bruin battling Taylor is an easy one, #6 Ted Green. He is adorned in a helmet that he wore after nearly losing his life to the stick of Wayne Maki a few years before. The Canuck in the middle of the frame is #19. In their inaugural season, top draft pick Dale Tallon wore the number before switching to #9 in 71/72. This is when Richard Lemieux wore the number for 42 games. Now, both players shot left-handed, and actually looked facially fairly similar (as seen below) but Tallon played at 6'1" and Lemieux 5'8". The #19 in the photo certainly looks closer to 5'8" in height and appears to me to be Richard Lemieux. That would make this photo from the 1971/72 season.
Richard Lemieux, 71/72
Dale Tallon 70/71
The Canuck in the foreground is #17 and shoots Right-handed. This would make it ex-Maple Leaf product Ron Ward. 1971/72 was his first full season and he contributed a mere 2 goals and 4 assists in 71 games. He jumped to the New York Raiders of the new WHA in 72/73 and blossomed, scoring 51 goals and 118 points. Ward eventually played for seven different teams in his five year WHA career.
So, the game shown was from the 71/72 season, which date though? The Canucks visited Boston three times that season and understandably was smoked each time by the eventual Cup champs. Although there is not much of him visible, the Bruins goalie helps narrow down the date even further. The mask of the goaltender is visible, the Bruins had two goalies that year, one with a distinctive mask. Eddie Johnston and Gerry Cheevers split the duties this season, the goalie pictured must be Johnston as he doesn't have the characteristic "stitches" as on Cheevers' mask.  Johnston played two of the three home games with the Canucks that year, winning 5-0 on November 18, 1971 and 7-3 on March 2, 1972. The game in question has to be one of these two dates. Unless I find game sheets from these two dates to see if Richard Lemieux perhaps didn't play in one, I'm happy with having narrowed it down this much.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Vintage Hockey Toys and Games

1962 Hockey Card Game
I recently noticed that I have a fair amount of vintage hockey themed games in my collection, figured I'd put them all together in a post. Above is a really neat boxed card game I picked up at the Vancouver Flea Market. It's dated 1962 from Walker Press Canada and pictures generic "Blue" and "Red" teams, with very cool artwork.
The next one I got from the same dealer at the flea market but have very little information about it. It is a tin ice surface with small plastic sticks. I think it was some kind of "flick" game played with a small disc. It has to be from the 1960's at the latest and could date back as far as the 50's. It's labelled "another SUPERIOR TOY by T. Cohn". This company made many different tin games and toys in the throughout the first half of the twentieth century. 
Next is one of my favourite things in my collection, a Toronto Maple Leafs colouring book from 1964. It's in pretty much mint condition with no colouring done inside. Also shown is the page of Dave Keon, just asking for some crayon, must...resist.
Okay, maybe the NEXT one is one of my favourites. I grabbed this beauty at a garage sale and it's been hanging on my den wall ever since. It's a Munro Games wooden table-hockey game from 1948. This was one of the very first ever table-hockey games ever produced and uses little pegs for "players". Check out the beautifully woven net. Fantastic.
I got these fairly recently off a local Vancouver dealer, "Hockey Action Replay" rub-off games. Anyone who grew up in the 1970's or early 80's will remember this fad of rub-off transfers, where you could create your own scene on an open canvas with a simple scratch of a coin. These were released for every comic book, T.V. show and even Star Wars, and could be bought usually at your local pharmacy or toy store. Only thing is, once they were applied, the transfer was permanent. These ones are pristine, again...must...resist...urge.
Finally, I have two different version of metal table-hockey players. I don't have the actual game rinks that these were used on, there is only so much room in the den. The first are from the 1960's and the second are I believe late 50's with the skater having an actual plastic stick. Cool stuff.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Red Kelly Collection

1971 Book
This week, Red Kelly turned 90-years old. There's no better reason to have a look at some of the cool, more "odd-ball" Red Kelly items in the collection of Nitzy's Hockey Den. Above is the cover of a 1971 hardcover autobiography aimed toward kids. There's some nice illustrations inside, pictured below.
Next is a 1964 Maple Leafs Colouring Book with a couple of great drawings of Red Kelly for the kids to colour in. Stay in the lines kids!
In 1963, the Toronto Star newspaper issued these great "Hockey Stars in Action" postcards. The one above shows Kelly, Jonny Bower and Dave Keon. Beauty.
1963 Hockey Stars in Action 
Beehive corn syrup famously issued these posed photos of players with a cardboard backing. Above is the Red Kelly Beehive from the early 1960s.
Sheriff Plastic Coins
Salada Tea issued plastic "Shirriff" hockey coins for the 1960/61 and 61/62 seasons (above), in 1962/63 the coins were changed from plastic to metal (below).
Shirriff Metal Coin
Next are a few game programs picturing Red on the cover I have in the collection. First one is from the 1960/61 season.
1960/61 Maple Leaf Programme
Below is program for an exhibition game in September 1963 in Vancouver at the PNE Forum, home of the Western League Vancouver Canucks. The game was between the Leafs and the New York Rangers.
Vancouver Canucks 1963 Exhibition Game Program
Finally, perhaps my favourite Red Kelly item in my collection. I had a chance to meet the legend and chat with him for a good half an hour this past October at an event for the Society for International Hockey Research. After taking a few photos with him, I figured I just had to get him to sign something. The only thing I had was a guide to the upcoming Sports Card Expo in Toronto, that worked just fine. Below is the personalized autograph from the man himself.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Unidentified Maple Leafs/Bruins Photo

Here's another cool vintage hockey photo from the archives of my friends at Vintage Sports Images in North Vancouver. There's a few familiar faces that will help identifying the photo and narrowing down the date. Starting with the obvious, it is the Boston Bruins visiting the Maple Leafs in Toronto and Leaf captain George Armstrong is battling in front of the Boston net. Also, on the distant blueline is Toronto defender Allan Stanley wearing the "A" on his chest.

To narrow down a timeframe for the photo we turn to nhluniforms.com to see that the Leafs switched to a tie-down collar for the 1958/59 season and would add sleeve numbers in 1962/63. This puts the photo at somewhere between this range. This nails down Toronto's #20 as Bob Pulford who was there for that entire period. Now to the Bruins, Boston had only two players wear #4 during this time period, Bob Armstrong and Pat Stapleton. We can determine that the player in the photo is a left shot from his right hand being the one at the knob of the stick. Armstrong was a right shot, Stapleton a left shot. Zooming in on the face, and comparing it to other pics confirms it is Pat Stapleton who was a rookie in 61/62 and took over for Armstrong who was sent to the Eastern league in October of 1961.
So, since this is 1961/62 we can now confirm that the Bruins other defender wearing #20 is Leo Boivin. The goaltender proves to be a bit trickier to identify. Checking multiple databases shows that both Don Head and Bruce Gamble wore #1 for the Bruins that year and they pretty much split the playing time (Head playing 38 games, Gamble 28). First a few pics of Don Head from that era. 
Don Head Oct 17, 1961
Don Head Oct 10, 1963 with Portland
Bruce Gamble from the same era.
This one is a toughie, the Bruins made seven trips to Toronto that season (Head played four, Gamble three) and all of the players pictured played pretty much every game that season. So narrowing it down using game lineups is impossible. Looking at the photos of Head and Gamble really doesn't help, as we only see the back of the goaltender. Both men caught with the left hand, had a buzz-type haircut at the time, weighed the same and were within an inch in height of each other. If anything, the goalie pictured seems to have a bit of a bald patch on the back of his head that may match that of Don Head, but that is literally splitting hairs. I really can't say for certain which one is in the Bruins net but if I had to make a guess, I'd go with Don Head. If so, that makes this game one of Oct 14, 1961; Dec 9, 1961; Dec 23, 1961; or Jan 10, 1962. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Maple Leafs Calder Trophy Domination

As expected, Auston Matthews easily was voted the 2016/17 Calder Trophy winner as Rookie of the Year with 99.46% of the vote (how a supposedly "informed" voter could leave a 40-goal scoring rookie off their ballot is beyond me). What was additionally gratifying for Leaf fans is that Mitch Marner and William Nylander finished 5th and 6th place in the Calder voting. This is the first time in the post-expansion era that a team has placed 3 rookies in the top 6 of Calder voting.

There have many occasions that a team has had two players even in the top three of voting, but never three players in the top six in the modern era. As recently as 2013/14, Tampa Bay's Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson placed 2nd and 3rd and in back to back years 2007 and 2008 Pittsburgh and Chicago placed two players in the top three. Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal were 1st and 3rd in '07 and the next year Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were also 1st and 3rd.

In 2001/02 the Atlanta Thrashers Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk were top two in Calder voting, something that hadn't happened since 1975/76 when the Islanders Bryan Trottier and Chico Resch did it. Other instances of two players in the top three were; 98/99 Colorado's Chris Drury 1st and Milan Hejduk 3rd, 1988/89 Rangers Brian Leech 1st and Tony Granato 3rd, 1986/87 LA Kings Luc Robitaille 1st and Jimmy Carson 3rd.
1984/85 had an interesting Calder vote as two teams had two players each in the top four. Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux won the Calder while teammate Warren Young was 4th and Montreal's Chris Chelios and Steve Penney were 2nd and 3rd. In addition, the Canadiens also had Mike McPhee in 10th place and Tom Kurvers in 11th. Four in the top-11, not bad.

We have to go back to the original-six era to have a team with three rookies in the top six, in fact in 1963/64 the Canadiens placed 1,2,3 in Calder voting with Jacques Laperriere, John Ferguson and Terry Harper.  In 61/62 there was another example of three in the top six when Boston's Cliff Pennington, Pat Stapleton and Wayne Connelly were 2nd, 3rd, 4th. The fourth time this happened was in 1960/61 when Detroit's Howie Glover, Gerry Odrowski and Allan Johnson  were 3rd, 4th 5th.
As a Maple Leaf fan, I hope the rookie success of this season follows the lead of those early 60's Canadiens and not so much that of Boston or Detroit.

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