Monday, July 22, 2013

Did Cyclone Taylor Top Bill Mosienko 50 Years Earlier?

Bill Mosienko of course is the author of the fastest recorded three goals in NHL history. In 1952, he notched a hat-trick in an amazing 21 seconds that I wrote about a few years ago . I recently came across a tale that may show that the legendary Fred 'Cyclone' Taylor may have scored three goals even quicker, a half century before Mosienko.

In 1953, Hall of Fame Builder and 'The Father of Hockey' James T. Sutherland described the events in 'The Hockey Book'. My comments and thoughts are included in brackets.

    Back in 1904, the Kingston Frontenacs and the Listowel Juniors qualified to play for the O.H.A. junior championship. The title was to be decided in a sudden-death game at the old Mutual Street Rink in Toronto. 
    Some 700 fans came from Listowel by special train, and the rink was packed to the rafters. The referee was Pink Lillie. (Not sure if that was his nickname, if so it's quite a doozy) A divinity student from the University of Toronto and myself (Sutherland) were appointed official timers. 
    The Kingston team was leading by a comfortable 4-1 margin nearing half-time. Suddenly a Listowel lad, Taylor, skated down the ice like a veritable streak of lightning, passed all the would-be checks with ease, and with his shot cut the score down to 4-2.
    Time was up in the first half right after that (this is an important part of the story, just how soon was time up?), but my partner and I were wedged in seats at least three or four rows back from rinkside. There was no timers' bench, no siren or gong for timers in those days. We waved and shouted in an effort to notify referee Lillie of the expiration of time. But he didn't have a chance to see or hear us in all the bedlam. He faced-off the puck again (this is where we have to take a guess at how much running time may have ticked away from the time Taylor scored to when Sutherland realized time was then expired. The face off would likely have been organized and conducted in 20 to 30 seconds and Sutherland was trying to get Lillie's attention for let's say half of that time. I would guess that Taylor's goal occurred with approximately 10 to 15 seconds remaining in the period), and again Taylor grabbed it, skated right through the Kingston team and scored. 
By then it was harder than ever for us to get through the excited crowd. We just couldn't make it before the referee got play going again. 
    Now this may sound like something out of a movie script (it actually kind of does), but in a matter of mere seconds, that same Listowel kid dashed right in to chalk up his third goal in succession. (the fact that Sutherland goes out of his was to illustrate it was 'mere seconds' between the second and third goals shows they were happening extremely quickly)
    Meanwhile, we had finally fought our way to the side of the rink. We jumped out on the ice, and the fat was in the fire (never heard this expression myself, it obviously refers to the fact that things were getting out of hand and sounds like something an 80-year old man would say in the early 1950's), because we had to notify the referee that the last two goals had been scored after time was up.
    This caused quite a rumpus. Arguments went on until it was decided to put the matter up to John Ross Robertson, then president of the O.H.A., who was attending the game. He calmly ruled that both goals should count, as the referee had not stopped play to signify that the first half was over. So the score stood at 4-4.

At his point, Sutherland goes on to describe how Kingston decided to shadow Taylor in he second half and ended up winning by a score of 9-5, but back to Taylor's hat-trick. If we stick with the guess that official running time expired 10 to 15 seconds after Taylor's first goal and the subsequent two were indeed allowed, we would have to assign official goal times of perhaps 29:45, 30:00 and also 30:00. (remember there was two halves of 30 minutes each). So on paper, Taylor may very well have scored a hat-trick in at most 15 official seconds. By today's rules (and even 1950's rules) with stop time, not running time, it seems Taylor still may have bested Mosienko's 21 seconds.

So what we have is a very cool story of one of the all time greats that will remain where it belongs, in the folklore of the greatest game on earth.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Gretzky's at the Ballpark

Trevor Gretzky taking a lead off first base.
I attended the Vancouver Canadians baseball game yesterday. This is one of the lower levels of minor league baseball, the short-season (70 game) Northwest League. I enjoy going to the ballpark a few times a year and grew up an avid Toronto Blue Jays fan, but the main reason for going to this game was to check out Gretzky. Gretzky the kid.

20 year-old Trevor Gretzky was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 7th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft after starring at Oaks Christian High School in Southern California. His Boise Hawks wer in town to take on the Blue Jays Single 'A' Canadians. At 6'4" he cuts a far larger figure than his old man ever did, but his weight of 190 lbs leaves him a bit on the lanky side. 

The organization projects him as a Left Fielder so he will have to develop one or the other of power or speed. As it is now, he's learning how to utilize both of these assets. As of today, in 49 games played including last season, he has a respectable .292 batting average but zero home runs, only 3 doubles and 4 stolen bases. Over the five games in Vancouver, Gretzky the younger collected at least one hit in each game to bat 6 for 17 with 3 runs scored.

Gretzky heading back to the dugout after a strikeout. 
Much to my delight, also enjoying the game yesterday was The Great One himself. He was in a semi-secure area of the park (secure enough from the likes of me anyways).  Wayner was with his wife Janet and intently followed the on-field action through the constant flow of autograph seekers and well-wishers. Even in the more exclusive "corporate" section of the ballpark not two minutes went by without someone approaching him. I have waited over 30 years and have yet to meet my childhood hero. This was close as I had ever been. (That sounds a bit on the creepy, stalker side no? Fine by me.)
I have had chances in the past to lineup for a Gretzky autograph at various events but have never wanted to go out of my way or force the issue. I have confidence that one day we shall cross paths.
...ok, now THAT sounds a little creepy.

One day Wayner, one day.

The Great One yucking it up with the grounds crew in between innings.

The lanky one at the dish.

Wayne and Janet chilling. I kind of like the signed jersey on the lady on the right.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Al Arbour & The Perils of Poor Eyesight

Al Arbour was on of the very few professional hockey players to wear glasses during the course of games. He was a terrific defender and great shot-blocker. He played over 1,300 pro games, 626 in the NHL and helped win three Stanley Cups. After winning the Eddie Shore plaque as AHL's best Defenceman in 1965, League president Jack Riley said, "Al Arbour is the best defenceman outside the NHL, and he should be in it."

He was Rod Langway before Rod Langway. In 1954/55 he made the second all-star team in the QHL with the Quebec Aces although he played in only 20 of the team's 60 games played that year. One can imagine he had a few trials and tribulations due to his one-ice eyewear. In a February 1966 issue of Hockey Illustrated a few of them are chronicled:

  • While with Windsor Junior A Ontario Hockey Association during a game at Stratford, Al Arbour was playing centre. A stick broke and the black-taped blade skittered down the ice toward the Stratford goal, with Arbour in fast pursuit. "I thought it was the puck," Al recalled. "I never was a good goal-scorer as a forward and this was my big chance for a breakaway. Boy was I embarrassed when I realized nobody was chasing me and the people were laughing. It must have been quite a sight, the play going on in our end of the rink while I'm racing the other way chasing a broken stick! I decided then and there that I would have to start wearing glasses."

  • "It was during my last year in Windsor. My glasses had steel frames, and when I got hit with a stick, the frame snapped and a piece of steel just missed my eyeball. Now I wear plastic frames. I tried contact lenses my first full season of pro with Detroit and Sherbrooke, but I finally threw them away. I just couldn't get used to them."

  • "And I'll never forget one night in Sherbrooke when the puck was shot behind our net. Red Bownass was my defence partner. I headed back of the net from one side and he came from the other. We collided head on, and as he picked himself up, he said 'cant you see where you're going, you blind bugger?' The funny thing was that we were both wearing contact lenses at the time."
Arbour would be claimed in the expansion draft by St. Louis in June of 1967 playing for the Blues until 1971. He represented them in the 1969 NHL All-Star game. Arbour served as St. Louis head coach for three years before taking over the helm of the New York Islanders in 1973/74. He of course would lead the Isles to four consecutive Stanley Cups in the early 1980's and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996.

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