Thursday, October 22, 2015

My Mom's Friend, Fleming MacKell

On October 19, two-time Stanley Cup winner Fleming MacKell passed away at the age of 86. MacKell played thirteen seasons in the NHL and was named a First Team All-Star after the 1952/53 season in which he scored 27 goals. With 369 points in 665 games and another 63 in 80 playoff games, MacKell was an under-rated NHL star of the 1950's. 
The photo above was graciously given by MacKell to my Mother only a few years ago. My recently retired Mom was then a teller at the bank that he did his business with in Ajax, Ont. She must have struck a chord with Mr. MacKell as he would make a point of visiting only her counter every time he came in. She knew him as a friendly old gentleman, and not as an old hockey player. Once she discovered he was an ex-NHLer she of course told him about her hockey obsessed son. 
When she shared with me that she had an old NHL veteran as a bank client and asked me if I had ever heard of Fleming MacKell, I predictably replied yes. I shared with her how he and his father Jack were the second ever father/son combo to play on Stanley Cup champions after Lester and Muzz Patrick. I told her how in 1958 he had a magical playoff run when he scored an amazing 19 points in 12 games for the Bruins and how he won two Cups with the Maple Leafs before his 22nd birthday. On one of his later visits to the bank Mr. MacKell brought my Mom this terrific personalized photo to pass along to me. He even took the time to write on the back of the photo "Harry Lumley" and "Al Dewsbury" indicating the other two players shown. I especially enjoy how he wrote "Thank You Mom" at the bottom-left of the photo.
Fleming MacKell, Hockey Blueline Nov. 1958
Soon after this, my Mom told me that Mr. MacKell said he would be having some surgery done and would be moving from the Ajax area. That was about the last time she saw him. Mr. MacKell did however send her a few letters afterwards to stay in touch. I knew I had to repay his generosity and kindness to my Mother and me. I went through my collection of old hockey books and paraphernalia and found a hockey guide from the early 1950's that pictured a head shot of MacKell on the cover along with Gordie Howe and Rocket Richard. I thought he may like this so I packaged up the book and sent it to the address his letters had been sent from in Montreal.
My Mom received one more letter from Mr. MacKell and in it he mentioned that he had indeed received the book I sent him. After recovering from his surgery of a few years ago, he was living in Hawkesbury, Ontario when he peacefully passed away. I'd like to think he enjoyed the book I sent him and that it brought him back even one nice memory of a long ago time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Slow Start for Crosby

Sidney Crosby has finally scored! In his sixth game of the 2015/16 season Crosby finally made his way onto the scoresheet with a goal and two assists. The player with the fifth highest career points per game in NHL history had gone the first five games of this season without a point. Maybe it was his off-season job as a Tim Horton's drive-thru cashier that dulled his skills, but this year has been the slowest start in Sid's career. His previous worst start to a season was 2010/11 when he gathered only 3 points in his first 5 games played. Now, it may not be entirely fair to compare Crosby to the top two players in career points per game; Gretzky and Lemieux...but it sure is fun.

As one may expect, neither The Great One or Le Magnifique ever started an NHL season pointless in five games. Gretzky's worst five game start was 1996/97 when he collected a pedestrian four points in his first five games. In fact, Wayne Gretzky never ONCE went five games in a row without getting at least one point over his entire career. The closest he ever came to this was from March 22 to April 4 1999 when he received only one assist over a six game period. Of course he had played 1475 NHL games to this point and had less than three weeks left before retiring. 

Mario Lemieux like Gretzky never started a season with less than 4 points in 5 games, which he did in 2001 and again in 2005. Conversely, Lemieux's best five game start to a campaign was in 1988/89 when he exploded for 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists). Gretzky's best five game start was in 1983/84 when he collected only 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists). As a comparison, Crosby's best start was in 2011/12 when he had 11 points (2 goals, 9 assists) in his first 5 games.

So, as much as Crosby is killing fantasy teams around the world with his poor start, it can't continue. He'll likely end up with close to 100 points when it's all said and done right near or at the top of NHL scoring.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

1942/43 Toronto Army Daggers

Cliff Simpson
During the Second War, the Senior Ontario Hockey Association included several full teams of players enlisted in the Canadian Military and stationed in and around the Toronto area. One of the squads was the Toronto Army Daggers who's photos I found on the Toronto City Archives website. The Daggers finished third in 1942/43 with a record of 4-7-1 but still qualified for the OHA Senior playoffs. They played the Niagara Falls Cataracts winning in two straight games by scores of 4-1 and 9-2.

The Daggers were then dumped in the Semi-finals by the RCAF Flyers by scores of 7-6 and 11-1. Cliff Simpson (above) would lead the Daggers in playoff scoring with 6 goals and 9 points in the 4 games. Simpson, 19 years old at the time would go on to play bits of two seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and in 1947/48 scored 110 points in 68 games for the AHL's Indianapolis Capitals.

Buck Davies (below) had 4 points in 10 games for the Daggers this season and went on to play one NHL playoff game for the 1948 New York Rangers before a decade in the AHL. 
Buck Davies
Doug Adam
Doug Adam, another 19 year old played 5 total games for the Daggers and 1 assist in 4 games for the 49/50 New York Rangers. Adam starred in the old PCHL/WHL until through the mid-1950s, twice leading the league in goals. With the EHL Charlotte Clippers in 56/57 Adam led the loop with 65 goals in 63 games. He would coach the Rochester Americans of the AHL for half a season in 1971/72 before being replaced by...Don Cherry.

Lloyd Finkbeiner was one of the few Daggers to have already played in the NHL before the 42/43 season having put in two games with the 40/41 New York Americans.
Lloyd Finkbeiner
Victor Grigg
Victor Grigg topped the circuit in PIM's this season of 42/43 as he had 42 in 11 games. The defenceman also chipped in 6 goals and 15 points. Greg would never make the NHL with his peak being a 35 point campaign for the AHL's St. Louis Flyers in 1950/51. John Holata was a rare case on the Daggers as he had actually played in the NHL this very same season in 12 games for the Detroit Red Wings, scoring 2 goals. He played 3 more games for the Wings three years later in his only other NHL stint and would lead the AHL in goals with 52 for the 46/47 Cleveland Barons. Holata tragically died in 1951 as he suffered a heart attack while driving a car in Denver where he was playing for the Denver Falcons.
John Holata

Friday, October 2, 2015

Maple Leafs Hockey Talks Record Albums

The latest addition to my Den collection is one of my new favourites. The Maple Leaf Hockey Talks set of 10 records released in 1967. There are ten albums in all that were issued in Canada at Esso gas stations with a fill-up of your gas tank. Each is approximately twelve minutes long and dedicated to an individual Maple Leaf. Interviews with the player are done discussing their background and game instruction. They feature the voices of Foster Hewitt, Ward Cornell and Jack Dennett. 

 The thin vinyl (read flimsy) records each have their own sleeve and the ten sleeves come in a cardboard "carrying case" pictured above.
I found a clip online of the George Armstrong record. Seeing as I don't own a record turntable, this is for now the only way that I'll hear what's on these beauties.

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