Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Inside the Maple Leafs Room


Time to identify another old hockey photo from my friends at Vintage Sports Images in North Vancouver. I got this one with no date or info attached, but there are some easily identifiable faces. 
The three in the middle with their jerseys removed are Allan Stanley, Bobby Baun and Tim Horton. 
The Leaf at left reading the game program certainly appears to be Carl Brewer which makes sense, as he was always more cerebral player than most. To the left of him we see a player in the midst of removing his jersey. If we look closely at the skate under the bench below him, there is a number "23" visible (see below) making this very likely the one and only Eddie Shack. You can almost see his nose poking through his jersey.
The last guy at the right side of the scene enjoying a swig of 7-Up is almost surely Larry Hillman. His face nicely matches the photo below. To narrow down the timeframe of this photo, the terrific uniform database nhluniforms.com informs us that the Maple Leafs added numbers to their sleeves for the 1962/63 season. This makes the the photo from prior to that and most likely from the 1960/61 season using the Larry Hillman factor. Hillman was claimed by the Maple Leafs in the Intra League draft from Boston in the summer of 1960. He played 62 of 70 games with Toronto in 1960/61 and only 5 games the following season, then the Leafs added the numbers to their jersey. This makes it extremely likely that this photo is from the 60/61 season. 
In conclusion, I am fairly confident that from left to right we see; Shack, Brewer, Stanley, Baun, Horton and Hillman. Allan Stanley was selected to the NHL 2nd All-Star team in 60/61, and the Leafs finished in second place with 90 points in 70 games. Alas, Toronto was beaten in the first round of the playoffs by underdog Detroit in five games. The only game they won was the first in double overtime, on a goal from George Armstrong, assisted by Allan Stanley.

Monday, May 1, 2017

"We'll Take It Here"; Punch Imlach

A few tidbits from the day off between Game 5 and Game 6 of the 1967 Cup Final culled from the archives of the Montreal Gazette and Toronto Star:
"We'll wind it up here," Maple Leafs coach Punch Imlach stated after the Leafs went through an hour-long practice session on the Sunday after Game 5. Toronto had beaten Montreal at the Forum the previous night by a score of 4-1 to take a 3-2 lead in the 1967 Cup Final. Imlach continued, "We don't even have transportation booked for a return to Montreal, we haven't even tried. He finished by saying, "I have nothing to say. After 96 games, I'm all talked out. The team'll have to do the talking in this one." Of course Imlach added, "What difference does it make? Has Blake decided who he's going to use in goal?"
"You'll know who's in goal at game time and not before", said Montreal coach Toe Blake, answering Imlach's query. "It doesn't matter who's in goal as long as we work in front of him. It wasn't Vachon's fault that we lost on Saturday. He's been terrific since he came up and could rebound with a big game. Gump was great in the playoffs last year, but he hasn't played for a long time and could be rusty." However, an anonymous Habs veteran commented, "We'll win with Gump. Experience counts most in the playoffs."
Leaf goaltender, Terry Sawchuk commented on this hopefully being the final game of the season,"When I walked here in the sunshine I thought this is the kind of a morning a guy should be able to sit on a bank of a trout stream with a cold brew in one hand and a fishing line in the other."
Imlach wondered about injured Johnny Bower,"I'm surprised he didn't come out to skate today, but I guess he didn't feel he was ready." Bower of course had a torn groin muscle from warm-ups prior to the fourth game.
Montreal initially canceled reservations at a suburban Toronto motel in favour of their customary downtown hotel after they heard all the visiting newspapermen would be there as well. Alas, the newsmen moved back to the city too and it was too late for the team to switch back.
Leaf rookie Brian Conacher was somewhat miffed that he hadn't been credited with an assist in the Game Five win,"I checked the puck off Bobby Rosseau and knocked it free to Marcel (Pronovost). I felt I deserved an assist and told the referee (Bill Friday). He made the correction with the fellow at the timekeeper's bench and that's the last I heard of it." Pronovost had notched the third goal, a shorthanded marker at 12:02 of the second period on Saturday night. Fifty years later, Conacher has yet to receive his assist and he ended the post-season with 3 goals and 2 assists in 12 games. He would not play another NHL playoff game after the '67 Cup Final. 
Toronto is a 9-5 favourite to take the Cup in Game 6.
The Conn Smythe Trophy will not be presented, nor the winner named, until two days after the Cup Final. This is not because league governors will take that long to decide but because the NHL feels two presentations in one evening are too many.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Johnny Bower The Seamstress gets The Shutout

John Ferguson Battling in Game Two
After Game Two of the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals, Maple Leafs coach Punch Imlach stated the obvious to the Montreal Gazette, "When you have two good netminders you're not taking a chance. Bower usually goes well against Montreal so I played a hunch that he could come through in this game. He came through and so did the rest of the team."
After replacing Terry Sawchuk in Game One with 15 minutes remaining, Bower allowed one goal on eleven shots in Montreal's 6-2 victory. In the second match, Imlach started Bower and he went on to shutout the Habs 3-0.
In the process of shutting out the Canadiens, Bower earned a $100 bonus from his team. Bower was not even aware of the extra money earned for a shutout, arranged by King Clancy. "I haven't heard anything about the bonus plan but I certainly won't argue against it," Bower declared.
Ferguson Causing Trouble Again in Game Two
Once returned home to Toronto the following day Bower was back at Maple Leaf Gardens on the off-day to tend his own repairs on his goal pads. 
"I'm taking them home to make sure they stay hot. Tommy Nayler (Leaf equipment man) sews on my buckles and straps, but I like to do my own patching. That way I can soften the spots where the big rebounds pop off and sew splits in such a way that they don't give bad rebounds," Bower told the Toronto Star.
"There is art to this job, believe me. I wouldn't trust my pads to anyone but Nayler, and then only for minor repairs. The big jobs I do myself."
Bower was stellar in Game Three at The Gardens, turning aside 60 of 62 shots as Leafs prevailed in Double Overtime on Bob Pulford's winner. However, in pre-game warmup for Game Four, Bower injured his thigh stretching to make a save of Larry Hillman's shot. He would not return to play in the final round and Sawchuk was called back into action. After losing the fourth game by a familiar 6-2 score, Sawchuk found his game and guided Toronto to the Cup victory.
Game Two Shutout with his hand-repaired Goal pads

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Teenage 40 Goal Scorers


Auston Matthews just completed a rookie season for the ages, as a teenager. He became only the 12th teenager in NHL history to notch at least 40 goals and only the 3rd since 1993. Below is the chart from hockey-reference.com showing all the teenagers to top 39 goals, which adds Yzerman and Crosby to the list.
Now, of course, league-wide goal scoring rates have fluctuated greatly over the years from 8 goals per game in the early 1980's to just over 5 goals per game just prior to the lock-out of 2004. The 2016/17 season produced a scoring rate of 5.53. Hockey-ref has a wonderful statistic called Adjusted Goals in which seasons from different eras can be compared to an even playing field. Below is the list of teenagers above translated to Adjusted Goals:

Stamkos 56
Nash 48
Carson 46
Matthews 44
Gretzky 43
Crosby 39
Nolan 37
Lemieux 34
Lindros 33
Hawerchuk 33
Hawerchuk 32
Bellows 32
Turgeon 31
Yzerman 31

Matthews' season looks even more impressive after adjustment for era. His goal scoring was more statistically impressive than even Gretzky's rookie season. Amazing. The fourth best goal-scoring season by a teenager in NHL history. If Matthews doesn't win the Calder Trophy, I'll eat one of my many, many Maple Leafs hats.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Maple Leafs Rookie Production, Almost Unprecedented

Toronto's rookies in 2016/17 are really doing some special things. Individually, Matthews, Marner and Nylander are setting team records seemingly every day now. Collectively, they're doing things rarely seen in NHL history. All three of the Leafs super rookies have at least 57 points. This has happened on one team only three other times in NHL history, all in an era when goal scoring was at least 30% higher than today. 

Three Rookies, One Team 57 Points (Age in Brackets)

Toronto 16/17
A.Matthews (19) 61
M.Marner (19) 57
W.Nylander (20) 57

Quebec 80/81
P.Stastny(24) 77-39-70-109
A.Stastny(21) 80-39-46-85
D.Hunter (20) 80-19-44-63

Edmonton 79/80
W.Gretzky (19) 79-51-86-137
B.MacDonald (26) 80-46-48-94
B.Callighen (26) 59-23-35-58
D.Lumley (25) 80-20-38-58

Hartford 79/80
M.Rogers (25) 80-44-61-105
M.Howe (24) 74-24-56-80
J.Douglas (22) 77-33-24-57

The last two teams on this list were transferred from the WHA and these "rookies" had played multiple previous professional seasons prior to their NHL debuts. The Edmonton quartet had played 10 pro seasons and Hartford's, 12 seasons. Each of these groups average age was 24 years. With WHA participation disqualifying most of these players, only Dave Lumley was considered a rookie by the NHL for the 79/80 season. The Leaf trio can make these semantics moot if they can all get to 60 points, if so they will be only the second team in history with three 60 point rookies (after Quebec).
Toronto's other rookies cannot be forgotten. In addition to Nikita Zaitsev, Zach Hyman, Nikita Soshnikov, there is Connor Brown who has 18 goals and 32 points. The number of teams with four first-year players with at least 17 goals is also a very short one. Again, we have to disregard the Oilers of 79/80 for their lack of actual rookie qualifications.
Four Rookies 17 Goals (Age in Brackets)

Toronto 16/17
A.Matthews (19) 34
W.Nylander (20) 21
C.Brown (23) 18
M.Marner (19) 17

Winnipeg 92/93
T.Selanne (22) 76
E.Davydov (25) 28
A.Zhamnov (22) 25
K.Tkachuk (20) 23

Edmonton 79/80
W.Gretzky (19) 51
B.MacDonald (26) 46
B.Callighen (26) 23
D.Lumley (25) 20
R.Chipperfield (25) 18

Minnesota 76/77
R. Eriksson (22) 25
G.Sharpley (20) 25
S.Jensen (21) 22
A. Pirus (22) 20

Montreal 51/52
B.Geoffrion (20) 30
P.Meger (22) 24
D.Gamble (23) 23
D.Moore (21) 18

As with the other list, Toronto's quartet is the youngest on average. Perhaps the most comparable in production, experience and age is the Montreal group of 65 years ago. Also, the fact that era had only slightly less goals scored per game than today makes them an interesting comparison. If Toronto can produce two Hall of Famers out of their four as Montreal did (Geoffrion and Moore), I'm certain Leaf fans will be ecstatic.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Charlie Conacher Unpublished 1931/32 Photo

Charlie Conacher in Action
Well, this is pretty cool. Recently I have been helping out a friend go through old hockey photos for his store vintagesportsimages.com . I am assisting in categorizing, curating and identifying literally 1000's of images that predominantly come from the collection of the Boston Globe. He owns the original negatives, and most of them have not ever been published. I think I found a doozy here. Above is a game-play shot of Maple Leaf great Charlie Conacher that I'm fairly sure has not ever been put online. 
Below are the main two iconic images of Conacher, both staged in a photo shoot. The one in Vintage Sports Images collection is cropped from a far larger image, attached at the bottom, that gives more info about it.

The photo is definitely from an actual game, against the Detroit Falcons. The Falcons were known as such for only two seasons, 1930/31 and 1931/32 before being re-branded the Red Wings. Coancher's teammate to the right of the image is wearing number 3. In 30/31 Art Duncan wore that number, the following year it was Alex Levinsky. A quick look at the sihrhockey.org photo database, and I can safely say this #3 is Levinsky, making the photo from the 1931/32 season. 
The Leaf in the foreground appears to be wearing #11 which would make that Conacher's linemate Busher Jackson. As well, the goalie peaking in from the right side definitely looks like Leaf goalie of the time, Lorne Chabot.
Charlie Conacher was in his third NHL season in 1931/32 and his 34 goals would lead the NHL for the second straight year. This was also the first year of Maple Leaf Gardens and Toronto went on to win the Stanley Cup over New York Rangers.
Charlie Conacher original photo, 1931/32


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

1964 Leafs Cup Photo

Here is the first of many awesome photos that adorns my den from my friend's vintage sport photo shop, vintagesportsimages.com . It's a fantastic shot of the 1964 Stanley Cup being handed over to George Armstrong by NHL President Clarence Campbell. What I love about the photo is the fact it's from ice-level, showing the expanse of Maple Leaf Gardens and the crowd within. Below is a photo from the Montreal Gazette the following day taken just after the initial photo was, with the players gathered around the Cup.
In addition to Armstrong (who had 13 points in 14 playoff games) and Campbell, identifying the rest of the players in the shot is fairly easy. Dave Keon (7 goals, 9 points) is in the near distance in between The Cup and Campbell and Carl Brewer (played 12 of 14 games) is behind Armstrong. The legendary King Clancy is seen stepping on the centre redline, he was assistant general manager of the Leafs. In the helmet is Billy Harris with Larry Hillman and Jim Pappin to the right. In civvies is Al Arbour who played just one of the fourteen playoff games that season.


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