Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Greatest Game Ever, 40 Years Later; Part 2



"Probably the most important and far-reaching sporting contest ever held in this country." This is how Montreal Gazette writer Tim Burke described the New Years Eve 1975 game between Montreal Canadiens and the Soviet Central Army. He continued,"The Canadiens resurrected one of our proudest heritages and enshrined it with an un rivalled display of determination and sportsmanship."

In Burke's analysis "the fact the Canadiens had to settle for the most lopsided tie in memory; 38-13 in shots on goal, takes nothing away from their stupendous effort against a great and dauntless opponent." He summarized that Montreal was, "supreme in all facets of the game, save goaltending and shooting."
The Soviet Central Army team had just managed to tie the Montreal Canadiens 3-3 despite being outplayed by all accounts. In referring to the aforementioned goaltending of Ken Dryden, Bob Gainey offered, "Do you realize that it was more than an hour between the warmup and the time the Russians got their first shot (10:03 into the game), no goaltender can be inactive that long without it affecting him." The Soviets put four weak shots on Dryden in the first period and only three in the second. Two of the three second period attempts ended up as goals. However, Dryden after the game refused to use his lack of work as an excuse,  "I wasn't cold because I'd broken into a nervous sweat at the beginning of the game. I had an awful lot of shots at my glove and tonight they were just dropping out of it." Coach Scotty Bowman described the first goal when Dryden stopped Boris Mikhailov's shot with his glove at shoulder level, then let it drop into the net, "I think there was a good chance that if Dryden doesn't stop it, the puck goes over the net."
Burke describes how the Canadiens employed Gerry Duggan who charted all their games since Bowman took over. Duggan said, "The Canadiens in the first period didn't give up the puck in their own end once, the first time that's happened since I've been charting them. In the second period they gave it away in their end just once, and in the third period five times." Larry Robinson added, "We made only four mistakes in the whole game and they scored on three of them. On the fourth one, they hit the inside of the crossbar,"- Popov's shot at 14:11 of the third period.
Burke also hinted that, "There is a suspicion that the Forum ice was 'slowed down' for this one -bumpier and chipper than usual - to impair Central Army's precision passing. If so, it may have cost Steve Shutt the winning goal. "At 15:39 of the third period, Shutt had - or thought he had - the winner on his stick about five feet out and his whole side of the net open, thanks to another beautiful pass from Pete Mahovlich. But when he made the shot, the puck wasn't there. 'Darn it,' he said afterwards, 'the ice was chewed up enough to get the puck weaving and dancing a little."
Canadiens superstar Guy Lafleur was a bit more blunt with his analysis of the game, "I didn't learn a thing from them. It was an easy game. We proved tonight that our system is still good. We can dump the puck in and still be more dangerous than them." He went on, "After their power plays I wasn't even tired. That never happens with an NHL team. You just wait at the line. You don't have to skate at all to keep up with them."
Even Soviet coach Loktev agreed, "This was not one of our best performances. Most of our problems came as a result of Montreal's style of play. Their checking was very effective, they played their positions well and they worked very hard. Montreal played a very fine hockey game."
It was a fine hockey game indeed.



Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Greatest Game Ever, 40 Years Later; Part 1


"That goal was one of the greatest moments of my life," declared Yvan Cournoyer about his 1972 Summit Series Game 8 tying goal in the third period. This statement was made mere days before he and his fellow Montreal Canadiens were to play the Soviet Union on New Years Eve 1975. As the 40th anniversary approaches of the game many call the greatest ever, let's look at the anticipation from players and media alike in the days before the historic match.
Cournoyer's teammate on both the '75 Habs and '72 Team Canada, Pete Mahovlich said, "After Paul Henderson scored that winning goal, I wanted to cry. We had come so far to take victory away from the Soviets." In this updated version of the Russia/Canada matchup, the Central Army team and the Soviet Wings would play four games each against eight different NHL teams. "This series is very important to me, Cournoyer said, "because a lot of people are trying to say that the Russians are better than us." He added, "Our guys will be ready. Every team in the NHL has pride and the players want to do their best."
Mahovlich added,"I wouldn't mind another full series against them... this time, we know what to expect."
As for the Soviets, Central Army head coach Konstantin Loktev flat out stated, "We do not like players like Ferguson (former Canadien, John) because of their style of play. Because there are so many good ice hockey players in Canada I can't understand why some of your players have switched to a rough style of play." Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak chimed in with his pre-series thought, "All the games here are going to be interesting and difficult because I know Esposito, Hull, Clarke and Cournoyer but I know very little about players on the other teams, and they all know me well."

The Soviets first test was against the New York Rangers on December 28th and they passed with flying colours besting the Rangers by a score of 7-3. Defenceman, and one of six Montreal Summit Series veterans, Serge Savard said," I want to win badly but I don't feel any extra pressure because the Rangers lost. Did anyone expect them to win?" The day before the New Years match, Mahovlich exclaimed, "I think if we play the right way, we can beat them. If we can allow them fewer than three or four goals, I think we've got a heck of an opportunity to win. If they score that many, it's not going to be Kenny's (Dryden) fault."
As for Dryden, he didn't hide his feelings about beating the Russians, "It's a very big thing as far as I'm concerned. I don't understand that other attitude, that sort of professional cool, it's simply a way of underscoring whatever you do." Mahovlich summed up his pre-game thoughts, "We have no excuses and we're not making any. If we lose, we'll lose to a better hockey club for that game. And if we win, we'll be the better hockey club for that game."He finished by saying,"It's like Bobby Clarke says, You get a hell of a lot of satisfaction out of playing the best. I know I do."
Montreal Gazette writer, Al Strachan laid out the Canadiens roster that would line up for the game;

Lafleur, Lemaire, Lambert
Cournoyer, Mahovlich, Shutt
Tremblay, Risebrough, Wilson
Roberts, Jarvis, Gainey

Robinson, Bouchard
Lapointe, Van Boxmeer
Awrey, Savard

Strachan, along with his fellow Gazette writers made predictions in the December 31st edition.
"It won't be a high scoring game," commented Strachan, Canadiens win 3-2. Tim Burke called it 6-4 for Montreal saying, "Seldom have I seen the Canadiens in as good physical condition as they are right now." Doug Gilbert was the one hold out for the Soviets predicting an 8-4 Russian victory. He was however amazingly close in predicting what actually transpired as he summed up his comment, "I go to the Forum hoping for the most exciting tie in the history of hockey - and expecting the Soviets to pull out all stops and win 8-4."
He came close to nailing it.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Boston Bruins 1972 Coloring Book


Now, I'm about the farthest thing from a Boston Bruins fan. But this recent find, this right here, may be one of the cooler items in my den. A Bruins colo(u)ring book issued in about 1972. It's in pretty damn great shape too, no childish colouring attempts at all.  Behold the 1970's awesomeness below.
If the name wasn't on the page, would you know this is Bobby?
The greatest Bruin ever.
This depiction of Derek Sanderson may be the most 1970's thing ever.
Powerplay, showing players NOT on the first unit.

Espo, Create your own background!
Cheesey
Pie, just terrific.
Espo potting one against the New Jersey Generics 
Sanderson attempting to fornicate with the net, no surprise.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

An 11 Point Night in 1943 for Walter 'Pinky' Melnyk

Walter 'Pinky' Melnyk. Not a household name perhaps. He never played in the NHL, but played parts of two seasons in the American Hockey League prior to WWII. In 1942/43 Melnyk was a member of the terrific Victoria Army team in the Vancouver Island Senior Hockey League. Having won the league championship, the Army advanced to play the Vancouver RCAF Fliers of the BC Mainland Senior League.
During regular season play the Army scored almost at will, counting 127 goals over 20 games while compiling a 12-7-1 record. Led by ex-NHLers Bill Carse, Joffre Desilets and Nick Metz, Victoria Army dispatched Victoria RCAF and Victoria Navy in five straight games to meet the Vancouver Fliers in the BC Provincial Championship. 
After winning the first game 10-1, they destroyed the Vancouver squad by a score of 18-5 in game two on March 3, 1943 at New Westminster's Queens Park Arena. This was the game that saw Pinky Melnyk's eruption for eleven points. The boxscore is below.
Surprisingly, Melnyk did not register a point in the first 17 minutes of the first period before collecting a goal and assist in the last three minutes. Melnyk and line mates Sam Kennedy and Mel Lunde struck early and often in the second frame. Melnyk alone notched three goals and an assist before the period was twelve minutes old. He added another helper at 16:06 of the period and found time to receive two penalty minutes as well. 
After the break, Melnyk's line notched two goals in a nine second span, six minutes into the third to give him 5 goals and 4 assists. Two more assists in the 10th and 12th minutes upped Melnyk's total to a ridiculous 11 points on the evening. Crazily, Lunde had scored an un-assisted goal before Melnyk's last point and Lunde assisted on Kennedy's goal without Melnyk's help at 14:01 of the third. 
All tolled, Pinky Melnyk, Lunde (4 goals, 4 assists) and Kennedy (4 goals, 5 assists) combined for an amazing 28 points on the night.
Victoria Army went on to beat the Fliers 4 games to 1, then knocked off Calgary Currie Army 3 games to 2 and Winnipeg RCAF Bombers 3 games to 1 to advance to the Allan Cup Finals. They would meet the Ottawa Commandos who boasted NHL stars Mac and Neil Coville, Joe Cooper, Ken Reardon, Alex Shibicky and most importantly, "Sugar Jim" Henry between the pipes. The Commandos bested Victoria 3 games to 1 with no game decided by more than two goals. 
When the dust had finally settled, the line of Pinky Melnyk, Sam Kennedy and Mel Lunde combined for 82 points during the 18 game Allan Cup run, 28 of which were collected in that one fantastic game on March 3, 1943.
Melnyk missed the 1944/45 season due to Military Service but returned to star with the Minneapolis Millers of the USHL. Sam Kennedy also missed 44/45 due to Military Service and also returned to play in the USHL. He would also have a 27 game stint with Indianapolis of the AHL in 46/47. Mel Lunde played the 43/44 campaign with the Nanaimo Clippers before being sent overseas for active duty. He would be killed in action in Normandy on June 13, 1944.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The First Vancouver Canucks Team, 1945/46

Above is a great photo from the Vancouver Archives of the Pacific Coast Hockey League, Vancouver Canucks. The photo is at he Vancouver Forum during the first ever season with the Canucks  name used in Vancouver during the 1945/46 season. Pictured left to right are Chuck Millman, Doug Norris and coach Paul Thompson.

It is fairly common knowledge that the name Canuck was an ode to a popular comic book character of the time. According to Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame; "
Owner Coley Hall won the franchise rights in a poker game. Out for a mid-summer stroll, Hall’s bookie Arthur Rennison suggested the ‘Canuck’ moniker as a nod to wartime comic book character Johnny Canuck."

Chuck Millman was a six-foot tall defenceman from Hamilton, Ontario who scored 32 points in 55 games for the Canucks that season. He would play four seasons in Vancouver before retiring in 1950. Doug Norris was not an actual member of the Canucks in 45/46. He had played with the Vancouver RCAF Seahawks the previous three years and appears to have spent most of 1945/46 overseas even representing the RCAF All-Stars in Wembley England. Norris had also been a member of the World Champion Trail Smoke Eaters in 1939.


The coach, Paul Thompson was a retired veteran of 13 NHL seasons. He won the Stanley Cup in 1928 with the Rangers and in 1934 and 1938 with Chicago. In 1936, Thompson finished second in NHL scoring and was named Second Team All-Star. He had been head coach of Chicago since his retirement in 1939 before becoming the inaugural coach of the Canucks.

His squad finished atop the PCHL in 45/46 with a record of 37-21-0. They beat Portland Eagles 3 games to 2 and Hollywood Wolves 4 to 1 in the final. A member of those Wolves was 18-year old defenceman Bill Barilko. The youngster would collect 103 PIMs in 38 games that season before playing 18 games with the Maple Leafs the following year.

After being crowned PCHL champions, the Canucks advanced to play the Boston Olympics in the United States Amateur Championships. The seven game series would take place entirely at the Canucks home, the Vancouver Forum. Even still, the Canucks went down 3 games to 1 before roaring back to win the last three games and the Walter A. Brown Cup. The 1945/46 Vancouver Canucks were inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

1949 Maple Leafs Lineup Card

Here's something you don't see every day. I picked this beauty up recently, an original 1949 lineup card from Maple Leaf Gardens. It was given out for a Saturday night game between the Leafs and the visiting Rangers. It's a simple two-sided thick stock paper that folds at the middle. Other than a few stains, it's in great shape for being over 65 years old and looks great on my Den wall.
Halfway through the 1948/49 season, Toronto and New York were tangled in a tight race for the last two playoff spots. On January 15, 1949 Toronto was in fifth place with 30 points in 33 games, while the Rangers were last with 28 in 32. Below is the newspaper boxscore from the game.
Ranger defenceman Frank Eddols opened the scoring late in the first period assisted by Buddy O'Connor who would lead New York in 1948/49 with a measly 35 points in 46 games. Maple Leaf, Bill Ezinicki collected two minor penalties in the first en route to an NHL leading 145.
21 year-old Leafs defender Bill Barilko tied the score halfway through the middle period with an unassited marker. This was Bashin' Bill's second full year in the NHL, sadly of course, he would only play two more years after this one. Four minutes later Tod Sloan put Toronto up with help from Ezinicki and Harry Watson. Watson ended up tops in Leaf scoring with 45 points, tied for 7th in the NHL. 
The win pushed Toronto closer to the .500 mark with a record of 12-14-8 but they would not win again for 11 days. That win on January 26 was the start of a 9-3-4 run for the Leafs putting them at 21-20-13. However, they lost five of the last six to close the year and end up solidly entrenched in the fourth and final playoff spot. New York would beat the Leafs the very next night back home but stumbled to a 7-16-3 record the rest of the way and finish last overall.
Inexplicably, the Leafs caught fire once the playoffs started. They beat second-place Boston 4 games to 1 and then swept first place Detroit, a team that finished 18 points ahead in the regular season. This would be Toronto's third straight Stanley Cup win, the first team to win three in a row in NHL history.
Harry Watson in the 1949 Stanley Cup Final

Bill Barilko



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Vancouver Area Hockey Jerseys, 1941/42

Last week I wrote about amateur hockey in British Columbia during World War II,  http://nitzyshockeyden.blogspot.ca/2015/11/wartime-hockey-vancouver-norvan.html and this week I found old photos of some of these teams. Digging deep into the google newspaper archives I managed to find these great shots of these long-gone teams. 

All of these photos are from early 1942, the first one is of Jack Riley with the Vancouver Norvan Shipyards team. With the letters "NORVANS arched over the logo of a ship, this jersey sums up the North Shore of Vancouver terrifically. With North Vancouver being my home, I am certainly going to take a stab at using this logo on a t-shirt. 
The second one is of Victoria Navy which in spring of 1942 was playing exhibition matches but not affiliated with a league. By 1943/44 they were part of the Pacific Coast Senior Hockey League. Pictured here are Stan Taylor on the left and Bill Gibb on the right. By 1943, the Navy would have future Hall of Fame goaltender Chuck Rayner between the pipes. The Navy "N" a Canadian Maple Leaf is just a great looking jersey.
The third pic is of the New Westminster Spitfires who would bring up the rear of the Pacific Coast Senior Hockey Association in 1941/42 but looked damn good doing it in these striped beauties.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Wartime Hockey, Vancouver Norvan Shipyards


North Vancouver Waterfront Shipyards during WWII

I live in North Vancouver, British Columbia and have for about 16 years now. As much as I still instinctively refer to Toronto and it's surrounding environs as my hometown, North Vancouver really is my adopted hometown now. As well, I love reading and writing about hockey history and in fact, will soon be published for the fifth time in the Society for International Hockey Research Journal. However, for a hockey historian, there really isn't a lot of hockey history in my hometown of North Vancouver.

Sure, there have been 12 players born in North Vancouver to play in the NHL, but only three of them played at least 50 games. There was Todd Simpson, a tough defenceman who played 580 games and the Kariya clan (although Paul was technically born in Vancouver). Martin Jones is the new starting goalie for the San Jose Sharks and Sam and Griffin Reinhart are top prospects just starting their NHL careers. After current Canucks radio colour commentator Dave Tomlinson and WHA star George Lyle, thats about it. Imagine my delight then when I found on the SIHR database a team named Vancouver Norvan Shipyards from 1941/42.

The Shipyards in the team name refers to the Burrard Drydock Company on the North Vancouver waterfront which at it's peak during World War II employed up to 14,000 workers in the shipbuilding industry (photo at top). Across Canada during WWII, senior hockey leagues in most of the large cities included teams made up entirely of military personnel and/or sponsored by civilian companies that contributed to the war efforts. The North Vancouver Shipyards were no exception.

With such a large number of people working and living nearby the Shipyards, the social and athletic club was extremely important. The Burrard Drydock was reputed to have the largest five-pin bowling league in the world at the time. Employees engaged in such past-times as boxing, softball, archery and roller-skating. The Shipyards sponsoring a hockey team falls right in line with the social environment of the busy wartime outfit. There was no hockey rink onsite at Burrard Drydock, so the team played out of the Vancouver Forum a few kilometres across Burrard Inlet, still standing today (pictured at bottom).

The Vancouver Norvan Shipyards squad played in a league named the Pacific Coast Senior Hockey Association along with three other Armed Forces related teams; New Westminster Spitfires, Nanaimo Clippers and Victoria Bapcos (sponsored by a Pendrey Paint Company). On November 12, 1941 the Novans faced off in Victoria to kick off the season. It proved to be a tightly contested league as after the 28 game schedule had been completed, the top three teams were separated by only two points. Victoria finished first with 31 points, Norvans and Nanaimo tied with 29 and New Westminster brought up the rear with 23 points.

The Norvans and Nanaimo played a two game, total goal series to determine who claimed second spot. On February 20, 1942 Nanaimo travelled to the Forum at Hastings Park and walloped the Norvan Shipyards by a score of 9-2. The next day, the Clippers swept the two game set with a 4-3 win at home. On the 23rd the same teams began a best-of-three Semi-final in Nanaimo with another victory for the home team, this time 4-2. The Norvans evened it up with a 4-3 win back at the Forum the next day setting up a final match in Nanaimo thanks to their home ice advantage. The last game was no contest as the Clippers blew out Norman Shipyards 7-0 behind a shutout from goaltender Keith Langille. Nanaimo went on to beat Victoria in the final by 3 games to 1 win the PCSHA Championship.

There's no way to know for sure, but it's safe to assume that most of the players on the Vancouver Norvan Shipyards hockey team worked there in some form or another. Many of them as well as others throughout the league had recently or would soon play in the NHL. There are terrific photos of some of the Norvans players on the Vancouver Archives database. First pictured is Jack Riley who had  played two full seasons with the Montreal Canadiens in the early 1930's as a teammate of Hall of Famers Howie Morenz and Aurel Joliat. Riley would star in the minor leagues up until joining the Norvans and during this 41/42 season he produced 14 points over 6 games. 
Jack Riley 
Red Beattie was another ex-NHL'er who was 35 years old when he skated for the Norvans. Beattie had played 334 games through the 1930's mainly with the Boston Bruins and all-time great Eddie Shore. His best year was 32 points in 48 games for the 35/36 Bruins. He would score 24 points for the Norvans.
Red Beattie
Jack Kilpatrick, who played for Victoria Bapcos that season was an actual Olympic Gold medalist when Great Britain won hockey Gold in 1936. Kilpatrick played most of his career with the Nelson (BC) Maple Leafs in various senior circuits and would lead the Pacific Coast league in scoring in 41/42 with 43 points in 27games.
Although most of the players in the league were military men stationed in and around the Vancouver area or civilians employed in the war effort, there were a few who would actually go overseas to fight. Doug Martinson of North Battleford, Saskatchewan was a member of the Nanaimo Clippers this 41/42 season and soon after was shipped overseas. As a flying officer in the RCAF, Martinson was killed in Belgium on November 11, 1944.
Doug Martinson
Amazingly, a few of these guys are actually still alive to this day. Cliff Gannon who played for New Westminster Spitfires and later in the Allan Cup with Regina Army Caps turned 97 years old on October 21. Perhaps the oldest living veteran of this league is on Pete Bonneville. He topped the Norvan Shipyards squad in points with 33 and played senior hockey until 1946. Born in Cornwall, Ontario in 1913, Pete Bonneville is alive at 102 years old today.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Maple Leafs Scoring at 50 year Low

Last night's broadcast of the Maple Leafs/Dallas Stars game made a mention on the current team's goal scoring ineptitude (of course they would then score four in this game). The note was made that the Leafs 20 goals scored through their first 10 games of the season was their fewest since 1956/66...50 years.

Here's a look back to that long gone season and how the Leafs stood at the same point as the current campaign. It should be noted that in contrast to this years Leafs who won their 11th game,  the 1965 Leafs were shutout by the last place Boston Bruins 2-0.

Maple Leafs , Nov 15, 1965
3-6-2, 11GP 19 GF, 38 GA

  • Pulford         2-5-7
  • Mahovlich    2-3-5
  • Ellis              2-3-5
  • Kelly             1-3-4
  • Stanley          1-3-4
  • Horton           1-3-4
  • Armstrong     1-3-4
  • Keon              2-1-3
  • Selby              2-1-3
  • Kurtenbach    2-0-2
  • Shack             2-0-2
  • Douglas         1-1-2
  • Joyal              0-2-2
  • Pappin            0-2-2
  • Pronovost       0-1-1
  • Stemkowski   0-1-1
Somewhat surprisingly, the 3-6-2 record and 8 points still had Toronto in a fourth place playoff position at this point in the season. The Bruins and Rangers would win a combined 33 games the entire rest of the season to finish entrenched in 5th and 6th place. Toronto, even with the slow start would end up with 208 goals over 70 games only 32 less than league leader Chicago. Leafs would finish 3rd with a record of 34-25-11 and be swept in the playoffs by Montreal.
As bleak as the team scoring appeared on Nov 15 with no player at more than 2 goals scored, as usual, it evened out in the end. Mahovlich scored 30 goals over the team's last 60 and topped the squad with 32. Keon, Shack and Pulford potted 24, 26 & 28 each, a more than respectable total in those days.
It's interesting to look at the NHL leaders at the same point of the 1965/66 season also. After 9 games, Bobby Hull had 12 goals and 18 points for Chicago. He would slow down only slightly to finish with 54 goals, 97 points in 65 games. Montreal's Bobby Rosseau was tied with Hull with 18 points and scored 60 in his final 59 games to maintain 2nd in the scoring race, his best season by far. 
Chicago's Doug Mohns was perhaps the biggest surprise early on in 1965 with 7 goals and 14 points through 9 games. He ended up playing all 70 games and had 22 goals, 49 points. As mentioned, usually, things will even out in the end.





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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