Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Toronto Blue Shirts, 100 year anniversary


As the Toronto Maple Leafs begin training camp in this their Centennial season, its interesting to look at what was happening at camp 100 years ago. 
Now, in reality, 100 years ago precedes the actual history of the Maple Leafs and the National Hockey League itself. In the autumn of 1916, teams of the National Hockey Association were preparing for the upcoming season. However, they did not begin gathering for camp until December as opposed to the current day, mid-September. The NHA would of course fold and re-form as the NHL the following year in a successful effort to oust Toronto Blueshirts owner Eddie Livingstone. The plan succeeded and the new Toronto NHL squad (alternately referred to in the press as the "Arenas" or "Torontos") was made up of Livingstone's former Blue Shirts players. The Leafs Centennial season is a celebration from this point (1917) onward, but the history of the Maple Leafs franchise realistically goes back further than 100 years. 
The Toronto World newspaper reported on the opening  of camp in the Dec. 2, 1916 issue;
"The Toronto N.H.A. team had its first real workout at the Arena yesterday, when six players appeared on the ice in uniform and had a good practice. Ken Randall and Alf Skinner, who have settled their differences with the club, were the new-comers. The team lined up with Claude Willson in goal, Andy Kyle and Ken Randall on the defence, Reg. Noble at left, Corbett Denneny in centre and Alf Skinner at right. Harry Cameron is expected to report on Monday. Jack Marks of Quebec practiced with the Torontos."

The "Arena" was the old Mutual Street Arena, at that time the largest rink in Toronto. It would house the Toronto NHL franchise until 1931 when The Gardens was erected. Randall, Skinner, Noble, Denneny and Cameron were the core of the previous season's Blue Shirts and would go on to lead Toronto to the Stanley Cup in the inaugural NHL campaign in 1917/18. Goaltender for the training session on this day, Claude Wilson, was merely filling in as a practice goaltender. Wilson had played two games for the Toronto Blueshirts in 1914.
On Dec. 6, 1916, The World discussed the situation of Toronto retaining previous season's top scorer Duke Keats from the 228th Battalion team;
"Captain Reade, manager of the 228th battalion team of the N.H.A. announces that Sgt. Gordon Keats of that battalion would play with the Toronto team this season. This is the end of the trouble over the Keats controversy. The 228th felt that they were strongly enough fortified with forward players, and that allowing Keats to play with the Torontos would make the two local teams better balanced. Torontos had eight out to practice following the workout of the 228th. Eddie Longfellow, the well-known lacrosse player, was the newcomer to the squad. It was his first appearance on skates this season. Wilson, Kyle, Randall, Cameron, Corbett Denneny, Skinner and Noble were the others out."
The 228th Army Battalion of Northern Fusiliers was added to the NHA for 1916 and they proceeded recruiting players from existing NHA squads. Toronto's star player of the previous year, Gordon "Duke" Keats was recruited but Livingstone complained to NHA president, Frank Robinson. He decided that the Army should make the final call, and they allowed Keats to stay with Toronto for the 1916/17 season. However, in the end, the Army was not pleased with Keats playing against the 228th in league matches and they often found Keats military duties to conduct on days the two teams would face-off. On several occasions when the 228th played the Blue Shirts, Keats was unavailable for action, often times on "latrine duty" for the military.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

World Cup Team North America, 1976 Version

The initial concept of a Team North America for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey was looked at as too gimmicky by many hockey observers and fans. As the tournament approaches however, and exhibition games are played, the idea of a team of under-23 year-olds seems fairly intriguing. In fact, I'm personally predicting that Team North America makes the tournament final against Team Canada.
Imagine if this concept was around for the very first Canada Cup, the pre-cursor of the World Cup. Below are the under-23 year-old players who would have likely been invited to camp for Team North America '76 with their 75/76 stats. In truth, the squad was barely North America and more simply Canada U-23, if not for Mark Howe, Gordie Roberts and Gary Sargent. 

CENTRE
  • Bryan Trottier, Calder Trophy, 95 pts
  • Pierre Larouche, 53g, 111pts
  • Tom Lysiak, 82 pts
  • Tim Young, 51pts  
  • Bernie Federko, WCJHL, 187 pts 
  • Doug Jarvis, 35 pts
  • Mel Bridgman, 50 pts
  • Dennis Maruk, 62 pts
RIGHT WING
  • Lanny McDonald, 37g, 93 pts
  • Danny Gare, 50g, 73 pts
  • Rick Middleton, 24 g
  • Wilf Paiement, 21g
  • Dennis Ververgaert, 37 g
  • Mario Tremblay, 27 pts
  • Real Cloutier, WHA, 60g, 114 pts
  • Mark Napier, WHA 93 pts
 LEFT WING
  • Clark Gillies, 34g
  • Mark Howe, 76 pts
  • Tiger Williams, 21g, 299 pim
  • Pat Hickey, 36 pts
  • Darcy Rota, 37 pts 
  • Eric Vail, 47 pts
  • Ron Sedlbauer, 19g
  • Bob Gainey, 28 pts
DEFENCE
  • Denis Potvin, 98 pts
  • Ian Turnbull, 56 pts
  • Ron Greschner, 27pts
  • Gordie Roberts, WHA, 22 pts
  • Bob Dailey, 39 pts
  • Gary Sargent, 24 pts
  • Dave Lewis, 19 pts
  • Mike McEwen OHL, 63 pts 
  • Harold Snepsts, 18 pts
GOALTENDER
  • John Davidson, 56gp, 3.97 gaa
  • Don Edwards, AHL, 3.41 gaa
  • Mike Palmateer, CHL 3.62 gaa
  • Michel Dion, WHA 2.74 gaa
  • Pete LoPresti, 34 gp, 4.13 gaa 
Three of these guys actually made the 1976 Canada Cup team; McDonald, Potvin and Gare, so they definitely get spots on this squad. Trottier, Larouche and Lysiak are a pretty solid top three down the middle, and Doug Jarvis makes a fine fourth liner on any team. On right wing, McDonald and Gare are automatics, and 60 goals in the WHA for Real Cloutier should warrant a spot on the U-23 team. Mario Tremblay compliments Montreal teammate on the fourth line nicely.
On the left side, Gillies and Howe would get the first two spots and Eric Vail likely a third spot, in hopes his down year after winning the Calder in 1975 was merely a sophomore jinx. The fourth line pretty much forms itself with Bob Gainey joining club mates Jarvis and Tremblay on a terrific shutdown line.
Now we get to the weakness of Team North America '76. On defence, they have one of the best in the world in Denis Potvin, who was one of the top players on actual Team Canada 1976. Turnbull, Greschner and Dailey should get spots as well. After that, it's a crapshoot of the two Americans; Roberts and Sargent, the junior player Mike McEwen and Snepsts and Lewis. Those top four D would have to be leaned on heavily. In the nets it gets even worse as John Davidson was the only established U-23 NHL goalie at this point. Michel Dion who had led the WHA in 75/76 in Goals Against Average would likely get a spot and one of minor-leaguers Don Edwards or Mike Palmateer who would both blossom as NHLers in the upcoming season.
All in all, not a bad team really. They would definitely be better than the US team and likely the Finns as well. Not saying they'd have much chance of making the final, but like today's Team North America, they'd be darn fun to watch.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

1976 Canada Cup Program

As the World Cup of Hockey approaches, let's have a look at the souvenir program from it's pre-cursor, the very first Canada Cup in 1976. After the tremendous interest of the 1972 Summit Series and the subsequent 1974 re-match with WHA stars, the Canada Cup tournament was born in 1976. Even though it was won by Canada over Czechoslovakia, the event lacked much of the high drama of the Summit Series. Bellows a look at most of the interior of the program for the tournament.






The lineup and schedule pages are shown below. 
The great thing about this program is that it includes rare images of Team Canada '72 in games against Sweden and Czechoslovakia. Below is a shot of Ken Dryden being challenged by a Czech player in a 3-3 tie in Prague. The game took place a mere two days after Canada's triumph in Moscow and once again Canada pulled out late heroics with Serge Savard tying the game with only four seconds left. The broadcast of this game can be found here.

 As a tune-up for the Soviets, Canada played two games in Sweden prior to travelling to Moscow. Canada won 4-1 then tied 4-4 in a pair of penalty filled affairs.



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