Monday, July 17, 2017

Vintage Hockey Toys and Games

1962 Hockey Card Game
I recently noticed that I have a fair amount of vintage hockey themed games in my collection, figured I'd put them all together in a post. Above is a really neat boxed card game I picked up at the Vancouver Flea Market. It's dated 1962 from Walker Press Canada and pictures generic "Blue" and "Red" teams, with very cool artwork.
The next one I got from the same dealer at the flea market but have very little information about it. It is a tin ice surface with small plastic sticks. I think it was some kind of "flick" game played with a small disc. It has to be from the 1960's at the latest and could date back as far as the 50's. It's labelled "another SUPERIOR TOY by T. Cohn". This company made many different tin games and toys in the throughout the first half of the twentieth century. 
Next is one of my favourite things in my collection, a Toronto Maple Leafs colouring book from 1964. It's in pretty much mint condition with no colouring done inside. Also shown is the page of Dave Keon, just asking for some crayon, must...resist.
Okay, maybe the NEXT one is one of my favourites. I grabbed this beauty at a garage sale and it's been hanging on my den wall ever since. It's a Munro Games wooden table-hockey game from 1948. This was one of the very first ever table-hockey games ever produced and uses little pegs for "players". Check out the beautifully woven net. Fantastic.
I got these fairly recently off a local Vancouver dealer, "Hockey Action Replay" rub-off games. Anyone who grew up in the 1970's or early 80's will remember this fad of rub-off transfers, where you could create your own scene on an open canvas with a simple scratch of a coin. These were released for every comic book, T.V. show and even Star Wars, and could be bought usually at your local pharmacy or toy store. Only thing is, once they were applied, the transfer was permanent. These ones are pristine, again...must...resist...urge.
Finally, I have two different version of metal table-hockey players. I don't have the actual game rinks that these were used on, there is only so much room in the den. The first are from the 1960's and the second are I believe late 50's with the skater having an actual plastic stick. Cool stuff.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Red Kelly Collection

1971 Book
This week, Red Kelly turned 90-years old. There's no better reason to have a look at some of the cool, more "odd-ball" Red Kelly items in the collection of Nitzy's Hockey Den. Above is the cover of a 1971 hardcover autobiography aimed toward kids. There's some nice illustrations inside, pictured below.
Next is a 1964 Maple Leafs Colouring Book with a couple of great drawings of Red Kelly for the kids to colour in. Stay in the lines kids!
In 1963, the Toronto Star newspaper issued these great "Hockey Stars in Action" postcards. The one above shows Kelly, Jonny Bower and Dave Keon. Beauty.
1963 Hockey Stars in Action 
Beehive
Beehive corn syrup famously issued these posed photos of players with a cardboard backing. Above is the Red Kelly Beehive from the early 1960s.
Sheriff Plastic Coins
Salada Tea issued plastic "Shirriff" hockey coins for the 1960/61 and 61/62 seasons (above), in 1962/63 the coins were changed from plastic to metal (below).
Shirriff Metal Coin
Next are a few game programs picturing Red on the cover I have in the collection. First one is from the 1960/61 season.
1960/61 Maple Leaf Programme
Below is program for an exhibition game in September 1963 in Vancouver at the PNE Forum, home of the Western League Vancouver Canucks. The game was between the Leafs and the New York Rangers.
Vancouver Canucks 1963 Exhibition Game Program
Finally, perhaps my favourite Red Kelly item in my collection. I had a chance to meet the legend and chat with him for a good half an hour this past October at an event for the Society for International Hockey Research. After taking a few photos with him, I figured I just had to get him to sign something. The only thing I had was a guide to the upcoming Sports Card Expo in Toronto, that worked just fine. Below is the personalized autograph from the man himself.





Friday, July 7, 2017

Unidentified Maple Leafs/Bruins Photo

Here's another cool vintage hockey photo from the archives of my friends at Vintage Sports Images in North Vancouver. There's a few familiar faces that will help identifying the photo and narrowing down the date. Starting with the obvious, it is the Boston Bruins visiting the Maple Leafs in Toronto and Leaf captain George Armstrong is battling in front of the Boston net. Also, on the distant blueline is Toronto defender Allan Stanley wearing the "A" on his chest.

To narrow down a timeframe for the photo we turn to nhluniforms.com to see that the Leafs switched to a tie-down collar for the 1958/59 season and would add sleeve numbers in 1962/63. This puts the photo at somewhere between this range. This nails down Toronto's #20 as Bob Pulford who was there for that entire period. Now to the Bruins, Boston had only two players wear #4 during this time period, Bob Armstrong and Pat Stapleton. We can determine that the player in the photo is a left shot from his right hand being the one at the knob of the stick. Armstrong was a right shot, Stapleton a left shot. Zooming in on the face, and comparing it to other pics confirms it is Pat Stapleton who was a rookie in 61/62 and took over for Armstrong who was sent to the Eastern league in October of 1961.
So, since this is 1961/62 we can now confirm that the Bruins other defender wearing #20 is Leo Boivin. The goaltender proves to be a bit trickier to identify. Checking multiple databases shows that both Don Head and Bruce Gamble wore #1 for the Bruins that year and they pretty much split the playing time (Head playing 38 games, Gamble 28). First a few pics of Don Head from that era. 
Don Head Oct 17, 1961
Don Head Oct 10, 1963 with Portland
Bruce Gamble from the same era.
This one is a toughie, the Bruins made seven trips to Toronto that season (Head played four, Gamble three) and all of the players pictured played pretty much every game that season. So narrowing it down using game lineups is impossible. Looking at the photos of Head and Gamble really doesn't help, as we only see the back of the goaltender. Both men caught with the left hand, had a buzz-type haircut at the time, weighed the same and were within an inch in height of each other. If anything, the goalie pictured seems to have a bit of a bald patch on the back of his head that may match that of Don Head, but that is literally splitting hairs. I really can't say for certain which one is in the Bruins net but if I had to make a guess, I'd go with Don Head. If so, that makes this game one of Oct 14, 1961; Dec 9, 1961; Dec 23, 1961; or Jan 10, 1962. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Maple Leafs Calder Trophy Domination

As expected, Auston Matthews easily was voted the 2016/17 Calder Trophy winner as Rookie of the Year with 99.46% of the vote (how a supposedly "informed" voter could leave a 40-goal scoring rookie off their ballot is beyond me). What was additionally gratifying for Leaf fans is that Mitch Marner and William Nylander finished 5th and 6th place in the Calder voting. This is the first time in the post-expansion era that a team has placed 3 rookies in the top 6 of Calder voting.

There have many occasions that a team has had two players even in the top three of voting, but never three players in the top six in the modern era. As recently as 2013/14, Tampa Bay's Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson placed 2nd and 3rd and in back to back years 2007 and 2008 Pittsburgh and Chicago placed two players in the top three. Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal were 1st and 3rd in '07 and the next year Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were also 1st and 3rd.

In 2001/02 the Atlanta Thrashers Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk were top two in Calder voting, something that hadn't happened since 1975/76 when the Islanders Bryan Trottier and Chico Resch did it. Other instances of two players in the top three were; 98/99 Colorado's Chris Drury 1st and Milan Hejduk 3rd, 1988/89 Rangers Brian Leech 1st and Tony Granato 3rd, 1986/87 LA Kings Luc Robitaille 1st and Jimmy Carson 3rd.
1984/85 had an interesting Calder vote as two teams had two players each in the top four. Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux won the Calder while teammate Warren Young was 4th and Montreal's Chris Chelios and Steve Penney were 2nd and 3rd. In addition, the Canadiens also had Mike McPhee in 10th place and Tom Kurvers in 11th. Four in the top-11, not bad.

We have to go back to the original-six era to have a team with three rookies in the top six, in fact in 1963/64 the Canadiens placed 1,2,3 in Calder voting with Jacques Laperriere, John Ferguson and Terry Harper.  In 61/62 there was another example of three in the top six when Boston's Cliff Pennington, Pat Stapleton and Wayne Connelly were 2nd, 3rd, 4th. The fourth time this happened was in 1960/61 when Detroit's Howie Glover, Gerry Odrowski and Allan Johnson  were 3rd, 4th 5th.
As a Maple Leaf fan, I hope the rookie success of this season follows the lead of those early 60's Canadiens and not so much that of Boston or Detroit.








Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Greatest Team in NHL History?


Recently the NHL picked the greatest team ever and chose the 1984/85 Edmonton Oilers. The team finished first in the league with 109 points and waltzed to the Stanley Cup going 15-3 in the playoffs. Wayne Gretzky had one of his greatest offensive seasons collecting 208 points and setting the record of 47 points in the playoffs and Jari Kurri had his best goal scoring campaign with 71 in 73 games in addition he tied the NHL record with 19 playoff goals. A great team indeed, but was it even the greatest Oiler team ever, let alone the NHL's best ever?
Edmonton Journal writer, Jim Matheson, who has been covering the team since their inception in the WHA in 1972 tweeted the following when the '85 team was announced as greatest ever;
"Sorry but '86-87 Oilers was greatest team. Added Nilsson to play with Messier and Anderson, Ruotsalainen brought back for D." He next added,"Kent Nilsson with Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson in '87 playoffs was fastest line I ever saw."
If Jim Matheson says the '87 team was better than the '85 squad, I have to believe him.
In addition to adding Kent Nilsson and fellow trade deadline pickup Reijo Ruotsalainen, the '87 squad now also included Esa Tikkanen, Craig MacTavish, Marty McSorley, Steve Smith and Craig Muni. Guys that were gone by '87 were Mark Napier, Willy Lindstrom, Lee Fogolin, Larry Melnyk, Pat Hughes, Billy Carroll, Don Jackson, Dave Lumley and Dave Semenko. It's fairly easy to state that the new players in '87 were an big improvement from the '85 departures.
One major difference though that does favour the 1985 Oilers was that in 1987, Paul Coffey missed 21 games with a back injury and four more in the playoffs. This greatly contributed to the fact his playoff points dropped from 37 in 1985 to 11 in '87. However, Kurri, Messier and Anderson produced similarly from '85 playoffs to '87. Kent Nilsson's 19 playoff points and Tikkanen's 7 goals helped make up the difference in production.
Overall team scoring was only slightly down in '87 regular season from '85 but dipped by about three quarters lower in the '85 playoffs. The team defence was better in '87 in both regular season and playoffs, with Grant Fuhr's playoff average improving from 3.10 to a stellar (especially for the 1980's) 2.46. His save percentage in '87 post-season was an almost unheard of .908.
Truthfully, the team in between these two, the 1985/86 Oilers may very well have been better than both of them. Their 119 points was ten better than the '85 squad and Gretzky and Coffey set multiple scoring records, if it wasn't for the Steve Smith own-goal the '86 team may be in the discussion of greatest ever.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Freddy Hockey, Meet Johnny Harms

Nashville Predators rookie Frederick Gaudreau has scored three goals in four Stanley Cup final games...before having scored a regular season goal in the NHL. Indeed this is an extremely rare feat, as it hasn't happened in 73 years. In 1944, Saskatoon native, Johnny Harms of the Chicago Black Hawks also scored 3 goals in a four game final prior to scoring in regular season.
18-year old Harms had spent the 1943/44 campaign with Hershey of the AHL collecting 10 goals and 31 points in 52 games, he played only one game with Chicago. After not playing in the Semifinal upset of Detroit, Harms drew into the lineup against the heavily favoured Habs. His first goal came in game two with one second remaining in the game to break up Bill Durnan's shutout as the Hawks lost 3-1.
With Chicago down two games to none, Harms put them ahead by a score of 2-1 early in the third period of game three. Unfortunately, Montreal scored two goals within the next three minutes and won 3-2. In the fourth game, Harms notched the potential winning goal to put the Black Hawks up 2-1 halfway through the game and two minutes later they were up 4-1 on goals from George Allen and Doug Bentley. Alas, Montreal stormed back with three in the last half of the third and won the Stanley Cup in overtime on a goal by Toe Blake. 
In the end, John Harms had scored three of Chicago's eight goals in the Cup final. He played 43 games for Chicago the next year collecting five goals and five assists. That would be the end of his NHL career. Harms played the next five years with Kansas City of the USHL, averaging a point per game. He then played the last ten years of his career with Vernon Canadians of the Okanagan Senior League in British Columbia. Harms played in four Allan Cups winning in 1956.

Monday, May 29, 2017

1972/73 NHL Transfers and 1974/75 Loblaws Stamps


Here are a few recent purchases to add to the Den collection. I love 1970's oddball hockey stuff, and it doesn't come more oddball than the old Letraset rub-off transfers that were big back in the day. Remember, there were no video games or computers, so we did what we could for indoor fun. I picked up two from the 1972/73 NHL "Hockey Action Replay" Transfers issue, still in unused, perfect condition. They were originally sold for ten cents per scene, and each came with a background on which to transfer the images and five images that could be rubbed onto the scene. Of course, once applied, the images were immovable and half of them tore as you peeled the paper backing. Boy did we have fun. 
I also got a bunch of intact sheets of Loblaws NHL Stamps that were given away free with the purchase of groceries. Each booklet of eight player stamps came with a handy coupon. "Save 8 cents on Dr. Ballard's Meat Dinners for Dogs", what a deal!

 I definitely need to get one of the old Loblaws albums to organize my collection. I managed to get some of the big names; Orr, Esposito, Mikita, Dionne, Gilbert, Ratelle, Potvin and Keon. The Denis Potvin is actually a rookie season issue too. They are all in real fine shape too. In their full panels these are worth a few bucks each (Orr a fair bit more), not bad for a cheap flea market purchase. Just look at all the glorious 1970's colours, fantastic.

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