Monthly Archives: March 2016

Stanley Cup Anniversaries: 2016

As we near the end of a regular season that will see no Canadian teams in the playoffs for just the second time in NHL history (the first being 1969-70, when only two of 12 NHL teams were based in Canada — see today’s Toronto Star), it’s somewhat ironic that today marks the 100th anniversary of the first of a record 24 Stanley Cup victories for the Montreal Canadiens – against the first team to compete for the trophy from the United States.

On March 30, 1916, the Canadiens scored a 2-1 victory over the Portland Rosebuds on a late goal by Goldie Prodger in the fifth and final game of the best-of-five series between the champions of the National Hockey Association and the champs from the Pacific Coast Hockey Association.

Six 1916
The Montreal Daily Mail, March 31, 1916. Page 8.

It has long been said that the wife of Canadiens goaltending legend Georges Vezina gave birth to a son that same night, whom the Vezinas named Marcel Stanley in honour of the Cup. In truth, the boy was born the following day, March 31, 1916, and was formally christened Joseph Louis Marcel Vezina – although it does appear to be true that the family called him Marcel Stanley.

Six Marcel
The birth record for Joseph Louis Marcel “Stanley” Vezina states in French
that he was born on
le trente et un mars mil neuf cent seize.

It won’t happen this year, but years ending in ‘6’ have traditionally been good ones for the Canadiens and for other teams from Montreal. Here’s a quick look at the last 120 years of Stanley Cup competition…

Old Stanley Cup TINY

1896: I’ve often argued that this is the year that made the Stanley Cup. Until 1896, the trophy was better known for off-ice squabbles than anything else. But the interest was clearly in what happened on the ice when the Winnipeg Victorias defeated the Montreal Victorias on February 14, followed by the Montreal team winning back the trophy in a rematch on December 30. This made the Stanley Cup the national institution it’s been ever since.

Old Stanley Cup TINY

1906: The Montreal Wanderers ended the Stanley Cup reign of the Ottawa “Silver Seven” … but just barely. After winning game one 9-1, the Wanderers gave back their eight-goal lead in game two before Lester Patrick scored twice late in the game to give Montreal a 12-10 win in the total-goals series.

Old Stanley Cup TINY

1926: In just their second year in the NHL, the Montreal Maroons won the league title behind the scoring exploits of Nels Stewart and the goaltending of Clint Benedict. The Maroons then defeated the defending champion Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League to win the Stanley Cup. Victoria is the last non-NHL team to have played for the Stanley Cup.

Old Stanley Cup TINY

1936: The Detroit Red Wings became the last of the so-called “Original Six” NHL teams to win the Stanley Cup. “The boys were good enough to win this year,” said coach and general manager Jack Adams, “and they’ll be better next season.” Adams was right, as the Red Wings won again in 1937.

Old Stanley Cup TINY

1946: Having won it in 1944 to end a 13-year drought dating back to 1931 (a time known to fans of the team as The Grande Noirceur — The Great Darkness, which also refers to the Quebec government policies of 1936 to 1959), the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years on Elmer Lach’s overtime goal to beat the Bruins in game five of the Final.

Old Stanley Cup TINY

1956: After losing to Detroit two years in a row, the Canadiens downed the Red Wings in five games to win the Stanley Cup; the first of a record five straight championships through 1960. It’s often said that the disappointing end of the 1954-55 season, when the Richard Riot saw Maurice Richard suspended for the entire playoffs, helped to launch this great dynasty.

Old Stanley Cup TINY

1966: The Canadiens again, defeating the Red Wings in six games to win their second Stanley Cup in a row. Henri Richard scored the winner in overtime after being hauled to the ice and sliding into the net with the puck underneath him. Detroit goalie Roger Crozier insisted that Richard had swiped the puck in illegally with his glove.

Old Stanley Cup TINY

1976: “There was a great sense of quest that season,” writes Ken Dryden in his hockey classic The Game. The Canadiens were determined to end the Philadelphia Flyers’ two-year championship run of goon hockey, and swept them in four straight in the Stanley Cup Final. It was the first of four straight championships for Montreal.

Old Stanley Cup TINY

1986: In one of the most surprising championships of their record 24, a Montreal Canadiens team featuring all sort of rookies – including Conn Smythe Trophy winner Patrick Roy – defeated the Calgary Flames in five games. The Flames were the first Calgary team to play for the Stanley Cup since the Calgary Tigers of the Western Canada Hockey League, who were defeated by the Canadiens back in 1924.

Old Stanley Cup TINY

1996: After being traded by the Canadiens to the Avalanche, Patrick Roy helped Colorado win the Stanley Cup in its first year in Denver after 16 seasons as the Quebec Nordiques. And consider this unusual fact: Colorado’s win over Florida that year marks the ONLY TIME in NHL history that both teams in the Final had never played for the Stanley Cup before.

Old Stanley Cup TINY

2006: The Edmonton Oilers barely reached the playoffs this season, but then went all the way to the Final and pushed Carolina to seven games before the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup. Another odd fact: When neither team made the playoffs in 2007, it marked the first time in NHL history that both Finalists failed to qualify for the playoffs the following year.

Art Ross’s Broken Record

Tomorrow night (March 24, 2016) the Boston Bruins will hold a short ceremony to honour Claude Julien for passing Art Ross as the winningest coach in team history. Ross held the Bruins coaching record for nearly 92 years, from the time the team won its first game on November 1, 1924, until Julien equalled him with his 387th Boston victory on March 3, 2016 and surpassed him with win #388 two games later on March 7.

Tracking coaching victories – especially in the early days – is not as easy as you may think. Historically, NHL game sheets have never listed the name of the man behind the bench, so the fact that old-time writers used the words coach and manager interchangeably (regardless of whether they meant what we’d think of today as the coach, assistant coach, or general manager) makes it difficult to know for certain who was ever really running the team. This was all made abundantly clear to me when Dan Diamond & Associates produced the first edition of Total Hockey in 1998 and among my many jobs (which is one I continue to do for the annual NHL Official Guide & Record Book) was to build and maintain the coaching database.

AHR 1930-31
Art Ross with the 1930-31 Bruins. (Boston Public Library 05_02_010561).

Longtime NHL Statistician and Information Officer Benny Ercolani has established some guidelines for coaching wins and losses. The basic rule is that whoever is hired to be the coach is credited with the decision on any given night whether he is actually behind the bench or not. For example, when Punch Imlach was famously hospitalized during the 1966-67 season and King Clancy led the team to a 7-1-2 record in his absence, those 10 games are all credited to Imlach. (We include a note in our coaching database to explain these situations  – when we are aware of them!) You can see more recent examples of this in the 2016 NHL Guide by checking Joel Quenneville’s record on page 40, or Lou Lamoriello’s on page 122.  (A similar note will be added to John Tortorella this summer explaining the three games he missed in Columbus after breaking a rib in a practice in January.)

AHR Coaching Notes
Segments of the coaching records for Lou Lamoriello (above) and Joel Quenneville.

Over his years in Boston, there were many occasions when Art Ross was credited with a win, loss, or tie despite being absent from games. From late January to early March of 1928, Ross was sidelined by a stomach ailment so serious it was thought he might be forced to retire. Defenceman Sprague Cleghorn (who was also serving as an assistant coach that season) took over as coach for nine games and posted a record of 6-1-2. Ross would later miss games for health reasons in 1932-33 and 1933-34 and would also turn over coaching duties to Dit Clapper – sometimes for weeks at a time – while on scouting trips to scrounge players in his role as general manager during the years of World War II. Still, all those missing games are included in Ross’s overall Bruins record, which stands at 387-290-95 for his 17 seasons behind the bench during a time when schedules ranged from 30 to 50 games.

AHR Retire
Article from the Boston Globe, February 14, 1928.

Even so, perhaps the quirkiest aspect of Art Ross’s coaching tenure in Boston is the fact that he just recently had an entire lost season returned to his record.  The problem dates back to 1958 when the Stanley Cup was remodelled to standardize the size of the haphazard bands on the “barrel” of the trophy used since the late 1920s.

AHR 1929 original
Duplicate of the original Boston Bruins band from 1929.

On the original band the Bruins engraved to commemorate their first Stanley Cup victory in 1929 (and which still appears on the the “neck” of the Cup today), Art Ross was noted as Vice President and Manager. No one is designated as the coach. When the 1929 Bruins were added to the first standard-sized band atop the barrel in 1958, Ross was designated Manager, but this time Cy Denneny’s name appeared twice; once with his fellow players and once as the team’s coach. Some time afterwards, Ross’s coaching line for 1928-29 was deleted and Denneny was credited with the Bruins’ record of 26-13-5. The decision appears to have been based mainly on the Stanley Cup engraving.

AHR 1929 1958
Boston’s 1929 victory displayed on the new band created in 1958.

On June 10, 2013, I received a phone call from Benny Ercolani. With Boston facing Chicago for the Stanley Cup and the possibility the Bruins might win it again after their 2011 victory over Vancouver, the Elias Sports Bureau was investigating whether Claude Julien would become the first Boston coach to win the Stanley Cup twice or if Art Ross should be credited with the Bruins victories in 1928-29 and 1938-39. (He would also win it again as VP and GM in 1940-41 when Cooney Weiland was the coach.)

AHR 1939
Art Ross drinks from the Stanley Cup in 1939. (Photo courtesy of Art Ross III.)

Elias had found no evidence that Denneny coached the Bruins in 1928-29, so Benny asked me to investigate. I pored over as many period newspapers as I could, and while some do note Denneny as coach (as they had for assistant coach Sprague Cleghorn the year before), the vast majority indicated that he’d been signed to play for the Bruins and to assist Art Ross in his duties as coach and manager. Bruins programs from the 1928-29 season clearly list Denneny as “left wing and assistant coach.” Newspapers in Boston and Ottawa (where Denneny had starred for years) are pretty clear too – and when Ross did turn over coaching duties to Frank Patrick in 1934, all stories about it state that Ross has been the coach in Boston since the team’s beginning in 1924.

Denneny Assist
Articles from the Ottawa Citizen, the Ottawa Journal
and the
Boston Globe,October 25 and 26, 1928.

And so, beginning in 2013-14, Art Ross had the 1928-29 season returned to his coaching record, giving him the 387-win total that now ranks second in Bruins history behind Claude Julien.

 Denneny Program
Write-up on Cy Denneny that appeared in Bruins programs during 1928-29.

Howe About That?

On Monday of this week, the hockey world noted the 54th anniversary of Gordie Howe scoring his 500th career goal. On March 14, 1962, Howe joined Maurice Richard as the only players in NHL history to have then reached this milestone. Richard had retired in 1960 with 544 career goals.

A few weeks earlier, in the January 27, 1962, edition of the Canadian national Weekend Magazine, Andy O’Brien examined the NHL players of the day to determine who might surpass Richard’s record. While noting a couple that might come close, O’Brien believed only Gordie Howe had a chance.


O’Brien did not look very far into the future; ignoring both Frank Mahovlich (who’d scored 48 goals in 1960-61 and would end the 1961-62 season with 142 for his career en route to a total of 533) and Bobby Hull (who was in the midst of a 50-goal season to bring his career total 151).


Focusing only on the top nine active scorers at the time, O’Brien extended their career scoring averages out to the age of 38, because that was how old Richard had been at his retirement and “I can’t imagine any all-out star going beyond it.”


Here are the final NHL totals (and ages at retirement) of the players O’Brien projected:

Gordie Howe (51) — 801
Bernie Geoffrion (36) — 393
Jean Beliveau (39) — 507
Dickie Moore (37) — 261
Andy Bathgate (38) — 349
Red Kelly (39) — 281
Alex Delvecchio (41) — 456
Vic Stasiuk (33) — 183
Don McKenney (33) — 237


Only Howe (who had 649 goals through 1966-67 when he was 38), Red Kelly and Alex Delvecchio managed to exceed O’Briens’ projections, and of the 135 skaters active in the NHL during the 1961-62 season, he missed out on only Bobby Hull and John Bucyk (who had just 111 goals by the end of that year) as two who would also surpass Richard one day. Of all the others who’ve flown by the Rocket, only Phil Esposito began his career before NHL expansion – and even he was two years away from making his debut at the time of the article.


Gut-Check Time…

My recent adventure (as some of you know) began on Friday night, February 26, with an apparently simple case of minor stomach flu. Over the weekend, things got worse. By 7:30 on Monday evening (Feb. 29), Barbara and I made our second trip to the emergency room. This time, a small obstruction was found in my lower abdomen and I was admitted to hospital. Further tests on Tuesday pinpointed a tangle in my small intestine. When the one possible “non-invasive” technique changed nothing, I was rushed into surgery around 11:00 am on Wednesday morning, March 2. Warned of several dire possibilities, when I awoke in the recovery room at exactly 12 noon, I knew it had gone as well as it possibly could. Even so, there were eight more days in hospital before I finally arrived home yesterday (March 10) at noon.

The usual causes for an abdominal obstruction are tumors, scars from prior surgery, or a lingering stomach injury. I have none of those. So, what happened is a mystery. But the take-away, for both Barbara and me, is that if something feels wrong, get it checked out! Untreated (and we were supposed to go away on a small vacation the day we went to the hospital instead), this could have killed me. I am tremendously grateful for the wonderful work of the doctors, nurses, and support staff of the hospital here in Owen Sound.

Weak as a kitten, and very tired, I’ll mostly be taking it easy for the next little while. So stories might appear a little less frequently, or be a lot more “show” and a little less “tell” for a couple of weeks. Still, like Maurice Richard recovered from his charley horse in 1951, I’m back in the saddle again!

Richard cartoon