Monthly Archives: May 2022

Same Team, Different World…

You may have heard the news, which broke Monday of last week, about Mitch Marner being carjacked at gunpoint. Coming as it did, just two days after Tampa Bay eliminated Toronto in game seven of the opening round of the NHL playoffs, it sort of sounded like the start of a bad joke. But it wasn’t.

Sadly, both carjacking and violent crime is on the rise in Toronto, as it is in so many cities. There is no indication that the carjackers were targeting Marner, or that the theft had anything to do with the Maple Leafs. The thieves only wanted his Range Rover. Marner surrendered his keys without incident – which is what police recommend. He was shaken, but not physically hurt.

Eighty years earlier, in 1942, crimes committed against a previous member of the Toronto hockey club were decidedly less violent, but certainly more personal.

Gordie Drillon is the last member of the Maple Leafs to lead the NHL in scoring.

In a way, the Maple Leafs of the 1930s were similar to the current team. Led by stars such as Charlie Conacher, who won two scoring titles and led the league in goals five times, and Joe Primeau, who was a Lady Byng Trophy winner and three-time league leader in assists, the Leafs were an exciting, high scoring team that couldn’t seem to get it done when it came to the playoffs.

Of course, a 10-year drought from 1932 until 1942 was nothing like the 55-years-and-counting of the current club. Plus, the Leafs of the 1930s did manage to win a round or two over the years. Still, after winning it all in 1932, the Leafs lost in the Stanley Cup Final in 1933, 1935, 1936, 1938, 1939 and 1940. Then, as now, critics felt the team was too soft, or simply not motivated enough, to win when it mattered most.

By the 1936-37 season, the Leafs had acquired two more young scoring stars in Syl Apps and Gordie Drillon. They also brought in Turk Broda as their new goalie that season. Still, Stanley Cup success was another five years off. Meanwhile, Drillon led the NHL with 26 goals and 52 points in the 48-game season of 1937-38, which makes him the last Leaf ever to lead the league in scoring. He continued to rank among the NHL’s top scorers over the next few years.

Mitch Marner and Joe Primeau.

Drillon was a great points producer, but was a little less talented when it came to other skills. He wasn’t much at digging the puck out of corners, nor was he great in his own end. He was a sniper, not a skater, and when the Detroit Red Wings took a three-games-to-nothing lead over Toronto in the 1942 Stanley Cup Final, Drillon was one of the players the Maple Leafs benched in order to shake up the lineup. The changes resulted in four straight wins for Toronto … but it was a tough time for Drillon.

“I had been dreaming about that Stanley Cup ever since I was a kid,” Drillon told Vern DeGeer, Sports Editor of The Globe and Mail, for his column on April 28, 1942. “It grew and grew in my mind each season. But when the series was finished out, and I wasn’t even on the bench, that Cup grew smaller and smaller. Just a shattered dream, I guess. [I] simply couldn’t stand it, so Mrs. Drillon and I went home after the second period. Heard the last period on the radio.

“I tried to take the whole affair with my chin up. I didn’t play well in the first games against Detroit, but I had thought I would get back into uniform before the series was over, even as an extra forward.

This appeared in Toronto newspapers on April 20, 1942.

“One of the toughest touches came after the fifth game here in Toronto. A bunch of hoodlums appeared at our apartment house about midnight, tossed stones at the windows, and put on a wild, hooting demonstration. Even the kids in the neighborhood got to booing me as I walked down the street. And only a few weeks previously I had been a pal to many of them.”

Unbeknownst to anyone, Drillon’s wife had been sick for some time and would soon require an operation. He never used it as an excuse, but he did tell DeGreer he was “going back to Moncton [and] I won’t be back with the Leafs next winter.”

It isn’t clear whether Drillon meant that he would refuse to return to Toronto or if he had been told that his services were no longer required by the Maple Leafs. Either way, Toronto sold him to Montreal for the 1942-43 season. Drillon score a career-high 28 goals for the Canadiens in 49 games played during the newly expanded 50-game schedule, but the next year, he left the NHL for service in the Canadian military during World War II.

Charlie Conacher and Auston Matthews.

After the war, Drillon returned to play a few seasons of senior hockey in the Maritimes. He never played in the NHL again, but (according to his biography for the Hockey Hall of Fame) he was welcomed back into the Maple Leaf family as their Maritime scout in the late 1960s, and recommended Errol Thompson to the Leafs brass.

Drillon certainly didn’t seem to hold any grudges. In March of 1985, he told Paul Patton of The Globe and Mail that he didn’t mind talking about the 1942 Stanley Cup. “Every time a team falls behind 3-0 in a playoff, even if it’s baseball, they bring it up,” he said. “That’s how people remember me.”

Fellow Maritimer and play-by-play legend Danny Gallivan reminisced about Drillon with Toronto Star columnist John Robertson for a story in that paper the day after Drillon’s death at age 72 on September 23, 1986.

“Gordie was a wonderful friend of hockey,” Gallivan recounted. “[He] never lost his love for the game, or became cynical or bitter as some old-timers did in their later years. When I put forward his name for the Hall of Fame [in 1975], a few of the skeptics said: ‘This man only played seven seasons in the NHL…’

Gordie Drillon battles with fellow future Hall of Famer Earl Seibert in front of
Chicago goalie Alfie Moore in Game One of the 1938 Stanley Cup Final.

“‘Yes,’ I said. ‘But he went to war for his country at the age of 29, in the prime of his career…. He could have played another six seasons at least if he hadn’t volunteered. What a shame it would be to keep him out of the Hall of Fame because of that.’”

Gallivan added that Turk Broda had once told him that he didn’t think there was ever a player in hockey who could shoot with the accuracy of Gordie Drillon. “Even if you leave him an opening [just] the size of the puck,” Broda had said, “he’d hit it every time.”

Paul Patton had written that Drillon liked to park himself in front of the net, “dig in and deflect pucks past rival netminders. Fans complained that it was a lazy way of scoring, but Drillon practiced tipping shots until he became a master at the art.”

Leaving the last word for the man himself, Gordie Drillon told Patton, “I spent 10 years playing in the slot before anyone invented a name for it.”

Hockey Hall of … Who?!?!

Well, the second round of the NHL playoffs get under way tonight.

Without the Leafs.


(But with the first Battle of Alberta in 31 years!)

It’s still a long way until we get to the Stanley Cup Final, and there will be the announcement of the NHL Award winners this year before we know the 2022 Stanley Cup champions. And the class of 2022 Hockey Hall of Fame inductions will be announced on June 27th, which should be around the same time the Final finally ends. As no class of 2021 was named, to allow for the induction of the 2020 honoured members, whose original ceremony had been cancelled due to Covid, there are a lot of new names eligible for the first time this year.

It could be a big year for Swedish players and for Vancouver Canucks, as among the likely selections new to be considered this year are Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings, twin brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Canucks, plus goalie Roberto Luongo. And perhaps Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson will be chosen from among a list of holdovers that includes several worthy candidates who have yet to be honoured.

Daniel Sedin, Roberto Luongo, and Henrik Sedin are Hall of Fame hopefuls.

The first inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame were announced 77 years ago, on May 1, 1945. Only eight members were expected to be elected to that inaugural class, but a tie in the voting saw nine men named. All of those original inductees were deceased. They are (in alphabetical order):

Hobey Baker

Chuck Gardiner

Eddie Gerard

Frank McGee

Howie Morenz

Tommy Phillips

Harvey Pulford

Hod Stuart

Georges Vezina

Of those names, Vezina still resonates with hockey fans today because of the trophy for best goalie that was named in his honour. Some fans might still know of Morenz, and maybe McGee. Perhaps Hobey Baker as well, for the trophy in his name that is given to the outstanding men’s collegiate hockey player in the United States. But only fans who know the game’s history well generally recognize the others. Tommy Phillips is an historical favourite of mine, and as the captain and star of the 1907 Stanley Cup champion Kenora Thistles, he is well-covered in my upcoming book, Engraved in History, about that team.

Tommy Phillips is seated immediately to the right of the Stanley Cup.

Though I’ve been promising this for a while now, I really will be providing more details soon about the long-delayed launch of Engraved in History. (Promise!) And it was in looking up stories about Tommy Phillips recently that I stumbled across the articles that inspired this story.

Baseball elected the first members of its Hall of Fame in 1936, and opened a museum at Cooperstown in 1939. That opening seems to have inspired talk of a Hockey Hall of Fame, and as those talks gained momentum, sportswriters and former hockey stars were often asked for their opinion of who should make up the inaugural class. Many names — including several of those above — were bandied about in the early 1940s. This was mainly a Canadian pastime, but Americans offered their opinion too.

Boston Globe sports editor Jerry Nason chimed in on December 28, 1943. While admitting it was hard to select from among such great athletes as Lionel Conacher, Cyclone Taylor, Art Ross, Lester Patrick, King Clancy and more, Nason (who didn’t figure to be called upon when the time actually came, and acknowledged that he was no expert) offered three names: Morenz, Frank Nighbor, and Eddie Shore.

Frank Nighbor, Eddie Shore and Howie Morenz.

A week later, Nason’s column was all about an old-time Ottawa hockey fan living in the Boston area who’d been inspired by Nason’s list to offer his own Hall of Fame selections. Among those that Roy Welch was campaigning for were Tommy Phillips — whom he thought could skate backwards through the entire Boston Bruins team of that time — Lester Patrick, Joe Hall, and Moose Johnson. He also claimed to have known Cyclone Taylor personally. Still his picks (in reverse order) were:

Newsy Lalonde

Frank McGee

Marty McGuire

Marty McGuire?!?!

Marty McGuire, said Mr. Welch, was a star of the 1897 Ottawa Victorias. He credited McGuire with inventing both the hook check and the poke check. “For a defensemen,” said Welch, “he wasn’t big and he certainly was slow. He skated on his heels. He could go the length of the ice without picking up his feet — but you couldn’t get the puck away from him!”

Marty McGuire!?!?

Frank McGee and Newsy Lalonde.

Now, I don’t claim to know every old-time hockey player there ever was, but if a guy was good enough to be considered for the Hall of Fame, I’d like to think I’d at least have heard of him! Fortunately, someone at the Society for International Hockey Research (I’m looking at you, Ernie Fitzsimmons!) must have heard of him at some point, because SIHR has a fairly lengthy entry for McGuire.

It turns out that Marty McGuire didn’t play for the Ottawa Victorias in 1897. He played with the Ottawa Capitals, who were crushed so badly by the Montreal Victorias in a 15-2 loss in the first game of an 1897 Stanley Cup challenge that the second game was called off. But, two years later, McGuire played with Frank McGee for the Ottawa Aberdeens, a top local intermediate team. In 1899-1900 he played with McGee’s brother Jim and Hod Stuart’s brother Bruce (a Hall of Famer in his own right) with the Canadian Atlantic Railway Team in the Canadian Railway Hockey League. (This was an Ottawa-Montreal circuit that actually featured a few future stars of the game.)

A handful of articles mentioning Marty McGuire can be found when searching Ottawa newspapers from the 1890s into the early 1900s. Nothing, however, that makes him sound like he was a future Hockey Hall of Famer. Obituaries in newspapers in Ottawa and Vancouver (where he was living when he died in 1944) say nothing of his hockey career.

Marty McGuire?!?! (This is taken from his SIHR data panel.)

Still, from 1905 to 1909, Marty McGuire was playing hockey in Fort William and Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay, Ontario). If there is anything at all to Roy Welch’s claim that McGuire invented the poke check and the hook check, he may well have taught or inspired Jack Walker, who was playing hockey in Port Arthur at that time and is often credited (as is Frank Nighbor) as the originator of those moves.

Roy Welch’s thoughts in Jerry Nason’s column in Boston caught the attention of Baz O’Meara, writing in the Montreal Star. In his column on January 7, 1943, O’Meara takes Welch to task, referring to him as “one of those old timers who gets a bit misty in the minaret when he starts talking about old time stars.”

Clearly, O’Meara (who’d grown up in Ottawa in the 1890s and 1900s) had never heard of Marty McGuire either. He also dismissed Welch’s claims that Frank McGee used to practice by setting up planks of wood an inch thick and then breaking them with his shot.

“The late Frank must have done those things in secret,” says O’Meara, “because when he was an Aberdeen he was a hot shot, but not that good. When he was with Ottawa he was a very hard shot too, and very accurate, but he was no boardbreaker.”

In summary, O’Meara writes that, “The Welch findings sound to us like the maunderings of an old timer who dwells in the past.”

Whereas my story presented for you here today represents the maunderings (ramblings) of a middle-aged timer who dwells in the past!

How They “Watched” in the Old Days…

The NHL playoffs are under way. A pretty great start for the Maple Leafs … but we’ll see.

Can’t get to the game? Don’t worry. There’s an app for that!

But before there were apps for your smartphone, streaming services on your laptop or tablet, and even before there was television and radio, there was the telegraph…

Winnipeg Victorias at Montreal Victorias. Manitoba Free Press, February 15, 1896
Montreal Victorias at Winnipeg Victorias. From the Montreal Star, December 28, 1896
Winnipeg Victorias at Montreal Shamrocks. From the Montreal Star, January 29, 1901.
Montreal AAA (Montreal HC) at Winnipeg Victorias. Montreal Star, March 13, 1902.
Rat Portage Thistles at Ottawa Hockey Club. Montreal Star, March 7, 1905.
Montreal Wanderers at Kenora Thistles. Montreal Star, March 20, 1907.
Edmonton Hockey Club at Ottawa Senators.
Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, January 15 and 18, 1910.
Edmonton Hockey Club at Ottawa Senators. Manitoba Free Press, January 18, 1910.
Ottawa Senators at Quebec Bulldogs. Ottawa Citizen, February 4, 1911.
Victoria Aristocrats at Toronto Blue Shirts. Montreal Star, March 13, 1914.

And then, something new starting in 1922. Those same telegraph bulletins are now being read out loud on the radio.

Vancouver Millionaires at Toronto St. Pats. From the Vancouver Province,
the Vancouver Sun, and the Vancouver World on March 28, 1922.
Ottawa Senators at Edmonton Eskimos in Vancouver.
Edmonton Journal, March 31, 1923.
Vancouver Maroons at Montreal Canadiens. From the Montreal Star and the Calgary Herald on March 17, 1924. (Reports on subsequent games between the Calgary Tigers and the Canadiens were also aired on the radio.)

By 1931, there was the first live coast-to-coast radio play-by-play broadcasts by Foster Hewitt of the Stanley Cup Final.

Chicago Black Hawks at Montreal Canadiens. Montreal Gazette, April 14, 1931
Reports on the nationwide broadcast in the
Winnipeg Tribune and the Vancouver Sun on April 14, 1931.

And, after the first Hockey Night in Canada television broadcasts in 1952–53 (and a French-only broadcast of a few games during the Stanley Cup Final in 1953), the Stanley Cup Final was on TV in English for the first time in 1954 … joined in progress, but better than nothing!

Detroit Red Wings at Montreal Canadiens, from the Ottawa Journal on April 13, 1954.