Category Archives: Hockey History

Stanley Cup Trivia

On Monday night, the Nashville Predators reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. Tonight, we’ll find out if they’ll be playing against Ottawa or Pittsburgh. If the Penguins make it, they’ll have a chance to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998 to win back-to-back championships. If it’s the Senators, it’ll be the first time since 2007 (when Ottawa faced Anaheim) that we’ll be guaranteed of a first-time Stanley Cup winner. That’s something rarer than you might think.

In 100 seasons of NHL history, there have only been four other times before 2007 when neither team in the Stanley Cup Final had won the Cup before. Three of those times were:

  • 1934 – Chicago over Detroit
  • 1991 – Pittsburgh over Minnesota
  • 1999 – Dallas over Buffalo

I’ve left out the fourth because it makes for an interesting trivia question since it marks the ONLY time in NHL history where both teams that reached the Final had never even played for the Stanley Cup before. If I was more clever with computers, maybe I could figure out a way to hide the answer better. As it is, I’ve tucked it in beneath the logos below to give you a chance to figure it out if you want to before you see it…

Preds
Sens
Pens

  • 1996 – Colorado Avalanche over Florida Panthers

Unless there’s more expansion or realignment, this will only happen again if the Columbus Blue Jackets advance in the Eastern Conference and face the Arizona Coyotes, the Minnesota Wild, the Winnipeg Jets or the Vegas Golden Knights, who join the NHL next season.

Stanley Cup Anniversaries: 2017

For the last couple of years, around the start of the playoffs, I’ve done a “Stanley Cup Anniversaries” story. (If you’re curious, you can check out the links to 2015 and 2016.) I’m a little late this year, and this time I’m choosing to focus on just a single quirky anniversary story. This one is from 80 years ago in 1937.

The story begins in the spring of 1936, when the Detroit Red Wings became the last of the so-called “Original Six” teams to win the Stanley Cup. Goalie Normie Smith (who I mentioned a few weeks back in Marathon Men … And Kids Too) was a Red Wings hero that season. According to a report in the Detroit Free Press (which was picked up by a few other papers) on April 17, 1937, Smith was friendly with an ex-Canadian couple living in Detroit, a Mrs. Ida Lefleur and her husband, who were expecting a baby shortly after the Red Wings’ 1936 championship.

Smith
After two stellar seasons with the Red Wings, Normie Smith
was never the same after his shoulder injury in the 1937 playoffs.

“If we have a boy,” Ida told Normie, “we’ll name him Stanley after the Cup and next year the Red Wings will win the Stanley Cup again on his birthday.”

As the story goes, the boy was born on April 15, 1936 and was named Stanley Lefleur. And as it turned out, the baby’s first birthday in 1937 really did coincide with Game 5 of that year’s best-of-five Stanley Cup Final … between the Rangers and Normie Smith’s Red Wings.

Smith had won the Vezina Trophy during the 1936-37 season, but was injured in the playoffs and replaced by minor-leaguer Earl Robertson. On the day of Game 5, Smith sought his replacement. “Out near where we live is a Stanley Cup baby,” he told Robertson. “Now what you should do is go out there and take a few lucky pats on that baby’s head.”

Robertson
Figuring that Earl Robertson had earned a shot at the NHL,
and that Normie Smith would return healthy, the Red Wings dealt
Robertson to the New York Americans shortly after the 1937 Stanley Cup.

As the Free Press story explains, Normie Smith “will do anything for good luck.” Earl Robertson wasn’t nearly as superstitious, “but he doesn’t pass up any good luck charms.” So, “out they went to a little birthday party for Stanley and following Normie’s instructions Earl stole those few pats on the head.”

That night, Robertson recorded his second straight shutout in a 3-0 win over the Rangers as the Red Wings rallied to win the Stanley Cup. Afterwards, the injured Smith happily told of the role that he and baby Stanley had played in the comeback. “I got into the final playoffs after all,” said Smith, grinning broadly, “by getting Robbie to go out there with me.”

Headline
This version of the story appeared in the Winnipeg Tribune on April 17, 1937.

It’s a silly story, really, but one told with such detail that I certainly hoped it was true. So, imagine my disappointment when I went to Ancestry.com and searched for “Stanley Lefleur” born in “1936” with the mother’s name “Ida” … and found nothing.

But fear not! Expanding the search a little bit, I discovered that a Gilbert Stanley Lafleur, son of Lenard or Leo Lafleur and his wife, the former Ida Bergeron (both French Canadians living in Detroit), really was born on April 15, 1936. I didn’t come across a birth certificate or baptismal record, but I did come across a record of the Lafleur family in Detroit in the 1940 U.S. Census:

Census

And enough Social Security records to confirm the names and dates match up.

Docs

As for the rest, I know that many old-time sportswriters never let the facts get in the way of a good story, but I’m choosing to believe this one is true!

50 Years Ago Tonight

On May 2, 1967, the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. It was the 13th time a Toronto team had won the Cup during the first 50 seasons in NHL history. No one needs reminding that they haven’t won it since.

There have already been many commemorative stories about the 1967 Leafs, and I’m sure there will be plenty more today. I was looking to find something a little bit offbeat; a story of the 1967 Leafs that hadn’t been told before. Well, this one at least is new on me.

In the Thumbnail Tales notes at the bottom of his column on the day of the game, Toronto Star sports editor Milt Dunnell wrote about Leafs captain George Armstrong lingering in front of his locker after practice “long after most other players had showered and departed.” Armstrong, who would score the clinching goal into an empty net in the team’s 3–1 victory over Montreal that night to win the Stanley Cup in six games, explained that “this could be my last hockey practice. I hate to leave it.” (Armstrong would indeed retire briefly a few weeks later, as he would several times over the next few years before officially calling it a career in 1971).

Red Burnett of the Star noted that as Armstrong sat in the dressing room, he looked across the way to where rookie Mike Walton was shaving the shaft and blade of his hockey stick.

Players
Longtime Leafs captain George Armstrong (left) and 1967 rookie Mike Walton (right).

“I wonder how [Conn] Smythe and Hap Day would have acted if we’d tried those curved blade sticks in the days when I was a rookie,” mused Armstrong, although he knew that Walton was actually shaving his stick because he thought it was too heavy, not to try and deepen the curve.

“When Hap and Mr. Smythe were in charge, they insisted that every stick on the club weigh 23 ounces or better.” Armstrong explained that he didn’t like a heavy stick and would try to get by with a lighter one. However, “from time to time, Hap would take all the sticks out of the racks and weigh them. If you had a stick under 23 ounces, it was an automatic $25 fine. I paid a few fines before I got wise to the fact that you couldn’t fool the scales.”

Burnett relates that Smythe and Day had issued the order after Garth Boesch and Bill Barilko broke their sticks on the same sequence of plays, leaving the Leafs defence … well, defenceless.

That would have been between 1947 and 1950. “Times have changed,” Armstrong said. “Nowadays, the players have more say – and rightly so – in the type of equipment they use.”

Today, the average NHL sticks weighs about 400 to 515 grams. Converting 23 ounces into grams comes out to just a shade over 652. So, the sticks that Day and Smythe insisted on in the 1950s weighed as much as 50 percent more than the sticks of today. I’m sure that even with the shaving, Walton’s wooden stick was a lot closer to 23 ounces than it would be to the 400-gram composite sticks of today.

Personally, I have no comprehension of how the difference in weight and material effects shooting, but you only have to have watched a game in recent years to see how much faster players can fire the puck. Still, given the way even modern observers complain, you have to wonder what men like Conn Smythe and Hap Day would make of the fact that these $300-plus rocket-launchers seem to snap if you even look at them too hard!

A Coach’s Lament

“Overtime goals in the Stanley Cup [playoffs] are very nice to get, but very bitter to take. It never seems so bad to be beaten in a straight hour’s playing time.”

With a record 18 overtime games in the first round of the playoffs this year, and three of eight series decided during an extra period, there are a lot of coaches – and fans – who might be feeling this way right now. It was a Toronto coach who expressed the opinion above, but it came long before Mike Babcock and the Maple Leafs had their surprisingly satisfying season end abruptly with an overtime loss to Washington on Sunday. It was Dick Irvin who said this; recalling a series of disappointing moments during his tenure in Toronto for Bill Roche of the Globe and Mail back in 1938.

Irvin, who for years was the winningest coach in NHL history, had guided Toronto to the Stanley Cup in 1932 and would lead the team to the Final six more times without success before moving on to Montreal in 1940. His overtime disappointments dated back to his amateur playing days in Winnipeg in 1916, but reached new levels with the Maple Leafs.

Irvin 1
Syl Apps, Conn Smythe, Dick Irvin and Gordie Drillon, circa 1938.
Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library/
Digital Commonwealth Massachusetts Collections Online.

“[There] was a goal that Bill Cook scored in Maple Leaf Gardens in the spring of 1933 when the Rangers beat the Leafs by 1-0 in overtime to take the game and the Stanley Cup. We had both [Bill] Thoms and [Alex] Levinsky in the penalty box when Cook scored the heart-breaker. And the next one came when Maroons beat the Leafs three straight in the Stanley Cup Final in 1935. Our woes began in the first game when [Dave] Trottier scored to beat us 3-2 after more than 33 minutes of overtime.” Trottier actually scored at just 5:28 of OT, but it did spark a surprising Maroons sweep.

“Then, in the Cup playdowns of 1937, I still can see Babe Pratt of the Rangers scoring that goal in New York to beat us 2-1 in overtime to decide the series.” The Leafs would also lose the Stanley Cup to the Rangers in overtime again in 1940, but that was still in the future at this point.

Irvin’s recollections are timely … but what I found most interesting about his conversation with Bill Roche was his take on something that people have obviously been complaining about for a lot longer than I’d ever realized.

When asked, basically, why there wasn’t as much creativity in the game as there used to be, Irvin answered that, “in one sense I blame it on my own fraternity, the coaches. The youngsters are being over-coached. I don’t think young fellows who are getting into pro hockey these days are developing their own natural ability….

“These days, the kids are coached, coached, coached from pee-wee right up through to the pros. Six or seven coaches may handle a youngster before he reaches an NHL coach. And so much stress has been placed on team play, systems and methods along this coached route that few lads ever really develop those individualistic arts which are gifts of natural ability, such as stickhandling and fine shooting to finish off a play properly.”

Irvin 2
Dick Irvin was declared ineligible to play with the Winnipeg Monarchs
during the 1914 Allan Cup playoffs. They lost that year, but regained
the Canadian amateur championship with Irvin on board in 1915.

Irvin reminisced about growing up in Winnipeg, playing with gangs of kids on corner lots and frozen rivers. “The kids who had the skill and stamina became individual stars. They stood out far above the rest. And much later in their careers they learned team play….

“Many of the kids these days have never played on a frozen river or pond where they could practice all day. Instead, they have only short practice hours in an artificial ice arena, and they’ve never got the real groundwork or background…

“Why, we could shoot like young fools from all distances and angles long before we ever got near an organized team. If you couldn’t shoot, and if you couldn’t stickhandle from one end of the rink to the other through the mob of players, well, you had no chance to get any kind of hockey job. These days, it seems to me, they are teaching the kids too much system without first having them get the real fundamentals of skating, stickhandling, shooting and checking.”

Irvin admits it was “dog-eat-dog” in his childhood hockey days – and his head might explode if he saw how fast and how physical the game has become – but if he thought kids were being over-coached in the 1930s, what would he think of the way they play today?

The Comeback Kids

On April 18, 1942 – 75 years ago today – the Toronto Maple Leafs capped the greatest comeback in sports history. With a 3–1 win over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 at Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto recorded its fourth straight win after dropping the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final. A few other hockey teams have rallied to win series after 3–0 deficits since then, and the Boston Red Sox did it in baseball against the New York Yankees in 2004, but no team except the 1942 Maple Leafs has done it to win a major championship.

“That Detroit club invented something that’s common now, shooting the puck in from center and then forechecking like hell,” said Bob Goldham as quoted by Jim Proudfoot in a Toronto Star story in 1993. “It had us completely buffaloed.”

“We had decided before that series that Toronto, with [Syl] Apps and a powerful club, would be a problem,” Detroit’s Syd Howe told the Ottawa Journal in 1965. “It was [coach and GM] Jack Adams’ idea that we should fire the puck into their end of the rink and go and try and check the Leafs before they could get started. I never did like the idea of it, but we had a meeting and decided on it.”

Langelle
Pete Langelle celebrates his goal to put Toronto
ahead 2-1midway through the third period of Game 7.

Leafs coach Hap Day also said the team was “buffaloed” in discussing the 1942 series with Stan Fischler for his 1976 book Those Were the Days. “That was the first time any club ever shot the puck into the end zone and flooded in after it,” Day continued. “There was no center red line then, and the Detroits would simply get the puck across their own blue line and let it go into our end. Then they’d race in and get to it before we did.”

“We had tried that style of play back in 1936-37,” Howe remembered,  “but it wasn’t until [then] that we really put it to use in earnest.”

Syl Apps admitted to Fischler that after dropping the first three games, “We felt we were licked.” He said the team hoped to win Game 4 to avoid being swept but that, “the Stanley Cup wasn’t even on our minds at that point.”

As the story goes, Hap Day read a letter to the team that he’d received from a young girl prior to Game 4. “I had always found in coaching,” Day told Allen Abel of the Globe and Mail in 1983, “that it was harder to get a team ready mentally than physically… What happened after we lost the third game that year was we got a letter from a 15-year-old girl in Detroit who was a Leaf fan. She wrote that she still had confidence in our team. I read the letter to the boys in the dressing room before the fourth game. By the time I finished, you could see the walls bulging…”

Cup
NHL President Frank Calder presents to the
Stanley Cup to Conn Smythe, Syl Apps and Hap Day.

Day did something more tangible too. He benched veterans Gord Drillon and Bucko McDonald, who’d been worn out by Detroit’s dump-and-chase tactics. Younger and faster Don Metz and Hank Goldup were inserted into the lineup, and Gaye Stewart was summoned from the farm team in Pittsburgh. The Leafs also changed tactics, as Sweeney Schriner – who would score the first and third goals in Game 7 – recalled to Trent Frayne as reported in the Globe in 1987.

Schriner remembered coming down early for breakfast in Detroit’s Leland Hotel on the morning of Game 4. Hap Day was huddling with Conn Smythe, and Smythe called Schriner over. “He looked worried,” Sweeney remembered. “He said, ‘Dave, what’s wrong with our hockey club?’ and I told him I thought it was that we’d changed our style. We’d been a good-staking, good-scoring team all season, but in these games with Detroit we were playing their game, bumping and grinding. That night, before the game, Hap made the player changes and we went back to our own style.”

Frayne had planned to use Shriner’s memory to open a 1970s story for Reader’s Digest in which Foster Hewitt recalled the 1942 series. “But it never saw the light of print,” wrote Frayne in his 1987 piece. “A phone call from the magazine’s editorial office in Montreal a day or two before the deadline advised me that the research department had been in touch with Day and Smythe. Both said the incident never happened.”

ad
A section of the ad the makers of Eno ran in Toronto newspapers after Hap Day had
written to them to say that their product had helped to keep his team in fighting trim.

Admitting that he was “feeling like a jerk,” Frayne asked if they’d checked with Sweeney Schriner. What he was told gives a pretty good indication of the type of control men like Smythe and Day exerted over their players.

“Yes, he says it did happen, but he also says that if Smythe and Day said it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen, and he’s not about to get into a shouting match with them.”

Frayne opened the Foster Hewitt piece with Day’s story about the letter instead.

*               *               *

Relating to last week’s story about Toronto’s 1922 Stanley Cup banquet and comments about parades, here’s some information on how Toronto celebrated the Leafs Cup wins in 1932 and 1942.

A day after the Leafs’ victory in 1932, City Clerk James Somers announced there would be no banquet for the team, nor for the amateur National Sea Fleas who had just won the Allan Cup. There was no budget for such things during the Great Depression. The city’s Civic Reception Committee, said Somer, “has been forced to limit entertainment to a minimum on account of prevailing conditions.” With Canada at War in 1942, the team held its own small banquet for players, Gardens employees and the press. “We are gathered here today,” said team executive George Cottrelle, “to pay tribute in a mild way, in keeping with the times, to our championship hockey team.”

There doesn’t appear to have been a big to-do for the Leafs’ Cup win in 1947 either, but in 1948 after the team returned from winning the Cup on the road in Detroit, the city celebrated with a ticker-tape parade and a reception at City Hall.

1948

Toronto’s First Stanley Cup Banquet

With the Leafs back in the playoffs tonight, let’s dream big! Would a Stanley Cup parade in Toronto rival the scenes from the World Series parade for the Cubs in Chicago last fall? Quite likely. But whatever happens (and whenever it happens), it’s certainly bound to outdo the show the city put on at its first Stanley Cup civic reception 95 years ago.

It appears that there was no public display in the city when Toronto won the Stanley Cup as a member of the National Hockey Association in 1914, nor at the end of the inaugural National Hockey League season back in 1917–18. Things were different when the Toronto St. Pats won the Cup in 1922 by defeating the Vancouver Millionaires in the final game of their best-of-five series.

Headlines
Headlines from Toronto’s Globe and Daily Star sports pages on March 30, 1922.

“Mayor Alf Maguire was as tickled as a schoolboy when the St. Pats won the Stanley Cup last night,” reported the Toronto Daily Star on March 29. “Right away he arranged a banquet for the boys which will take place at the Carls-Rite tonight at 6:30.”

Given that footage exists of a Stanley Cup parade in Ottawa when the Senators returned triumphant from Vancouver in 1921 (unless that’s actually 1923), it seems unlikely that this event in Toronto was the first of its kind for a professional sports team in Eastern Canada as the Star reported … although it was likely a first for pro sports in the city. The evening seems to have been a fairly tame one. None of the accounts I’ve seen mention how many people were there, nor what kind of food or drink was served. For sure there were a lot of politicians and team executives present, and a lot of speeches were made.

Hotel
The site of the Hotel Carls-Rite is currently a parking lot not too far
from the Maple Leafs’ current home at the Air Canada Centre.

Mayor Maguire led the festivities, making a speech in which he lauded the St. Pats for the attention they had brought to the city through their fair play and skill. He asked that the players “continue through the summer the clean living which has characterized their winter’s work.”

Coach George O’Donoghue and manager Charlie Querrie replied on behalf of the players, who received their winner’s checks from the Stanley Cup series prior to the dinner (no mention of the amount, but likely a few hundred dollars each) and were presented with silver-mounted rabbits’ feet by a fan known as  Oh Boy Saunders, the Human Fly, (more on that if I ever find it!) afterwards.

The highlight of the evening came when Mayor Maguire presented the Stanley Cup to team president Fred Hambly after NHL President Frank Calder had presented the O’Brien Cup – aka the O’Brien Trophy, symbolic of the NHL championship at the time – to St. Pats captain Reg Noble.

Banquet
This dining room was likely the site for Toronto’s 1922 Stanley Cup banquet.

“This cup was lost for some time,” said Calder, “and when I dug it up it was being used as a watering trough for a bulldog. May you and your team show the proverbial tenacity of the bulldog who drank out of it, in defending it.”

“We will do our best to keep it here,” replied the captain.

But it would be 10 years before the next NHL championship came to Toronto.

I don’t suppose anyone needs reminding that this year marks 50 since the last one!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Spring is here. Baseball season is under way. Hockey playoffs are just around the corner. Can’t beat it! No real story this week. Just some fun images from this day in history. Click on each one to see it in greater detail.

On this date 85 years ago in 1932, April 4 was a Monday and Toronto newspapers were reporting on Saturday night’s win by the Maple Leafs in overtime against the Montreal Maroons to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. You don’t see many action photos from this era.

Leafs 1932

April 4 was also a Monday 40 years ago in 1977. The Blue Jays would wrap up spring training  in Dunedin that day and fly to Toronto at night ahead of the franchise’s first Opening Day on April 7.

April 4 Star

April 4 Globe

Hello Out There…

Since at least  1896, when the Winnipeg Victorias traveled east to face and defeat the Montreal Victorias in a one-game challenge for the Stanley Cup, hockey fans have been coming up with ways to follow the game when they couldn’t be there in person. Telegraph lines first made this possible. Special wires were often set up in hotels, where people could gather in comfort to hear scores and details, or outside of train stations and newspaper offices, where people had to stand in the cold.

1896
The Manitoba Free Press, February 15, 1896.

“Hundreds would gather to get the latest bulletins,” superstar Cyclone Taylor would recall from his childhood for biographer Eric Whitehead. “The mobs would hang around at night in sub-zero temperatures just waiting for the operator to leave his key and come dashing out with an announcement…. He’d chalk the score up on a blackboard and then go back to his office, and we’d just stand there and talk hockey and wait for the next bulletin.”

Of course, you didn’t have to wait in the cold if you didn’t want to … as long as you had a telephone. Newspaper offices often put extra operators on duty to give out score updates to those who called in. But beginning in 1922, newspapers had a more efficient way of getting scores out to anyone living within a thousand miles of their office. They could do it with the magic of radio.

Mar 21
The Vancouver World, March 21, 1922.

I’ve written before about my interest in early hockey broadcasts. (See … Radio Active and …Listening In.) The technology was virtually brand new in Canada in 1922. The earliest radio stations had been set up in Montreal in 1920, but it took another two years before the concept took off. According to the timeline of The History of Canadian Broadcasting on the Canadian Communications Foundation web site, no other stations came on board in 1921, but by 1922 there were 23 new stations in six more provinces across the country. Many of these new radio stations were owned by newspapers, including CFCA in Toronto, which was owned by the Toronto Star and would feature the first live play-by-play hockey broadcasts by Norman Albert, and then Foster Hewitt, in February of 1923.

18
The Vancouver Sun reporting  on its radio coverage of Game 1 in the 1922 Stanley Cup Final.

Eleven months before those hockey broadcasts in Toronto, in March of 1922, three Vancouver newspapers — the Province, the Sun, and World — were all racing to get their own radio stations on the air. The Province was first, on March 13, followed by the Sun two days later, and then the World on March 23. Unfortunately, the archives of the Province can’t be searched on line, but the others can, so we know for certain that in addition to news reports, stock prices, and musical programs, the Sun and the World (likely the Province too), were providing almost up-to-the minute reports on the Stanley Cup Final between the Vancouver Millionaires and the Toronto St. Pats which took place in Toronto between March 17 and March 28.

22
The Vancouver Sun, Game 2. Toronto won 2-1 in overtime.

From the newspaper accounts, it’s unclear exactly how much information the Sun was providing for its listeners during Vancouver’s 4-3 win in Game 1. Just the scores? Or was some effort being made to recreate (or at least read) the play-by-play accounts that telegraphed reports had long been able to relay? And were they providing more by Game 2?

Sun 24
The Vancouver Sun, Game 3. The Millionaires won 3-0.

It’s hard to imagine anyone reporting “that it was as good as being at the game” if all they were getting was score updates. But Sun readers were reporting that again after Game 3.

World 24
The Vancouver World, March 24, 1922.

When the World reported on its triumphant first broadcast, which had been made the day of Game 3 on March 23, it bragged of “Hockey Results Told as Fast As Plays Were Made” but provided no further details of what that actually meant.

27 28
The Vancouver Sun, March 27, 1922 and Vancouver World on March 28.

After a 6-0 win for Toronto in the fourth game of the series on March 25, the St. Pats and Millionaires were even at 2-2 in the best-of-five series. Interestingly, the Sun noted on March 27 that it would be “giving a complete and comprehensive story of the final world series hockey game” … but the game wasn’t actually played until March 28! By then it appeared that the Sun station had already given up on daily broadcasts, and all the World was promising was the final result, which would be a 5-1 Stanley Cup-winning victory for Toronto.

St Pats

So, whatever it was that fans in Vancouver were tuning into 95 years ago, it was far from the multi-platform experience we’ve become used to today. But everything has to start somewhere!

Marathon Men … and Kids Too

We’re coming up on the anniversary (although the 81st is a little inelegant) of the longest game in NHL history. At 8:30 pm on the evening of March 24, 1936, the Montreal Maroons and the Detroit Red Wings faced off at the Montreal Forum. There wouldn’t be a winner (there wouldn’t even be a goal!) until almost 2:30 am the following morning. Nearly six full hours of hockey were played that night; 176:30 by the game clock, with 116:30 of that coming during six overtime periods. The series was a best-three-of-five, but the Maroons and Red Wings played nearly three full games on that evening alone!

In Montreal, the defending Stanley Cup champion Maroons were favoured to defeat the Red Wings and go on to win the Stanley Cup again. Not surprisingly, Detroit coach and GM Jack Adams felt otherwise. “We were the best team over the regular season and proved it by getting more points than any other club in either [division],” said Adams. “The playoffs will merely confirm this fact. We have the best team Detroit ever had and this year we should be good enough to win the Cup.

Maroons
Ad in the Montreal Gazette, March 24, 1936.

It would turn out that Adams was right, but in truth, the Maroons and Detroit were very evenly matched. The teams had nearly identical records (Detroit was 24-16-8; Maroons 22-16-10) and fairly comparable scoring statistics. Still, nobody could have predicted what happened in game one. Detroit goalie Normie Smith turned aside all 90 shots he faced. His Red Wings teammates managed only 68 shots on the Maroons’ Lorne Chabot (some sources say 67), but Mud Bruneteau fired the one that mattered. As Elmer Ferguson wrote in the Montreal Herald the next day:

At twenty-five minutes past two this morning, a bushy-haired blonde veteran of hockey, Hector Kilrea, a sturdy, scarlet-clad form wearing the white emblem of Detroit Red Wings, went pounding tirelessly down the battle-scarred, deep-cut Forum ice, trying to pilot a puck that was bobbling crazily over the rough trail, almost out of control.

It looked like another of the endless unfinished plays – when suddenly, in shot the slim form of a player, who through this long, weary tide of battle that ebbed and flowed had been almost unnoticed. He swung his stick at the bobbling puck, the little black disc straightened away, shot over the foot of Lorne Chabot, bit deeply into the twine of the Montreal Maroon cage. And so Modere Bruneteau, clerk in a Winnipeg grain office, leaped to fame as the player who ended the longest game on professional hockey record.

Bruneteau
Story segment and advertisement from the Montreal Gazette, March 25, 1936.

But as of a few days ago, the game between the Maroons and Red Wings has lost its distinction as the longest in professional hockey history. Norwegian pro teams Storhamar Dragons and Sparta Warriors faced off in Hamar, Norway, at 6 pm on March 12 and didn’t have a winner until 2:32 am on Monday the 13th. After eight-and-a-half hours of hockey – 217:42 on the game clock – Joakim Jensen scored to give the Dragons a 2-1 victory in eight overtime periods. The win gave Storhamar a 3-2 lead in the series, but Sparta bounced back to take the series in seven.

Norway
Screen shots of the winning goal and celebration from Storhamar’s 2-1 overtime victory.

Still, as marathon hockey games go, the Maroons and Red Wings and Storhamar and Sparta have nothing on the gang of kids I grew up with on Argonne Crescent.

Kids
North York Mirror clips from Zweig family photo album. (That’s me inside the oval.)

Despite what the caption on the photo says – we got mentioned on the radio too – our goal was not to raise money for charity (although a few relatives did donate to the United Jewish Appeal in honour of our game). We wanted to get into the Guinness Book of Records!

The story that accompanies the photo says that we’d been told the record for playing road hockey was 8 hours. I do remember that we thought it was … but I have no idea who told us, or why we believed it! As I recall, a few weeks later, there was a story about a group of college kids that played ball hockey in a gym for about 100 hours. But, hey, they had squads of players coming and going throughout those four days. We were just nine kids aged 7 to 11 who all had to go to school the next day.

We made it through 12 straight hours. Kept score and everything. The white team, including my brothers David and Jonathan, our cousin Bobby Freedman, Benji Rusonik and Jeffrey Kirsh, beat the Blue team of me, Alan Rusonik, Joel Kirsh and Howard Hamat 250-228.

As my brother Jonathan once said, “at least we didn’t fall asleep like Bobby and Cindy Brady trying to break the teeter-totter record … and if you look in the Guinness Book of Records you’ll find us there – under dumbest kids who ever thought they’d break a record.”