Category Archives: News

Wanna Bet?

There hasn’t been much said lately about the news coming out at the end of July that the NHL will investigate claims made in a series of tweets by the estranged wife of Evander Kane that Kane not only bet on NHL games but that he had thrown a number of games while playing for the San Jose Sharks. Kane is known to have a gambling problem, and to be deeply in debt. Still these accusations have yet to be proven. But legal gambling is a big business, so sports leagues continue to cozy up to casinos and online betting sites, and the Canadian government has now legalized single-sports wagering effective tomorrow.

Hockey has no history of gambling scandals to rival anything like the Black Sox Scandal of 1919 when eight members of the Chicago White Sox were banned for life from baseball for conspiring with gamblers to rig that year’s World Series. (This was actually just the biggest of many gambling scandals to plague baseball in the 1910s and ’20s.) Still, hockey has had its own problems. Most notably, in 1948, when Billy Taylor and Don Gallinger of the Boston Bruins were given lifetime suspensions (eventually rescinded, but not until 1970) for feeding information about their team to gamblers and for betting on games. Possibly even against their own team. Unlike Kane or the Black Sox, there was never any indication that the two players had conspired to throw games.

Perhaps the first gambling scandal in hockey history occurred in Toronto back in 1915.

Ottawa Journal, February 23, 1915.

A story reported out of Montreal on February 22, 1915, appeared in several newspapers across Canada the next day. It was about bribes (and other efforts) made to players in the National Hockey Association (forerunner of the NHL) by gamblers. The news broke when players on the Quebec Bulldogs told their story while passing through Montreal on their way back home after a game in Toronto. The story claimed that Harry Mummery of the Bulldogs, and team trainer Dave Beland, had been offered bribes before a Saturday night game on February 20, 1915, to let the Toronto Shamrocks win.

Mummery was said to have been offered $1,000 to throw the game. Beland was reportedly offered $50 to deliver a spiked drink to a few Quebec players. Both refused, and reported the incidents to the team manager, Mike Quinn, who reported it to NHA president Emmett Quinn.

Newspapers noted that it was not the first time something like this had happened in Toronto. Another report mentioned attempts to bribe players on the Canadiens and the Toronto Blueshirts. No names were mentioned, but Harry Cameron of the Blueshirts — a future Hockey Hall of Famer — was cited in a different vein.

Harry Cameron of the Blueshirts and Toronto’s Mutual Street Arena.

“Last week,” said president Quinn, “a gambler in Toronto invited Cameron of the Toronto team out, and induced him to break training [ie, got him drunk] with the result that he was unfit to play that night. It was found out the gambler and his friend had bet a large amount on the opposing team.”

Nothing much really came out of all this in 1915. Lol Solman, owner of the Arena Gardens on Mutual Street, believed the stories had been greatly exaggerated. Still, the Toronto Telegram on February 23, reported that President Quinn had instructed all NHA managers “that any player shall be expelled who has been proven guilty of offering, agreeing, conspiring, or attempting to lose any game of hockey or in being interested in any wager thereon.” Quinn vowed that he was going to take action to stop this sort of thing.

Gambling may or may not have been stamped out at Toronto’s Arena Gardens and in the NHA back in 1915, but it would certainly be prevalent in the NHL at Maple Leaf Gardens in future. If there wasn’t gambling at the Gardens right from its opening in 1931, there would certainly be a so-called “bull ring” of bookies operating from a promenade behind the blue seats at one end of the rink soon enough.

A Chicago newspaper called Collyer’s Eye and The Baseball World provided plenty of details in an issue on December 1, 1934. The paper noted that reports on hockey gambling were up all around the NHL early in the 1934–35 season. “There are even rumors that efforts have been made to [bribe] some of the goaltend[er]s.”

Montreal was said to be the long-time center of hockey gambling, but it was much quieter there that season than New York. Detroit was labeled as the new hot gambling mecca, with Boston only lukewarm. Nothing is said about Chicago, or St. Louis (where the Ottawa Senators had recently relocated), but it was noted that there was plenty of action on NHL games in non-league centers such as Kansas City, Missouri, and the Minnesota cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth. There were plenty of details about Toronto too:

“Toronto is a spot where one can get a bet down at any time. In fact, in the bull ring at Maple Leaf Gardens they will give you anything you want in the line of wagering accommodations, though they deal the nuts on Leafs. You can bet on goals, the most shots, or penalties. One favorite wager is that Leafs will score as much in one period as the other team does in the whole game.”

Other stories from other sources indicate Toronto was so rife with gambling that fans were known to place bets on whether the next spectator to be hit with a puck in the stands would be a man or a woman!

Babe Pratt and Maple Leaf Gardens.

Efforts weren’t made to clean out the bull ring in Toronto until 1946, after Maple Leafs star defenseman Babe Pratt was expelled from the NHL for gambling. (Pratt would be reinstated after missing five games and forfeiting his salary from January 29 through February 14.)

But even at that, in an article about the Gardens in Maclean’s magazine on March 1, 1958, John Clare wrote: “in an emergency, as at playoff time when the public need for the service is greatest, the bookies have been known to drift back and ply their trade with the same discretion and high ethical standards that made them a tradition in less censorious times.”

For more on the bull ring, and the Toronto gambling scandals of 1915 and 1946 (and plenty more on a wide range of subjects!), look for my new book from Firefly Books, Hockey Hall of Fame: True Stories, which is due out this fall but already available for pre-ordering. For more on Evander Kane, keep an eye on the sports news. And if you’re a fan in Canada who loves to risk your money, it should be even easier for you now…

Sports and Protests…

I’ve never been much for taking a stand. You know that story, “and when they came for me, there was no one left…” I’ve always thought that would be me. I’m not proud of it … but I know myself. These days, though, “Silence is Violence,” so here’s what I’d like to see in terms of sports protests.

First of all, despite all the plans now in place, I’m not convinced that any sports will (or should) start up right now. And if they do, it’s one thing for the Canadian government to say we’ll allow NHL players into Toronto (or Edmonton or Vancouver) because at least they’ll be sort of self-isolating. But, despite writing and commenting mostly about hockey, I’m a baseball fan above all else. A Blue Jays fan above all else. Still, I sure as hell hope the Canadian government won’t let the Blue Jays play at home, coming and going from the United States every three days to a week, and bringing in players from visiting American teams equally as often. That seems like madness to me. If Dunedin is unsafe (and I sure wouldn’t want to be in Florida right now), let the Blue Jays play out of Buffalo.

IF sports do resume, I hope that athletes will continue to protest. But if they do, here’s what I’d like to see. Please do not protest during the National Anthem. Not that I disagree with doing that, but by removing the National Anthem from the protests, you’d remove all the wrong-headed “they’re disrespecting the flag” nonsense. Don’t give them the chance.

Instead, when the referee or umpire brings the teams together for the opening kick-off, face-off, tip-off, or pitch, please take a knee then. On opening day, in each sport, perhaps take a knee for the 8-and-a-half minutes it took to murder George Floyd. The rest of the time, maybe a symbolic 30-seconds will do.

Stadiums will mostly be empty, but, if not, I bet there’d be a fair share of people booing and expressing “shut up and play” sentiments. Even if many people wouldn’t feel emboldened to speak out these days, I suspect plenty still feel that way. Even without the ability to say it, I’m sure there are too many who would like to see Black people kept in their place. I hope I’m wrong.

You may disagree with me if you’d like. Maybe my thoughts are naive. I won’t respond to comments on this story regardless of whether they’re positive or negative. If you agree with my thoughts on protesting, feel free to share this post. I’m not on Twitter, but if you are, and you agree, I’d be happy to have you Tweet this. But that’s up to you.

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking…

Philosophical Differences

Been a long time since I’ve written about hockey on my web site. Just haven’t felt like I’ve had anything much to say. But, recently, I’ve done a few TV and radio hits about Don Cherry and Mike Babcock. Many of you have seen or heard them through Facebook, but for those who haven’t, I’ve posted links below.

The truth is, I’m not really sure why I was called on in these cases. Both events seemed more suited to modern analysis than historical perspective, but I’m hammy enough that even when I’ve wanted to say no, I haven’t turned them down. (For those who are curious, no, they do NOT pay me – which might be why they actually call!) It’s nice to know that they think I can handle myself, and I suppose it means they also believe I have something to contribute to the discussion. So here’s what I might have said about Babcock from an historical perspective if there had been more time…

One of the things that struck me most about firing Mike Babcock is how far the Leafs have strayed from their tradition. (And, yes, I know there’s been a long tradition of being terrible the last 50+ years, but that didn’t used to be the case!)

It’s been a long time, but when the Leafs were at their historical best – in the 1940s and the 1960s – they were defensively sound with star players who put the coach’s systems ahead of their own statistics. Of course, coaches ruled the roost in those days, but I still find this interesting. Traditionally, Montreal had bigger stars and played a more exciting style, but remember that prior to expansion, both Toronto and Montreal won the Stanley Cup 13 times in the NHL’s first 50 seasons. (The Canadiens also won in 1916, before the NHL was formed.) So despite their philosophical differences, there wasn’t much to choose results-wise between the NHL’s two greatest franchises

Yes, Toronto did have some star power over the years. Players such as Charlie Conacher, Busher Jackson and Syl Apps were once among the biggest names in the game. But guys like Dave Keon and Teeder Kennedy (who were ranked first and third among the team’s top 100 back in the 100th anniversary season – Apps was second) were “200-foot players” well before that was a term. Those two didn’t win a ton of individual honours, but they won the Stanley Cup plenty of times!

Hap Day and Mike Babcock.

When I was putting together my book The Toronto Maple Leafs: The Complete Oral History, I was struck by how similar the coaching philosophy of Mike Babcock seemed to be to that of Hap Day. Day was named team captain in 1927-28 and later became the most successful coach in Leafs history in the 1940s before moving into upper management. Here’s how he explained his coaching philosophy to Jack Batten for his 1975 book The Leafs in Autumn:

“When I was a defenceman on Toronto, I saw all kinds of players in front of me, and I learned right then that it’s defence that wins hockey games…. When you think of defence, you think of the two men, the defencemen, isn’t that right? Wrong! Think of all six men doing the job on defence. I told my players if they worked as hard coming back as they did going down the ice, we’d be okay. Of course, you had to have the proper type of player to handle that approach – or make them into the proper type of player. A player’s got to learn to keep his mind on defence, apply himself.”

Now, I’m not saying the Leafs were wrong to fire Mike Babcock. If they truly believe they have the run-and-gun skill team Kyle Dubas wants, Babcock no longer looked like the right man for the job. As I said on TV and radio, he seemed determined to make the team fit his system (or die trying!) rather than adapt his system to fit the team he had. But Day didn’t adapt either, even with scoring stars like Apps and Max Bentley. He made them play defense. And he got results with Stanley Cup wins in 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948 and 1949 (plus another as GM in 1951) to point to.

I found this interesting too…

This is what Sheldon Keefe said in one of his early press conferences after being named Leafs coach: “I’m not focused on what this team isn’t. I’m focused on what this team is.”

It put me in mind of what new coach Billy Reay said back in 1957 when he was hired after Day was let go: “I try to capitalize on a player’s strong points, rather than in trying to build up his weak ones.”

Similar sentiments, I think!

Billy Reay and Sheldon Keefe.

But it didn’t work out so well for Reay. The Leafs went 21-38-11 in a 70-game season in 1957-58 and finished last in the overall standings for the only time in the six-team era. After getting off to a 5-12-3 start the following season, Reay was fired and Punch Imlach took over. Like Day, Imlach ran a team where star players had to fit into his system … and there were Stanley Cup parades again in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967.

Now, I’m not suggesting the Leafs need someone like Punch Imlach, whose dictatorial ways couldn’t possibly fly today. (Nor am I saying that Babcock’s implacability makes him some sort of modern-era Imlach – though we are starting to hear more and more about his vindictive personality.) Nor do I believe the Maple Leafs were ever quite as tough as Conn Smythe’s “beat ’em in the alley” philosophy intimates, but I do agree that there are other ways of being tough that don’t involve beating up on someone. I actually hope the Leafs can succeed on offensive skill, but I’m not yet convinced they have those other kinds of toughness. But I have no analytical insights into that.

So, was changing coaches a good move? Only time will tell…

(Links: CTV News Channel TV / John Oakley Show Radio.
For my money – or lack-there-of! – radio is much more fun!)

Babe Siebert’s Sad Story

The death of former NHL goalie Ray Emery, who drowned in Lake Ontario at Hamilton this weekend at the age of 35, brought to mind the deaths of two other old-time hockey players. I’ve written before about the accident that killed hockey star Hod Stuart in the summer of 1907. Like Stuart, Babe Siebert left a young family behind when he also drowned at the age of 35. Siebert was swimming in Lake Huron near the town of St. Joseph, Ontario, on August 25, 1939.

Babe Siebert (whose given names are usually listed in hockey records as Albert Charles, but whose birth certificate and marriage documents record his name as Charles Albert) is not a well-known name today. He was a big star in the 1920s and ’30s and would later be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. But that was all a long time ago…

Gazette

Briefly, Babe Siebert was a star forward with the Montreal Maroons from 1925 to 1932, helping the second-year team win the Stanley Cup in his rookie season of 1925–26. He later played right wing on The S-Line (or Triple-S Line) with fellow future Hall of Famers Nels Stewart and Hooley Smith. Though lacking the size of a modern power forward (Siebert was pretty big for his era at 5’10” and 182 pounds) he was as tough as he was talented. A game against the Maroons was usually a rough one.

Playing with Boston in 1933–34, Siebert was moved to defense by Art Ross when Eddie Shore was suspended following the Ace Bailey Incident. Siebert soon became an All-Star at his new position, but even so, the Bruins traded him to the Canadiens before the 1936-37 season. He won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP that year.

Journal

“On the ice he’s a tough hombre,” wrote Harold Parrott of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, on January 19, 1937, “and Lionel Conacher of the Maroons says, he can’t be trusted with a stick in his hands. Off the ice he’s as gentle as a lamb, caring for his crippled wife. At home games at the Forum the Babe is always first dressed after the battle, and he hurries to carry his wife to their automobile. He always installs her, long before game time, in a comfortable seat behind the goal that the Canadiens will defend in two of the three periods – so that she can watch his play more closely.”

According to Siebert’s biography on the Hockey Hall of Fame web site, his wife (Bernice) had been paralyzed from the waist down after complications during the birth of their second child.

“‘A tough guy,’ they called the Babe,” said a piece in the Montreal Gazette by Harold McNamara the day after Siebert died, “but they didn’t see him working around the house, an apron draped over his suit, doing work that his wife was unable to do. They didn’t see him playing with his two children, showing pictures of them around the dressing room.”

Marriage

What makes Siebert’s death so tragic was that – having been named the Canadiens new head coach in June of 1939 – he was on a short vacation with his two girls, aged 10 and 11, at the time. He’d brought them to his parents home in Zurich, Ontario, towards the end of August a few days before an 80th birthday party for his father.

On the afternoon of August 25, 1939, Siebert, his two daughters, two nieces and a local friend, Clayton Hoffman, were enjoying a day at the beach. When it was time to go, and Siebert called in the children, one of them left an inflated inner tube floating in the lake. “Babe then went to get the tube,” Hoffman explained. “But the wind was carrying it along parallel to the shoreline and it was soon apparent he was in difficulty. I was standing on the shore fully dressed when I heard his cries for help.”

Hoffman went in after Siebert. He got within about 35 feet. “Before I could reach him, Babe had gone down for the last time.”

Efforts to recover Siebert’s body took three days. He was eventually found by his brother Frank and another local man in 150 feet of water about 40 feet from the spot where he’d disappeared. A funeral and burial took place in Kitchener, Ontario, on August 30.

“He was not only a fine man from a point of view of hockey but he was a model father and a fine husband to his sick wife,” NHL president Frank Calder had said upon learning of Siebert’s death. “He was a model of self-sacrifice. He was not the kind of player who made money in the winter and spent it in the summer. Siebert was a conscientious man who worked all year round. There is nothing too fine that can be said about him.”

A day before the funeral, the Montreal Canadiens announced that Art Ross had proposed a benefit game with the Bruins for before the season to raise money for Siebert’s family. It would expand into a game between the NHL All-Stars and the Canadiens played on October 29, 1939. The All-Stars scored a 5-2 victory in front of only 6,000 people. Still, it was said that the goal of raising $15,000 would be met.

I haven’t been able to learn much about Bernice Siebert’s life after her husband’s death, but she did live to see the Babe voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in June of 1964 and officially inducted that August. She passed away in Kitchener on November 24, 1964 at age 58. In addition to a brother and three sisters, she was survived by her two daughters and six grandchildren.

Obit

A Sneak Peek…

My new book, The Toronto Maple Leafs: The Complete Oral History, will be released one month from today. Invitations to launch parties in Toronto and Owen Sound will be sent out in October. Meantime, click on this link for a sneak preview.

If you won’t be able to make either of the launches in November, you can pre-order a copy now. (The link has details.) And here’s what some advanced readers have thought of the book:

Cover

Eric Zweig captures what the Toronto Maple Leafs have meant to many hockey fans since their inception. I had particular interest in the decades following their 1967 Stanley Cup victory, and Eric captures the ups and downs of the team for all fans of hockey. I particularly enjoyed reading of the present state of the Maple Leafs and how Eric has detailed the rebirth and future of this franchise.
– Scotty Bowman, Hockey Hall of Fame Builder and winningest coach in NHL history

… I am so delighted that my distant journalistic pal, Eric Zweig, has produced this magnificent, insightful, and all-encompassing oral history of the Leafs I so much loved. To put it simply — and historically — the moment I began turning these pages, I felt precisely the same thrill as when I heard Foster Hewitt shriek He Shoots! He Scores!! on a big Don Metz goal in that classic 1942 playoff comeback. Eric Zweig wrote — and he scored!
– Stan Fischler, hockey historian, broadcaster, and author

A standout hockey book of Leaf fortunes and foibles with a twist. Zweig calls on numerous chroniclers of Leaf history to make this one hum. Leaf Nation will love it.
– Brian McFarlane, bestselling author and former broadcaster

Eric Zweig has bled blue and white since he was seven years old. But this is far, far from just a fan’s book. When you combine the abject fan with a fine historian and a writer’s ear for grand storytelling, you end up with the book on the Toronto Maple Leafs, from past grandeur through years of debacle to today’s future promise. A wonderful read.
– Roy MacGregor, bestselling author and Globe and Mail columnist

Eric Zweig is acknowledged within the hockey community as one of its premier historians, and he unequivocally proves why he has few equals in his field with this outstanding history of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Eric leaves no stone unturned with his exhaustive research in this truly entertaining but equally important book.
– Kevin Shea, hockey historian and author

Not just another history of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but generational work by one of hockey’s premier historians, period. Supremely researched and presented, as one would expect of Eric Zweig.
– Howard Berger, former Leafs radio reporter and creator of BetweenThePosts.ca

The hundred-year history of the Toronto Maple Leafs is so rich in drama and event and personality — there are even some (long-ago) Stanley Cups in there, somewhere. Trust Eric Zweig to wrangle it all into such a full and compelling narrative, which he has done — just as the Leafs look like they’re ready to dominate again.
– Stephen Smith, author of Puckstruck: Distracted, Delighted and Distressed by Canada’s Hockey Obsession

A History of Sports and The National Anthem

How is it, I was asked yesterday in the wake of recent news, that the National Anthem got hooked up with sports in the first place?

Although I had been asked specifically about hockey when I first looked into this back in 2009, the best answer I could find indicated that the practice of playing the National Anthem at sports events began when The Star-Spangled Banner was played during the 1918 World Series. That seemed reasonable to me, given that Major League Baseball cut short the regular season that year due to World War I.

However, I also found that, in a story in the Toronto Star from May 4, 1917, the National Anthem (presumably God Save the King) had been played prior to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ opening game of the International League baseball season. No doubt World War I was the reason again, but clearly, while the World Series of 1918 must have garnered more attention in the United States, it couldn’t have been the first time. [NOTE: See this later story from the Boston Globe on October 25, 2017.]

Yesterday, I asked John Thorn, the Official Historian for Major League Baseball (who I’ve known since 1998 when Dan Diamond and Associates created Total Hockey for John’s Total Sports Publishing company) what he knew about the history of the National Anthem and baseball. As it says in the sub-title of the article he sent me, the story goes “back, back, back.”

It turns out that the connection goes all the way back to the time of the U.S. Civil War. It was the opening game of the Union Grounds ballpark in Brooklyn, New York, on May 15, 1862, and the band on hand for the festivities began the musical proceedings by playing The Star-Spangled Banner. I think both John and I are only speculating at a direct connection between the War and the playing of the National Anthem that day, but it certainly makes sense.

Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 16, 1862. Page 2.

I wrote about God Save the King being played prior to a game in 1910 in my very first book, the novel Hockey Night in the Dominion of Canada. The book was published 25 years ago and I honestly can’t remember anymore if I’d come across any evidence of this having actually happened at the time. (The book was fiction, after all!) However, the National Anthem was most definitely played prior to the opening home game of the Ottawa Senators early in the second NHL season of 1918-19.

This game between Ottawa and the defending Stanley Cup champions from Toronto was played on December 26, 1918, just a few weeks after the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. Prior to the War, previous Governors-General had often attended games in the Canadian capital, but with the Duke of Devonshire in attendance that night, it marked the first time since before the war that, as newspapers put it, “the hockey season was ushered in under vice-regal patronage.” When the Duke and his party arrived shortly before the start of the game, the Governor-General’s Foot Guard “played the National Anthem and every person within the big rink stood up.”

Ottawa
This article appeared in the Vancouver World on December 27, 1918.

But when did the National Anthem become a regular occurrence at sports event? Apparently, it wasn’t until 1924 in Paris that National Anthems were played for every winner at the Olympics. John Thorn’s story mentions that although some Major League Baseball teams had begun playing the National Anthem before games in 1941, which was prior to the U.S. entering World War II, it became universal in baseball in 1942 after American  involvement. I haven’t looked into the National Anthem and football, but it seems reasonable to believe the practice started in the NFL around the same time.

As for hockey, it’s been said that the tradition of playing the National Anthem prior to games began around 1930. This picture of the Boston Bruins and Montreal Maroons at the Boston Garden may well have been taken during the NHL playoffs in 1930. It’s often said to be an early example of the “new” trend.

Boston

Certainly the practice seems to have been common enough that no special reason was needed when this article appeared in the Montreal Gazette on January 12, 1931:

Montreal

Still, there’s reason to believe that, even if it wasn’t continuous from 1918, the link between National Anthems and the National Hockey League dates back to at least the mid 1920s, and perhaps before that. When the first NHL game was played in Madison Square Garden between the New York Americans and the Montreal Canadiens on December 15, 1925, bands played both The Star-Spangled Banner and God Save the King prior to the opening face-off.

In the PhD thesis that would become the basis of his book Joining the Clubs: The Business of the National Hockey League to 1945, my friend and colleague Andrew Ross notes that Tex Rickard and John Hammond (who ran the Garden, and soon the New York Rangers as well) “maintained the Canadian tradition of playing the national anthems before every game, not just restricting them to special occasions.” This practice, says Andrew, “continued thereafter and spread from the Garden to other cities and other sports.”

Andrew quotes Hammond from an article in the New York World-Telegram in December of 1934 as saying that The Star-Spangled Banner had been played before all hockey games at Madison Square Garden since the very first. “The Canadian anthem has always been associated with hockey there,” Hammond said, “and I think we should pay our anthem the same tribute.”

So even if baseball started it, it looks like it was hockey that made the National Anthem a regular part of going to a game.

Hockey Awards Season

The Hockey Hall of Fame announced its class of 2017 yesterday. Five players and two builders. I don’t know a lot about University of Alberta legend Clare Drake, but someone who dedicated his life to teaching and coaching seems to me to be the type of person the category of builder was created for. Jeremy Jacobs has certainly done his share for the game, but rich guys who own teams are a little bit harder for me to get behind.

As for the players, it’s a pretty media-friendly group this year. And you can’t really argue with the numbers for guys like Dave Andreychuk, Mark Recchi, and Teemu Selanne – although of those three, only Selanne ever achieved real superstar status. Danielle Goyette is definitely a worthy recipient from women’s hockey. Paul Kariya? Well, who doesn’t like Paul Kariya? His totals of 402 goals and 587 assists for 989 points in 989 games are pretty impressive, and at his best, he was also a superstar. Still, he’s a lot like Eric Lindros, Pavel Bure and Peter Forsberg in that he’s yet another inductee of whom it could be argued that he’s being honoured for the potential of what might have been if not for the injuries …. But I’m not really going to complain.

HHOF

The Hockey Hall of Fame doesn’t release voting results the way the Baseball Hall of Fame does. (Hockey has a fairly small selection committee of industry insiders, while Baseball relies on a large pool of veteran sportswriters.) The NHL does reveal the details of the voting for its awards, but since I’m not aware of a lot of media outlets that ever bother to release them, I thought people might find it interesting to see the results. So, here they are…

HartSelected from 167 votes cast by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Norris
Selected from 167 votes cast by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

3
Selected from 167 votes cast by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Vezina
Selected from 30 votes cast by NHL general managers.

Byng
Selected from 167 votes cast by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Selke
Selected from 167 votes cast by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.


Selected from 105 votes cast by the NHL Broadcasters Association.

GM
Voting conducted among NHL general managers and a panel of NHL executives, print and broadcast media at the conclusion of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

An Ace Of An Idea!

As you likely know by now, the Maple Leafs’ lavish ceremony on Saturday night to open the 100th season of NHL hockey in Toronto was a huge success. After years of choosing to “honour” players numbers but keep them in circulation, the team announced it would retire those numbers – as every other team in sports does for its greatest franchise heroes.

What Dave Keon had long perceived as this lack of proper recognition is what had kept him away from the team for so long, rather than any lingering resentment over his feud with Harold Ballard. Now Keon is back, and while I might quibble with his selection as the number-one player in Leafs history, his number 14 has taken its rightful place among the rest of the team’s greats.

Uni 1

In the past, the Leafs had only retired the numbers of Bill Barilko (5), who was famously killed in a plane crash after scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 1951, and Ace Bailey (6) whose career ended in 1933 when he fractured his skull after being knocked to the ice by Boston’s Eddie Shore. Even so, James van Riemsdyk was the only current Leaf wearing one of these newly retired numbers, and he gladly gave up Borje Salming’s now-retired 21 and took 25.

Team president Brendan Shanahan had something very interesting to say when asked about the decision to change the Leafs’ policy regarding retired numbers. “When you asked questions, people really didn’t have a reason why we [weren’t doing it]. I like the story of players handing numbers down … to another player. But I don’t remember Borje Salming handing a sweater to JVR. It wasn’t happening. It’s a great story. But if you’re not doing it, then let’s do the right thing.”

Uni 2

I have read accounts from Teeder Kennedy saying how pleased he was when he was given the number of his hero Charlie Conacher, and I know that Darryl Sittler has talked about his belief that the team had big plans for him because he was given Frank Mahovlich’s #27. But the only Leafs story I’m aware of where a player literally handed his former number to a current player was when Ace Bailey requested that Ron Ellis be given his #6.

Bailey handed his number to Ellis in a ceremony at the Hot Stove Lounge at Maple Leaf Gardens on September 24, 1968. “My family and I wanted to see somebody wear the number while I was still active in hockey,” said Bailey, who was a timekeeper at the Gardens. “Ron is a real hockey player who never gives his club any trouble. I think he’ll be an all-star in years to come.

“This number is two digits lighter than your old number,” Bailey joked to Ellis, who had worn #8 since his junior days, “so you should go a little faster.”

“I’ll wear this sweater with a great deal of pride,” Ellis told him.

Uni 3

But as the Toronto Star noted the following day, Ace Bailey handed a #6 sweater to Ron Ellis, but not the #6 sweater. Bailey had kept his retired jersey for nearly 30 years, but it had recently been discovered that it was missing!

Bailey had loaned his sweater to the Hockey Hall of Fame about seven years earlier, but a short time later the Maple Leafs asked the Hall if they could have it and Barilko’s #5 sweater for a display at Maple Leaf Gardens. Gardens officials swore they had returned it, but the Hall of Fame’s new curator Lefty Reid was “99 percent sure it was not in the building.”

Speculation was that Bailey’s sweater may have been destroyed a few years earlier when a drain backed up at the Hall of Fame building and flooded some storage rooms, or that a workman might have made off with it during recent renovations there.

“If anyone has seen a blue hockey sweater, 1933 vintage, with a white Maple Leaf on the front and the number 6 on the back,” wrote Jim Crerar in the Star, “please contact Lefty Reid at the Hockey Hall of Fame immediately.”

I don’t believe the sweater has ever turned up.

P.S. As a late note to this story, the dean of hockey historians Bill Fitsell points out that Charlie Conacher DID hand a #9 sweater to Teeder Kennedy, as noted in the Globe and Mail of September 11, 1946. Click on the link to the right: leafs-unis-4

Great Start … But Is It A Record?

Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews scored four goals last night in his first NHL game. It’s pretty amazing! (Although marred somewhat by Toronto’s 5-4 loss in overtime to Ottawa.) So, was it an NHL record? That’s not as straightforward as you may think!

The confusion probably goes back to the 1979-80 season when the NHL didn’t want to consider Wayne Gretzky a rookie because of his one year as a professional the season before in the World Hockey Association. Gretzky had 51 goals, 86 assists, and 137 points that season. His 51 goals would have been two short of Mike Bossy’s then-rookie record of 53 … but his 86 assists and 137 points should have been records. They still should be, but instead, you’ll see those ROOKIE records are held by Peter Stastny, Joe Juneau (70 assists) and Teemu Selanne (132 points).

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The records Gretzky is credited with for the 1979–80 season are all records for A PLAYER IN HIS FIRST NHL SEASON … but not rookie records. It can certainly get a bit confusing!

For years, the NHL listed the record for most goals by A PLAYER IN HIS FIRST NHL GAME as 3, first by Alex Smart in 1943, and then, more recently, by Real Cloutier, Fabian Brunnstrom and Derek Stepan. Unfortunately, I don’t have NHL Guide’s going back far enough, but my guess would be that before Cloutier (who, like Gretzky — but with even more years — was a WHA veteran) this was actually listed as a rookie record, but ever since I’ve been working on the Guide the wording has stated FIRST GAME and not ROOKIE.

There has also been a record for MOST GOALS BY A PLAYER IN HIS FIRST NHL SEASON, ONE GAME that for years was shared by Howie Meeker and Don Murdoch. But then, beginning with the NHL Official Guide & Record Book for 2010-11, we added the much older five-goal games by Joe Malone, Harry Hyland and Mickey Roach during their first NHL seasons. Since Malone and Hyland had both scored 5 goals in the two games played on the very first night in NHL history back on December 19, 1917, we had to add them to the record for most goals by a player in his first NHL game as well.  Given that the rule book already had a distinction between rookies and first-year players, how could we not?

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Stories from The Toronto World, December 20, 1917.
Summaries from the Toronto Star of the same date.

Malone and Hyland had both been pros, playing in the highest leagues of their day, since 1908. So, it’s certainly hard to consider them NHL “rookies” in 1917-18. Still, given that it was the league’s first season, there’s no denying that they each scored five goals in their first NHL games.

So, technically, while Auston Matthews seems to have set a rookie record last night, it’s not a record for a player in his first NHL game. But it’s still a pretty impressive debut! And if you check the summary above, you’ll note that Reg Noble scored four goals for Toronto against the Wanderers in that December 19, 1917 game. So, it looks like we’ll need to add that to the list along with Matthews for next year.

Your Guide to the NHL

The National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book will be shipped from the printer’s this week. That means it’ll be showing up in bookstores later this month. (If you’re a customer who prefers to purchase it directly from our office, it’s time to send in your email order or click this link to the dda.nhl eBay site.) If you’re a media person who receives The Guide from the NHL, or from Dan Diamond & Associates, you should be getting your copy soon.

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The National Cover

This year marks the 85th edition of The Guide & Record Book, which is pretty impressive – especially when you consider that this season marks the NHL’s 99th anniversary. All of us are certainly hoping to have the opportunity next summer of working on The Guide for the NHL’s 100th anniversary. (For something of a “behind the scenes” story, please have a look at Howard Berger’s photo essay and interview with Dan Diamond published yesterday on Howard’s web site Between the Posts. Scroll down from his top story about the Leafs’ quiet summer.)

As I said in my own story about The Guide last year,  we can’t match the up-to-the-minute aspect of the many sports web sites out there these days, but you’ll be hard pressed to find any one site on the Internet that can give you all the information we provide as neatly and concisely as what’s contained in the NHL Official Guide & Record Book. And I dare say you’ll have an even harder time finding one that does so with such attention to detail!

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New York Rangers custom cover

In my story last year, I provided a brief history of the NHL Guide and my role with it. I also wrote about how Connor McDavid’s father had helped me to make sure we had Connor’s minor hockey stats correct. Nothing quite as impressive as that this year, but as usual, there were some 40+ people I contacted to make sure we got the stats for some 150 or so new North American Draft choices as accurate as possible. Many of these people have helped out year after year. Others I encountered for the first time this summer.

Among my favourite stories this year involves Adam Vay. Vay wasn’t drafted, but was signed as a free agent by the Minnesota Wild in May. He’s from Budapest, Hungary, and is currently the only Hungarian in The Guide. (The Edmonton Oilers drafted Tamas Groschl of Budapest – who was still playing in Europe last year, although he never made it to the NHL – back in 1999).

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Calgary Flames custom cover

Our International Editor and European expert, Igor Kuperman, was able to confirm the overseas stats for Vay that can be found on many web sites, but I wanted to track down the numbers for the two seasons he spent playing junior hockey – in Texas! – with the El Paso Rhinos of the Western States Hockey League. (Vay, by the way, is one of two players in the Guide to come out of the WSHL; the other being Jeremy Langlois – pronounced LANG-LOYS, not LAN-GWAH because he’s from Tempe, Arizona, not Canada. You’ve probably never heard of Langlois, but he spent the last three seasons in the San Jose Sharks’ system.)

Anyway, the Minnesota Wild did seem to have detailed numbers for Vay in their press release when they announced his signing – but nobody else did. I always like to be able to confirm such things and for whatever reason, a lot of the web sites that are great for minor and junior hockey stats aren’t very good for goalies. They seem to be set up mainly to track goals, assists, points, and penalty minutes, and often only show games and goals-against average for goalies. That was certainly the case with Vay, and the correct Pointstreak site that should have had the full numbers for the Western States Hockey League from past seasons was proving difficult to find.

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Los Angeles Kings custom cover

It’s not always easy to get a hold of hockey people in the summer. That’s often a frustration in our job. So, I can’t say I was expecting much when, late on a Monday afternoon in early August, I called the office of the El Paso Rhinos. Much to my surprise, a young woman (who can’t possibly be as young as she sounded!) answered the phone. She’s the team’s Assistant Director of Hockey Operations, and was able to direct me to exactly where I needed to go to find Vay’s complete stats for his two seasons with the team. (The Wild had it right, by the way!)

“How does a kid from Budapest find his way to El Paso?” I asked.

“We have scouts all over Europe,” she said.

Who knew?!?

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Adam Vay in action with the El Paso Rhinos. For more on his story, click here.

Vay’s not likely to make the kind of impact in Minnesota this season that Connor McDavid has made in Edmonton. In fact, after spending last year back in Hungary, he may well find himself with the Wild’s American Hockey League farm club in Des Moines, Iowa, or even their ECHL team in Moline, Illinois. But I’ll certainly be watching to see if and when he makes it to the NHL!