It was 50 years ago today, on September 28, 1972, that Paul Henderson scored to win for Team Canada. As I indicated in the story I posted three weeks ago, I know that goal — that series — is a big reason why I became the sports fan I remain to this day. I played plenty of sports, too, over the years, and I also know — perhaps like most of us who don’t become professional athletes — that my greatest moments came when I was still a kid.
I suppose my greatest personal accomplishment was winning the Grade 9 scoring title in the Zion Heights intramural football league early in the 1977-78 school year. In a five-game season, I scored nine touchdowns and three two-point converts for a total of 60 points. I was a tight end. We didn’t throw the ball much, and I scored most of those points running the “end around” play. Good as I was that year, our team lost the championship game, and as Richard Jacobson would constantly remind me over the years, I couldn’t block him.
Truth was, I couldn’t block anyone! I didn’t like blocking. I didn’t like getting hit either. I just wanted to run and catch. I’m sure my friend Jody Munro will remember the Zion game when I was taken down hard (pretty close to a tree along the sidelines, as I recall). I rolled over and moaned, “Now I KNOW I’m dead!”
Not surprisingly, it was touch football where I really excelled.
The team championships I won came in hockey a few years earlier. When I started playing house league hockey in grade four, I was pretty terrible. My brother David, who is two years younger, also started playing that year and wasn’t very good either. But that summer, we went to the Roger Crozier Hockey School in Barrie, Ontario, near our cottage on Lake Simcoe. It was only for a week, but we learned from some NHL players (Dale Rolfe of the Rangers and Andy Bathgate, who was retired at that point) among other instructors. Both of us improved greatly!
That coming winter, I played for John Elliott Real Estate in my second year as an atom in the Willowdale Boys Club. I was now an indispensable offensive defenseman. (I remember one day, when a forward got hurt, and I volunteered to play the wing in his place, our coach said, “you play good enough offense from defense.”) I won the trophy for Most Improved Player that year, and helped my team win the league title.
The next year, I began my minor peewee season with Jerrett’s Funeral Home. (Honestly!) We started strong, but this was still house league. They liked to keep the teams well-balanced, and after a few weeks the league often made trades to keep things even. I remember getting a call from the convenor of the league saying the coach from Andrew Morrison Real Estate wanted me. It was my choice, and I agonized over it. (I think, after that year, they no longer gave kids the choice when they made trades.) I didn’t want to go, but I remember my father saying, “The coach wants you. He thinks you can help his team.”
So, I said yes.
It was a great call!
Maybe the team would have improved anyway, but I helped them win the championship that year. This was a pretty strong team, led on offense by the coach’s son, Carey MacIntyre, and Ross Takahuchi. I played defense with Blake Jacobs. He was the Charlie Huddy to my Paul Coffey. (In those days, I’d have thought of myself more as Bobby Orr — although I knew I wasn’t that good!) Our goalie was Andrew Spitzer; the best in the league.
During that season with Andrew Morrison (1974-75), I had what I consider to be my own personal Team Canada story. (Andrew, if you read this, I’d love to know if you remember!)
At some point during the winter, we played an exhibition game against a team from Keswick, Ontario. Keswick was (and still is) a very small town about an hour north of Toronto. I guess we were snooty, big city kids (even though we all lived in the northern suburbs). We thought, “no way these country bumpkins are going to beat us!”
I think we played on a Sunday morning at Mitchell Field, which was an outdoor arena where our teams often practiced. The Keswick kids killed us! I think it was 7-1. I remember being outclassed and exhausted — which must have been how Team Canada felt after that stunning first game loss to the Soviets.
Some time later, we went up to Keswick for a return game. This one was played in what I remember as a pretty large indoor arena, after which we all had dinner together in a banquet room attached to the rink. I don’t remember the score of this one (it may have been 4-3), but we played so much better and we beat them by a single goal.
My personal highlight came late in the game, as we were hanging on to our one-goal lead. A Keswick player was on a breakaway. I closed in on him, and then launched myself along the ice to attempt a diving hook check. It was a play I’d pulled off before, having first seen it demonstrated in an instructional film at Roger Crozier’s.
As I reached my stick between this guy’s skates, he started to teeter off balance. I managed to hook the puck away, but I definitely remember thinking, “If he goes down, they’re going to call a penalty shot.” He didn’t — he probably should have! — and I pulled it off. The crisis was averted, and we won the game.
I didn’t score the winning goal, but I still remember that play as my Paul Henderson moment.
It was September of 1972. I was only eight years old — wouldn’t turn nine until late October — and in grade four at Snowcrest Public School. (That’s fourth grade, for those of you who speak American.) I started playing hockey that year too, although I wasn’t very good yet.
There’s actually quite a lot I still remember about that school year.
But nothing was bigger than the Canada-Russia series!
You can pretty much draw a straight line — well, maybe not all that straight, really — from that series in 1972 (it wasn’t called the Summit Series until some time later) to today, and what I do for a living 50 years later, and have been doing for more than 30 years. So, how could I not write about it?
That being said, I really don’t have anything new to contribute to the collective memory. Even my one bit of original insight is discussed (a little bit) in Ken Dryden’s new book, The Series: What I Remember, What It Felt Like, What It Feels Like Now.
I came to know Ken when he was president of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (He has helped me, from time to time over the years, with answers to questions for some of my own projects.) We at Dan Diamond & Associates did a lot of work with the Leafs when they were moving from Maple Leafs Gardens to the Air Canada Centre (now the Scotiabank Arena) and Ken and Dan became good friends. He came to a few of our office Christmas parties and curling bonspiels.
At one of those events, I’d mentioned to Ken that I’d recently watched the entire ’72 series, which had come out on DVD around that time, and how exciting it still was! This was probably in 2002. At that point, Ken had never seen the games since having played in them 30 years before. I asked him how come he and the others who had played with the Canadian national team (the Nats) before going pro hadn’t been able to impart to their Team Canada teammates just how good the Russians really were. He basically told me, “I thought the NHL players were that much better.”
Dryden had seen the Soviet team in action for the first time when he joined the Nats for the 1969 World Championships in Sweden in March. He would face them for the first time on December 20, 1969. Dryden writes that the game was in Victoria, but it was actually in Vancouver. The Nats beat the Soviets the next night in Victoria 5-1 with Wayne Stephenson in goal, but in Vancouver on the 20th, they’d beaten Dryden and the Canadians 9-3.
“Rod Seiling,” says Dryden of his Team Canada teammate in his new book, “had played against the Russians with the national team, Red Berenson [another new teammate] with the Belleville McFarlands, and a few others against touring Russian teams as juniors. And when I said the Russians were good, I knew they were — I’d lost, 9-3, in Victoria! Some of the others might have known too. [Brian Glennie, who was with Team Canada, had played at the 1968 Olympics.] But the Russians had only been good against the national team and junior teams, few of whose players ever played a minute in the NHL. This was Team Canada. These were NHL stars, the best in the world. So, I knew, but really, I only kind of knew.”
As for me, at the age of eight … I knew nothing!
I didn’t even know there was such a thing as international hockey. Had no idea of the string of Soviet successes. I’m not 100 percent certain I actually remember the announcement that was made in April of 1972 that the series would happen, or the unveiling of the roster in June. But I certainly do remember the fuss about Bobby Hull being ineligible for the team because he’d left the NHL to sign with the World Hockey Association. And I remember all the talk of how Canada would beat the Russians in all eight games.
I believed it
Why wouldn’t I?
Like I said, I knew nothing about international hockey. I’d watched the Apollo moon landings, but I really knew nothing of the Space Race either. The Russians might as well have been men from the moon as far as I knew. We played hockey in Canada. No one else did! There were plenty of American teams in the NHL … but all the players were Canadians.
Of course we’d win all eight games!
Game one was played on September 2, (a Saturday night) in Montreal. We watched in Toronto at my Zweig grandparents’ apartment. My grandfather had died at the end of August. This was still a night of sitting shiva, the weeklong mourning period in Judaism. I was at the apartment with my mother and father and my two brothers. I remember my father’s Uncle Abe being there too. I think Uncle Saul as well. (They were my grandmother’s brothers.) I’d been to my grandfather’s funeral just five days before … but the memories are completely separate.
What I remember from that night is the excitement of Canada’s two quick opening goals; Phil Esposito after just 30 seconds, and Paul Henderson’s goal six minutes later. I don’t remember when it dawned on us that the Soviets were starting to take over. I do remember it was 4-2 for them after two periods, and that the heat in Montreal was making our guys look slow, sweaty, and tired. (Did I realize how much it was the Russians making us look slow, sweaty, and tired? I don’t remember.) I do remember Bobby Clarke scoring in the third period to cut the lead to 4-3, and that it was all downhill after that until the 7-3 final.
Was I stunned?
I can’t really say that I was.
When you’re eight years old, I think you take the world as it comes.
I don’t remember anything hockey from the Sunday off day, but Monday was Labour Day so Tuesday was a school day. For that reason, I was only allowed to watch the first period of game two from Toronto on Monday night. I may have listened to more on the radio after going to bed, but I’m sure I didn’t know the final score (Canada won, 4-1) until I woke up on Tuesday morning. I don’t remember talking about it at school … although we must have! I do remember talking to my friend, Alan Rusonik, later in the week about the Soviet national anthem. We all liked that!
On September 6, I likely watched only the first period of game three from Winnipeg as well. That one ended in a 4-4 tie. What I actually do remember about that game came the next day, when a young woman who was going to Seneca College arrived at our house. She would be living in a bedroom in our basement that school year, and helping to look after my brothers and me. The first thing I remember Cheryl saying to us was, “Don’t you think they should be playing overtime in a series like this?”
I knew I was going to like her!
But, of course, that tie game would later help in the dramatic finish.
Game four, in Vancouver, was played 50 years ago tonight, on September 8, which was a Friday in 1972. We watched that one at our cousin’s, the Freedman’s, house. As it wasn’t a school night, I guess we were allowed to stay up and watch it all, but I can’t say I remember too much of this one either.
I do remember the booing.
Especially when Frank Mahovlich fell on top of Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak … and took way too long to get up off him.
I must have seen Phil Esposito’s speech after the game, where he basically took Canadian fans and media to task for the boos and bad press. I’ve seen the clip many times in recent years, so it’s hard to be sure what I know and what I remember. It’s possible that I mainly remember it from pictures in the book Twenty-Seven Days in September, which came out in 1973, and which I’m sure I studied more closely than any school book I ever read.
After the Vancouver game, the series took a two-week break before it resumed in Moscow. The Canadian players had a few days off, and then travelled to Sweden for a pair of exhibition games with the Swedish national team. There was no coverage of those games here in Canada, but I do remember the bad press and the Swedes accusing the Canadians of being thugs.
Game five, the first game in Moscow, was played on September 22. Another Friday. I watched the opening ceremonies, with the exchange of gifts and flowers, while I was home for lunch. Definitely saw Espo slip and fall, then bow to the crowd. And then it was back to school.
At some point that afternoon, probably after recess, I remember just walking out of my classroom. Mr. McMinn’s class was up the hall. His kids were what we called “the slow learners.” They had a TV in their room. I suppose they used it to watch Sesame Street, or other educational programs on TVO. This afternoon, they were watching the hockey game!
I sat in the hallway, outside the door, and listened.
I can still sort of see myself, sitting there.
I don’t really remember what I heard, but I know that Canada blew a 4-1 lead in that game and lost 5-4. Still, the noisy gang of 3,000 Canadian fans in the stands cheered the team off the ice. Team Canada trailed the series 3-1-1 … but the tide was about to turn.
I don’t remember if, back in Canada, we knew what was going on in Moscow at the time. Over the years, we’ve heard about the phones ringing all night. The food (and beer) disappearing. (I feel like I knew about that at the time.) I also don’t remember any discussion of Bobby Clarke’s slash to the ankle of Valeri Kharlamov in game six. In fact, for some reason, I don’t remember much of game six at all. It was played on a Sunday afternoon, Toronto time. I remember hearing some of it in the car while running errands with my father.
I have no idea why I wasn’t at home watching.
Radio would play a big part in my following game seven on Tuesday afternoon. Once again, I watched the early part of the game on TV at lunchtime, but this time I brought a transistor radio to school with me. I remember listening to it while walking in the school yard. Might still have been lunch time, but definitely at recess later.
It was 2-2 after two periods … and Canada needed to win this game to have a chance to win the series in game eight. Back at my desk in our classroom, I turned the radio down, but I didn’t turn it off. Our teacher, Ms. Tadman (the first Ms. I ever knew) didn’t seem like a hockey fan (I remember her as a terrible skater), but she said something to me along the lines of, “if you’ve got a radio, turn it up so we can all hear.” Which I did … and we listened to Canada score a 4-3 victory. The series was tied 3-3-1.
Two days later, for the eighth and final game, Ms. Tadman brought a TV into our classroom!
Again, I don’t really know what I remember because I saw it that afternoon or what I remember because I know it happened. There were all the bad penalty calls early in the game. There was J.P. Parise nearly swinging his stick at the referee. Later, there was the goal judge failing to turn on the light to signal a Canadian goal, and the players skating across the ice to rescue Alan Eagleson from the Soviet police after he’d protested.
As for the score, it was 2-2 after one period, but it was 5-3 Russia after two.
One of the things I remember for certain was that, when it was time for recess, the school made us go out and play. Normally, recess was my favourite part of the day, but that day, I wanted to stay inside and watch the game! I guess because we’d have the TV in our classroom, I hadn’t brought my radio this time so it was 15 minutes of pacing outside and waiting to get back in!
I don’t know for sure, but I think I saw the early third-period goal by Phil Esposito that cut the lead to 5-4, and I’m certain I saw the later goal from Yvan Cournoyer that tied it 5-5. But another thing I remember for sure is that when our school day ended at 3:10, the game wasn’t over yet.
Ms. Tadman didn’t make us leave this time … but I know that plenty of kids left anyway!
Were they crazy!?!
Of course, I stayed. And I saw Paul Henderson’s goal with 34 seconds left.
I watched Canada hold on for the 6-5 victory.
I remember throwing things into the air.
I can’t honestly say if that was after the goal, or after the game ended.
Maybe it was both times.
But it doesn’t matter.
Clearly, after 50 years, I can’t remember it all … but I’ll still never forget it!
Joe Theismann hobbled towards me on crutches, his right ankle encased in a cast to protect a broken bone. I, too, was in a cast. Mine went from the tips of the fingers on my right hand all the way up to my shoulder. I’d broken both bones in my wrist around the same time Theismann had broken his ankle. My dad and I had made our way down to the sidelines as the players came onto the field. I was too shy, but my dad called out, “Joe, would you sign my son’s cast?”
As he made his way over to me, Theismann said, “Signing casts isn’t exactly my bag.” But he was smiling when he said it. And he signed it for me. He didn’t ask me to sign his.
I know what some of you are thinking. Who in their right mind would ask Joe Theismann to sign his cast so soon after that injury?
But this wasn’t the gruesome, career-ending broken ankle of Monday Night Football fame from November 18, 1985. What Theismann said to me is a pretty good clue that we were in an earlier era. This all happened shortly after Joe’s Toronto Argonauts season-altering broken ankle of August 3, 1972.
He signed my cast before the next Argos home game on August 16 — 50 years ago tonight.
I kept that cast for the better part of 20 years, until it all but crumbled to dust.
I always say baseball is my favourite sport. And hockey is the sport that has been the main part of my professional life for almost 30 years. But football was my first sports love, and Joe Theismann was my first sports hero. He led Toronto to a 10-4 record and the East Division championship as a rookie in 1971 — before a crushing defeat by the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup. I’d seen my first Argos game in person earlier that season, and was hooked on football!
I’ve never done that much promotion for anything before. It was fun … but it was exhausting. I’d written about me and Joe Theismann in a brief biography the NGK publicity people put together for the day … and practically everyone I spoke to asked me about it! If you care to watch, you can see me telling the story in the first few minutes of my interview on The Douglas Coleman Show, a syndicated talk and music show/podcast.
Theismann spent just three years in Toronto through 1973 before signing with Washington and jumping to the NFL. Interestingly, 1973 was the same year that Borje Salming signed with the Maple Leafs and entered the NHL from Sweden. I suppose it’s because Theismann spent only those three seasons with the Argos (when I was seven-to-10-years-old) that I associate his time in Toronto with my childhood. Salming was with the Leafs for 16 seasons until 1989 (when I was 25) and has, really, been associated with the city ever since.
You may have heard the announcement last week that Salming has been diagnosed with ALS — Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Though there are better treatments now, there is still no cure for ALS. It’s a horrible disease … and it’s horrible news.
I have no personal connection to Salming, other than having watched and admired him for years. Before he came to Toronto, goalie Jacques Plante was my first favourite Leaf. (He was with the team from 1970 to 1973.) After that, I could never settle on just one. I was a big fan of Darryl Sittler, Mike Palmateer, and many of those mid-to-late ’70s Leafs. Still, Salming — with his unique brand of toughness in an era of goons — was always something special.
I recently asked my brother David what his first memory of Salming was.
It was exactly the same as mine.
We were at our family cottage late in the summer of 1973. (It was just a year after my broken arm. We were seven and nine years old.) David was looking at a newspaper story with the Maple Leafs roster, probably for training camp. There were names he recognized from the past season, and new players he hadn’t heard of yet. Two of the new names were strange, and he read them out loud to me: Borje Salming and Inge Hammarstrom.
Our family was a Toronto Star family, and I figured it would be easy to track down the article in an online search. It must have been August, or the Labour Day weekend at the very latest.
But I couldn’t find it.
Good luck to Borje and his family. It’ll be a tough battle. But few people are tougher than he is.
As I’ve said in previous posts, the book won’t go into wide release until the fall (in time for the new hockey season), but it’s available now at outlets in Kenora and to people anywhere online. (More on that in a minute.) It’s also for sale in my hometown of Owen Sound, and we’re having a local launch party here for the book next week, on Thursday, July 28 at 7 pm at The Ginger Press Bookstore and Cafe. If you’re in town — or can get here — we’d love to see you!
Otherwise, you can purchase copies at: ratportagepress.com. Click on the book cover when you get there and then follow the prompts. If you prefer to support an independent bookseller, Elizabeth Campbell Books/Darlington Gallery in Kenora has copies for sale too. Go to the Contact page on Elizabeth’s darlinggal web site, where you’ll find a phone number you can call, or a comments section you can fill out.
In Kenora, publisher Rick Brignall has copies for sale, along with issues of his Lake of the Woods Cottage Guide magazine, at Matiowski Farmers’ Market all summer long. Books are also available at the Lake of the Woods Museum and at a few other sites in Kenora.
We haven’t really sent out review copies yet, but my friend Stan Fischler has already jumped aboard with some kind words in a couple of his recent online columns for The Hockey News.
I’ve also taped some interviews to promote the local launch. The Smitty and Middy Show is hosted by Noah Smith and Tyler Middleton. It appears on various radio and cable television stations in southwestern Ontario, and also as an online podcast. If you’d like to listen, their interview with me is here. They introduce me at the 8:10 mark and I’m on from 8:30 to 34:50. (It’s pretty long, so you’re excused if you don’t listen to it all!)
My other recent interview is with Fred Wallace of CFOS Radio in Owen Sound. It’s only five minutes long, so give this one a try if the other is too long for you.
And, does anyone remember the story I posted a few years back about the man who kicked a 65-yard field goal in 1882? Well, that story didn’t actually make the final cut, but the football book I did for National Geographic Kids is finally about to come out. You can order this one from Amazon right now … but if you’re at the book launch at The Ginger Press next week, we’ll have a few copies on hand as well.
And, no. I didn’t get to meet Patrick Mahomes. But he wrote a really great foreword.
Congratulations to the Colorado Avalanche who, on Sunday night, became Stanley Cup champions for the 2021-22 NHL season. It’s Colorado’s first Cup victory in 21 years, since 2001, and the team’s third since relocating from Quebec City for the 1995-96 season. The Nordiques, of course, never won the Stanley Cup, although they were Avco Cup champions of the World Hockey Association in 1976-77.
(Congratulations also to the newest members elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, who were elected on Monday: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Alfredsson, Roberto Luongo, Riikka Sallinen, and Herb Carnegie.)
Top-tier hockey in Quebec City dates back to around 1879, and even though the Nordiques were never champions of the NHL, Quebec is not without a Stanley Cup title. Two, in fact. You just have to go back 110 years to find them. In 1912, and again in 1913, the Quebec Bulldogs of the National Hockey Association won back-to-back championships.
Not surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of similarities between Colorado’s victory in 2022 and Quebec’s in 1912. For one thing, the Avalanche completed an 82-game schedule and four rounds of playoffs with a championship victory on June 26. The Bulldogs became champions on March 5 at the conclusion of an 18-game regular season without the need of playoffs. And Quebec certainly wasn’t facing a team from Tampa Bay in 1912. American cities weren’t yet allowed to complete. The key victory for Quebec that year came in Ottawa, with later wins at home against a team from Moncton, New Brunswick.
Hockey was a very different game back then. It was played on natural ice that relied on cold (winter) temperatures. The players would look ridiculously small, and poorly equipped, to modern eyes. There was no giant 32-team league that controlled the Stanley Cup, as the NHL does today. Train travel meant leagues were small and regional. In order to ensure that the Stanley Cup was a Canadian national trophy, the champion of one league was able to challenge the champion of another for the ultimate hockey prize.
Before the 1911-12 season, a new league was added to the national landscape: the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. Brothers Frank and Lester Patrick raided the NHA’s Bulldogs, as well as the Montreal Canadiens and Montreal Wanderers, to help stock their new teams in Vancouver, Victoria and New Westminster. Only the defending NHA and Stanley Cup champion Ottawa Senators were left in tact, a move which left most experts of the day predicting Ottawa would romp to another NHA title. Instead, the four-team race that year was remarkably close.
Heading into the final weekend of the season, Quebec had a record of 9-and-8. Ottawa was 9-and-7, while the Wanderers were 8-and-8. Only the Canadiens were out of contention at 7-and-10. On March 2, 1912, the Canadiens beat the Wanderers 2-1 to eliminate them from championship contention while the Bulldogs visited the Senators. A win for the home team would clinch another NHA title, but a win for the visitors would keep their championship hopes alive.
A small group of fans was on hand from Quebec City, but they were drowned out by 6,000 Ottawa faithful as the Senators took a 2–0 lead after one period. Future Hall of Famers Joe Hall and Joe Malone of Quebec scored in the second to tie the game before Ottawa went back on top with two goals midway through the third.
Again Quebec fought back for a tie, but Ottawa went ahead 5–4 with just three minutes remaining. As the final seconds were ticking down, many Ottawa fans began to take their celebration into the streets, but with only about 10 seconds to go, Joe Malone scored to tie the game. It took until three minutes into a second overtime session for Quebec to emerge with a 6–5 victory — and newspapers seem to be equally split over whether Joe Malone or Joe Hall netted the winner.
Over 10,000 people greeted the Bulldogs when their train arrived back in Quebec City on Sunday evening. There was a brass band and a bugle corps leading a parade through the streets, and players were called on to make speeches. The Quebec Chronicle refers to Joe Hall as being treated as the hero of heroes, though the Daily Telegraph credited Malone with the winner. But whoever had scored, the Bulldogs hadn’t won the NHA title and the Stanley Cup just yet.
The Senators now had to make up a protested game from earlier in the season. If they beat the Montreal Wanderers they would be tied with Quebec and there would be a playoff. So, on the evening of March 6, 1912, the Bulldogs and some of their fans gathered for a banquet at the Victoria Hotel in Quebec City.
Course after course of fine food was served from a menu on which the first page paid tribute to Quebec players Paddy Moran, Goldie Prodger, Joe Hall, Jack Marks, Eddie Oatman, Jack MacDonald, and Joe Malone. The tribute was in the form of a song parody, spoofing the popular 1910 Billy Murray hit, What’s the Matter with Father? (People of my vintage will likely recognize the tune from What’s the Matter with Flintstone? from an early episode of the cartoon we all watched for years at lunch time.)
What's the matter with Goaler 'Pat'?
He's all right!
To 'Goldie' Prodger lift your hat —
He's all right.
Joe Hall would make a team alone;
Marks and Oatman hold their own.
What's the matter with 'Mac' and Malone?
They're all right.
A special telegraph wire was set up to provide everyone at the hotel with details of the game in Ottawa. When word came that the Wanderers had scored a 5–2 victory, the celebrations started all over again, with the Daily Telegraph reporting that people were soon singing the new song in rooms all over the hotel and then in the streets throughout the city.
The following week, the Bulldogs played a Stanley Cup challenge series against the Moncton Victorias, champions of the Maritime Professional Hockey League. “Whether the trophy will remain here long or not, will depend on the ability of he Moncton team,” reported the Quebec Daily Telegraph, which reminded its readers that, “Judging from the advance notices, Quebec will have no easy thing to handle in the Moncton team.”
But, in fact, Quebec had a very easy time as the Bulldogs romped to victory in the two-game, total-goals series with a 9-3 win on March 11 and an 8-0 rout two nights later. The next season, with the NHA expanded to six teams with the addition of the Toronto Blueshirts and the Toronto Tecumsehs, Quebec rampaged through the 20-game season with a record of 16-and-4, and then crushed another Maritime team, the Sydney Millionaires, 14-3 and 6-2 to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
My New Book is Available Now!
It’s fairly obvious to anyone who reads the stories I post that I love these “time travel” hockey tales. That’s why, when Rick Brignall contacted me a little over two years ago and asked if I’d be interested in writing the full story of the Kenora Thistles’ Stanley Cup victory of 1907, I told him that I’d kick myself if this book came out someday and I wasn’t involved with it. Now, finally, the book is ready!
As you may recall, Engraved in History: The Story of the Kenora Thistles and the Stanley Cup was originally scheduled to come out last November. A tactical delay, and then more Covid, pushed things back. (Floods this spring around Winnipeg and Kenora didn’t help either!) Now, the book is coming out in two stages. There will be a “National Launch” this fall, when you’ll be able to find the book on Amazon or, hopefully, at a store near you.
Until then, the book is available in Kenora, and will be available in my hometown of Owen Sound as well. But if you would like to purchase copies right now, and can’t get to Kenora or Owen Sound, fear not! You can order them online and copies will be mailed to you right away. You will have to pay for shipping, however.
The site is: ratportagepress.com. Click on the book cover when you get there. (The site is a little slim at the moment, but it will improve in the days ahead and is already good to.)
If you prefer to support an independent bookseller, Elizabeth Campbell Books/Darlington Gallery in Kenora has copies for sale too. Go to the Contact page on Elizabeth’s web site, where you’ll find a phone number you can call, or a comments section you can fill out.
If you are in Kenora, Rick will have the first copies for sale today at the local Farmer’s Market. (There will be a bigger event on Canada Day and the books will be available at the Cottage Guide booth at the Farmer’s Market all summer long.) They’ll also be available soon at the Lake of the Woods Museum.
In the Owen Sound area, I’ll have a few copies to sell at the Farmer’s Market in Flesherton on the morning of Saturday, July 16. Copies should be available at The Ginger Press in Owen Sound a little before that. (We’ll have something of a “Christmas in July” to celebrate at Ginger Press around the 25th or so.)
Come fall, with the full launch, we’ll have much more publicity, promotion and events.
In the meantime, if you have any other questions, you can contact me directly at email@example.com.
Well, let’s face it. It ain’t the Stanley Cup. Then again, the Leafs have won the Stanley Cup twice in my lifetime. (I don’t remember them. I was six months old in 1964 and 3 1/2 years old in 1967.) But I wasn’t even born the last time a Toronto player was named the NHL’s Most Valuable Player. Before last night, it had only happened twice in team history.
I don’t understand where the stars of the current team go once the playoffs start. Better analysts than I am have (and will continue) to discuss that. But Auston Matthews has won the Hart Trophy after a team record-breaking 60-goal season. You can’t take that away from him. And even if you want to argue that Connor McDavid is still the better player, the voting wasn’t all that close.
What do sportswriters know?
Well, Matthews also won the Ted Lindsay Award, and that’s given to the most outstanding player as voted on by his fellow players. If they think he deserves it, who are we to say he doesn’t?
The first Leafs player to win the Hart as MVP was Babe Pratt in 1944. The second — and last, until last night — was Teeder Kennedy in 1955.
Ted Kennedy was just a 17-year-old kid when the Leafs acquired him in the spring of 1943. With so many players serving in the military during Word War II, the NHL was populated mainly with young kids and worn-out veterans.
Kennedy was never the most skilled player. He wasn’t very fast. He wasn’t a big scorer. But he was a good playmaker. Most importantly, he was a leader who knew how to win. He starred during the most successful era in team history, winning the Stanley Cup in 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951. He was named captain of the team before the 1948-49 season.
Though he was still just 28 at the time, Teeder Kennedy had completed 11 seasons in the NHL by the end of 1953–54. He had planned to retire, but was convinced to come back for another year. Kennedy would score just 10 goals in 1954-55, but his 42 assists ranked third in the NHL and his leadership was a key reason why the Maple Leafs even made the playoffs.
Unlike the current team, the Leafs of Kennedy’s era won the Stanley Cup plenty of times, but didn’t win a lot of individual honours. “As coach Hap Day put it so well,” team owner Conn Smythe told reporters after the team’s Stanley Cup win in 1948, “we may not have the all-stars on our team, but we have the world champions.”
So it was somewhat ironic that Kennedy won the Hart Trophy in a year the Leafs struggled just to make the playoffs. (They were swept by the Detroit Red Wings, who went on to beat the Montreal Canadiens in seven games for the Stanley Cup.) But, when the results of the voting for the 1954-55 MVP award were announced, Kennedy easily out-polled teammate Harry Lumley as well as Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, and Doug Harvey of the Montreal Canadiens. Gordie Howe and Red Kelly of the Stanley Cup champions were well back in the voting.
Still, the general censuses was that it was about time that Teeder Kennedy was finally recognized for his talents. Everyone seemed to agree, except perhaps for the Leafs captain himself. “It comes as quite a thrill, one of the biggest I’ve had in hockey,” said Kennedy. “But I believe it should have been Harry Lumley. Leafs would have been down the drain without him. And I’m not just being modest.”
“Kennedy deserves the Hart,” said the Leafs goalie. “I hate to think of us without him. He was the guy that made our club tick.”
Despite winning the Hart, Kennedy made good on his plans to retire … though he did return to the team again during the 1956-57 season to help out when the club was hit with a rash of injuries. After that, he retired for keeps.
Sixty years later, in 2017, Teeder Kennedy was ranked third all-time — behind Dave Keon and Syl Apps — when the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrated their centennial season by naming their top 100 players. Auston Matthews undoubtedly has more sheer talent than any of those three. He’s probably already among the greatest players in Toronto’s history. But if he’s ever truly going to be the best, he’s going to have to lead the Leafs to the Stanley Cup … and pretty darn soon!
The Stanley Cup Final starts tonight. For those among my readers who haven’t been following the NHL playoffs, it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Colorado Avalanche. By all accounts, it should be a good one!
I’m not much as a hockey analyst. I don’t really watch with a critical eye. So, as I offer my thoughts, I wouldn’t exactly go rushing off with them to one of the many (MANY!) sports books being advertised on hockey broadcasts throughout the playoffs.
Personally, I think that Colorado has the more talented team, but Tampa has the better goaltender. That often makes the difference. Before the playoffs started, I offered the opinion that I didn’t think the Lightning were going to win again. If they do, it’ll be three in a row. To me, that would automatically place them among the greatest teams of all time — especially when considering all the obstacles over the past couple of years. I’m not really convinced they’re that … but I wouldn’t bet against them at this point.
That being said, you don’t come to me expecting analysis. You come to me (I hope!) for some historical perspective. So, here we go…
This year’s Colorado–Tampa Bay matchup guarantees it’ll be at least 30 years by 2023 since a Canadian team last won the Stanley Cup. I think that as much as some Canadian fans enjoy watching hockey, they enjoy bashing Gary Bettman just as much. Though Bettman is the guy who spearheaded hockey’s southern expansion — capitalizing on the success of Wayne Gretzky in Los Angeles — he probably can’t take the blame for this long drought. I don’t really have an answer as to why Canadian teams haven’t won for so long. (I don’t think anyone really does.) It’s probably just a statistical quirk.
Colorado, being ski country, at least seems like a winter state where there’s no reason not to enjoy hockey. And, indeed, the origins of hockey in Colorado go back to at least the late 1800s. According to the web site International Hockey Wiki, it was noted in the town of Leadville, Colorado, on December 17, 1890, by a Mr. M.A. Morland that there were a number of good skaters in the city, and that “There used to be a hockey club here and I cannot see why one should not be gotten up now.”
Leadville is in the center of the state, about 100 miles from Denver and not too far from Vail and Aspen. A game of ice polo (a similar, but different, sport) was reportedly played in Leadville on December 8, 1894, and hockey games were played at the Leadville Crystal Palace as part of the Leadville Crystal Carnival hockey tournament in 1896. Apparently, the Denver Athletic Club formed a team that same winter.
The first mention of a hockey team in Denver that I could find in newspapers doesn’t appear until February of 1898. On February 2, 1898, the Leadville Herald Democrat reported that arrangements had been made for a game between the Denver AC and the local club for later that week. On game day, February 5, the same paper noted that the game that Saturday night would be for the state championship. The next day, the Leadville newspaper, with a lead in language so politically incorrect it just wouldn’t fly anymore, reported on the 7–1 victory of the home team, whose maroon, red, and white colors weren’t all that different from what the Avalanche wear in the NHL today.
Not surprisingly, hockey history in the Tampa Bay area isn’t quite as old. Though there was hockey being played in the Miami area as long ago as 1938 (which you’ll be able to read quite a bit about in my book Hockey Hall of Fame: True Stories when it comes out this fall), the first hockey team on Florida’s west coast isn’t quite that old, though its first campaign of 1971–72 was still 50 years ago this season.
According to information on the web site of the Society for International Hockey Research, the old Eastern Hockey League granted a franchise to the St. Petersburg area on May 12, 1971. However, the earliest reference I could find in a Tampa newspaper was from May 30, 1971. Tampa Tribune sports editor Tom McEwen confirmed the story on June 3, 1971, under the headline ‘The Icemen Cometh.’
As of then, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Wauchula area team had no name, but McEwen speculated that they would surely be dubbed “Suns, Stringrays, Porpoises, Pelicans, Sharks, Senior Citizens, Mullets, Geritols, Oysters, Ecologists, Suncoasters, Catfish, or Whatnots.” McEwen had cast a wide net, but he was more or less right on two counts when the rival Tampa Times reported on July 26, 1971, that the team had officially been dubbed the Suncoast Suns.
The Suncoast Suns lasted just two seasons in the EHL, and played a third and final year in 1973-74 in the Southern Hockey League. The team boasted at least two NHL players. There was Ed Kea during that first season of 1971–72. A native of Collingwood, Ontario, Kea went on to play with the Atlanta Flames and the St. Louis Blues between 1973 and 1983. There was also Cliff Pennington, of Winnipeg. Pennington, who finished out his hockey career playing all three seasons with the Suns in both leagues, had previously played in the NHL with Montreal and Boston over three seasons in the early 1960s.
So, there you go!
And, changing subjects… my Facebook memory this morning noted that it was two years ago today that I signed a contract to write a book about the Kenora Thistles. Two-plus years from signing to publication isn’t unheard of, but it is a little bit on the long side for me. So, here is a long-awaited update.
Engraved in History: the Story of the Stanley Cup Champion Kenora Thistles has now been printed! I expect to receive my own author’s copies any day now. The book will soon be available in the Kenora area in time for summer cottage season in the region. There will also be a web site where the book will be more widely available. As soon as I have information on that, I will pass it along. However, at this point, the book won’t truly go into “wide release” until the fall. At that point, you should be able to purchase copies on Amazon and through other booksellers too. We’ll have a full launch, with promotion and public appearances, in the fall as well.
Thanks, everyone, for your patience. Covid — and spring floods in Winnipeg and Kenora — certainly haven’t made this easy!
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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…’
“‘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.”
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.
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):
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.
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.
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:
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!”
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.
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!
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…
And then, something new starting in 1922. Those same telegraph bulletins are now being read out loud 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.
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!