And The Answer Is (Was)….

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Not long ago a couple of folks here wondered how teams are able to keep track of all the players’ ice-time during a game. I wasn’t clear either, so I began looking around my stacks of magazines and through old boxes, and I came up with an answer.

Of course, the answer comes from 1959 so things have changed slightly. But hey, it’s still sort of an answer.

This example is from Maple Leaf Gardens, but I’m sure it was the same at the Forum and the other four rinks back then.

Thirty-six clocks were originally installed at the Gardens in 1950, with two panels of switches, and from their vantage point, two men kept track of the players on the ice for both teams. There was one panel for the Leafs, and one for the visitors. Each panel had 18 on-off switches.

Beneath each switch was a player’s name inked on white tape, and the names were arranged so that the switches for players playing together were side by side. The two guys then quickly flipped the switches as players changed.

The 36 clocks were in a small room up high in the Gardens, and under each one was the name of the player whose switch in the booth was connected to his clock. The giant Sportimer over centre ice was also wired into the clocks, so when the timekeeper at ice level started and stopped the Sportimer, he automatically controlled the clocks for each man on the ice.

After each period, an employee recorded each player’s time in minutes and seconds, and when the game was over, the times went to the coaches of each team. Sometimes the employee would get a call for the times at the end of each period or even during a period if Punch Imlach or Toe Blake or one of those other guys wearing a nice fedora needed to check on a particular player.

Time in the penalty box wasn’t counted. When one of the Leafs once got into a game to sit out a teammate’s penalty, his total playing time was logged at four seconds – the time it took to get back to the bench after the penalty expired.  “Too slow,” said Leafs coach Hap Day. “It shouldn’t have taken him so long.”

After the game, the coach wants as many statistics as he can get. Along with playing times, he wants to know which players were on the ice for different situations. In 1959 at least, these extra things were done by a couple of guys up in the press box scribbing like mad.

So there you have it. A couple of guys asked, and I, with the help of my old trunk, delivered. Even though the information comes from 54 years ago.

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10 thoughts on “And The Answer Is (Was)….”

  1. Thanks Dennis. What will they think of next? Recording what they are having for dinner the night before? What do you think of the Halpern move? I liked Halpern here. Sad to see him go. He could be a cheap asset.

  2. Dennis, you are AMAZING!! with your tid-bits of information. Also appreciate the absense of the foolish speculation/gossip so many “media-type” folks regress to when their team as no games or actual news for a spell. You just root thru your “trunk” and feed us THANK YOU!!

  3. This is awesome! I’d seen the top pic before, but not the bottom one. The Leafs were actually the first team to start filming their own games, home and road in the 1940’s. When a player committed an infraction against Toronto, they would show it to the NHL President. What rogues!

  4. Fantastic Dennis. Just a spectacular find. Those time keepers had to really be on the ball. No time for goofing around or beer drinking. And certainly no DKRSFB for them, or else the stats would have been terribly compromised!


  5. Marjo, I don’t know how they do it now but I’m sure it’s easier and more precise than back then. But who knows, maybe it’s almost exactly the same now as then. I need to keep looking.

  6. Thanks Robert. One little tidbit – the big clock that was in the Gardens for years was made in Orillia! Maybe even the one in the Forum too.

  7. Danno, I’m convinced professional hockey writers follow for story ideas. This happens too often to be a coincidence.

    Dennis, you’d think in return they could invite you to be a guest scorer, or stick-boy at the very least.

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