Category Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

Outside the Church

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Bob Haggert, trainer for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1960s, got married in Orillia to a local girl who was the daughter of someone my grandmother knew. So my grandmother told me about the wedding at a church in Orillia (St. Paul’s United Church on Peter St) and I went up there and there were a whole bunch of Leafs standing outside the church talking and smoking and probably commenting on how hot the bride was.

I was about 11 or 12, and I remember only Dave Keon and Red Kelly. The rest are a blur. And I swear on my mother’s grave, the next morning at my own church, Guardian Angels, Keon and his wife sat right in front of me and my family!

Most of the circa 1962 Toronto Maple Leafs were standing outside a church in Orillia, and the only other person there was a little guy who appreciated the whole thing but probably wished they were Montreal Canadiens instead.

Canadiens Clubbed at Classic

The Canadiens fell 3-0 to the Ottawa Senators at the frigid NHL 100 Classic at Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park, in which had been an important game for both teams considering the distant playoff hopes.

A game mostly dominated by Ottawa, and a game where Sens’ goalie Craig Anderson probably froze his ass off due to lack of action.

It was two points the Habs needed and two points they failed to get. It’s too bad. But I think I speak for most Habs fans when I say we’re all kind of numb about wins and losses now.

I was at Lansdowne Park many times when I lived in Ottawa, mostly when Tom Clements and Tony Gabriel lit up the CFL, and when it was warmer than -20 like Saturday for the Habs-Sens tilt.

Bryan Adams sang a couple of tunes during the second intermission of this NHL 100 Classic, and we got to see a couple of shirtless guys sitting on some poor bastards’ shoulders, rocking to Adams’ music.

That had to be tequila or vodka climate warming, don’t you think?

Habs were struggling when losing 1-0 in the third, but when Jonathan Drouin got stripped of the puck by Bobby Ryan and the game became 2-0 with just three minutes left, of course it was as over as can be. The Habs had shown no offence throughout, so why start then?

Ottawa’s third goal was an empty netter.

I’ve never been a big fan of outdoor games, although I’ve always like the slightly unusual down-close camera angles on the side. But the players seem to like it, and there’s something about skating outdoors.

Skating outdoors, like in this picture that hangs proudly on my living room wall, bringing back many memories of me and my friends playing on an outdoor rink at Mckinnell Square while growing up in Orillia.

This cool piece,  measuring two feet by three feet and produced on thick card stock, was originally in a Quebec school in the 1940s, as dated on the bottom of it.

It’s a scene from the 1930s, used as part of student storytelling, essays, copying, or whatever else they came up with in class.

There’s a fishing scene on the other side, and I think it’s part of a series of school posters.

What’s funny about it is the Montreal player on the left, handling the puck, is actually Leafs star Charlie Conacher.

The boys now hit the road for a six-game road trip beginning in my neck of the woods, Vancouver, which is 120 km south of me. My neighbour and buddy Tony is heading down, so c’mon Habs, win for Tony.

At the Sports Celebrities Dinner

Roger Crozier was there, and so was Andy Bathgate and hurler Sal Maglie and a host of others, including my peewee baseball team that rolled over unsuspecting teams from around Ontario.

I played either second base or shortstop, depending on who was pitching. If Doug Roe was on the mound, I was at shortstop. If it was Lorne Wingrove throwing, I moved to second base and Doug played short.

It was the 3rd annual Sports Celebrity Dinner in Orillia, from June 1964, organized by local radio personality Ken McDonald, later known as Jiggs McDonald.

Only a few years after this fancy affair, Jiggs would find himself broadcasting NHL games in Los Angeles when the league first expanded, and then in Atlanta and Long Island (along with stints in Toronto and Florida). Jiggs ultimately wound up in the Hall of Fame as a recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award.

This is my program from that big night at Club Pavalon, a place where, on normal nights, gave us some of the best live rock bands from the province and beyond.

cover

Ken

Crozier

Bathgate

Sal

Former NHLer Cal Gardner is in the Terriers lineup.

Terriers

My peewee team. They spelled my name wrong.

peewees

Basilio

Castator

Henley

Jr. C

Below, Rick Ley, who would go on to NHL and WHA stardom, is in the front row of the midget team.

Ley

lacrosse

Kane’s Bar

In the late 1990s a buddy and I owned a sports bar in Powell River called Kane’s Sports Bistro. It was a nice little place and I was able to have my treasures all over the walls, just like I’d always wanted.

But it was way too much work and not much money, we were fairly clueless about running a place like this, and we ended up selling it.

The new owners kept the name and carried on for several more years.

When we had the pub, the NHL Oldtimers came to town to play one of their many charity games and dazzle us with their playmaking, the skill that never seems to leave retired players.

On the day of the game, in the early afternoon, my partner and I were the only ones in the place when a couple of legends, Red Storey and  Frank Mahovlich, walked in. They strolled around, looked at all the stuff on the walls, and then sat down.

Naturally we were very polite, offered them a nice spaghetti dinner (on the house), and started asking questions about hockey which they both seemed more than happy to go on about. We talked about the 1972 Canada-Russia series, modern day hockey, and Red told me how hard it was to handle the Rocket sometimes when he (Red) was refereeing.

And of course, we had a big talk about the Habs in general.

From that conversation, the thing that most stands out is Mahovlich saying what a class outfit the Canadiens were. He said it was by far the best team in the league to play for. He explained that he didn’t get along with Punch Imlach in Toronto and wasn’t happy there, and when he was playing in Detroit and heard the news that he was traded to Montreal, he knew it was perfect for him.

He said the Canadiens treated the players first-class, and he considered himself an ex-Hab, not a Leaf or Red Wing.

That night at the game, Red Storey carried a microphone with him as he mc’d, and told the sold-out crowd of about 2500 that everyone should go to Kane’s because the spaghetti was so good.

Hi Bert

HOFer Bert Olmstead played for the Habs from 1950 to 1958, and hoisted four Stanley Cups along the way. He’d also pick up another in 1962 when he was with the Leafs.

Bert was a solid, feisty, and smart player with definite leadership qualities. He was also a cantankerous, no-nonsense type of fellow off the ice, and probably not exactly a barrel of laughs at team Christmas parties. No lampshades on his head. The Boomer maybe, but not Bert.

About 15 years ago I was visiting my sister in Calgary and decided to phone him, because I knew he lived there and he was in the phone book.

It went like this:

Ring. Ring.

A lady, his wife I guess, answered the phone. “Hello?” she said.

“Hi” I answered. “Would Bert be there please?”

“Yes, one moment,” said the lady.

“HELLO” growled the voice, and I kind of got the feeling this might be a mistake.

“Hi Bert” I said. I’m old hockey fan, a Habs fan, and I just wondered if you might spend a couple of minutes telling me about those days when you played.”

Click.

He hung up on me.

 

 

Those Wild And Crazy Early Years

It’s listed as being 1929  and the Chicago Black Hawks on YouTube but I think it’s off by a year or two and it’s more likely 1930 or ’31. And it’s not the Chicago Black Hawks.

Howie Morenz, Eddie Shore, Ace Bailey, Aurele Joliat, Dit Clapper, Lester Patrick, and so many other all-time greats of the game roamed the ice back then, and 1930 was only a year after Wall Street crashed and women now being considered “Persons” under new Canadian law.

The Habs would win the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1930 after taking out the Boston Bruins in two games, with Howie Morenz netting the winner.

The NHL was a ten-team league at this time – Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, the Montreal Maroons, and the NY Americans in the Canadian Division, and Boston, the Rangers, the Detroit Cougars, Chicago, and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the American Division.

This minute and a half home video  features the AHA Chicago Shamrocks and possibly the St. Louis Flyers (or Duluth Hornets) and is a fascinating look at the boys back then.

And the ice cleaners at the end of the clip are something to behold.

Great Old Hockey Coins

This is my set of Sherriff/Salada hockey coins from 1961-62 which I’ve had since I was eleven years old. They came in Jello and potato chips, and I pressured my mom to buy handfuls of Jello instead of just one or two. So we had a kitchen cupboard with lots of open boxes of Jello in it. I also ate more potato chips than any one human should possibly eat.

At school we would play closest to the wall, just like hockey cards, and I was sad when my coins would dwindle. But on the other hand, if I went back to class after recess with dozens more than I had started out with, then all was right with the world. I think it was one of the best feelings in the world, actually.

You could send away to the company for the shields, which I did, but after putting them in their slots and trying to hang them on the wall, most would fall out because they didn’t fit well. So I added small amounts of glue to the backs. When you see these coins in their shields on eBay, which you don’t see very often, most have been glued like mine.

These plastic hockey coins began the year before, in 1960-61 and I had a bunch of them, but not anymore. They also came out as metal coins in 1962-63, and I still have the full set of these. And there were no shields available for these other years.

The coins made a comeback in 1967, but I don’t think they became all the rage like they were in the earlier years. These later coins have become quite rare and valuable because, I suppose, there just weren’t that many.

Baseball and football also had their own coins, as did old cars and airplanes and flags. But it’s the hockey coins I cherished the most.

Habs

Leafs

Hawks

Rangers

Wings

Bruins

A Dow Wouldn’t Go Good Now

Actually, after a 6-0 loss to the Leafs,  maybe a Dow laced with cobalt sulfate might go good now.

The Rocket wasn’t just a hockey player, as he once said of himself. He was also a beer rep, doing public relations work for Dow Breweries, which was owned by Carling-O’Keefe when Rocket was involved. I wonder how Molson felt about that.

Dow would eventually become owned by Molson in the mid-sixties, but closed shop after several dozen people who had been drinking at least 24 Dows a day suddenly died from heart failure. It was found that Dow contained cobalt sulfate, which apparently isn’t good for your health.

You’d think that anyone who drinks 24 beers a day, regardless of the brand, might suffer heart failure at some point. But I’m no doctor so I can’t be sure.

 

Goalie Don Head On The Point?

Powell River’s George Stephen figured he should probably just let it go. No one had heard about it, and most didn’t believe him. I figured he had probably inhaled too many fumes from the local mill.

But George insisted he’d seen it, only now he was thinking he might be the only one on the planet who had.

George would say often that one night, more than 50 years ago on Hockey Night in Canada, the Boston Bruins, in Toronto for a game against the Leafs, were issued a delayed penalty, and something odd happened. As soon as the referee raised his arm, Bruin goaltender Don Head, instead of skating to the bench for an extra attacker, smartly skated to the blueline, goalie pads and all, and played a short shift as a defenceman until a Leaf finally touched the puck, and back to his net Mr. Head went.

What, the Bruins didn’t have a defenceman handy?

George insisted, though. When Chicago goalie great Glenn Hall came to Powell River, George asked him, but Hall had no idea what our man was talking about. A letter to the Hockey Hall of Fame garnered a reply, and all they could say was they had no idea, but if it were true, it would make a great story. George even asked Powell River resident Andy McCallum, who had played with Head for the Ontario Senior Windsor Bulldogs, and Andy said he wouldn’t be surprised because Head was such a good skater, even with goalie pads on.

There was only one last thing George could do. Ask the man himself, Don Head. If he could find him.

Through Dick Tracy-like sleuthing, George discovered that Head was alive and well and living in Portland, Oregon, and picked up the phone. After mistakenly getting a few others of the same name in Portland first, the goalie was finally tracked down, and George asked that big nagging question. Did he leave his net and become a defenceman with his goalie equipment on?

Head thought for a second, and gave an answer George wasn’t really hoping for. “I don’t remember ever doing that,” he said, and after a few more pleasantries, George politely said goodbye. He was even more convinced to just forget the whole thing.

And that should be the end of the story.

But the phone rang the very next night at George’s house, and sure enough, Don Head was on the line from Portland. “Hello George,” he said. “If I’m ever in a trivia game and need an answer, I’m phoning you.” George asked why, and Head continued. “You were absolutely right. My daughter and I went through my scrapbooks and found the write-up of me skating up the ice and playing the point on the power play. It was a Saturday night, Hockey night in Canada, and we beat Toronto 4-3. I’d forgotten all about that.”

Head wasn’t finished there. He sent a copy of the news story to George and enclosed a little note that said: “Maybe this will convince everyone that you didn’t really inhale those fumes at the mill after all.”

It took more than 40 years, but George Stephen finally has proof that he saw what he saw. All it took was asking Don Head himself. It was true. The goalie played the point, pads and all.