Category Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

Watching Good Old Hockey Games. It’s Food For The Soul

 I just watched game three on the NHL Network of the 1962 Stanley Cup finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Toronto Maple Leafs ( the Hawks won 3-0 but the Leafs eventually won the series in six games).

I love watching the old stuff. In this game, a young Bobby Hull, wearing number 7 (he first wore number sixteen, then went to nine), skated like the wind and blasted away with that cannon he had. Goalies Glenn Hall and Johnny Bower weren’t wearing masks. Frank Mahovlich skated in big swooping strides. Reg Fleming and Tim Horton got in a scuffle, then went and sat side by side in the penalty box, which players did in those days, even after major scraps. And big, heavy bodychecks were the order of the day.

The game was at a jam-packed Chicago Stadium, and when Stan Mikita scored, fans tossed balloons and the odd fedora on the ice. Toronto announcer Bill Hewitt (Foster’s son) did the play-by-play, and in 1962, he was still a little rough around the edges. He got smoother in later years. And he worked alone, without a sidekick.

 Watching games like this is a joy for me. It reminds me of when I was a schoolboy, collecting hockey cards and hockey coins, and dreaming of someday playing in the NHL just like these guys.

 I wish they’d show more of these old games. And this is what should’ve been on during those long breaks between games in this year’s playoffs.

 Really old games are a beautiful thing. We need more of them.

Get Out Of Your Easy Chair, Mats, And Do What You Should Be Doing

I’m not like Mats Sundin. I have to go to work today. So do you.

 

I think Mats Sundin will sign with the Montreal Canadiens. And it’s only because the main rival to the Habs for Sundin’s services are the Canucks. Thank goodness it’s the Canucks. Everyone else has spent their allowance.

 

And even though Vancouver has offered Sundin three million a year more than Montreal, the bottom line is, Sundin wouldn’t mind winning a Stanley Cup, which the Canucks won’t be doing anytime soon. And his previous team? There’s a thousand jokes about that.

 

But the Habs will. Maybe even next year. Sundin knows this, of course, and anyway, what’s a lousy three million? Sundin lights his cigars with that kind of money.

 

I do however, think it’s a little rude on Sundin’s part to make teams wait. He’s a good player but he’s not the Rocket. And I’ll bet he’s enjoying the attention.

 

Just retire at 40 or 41, Mats. Consider yourself lucky that teams like the Montreal Canadiens are willing to pay you seven million dollars and give you a chance to win the Stanley Cup, something that was only a hallucinatory dream in Toronto. And of course, Mats, that along with your aging birth certificate comes aging bones, and if you go on the injury shelf, Montreal still pays you your millions.

 

So it’s a win-win for you. You probably don’t play a lot, you win a Stanley Cup, and you make your seven million. WHAT”S THE PROBLEM? 

 

Retire at 38 years old and turn down millions of dollars? Imagine?

 

How many of us can do that?

 

 

 

 

 

Pavol Demitra Wanted To Play For A Contender. And He Chose The Canucks?

Right winger Pavol Demitra said he really wanted to go to the Vancouver Canucks because he wants to play for a team which has a shot at winning the Stanley Cup.

 I thought about what he said, and I thought about the Canucks. Then I thought about Demitra. Funnyman Pavol Demitra. Last Comic Standing. What a wild and crazy guy! What a kidder! 

The Vancouver Canucks may have a shot at winning the Stanley Cup, just not anytime soon. They’re in the midst of rebuilding, the way Montreal was five years ago. They have goalie Roberto Luongo, the Sedin’s, and about fifteen players named Ryan. And the Sedin’s, as I see and hear first-hand, are really starting to piss off Canuck fans.

Even brand new GM Mike Gillis says this is a team that is not good enough. Kevin Lowe, in his recent tirade, said Brian Burke left the Canucks in shambles, which is almost true. And die-hard Powell River Canuck fans don’t want to talk about their team right now. They’re kind of embarrassed.

I suppose Demitra, because the Canucks did end up signing him, was just sucking up to the Canucks, that’s all. Maybe he wants to live close to Powell River? It can’t be that he actually believes the Canucks are contenders. Then I wouldn’t call him a comedian. I’d be worried that maybe he has a substance-abuse problem instead.

 Nah, he’s just a jokester.

 

He just did a really funny sucking-up job. He tickled our funny bones. The Tonight Show should be calling soon.

 

And if Toronto had shown interest, would he say he’d like to go there because the Leafs have a good shot at winning? I suppose so. It’s good solid humour.  The guy’s a riot. Robin Williams in shoulder pads.

 

Ah, Pavol. You funny, funny guy, you.

 

 

 

 

The Sad Story of Roy Spencer And His Son Brian

Imagine how proud Roy Spencer must have been. Imagine the thoughts that swirled through his head. The phone call had finally come, and when he would see the game, there would be no words to describe it.

Roy’s boy Brian was about to play, on national television, for the fabled Toronto Maple Leafs in his first NHL game.

Brian Spencer had been no angel growing up, not by a long shot. The boy was quick-tempered, and quicker to fight, but everyone in Fort St. James, a dark, blue-collar town in northern British Columbia, knew he was a chip off the old block. After all, old man Roy was known in those parts as a fiery, hard-living, no-nonsense type of fellow, and his family, for all intents and purposes, was a tough family in a tough town.

Brian had a twin brother and the two played for hours each day during the cold winter nights on the backyard rink Roy had built behind the simple log cabin they lived in. Roy would often go out with the boys and slowly teach them the finer points of the game, especially how to play with an aggressive edge, because, as Roy would explain, this way would lead to the pros the fastest. Forget about being the next Dave Keon or Jean Beliveau. Forget about smoothness, concentrate on toughness.

Those hours in the backyard paid off, because in 1969, the Toronto Maple Leafs chose young Brian and he was sent to the Tulsa Oilers, a farm team of the Leafs, for grooming. Brian played hard, and in  December of 1970 the call came. Brian Spencer was being brought up to play for the big team.

When Brian learned he was going to Toronto, he quickly made his own call. It was to his dad Roy back home who, by that time, was dying from kidney disease. He was playing, he told his dad, and his game was to be aired on Hockey Night in Canada from coast to coast!

Bad kidneys or not, it must have been one of the best days of Roy’s life. For a proud hockey dad, something like this just doesn’t get any better.

In the end, it couldn’t have gotten any worse.

The CBC knew nothing about Roy and Brian Spencer and the big debut in the Leafs uniform, and for whatever reason decided to air the Vancouver-Oakland game instead. It was a decision that led to tragedy.

Roy, once he realized what was happening, rose from his chair in front of the television, got into his car with his rifle, and drove 85 miles to the nearest television station, in Prince George.

At the station, Roy demanded they show the Leafs game, a demand that was refused, and the RCMP were called. Roy found himself in a shoot-out with the police, and the proud dad, who only wanted to see his boy playing in his first NHL game, was quickly shot and killed.

In Toronto, young Brian was wearing the famous blue and white uniform of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and between periods, he was interviewed on Hockey Night in Canada. It was the biggest night of his life, and he was sure his dad was watching and smiling, with chest pumped with pride.

What Brian didn’t know was at the same time he was being interviewed, his dad was being shot to death. He learned after the game.

Brian Spencer’s career lasted 10 years, with stops after Toronto in Long Island, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. In 1987, Spinner, as he was known, while living a drifter’s life in Florida, was charged with kidnapping and murder but was acquitted for lack of evidence. Three months later, while he was beginning to get his life back in order, he was murdered by a young hoodlum trying to rob him.

Wasting A Week Wondering About What Would Work

Such a wasted week this has been. It had been announced to us that the Habs had received exclusive permission to negotiate with Mats Sundin, and the scenarios danced through our heads. Sundin, along with Alex Tanguay, were going to catapult Montreal to the top of the heap, the leading contender for next year’s Stanley Cup. It reminded me of Frank Mahovlich coming to Montreal from Detroit in 1971, who fit like a glove in Montreal, winning a Cup his first year there, and again two years later.

 

Sundin was going to be like Mahovlich. It was going to be great. So we waited.

 

Then we waited some more. Then some more. Sundin has remained quiet, even though Montreal GM Bob Gainey has given it the old college try. And I mean, as long as he doesn’t sign anywhere else, I suppose there’s always that chance.

 

But we were still excited. After all, if Sundin didn’t agree with Montreal, then Brian Rolston would, or Brian Campbell, or Marian Hossa. Or somebody. ANYBODY?

 

It looks bad now. Others teams are now in the picture, including the dastardly Vancouver Canucks, who blew it wide open with a two-year, 20 million offer to Sundin.

 

Hossa remains quiet still, but I think he’s overpriced and overrated, although if the Habs do sign him, I’ll probably renege on this statement.

 

Hossa could still sign with Montreal, but he’s no Sundin. Sundin’s the prized catch.

 

So the week went by and we watched the news and read the papers, wondering when the big announcement, the big signing, would come in Montreal.

 

But nothing’s come. It was a week wasted. We got Alex Tanguay and lost Michael Ryder and Mark Streit. Montreal hasn’t really come out of this smelling like roses, like we thought.

 

But I think Montreal has some spending money.

 

Hey, it’s not over till it’s over.

Darcy Tucker Or Todd Bertuzzi?

Both Darcy Tucker and Todd Bertuzzi are free to go to any team who might want them. And so I ask, if you were a General Manager looking for an aggressive forward, and you had to choose one, which one would it be?

Both are 33 years old and both are right wingers.

Bertuzzi is bigger at 6’3″ 245 pounds, while Tucker is 5’10 and 178 pounds.

Tucker has 197 goals, 239 assists in 813 games, along with 1296 penalty minutes.

Bertuzzi has 240 goals, 340 assists in 793 games, with 1147 penalty minutes.

Both have a sordid history of nastiness on the ice. Tucker, for example, in the 2002 playoffs, blew out the Islander’s Mike Peca’s knee with a questionable check, and has played with an edge all of his career.

And then there’s Bertuzzi.

If you haven’t heard because you’ve been living in the jungles of Brazil for several years, it happened like this. In 2004, while Bertuzzi and his Vancouver Canucks were in Colorado for a game against the Avalanche, young Steve Moore sort of, questionably, went after Canucks captain Markus Naslund’s head, causing a slight concussion and three games missed for Naslund.

The Canucks were quite choked about this incident by this young nobody, so a while later, when the Avalanche came to Vancouver, the sucker punch heard round the world happened. Bertuzzi, Naslund’s best friend on the team, was out on the ice, as was Moore, with only a few minutes left in the game. As Moore was skating up the ice, Bertuzzi quickly caught up to him from behind and blindsided the surprised kid with a shot to the side of the head which caused Moore, Bertuzzi, and several players from both teams to fall to the ice.

Moore not only ended up with everyone on top of him, but also with a broken neck and a pro career finished.

After that came a suspension, court, cops, lawsuits, bad words, bad blood, the blaming of others, tears, apologies, bitterness, and Bertuzzi has never been the same player since. He was traded by the Canucks to the Florida Panthers for star goalie Roberto Luongo, but that was a bust because he was either hurt or non-productive. Bertuzzi was then was given a chance by his friend, GM Brian Burke in Anaheim, but that obviously fell flat too because old friend Burke said goodbye and don’t come back.

Now he’s a free agent. Just like Tucker.

So who would you choose – Tucker or Bertuzzi?

Either could be revitalized in new surroundings and help your team. Or they could be absolute duds, destroy any cherished chemistry your team has built, and be a big waste of money and a serious negative.

Frankly, I wouldn’t take either.

And I hope Montreal doesn’t also.

 

(But if I had to choose, I think it would be Tucker.)

All George Had To Do Was Use His Don Head

George Stephen figured he should probably just forget about it. No one had heard about it, and most didn’t believe him. I figured he had probably inhaled too many fumes from the Powell River 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 40 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.

 Hmmm. Sure, George. The goalie played out on the powerplay? Maybe Foster Hewitt sang the national anthem. Maybe Conn Smythe took on Whipper Billy Watson in a pre-game wrestling match. What, the Bruins didn’t have a defenceman who could go out instead? C’mon!

 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. 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, but all Andy could say was 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 sleuthing that would do Dick Tracy proud, George discovered that Head was alive and well and living in Portland, Oregon, and on the phone he got. 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 all true. The goalie played the point, pads and all.

When Cliff Fletcher Says Exclusive, He Means It For Everybody

I distinctly remember hearing it only two and a half days ago. “We have given the Montreal Canadiens exclusive rights to talk to Mats Sundin,” said Leafs Sort-Of-General Manager Cliff Fletcher to the interviewer at the draft in Ottawa.

 

I remember he said “exclusive.” He said it plain as day. I heard it and remembered it. “Exclusive.” This means Montreal would be the only one, doesn’t it?

 

But when I was up at four in the morning getting ready for work, there, on my TV, were the words at the bottom of the screen, “Toronto has given the New York Rangers permission to speak to Mats Sundin.”

 

So when Cliff Fletcher gave Montreal “exclusive” rights to speak to Sundin, he meant exclusive for two and a half days. Then another team can join the elite group of exclusive teams. I’m pretty sure that’s not being exclusive.

 

So now I’m not so confident about Sundin joining the Habs. He could very easily pull a Brendan Shanahan, who came within a whisker of joining the Canadiens before he signed with those same Rangers. You know, the ones who are also exclusively talking to the Swede.

 

Pretty soon the Red Wings, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, and another 20 or so teams will also have exclusive rights to talk to Sundin. Only 29 teams will have exclusive rights to talk to the player. No one else, just 29.

 

So if I’m Bob Gainey, I’d be slightly taken aback by this new Rangers thing. And if we miss out on Sundin, do we really want Marion Hossa, who obviously plays only for the money and would disrupt the fine chemistry in Montreal right now?

 

Hossa would probably be the highest paid on the team, and would likely bolt to another club willing to pay, after only one season.

 

No, we want Mats Sundin. And we want to be exclusive. Am I wrong to think this?

 

Please note:  From time to time, and with no rhyme or reason to it, my little computer decides to change to a smaller font than normal. This isn’t me adjusting things, it’s just the computer deciding on its own that it would like something different. I don’t know why this, but it’s happened two or three times now. I’m sorry if this story was slightly hard to read. I hope I didn’t damage your eyes.

 

 

 

 

Draft Day in the NHL. The Biggest Day Of The Year For Scouts: Montreal Grabs Alex Tanguay. Is Sundin Next?

It’s draft day in the NHL, in about three hours from now, and this post will carry on right through the day. I feel there’s no sense trying to predict who will go where because it’s always just a big guess. Lots of first rounders over the years have proved mediocre at best, and others, like Henrik Zetterberg, end up getting picked up in the hundreds.

 

So I’m just going to wait and see how it plays out. Gary Lupul told me once when he was scouting for the Canucks that this is the one day of the year when scouts get a chance to be stars.

 

The best thing about the draft is the general managers come relaxed, the stress on most of their faces is gone, and it’s always possible a really good swap could occur. I’m a bit mystified at this rumour of Pittsburgh moving Evgeny Malkin. Because unless the guy’s a major prick in the dressing room, why would the Penguins do this?

He turned it up last season when Sidney Crosby was out for a lengthy time injured. The team and the media have been raving about him all season. He just signed, or is about to sign, a contract worth more than Crosby’s.

It’s a mystery to me. All I can think of is that Malkin stunk in the playoffs. Or that it’s a completely false rumour.

 

It would be great if the Habs grabbed some kind of major star, even Marion Hossa. It showed in the playoffs that Montreal was missing a couple of final pieces of the puzzle, and maybe Bob Gainey can pull something off. If they would’ve made it to the Stanley Cup finals, there wasn’t a chance in hell that they would’ve beat Detroit. A top-notch power forward would be nice.

 

JUST ANNOUNCED

Montreal has been given permission by the Toronto Maple Leafs to speak to Mats Sundin. I don’t mind this at all. Sundin’s a tad old but he’d help the Habs.

This is something else that we’ll wait and see about.

 

ALSO ANNOUNCED:

Ottawa goalie Ray Emery cut loose. It’s going to be tough for him to land a job elsewhere, so he might want to think about applying at Scott Paper across the river in Gatineau. It pays a little over 20 bucks an hour.

 

ALSO ANNOUNCED:

A Russian team in the Continental League may or may not have offered Evgeny Malkin 12.5 million a year tax free to come and play. You see how oil can make some people over there very rich and can afford to make offers like this? If only these tycoons would throw some money to the old pensioners in Russia who are making about $50 a month and often sleeping in the streets, many of them old widows whose husbands died in the war. And over here, we’re paying a buck and a half a litre to help make people very rich.

That’s twice the money Malkin would make here. What will he do? 

 

AN HOUR TO DRAFT TIME:

 

DRAFT TIME!

Sarnia’s Steven Stamkos goes first to the Tampa Bay Lightening.

AND!   Montreal trades their 25th pick and a 2009 second round pick to Calgary for 28 year old Quebec boy Alex Tanguay. Tanguay’s a left winger, is 6’1, and also spent five years with the Colorado Avalanche before his two years in Calgary.

He’s a good, solid big leaguer (177 goals, 362 assists), and should be a big plus for the Habs. This is exciting. And Sundin’s a possibility too but may take a few days before we know.

Tanguay coming to Montreal has been a rumour for awhile now, long before the playoffs started, and now it’s happened.

 

The top ten picks went like this:

1. Tampa Bay – Steven Stamkos – forward

2. LA – Drew Daughty – Defence

3. Atlanta – Zach Bogosian – Defence

4. St. Louis – Alex Pieterangelo – Defence

5. Toronto – Luke Schenn – Defence

6. Columbus – Nikita Filatov – Forward

7. Nashville – Colin Wilson – Forward

8. Phoenix – Mikkel Boedker – Forward

9. Islanders – Josh Bailey – Forward

10. Vancouver – Cody Hodgson – Forward

And Chicago, with the eleventh pick, chose forward Kyle Beach who may or may not be a great pick. This guy has the potential to be an impact player, but has a history of being a major pain in the ass, especially off the ice. Will he be the next Sean Avery?

 

SIDENOTE:

Wayne Gretzky got a nice standing ovasion from the Ottawa crowd when he got up to announce the Coyotes’ pick. (Mikkel Boedker)

 

Now it’s time to wait out the Mats Sundin, Montreal rumour. I’m hoping this happens.

 

 

 

Wild Bill Hunter Should Be In The Hockey Hall Of Fame

It’s great that western Canada’s Ed Chynoweth will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as builder in November’s ceremony. He deserves it.

But Bill Hunter deserves it too. When is this going to happen, for goodness sakes?

In fact, Hunter, who passed away on December 16, 2002 at the age of 82, should have been enshrined years ago.

To say that Bill Hunter shouldn’t be in the hallowed hall is like saying Lord Stanley, Conn Smythe, or Frank Selke shouldn’t be either. The man practically instilled the right to skate, shoot, and score in Western Canada.

Here’s a rundown of some his astonishing accomplishments. Then you decide whether he belongs.

He was either coach, general manager, president, chairman of the board, owner, or any combination of the above of the Regina Capitals Senior Club, Saskatoon Quakers, Medicine Hat Tigers, Moose Jaw Hockey Club, Yorkton Terriers, Edmonton Oil Kings Junior Club, San Diego Gulls, Alberta Oilers and Edmonton Oilers of the newly formed World Hockey Association (WHA). He was also general manager of Team Canada 1974. And he almost single-handedly created the Western Hockey Junior League and was the mastermind behind the modern-day Memorial Cup format.

In 1982 he launched Saskatoon’s bid to acquire a franchise in the National Hockey League (NHL) by purchasing the St. Louis Blues with the intent to move the club to Saskatoon, only to be turned down by the league. But from this, a world-class multipurpose sports and entertainment complex known as Saskatchewan Place was built.

He was awarded the Canadian Tourism Award, inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, Notre Dame (Saskatchewan) College Hall of Fame, City of Edmonton Hall of Fame, was an Honorary Life Member of Notre Dame, is in the Saskatoon Hall of Fame and was given the Order of Canada. It just goes on and on.

So why isn’t he already? Because Wild Bill rubbed some the wrong way. The NHL was never pleased that Hunter helped form the renegade WHA, which enticed players from the old-guard NHL, which led to a rise in salaries.

The Hockey Hall of Fame has made some questionable choices in the past. Team Canada 1972 hero Paul Henderson isn’t there, but Russian goalie Vladislav Tretiak, who slammed Canada’s game and its system in his book Tretiak, the Legend, is. So is Harold Ballard, who almost single-handedly ruined a storied Toronto Maple Leaf franchise.

But forget about questionable decisions. Bill Hunter is clear cut. He should be in there, plain and simple.

Smarten up, whoever you are who votes.