Tag Archives: Ace Bailey

Papa Got A Brand New Team

I’m a Habs fan, born and raised in Orillia, Ont, which is Leafs country I suppose, considering it’s only an hour and a half north of Toronto. I’m a fan and my old man had a lot to do with it.

My dad, who served in the Canadian army overseas in WWll, was a hockey fan most of his life, although his enthusiasm waned as he aged, which I understand more and more. He followed the Leafs when he was young, and once wrote a letter in the 1930s to Ace Bailey, who lay in a hospital after Boston’s Eddie Shore clubbed him over the head, ending his career, and nearly killing him.

Bailey’s wife wrote back and thanked him.

Later though, my dad began to change his mind about his team. The Toronto Star and Telegram both plastered their papers with Leafs stories and my dad would complain. It was always “Leafs, Leafs, Leafs” he used to say. Broadcaster Foster Hewitt was the definitive homer, and this rubbed dad the wrong way. And pops was a quiet fellow and wasn’t crazy about the brash, loud, and arrogant Leafs owner Conn Smythe.

In the 1950s, with television entering households, it was usually only Leafs game shown, and when the Montreal Canadiens played in Toronto, my dad liked what he saw on his TV. There was the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, and Plante. Magical names. Stanley Cups began to be won by the Habs on a regular basis, and the Leafs just kept plodding along. The Canadiens had something the Leafs didn’t.

When I was a boy he started a big Montreal Canadiens scrapbook for me. He helped me write fan letters to the Rocket, and at one point, Rocket sent me a Christmas card. He took me to Maple Leaf Gardens a couple of times, and once, when we were really early and stood at the gate, the Canadiens players walked right by us.

He bought me a hockey book for Christmas which he mailed to Montreal asking for autographs, and it was mailed back signed by the entire 1957-58 Habs – Richard, Plante, coach Toe Blake, Beliveau, Geoffrion etc, with Doug Harvey’s as the only signature missing. Later when we went to a game at the Gardens, he brought the book with him, took it down to the Montreal dressing room corridor, saw Toe Blake standing there, and asked Blake if he would take the book into the dressing room and get Harvey to sign it.

Believe it not, Blake did just that.

Thanks dad.

Dad, What The…?

My father was a Habs fan as far back as I can remember, but from reading his journal he once wrote about his childhood, it turns out he was a Leafs fan when he was a kid. He changed later on, and I wish he was alive so I could ask him about it.

All I know is, he used to complain about all things Leafs, including Foster and Bill Hewitt and of course Punch Imlach and Conn Smythe, and he’d go on about the sports section of the paper which was all Leafs, all the time, which, except for him, is understandable considering it was a Toronto paper.

But thankfully somewhere along the way, he became a Habs fan. If I had grown up a Leafs fan, I might have had to shoot myself.

Here’s a section of his journal:

“The Toronto Star used to come up on the train the day after it was published and as a rule, we could usually come up with the three cents it cost. We didn’t have a radio but I became a Toronto Maple Leafs fan through reading the sports pages of this paper. Almost every day of the hockey season, the sports section would carry a drawing of a player and these I would cut and paste in a scrapbook.

It was around 1932 when one of the Leaf players, Ace Bailey, was injured in a game against the Boston Bruins. While he was in hospital, I wrote him a letter and in due time received an answer from his wife along with an autographed picture of him. I dare say, I must have been the proudest kid in Trout Creek and I like to think I was the envy of all the other boys in town.”

 

 

Old-Time Hockey – And I Mean Old

1929 was the time of Howie Morenz, Eddie Shore, Ace Bailey, Aurele Joliat, Dit Clapper, Lester Patrick, and so many greats of the game.

It 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 from 1929 features Chicago and Toronto, and is a fascinating little look at the good old hockey game from so long ago. (And back then, it was the Chicago Black Hawks, not the Chicago Blackhawks. The name was altered in the 1980’s.)

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

I’d Have Cleghorn On My Team Anyday

 

I’d like to see the Steve Downie’s and Colton Orr’s of the world go head to head with Sprague Cleghorn. Bring ’em on, any of the league’s tough guys. They’d lose, and blood would be spilled.

Tiger Williams and Chris Nilan and Tie Domi would lose too. Because Sprague Cleghorn, Montreal great rushing defenseman from 1921 to 1925, was one of the meanest and nastiest players to ever play the game. Probably only a small handful of others, like Newsy Lalonde and Joe Hall, would give the guy a run for his money in the savage department.

Guys nowadays would scramble for cover if they went up against Cleghorn. He played in an era when the sport was excessively brutal, and many a player would crash into him and like magic would drop to the ice unconscious after Cleghorn had performed a deadly operation on them. Often a player might do Mr. Cleghorn wrong early in a game and Sprague would bide his time until later on, and in the end, the other guy would skate gingerly off the ice with a large and gruesome gash across his face, courtesy of our hero.

Red Dutton was quoted in Trent Frayne’s The Mad Men of Hockey, saying, “If some of the longhairs I see on the ice these days met Sprague Cleghorn, he’d shave them to the skull. Jesus he was mean. If you fell in front of Cleg he’d kick your balls off.”

King Clancy pulled the old trick of pretending to be a teammate and calling for the puck when Cleghorn was rushing, and Cleghorn fell for it. When the game ended Clancy was walking to the dressing room to the cheers of fans and heard a friendly voice saying “King.” Clancy turned and Cleghorn turned out Clancy’s lights. “Jesus did he hit me a beauty,” said King.

The Toronto St. Pats called up a tough guy, Bill Brydge, who was going to add muscle, and he gave it to Cleghorn – the knee, elbows, stick. Cleghorn didn’t pay any attention and waited. The time came and Brydge ended up with fifty stitches.

After Ace Bailey taunted Cleghorn one night about an offside, the big fellow unloaded on Bailey and down the St. Pats player went. Bailey struggled to get up and the now-aware Bill Brydge grabbed Bailey and said, “Stay down, you crazy bastard. Do you want to get killed?”

He speared, butt-ended, punctured a spleen or two, carved up faces, and pounded players over the head with his fist and stick. Scott Hartnell and Milan Lucic and these guys wouldn’t have a prayer. This was a guy who had Gordie Howe elbows and lethal stick long before Gordie Howe.

Imagine what he’d do to Dan Carcillo?

Cleghorn by all accounts possessed lots of skill, loved to take the puck end to end, and he’s a Hall of Famer, having been inducted in 1958. He was also a dapper gentleman off the ice who liked to wear fine clothes like he was dressing for the opera, and didn’t resemble at all the vicious son of a bitch he was when he had skates on.

Our man Sprague Cleghorn died at age 66 from complications after being hit by a car. He and his brother Odie, who also played for the Canadiens (1918-25), were close all their lives and after Sprague died, Odie also passed away, on the day of Sprague’s funeral.

A Little Leafs-Hawks Hockey From 90 Years Ago

1929 was a time of Howie Morenz, Eddie Shore, Ace Bailey, Aurele Joliat, Dit Clapper, Lester Patrick, and so many greats of the game.

 It 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 from 1929 features Chicago and Toronto, and is a fascinating look at how hockey was played way back then. (And back then, it was the Chicago Black Hawks, not the Chicago Blackhawks. The name was changed to one word in the 1980’s.)

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

Mothers Throw Things Out. It’s Just What They Do. No One Knows Why… Plus… A Boston Bruin Behaving Badly.

Even in 1934 the Boston Bruins were a dastardly bunch. Of course, that’s not anything new. Every year they’re a dastardly bunch.

 

Why is that? Does it have something to do with the Babe Ruth curse, or trading Bobby Orr to Chicago?  I think it’s something only schooled professionals might be able to figure out.

 

For example, in 1934, Bruins defenceman Eddie Shore clubbed Toronto’s Ace Bailey over the head. In fact, he clubbed him so hard, he ended Bailey’s career by fracturing his skull.  But worse than that, he almost ended the poor guy’s life.

 

It was such a terrible situation that later that same year, a charity game between the Leafs and the league’s best players was held in Toronto to help the Bailey family, and $23,000 was raised.

 

And this was the beginning of the annual NHL all-star game. 

 

When Shore did this to Bailey, my father was 14 years old, and he felt bad about what had happened. So he wrote a little get-well letter to Bailey while the player lay between life and death in a Toronto hospital.

 

A while later, a letter arrived for my dad, and it was from Bailey’s wife, thanking him for his kind thoughts.

 

And what happened to the letter?

 

It disappeared when he went into the army, never to be seen again, he explained. Must have got thrown out by his mother, he added.

 

Why do mothers throw out their kids’ good stuff, like hockey cards, baseball gloves, favourite t-shirts that might only have a few holes in it, and letters from Ace Bailey’s wife?

 

Mothers might not be as dastardly as the Bruin Bruins, but they throw out good stuff.

It Sure Wasn’t Hard Becoming A Habs Fan

I’m asked from time to time why I cheer for the Habs and not the Toronto Maple Leafs, seeing that I grew up only an hour north of Toronto, in Orillia. The answer’s easy. The Montreal Canadiens were a gift from my dad.

My dad’s 87 now, and of course, still watches hockey. He’s been a hockey fan all his life, followed the Leafs when he was young, and he once wrote a letter in the 1930’s to Ace Bailey who lay in a hospital after Boston’s Eddie Shore clubbed him over the head, ending his career, and nearly killing him.

Bailey’s wife wrote a thank-you note to my dad in return.

But slowly, my dad began to turn. The Toronto Star and Telegram both plastered their papers with Leafs stories and my dad began to wonder about the almost invisible other teams. It was always “Leafs, Leafs, Leafs” as he used to say. Foster Hewitt was the definitive homer, and this rubbed dad the wrong way. And dad, being the introverted type, cringed when he read or heard about the goings-on of brash, loud, and arrogant Leafs owner Conn Smythe.

In the fifties, with television entering households, it was only Leafs game shown, and when the Montreal Canadiens played in Toronto, my dad liked what he saw on his TV. There was the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, and Plante. Stanley Cups began to be won by the Habs on a regular basis beginning in 1955, and the Leafs just kept plodding along. The Canadiens had something the Leafs didn’t.

When I was a boy, my dad started a big Montreal Canadiens scrapbook for me. He helped me write fan letters to the the Rocket, and at one point, the Rocket sent me a Christmas card. He took me to Maple Leaf Gardens a couple of times, and once, when we were early and stood at the gate, the entire 1958 Montreal team walked right by us.

He bought me a hockey book which he mailed to Montreal asking for autographs in, and it was mailed back signed by the entire 1958-59 Habs – Richard, Plante, Toe Blake, Beliveau, Geoffrion etc, and the only one missing was Doug Harvey. When we went to a game at the Gardens, he brought the book with him, took it down the the Montreal dressing room corridor, saw Toe Blake standing there, and asked Blake if he would take the book into the dressing room and get Harvey to sign it.

Believe it not, Blake did just that. My son has the book now.

So of course I became a Habs fan. They’ve been magical for me, and the magic has never gone away. It’s been a lifelong love affair.

And it’s all because of my dad.