Tag Archives: Cyclone Taylor

Hockey’s Golden Age Is When?

Isn’t it funny that no matter what decade we’re in, many retired players and older fans always insist that the game isn’t as good as it used to be, when they played or watched.

It’s only natural that they feel this way. The present game, of any decade, just doesn’t have the romance it did for them. And hockey always changes, whether it’s the way players shoot, or pass, or even their size.

Ken Dryden, when asked when he thought the golden age of hockey was, answered that it’s whenever we were young.  It is for me. The 1950s and 1960s were my golden hockey years. They were magical years, with road hockey, collecting cards, digging pucks out of snowbanks, outdoor rinks and frozen toes,  and a six-team NHL. And I had the Rocket, Beliveau, Howe, Hull, Plante, and Sawchuk to watch.

But for men who played in the 1930s and ’40s, those 1950s and ’60s years sucked. And for those who played in the 1910s and ’20s, the next few decades after them simply didn’t cut it.

It’ll always be like this. Ken Dryden was right. It all depends on when you were born.

Here’s some examples.

Cyclone Taylor, one of hockey earliest stars, talking about the game in 1968:

“I don’t think I’d like to play the game now. I was used to going on at the start of the game and playing to the finish. I think any man between the ages of 18 and 35 who can’t play 60 minutes of hockey – well, he just doesn’t want to play, that’s all.”

Newsy Lalonde, who signed with the Montreal Canadiens in 1910, talking hockey in 1970.

“Never did I use the slapshot the way you see it used in the NHL now, with the curved sticks and all. With us there was no other shot to use but the wrist shot. When a man makes a slapshot today it’s more powerful than a wrist shot, but you can’t place it in the same way. The modern player just shoots the puck in the general direction of the net and that’s it. We knew where the puck was going and didn’t have to look twice.

And if you think hockey is a tough game nowadays, you have no idea what toughness is all about.”

Bill Durnan, star goalie for the Habs from 1943 to 1950, talking about the NHL in 1969.

“It’s a changed game, no doubt about it. Now it’s congested and half the time you don’t know how the puck went into the net. Thy just don’t have the plays we had; they simply shove the puck in the corner, then there’s a wild scramble, with three or four guys behind the bloody net. The puck comes out and somebody bangs it in. At that point, even the announcers who are supposed to know what happened start guessing.

And the players have changed, especially their attitudes, though at least until recently there were a few honest skaters left. John Ferguson, who played for the Canadiens, is an example. I was at a party with him a few years ago and somebody asked him why he was such a stinker on the ice and a nice guy off it. Ferguson replied. “When I’m on the ice, I’m at work!”

Now that’s the kind of answer we oldtimers would give.”

Cooper Smeaton, NHL referee before and after World War 1, interviewed in the 1970’s.

“Those were the golden days of hockey when you had fellows like Howie Morenz, Nels Stewart, and Georges Vezina. They talk about Bobby Hull’s speed, but Morenz would whip around his net like a flash and be up the ice before you could blink your eyes.

Take a goal scorer like Stewart. In today’s game he’d score 100 goals. And in the old days if a team was a man short it would stickhandle the puck until time expired. Now they just heave it down the ice. You don’t have to pay a guy $400,000 to do that.

We had a more appealing game game with lots of stickhandling and nice passing. Now it’s all speed. But one thing remains the same though – the referees never seem to please the coaches or managers or owners. To this day, nobody is perfect.”

Cheer Up, Canucks’ Fans. Someday, Maybe. Probably Not, But Stranger Things Have Happened

Although it’s sad for Vancouver Canucks’ fans that their team has never won a Stanley Cup, they just have to remind themselves that someday, somehow, it could happen. Meanwhile, I’ll try to cheer them up by telling them about the time the Canucks’ great-grandfathers, the Vancouver Millionaires, did hoist the big old mug.

 

In 1915, the Millionaires, led by flashy forward Cyclone Taylor who had come out to Vancouver, liked it and stayed, clobbered the Portland Rosebuds 11-3 to clinch the Pacific Coast League title. Back east, the Ottawa Senators were doing the same thing to the Montreal Wanderers, beating them 4-1 to win the National Hockey Association championship.

 

So it was Ottawa against Vancouver, in Vancouver, for the first Stanley Cup series ever staged in Western Canada.

 

As the Senators made their way across the country by train, the Millionaires went to Portland to play a couple of games to keep them sharp for the big series. While there, captain Si Griffis twisted his ankle. And the guy the team hired for five bucks to sit in the dressing room and watch their valuables made off with all their money, Griffis’ gold watch, and goalie Hugh Lehman’s diamond stickpin. (I once had Hugh Lehman’s autograph on a small scrap of paper and sold it for 500 bucks on ebay.)

 

The big Stanley Cup series was a five-game series, and it was decided that each member of the winning team would receive $300. Big sell-outs were predicted at the old Denman Arena, which would eventually burn to the ground 21 years later. And in an unbelievable outpouring of generosity, each member of the Ottawa team was presented with a free streetcar pass by BC Electric.

 

The three big games were, somewhat surprising, less than sold out, but the Millionaires, all seven of them, clobbered those eastern lads in three straight games by a whopping 28-6 margin. And back then, players played the entire games without substitution.

 

The Millionaires collected their $300 and probably bought new fedoras, and maybe Easter bonnets for the little ladies. It’s not known if the Ottawa players ever got to use their free streetcar passes.

 

The Millionaires came close in other years but never saw the team’s name on the Stanley Cup again. However, in 1925 the Victoria Cougars won an east-west series with the Montreal Maroons to join the Millionaires as western Canada Stanley Cup champions. It’s possible that Millionaires’ fans did a slow, jealous burn about this.

 

Anyway, that was then, but this is now. The Canucks are now starting their 38th year and still no Cup in sight. The modern day Canucks may be millionaires, but they’re no Millionaires.

 

Not until they finally get the big job done.

The Golden Age Of Hockey Is Never Now, Always Before

Isn’t it funny how no matter what decade we’re in, many retired players and older fans always insist that the game isn’t as good as it used to be, when they played or watched.

 It’s only natural that they feel this way. The present game, of any decade, just doesn’t have the romance it did for them. And hockey always changes, whether it’s the way players shoot, or pass, or even their size.

 Ken Dryden, when asked when he thought the golden age of hockey was, answered that it’s whenever we were young.  It is for me. The 1950’s and 1960’s were my golden hockey years. They were magic years, with road hockey, collecting cards, digging pucks out of snowbanks, outdoor rinks and frozen toes,  and a six team NHL. And I had the Rocket, Beliveau, Howe, Hull, Plante, and Sawchuk to watch.

 But for men who played in the 1930’s and ’40’s, those 1950’s and ’60’s sucked. And for the ones’s who played in the 1910’s and ’20’s, the next few decades after them simply didn’t cut it.

It’ll always be like this. Ken Dryden was right. It all depends on when you were born.

 Here’s some examples.

 Cyclone Taylor, one of hockey earliest stars, talking about the game in 1968:

“I don’t think I’d like to play the game now. I was used to going on at the start of the game and playing to the finish. I think any man between the ages of 18 and 35 who can’t play 60 minutes of hockey – well, he just doesn’t want to play, that’s all.”

 Newsy Lalonde, who signed with the Montreal Canadiens in 1910, talking hockey in 1970.

 “Never did I use the slapshot the way you see it used in the NHL now, with the curved sticks and all. With us there was no other shot to use but the wrist shot. When a man makes a slapshot today it’s more powerful than a wrist shot, but you can’t place it in the same way. The modern player just shoots the puck in the general direction of the net and that’s it. We knew where the puck was going and didn’t have to look twice.

And if you think hockey is a tough game nowadays, you have no idea what toughness is all about.”

 Bill Durnan, star goalie for the Habs from 1943 to 1950, talking about the NHL in 1969.

 “It’s a changed game, no doubt about it. Now it’s congested and half the time you don’t know how the puck went into the net. Thy just don’t have the plays we had; they simply shove the puck in the corner, then there’s a wild scramble, with three or four guys behind the bloody net. The puck comes out and somebody bangs it in. At that point, even the announcers who are supposed to know what happened start guessing.

And the players have changed, especially their attitudes, though at least until recently there were a few honest skaters left. John Ferguson, who played for the Canadiens, is an example. I was at a party with him a few years ago and somebody asked him why he was such a stinker on the ice and a nice guy off it. Ferguson replied. “When I’m on the ice, I’m at work!”

Now that’s the kind of answer we oldtimers would give.”

 Cooper Smeaton, NHL referee before and after World War 1, interviewed in the 1970’s.

 “Those were the golden days of hockey when you had fellows like Howie Morenz, Nels Stewart, and Georges Vezina. They talk about Bobby Hull’s speed, but Morenz would whip around his net like a flash and be up the ice before you could blink your eyes.

Take a goal scorer like Stewart. In today’s game he’d score 100 goals. And in the old days if a team was a man short it would stickhandle the puck until time expired. Now they just heave it down the ice. You don’t have to pay a guy $400,000 to do that.

We had a more appealing game game with lots of stickhandling and nice passing. Now it’s all speed.

But one thing remains the same though – the referees never seem to please the coaches or managers or owners. To this day, nobody is perfect.”