Tag Archives: Maple Leaf Gardens

Last Row On The Floor

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It’s August 17th, which means that exactly 49 years ago today,  in 1966, the Beatles played a pair of shows at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

I was at the afternoon show, Beatle haircut and all.

The boss let me go early from my slave labour construction job I was doing for the summer,  and I went down to Toronto from Orillia with a disc jockey that my sister worked with at the local radio station. She had gotten word to me just that morning that the DJ was going, and asked if I would like to go with him.

I didn’t have a ticket, but incredibly, they were still available when we showed up at the Gardens, and I scored a $5.50 ticket in the very last row on the floor. That’s my ticket stub above, which I’ve managed to hold onto all these years. The DJ had a pass or something, and he disappeared into the crowd.

Several bands filled the lineup, including the Ronettes, the Cyrkle, Bobby Hebb, the Remains, and a Toronto band I can’t recall, and the Beatles in the finale played for about 40 minutes with girls everywhere screaming and fainting and carrying on. When I think about it now, a camera would’ve been a good thing.

What else do I remember? I think it was stifling hot inside the Gardens, for one thing. And when the Beatles sang I could make out what song it was, but other than that it was all kind of muffled.  You couldn’t hear them clearly because of those wild and crazy girls, and that was one of the main reasons they forever stopped touring just 12 days later, after their show in San Francisco.

Best of all, I remember George, who at times would point to sections in the greys at the top of the old barn, and the greens just below, and when he did, the fans there would rise together in magnificent fashion. Power at the tips of his fingers, like Moses parting the Red Sea. Only it was George, with his friends at Maple Leaf Gardens.

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Summer Windbag

May 20 – Mike Babcock leaves the Detroit Red Wings to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs, with the deal calling for 50 million bucks over eight years. Seriously, that’s more than I made at BC Ferries.

Last year Toronto brought in a hot shot advanced stats guy, and now it’s this coach. We’re all screwed. The Leafs will probably be fantastic from now on. Unstoppable every year until the two of them retire. Leafs fans are lucky.

May 21 – Babcock mentions at his big press conference that the Leafs are “Canada’s team”.

May 25 – Today I’ve been thinking about what Babcock said about Canada’s team. I wanted to know who Canada is, the one the team belongs to, so I typed in Canada 411 and had a look.

The problem is, there are quite a few people in Canada named Canada, and I’ve no idea which one the Leafs belong to. There’s Graham Canada in Brampton, Vicki Canada in Vancouver, Gorving Canada in Toronto, Sheldon Canada in Alberta, and a whole bunch in Manitoba, including Mervin and Terry. Others too, including Catherine Canada in Quebec. And then there’s the parents and siblings. All these Canadas, and at least one of them owns the Leafs. Right now we don’t know which one, but I’m hoping it’s Mervin.

Whichever Canada it is, maybe his or her granddad was part of the crew that helped build Maple leaf Gardens and took shares from Conn Smythe instead of money. And if it’s one of the Manitoba Canadas like Mervin, the neighbours probably had no idea. They thought the Canada clan down the road were Jets fans.

May 27 – Guy Lafleur says Brendan Gallagher should captain the Canadiens. Guy says what he thinks, and I say good for him, he doesn’t keep things bottled up inside which could lead to ulcers. Last year he put the hammer down on Max and Tomas Vanek for having lousy post seasons, before that it was Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau’s handling of Alex Kovalev, and in 2007 he said the Habs were a team of 4th liners. I’m sure there were more.

Management must grit their teeth when they find out that the Flower has spoken again.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter what Guy or any of us think about who should wear the C. It should be put to a dressing room vote. They know each other. They have showers together. But call the vote when no one’s expecting so there’s no time for players to do some personal brown nosing to garner votes, like buying flowers for the other guys’ wives, or babysitting their kids.

And sadly, Carey Price’s name shouldn’t be on the ballot. You know, the goalie/captain thing. But if Price was a forward or d-man, it’s the captaincy for sure.

June 2 – Jeff Petry signs a new six year, $33 million contract with the Canadiens. I like the Habs blueline. You got yer P.K. and Petry and Beaulieu and Emelin and Pateryn and Tinordi. And yes, even Old Man Markov, who will be relying on smarts only from here on in, which is still good.

June 3 – The Stanley Cup Final featuring the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks begins. Canada’s team isn’t involved. Probably next year because they have the coach and the stats guy. Mervin or Graham, or whichever Canada it is that the team belongs to, will be cheering wildly from Manitoba or wherever.

June 4 – Something slightly unusual happens to me today.

 

 

Rookie Orr Signs The Sheet

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A bit difficult to see because they’re in pencil, but this is a set of signatures from 1966-67 when the Bruins and Leafs played at Maple Leaf Gardens. The autographs are mine now, but I wasn’t the one who got them in the first place.

1966-67 was Bobby Orr’s rookie season in the NHL, and this group of signatures includes Orr (on the bottom right corner), and his dad Doug (two above Bobby’s, on the right).

Joining them are Ed Johnston, Wayne Connelly, Ron Schock, Ted Green, Joe Watson, Tom Williams, and J.P. Parise from the Bruins, along with Leafs George Armstrong, Larry Jeffrey, Brian Conacher, and Ron Ellis.

If you’re wondering how I know these are from 1966-67, it’s something I had to put into practice numerous times when I worked at Classic Auctions. Simply a quick look at each player’s career and find the year that’s common ground for all them. In this case, it’s 1966-67.

Leafs Tickets

The Leafs had some fine teams once upon a time, and scoring a ticket for the normal hockey fan with no connections was tough. Almost impossible.

You’d think nowadays would be a cinch but I know it’s not. Maybe within the next few years I’ll give it a shot when the Habs play there.

A couple of replies from the Gardens back in the ’60s. And at least they replied.

Even though on the first one they spelled my name “Lane”.

 

The Writers Get Paid

From my collection, this original accounts payable sheet is from Frank J. Selke, signed at the bottom, to various writers who had contributed stories to the Maple Leafs Gardens program in 1938.

Frank Selke, before he became the iconic GM of the Montreal Canadiens from 1946 to 1964, was an assistant and right-hand man to Conn Smythe in Toronto, from 1929 until ’46, when he moved to Montreal.

The names on this sheet are extraordinary, and when you see a payment of $40 for example, according to the Consumer Price Index, $40 in 1938 is equivalent to $642.23 today. And $25 equals $457.42.

Here they are:

Bobby Hewitson, an NHL referee from 1920 to 1934, was the very first curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and was sports editor of the now-defunct Toronto Telegram, a newspaper I delivered when I was 11 or 12. I had the final edition copy for years until my ex-wife threw it out.

Bill Grimes, legendary Boston sportswriter.

Elmer Ferguson, legendary sportswriter for the Montreal Herald and Montreal Star, which spanned 39 years. Elmer was also a radio commentator for the Montreal Maroons (1933-38) and the Canadiens (1938-67). He remains one of the greatest hockey writers of all time.

Tommy Munns, assistant sports editor of the Globe and Mail.

Victor O. Jones, sportswriter for the Boston Globe.

Ted Reeves, a true legend. Played on two Grey Cup Argos teams, and became a beloved sports writer with the Toronto Telegram and Toronto Sun. There’s even an arena named after him in Toronto. He used to write these rambling sports poems, one of which I have in an old program, and his nickname was “The Moaner.”

Fred Jackson, succeed Lou Marsh as sports editor of the Toronto Star.

Hal Straight, sports editor of the Toronto Sun, a man who taught Pierre Berton the ins-and-outs of the newpaper business.

Marc McNeil, sportswriter for the Montreal Gazette.

Bill Roche, sportswriter in Sarnia and Toronto, and hockey author.

Jim Hurley, sportswriter for the New York Daily Mirror.

Harry Scott, sports editor of the Calgary Albertan, who played two seasons for the Montreal Canadiens (1913-14, 1914-15), with Georges Vezina and Newsy Lalonde as teammates.

Please note: I couldn’t find any information about Boaxil O’Meara and John Buss. If anyone can fill me in I would appreciate it very much.

Glass Breaker

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This old photo, which is in my scrapbook, shows the Rocket in the late-1940s breaking the plexiglass at Maple Leaf Gardens as Vic Lynn looks on in disbelief.

A couple of neat stories that go with this photo that I learned from reading Brian McFarlane’s book “True Hockey Stories: The Habs”.

The photo has been credited to Nat Turofsky, one of two brothers, both of whom shot reams of legendary pictures in Toronto, (You can see their Alexandra Studios name on the left of the photo).

But this one was taken by a kid apprenticing for the Turofskys, who was lucky enough to have been sent to the other end of the ice from where Nat was, and where the glass-breaking happened.

Best of all, sitting just behind the glass when it broke and having pieces of it falling on them were the two salesmen who had sold the plexiglass to the Gardens in the first place, and who had claimed that it couldn’t be broken!

Here’s the picture in my scrapbook.

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Habs, Leafs, And Beatles

On August 17th in 1966, the Beatles played an afternoon show in Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens.

I was there and I’m pretty darn proud of it.

I was 15 years old and had a summer job as a highway construction slave labourer, but the boss let me go early and I went down to Toronto from Orillia with a disc jockey my sister worked with at the local radio station. She had got word to me just that morning that the DJ was going and asked if I would like to go with him.

I didn’t have a ticket, but believe it or not, they were still available when I showed up at the Gardens, and I got a $5.50 ticket in the very last row on the floor.

It was madness, of course. There were about six bands in the lineup, including the Ronettes, the Cyrkle, and Bobby Hebb, and the Beatles in the finale played for about 40 minutes with girls screaming and fainting and carrying on.

That fall, hockey season began, and the next spring, the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Habs in six games to win their last Stanley Cup.

The Leafs were an old team with guys like Terry Sawchuk, Johnny Bower, Red Kelly, and Allan Stanley, but Montreal wasn’t that young either. Henri Richard was 30, John Ferguson 27, Claude Provost was 32, Dick Duff 30, Ted Harris 30, Jean-Guy Talbot was 34, Jean Beliveau was 35, and the goalies, Gump Worsley and Charlie Hodge, were 37 and 33 respectively.

Of course, Montreal also had the kiddies. Yvan Cournoyer was all of 22. Claude Larose was 23. Jacques Laperriere 24. And Serge Savard and Carol Vadnais were just 20.

John and Ringo were 26, Paul 24, and George 23.

The Habs and Beatles remain in the hearts of millions.

The Leafs continue to suck.

Sittler Got Ten

My old buddy Mike Williamson was talking to Darryl Sittler for a few minutes last week when he was making his elevator maintenance rounds, and Mike mentioned to Darryl that he and his wife Diana were at the Gardens the night Sittler had six goals and four assists for an incredible ten points.

Ten points in one game. Imagine. Too bad he was a Leaf. But on the other hand, it was against Boston!

In honour of Mike chatting with Darryl, here’s Sittler getting his ten.

Against Don Cherry and the Bruins.

 

Game Day – Habs And Those Other Guys

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If I can only scrounge up $2.50 to go the game tonight. Even seventy-five cents if I don’t mind sitting up high. Of course it’ll cost me about $900 to fly to Toronto and back.

So all in all, to be there when the Canadiens wipe out Don Cherry’s love children would be about $902.50, which would be worth it to witness Carey Price and the gang stop this team that has no business making the playoffs because that’s not why they’re in the league. They’re there so we can make fun of them. It’s honorable if you ask me.

Two teams who could meet in the first round, but maybe not. Others teams might might want to have a say in things. But for now, the task at hand is to whup these Torontonians tonight to show them and their fans that maybe it might be better if they didn’t make the playoffs.

 

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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