Years ago, before the National Hockey League became the Wall Street-watching, unionized, big ticket machine it is today, teams of the original six would often spend part of their pre-season playing various senior teams that usually belonged to the big club, in smaller towns in smaller rinks throughout the country. The Montreal Canadiens, for example, would take their Stanley Cup team to Sault Ste. Marie or Trois Rivieres to play the local club in front of five or six thousand lucky people. People would see close up the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, Plante, and the rest.
It was the same with the other teams, although frankly, I’m having a hard time finding examples of the Leafs doing this. But the other teams did for sure, and it must have been a real treat for the locals. Kind of like the Vancouver Canucks coming to Powell River to play some serious hockey against the two-time Allan Cup winning Powell River Regals.
This old program shows the NHL New York Rangers in Edmonton to take on the Edmonton Flyers of the senior Western Hockey League in 1955. The Rangers iced the full lineup, as teams did for these games, and Gump Worsley, who later had a stellar career in Montreal, is the goaltender. For Edmonton, future New York Islanders coach Al Arbour is in the lineup, as is Aggie Kukulowicz, who later became known as the translater for the 1972 Soviet squad during the Summit Series.
Senior teams in those days were considered only a notch below the American Hockey League in talent, and players embraced the chance to show their wares against an NHL team. It could decide their future. And of course, the real winners were the fans.