Years ago, before the National Hockey League became the massive corporate machine it is today, big league squads would often spend part of their preseason playing various senior and minor league teams, teams that usually belonged to the big club, in smaller towns in smaller rinks throughout the country.
The Montreal Canadiens in the 1950s, for example, would take their Stanley Cup squad to places like Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Trail, and Trois Rivieres for example, to play the local club in front of a few thousand lucky people. Hockey fans would see the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, Plante and the rest, close up and personal, and it was often before many people had TVs and had until then only known these players through radio and newspapers.
Simply a tremendous treat for the locals.
The old program below shows the NHL New York Rangers in Edmonton to take on the Edmonton Flyers of the Western Hockey League before the start of the 1955-56 season. The Rangers iced the full lineup, as teams often did for these games, with Gump Worsley in nets for the Blueshirts.
For Edmonton, future New York Islanders coach Al Arbour is in the lineup, as is Aggie Kukulowicz, who later became known as the interpreter for the 1972 Soviet squad during the Summit Series.
Players from lesser leagues embraced the chance to show what they had against an NHL team. It could sometimes help decide their future. And of course, the fans were also big winners.
At one time, years ago, I tried to sell this old program on ebay, with a starting bid of something like 10 bucks. I didn’t get one bid and decided to hold on to it.
I like it a lot. It’s from another time, on good thick paper stock, and there are so many familiar names here; Bathgate, Worsley, Howell, Gadsby, Horvath, Dea, Melnyk, Poile et al.
Please excuse the two colours. The cover was taken with one camera late in the day, and second page was with another camera the next morning.
I guess it doesn’t matter.