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Friday, 5 December 2014

Old Time Hockey-The Original 6 And Before

Jean Beliveau

Gordie Howe
The Beginning.

About a week or so ago I watched a video of a rant by American political and sports commentator Keith Olbermann. Keith got his knickers in a twist because he didn’t like the term “Original 6” being applied to the 6 hockey NHL teams that were in existence prior to the NHL expanding in 1967. Technically Keith was right in that those 6 teams weren’t all the original NHL hockey teams.
The NHL was founded in 1917. From 1942 to 1967 there were 6 NHL hockey teams, The Montreal Canadiens, The Toronto Maple Leafs, The New York Rangers, The Boston Bruins, The Chicago Blackhawks, and The Detroit Red Wings. Between 1917 and 1942  there were a number of other teams in the NHL that folded their tents at one time or other including The Montreal Maroons (1924-38), The Montreal Wanderers (1917-18), The Quebec Bulldogs (1919-20), The Ottawa Senators (1917-34), The Pittsburg Pirates (1925-30), The Philadelphia Quakers (1930-31), The Hamilton Tigers (1920-25), The St. Louis Eagles (1934-35), and The Brooklyn Americans (1925-42).
The Stanley Cup was donated by Canadian Governor General Lord Stanley in 1893. Between 1893 and 1917 when the NHL was founded, all the teams that competed for the Stanley Cup were considered amateurs although they received some money. In those years before 1917 a team from Montreal won the cup a total of 26 times including The Montreal Shamrocks and The Montreal Victorias. A team from Ottawa won the cup 11 years in a row. There is nobody alive now who played for the cup before 1917. As a matter of fact there is nobody alive now who saw those players play. Players like Joe Malone and Art Ross are mostly forgotten.

Joe Malone
It wasn’t until 1926 that the Stanley Cup was awarded exclusively to an NHL team. In fact in the NHL’s first year the Stanley Cup was awarded to the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. The Stanley Cup wasn’t awarded to anyone in 1919 because of the flu epidemic that killed thousands in Canada and the US. The last team not in the NHL to win the Stanley Cup was the Victoria Cougars of the Western Canada Hockey League in 1925.
Yes Keith Olbermann was right about “the original 6” not being the original 6 but is it really that important? “The 6 teams that were in the NHL before they expanded in 1967” is quite a mouthful. Older hockey fans know what it means and most younger fans don’t have a clue who Howie Morenz, Newsy Lalonde, or Aurel Joliat were.
Newsy Lalonde
As far as I’m concerned the first three years of the “original 6” should have an asterisk beside any statistics from 1942-1945. A lot of the best players were in the armed services during WW2. Maurice “the Rocket” Richard was a great player but his 50 goals in 50 games in the 1944-45 season was certainly played against inferior opposition.
The Bastards Who Used To Run The NHL
In the 25 years between 1942 and 1967 when the NHL expanded either the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup about 4 fifths of the time. Detroit won the cup 5 times in that period and the Chicago Black Hawks once. For most of those years the league was not very well balanced.
Detroit Red Wings
James Norris owned the Detroit Red Wings from 1932 until 1952. The Norris Trophy which is awarded to the NHL’s best defenseman each year was named after him. There was a period of time where James Norris had an interest in 3 NHL teams at the same time, The Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Black Hawks, and the New York Rangers. He built the Chicago Stadium and owned shares in Madison Square Gardens in New York. When he died in 1952 his daughter, Margeurite, became president of the Red Wings. Her name is on the Stanley Cup. In 1955 she sold her shares to her brother James Norris Jr. Norris Jr. died in 1966 of a heart attack. Before he died he made sure that St. Louis was awarded one of the 6 new NHL franchises in the expansion of 1967. Nobody had applied for a St. Louis franchise at the time but James Norris Jr. owned the St. Louis Arena.
Notable Detroit Red Wings hockey players who played before the Orginal 6  include Sid Abel, Mud Bruteneau, Charle Conacher, Cec Dillon, Happy Emms, Syd Howe, Eddie Goodfellow, Bucko McDonald, Jimmy Orlando, Jack Stewart, Tiny Thompson, and Cooney Weiland.
Chicago Blackhawks
In 1944 when team owner Frederick MacLaughlin died the Chicago Blackhawks were sold to James Norris, the owner of the Detroit Red Wings. His ownership was kind of disguised because a man named Bill Tobin who was an ex hockey player acted as president. From 1945 through 1958 the Blackhawks only made it to the playoffs twice. It was almost like the only reason they were part of NHL at all was because a 6th team was needed.
Notable Chicago Blackhawks hockey players who played before the Original 6 include Max Bentley, Doug Bentley, Lionel Conacher, Cully Dahlstrom, Red Hamill, Dick Irvin, Alex Kaleta, Mush March, Howie Morenz, Bill Mosienko, Vic Ripley. and Art Weibe.
Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins are the 3rd oldest NHL team. The team started playing in 1924 and the owner was Charles Adams. He was born in Newport, Vermont not far from Montreal. In 1926 he bought the entire Western Canada Hockey League and stocked his Bruins team with their best players. In 1936 Adam’s son, Weston, took over as president of the team. The Bruins were sold to a consortium in 1951. In 1964 Weston became president of the team again and in 1969 Weston Junior became the new president.
Notable Boston Bruins hockey players who played before the Orioginal 6 include Bobby Bauer, Dit Clapper, Spraque Cleghorn, Bun Cook, Bill Cowley, Woody Dumart, Flash Hollett, Art Jackson, Terry Reardon, Milt Schmidt, Babe Seibert, Eddie Shore, Nels Stewart, Tiny Thompson, and Cooney Weiland.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers joined the NHL in 1926. The original owner of the team was a man named Tex Rickard. He was born in Kansas but spent most of his youth in Texas. The Rangers got their name from the Texas Rangers. Rickard is probably the most interesting owner ever in the NHL. He was elected marshal of Henrietta, Texas at the age of 23. He was a prospector in the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897. He was a poker dealer, a gambler and a bartender. He was also good friends with Wyatt Earp. In 1920 he secured the rights to promote live events at Madison Square Garden in New York. Rickard formed a partnership with boxer Jack Dempsey and his manager Jack Kearns. Together they grossed over 8 million dollars in profits in only 5 fights. One of his other partners back then was Jess McMahan whose grandson is Vince McMahan of World Wrestling Entertainment fame. Rickard died in 1929 at the age of 59.
Tex Rickard with Jack Dempsey
The New York Rangers have never had one owner. The Madison Square Garden Corporation owned the team until they sold it to Gulf & Western in 1977. William Jennings was the president of the Rangers from 1962 to 1981.
Notable New York Rangers hockey players who played before the Original 6 include Frank Boucher, Bill Cook, Bryan Hextall Sr., Phil Watson, Ching Johnson, Dave Kerr, Lorne Chabot, Neil Colville, Bun Cook, Muzz Patrick, Babe Pratt, Earl Siebert, Alex Shibicky, and Clint Smith.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Conn Smythe was a veteran of both WW1 and WW2.  As an airborne observer in the army in WW1 he was shot down and captured by the Germans. After returning from WW1 he started a sand and gravel business in Toronto. One of his employees was Frank Selke Sr. He also coached the University of Toronto varsity hockey team. Smythe was hired by The new New York Rangers to recruit players and was promised the job of managing the team. Before the Rangers played their first game in 1926 Smythe was fired and replaced by Lester Patrick.
In 1927 Smythe put together a group that bought the existing Toronto NHL team which was called the Toronto St. Patricks at the time and changed the team name to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In their first year of operation the maple leaf logo was actually green and white before becoming blue and white. In 1931 Smythe and his partners built Maple Leaf Gardens. He was a colonel in the Canadian army in WW2 and was badly wounded in France. He would walk with a limp for the rest of his life.
After WW2 there was a power struggle between Frank Selke Sr. and Smythe as to who would have control over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not long after Selke left Toronto and became the head of hockey operations for the Montreal Canadiens. Older hockey fans will remember Frank Selke Jr. doing in between periods interviews on CBC TV in the 1950s and early 1960s. Smythe secured a controlling interest in the Leafs and in 1947 installed himself as president of Maple Leaf Gardens.
Conn Smythe
The Maple Leafs won 6 Stanley Cups between 1942 and 1951. Smythe supervised the building of Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961 in Toronto. The Hockey Hall of Fame would later move to its present site, an old Bank of Montreal Building on the corner of Front Street and Yonge Street. Smythe was the chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame but resigned when former Maple Leaf Busher Jackson was inducted into the Hall in 1971 5 years after Jackson’s death. Smythe didn’t believe that an alcoholic like Jackson should receive such a prestigious award.
In the mid-1950s a group of seven men were running Maple Leaf Gardens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. One of them was Conn Smythe’s son Stafford Smythe. Eventually John Bassett,  Harold Ballard, and Stafford Smythe became the 3 main principals. Bassett sold out, Stafford died at the age of 50 in 1971 and Ballard became the majority owner in 1972 and held that position until his death in 1990. Conn Smythe severed his ties with the hockey team in 1966 but it was pretty obvious where Stafford Smythe had gotten the money to have shares in the Maple Leafs. Conn Smythe claimed that the reason he sold his last shares was because of Maple Leaf Gardens showing heavyweight boxing matches on a  big screen of boxing champion Mohammad Ali. He thought that Ali was nothing more than a draft dodger. (I went to most of those fights on the big screen at Maple Leaf Gardens.)
Notable Toronto Maple Leaf hockey players who played before the Original 6 include Syl Apps, Ace Bailey, Lorne Chabot, Murph Chamberlain, Hap Day, Gordie Drillon, Hank Goldup, George Hainsworth, Red Horner, Busher Jackson, Nick Metz, Sweeny Shriner, Gabe Stewart, and Turk Broda.
Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens are one of the most storied North American professional sports franchises in history. Over the years in The Canadiens team have won 24 Stanly Cups. The Toronto Maple Leafs have won 13 cups. The Montreal Forum on Ste. Catherine Street was built in 1924 and would be the home of The Canadiens for the next 72 years.
Montreal Forum
The Montreal Canadiens were originally owned by a man named George Kennedy. His real name was George Kendall and Kennedy was the name he chose as an alias because he was a wrestler and his family frowned on that sports activity. In 1919 he contacted the Spanish Flu and he died in 1921. The team was sold by his widow to a group headed up by Leo Dandurand.
For a number of years Montreal had two teams in the NHL, the Canadiens and the Maroons. The Maroons folded in 1938. One of their best players was Nels Stewart.  The Maroons won the Staley Cup in 1926 and 1935. The Montreal Forum was actually built specifically for the Montreal Maroons. In 1935 Leo Dandurand sold the Canadiens to the Canadian Arena Company. For 3 years this company owned both the Maroons and the Canadiens. The Maroons tended to have more English speaking fans and the Canadiens more French speaking fans.
Times were tough in the Great Depression and The Montreal Canadians often had as few as 3, 000 fans turn up to their games. There was talk about moving the team to Cleveland, Ohio. Things were so tough that The Canadiens sold their star, Howie Morenz, to The Chicago Black Hawks in 1934. Morenz returned to Montreal to play but died in 1937 after catching his skate on the ice and breaking his leg in 4 places. He died of a coronary embolism and over 50,000 Montrealers filed past his casket at center ice at the Montreal Forum.
Howie Morenz
In 1957 Hartland Molson and his brother Thomas bought The Montreal Canadiens from The Canadian Arena Company. In 1964 they sold the team to 3 of their cousins for 5 million dollars. They in turn sold the team in 1971 to a group headed up by the Bronfman brothers Peter and Edward for 150 million dollars. In 1978 Molson Breweries acquired The Canadiens and In 2001 Molson’s sold the team to businessman George Gillett Jr. for 275 million while retaining a 20% interest.
Notable Montreal Canadiens hockey players who played for the team before the Original 6 include Toe Blake, Butch Bouchard, Murph Chamberlain, Sprague Cleghorn, Billu Coutu, George Hainsworth, Aurel Joliat, Elner Lach, Battleship Leduc, Joe Malone, George Mantha, George Vezina, Newsy Lalonde, and Cecil Hart.
Why Were A lot Of The Old Time Owners Bastards?
The NHL Players Association was formed in 1957 but the players never really had any real rights before 1967. Up until then the players were basically slaves to the owners. There was no negotiating in player’s contracts. All of the players were the property of the owners. If a player was traded they were required to play for their own moving expenses.
Most professional hockey players up until the 1970s didn’t have a complete high school education. Many of them were from small towns in Canada, mining and mill towns, farming areas. The prospect of playing hockey for a living seemed a lot more attractive than getting stuck in some mill for most of their working lives. They might not have agreed with the conditions of their employment but most knew that they could lose their NHL jobs in a heartbeat if they tried to form a union. The owners had all the money and high priced lawyers.
The implementation of the NHL players first pension plan occurred in 1947. The deal included the players contributing 900 dollars a year to the plan. The owners were also supposed to kick in some money. The owners came up with their contributions in 2 ways. The first was to not pay the players any money for playing in the annual All Star game. The 2nd was to take the advertising profits from the Beehive Honey hockey cards and other advertising resources and apply it to the pension fund.
With only 6 teams in the NHL between 1942 and 1967 there were only about 120 jobs available for players in the league. Unless they were a superstar players could easily be replaced by someone else. Most of them could be sent down to the minors at any time. For years the worst place to end up in the minors was playing for the Springfield Indians who were owned by Eddie Shore. He treated his players like dirt and even had some of them do cleaning work around the hockey arena.
Up until the 1970s hockey wasn’t that great of a way to make a living. Most players had off season jobs. Very few of them owned houses and had to rent. Most NHL players in the 1950s made less than 10 thousand dollars a year.  In his last year in the NHL in 1959-60 Maurice Richard was paid 25 thousand dollars.
During the Original 6 era there were only 6 coaches and 6 general managers in the NHL at one time. Mostly they were hardnosed ex-players. They got their instructions directly from the owners and always towed the line. Most of them thought it was never a good idea to be on their player’s side about anything. Doing so would certainly mean the end of their careers.
Back in the Original 6 era, hockey players travelled by train during the hockey season. Players were told not to associate with anyone on another team. If two teams were on the same train they would take turns eating in the dining car to avoid fraternization.
In 1957 Detroit player Ted Lindsay attended an annual meeting on the player’s pension plan as the Detroit Red Wings representative. He soon discovered that the pension plan’s assets and value was not available to the players. Later that year he attended a promotion for football and baseball professionals and found out that conditions for players were much better in those leagues than the NHL.
Lindsay got together with Canadien’s star defenseman, Doug Harvey, and discussed forming a player’s union. They decided to call it an association instead of a union because in the 1950s a lot of people, particularly the owners, associated unionism with communism. In secret all of the NHL players at the time were contacted and forming a player’s association was nearly unanimously supported. New York’s Bill Gadsby, Chicago’s Gus Mortson, Toronto’s Jim Thomson were also active in forming The Player’s Association.

Ted Lindsay

Doug Harvey
The owners were furious when they found out what had gone on behind their backs. They started to try and convince the players that forming a union would be a disaster and bad for hockey. Jack Adams was the general manager of the Detroit Red Wings at the time. He was known as Trader Jack. He waved a fake contract about for Detroit reporters that said Ted Lindsay was making 25 thousand dollars a year when fact he was only making 13 thousand. Adams also spread rumours that Lindsay was criticizing his teammates.

Ted Lindsay was at the peak of his career in the 1956-57 hockey season. He scored 30 times and had 55 assists that year. Doug Harvey won the Norris Trophy which was awarded to the NHL’s best defenseman 7 times in his career including the 1956-57 season.
Jack Adams would often try to intimidate his players. Sometimes he would wave a couple of train tickets to Detroit’s farm team around to keep the players on their toes. Because of Lindsay’s involvement in the player’s organization Jack Adams stripped him of his Red Wings captaincy. A bit later Lindsay was shipped off to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks along with goalie Glenn Hall. A few years later Doug Harvey was shipped off to the New York Rangers by the Montreal Canadiens. 
Unlike most other NHL players at the time Lindsay was a partner in a successful business supplying auto parts to Detroit car makers and wasn’t soley dependent on The NHL. His teammates Red Kelly and Gordie Howe relied totally on hockey for their incomes and sadly they were not very supportive of Lindsay when the owners turned on him.
Toronto owner Conn Smythe was enraged when he found out that the players had secretly decided to form an association. Toronto sportswriter Milt Dunnell quoted Smythe as saying “The rules are simple. Aside from what you wear, what you say, what you eat, what you drink, who you are with, where you are going, how much you weigh and what you think, the club has little, if any, interest in the hired help, outside of business hours.” For his role in trying to form a player’s association Toronto defenseman Jim Thompson was shipped off to Chicago. Leafs Tod Sloan was also sent to Chicago for the same reasons.
The owners made allowances for most of the player’s demands and the first attempt at forming a player’s association fell by the wayside. In 1989 it was discovered that the NHL pension plan had a surplus of 25 million dollars. A permanent player’s union didn’t come about until 1967. After he retired Ted Lindsay made one more contribution to the NHL players. He refused to attend the dinner when he was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 1966 because wives weren’t invited. That rule was changed in 1967.
Up until the 1970s the NHL was like a private fiefdom. The Norris brothers had interests in 3 NHL teams for starters. The owners controlled almost all of hockey, including the junior leagues and a lot of the minor professional leagues.
In 1967 when the NHL added 6 new American based teams the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs management made sure that Vancouver didn’t get one of the new teams. Their reasoning was that they didn’t want to share any of the Canadian market. In 1970 Vancouver finally got an NHL franchise. Expansion saw windfall profits for each of the Original 6 teams. Selling franchises was very profitable.
From 1946 until 1977 Clarence Campbell was the president of the NHL. In 1976 he was convicted of bribing a man named Louis Giguere in something called “The Skyshops Scandal”. The NHL paid his fine and Campbell didn’t serve any jail time because of his health and age.
Alan Eagleson was a lawyer and player agent who was friends with Toronto Maple Leafs hockey players Bob Pulford, Carl Brewer, Bobby Baun, and Billy Harris. He negotiated Bobby Orr’s first NHL contract. Eagleson was the catalyst in forming The NHL Players Association in  1967 and held the position of executive director for 25 years. He also represented a number of NHL players including Lanny MacDonald and Daryl Sittler of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In 1980 Punch Imlach was the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and wasn’t happy with Sittler’s influence in the dressing room. Imlach wanted to trade Sittler but Eagleson pointed out that he had a no-trade contract. Eagleson said Sittler would wave the no-trade clause if the Leafs gave him $500,000.00. Instead Imlach shipped Sittler’s best friend Lanny MacDonald off to Colorado.
If Imlach was a prick, Eagleson was a super prick. He became a powerful force in The NHL in the 1970s. Eventually in the 1990s Eagleson was charged with 34 counts by the FBI including fraud, embezzlement and racketeering. It would take 3 more years for the Canadian RCMP to lay charges against Eagleson. He would end up being disbarred in two counties and received a sentence of 3 years of which he served about 6 months in a jail near Toronto. He was supposed to be representing the NHL players but wasn’t.
What Eagleson was doing was working in collusion with the NHL president at the time John Ziegler and the NHL Board of Governors. Eagleson was thrilled about international hockey and basically traded away free agency to the owner’s to get their OK for players to play in these international tournaments. He was also syphoning off some of the profits for himself.
Eagleson also worked to get some teams from the upstart WHA admitted into the NHL which killed one of the player’s bargaining chips. Bobby Orr claims he was broke when he retired because of injury. Eagleson was his agent. Eagleson’s time with NHL was sad. He was one greedy bastard without ant ethics at all it seems.
Two of the more noticeable things about the early years of North America hockey were that you didn’t have to be very big in size to play the game and it seemed like every second player had a nick name. Hockey seasons were much shorter back then. When the NHL was founded in 1917 they only played 24 games in a hockey season. By 1928 the season was increased to 44 games.  1926 was the last year that a team outside of the NHL competed for the Stanley Cup. That team was the Victoria Cougars who had won the cup the year before. In the 1928-29 season Montreal Canadiens goalie George Hainsworth had 22 shutouts in 44 games. Not long after that feate the league introduced forward passing. Up until that time players could only pass the puck backwards or laterally. The new rule increased scoring by about 2-1/2 times. The Ottawa Senators won the Stanley Cup 4 times in the 1920s. In 1928 New York Rangers coach, Lester Patrick, played part of an NHL game in goal after his goalie was injured Patrick was 44 years of age at the time.

Lester Patrick
There were some great players in the 1920s that never played in the NHL including Lester Patrick, Cyclone Taylor and Hap Holmes. Some of the NHL stars of the 1920s were Howie Morenz, Lionel Conacher (later voted Canada’s best athlete of the first 50 years of the 20th century) Dit Clapper, Sprague Cleghorn, Aurel Joliat, Newsy Lalonde, Nels Stewart, Frank Boucher, Red Dutton, Hap Day, George Hainsworth, Punch Broadbent, George Vezina (Vezina Trophy named after him), Joe Primeau, Frank Nighbor, Hooley Smith, and Red Horner.
Most of the 1930s was about The Great Depression. Pretty well all NHL teams found themselves in financial difficulty at one time or another. The Montreal Canadiens almost moved to Cleveland, Ohio at one point. NHL hockey players weren’t paid a lot in the 30s but it sure beat the hell out of not having a job at all.
In 1933, Boston Bruin’s defenseman Eddie Shore ended Toronto Maple Leafs star Ace Bailey’s career with a hit from behind. In 1937 one of NHL’s first superstars who had already spent 14 years in the NHL, died as a result of an on ice injury. His name was Howie Morenz. He was playing for the Montreal Canadiens and chased the puck into the corner where he tripped and hit the boards and Chicago defenseman Earl Seibert fell on top of him. Morenz’s leg was broken in 4 places. While recuperating in the hospital his heart stopped because of a blood clot. Over 50,000 fans filed past his casket as he lay in state at the Montreal Forum.
In 1938 the Montreal Maroons folded. They had been a part of the NHL for 14 previous years. The attendance at some NHL games in the 1930s was as low as 2,000 spectators. Montreal just couldn’t afford 2 NHL teams. The Chicago Black Hawks won 2 Stanley Cups in the 1930s and wouldn’t win another one until 1961.
Some of bigger NHL stars of 1930s were Mud Brutaneau, Jack Stewart, Cooney Weiland, King Clancy, Charlie Gardiner, Tiny Thompson, Harvey Jackson, Frank Boucher, Bill Cook, Babe Seibert, Ching Johnson, and Howie Morenz.

#8 Eddie Shore
Canada went to war in 1939 and a number of NHL players joined the armed services. The Toronto Maple Leafs won 5 Stanley Cups in the 1940s. The Maple Leafs were led by players like Ted “Teeder” Kennedy, Syl Apps, Babe Pratt, Sweeney Shriner, Gord Drillon, Bud Poile, Harry Watson, Gaye Stewart,  Howie Meeker won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in the 1946-47 season beating out Gordie Howe. It was one of the few things Howe didn’t win in his career.

Howie Meeker
In the 1942-43 season Maurice “The Rocket” Richard joined the Montreal Canadiens. In the 1944-45 hockey season he became the first NHL player to score 50 goals in 50 games. For most of the 1940s Richard played on a line with Elmer Lach and Toe Blake who would later become the coach of the team. Montreal won 2 Stanley Cups in the 1940s. Bill Durnam was the Montreal goalie for 7 years during the 1940s. Montreal’s best defenseman during that decade was Butch Bouchard.
Gordie Howe was only 17 when he started playing professional hockey for The Omaha Knights. He played his first NHL game at the age of 18 in 1946 for The Detroit Red Wings. Howe played on a line with Ted Lindsay and Sid Abel. In 1949 the trio finished 1, 2, and 3 in NHL scoring. Red Kelly joined The Red Wings in the 1947-48 season. He was one of only a few NHL players who played both defense and forward. Harry Lumley was the Detroit goalie for 6 years in the 1940s.
The New York Rangers steadiest goal scorer in the 1940s was Bryan Hextall. His sons Bryan Jr. and Dennis had long NHL careers as did his grandson goaltender Ron Hextall. The Rangers had a tough time of it in the 40s usually finishing close to the bottom of league. A few of their brighter lights in the 40s were Buddy O’Connor, Edgar Laprade, Tony Leswick, Ab Demarco, Grant Warwick, and goalie “Sugar” Jim Henry.
The Chicago Black Hawks were cellar dwellers for most of the 1940s. Their best players in that decade were the Bentley brothers, Doug and Max, and Bill Mosienko.
The Boston Bruins won 1 Stanly Cup in the 1940s in 1940. They finished 2nd in the league 3 times in that decade. Among their best players in those 10 years were Bill Cowley, Milt Schmidt, Bobby Bauer, Woody Dumart, and goalie Frank Brimsek.
In 1949 the NHL decided to paint the ice white for the first time so that it was easier to follow the puck.

Bill Mosienko
The Montreal Canadiens played in 9 out of 10 Stanley Cup finals in the 1950s, winning the cup 5 times. From 1942 until 1969, a period of 27 years, the only teams to win The Stanley Cup other than The Chicago Blackhawks in 1961 were The Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and The Detroit Red Wings.
Saturday night televised hockey became an institution on CBC Television starting in 1952. NHL president Clarence Campbell didn’t like the idea of televising hockey because he thought it would affect attendance at The Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens.
Up until the 1950s a 2 minute penalty didn’t end if a goal was scored. That was changed when Montreal’s power play would often score 2-3 goals in those 2 minutes. Hockey was changing dramatically in the 1950s as to how the game was played. Doug Harvey became one of the first dominating rushing defenseman, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion perfected the slap shot (If that’s possible?), and in 1959 Jacques Plante was allowed to wear a goalie mask despite some protestations from his coach Toe Blake.
The Richard Riot

Rocket Richard
Maurice “The Rocket” Richard was a hero to many Quebecers with French backgrounds. Back in the 50s most commerce in Montreal was controlled by English speaking Canadians and many French Canadians resented that. Richard was a fiery individual who stood up to a lot of harassment from opposing players. There wasn’t a more determined hockey player than Richard in his era. Richard wouldn’t take crap from anyone which endeared him to French Canadian hockey fans.
In 1955 Richard was involved in a violent confrontation with Boston Bruin’s defenseman Hal Laycoe who had previously played for The Canadiens. Laycoe high-sticked Richard when the Canadiens were on a power play. Richard would later require 5 stitches on his head. Laycoe and Richard squared off to fight and Richard hit Laycoe in the head and shoulders with his stick. Linesman Cliff Thompson tried to coral Richard but he got away and broke his stick hitting Laycoe again. Richard then punched lineman Thompson twice in the face and Thompson fell to the ice unconscious.
It was the second time Richard had assaulted an on-ice official that season. The Boston police tried to arrest Richard but the Canadien’s players wouldn’t let them in their dressing room. The police were convinced to let the NHL handle the situation. A few days later Richard was suspended for the remainder of the season and the play-offs by NHL president Clarence Campbell. The general consensus around the league was that, if anything, Richard’s punishment wasn’t severe enough.
Many Canadiens fans were furious particularly French Canadian ones. Many of them considered Campbell’s decision to suspend Richard as an English person unfairly dealing with a French Canadian. Montreal’s next home game was against Detroit at The Forum. President Campbell let it be known that he would attend the game. Meanwhile bomb threats were being phoned into the Canadiens office.
Before the game an angry crowd gathered across the street from The Forum. An attempt was made by some of them to rush the ticket gate but they were blocked by the police and Forum staff. By now the crowd outside of The Forum who didn’t have tickets to the game had grown to about 6,000 people. Some of them smashed store windows and threw stuff at passing streetcars.
Campbell turned up midway through the first period with 3 secretaries, one who would later become his wife. In hindsight it was kind of brave of him to face an angry crowd but it was also cowardly that he exposed his secretaries to the crowd’s wrath. For several minutes Campbell and his group were pelted with eggs, vegetables, and other stuff. At the end of the first period Detroit was winning the game 4-1.
A fan managed to get by security and held out his hand as if he wanted to shake Campbell’s hand. He then slapped Campbell across the face and punched him. While the fan was being dragged away he tried to kick Campbell. Shortly after a smoke bomb or 2 went off.  The Montreal Fire Chief suspended the game and bit later the game was forfeited to The Red Wings.
All hell broke loose on Ste. Catherine Street outside of The Forum. More stores had their windows broken, bystanders were attacked, and some cars were set on fire. The riot didn’t end until 3 a.m. in the morning. About 100 people were arrested.
At the time Montreal was competing for 1st place in the league and Maurice Richard was vying for the scoring title. When Richard’s teammate Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion passed Richard in the scoring race in the last game of the season many of the Montreal fans booed him.

The Montreal Canadiens
Montreal was a powerhouse in the 1950s. One of those teams had 12 players who would later be inducted into The Hockey Hall of Fame. Arguably they had the best center in Jean Beliveau, the best defenseman in Doug Harvey, and the best goalie in Jacques Plante.

Jacques Plante
Other exceptional players in the 1950s who were on the Canadiens teams include the Richard bothers Maurice and Henri, Bernie Geoffrion, Dickie Moore, Tom Johnson, Butch Bouchard, Gerry McNeil, Ralph Backstrom, Phil Goyette, Jean-Guy Talbot, Claude Provost, Floyd Curry, Don Marshall, Bert Olmstead, Ken Mosdell, and Elmer Lach.
The Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings were in 5 Stanley Cup finals in the first seven years of the 50s and won the cup 4 times. At the beginning of the decade the trio of Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe, and Sid Abel were Detroit’s big scoring threats. Sid Abel retired and Alex Delvecchio became the center on that line. Delvecchio would go on to play 22 seasons for The Red Wings.

Lindsay, Howe, and Delvecchio

Red Kelly started his NHL career as a defenseman and won the Norris Trophy in 1954 as the best player at that position. He later became a forward. Goaltender Terry Sawchuk was the Detroit goalie for most of the 1950s other than the 2 years he played for The Boston Bruins. Norm Ullman joined The Red Wings in the 1955-56 season and played over 1400 games in the NHL.  Reliable defensemen Marcel Pronovost spent almost the entire decade of the 50s with The Red Wings.
The Boston Bruins
In the early 50s Milt Schmidt was probably the best known Boston Bruin’s player. He had been with the team since 1937 other than the 2 years he was in the Canadian Air Force. At one time Schmidt had been a part of the “Kraut Line” along with Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer. The line name came about because of their German ancestry. In 1942 the trio joined The Canadian Air Force on the same day.

Milt Schmidt
For the first several years in the 50s The Bruins weren’t a very good team although they did have some decent players including Schmidt, Fleming Mackell, Fern Flaman , Real Chverefils, Leo Labine,  and defensemen Doug Mohns and Bill Quackenbush.
In 1956-57 and 1957-58 The Bruins reached The Stanley Cup finals twice and lost both times. Don Mckenney had become the team’s star and a couple of young guys, Bronco Horvath and Johnny Bucyk, had joined the team. The first black player in the NHL was Willie O’Ree. He played 2 games for The Bruins in the 57-58 season and 43 more in 60-61.

Willie O'Ree
The Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks were the doormats of the NHL for almost all of the 1950s. In the 1950-51 season the team only had two 20 goal scorers, Bill Mosienko and the 34 year old  Roy Conacher. Al Rollins was the Chicago goalie for much of the 50s and he didn’t get a lot of defensive support.
Things were so bad in Chicago that they kind of became a charity case getting some players from other NHL teams including The Montreal Canadiens for a nominal price. Litzenberger had 3 seasons with over 30 goals in the 50s. Chicago also got forward Ab MacDonald and defensemen Dollard St. Laurent and Bob Turner from Montreal. In the 1957-58 season The Detroit Red Wings had to make a decision between goalies Terry Sawchuk and Glen Hall  was sent to Chicago. Back then NHL teams only carried 1 goalie.

Eddie Litzenberger
In the late 50s Chicago added 3 players that would change the team’s fortunes for years to come. Those players were Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, and Pierre Pilote.
The New York Rangers
The New York Rangers had only 1 winning season in the 1950s and were out of the play-offs almost every year. At the beginning of the decade Wally Hergensheimer was their best forward. By the mid-1950s The Rangers seemed to have a decent team with forwards like Andy Bathgate, Dean Prentice, Camille Henry, Andy Hebenton, Red Sullivan, defensemen Harry Howell and Bill Gadsby, and goaltender Gump Worsley, but they just couldn’t get it done.

Andy Bathgate
The Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup in 1950-51 led by players like Teeder Kennedy, Max Bentley, Tod Sloan, Harry Watson, and Cal Gardiner. They wouldn’t make it back to the finals until 1959 when they lost to The Canadiens. That year they had six 20 goal scorers, Dick Duff, Billy Harris, Frank Mahovolich. Bob Pulford, George Armstrong, and Ron Stewart. They had a pretty good back end too with players like Allan Stanley, Carl Brewer, Bob Baun, and Tim Horton. Johnny Bower was the goalie. Punch Imlach took over the coaching duties in the 58-59 season.

Tim Horton, Jean Beliveau, Johnny Bower
In the 60s most goalies were now wearing masks a few players started wearing helmets like Montreal defenseman J.C Termblay. The last goalie to not wear a mask was Pittsburg Penquin Andy Brown in 1974.
Montreal won their 5th Stanley Cup in a row in 1960. Chicago won its first Stanley Cup in 23 years in 1961. For the rest of the decade it was either Toronto or Montreal that would win the cup.
In 1967 6 new teams became a part of the NHL, The Philadelphia Flyers, The Pittsburg Penguins, The Minnesota North Stars, The St. Louis Blues, The Oakland Seals, and The Los Angeles Kings.  The St. Louis Blues were the first expansion team to play in the Stanley Cup finals losing to The Montreal Canadiens in 4 straight games in 1968 and 1969. Expansion meant longer NHL careers for number of hockey players, many of them who had been stuck in the minors.
The Montreal Canadiens
Montreal was continually adding players to their exceptional line-up in the 60s, many of them French Canadiens, including J.C. Trembay, Gilles Tremblay, Bobby Rouseau, Yvan Cournoyer, Claude Larose, and Jacques Laperriere. Two of their tougher English speaking players in that decade were John Ferguson and Terry Harper.

Yvon Cournoyer
The Chicago Blackhawks
In the early 60s Chicago had its “Skooter Line” of Stan Mikita, Kenny Wharam, and Ab MacDonald. MacDonald would later be replaced by Doug Mohns. Bobby Hull played on the “Million Dollar Line” along with Bill  “Red” Hay and Murray Balfour. Pierre Pilote spent 13 years with The Blackhawks and won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman 3 times in the 60s and was runner up 3 times. In 1967 The Blackhawks made one of the worst trades in hockey history sending Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, Fred Stanfield, for Pit Martin, Gilles Marotte and goalie Jack Norris.

Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita
Pit Martin and Gilles Marotte were actually pretty decent hockey players. Norris only played 10 games for The Hawks. Other notable players who played for The Hawks in the 60s were Glen Hall, Elmer “Moose Vasko, Pat  Stapleton, Dennis Hull, and Eric Nesterenko.
The Boston Bruins
It wasn’t until The Boston Bruins made the trade with Chicago in 1967 that Boston stopped being the league doormats. Up until the trade Johnny Bucyk and Tom Williams were the stars of the team in the early part of the 60s. The team also had a pretty decent defenseman in Ted Green. Superstar Bobby Orr joined The Bruins in the 66-67 season. The team had a couple of competent goalies in Eddie Johnston and Gerry Cheevers.

Johnny Bucyk
The New York Rangers
In the 1960s The Rangers started to clean house trading away a lot of their veterans. Andy Bathgate and Don Mckenney were sent to Toronto, Dean Prentice went to Boston, Gump Worsley ended up in Montreal, and Andy Hebenton and Camille Henry were also traded away. The new stars on the team were Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle, and Vic Hadfield who played on the same line. Other goal scorers were Earl Ingerfield and Bob Nevin. 2 steady blueliners for most of the 60s were Jim Nielson and Rod Seiling. In the 1965-66 season Ed Giacomin became the #1 goalie for the rest of the decade.
The Detroit Red Wings

In 1961 The Red Wings somehow made it to The Stanley Cup Finals despite having a losing record that season. They were led by the veteran line of Norm Ullman, Alex Delvecchio, and Gordie Howe. Detroit also made it to The Stanley Cup Finals in both the 1962-63 season and the 1963-64 season losing both times to The Leafs. Parker MacDonald  became one of the team’s leading scorers.

Norm Ullman
In the 1964-65 season long time Detroit goalie Terry Sawchuk was shipped off to Toronto in a trade. Roger Crozier became the main guy in goal. Gary Bergman became Detroit’s best defenseman.
The Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs won The Stanley Cup 4 times in the 1960s, in 1962-63-64 and 67. The nucleus of those teams were forwards like Frank Mahovolich, Dave Keon, George Armstong, Bon Nevin, Bob Pulford, Red Kelly, and Ron Stewart and on defense players like Tim Horton, Allan Stanley, Bob Baun, and Carl Brewer. Johnny Bower was The Leafs goalie for most of the 60s.

Frank Mohovlich and Red Kelly
1967 Expansion
In some ways the addition of 6 new teams to the NHL in 1967 was similar to The Dodgers and The Giants moving to California in the 1950s. Of the Original 6 four NHL teams were in the east and 2 were in the mid-west. California was and is the most populous state in the US and the NHL wanted teams there. Oakland was a terrible choice for one of those teams.
The expansion fee was 2 million dollars and each of those teams had to pay an additional $50,000.00 for each player they drafted from the Original 6 teams. It was windfall profits for the Original 6 team owners. A lot of Canadians were pissed off that none of the new teams were in Canadian cities.
A new division was created for the new teams. The Original 6 teams were allowed to protect 11 players and 1 goalie. They were also allowed to protect an additional player after losing one in the draft. Junior players were not draftable. Pretty well all the first picks by the expansion teams were goalies. The first player taken in the draft was Detroit goalie Terry Sawchuk who was taken by The Los Angeles Kings. LA also chose the first forward in the draft taking Gord Labossiere from Montreal.

Terry Sawchuk
Somehow Montreal managed to hide young players Danny Grant, Carol Vadnais, Claude Larose, and Serge Savard in the draft.
Hockey had changed forever. 5 years later it would change even more with formation of a new league called The WHA. NHL and WHA players no longer needed summer jobs.
Some Of My Own Hockey Memories From Years Ago.
#1 Montreal forward Marcel Bonin once wrestled a bear.
#2 I remember seeing Montreal defensemen Lou Fontinato crash into the boards in his own end never to play hockey again.  

Lou Fontinato
#3 Montreal defenseman J.C. Tremblay once had the puck on his stick behind his own net and took off his glove to pick something up off the ice.
#4 Henri Richard always seemed so predictable. He always went along the boards and not down the middle of the ice when rushing the puck. I wondered why no one ever just creamed him into the boards. He wasn’t that fast.
#5 Toronto defenseman Allan Stanley looked like an old man before his time. Skating wasn’t his forte.
#6 I remember Bryan Watson shadowing Bobby Hull not giving Hull a chance to let go his slap shot.
#7 Boston goalie Gerry Cheevers once hid behind a defenseman when Bobby Hull was about to blast away.
#8 I heard a rumour once that Derek Sanderson was once chased into the stands by Phil Roberto.
#9 I remember seeing Bobby Clarke gut Toronto defensemen Rod Seiling while Seiling was on his knees in front of the net. I never liked Clarke after that.
#10 Eddie Shack’s nick name “The Entertainer” was very appropriate. He was fascinating to watch.

Eddie Shack
#11 Gordie Howe was a beast that no hockey player wanted to go in the corner with. Howe once broke Lou Fontinato’s nose and dislocated his nose in a fight.
#12 Chicago goalie Glenn Hall would often throw up before a game and almost always turned up at training camp late.
#13 Chicago center Stan Mikita went from being one of the most penalized players in the NHL to winning The Lady Bing Trophy twice.
#14 New York Ranger forward Camille Henry was only about 5’9” and scored most of his 279 goals in the NHL from within a few feet of the opposing goalie.
#15 I always liked Howie Young who played defense for Detroit and Chicago. I even painted a picture of him once with his #2 on his skates.
#16 Is there a bald NHL Hall of fame? Garry Bergman, Doug, Mohns,  and Bill Ezenicki come to mind. Mohns sometimes wore a toupee.
#17 Al Rollins played goal for The Blackhawks in the 50s. In the early 70s I did a lot of hitchhiking across Canada. To let one of my roommates in Toronto know where I was I would sometimes phone collect asking for Al Rollins and my roommate would know who was calling and from where.

Al Rollins
#18 I remember going to an exhibition game at The Montreal Forum between Chicago and Montreal. Montreal goalie Caesar Maniago must have lost his hockey pants somewhere because he had jeans on behind his pads. I was a huge Chicago fan and we waited by the Chicago bus after the game. That Moose Vasko was one big bastard.
#19 I recall living in Toronto and seeing Bob Baun get carried off the ice only to return with a fractured ankle and score the winning goal in a game in The Stanley Cup Finals.
#20 John Ferguson’s main job was to protect Jean Beliveau. He was probably the toughest guy in the NHL back then and managed to score 145 goals in his NHL career.

John Ferguson
#21 Was it always snowing on Saturday night when the Hockey Night in Canada game was on?
#22 Bobby Sheehan could skate like the wind and might have been a great player if alcohol hadn’t got in the way.

#23 How great a player would Pittsburg forward Michel Briere have been if he didn’t die so young?
#24 Doug Harvey often seemed to control hockey games all by himself.
#26 Maurice Richard had the strangest eyes particularly when he was coming in on goal with the puck on his stick.
#27 Frank Mahovolich often looked lazy as he was coming up the ice but he was moving a lot faster than it seemed.
#28 It’s a shame the way Reggie Fleming ended up the way he did.
#29 There will never be another Bobby Orr.


#30 Al Arbour who later became coach of The New York Islanders wore eye glasses during his playing career as a defenseman.
What memories, what a great game! Hang in there Gordie!
The Stars Couldn’t Win All By Themselves. 
Hockey is a team game. If you are an old guy like me you may remember a lot of these names that may or may not have scored the winning goal in a critical game or thrown a huge check that got the team going a long time ago. It isn’t a complete list but you may just remember some of these names if you were a hockey fan back in the day.
Pete Goegan, Warren Godfrey, Larry Hillman, Jimmy Roberts, Val Fonteyne, Chico Maki, Bill Hicke, Wayne Connelly, Gerry Ehman, Nick Mickoski, Glen Skov, Johnny Wilson, Red Sullivan, Claud Provost, Larry Regan, Bob Turner, Jack Evans, Dollard St. Laurent, Leo Boivin, Jean Guy Gendron, Al Arbour, Ron Murphy, Fern Flaman, Charlie Burns, Don Awrey, Forbes Kennedy, Don Simmons, Johnny Peirson, Albert Langlois, Bob Leiter, and Dick Duff.


RIP Jean Beliveau.









1 comment:

  1. I remember watching Hockey Night in Canada with my father when I was a little girl, and there is no theme that will ever come close to the original!