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in the paint

paintball leafsIn the 1920s, training camp for the Toronto Maple Leafs found them hiking and hunting and tossing horseshoes. Flash forward to 2014, when (yesterday) the blue-and-white heirs of Day and Primeau and Conacher donned camouflage and eye-protection for paintballing near Wasaga Beach, Ontario. Defenceman Jake Gardiner tweeted a photo of himself in gear alongside centre Tyler Bozek:

gardiner + bozek

(Photos: @Stephen_Keogh, @Jgardiner272)

developing muscles, improving wind: a short history of the leafs in pre-season

Leafs in Fall: Getting ready for the season in 1931 are (1) a beslinged Harvey Jackson recovers from a car accident; (2) Harold Cotton, Red Horner, Charlie Conacher, and Hap Day on course; and (3) Ace Bailey unleashes a 200-years drive.

Leafs in Fall: Getting ready for the season in 1931 are (1) a beslung Harvey Jackson in recovery from his car accident; (2) Harold Cotton, Red Horner, Charlie Conacher, and Hap Day on the lacrosse field; and (3) Ace Bailey unleashes a 200-yard drive.

In 1929 the Leafs took a pair of boxers with them to training camp, and my thought there was that Conn Smythe must have decided it was time for the team to learn proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence. Turns out, no, though: seems, instead, that Frenchy Belanger and Billy Ayrton were there for their own benefit, taking advantage of the Leafs’ pre-season regimen. Though they did put on a punching exhibition for the team before they had to leave on a hunting trip. Ayrton was a bantamweight, Belanger a former world flyweight champion.

It was raining when the Leafs got off the train in Port Elgin that October, and the players were hungry, and went straight in to eat. Camp ended with a lunch a couple of weeks later, as it happens: when they got back to Toronto, they headed over to the Royal York for a welcome-back feed. Twenty players were on hand at the post-camp lunch, and the papers reported that they all looked fit. Everybody but goaltender Lorne Chabot had put on weight. They were eager to hit the ice.

On their Lake Huron retreat, they’d drilled under the eye of Corporal Joe Coyne of the RCR. They’d golfed, too, including the day they got in 27 holes and (as The Globe put it) Ace Bailey, Danny Cox, and Chabot “gave ‘old man par’ a stern argument.” Harold Cotton won the team tournament, with Cox and Ayrton tied for second place.

Andy Blair proved himself the team’s fastest sprinter, covering 100 yards in 10 seconds flat. Smythe and Cox teamed up to outduel Red Horner and Gordie Brydson at the horseshoe pit. In a softball doubleheader, the Leafs beat the Port Elgin Fraserites 26-4 (Brydson and Blair pitched) before dispensing with (Brydson was on the mound again) the Perkinites, 10-3. They beat a local team at basketball, too, 52-46.

Leafs’ manager Frank Selke said he’d never seen a more determined band of athletes. They went into everything with an aggressiveness and spirit that marked their play on the ice and they weren’t content unless they were going full out, according to him.

The 1929-30 Leafs, with Corporal Joe Coyne in the middle row, second from the right, between Frank Selke and Lorne Chabot.

The 1929-30 Leafs, with Corporal Joe Coyne in the middle row, second from the right, between Frank Selke and Lorne Chabot.

Continue reading

Aside

Leafs in Port ElginHistorian Bill Fitsell sent a note from his home in Kingston, Ontario, pointing to this photo of the Leafs dropped down for push-ups in Port Elgin in 1928 under Corporal Joe Coyne’s command. Fitsell noted that when he’d included it in Hockey’s Hub, the 2003 history of Kingston hockey heritage he wrote with Mark Potter, a mislabelled archival print gave him the mistaken impression that it showed the Leafs four years later, when coach Dick Irvin brought them to Queen’s University for pre-season drilling. “Another photo depicting four Leafs playing doubles on a leaf-strewn tennis court puzzled me for years because I could never match the background with anything near the Queen’s tennis courts in 1932,” Fitsell wrote. Case corrected, then. Over the net, below, that’s Jack Arbour on the left with Lorne Chabot. I’m so sure of who they’re facing in the closer court. It may be Gerry Lowrey on the left, with Art Duncan, who did wear number 3 in his years on the Leaf defence.

tennis 1928

training camp 1928: quoits and trout, jerks and pranks

Physical Jerks: The Leafs in Port Elgin, Ontartio, in October of 1928. That's Corporal Joe Coyne of the RCR in command at the fore. First row, left to right: Ace Bailey, Art Duncan, Joe Primeau, Hap Day. Middle: Shorty Horne, Dr. Bill Carson, Gerry Lowrey, Art Smith. Back: Lorne Chabot, Jack Arbour, Alex Gray, Danny Cox.

Physical Jerks: The Leafs in Port Elgin, Ontartio, in October of 1928. That’s Corporal Joe Coyne of the RCR in command at the fore. First row, left to right: Ace Bailey, Art Duncan, Joe Primeau, Hap Day. Middle: Shorty Horne, Dr. Bill Carson, Gerry Lowrey, Art Smith. Back: Lorne Chabot, Jack Arbour, Alex Gray, Danny Cox. (Photo: Imperial Oil-Turofsky/Hockey Hall of Fame)

Originally published in The Globe and Mail, on Saturday, Sepetmber 27, 2014, on page S2.

In the famous photograph, the Leafs jig.

We can laugh, easy for us, but this is serious business, as it always is for Toronto’s hockey team this time of year, the season for the earnest, eternal calisthenics of trying to figure out how to get back into the playoffs. If that requires legendary Leafs with names like Day and Bailey to caper in full hockey garb when their skates and sticks are back home, a couple of hours away — who are we, really, to scorn that?

The year was 1928, and for the Leafs then it was the old story that’s still so familiar: in the spring, they’d missed the post-season again. In the year since Conn Smythe had become one of the team’s owners as well as manager and coach, they’d switched names (St. Patricks to Maple Leafs) and colours (green for blue). On the ice, injuries dogged the team’s season and despite a spirited March, the Leafs didn’t qualify to play for the Stanley Cup in April.

Smythe spent the summer retooling. That and running his sand and gravel business. On the non-aggregate side, he sent Butch Keeling to the New York Rangers for $10,000 and winger Alex Gray. To the defence he added Jack Arbour’s seasoned weight. He recruited junior stars Shorty Horne (a “clever and tricky” stickhandler) and tall Andy Blair, who reminded some of a young Hooley Smith.

Young Joe Primeau (“flashy centre ice man”) was tabbed for full-time duty. And just before the Leafs started jigging, Smythe traded goaltender John Ross Roach to the New York Americans, who sent back Lorne Chabot.

Returning veterans included Ace Bailey, Bill Carson, and the former University of Toronto pharmacy student who’d foregone a career as a druggist to captain the Leafs, Hap Day.

There was worry that August that he’d have to retire: in February, an errant skate had nearly severed his Achilles tendon. A heavy loss it would have been: Day was a dominant defenceman, and durable — Frank Selke said that because he didn’t smoke or drink or touch tea, coffee, or chocolate, he could play 60 minutes a game. He toiled hard over the summer, in the office at C. Smythe Limited by day, skating every evening at Ravina rink. By September, he was ready to go. Continue reading

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one of the hardest workers at the camp

primeau

Pins-pointer: Joe Primeau works out at the Leafs’ October training camp at Port Elgin, Ontario, in 1928. “Shifty puck-chaser,” Toronto’s Daily Star called him. “The Ravina recruit is one of the hardest workers at the camp and great things are expected of him by Manager Conny Smythe.”

ice practice and p.t. on the field

First, they luncheoned.

In October of 1936, the Toronto Maple Leafs went west to ready themselves for the oncoming NHL season. There was a get-together first, though, at the Royal York Hotel, where they met the press and other guests for pre-season greetings and a meal. Missing were Manager Conn Smythe (at the NHL meetings in New York) and winger Busher Jackson (testifying in a court case in Detroit), but coach Dick Irvin and 32 Leaf hopefuls were on hand, along with a passel of the team’s directors. Ed Bickle was one of those, and in his speech announced that the Leafs would (quote) once again feature the spectacular and pleasing wide-open brand of hockey.

Among the guests was new Globe president and publisher C. George McCullagh, whose paper reported his having “expressed himself as being a strong supporter of the Maple Leafs.” He promised, too, that The Globe “would give hockey special attention.”

After lunch, Coach Dick Irvin led the team to Preston, Ontario, 100 kilometres to the west, where the team’s training camp was headquartered in what today is known as Cambridge. Vying for roster spots were George Hainsworth and Walter Broda in goal, along with a squad of skaters that included Red Horner, Joe Primeau, Sylvanus Apps, Buzz Boll, Nick Metz, and Charlie Conacher.

For ice they headed over to nearby Galt, where Irvin and Eddie Powers from minor-league Syracuse called the shots. On dry-land, the team was in the hands of Galt’s own Sergeant-Major Hatfield, the man charged with leading them in physical training.

The daily routine that Irvin posted read like this:

7.00 a.m. — Called.
7.30 a.m. — Breakfast.
8.15 a.m. to 9.30 — P.T. on the field.
10.00 a.m. to 12.00 — Golf.
12.30 p.m. — Lunch.
2.30 p.m. to 5.30 — Ice practice.
6.30 p.m. — Dinner.
11.00 p.m.— Retiring hour.
Golf tournament, Sunday, Oct. 25
All members must compete.
See bulletin board every day for your ice practice hour.

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herbie, honey

lewis Needler, Needlee: As NHL training camps move today from the medical room to the ice, a throwback to 1935, when Detroit ‘s trainer Honey Walker, right, inoculated left winger Herbie Lewis against — well, who knows. The Leafs, maybe? Calgary-born, Lewis won two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings and was elevated to the Hall of Fame in 1989. He noted then that the most he ever made in his 11 seasons in the NHL was $8,000. His citation at the Hall notes that he was the NHL’s fastest skater in his day, “with his trademark short, mincing steps.” His speed got him up on the big screen as he started his professional career. “At Detroit recently he posed for a motion picture concern, in a series of hockey flashes, and these films are to be shown in 104 theatres in Detroit.” That’s from The Lethbridge Herald, reporting in 1929.

In his first picture Lewis is shown circling the net, and skating down the ice stick-handling through his opposition for a goal. As he shoots, he is sprawling on the ice. The second picture shows a close-up. The third picture is styled perfect team work, in which George Hay and [Carson] Cooper make a rush down the ice, passing the puck and beating the defence.

Jack Adams prized him as a penalty-killer and all-round other-sport-shaming athletic exemplar. “He is a sportsman of the highest type,” the feisty Detroit manager once testified. “I defy baseball or football or boxing or any other sport to produce an individual who can eclipse Herbie Lewis as a perfect model of what any athlete should stand for.”

breaking now: teemu selänne ei pitänyt valmentaja bruce boudreau

teemuTeemu isn’t published in Finland until tomorrow, and Ari Mennander’s biography of the legendary Selanne won’t be out in English until some time in 2015. That doesn’t mean there isn’t news today to fill Helsinki newspapers and the Twittershire alike, most of it regarding what the affable, accomplished and not-long retired Flash has to say about his coach in Anaheim, Bruce Boudreau.

If you’re an elder and high-achieving Finnish right winger, Mennander is your go-to biographer, I guess: he is, at least, the man behind Jari Kurri 17 (2001), which you can get in English. A quick browse of those pages — in particular the ones devoted to Edmonton coach Glen Sather — suggest that it’s safe reading for all the family.

Not having seen (much less being able to understand) what Selanne has to say in the original Finnish, I’m not in no position to confirm that he “demolishes” or “blasts” Boudreau, who took over as coach of the Ducks in November of 2011. Those are typical of the verbs that are headlining North American reports about the book today, at Yahoo Sports’ Puck Daddy and the Los Angeles Times respectively. According to what Juha Hiitela (@jhiitela) has been (helpfully) translating and tweeting throughout the day, Selanne does mention that “there’s nothing wrong with my relationship with Boudreau. In fact, he’s a nice man.” But Hiitela, who writes for the Helsinki sports magazine Urheilusanomat, also notes that Selanne wasn’t always happy with his ice-time under the coach (“He didn’t keep his promises”). And: during the first intermission of Anaheim’s seventh-game loss to Los Angeles on May 16, Selanne sent out a text from the Ducks’ dressing room to his wife and a couple of friends, writing (in English): “fucking joke.”

Ari Mennander’s Teemu is available to order (in Finnish) here. If savouring a headline (multilingually) is all you need at this point, this is from the Helsinki tabloid Ilta-Sanomat today:

selanne joke

in russia, we have a proverb

cccpAnatoli Tarasov brought the Soviet national team to Canada in the winter of 1969 for an eight-game exhibition tour. The Soviets were on a seven-year golden streak at the World Championships at the time. The team they brought to Canada included Vyacheslav Starshinov, Anatoli Firsov, Valeri Kharlamov, Alexander Maltsev, Vladimir Petrov, and a stripling goaltender by the name of Vladislav Tretiak. Mostly they were here to play Canada’s ill-starred Nationals, coached by Jack McLeod, though there were also a few games against Junior A teams.

The Soviets starting with a win, in Winnipeg, while McLeod’s Nats took the second game, 4-3 — the first time a Canadian team had beaten their Russian rivals in almost two years. The Canadians had Wayne Stephenson for a goaltender and Fran Huck was in the line-up, along with a handful of former NHLers, including former Leafs Brian Conacher and Billy Harris. Earlier that year, the International Ice Hockey Federation had voted to allow Canada to bring nine non-NHL professionals to the upcoming 1970 World Championships, scheduled for Montreal and Winnipeg. So that was good, for Canada, right up until January, when the IIHF changed its mind, no pros would be permitted after all, and Canada withdrew from the World Championships and Olympics altogether, taking their pucks and going home. Or staying home — the World Championships went ahead in Stockholm, where the Soviets won, again. McLeod’s Nationals disbanded and Father David Bauer’s dream died; when Canadians returned to play in the World Championships in 1977 it was with a team of NHLers whose teams had missed the playoffs.

In 1969, Tarasov had no interest in playing the Junior A games that the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association had arranged. “I am not happy to play with teams that are not good,” he said after the USSR beat the Ottawa 67s 8-3 on Christmas Eve. It was a game, as Rex MacLeod wrote in The Globe and Mail, that “degenerated into a high-sticking, slugging and punching match in the third period.” Starshinov and Evgeny Zimin left the game with separated shoulders; two players from each team were ejected after a late brawl.

“Next time we’ll bring our boxing team,” Tarasov muttered when it was over.

tarasovThe team went to Montreal on December 29 to play the Montreal Junior Canadiens, the defending Memorial Cup champions who felt the need to bolster themselves for the night with nine minor-league professionals. As The Toronto Star reported next day, the enhanced Juniors prevailed by a score of 9-3, with youngsters named Gilbert Perreault and Rejean Houle contributing a couple of goals each.

Appearing in the Star’s Sports pages alongside the report of that drubbing was an article (translated from the Russian) by the losing coach himself. Denis Smith was Master of Champlain College at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, at the time. He was one Canadian fan who read “Russia’s Tarasov Examines NHL Play” that day, the one who found a poem in it, waiting to be extracted and arranged, which he did, using the master’s own words, adding only a title:

The Lessons of Anatoli Tarasov

Your hockey, to begin with,
has a lot of merit.
It is a kind of beautiful entertainment.
In professional hockey,
you have very strong men —
athletes who are fit.
They have strength of will
and character.

And then, your spectators:
They know a great deal about the game.
Every person who is present in the arena
or who watches on TV
wants to be a part of this entertainment.
As I said earlier, though,
I am a coach:
So I have no room for sentimentality.

Your hockey,
both offensively and defensively,
is based on simple tactical decisions.
In Russia, we have a proverb
that in simplicity lies wisdom.
However:
I don’t think it applies
in the case of great hockey.

Remember how many times
you have seen this:
The player skates to the blue line,
s
h
o
o
t
s
the puck
and follows in —
never thinking
about setting up a beautiful scoring play.

It is impossible to play the same game
for years and years.
Surely,
the pattern of the game should be changed
from time to time.
In your game of professional hockey,
you get enough scoring,
but it is not satisfying to me, personally, how goals are scored.

Finally, a few comments regarding rules
and officiating.
It’s a pity, but
we are having the same problem in amateur hockey:
Show me, please,
where it is written in the bible
that it is legal to stop an opponent with a stick —
or to fight him.

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kicks by horses, pecks by roosters

“Motor and industrial accidents, knife and bullet wounds, injuries in warfare and fist-fights, blows by balls and by sticks and canes, falls on the head, fencing and sabre duelling, arteriotomy, kicks by horses and pecks by roosters have been described as causes of pseudoaneurysms of the temporal artery. So far as we are aware, blows by hockey pucks have not been implicated previously, but we would defend our use of the term ‘puck aneurysm’ as a means to drawing attention to a potentially serious hazard in an internationally popular sport. Although it is well known that to be struck in the head by a hockey puck cannot be an entirely benign event, it is perhaps insufficiently appreciated that a regulation hockey puck weighs 165 grams and may travel at a velocity in excess of 120 feet per second. When such a missile strikes the head, delayed as well as sequelae cannot be wholly unexpected.”

• Doctors J.S. Campbell, Pierre Fournier, and D.P. Hill in “Puck Aneurysm,” a 1959 study of puck-triggered traumatic pseudoaneurysms of the superficial temporal artery for The Canadian Medical Association Journal

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goosefellas

ebbie gEbbie Goodfellow was a Detroit Olympic and a Falcon and a Cougar early in his career, but he built his Hall-of-Fame career as a Red Wing. He played at both centre and on defence, captaining the team in 1934-35 and again from 1938 through 1942. He was (said The Ottawa Journal) “possessed of one of the hardest and truest shots in hockey.” He won three Stanley Cups, the last one in 1943 as the Red Wings’ player-coach. He read Old Mother Goose at least once — above, with his son, Ebbie, Jr., in February of 1939.

the man cambridge could not hold

grindelwalders

The 1954 Oxford touring team, left, poses with the home team in Grindelwald, Switzerland. The Swiss won the game that followed the photographing, 7-3. David Harley wears the C for Oxford; Denis Smith is third on his right.

I went to see David Harley a few years ago to talk hockey, which he was always happy to do, even though, as he told me that day, he didn’t have much time for the game we see now in the NHL. The two hours we spent going through the pages of a 50-year-old scrapbook of his took us far away from that, to another version of the game in another time, games played long ago at rinks in Grimsby and Blackpool and Southampton and in the frigid open air of Mannheim and Bolzano and Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

He was a lawyer in Toronto, and that’s where he lived for most of his life, but he was a proud New Brunswicker all that while, born in Saint John, schooled in Rothesay. I’m sad to write it: he died on September 1 at the age of 83. He was one of my father’s best friends, a man of immense kindness, good humour, and enthusiasm. Seeing how he conducted himself in the world I always thought, yes, right, that’s how it’s done.

He was a very good athlete. He played rugby at the University of Toronto, where he captained the varsity team while completing undergraduate and masters degrees in History. He went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and that’s where he got his law degree, at University College. He had his skates with him there, and with my father, Denis, who was studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics, he skated for the varsity hockey team. Both of them would end up as captains of the team before they returned home to careers and families.

Mostly they were Canadians who lined up for the Dark Blues. The team played throughout England during term, and barnstormed the continent for several weeks each winter. The big annual match was the one in February against Cambridge, a tradition that started in 1900. David and my father both got their introduction to the inter-varsity rivalry in 1954, when Oxford prevailed by a score of 7-4. In the program from that game, David is introduced as “a left shot but a high-scoring rightwinger.” He was 22. He scored a pair of goals; the Oxford Mail admired his “sparkling solo runs.”

I read about the 1955 match in his scrapbook. The Daily Express account wasn’t one I knew. Teammate Ian MacDonald was “the cool executioner,” scoring four goals in two minutes. He didn’t stop there: he had nine to his name before the game was over. “Hapless Pettigrew,” the paper called the Cambridge goaltender, John, a friend of my father’s from Montreal. Friendship could be why he limited himself to putting just four pucks into the net. John Duby, a defenceman, was the only Oxford player who didn’t notch a goal. David scored twice. In the program, he’s identified as “the club’s leading playmaker.” Over on the Cambridge page, all the players’ nicknames are noted: Gru, Weevil, Buck, Kipper, and Harry the Horse are some of them.

A crowd of 6,000 looked on at the Richmond Ice Rink. With three minutes left and a tally of 27-0 on the board for Oxford, a Cambridge supporter said, “You wait, the game ain’t over yet.”

Final score: Oxford 29, Cambridge 0. There’s never been a bigger whomping in all the history between the two teams.

“Harley Routs Cambridge” was the Daily Express headline in 1956. He wore the C in that game, and a pair of glasses. The News Chronicle noted that without the efforts of a new (Canadian) Cambridge goaler, Fred Meredith, Oxford would have exceeded the previous year’s score. 11-1 was all they could manage in the event. The Chronicle:

David Harley, with his rink-length scoring dashes, was the man Cambridge could not hold.

He scored Oxford’s first four goals — assisted in two others, and then cracked home the eleventh in the final seconds.

29-0

Oxford’s 1955 Canadian Cambridge-whompers pose with the inter-varsity Patton Cup. Left to right, they’re Guy MacLean, John Duby, team manager Paul Fritz-Nemeth de Freidenlieb, unknown, Alex McIntyre, unknown, David Harley, Denis Smith, Ian Macdonald, Ian Stewart, Otto Lang, Storrs McCall, John Lewis, and Roy Morrison.