(big) trainspotting

Stars + Stripes: Born in Toronto on this date in 1900 (it was a Thursday, then), Lionel Conacher was known as The Big Train in his sporting youth, and he whistled his way to stardom at every venue he visited, excelling at football, wrestling, boxing, lacrosse, baseball, sculling, swimming, and track. Oh, and hockey: his Hall-of-Fame career as a defenceman spanned 12 seasons in which he won a pair of Stanley Cup championships, with the Chicago Black Hawks (in 1934) and Montreal’s Maroons (’35). With Joe Miller and Carl Voss, Conacher is one of the only three players in history to have had their names inscribed on both the Grey Cup and the Stanley Cup. Conacher was Liberal MPP in Ontario, too, and went on to serve five years as a federal MP representing Toronto’s Trinity riding until his death, which came at the age of 54, during a parliamentary softball game.

oil rush

Win, Win: Edmonton’s Oilers celebrate during their 3-1 Forum win over the Montreal Canadiens in the second game of their 1981 preliminary-round series in April of that year that saw the upstart  Oilers dismiss Montreal in three straight games. That’s defenceman Kevin Lowe and goaltender Gary Edwards, back-up to Andy Moog. Edmonton bowed out in the next round, falling to the eventual champions, the New York Islanders. (Image: Robert Nadon, Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

oil patch

The View From Here: Edmonton d-man Kevin Lowe looks on from the Oiler bench at the Montreal Forum on the Thursday night of January 10 in 1985. On his right, that’s teammate Don Jackson, who scored his first goal of the season that night as the visitors beat the Canadiens 5-2. Wayne Gretzky notched the winner, in the second period, the 43rd of the 73 goals he’d put away that season. (Image: Denis Courville, Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

poke hero

Jacques Of All Trades: Stan Mikita scored the winning goal on the night, but this wasn’t it: this time, in the second period of a 4-1 Stanley Cup semi-final home win by the Chicago Black Hawks over Montreal’s Canadiens, goaltender Jacques Plante did what he needed to do to stymie the attack. It was April of 1962, a year in which a 22-year-old Mikita, playing in his fourth NHL season, was named to the NHL’s First All-Star team. Born in 1940 on a Monday of this date in Sokolče, in what today is Slovakia, Mikita finished that year’s regular season with 25 goals and 77 points, which tied him with Detroit’s Gordie Howe for third on the league’s scoring chart, behind New York’s Andy Bathgate and his own teammate Bobby Hull, seen here in following up on the play. The other Montrealers are J.C. Tremblay and, behind him, Don Marshall.

department of throwing stuff: turning back the clock

Tool Time: In February of 1939, 13 years after he was not-quite brained in Boston, Charlie Querrie (right) handed over a repurposed wrench to Boston coach and manager Art Ross. (Image: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 56558)

I’ve reported before on the bedlam that ensued on the night of Tuesday, December 21, 1926, when Toronto’s bygone St. Patricks went to Boston to beat the Bruins and Toronto’s coach was lucky to escape with his life, after frantic local fans threw a hardboiled egg and a monkey wrench at his head — only the egg hit its target.

That’s a chaotic story I told in some detail in a 2016 post — you can find it here. Our business tonight is with the aftermath, which is to say the monkey wrench, insofar as the 1939 photograph shown here of that very implement is one I recently unearthed at the Toronto Archives.

Charlie Querrie was the Toronto coach: that’s him on the right. He was 61 in 1939, and had been out of hockey management for more than a decade. On the left is 54-year-old Art Ross, who was very much in it, still coaching and managing the Bruins as he’d done since their advent in 1924.

The two were old rivals. In the NHL’s very first season, 1917-18, when Querrie was manager of the Toronto team that went on to win the Stanley Cup, Ross was the referee for the penultimate game of the finals. While Toronto did upend the PCHA’s Vancouver Millionaires to take the Cup, that game didn’t go their way, with Vancouver winning by a score of 8-1.

An Ottawa Journal report from February 3, 1939.

Ross did not, shall we say, failed to endear himself to Querrie on that occasion. Talking to reporters after it was over, the referee decried Toronto’s tactics. “The Blues gave a most brutal exhibition,” he said of Querrie’s team, “and unless the western club gets absolute protection from the referees, they will all be killed.”

“If the Vancouver club gets protection,” he added, “it has a good chance to win the world’s championship series with Toronto.”

Querrie was furious. The two had words after the game, which the Toronto manager was only too glad to pass on to the newspapers. “Ross started in by telling me that I was a poor loser,” he said, “and went on to say that I [was] mixed up in a crooked league, and was a crook in sport. I promptly called him a liar, and then he threatened to lick me.”

“If Ross is such a fighter,” Querrie said, “there is plenty of room for him over in France.”

Eight years later, with Ross running the Bruins and Querrie back in charge of a Toronto team now clad in green and called the St. Patricks, the 1926 havoc we’re interested in got going late in the game. With about five minutes remaining, with Toronto leading by a score of 5-2, Boston winger Percy Galbraith put a puck past St. Pats goaltender John Ross Roach. Too bad for Boston, referees W.H. O’Hara and Dr. Eddie O’Leary called it back, for offside. Definitively so, as Charlie Querrie saw it from the Toronto bench. “The offside goal,” he told a Toronto newspaper, “was easily 60 feet offside.”

Boston disagreed. Here’s Querrie’s version of what happened next:

Just as soon as the goal was called back, the Boston players, led by [captain Sprague] Cleghorn, rushed at the officials, and Art Ross, manager of the Bruins, and Charles Adams, the owner, clambered over the fence and took a hand in the argument. Ross had a rulebook and he tried to make monkeys out of the officials by producing it and reding the rules to them in front of the crowd. Naturally the actions of Ross and Adams worked the crowd up and in a moment three or four excited spectators were over the fence and the pennies and the bottles and other things commenced to fly. I got over the fence, too, to protest against the presence of Ross and Adams on the ice and someone hurled a monkey wrench at my head. It wasn’t any toy, either, but a full-sized three-pound wrench, and I brought it away as a souvenir. It only missed my head by a foot.

Querrie didn’t preserve the egg that hit him after that — it was, he quipped, “not an overly fresh one at that” — but he did hang on to the wrench.

Thirteen years later, he dug it out and decided the time was right to send it back to Boston. Globe and Mail columnist Vern DeGeer took note in February of ’39, reporting that Querrie had “had the wrench polished and coated with a glistening touch of varnish. It was converted into a unique desk set, with an eight-day clock attached.”

When the Bruins came to town to meet the Leafs for a Thursday game that February 2, Querrie arranged to hand over the wrench to Ross in the press room at Maple Leaf Gardens. As I’ve written previously, it now bore an engraving:

To
‪ARTHUR ROSS

From
CHARLIE QUERRIE

‪Returning a Gift
Thrown at Him
‪Many Years Ago

Back in those dangerous days of 1926, Charlie Querrie was not only coaching the St. Patricks, he was the owner of the team, too, though not for much longer: in mid-February of 1927, he would divest himself of the St. Pats (and his coaching duties), selling out to a syndicate headed by a Toronto sand and gravel contractor by the name of Conn Smythe, who (spoiler alert) turned them into Maple Leafs.

As I’ve written elsewhere, profiling Querrie’s distinguished sporting career, his post-hockey days revolved around the movie-house he ran on Toronto’s west-end Danforth Avenue. He didn’t stray too far from the city’s ice and its proud hockey record: in 1944, he noted that in the 32 years since professional hockey debuted in Toronto in 1912, he had (incredibly) been on hand to witness all but three games.

Charlie Querrie died at 72 in 1950, four years before Art Ross finally retired from the Boston Bruins. He was 79 when he died in 1964.

And the time-telling monkey wrench? It’s back in Canada, again, having been presented (regifted?) by the Ross family to hockey historian Eric Zweig, author of Art Ross: The Hockey Legend Who Built The Bruins (2015).

Clocked Work: The monkey wrench that almost clouted/could have killed Toronto’s NHL coach in 1926 is now in the collection of hockey historian Eric Zweig.

 

toe aglow

Their Cup Runneth Over (and Over Again): Montreal’s mighteous Canadiens celebrate another Stanley Cup championship in May of 1965. Gathered to the left are Gump Worsley, Dave Balon, Jimmy Roberts, a battered Henri Richard, a tooth-lacking Bobby Rousseau, and captain Jean Béliveau. Grasping the Cup from the right are Jean-Guy Talbot (#17) and Yvan Cournoyer (#12). Above it all is coach Toe Blake, who died on a Wednesday of today’s date in 1995 at the age of 82. Blake won 11 Cups in his career, three as a player with Montreal Maroons and Canadiens, the other eight as a coach. (Image: Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

incoming

Stop Right There: Has any NHL goaltender looked more mortal in the nets, resembled a guy who ended up there by mistake, suggested (as John K. Samson put it) what it might be like if our poor everyday dads somehow, ridiculously, ended up pressed into sudden service at the Forum? But of course Gump Worsley’s goaling was the real major-league deal: he won a Calder Trophy, two Vézinas, and four Stanley Cup championships in his day to prove it. Born in Montreal on a Tuesday of today’s date in 1929, he turned 37 in 1966. He was labouring through a 13th NHL season that year, his third with Montreal, as he made the case that he was one of the league’s best puckstoppers. Successfully, as it turned out: he and fellow Canadiens goaltender Charlie Hodge not only shared the Vézina Trophy that year, they guided their team to a second successive Cup. (Image: La Presse)

canadiens cavalcade

Lorne Rider: The Montreal Canadiens won their 15th Stanley Cup in May of 1968, their third in four years, by beating the upstart St. Louis Blues in four games. Two days later, on a Monday of this very date, a crowd of 600,000 fans (some estimates went as high as a million) turned out to see the team (including goaltender Gump Worsley) parade for three hours along a 30-kilometre route through the city. “If Canadiens don’t get tired of winning the Stanley Cup,” Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau proclaimed that day, “we won’t get tired of running receptions for them. (Image: Louis-Philippe Meunier, VM94, E-2087-25 Archives de la Ville de Montréal)

if the hat fits

Brimming With Bob: Born in Georgetown, Ontario, on a Friday of today’s date in 1922, shotblocking defenceman Bob Goldham started his NHL career as a Toronto Maple Leaf before making his way to man bluelines for the Detroit Red Wings and Chcicago Black Hawks. He was a member of five Stanley Cup championship teams, two in Toronto (1942 and 1947), another three in Detroit (1952, 1954, 1955). This undated photo probably dates to the 1950s: Goldham is the chin-scarred one on the left, along with Toronto hatter Sam Taft, who (despite what you may have read) did not invent the hat trick, even if he did enthusiastically outfit many hockey players in his time. (Image: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 4399)

in it to bin it

One-On-One: Born in Nynäshamn, Sweden, on a Thursday of this same date in 1950, Ulf Nilsson is 72 today, so a tip of the Jofa to him. Here he is in February of 1977, when his WHA Winnipeg Jets beat the visiting Calgary Cowboys 6-4; Gary Bromley is the goaltender here. This was a big night for Nilsson’s linemate, right winger Anders Hedberg, who scored a hat trick and made some history: his final goal (assisted by Nilsson) was his 51st of the season. This was Winnipeg’s 49th game that year, which meant that Hedberg had outdone Maurice Richard’s 1945 fest of 50 goals in 50 games. Hedberg had actually only played 47 of this games, having missed a pair of games with a cracked rib. He finished the 1976-77 season with 70 goals in 68 games to lead the Jets in scoring with 131 points. Nilsson wasn’t far behind: he finished with 39 goals and 124 points. After four seasons with the Jets, Hedberg and Nilsson made a move the NHL, joining the New York Rangers in 1978.  (Image: University of Manitoba Archives, Winnipeg Tribune fonds)

checkpoint charlie

Renovation Room: A gathering of Rangers in the training room at New York’s Madison Square Garden from (I think) the 1948-49 NHL season has Ranger trainer Frank Paice (standing third from left, framed by lamps) seeing to the battered likes of (from left) Alex Kaleta, Ed Slowinski, Wally Stanowski, and (leg up on the table) Allan Stanley. That’s goaltender Charlie Rayner laid out longwise. Paice, who hailed from Jamaica, N.Y., was 34 that season, and in his first year as Ranger trainer, having graduated from the minor-league New York Rovers.

on the sunny side of the street

May Days In Montreal: In early May of 1966, Montreal’s mighty Canadiens won a second successive Stanley Cup championship (the 14th Stanley Cup in franchise history), dismissing the Detroit Red Wings in six games. Three days later, on Sunday, May 8, the champions took to Montreal’s exuberant streets to show themselves and their trophy to a crowd of some 600,000 well-wishers. Captain Jean Béliveau, a popular sight along the parade’s 16-kilometre route, felt the city’s love (top) as he rode alongside teammate Bobby Rousseau (middle) and greeted (bottom) a happy new bride.

 

(Images: Archives de la Ville de Montréal)