the rumour trade

If He Were Younger: Hooley Smith (17) faces off for the New York Americans in 1937 with Chicago's Lou Trudel (11). Mickey Ion is the referee.

If He Were Younger: Hooley Smith (17) faces off for the New York Americans in 1937 with Chicago’s Lou Trudel (11). Clarence Campbell is the referee.

Nothing confirmed yet, stayed tuned, but it sounds like Chicago just might — possibly — be prepared — shocking as it seems — to deal Bobby Hull.

Hard to believe, I know: just imagine the stir it must have caused in May of 1970. The Black Hawks had lost that year in the semi-finals, ejected in four games by Boston, which is when the rumours started to smolder that maybe Chicago would be trading either Hull or Stan Mikita. If it was Hull, then probably he was going to Toronto. That’s what Bill Gleason of The Chicago Sun-Times thought. Or maybe to one of the newer teams, Vancouver or Buffalo, because the NHL wanted to see them start pulling in more fans. Asked for his opinion, Chicago general manager Tommy Ivan said, “Is the report about Bobby Hull far-fetched? Well, nothing is far-fetched today.”

When Hull heard that he was on his dad’s farm near Picton, Ontario. He shrugged. “I don’t know why he said it. I guess that’s the kind of guy he is.”

“If I had a choice,” Hull went on to say, “I’d stay in Chicago. But that’s only because we own our home there and there’s a lot of stuff in the basement I’d have to dig up if we moved.”

With the NHL’s trade deadline coming down tomorrow, it’s as good a time as any to trot out a few more historical rumours. From January of 1938, for instance, there’s Red Dutton chatting away in the press about the possibility of shipping off Hooley Smith to the Montreal Maroons. Dutton was managing the New York Americans at the time, and Frank Calder had told him that Montreal was interested — the NHL president who also happened to be a director of the Amerks. It made sense, if for no other reason than the nostalgic one of Smith having captained the Maroons when they’d won the Stanley Cup in 1935.

Dutton’s heart was divided, though. “During the last few games with us,” he said, “Hooley has played the best hockey of the last six or seven seasons and I would not part with him for any amount of money if he were younger.”

But Hooley has his home and a business in Montreal and this plus the fact that I am anxious to build the Americans for the future might persuade me to consider a deal for him with the Maroons.

As for a straight swap, though, that’s out. There isn’t a player on that team I’d take on an even trade for Hooley. I’d want a first-class forward and a substantial sum of cash.

As it happened, the Maroons’ Tommy Gorman had already moved on. That same day, in the same paper, he was quoted as having said yes, he had indeed been interested in the Hooler, but that was over now.

There was rumour out of Detroit in early 1939 that Boston’s star defenceman Eddie Shore would be leaving the Bruins the following season to manage the Chicago Black Hawks. Shore denied it: he was “distinctly surprised.” Bruins manager Art Ross called it “ridiculous,” the idea that he’s surrender Shore when “he is playing such good hockey.”

Of course, come the fall, he did ship Shore off to the New York Americans for winger Eddie Wiseman. A little while later, he traded Shore’s long-time partner on defence away, Jack Portland, bringing to an end a partnership he — Ross — had called the greatest that Boston had seen in 38 years. Portland went to Chicago for Des Smith, bringing to an end (though not confirmation) of “rumors of strife” between Ross and Portland.

Toronto coach Dick Irvin was bemoaning the Leafs’ lack of, quote, a great fighting leader at about this same time, and so manager Conn Smythe had been trying to pry Toe Blake away from the pitiful Canadiens. Didn’t quite work out, though, obviously. With Montreal already out of playoff contention in January of 1940, club president Ernest Savard issued a statement to “end a lot of rumours that are driving me crazy.”

No way he way he would be trading Blake, sorry. Unless? “Unless it will mean strengthening the club as a whole and I don’t mean financially.”

In April of 1952 Detroit manager Jack Adams declared he hadn’t heard the rumours about his plans to trade Alex Delvecchio to the Rangers. “I know nothing about them,” he said.

Going into the NHL meetings in Montreal in the summer of 1960, Boston’s Lynn Patrick admitted he wouldn’t mind getting his hands on goalie Gump Worsley from the Rangers. The Canadiens were interested in Chicago’s goalie, Denis Dejordy, as a back-up for Jacques Plante, and might be willing to giving up centre Ralph Backstrom for Detroit’s all-star defenceman Marcel Pronovost. There was word, too, that they were trying to get Eddie Shack from the Rangers, who offered Larry Popein to Chicago for Tod Sloan, only to be rebuffed by Tommy Ivan.

The Leafs were supposed to be sending Bobby Baun and Ron Stewart to Boston for Bob Armstrong and Larry Hillman. The fact that they didn’t, of course, allowed Baun to stay on long enough to break his leg and score an overtime goal that helped Toronto win the 1964 Stanley Cup.

In June of 1968, Bill Gadsby took the job of coaching Detroit. One of his first orders of business: quelling the rumour that he was angling for the team to trade Frank Mahovlich (who’d only just come to the Red Wings that March) to Montreal for Henri Richard, Dick Duff, and Ted Harris. “We have nothing in the winds,” Gadsby told reporters, “but if somebody comes to us, we’ll listen.”

Mahovlich was traded to Montreal, eventually, in 1971, in a swap for Guy Charron, Billy Collins, and Mickey Redmond.