The first game is sure to be a whizz, said the local newspaper before the inaugural playoff series between the Bruins and Montreal’s Canadiens. This was in 1929, March, in a semi-final, best three out of five.
A moderate depression was moving eastward over Quebec, weatherwise. The temperature in Montreal was 6° C. Although the first two games were played in Boston, where it was 4° C and cloudy on the Tuesday. The puck dropped at 8.30. If you had a reserved seat at the Boston Garden, you could get in at 7, but starting at 5, they were selling seats in the upper balconies for 50 cents each.
A couple of days earlier, 37,500 people had filled the arena for a pair of revival meetings to hear the British evangelist Gipsy Smith attack the sex question. He held women responsible for their husbands and children and the, quote, Heaven or Hell of generations yet unborn. I don’t know what that means, attack the sex question, I’m just reporting what I’ve read. At the afternoon session, when he asked people to surrender to Christ, 10,000 stood up.
Strong winds in New Jersey had beaten a tri-motored Colonial Airways plane from the sky, killing 13. “The tragedy,” said Boston’s Daily Globe, “was the greatest in the history of heavier-than-air craft in the United States.”
That was news, too.
In Ottawa, MPs were asking why the Dominion Archivist was travelling so much to Europe and who was paying for it? Dr. Gustave Lanctot this was, who’d once tended goal for Oxford’s Canadian Rhodes scholars.
Also, the worst financial crisis in the world’s history was coming. Sir George Paish was saying that, the well-known British economist, it was coming, and it was going to be a disaster for the world. “I am not exaggerating,” Sir George said. “I wish I were.”
Montreal was the best team in the NHL that year, with Boston finishing two points behind them. The teams were rewarded with byes to a semi-final meeting while two lesser teams, Toronto and the New York Rangers, fought their way through a quarter-final. In four games that season, Montreal had won two and Boston one; once they’d tied. The Bruins hadn’t beaten Montreal at home for two-and-a-half years.
The Canadiens had speed on their side. They had Aurele Joliat and Pit Lepine, Howie Morenz and Art Gagne, but the Bruins would body them, that was the plan, according to the papers, hit them hard, hit them often.
Such methods will do a lot to upset Joliat,
and being of a flighty temperament,
he is likely to go off
at any time.
All of which means
he is almost certain
to find himself
to the cooler.
That’s John J. Hallahan writing in The Daily Boston Globe, arranged by me as a pitiless poem of bullying.
Some of Boston’s forwards were Dit Clapper, Cooney Weiland, and Harry Oliver. The best of Montreal’s defencemen were Sylvio Mantha and Marty Burke and the dreadnought, Albert Leduc, known to kiss teammates when they scored. Boston’s blueline was rated slightly superior, with Eddie Shore, Lionel Hitchman, and George Owen. In goal for Boston, Tiny Thompson. Montreal had George Hainsworth, who’d finished the season with shutouts in 22 games, half of the Habs’ schedule.
Fifteen thousand people saw the first game, attended by 10 mounted policemen with another 300 on foot, and 100 railroad officers. Cooper Smeaton and Bobby Hewitson, referees for the series, were booed and jeered when they were introduced over the PA.
Montreal attacked like, quote, lions. They scored a goal in the second period, Armand Mondou, but Morenz was offside. The only goal that counted was Cooney Weiland’s in the first period.
The second game, Thursday, 16,000 people filled the Garden, where the game finished the same way, 1-0, on another goal from Weiland. A hectic game, said The Daily Globe. “There were times when it looked as if blood would be shed.”
Friday the teams railed up to Montreal on a train called the New Englander.
Saturday, at the Forum, subscribers had to pick up their tickets by 10.30 in the morning. Amphitheatre Standing Room tickets were available to Maroons’ ticketholders for $1.25 each, with rush seats going for 50 cents.
Thirteen thousand showed up that night to see the Canadiens fight, as they say, for their playoff lives. The ice was perfect. John Hallahan decided that it was the fastest period that had ever been played. “The players of each team,” he wrote, “were racing wild.” Battleship Leduc scored early and Joliat added another. Montreal couldn’t hold the lead, though, and in the second period Doc Carson and Dutch Gainor tied it up before Shore scored the winner. “The dynamic Eddie,” said The Globe,” was a Trojan.” The Montreal papers found it hard to believe that the Canadiens were out having won not a single game but, they had to admit, the result was fair. The Gazette, recognized Shore’s dominance. Montreal had struggled frantically: “It was no individual’s fault that Canadiens lost, they were fairly beaten by a stronger team.”
A crowd of 3000 was waiting at Boston’s North Station next day when the Bruins arrived, and they gave the team a welcome usually reserved for victors of World Series and athletes returning from the Olympics in 1896. Eddie Shore got the biggest cheer: despite the patch he was wearing over one eye, the crowd recognized him at once. It took a long time for the players to get through the crowd to where the taxicabs waited.