rangers, habs: a speedy, smashing battle

As the New York Rangers prepare to face the Montreal Canadiens in their NHL conference final, maybe there’s just time for a quick look in, via British Pathé, on a 1936 meeting between the two teams packaged for European viewers. Home at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers won this December 21 meeting at by a score of 5-3, thanks to an (unsudden-death) overtime. A few glosses on the game:

• The Canadiens (8-6-2) were top of the Canadian section of the eight-team NHL (Montreal Maroons and New York Americans were still alive, that year) while the Rangers’ comparable record (8-5-3) had them second to Detroit on the American side. When the playoffs rolled around, the following March, it was the Red Wings who prevailed, beating Montreal and then the Rangers to win the Stanley Cup.

• Starting this night for Montreal were 41-year-old George Hainsworth in goal (in for Wilf Cude) with Walter Buswell and Babe Siebert on defence. Howie Morenz was at centre between right winger Johnny Gagnon (second in NHL scoring) and, on the left, Aurele Joliat. Among the spares were Pit Lepine and Georges Mantha. Cecil Hart was the coach.

• For the Rangers, coached by Lester Patrick, it was Dave Kerr in goal with Art Coulter and Ott Heller on the blueline, fronted by Neil Colville with his brother Mac to the right and Alex Shibicky on the left. Spares included Frank Boucher, Phil Watson, and Cecil Dillon.

• Odie Cleghorn and Babe Dye were the referees. With the tie, the teams completed a ten-minute overtime.

• The New York Times:

The game was a speedy, smashing battle in which many penalties occurred, and the crowd of 14,000 hockey fans followed the action with unbounded enthusiasm.

• Watch the face-offs (right at the start of the reel and at 0:41) with the centres lined up sidelong.

• The Flying Frenchman (in the Times’ styling) went up 2-0 but the Patrickmen stormed back in the third.

• “We should have won 2-1,” Cecil Hart carped afterwards, “for Lynn Patrick was in the crease when he scored that last-minute tying goal. It should never have been allowed.”

• Montreal’s Joffre Desilets opened the scoring in the second (1:04). “A hard shot,” reported Harold Parrott in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, though you can’t really see that in the footage. British Pathé’s commentator does his best: “Canadiens’ Desilets gets the ball and streaking forward — shoots!” Note the lack of congratulatory celebration after the goal — just the goalscorer skating almost bashfully away. There’s a fleeting view, too, of Morenz.

• Stratford’s famous Streak was back that season with the Habs after a sad two-year odyssey that took him to Chicago and then, briefly, to these very Rangers. Back in Montreal, he may have lost a step or two of speed, but as of this late-December night, he stood eighth in the league in scoring with a goal and 10 assists in 16 games. A little more than a month later, he went down in home game against Chicago with his left leg fractured in four places. Just over a month after that, he died in Montreal’s Hôpital St-Luc.

• The Daily Eagle on Joliat’s goal (1:22): “A characteristic solo by [sic] Aurel Joliat, the ageless little wonder in the black hat, made it 2-0 in 18:24 of that same second period.” The Times: “The Habitant mite was in the thick of every play while he was on the ice, and his expert poke checking saved Hainsworth a lot of work in goal.”

• You can’t really see the legendary black hat — I can’t. There’s a quick glimpse of Montreal Babe Siebert wearing a helmet (1:25) — along with, on the back of his sweater, the number one. At 32, he was in his first year with the Canadiens. After a stellar, scoring career as a left winger with the Maroons and Rangers, he went to Boston where Art Ross shifted him to defence. He played three seasons paired mostly with Eddie Shore, though the two of them supposedly never talked, on or off the ice, because of a longstanding feud. Traded to Montreal when Ross decided he was past his due date, he ended the season as a first-team All-Star and won the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP.

• The Daily Eagle: “In the third, the Canadiens tried to close up like clams, and they succeeded for a while.”

• Is Lynn Patrick in the crease when he scores his game-tying goal (1:30)? Hard to say. If not, he’s close. This much is clear: how happy he is to tie the game.

• Our befuddled British commentator shows us Frank Boucher’s goal in overtime (1:50) — dashing down the right wing and scoring on the backhand — and calls it the game-winner. Not so: Cecil Dillon scored before him. Butch Keeling added New York’s fifth goal before Toe Blake got one more for Montreal.

• The Times: ‘The sudden collapse of the Canadiens in overtime was due not to their inexpertness at defense, but because of Manager’s Cecil Hart’s strategic attempt to play five forwards in an attempt to come from behind.”

• Harold Parrott in The Daily Eagle was pleased to play up the Patrick angle — Lynn, 23, in his third season as a Ranger, being coach Lester’s son:

Young Patrick was the hero, sure. His dad’s puffed up like a pouter pigeon today, sure. But the rest of it doesn’t go — I mean that part about the doting father staking all on his son, positive that he’d come through some day. There’s the hitch, the boss, admitted last night, it wasn’t true.

“I never though the kid would make a hockey player!” said the Ranger chieftain. “Even after he joined the team I didn’t think he’d do. You remember how terrible he looked —”

Well, yes. Young Lynn looked as if he had two left skates when he first appeared in the Garden. There were unkind things said about Old Man Patrick’s favoritism, giving his son a break.

“What really happened,” said Lester, passing a hand over his eyes after last night’s nightmarish victory, “was that Lynn pestered me to take him to our school two years ago. I thought that would be the end of it. But Bill Cook, here, and Ching Johnson saw something that I didn’t see. They said they saw a great young hockey player in the making. I wanted to fire him. They stopped me. If Lynn’s a hockey player now, theirs is the credit.”

Well, the boy is 190 pounds of dynamite on skates right now, there’s no doubt. He has five goals and nine assists. And if it’s higher praise you want —

“The other night,” Patrick pere recalled, “we happened to play a great game in Toronto. Dillon shot three goals, remember, and we won, 5 to 3? After the game I met Conny Smythe and King Clancy of the Leafs. ‘Who do you think was the best man you had on the ice tonight?’ they asked me. I said ‘Dillon.’ They both shouted: ‘Your kid was the best — and he will be, all year!’”