The forecast for Boston and vicinity on this date, 89 years ago: partly cloudy and slightly colder, with strong northwest winds blowzing in. December 12 was a Tuesday in 1933, and if you’d paid your two cents and picked up a copy of the Boston Globe — that’s what it cost, two cents for 24 pages! — the front page of the Globe would have reminded you that just 11 shopping days remained before Christmas.
Otherwise, in the day’s news? Rear-Admiral Richard Byrd of the U.S. Navy was off on his second Antarctic expedition, and Colonel and Mrs. Charles Lindbergh were preparing to fly from Manaus, in the Brazilian Amazon, to Trinidad. The nation’s dry cleaners were resisting government attempts to regulate their prices. Just the week before, the Congress had ratified the 21st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, ending 14 years of Prohibition, and now it was reported that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt, for the moment, that battling bootleggers was more important than talking about liquor taxes. For their part, Boston police noted that that the previous Saturday they’d arrested 153 men and six women on charges of drunkenness. Sunday they collared 73 men and no women.
It was hockey night, too, at the Garden, with the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs making their first visit of the NHL season to Boston. Art Ross’ Bruins were lagging a little in the standings, but they’d won two games in a row as they prepared to welcome Conn Smythe’s Leafs.
“There’s likely to be an old-fashioned turnout of Garden fans,” ran the preview in the Globe. “The fans are like to see a good hard game, chock full of action and involving much body checking, particularly on the part of Bruins. Toronto always has welcomed the man to man stuff, and no matter which was tonight’s match runs there will be nothing in this little Garden party to suggest to the followers of the Bruins that they are watching any ‘pink tea’ affair.”
The Leafs would win, 4-1. The game would be the last hockey one their 30-year-old right winger Ace Bailey would ever play. In the second period, Boston defenceman Eddie Shore hit Bailey from behind. His skull was fractured in the fall, and he was carried from the ice. Doctors feared for Bailey’s life in the days that followed, and he underwent two brain surgeries before he was in the clear.
The NHL suspended Shore for 16 games. Bailey bore no grudge. “During the first year and a half I suffered some bad after-effects of the injury,” he later said. “Since then, I’ve felt fine. For probably a year after I was hurt, I got the jitters just watching hockey. I could see an injury shaping up every time there was a solid check. But that wore off too. No, I never bore any ill-will toward Shore. He and I are good friends.”
I wrote about the incident in my 2014 book Puckstruck. Some of that went like this:
Dr. G. Lynde Gately was on duty one night in 1933 at what was then still the Boston Madison Square Garden, when the Maple Leafs were in town to play the Bruins. The New York Times: “Both teams were guilty of almost every crime in the hockey code during the slam-bang first session.”
Then, in the second, Eddie Shore skated in behind Ace Bailey, and “jamming his knee in behind Ace’s leg, and at the same time putting his elbow across his forehead, turned him upside down.”
Afterwards, Frank Selke said, Shore stood there “grinning like a big farmer.” The rural glee ended, presumably, when the Leafs’ Red Horner punched him in the jaw, a heavy right that knocked Shore flat, causing him to crack his head on the ice. Horner broke his fist.
The rumpus, the Globe called it. Other contemporary accounts preferred the smash-up. Dr. Gately was treating a Garden ticket agent who’d been punched in the chin by a scalper. “I had just finished with him when a police officer was brought in with a finger someone had tried to chew off. I sewed him up and just then the Leafs appeared carrying Bailey and the Bruins were carrying Shore, both out cold.”
Dr. Martin Crotty, the Bruins’ team doctor, was working on Shore, so Dr. Gately looked after Bailey. Gately’s diagnosis was lacerated brain. (Later what he told the papers was cerebral concussion with convulsions.)
When Bailey woke up, Dr. Gately asked him what team he played for.
“The Cubs,” he said.
The doctor tried again a few minutes later.
“The Maple Leafs.”
Who’s your captain?
“Day,” Bailey said. He wanted to go back to the ice.
When a revived Shore came in, he said, “I’m awfully sorry. I didn’t mean it.” Bailey looked up, according to Dr. Gately’s recollection, and replied, “It’s all in the game, Eddie.”