tangled up in blue (and white) (and red)

High-Slot Hubbub: It wasn’t to be for the Toronto Maple Leafs on the night of Saturday, April 11, 1936: powered by Pete Kelly’s third-period goal, the visiting Detroit Red Wings beat the home team 3-2 at Maple Leaf Gardens to thereby corral the team’s very first Stanley Cup with a 3-1 series win. “The only ruckus occurred when [Detroit’s] Ebbie Goodfellow and [Leafs’ Charlie] Conacher swung their fists and went down in a heap on the ice,” an account of the game advised the next morning. That was in the second period, and it’s what we’re seeing here, with the Wings’ Herbie Lewis (#4) piled on top of Conacher and Goodfellow, in that order. Detroit goaltender Normie Smith is back in the beyond. “An imitation of wrestling” is how the Toronto Daily Star’s Andy Lytle described this encounter. (Image: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 39753)

10

Fin: Guy Lafleur (on the right) on the ice at the Montreal Forum in the late 1970s alongside his long-time left winger, Steve Shutt. Quebec is honouring Lafleur with a national funeral this morning at Montreal’s downtown Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral. (Image: Antoine Desilets, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

heard it through the gripevine

Now Hear This: Detroit GM Jack Adams argues his point with referee George Gravel at the Detroit Olympia on December 2, 1951, as Toronto Maple Leaf captain Ted Kennedy listens in.

Red Wings and Leafs squabbled in the first period at Detroit’s Olympia on the Sunday night of December 2, 1951, but it was in the second that the brawl broke out. Toronto ended up winning the game by a score of 2-1, but that was but a detail in the nasty narrative of the night. Detroit’s Fred Glover and Toronto’s Gus Mortson were the instigators; referee George Gravel ended up penalizing five players with majors and misconducts before tempers settled. Detroit GM Jack Adams had his say, as seen here: he’s reported to rushed from his seat on the opposite side of the rink to lodge his opinion of the matter with Gravel.

The upshot: Adams, who died on a Wednesday of this date in 1968 at the age of 73, was convinced that in the melee, Mortson had kicked Glover. “The vicious and cowardly attack of Gus Mortson on Fred Glover when flat on the ice was on the worst I’ve witnesses in all my association with the NHL,” Adams declared after the game. With the officials having missed this (Mortson’s penalty was two minutes for roughing), Adams demanded that NHL President Clarence Campbell launch an investigation into “the Mortson incident and the ineptitude of officials.”

The Wings had no doubt as to what had happened: winger Tony Leswick said that “even the Toronto players in the penalty box were mad at Mortson for kicking Glover when he was on the ice.”

Campbell wasn’t moved: he told the Globe and Mail that Adams’ protest would be ignored on procedural grounds. While Adams was the one to fire off a complaint to NHL Referee-in-Chief Carl Voss, Campbell insisted that it should have come from Red Wings’ owner Jim Norris, and so could not be considered.

Mortson’s version of what went on found its way into the Toronto newspapers: according to him, Glover had crosschecked him in the neck, then kicked at him. Mortson insisted he’d only made as if to kick back, but hadn’t followed through.

The teams met again three nights later in Toronto in a game that ended in a 2-2 tie. For this one, Adams stationed himself in a rail seat beside the Detroit bench, in case of emergency. The game he saw was rough enough, but fight-free — until the teams filed off the ice after the game and (as the Globe’s Al Nickleson had it) Leaf captain Ted Kennedy and Wing goaltender Terry Sawchuk “attempted to straighten some difference with bare knuckles.” They were separated before they landed any blows.

et le but

Sure Shot: Guy Lafleur scores the first goal of the game at the Montreal Forum on Saturday, October 27, 1979, beating Detroit Red Wings’ goaltender Jim Rutherford. Pierre Larouche looks on; he registered an assist on the goal, along with Larry Robinson. Montreal won the game by a score of 3-2. (Image: Armand Trottier, Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

plaster cast

All Aboard: A trio of Montreal Canadiens forwards show their bandaged stuff as they take to the rails for a road trip in February of 1943. Top is right winger Joe Benoit, whose 30 goals led the team that year, along with centre Buddy O’Connor and left winger Dutch Hiller at the bottom. Canadiens squeezed into the playoffs by a single point that year before falling in the first round to the Boston Bruins. (Image: La Presse)

y’a rien pour m’arrêter

“It’s what I wanted to do,” Guy Lafleur was saying in 1979 as his first LP made its way to market. Montreal’s Canadiens were coming off their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup championship that fall, so what better time, really, for their superstar winger to be releasing his debut disco/instructional album?

“It was a lot of fun to make,” said Lafleur, who was 28 that year. Lafleur! came in French and English versions, with six tracks on each, featuring the man himself offering rudimentary tips to a pulsing background laid down by the Montreal trio Toulouse. Or as Mike Rutsey, a Canadian Press writer put it:

Lafleur, whose vaunted slapshot will from now on ring to the chorus of shaboom, shaboom, has boiled the game he loves into four key ingredients — skating, checking, shooting, and scoring — and packaged it to the shuffa-shuffa disco beat.

“You can listen to it, enjoy it, and exercise,” Lafleur himself touted, “and everything on the record goes well with the music. The music is the big thing. It’s different and it’s a new method of teaching kids how to play hockey.”

I’ll take the French track-titles over the English: give me “Vas-Y” and “Y’a Rien Pour M’Arrêter,” you can keep “Face-Off” and “Power Play.” You can sample the whole (French) shuffa-shuffa for yourself here.

The vinyl was only part of the package: also included was an instructional booklet and a poster featuring a handsome, half-dressed Lafleur. For all that, pre-Christmas sales may not have been been quite what the hockey player and his people were hoping for. According to a Gazette column from November of ’79, a prominent Montreal record store reported that the 50 to 75 copies of Lafleur! that had been snapped up in the early days of its release had it lagging behind Bob Dylan’s latest (non-disco and only semi-instructional) offering, Slow Train Coming, which was selling by the thousands.

 

madison square eye in the sky

It was the New York teams battling it out, Rangers versus Americans, that Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, December 16, 1937, with the visiting team eventually prevailing by a score of 2-0 — which is to say, the dark-shirted Rangers.

“A speedy, well-played contest that was packed with action,” is how The New York Times accounted for it. Ching Johnson was playing his first game as an American on this night, after 11 years a Ranger, and he almost scored. Dave Kerr is the Ranger goaltender at the centre of things here, covering up to stymie the Amerks’ John Gallagher and preserve his shutout. Just a few months after this smothering, Kerr, who was 27 at the time, with a Stanley Cup and a Vézina Trophy both still in his future, would  become just the second hockey player to grace the cover of Time magazine.

Also in the frame? Arriving late are Rangers Lynn Patrick (9) and Ott Heller (3), with Sweeney Schriner (11) of the Americans following up with Art Coulter (2). Tussling in front on the right is Americans’ Hap Emms (skating his only shift of the game) and the Rangers’ Cecil Dillon, a right winger who was born in Toledo, Ohio, on a Sunday of today’s date in 1908.

Lynn Patrick scored the Rangers’ initial (and winning) goal in the first period, with  Neil Colville scoring a second on Earl Robertson in the Amerks’ net in the third. According to the Times, Toronto manager Conn Smythe was in the house this night, and at the end of the game he offered Lester Patrick the sum of $20,000 if the Ranger boss would sell son Lynn to the Leafs. The answer was a no.

as de québec

On the Saturday that the Quebec Nordiques originally drafted Guy Lafleur, Thurso’s own 21-year-old Turbo scored the 22nd goal of his rookie season, the winning one in a 6-5 Montreal Canadiens victory over the Los Angeles Kings. The Nordiques were only dreaming, of course, that day in February of 1972, when 12 teams from the upstart WHA laid wishful claim to more than 1000 players from other leagues in North America and around the world. The Los Angeles Sharks took Montreal’s Ken Dryden while the team from Ohio, the Dayton Aeros, tabbed Bobby Orr. Along with Lafleur, the Nordiques’ fantasy team included his Canadiens’ teammates Jacques Lemaire and Pierre Bouchard, along with Toronto’s Paul Henderson.

By the time Lafleur did finally join the Nordiques, signing as a free agent in the summer of 1989, he was 37 and Quebec had migrated to the NHL. Having unretired the previous year to play for the New York Rangers, Lafleur turned down a lucrative offer from the Los Angeles Kings in favour of Quebec, where he’d played for the QJHML Remparts in his pre-NHL days, from 1969 through 1971.

Lafleur played two seasons for the Nordiques before he stowed his skates for a second time in 1991, playing against the Canadiens on ten occasions, registering two goals and three assists. The photograph here dates to Saturday, January 5, 1991, when Patrick Roy shut out Quebec 3-0 as Montreal got goals from Stephan Lebeau, Stephane Richer, and Russ Courtnall.

(Top image: Bernard Brault, La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

le tir

Lean In: Guy Lafleur scored 560 regular-season goals in his NHL career, and another 58 in the playoffs. In 1976-77, he scored 60 and in five other campaigns he scored 50 or more. And then there was his final year in junior, 1970-71, when he skated for the QJHL Quebec Remparts: he scored 130 goals in 62 games that season. The shot he’s loosing here was one he took at the Forum on Thursday, February 9, 1984. Lafleur scored a hat trick on Vancouver goaltender John Garrett before the night was out, though Montreal fell 7-6 to the visiting Canucks. (Image: Denis Courville, La Presse)

guy lafleur, 1951—2022

Minus Ten: Montreal’s Gazette is reporting this morning that Guy Lafleur has died at the age of 70. A colossus of the Canadiens cosmos, he played 14 seasons for Montreal before he retired in 1985. He made a return with the New York Rangers, with whom he skated for another season, and played a further two for the Quebec Nordiques. He won five Stanley Cup championships with Montreal, along with a cluster of individual awards: three Art Ross trophies, 2 Harts, a Conn Smythe.