frontrunner

The scroll commemorating Art Ross’ induction in 1949 into the Hockey Hall of Fame got it about right, deeming him a “super hockey star, brilliant executive, and inventive genius.” Born in Naughton, Ontario, on a Tuesday of today’s date in 1885, Ross was a pre-eminent defender on his own skates before he took up as an NHL referee and then as coach of the long-lost Hamilton Tigers. He was the original coach and manager of the Boston Bruins, of course, and in his time in charge there oversaw three Stanley Cup championships to add to the pair he’d won as a player.

That’s Ross in the black hat here, in February of 1937, coaching his Bruins from the bench at Chicago Stadium. Milt Schmidt is beside him, and Woody Dumart one along from him, with Dit Clapper (#5) in the background. Leaving the frame (#10) is winger Fred Cook. The Bruins beat the Black Hawks on this night, 2-1, getting goals from Clapper and Charlie Sands. Paul Thompson scored for Chicago.

 

(Image: ©Richard Merrill, Boston Public Library)

uncle miltie

Milt Trip: It was in 2017 that former Bruins captain and Hall-of-Famer Milt Schmidt died on a Wednesday of today’s date at the age of 98. For Boston, he was first a centreman first, smooth-skating and hard-nosed, who piled up the points playing alongside Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer on the Bruins’ famous Kraut Line. He won two Stanley Cups as a player and shared in two more as GM of the team. His tenure as a manager might best remembered for the 1967 trade that brought Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, and Fred Stanfield to Boston from Chicago in exchange for Jack Norris, Pit Martin, and Gilles Marotte. He coached Boston, too, in parts of 11 seasons, and later took on the same role with the Washington Capitals. Here, above, we find Schmidt in January of 1961, when he was 42. Despite the sunny demeanor, his Bruins were mired in last place in the six-team NHL. Phil Watson would succeed him as Boston coach the following season, but when that didn’t really work out, Schmidt returned to the Boston bench midway through the schedule. (Image: Louis Jaques, Library and Archives Canada)

the tooth and nothing but

Rink-Ready: Cecil Hart, and his skate-guards.

Charlie Dinsmore played his football with the Toronto Argonauts in the early 1920s (Lionel Conacher and Dunc Munro were teammates); in the NHL, he turned out at centre for Montreal’s new club in 1924, joining Munro and scoring the team’s very first goal when the Maroons-to-be played their very first game, at the Boston Arena, on a Monday of this same date, 98 years ago.

Art Ross’ Bruins were new to the league, too, and they ended up winning that historic first encounter, getting goals from Smokey Harris and Carson Cooper in a 2-1 final. This was one of only six games that the Bruins won that year as they finished at the bottom of the six-team NHL standings with a record of 6-24-0.

Montreal, who started the season with Cecil Hart as coach and manager, did a little better, finishing in fifth place with a record of 9-19-2. Both teams missed the playoffs. Hart didn’t last the season, as it turned out; he parted ways with the team in February of 1925, ceding the bench with nine games remaining to former Ottawa Senators star defenceman Eddie Gerard.

Gerard, impressively, steered the Maroons to a Stanley Cup championship to top off the following year, 1925-26, you may recall. Ross’ Bruins, meanwhile, had to wait until 1929 to claim their first Cup championship. Hart, of course, went on to coach the Canadiens, winning a pair of Cups with them in 1930 and ’31.

Ross and Hart, who would have been old Montreal acquaintances, seem to have laid something of a (friendly?) wager ahead of their inaugural meeting on December 1, 1924. That, according to this Ottawa Journal item published following Boston’s win:

full steam ahead

A birthday today for Clem Loughlin, born on a Tuesday of this date 130 years ago in Carroll, Manitoba. Seen here on the right in December of 1934, he was 42, in his debut season as coach of the Chicago Black Hawks, who would go on to finish the year in second place in the nine-team NHL’s American Division. The Black Hawks were the defending Stanley Cup champions that year, but they fell in the first round of the ’35 playoffs to the Montreal Maroons, the eventual winners. Loughlin would coach the Hawks through three seasons in all before Chicago’s fickle owner Major Frederic McLaughlin replaced him in 1937 with a referee and baseball umpire, Bill Stewart.

That’s 34-year-old Taffy Abel percolating in the steambath, veteran defenceman, who spent the fall of ’34 withholding his services in a contract dispute over a $500 raise Major McLaughlin didn’t want to grant him. Abel blinked in December, returning to Chicago from his home in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, to stretch and steam himself into playing shape. It didn’t work out, but by January of ’35, Abel had come to an agreement with Conn Smythe of the Toronto Maple Leafs for a mid-season tryout. Abel soon changed his mind, though, deciding to hang up his skates for good and return home to Michigan. He and Loughlin would both get into the hotel business, incidentally, Abel with Taffy’s Lodge in Sault Ste. Marie and Loughlin with the Viking Hotel, in Alberta’s Sutter country.

 

(Image: SDN-076819, Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection, Chicago History Museum)

long live the king

Bench Boss: King Clancy was a Hall-of-Fame NHL defenceman before he took up a whistle as an NHL referee. He’s pictured here in 1953, the year he was hired to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs. He served three middling seasons behind the Toronto bench before he was succeeded by Howie Meeker, whereupon he took a job as assistant GM for the Leafs. Clancy died on a Saturday of this date in 1986, at the age of 84. Meeker, it so happens, was 97 when he died on November 8, 2020, a Sunday.

toe aglow

Their Cup Runneth Over (and Over Again): Montreal’s mighteous Canadiens celebrate another Stanley Cup championship in May of 1965. Gathered to the left are Gump Worsley, Noel Picard, Jimmy Roberts, a battered Henri Richard, a tooth-lacking Bobby Rousseau, and captain Jean Béliveau. Grasping the Cup from the right are Jean-Guy Talbot (#17) and Yvan Cournoyer (#12). Above it all is coach Toe Blake, who died on a Wednesday of today’s date in 1995 at the age of 82. Blake won 11 Cups in his career, three as a player with Montreal Maroons and Canadiens, the other eight as a coach. (Image: Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

begin again

Captains Converge: Opening night of the 1928-29 NHL season saw the hometown Maple Leafs hosting the Chicago Black Hawks at Arena Gardens on Toronto’s Mutual Street. Ontario’s lieutenant-governor, W.D. Ross, was on hand to drop the first puck; that’s him here, posing alongside Leaf leader Hap Day and his Black Hawk counterpart, Dick Irvin. Both captains were returning to the ice after serious injuries the previous year, with Day having had a tendon in his right heel nearly severed by a skateblade and Irvin suffering a serious skull fracture. On this night, Leafs prevailed by a score of 2-0, getting goals from Andy Blair and Shorty Horne. This would be Irvin’s final year as a centreman, as he laid away his skates to take full-time to coaching. Three years later, he’d be behind the Leaf bench, leading the team to a Stanley Cup championship. Day’s career as a defenceman would carry on for another nine seasons; he’d have to wait until 1942 to claim his first Stanley Cup as Toronto’s coach.

aide-mémoire: a short history of nhl assistant coaches

Mike Nykoluk was an up-and-coming 21-year-old forward when he played for the Winnipeg Warriors of the old WHL in 1955-56, a team loaded with former NHLers, including goaltender Ed Chadwick, defenceman Bill Juzda, and forwards Bill Mosienko and Paul Masnick. Also manning the Warrior blueline that year was a former New York Ranger, 30-year-old Fred Shero, who was just about to launch a coaching career that would take him to Philadelphia in the early 1970s.

It was there, of course, that Shero would contriveto guide the Flyers to successive Stanley Cup championships, in 1974 and ’75. Nykoluk was there for those, too, you might remember: following his brief NHL career (32 games with the ’56-57 Toronto Maple Leafs) and a longer cruise (16 seasons) in the AHL, Shero had hired him as an assistant coach in June of 1972.

Mike Nykoluk, I’m sorry to say, died last week at the age of 87. In 1978, he followed Shero when he went to New York to coach the Rangers. Mostly he was referred to (again) as an assistant, though Shero preferred to call him a co-coach. Eventually, between 1981 and 1984, Nykoluk got his chance to be the boss, seeing service through parts of four seasons as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Something he was not: the NHL’s first assistant coach.

That’s a claim that has been often repeated over the years, with confidence. Eric Duhatschek, for instance, in a 2017 Globe and Mail feature about the evolution of the role of coaches in the NHL declared that Shero had “hired the first official full-time assistant coach, Mike Nykoluk, in 1972.” History doesn’t agree.

Reminders of Nykoluk’s (supposed) trailblazering resurfaced last week, too, so maybe time for some clarifying. For all his achievements through the years, Nykoluk wasn’t even close to being the NHL’s original assistant coach.

Jeff Marek, Sportsnet’s esteemed hockey broadcaster, keeps a careful eye on hockey’s history, and he was attentive in seeing the record corrected …

… up to a point.

Because while Al McNeil and Doug Harvey did indeed precede Nykoluk as NHL assistants, others went before. Many others. Onward into the obscurity.

The first? That distinction would seem to belong to Dick Carroll, in Toronto, all the way back in the league’s inaugural season, 1917-18. There’s some cloudiness to this, so bear with me, if you will.

To start with, some straightening out of terminology is in order: in those early decades of pro hockey, teams tended to have one man who both coached and took care of player personnel, and he was usually called (in the baseball way) the manager. This was true, for example, in the mid-1920s, with icons like Art Ross in Boston, Lester Patrick of the New York Rangers, and Jack Adams in Detroit.

Toronto’s manager for the 1917-18 season was Charlie Querrie, who happened to be the man who ran Toronto’s Arena Gardens on Mutual Street, home to the new team. Querrie was appointed in early December of ’17, two weeks before the NHL’s opening night. Dick Carroll’s appointment as Querrie’s aide was announced at the same time.

So there it is: Dick Carroll was the NHL’s first assistant coach.

Ottawa’s Journal reporting the news (and misspelling the name) in December of 1917.

If that’s clear enough, here’s some cloud to obscure things: as the modern-day Maple Leafs recount it, Carroll was head coach in 1917, steering the team through its first 40 games and onward through to 1919. Querrie’s 1917 service is recognized in the team’s list of GMs; as a coach, he’s recognized for two later tours he served in the ’20s, by which time the team had turned into the St. Patricks.

Got that?

Wrong, I’d say, in my nitpicking way, with a kicker to the effect that, by failing to acknowledge the way things used to be, the Leafs have (not for the first time) muddled their own history.

Further fogging things is the fact through the course of the 1917-18 season, Toronto’s bench was anything but settled.

Charlie Querrie had taken the job in Toronto on the understanding that he’d be free to operate without the interference of Eddy Livingstone, the NHA owner, Toronto hockey eminence, persona non grata — it was to ostracize and spite Livingstone that the NHL was formed in the first place in November of 1917. Livingstone’s ongoing meddling seems to have prompted Querrie’s resignation at the end of December, after Toronto had played just three NHL games, leaving Dick Carroll in charge: the assistant coach was now the coach.

Unless Querrie didn’t quit.

Newspapers that had reported that Querrie was finished were soon correcting the record to say that he was still on the job, or would be again as soon as the team’s owners at the Montreal Arena Company guaranteed him that Livingstone would really, truly, be kept away from the team. Querrie also seems to have sought to download some of the coaching he was doing to Carroll.

This all seems to have taken some negotiating, leaving Carroll in charge. Querrie did return to the fold, but as of January of 1918, Carroll does seem to have assumed day-to-day — and game-to-game — control of the team, with Querrie moving more into the realm of — well, yes, what we would today recognize as GMing.

That April, when Toronto won the first Stanley Cup of the NHL era, accounts of the final series only confirm this division of labours: Carroll was coach, Querrie was manager. Glory to them both, along with a footnote or two: Querrie’s NHL’s coaching record should include those first three games that he coached, the very ones that constitute Carroll’s entire tenure as the league’s original assistant coach.

Hawk’s Nest: Helge Bostrum (left) and Clem Loughlin in May of 1934. The caption on this photo, as it appeared in the Chicago Tribune: ‘Loughlin’s appointment as the new manager of the Chicago Blackhawks was confirmed yesterday morning. Helge Bostrum, former Hawk defense star, will be his assistant.”

Next in the NHL’s long line of assistant coaches? A non-definitive listing might look to Boston.

Sprague Cleghorn was 37 in 1927, playing out the last year of his long, distinguished, and very brutal career with the Boston Bruins. He was team captain again that year, as he had been previously, and he had a new role, too, as manager Art Ross’s (playing) assistant. Cleghorn was running practices and stood in as interim coach for several games in early 1928 when Ross was home with a stomach ailment. So he seems to have been second among assistant coaches.

Born in Copenhagen, Emil Iverson went from head coach of the University of Minnesota hockey team in the 1920s to being hired as the NHL’s first full-time physical director when Major Frederic McLaughlin brought him on with the Chicago Black Hawks in 1930. Iverson was appointed head coach after that (the league’s first European-born pilot), only to be replaced in 1933 by Tommy Gorman … whom Iverson continued to serve as assistant.

Gorman departed in 1934, having won the Stanley Cup. When Clem Loughlin was named his successor, the newly retired Chicago defenceman Helge Bostrum signed on as his assistant.

More and more teams in the ’30s were hiring deputies, a review of newspaper archives shows, some of them who were still playing, some others fresh off hanging up their active careers. To wit:

Bill Cook aided Lester Patrick with the New York Rangers in 1936-37, with Frank Boucher stepping in to take up the same role the following season, ’37-38.

Frank Boucher’s Ranger role was reported in September of 1937.

Larry Aurie served as a playing assistant to Jack Adams with the Detroit Red Wings in 1938-39.

Paul Thompson was Chicago coach Bill Stewart’s playing assistant that same season.

When the Montreal Canadiens shifted coaches in the latter stages of that season, swapping in club secretary Jules Dugal to replace Cecil Hart, Babe Siebert was named captain and playing assistant.

In Chicago in 1938, Carl Voss was hired to assist Paul Thompson, now the coach of the Black Hawks. And in 1941, Helge Bostrum resurfaced as an assistant to Thompson.

The Bruins had a run of distinguished assistants through the ’40s and ‘50s, with Dit Clapper, Jack Crawford, and Milt Schmidt all appointed to the role at one point or another.

In 1958-59, Bert Olmstead served as a playing assistant to Toronto Maple Leafs’ coach Punch Imlach. King Clancy, too, served Imlach and the Leafs the same role in Toronto in the ’60s, as well as working as assistant GM.

This is, again, no official register, but it does make clear that at least 17 men served as assistant coaches in the NHL before Mike Nykoluk started in Philadelphia in 1972.

I don’t know exactly how the Nykoluk glitch get into regular rotation, but it seems it started at the source. Discussing the hiring that June, 50 years ago, Flyers GM Keith Allen is quoted in several newspaper reports as confirming Nykoluk as a pioneer, with Fred Shero weighing in on the breakthrough, too. Why not add an assistant? “Football and baseball have assistant coaches,” Shero opined, “and those sports are not as physical or mentally demanding as hockey.”

The error was enshrined early on in the local literature. The Flyers’ 1975-76 yearbook, for instance, casually mentions it.

In Full Spectrum, a comprehensive history of the team from 1996, Jay Greenberg scales it back a bit: Nykoluk is identified there “one of the NHL’s first assistant coaches.”

Keith Allen is quoted as crediting Flyer owner Ed Snider for the hire. “Eddie came from football, where they had assistant coaches, and thought Freddie could use some help,” Allen recalled. “Mike had never been fast enough to play in the NHL,  but he was a smart player and I had a lot of respect for him.”

Helpmeet: A team-issued photo of Al McNeil, who appointed an assistant to Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Ruel in 1970 and, a few months later, succeeded him.

 

art class

A birthday today for Art Ross, the man who defined and built and (for 30 years) guided the Boston Bruins, who was born in Naughton, Ontario, near Sudbury, on a Tuesday of this date in 1885. That’s him up to the left of this undated image, putting his players through their paces at the Boston Arena on St. Botolph Street. The message on the boards behind him: The Management Will Not Be Responsible For Accidents On The Ice. I’d venture that this is the either the 1926-27 season or the following one. The goaltender at ease by Ross might be Doc Stewart. Eddie Shore is easy to pick out among the stoppers-and-starters, facing the tall, capped figure of #3, Lionel Hitchman. #8 might be Archie Briden (or Dutch Gainor?) and folded-over #9 (maybe) Harry Oliver. #15 could be Hago Harrington. Bottom left, with stick raised, that looks like Dit Clapper, I think, no?

Below, Ross takes a call in 1954, the year he retired. Beyond his Bruinsing, of course, Ross was a scintillating player in his own right, a coach of the NHL’s long-lost Hamilton Tigers, an NHL referee, and a tireless thinker on and innovator of hockey equipment, rules, and strategies. Art Ross died in 1964 at the age of 79.

let a puck settle all problems

On High: Soviet coaching legend Anatoly Tarasov reaps the rewards of winning gold at the 1971 World Championships in Switzerland.

Maybe not all problems; hockey, as we know, has trouble keeping its own house order on even the best days. That headline phrase was narrowly focussed when it appeared, 50 years ago, as a headline on a newspaper article by Anatoly Tarasov. This was 1971, when the ebullient coach known as the Father of Russian Hockey was still at the helm of the mighty Soviet national team.

Tarasov, who was born on this date in Moscow in 1918, had long been angling to arrange a meeting of his team with a deputation of the best Canadian professionals, i.e. NHLers. In April of ’71, when his team cruised to another World Championship, the Soviet Union’s ninth a row and 11th overall, hockey politics and hubris saw to it that Canadians were again missing from the action.

That September, Tarasov concentrated his thoughts on the subject into an article — and a challenge — for Sovetsky Sport. “We know that in Canada along with amateur hockey there lives professional hockey — original, rough, but bright at the same time, in which technique is perfect and sportsmen are fanatical to the limit. We had a feeling that this was a new type of hockey with many bright and talented performances. And our desire as coaches to meet with professionals was understandable.”

Why so shy, Canada and, specifically, the NHL? After years of hearing excuses from across the icy divide, Tarasov had no words left to mince. Again and again, he wrote, Canada’s “hockey leaders” had shown “the white feather.”

“It seemed to me that though they shout about the strength and invincibility of their hockey, they are subconsciously afraid of defeat, afraid to lose their indisputable authority.”

“It is clear to any reasonable person that self-isolation will be harmful only to Canadian hockey,” he wrote, building up to his big finale. Soviet teams would happily take on club teams. “If the NHL leaders do not want to risk their prestige, they can keep their leading clubs, such as Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, or Chicago Black Hawks, in reserve. We agree to start with team from St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Vancouver.”

But if Canada truly wanted to test its hockey mettle? “If they want to play against the united team of the USSR — world champions for nine years running — they are welcome; let them organize a team of professional hockey stars. We are ready to accept this challenge also.”

He finished with a flourish. “So now what is your answer, gentlemen from the NHL? Agree — and then your spectators in Canada and the USA, as well as Soviet spectators and hockey enthusiasts in Europe and in the whole world will be able to enjoy hockey games with the participation of sportsmen of two principally different schools. And though each team will strive for victory, world hockey will not lose; on the contrary, it will enrich itself.”

It was, of course, almost exactly a year to the day later that Canada’s bright professionals were processing the 7-3 loss to the team that Tarasov had forged over the years to open the 1972 Summit Series at the Forum in Montreal.

Tarasov himself was out, having lost his job as Soviet coach in February of that year in the wake of another gold-medal performance by his team at the Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan; for the Summit, he was replaced on the bench by Vsevolod Bobrov and Boris Kulagin.

Anatoly Tarasov died in June of 1995 at the age of 76.

O Father Where Art Thou: On the occasion of what would have been his 101st birthday in 2019, Tarasov featured as a Google Doodle.

 

 

 

 

 

why be a coach, anyway?

Flyer + Friend: Philadelphia coach Fred Shero in the mid-1970s, with his Siberian husky, given to him as a gift by Flyers’ captain Bobby Clarke. Sorry to say, I don’t know the dog’s name.

“Why be a coach, anyway? The money is not great; usually less than a team’s greenest player. The future is absolutely certain: you’ll be fired. The wise, the safe, or the lucky are the ones who take the first chance to get higher into management. Be a general manager, and fire somebody else: be a Harry Sinden, Sam Pollock, Jim Gregory, Tommy Ivan.”

That was the great Scott Young writing in a Globe and Mail column headlined “A Coach’s Fate is to Get the Chop” back in 1977, not long after the Toronto Maple Leafs sacked Red Kelly. Today, when Alain Vigneault lost his job with the underwhelming Philadelphia Flyers, he was the second NHL coach to go in just 24 hours, joining Travis Green, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks. Young’s theory of sanctuary in management isn’t looking so good today: Canucks GM Jim Benning was also let go yesterday, not a week after his (former) Montreal counterpart Marc Bergevin was shown the Bell Centre door.

And the money? What’s the deal on coaching dollars 44 years on from Red Kelly’s day? I don’t have good sources on his exact Leaf salary, but the Globe reported in ’77 that his successor on the Toronto bench, Roger Neilson, signed a one-year deal with Harold Ballard that the Toronto owner said was “about the same salary Red had,” but with more opportunities for bonuses.

That, the Globe asserted, put Neilson “in the $40,000 bracket, or roughly half the average salary of players in the National Hockey League.”

Today? Under the CBA, the minimum an NHLer can be paid annually is $750,000. When it comes to an average, as Bryan Murphy at NBC Sports writes here, there’s no such definitive number. “However, given that each team has $81.5 million in cap space for this season, with 23 players allowed on the active roster, the average of that comes out to around $3.5 million per player.”

According to CapFriendly, Vigneault was in the third year of a five-year deal that’s been paying him $5-million annually. That’s less than the Flyers’ best-paid player, Claude Giroux, who makes $8.275 a year, and six other of the team’s more valuable members. Travis Green’s 2021-22 salary isn’t listed, but last year he was making $1-million. Looking at this year’s Canucks’ roster, that’s less than 14 of his (erstwhile) players.

Coaches do have another option, of course, a middle way between getting fired and taking a chance on the safety of management: as Fred Shero did in the summer of 1978, they can walk away.

In his day, the man they called the Fog had been seven years doing the job that Alain Vigneault just stopped doing on the Flyers’ job. Shero’s record included bringing home a pair of Stanley Cup championships, but at 52 he just didn’t think he had what it took any longer. “The reason for this resignation,” he said, “is simply that I feel my effectiveness to motivate the players, as well as to inspire them to the degree that would result in a Stanley Cup victory, has been exhausted.”

He went on to coach the Rangers in New York, but in November of 1980 he reached the end of the road there, too, resigning a second time, with Craig Patrick stepping in to succeed him.

That was a grim month all around for NHL coaches: the Edmonton Oilers also canned Bryan Watson that November, making way for Glen Sather’s return, while Detroit replaced Ted Lindsay with Wayne Maxner.

 

paying for it with punch

Could be, I guess, that Punch Imlach’s job experience as a youthful bank teller shaped the methods he used, later on, as an NHL coach.

Imlach, who died of heart failure at the age of 69 on a Tuesday of this same date in 1987, piloted the Toronto Maple Leafs to four Stanley Cups in the 1960s, including the team’s last (er, most recent) championship in 1967. He also had several stints as GM of the Leafs, and served, in his time, as coach and GM of the Buffalo Sabres.

“Crusty and short-tempered at the best of times,” is how Donn Downey described Imlach in an obituary in Toronto’s Globe and Mail. “No-one disputed his astute knowledge of hockey, but when it came to people, Mr. Imlach lacked what is referred to in the personnel offices as communication skills.”

“He understood players in terms of the six-team league when hockey jobs were scarce and bargaining between a player and management usually consisted of five words: take it or leave it.”

As a young centreman growing up in Toronto, Imlach played for Ed Wildey’s junior Young Rangers, and it was Wildey who got him a job at the Dominion Bank in the late 1930s. The salary was eight dollars a week, with all the bank-league hockey he could play thrown in as a bonus.

The value of a buck did re-surface as a bit of a theme during Imlach’s tenure with the Leafs. There’s the famous scene in March of 1960, for instance, when Toronto was down a game in their Stanley Cup semi-final against the Detroit Red Wings.

Ben Ward of the Canadian Press described Imlach’s pre-game prepping of his team:

Just before the start of the game, while the Leafs were warming up, Imlach dropped 10 wads of $1 bills on the dressing room floor and scrawled this message on the blackboard:

“Take a good look at the centre of the floor. This represents the difference between winning and losing — $1,250.”

The money represents the extra pay for each player on the clubs reaching the Stanley Cup finals.

(Toronto won that game, and the series, to make the finals, though they fell there to the Montreal Canadiens.)

Imlach was also fond of fines.

In 1967, when defenceman Tim Horton delayed his arrival to the Leafs’ training camp in Peterborough, Ontario, in a contract dispute, Imlach declared that he’d be penalized $500 plus a further $25 for each additional day he missed.

A year later, Imlach celebrated the NHL’s new era by decreeing that each Leaf would be fined $100 for every game Toronto lost to an expansion team. This seems to have been a post-Christmas measure imposed in early 1968, after the defending champions had already dropped games to the neophyte Oakland Seals, Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota North Stars, St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins.

It doesn’t seem to have worked quite as effectively as the coach might have wished: by mid-February, the Leafs were down $300 a man after losing again to the Seals, Flyers, and Kings.

Imlach also fined his players $5 every time they gave the puck away in a game. I don’t just how long this was in effect, or how much it raised, though I’d love to know the totals and the dressing-room grumbling associated with that.

The money accrued did find its way back to the players, it turns out: in the ’60s, at the end of each season, the Leafs gathered with wives and partners for an annual Giveaway Party, funded by their own on-ice sloppiness.

Imlach avoided these occasions, usually, until 1969. “He had always been invited,” the Globe and Mail noted that spring, “but stayed away so the players wouldn’t feel crimped with the boss around.” The venue that April was the midtown restaurant Ports of Call, located at the time on Yonge Street, where today the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto has its offices.

Imlach and his wife Dodo sat at a table with Bob and Rosyln Pulford, Paul and Eleanor Henderson, Bibs and Norm Ullman, and assistant trainer Tommy Nayler. Nobody felt crimped, apparently — but then Imlach wasn’t the boss any longer: he’d been fired as Leafs coach and GM three days earlier, within two minutes of the team’s having been swept out of the playoffs in the first round by the Boston Bruins.