poss instrument of crime w/int (withdrawn)

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So Jacob Waddell is not going to jail — not this month, anyway, not for crimes, at least, related to withdrawing a catfish from his two pairs of underwear and hoisting it into the first game of the Stanley Cup finals.

You probably know all about this, but if not here’s a quick review: Waddell, a 36-year-old Tennessean, travelled from Nashville to Pittsburgh with the seafood he’d bought there and subsequently run over with his truck. As octopi are to Detroit’s Red Wings, catfish have more recently become to Nashville’s Predators. Having stowed his ammunition in his pants to smuggle it into PPG Paints Arena, Waddell retrieved it in a washroom and, with 16.40 on the second-period clock, let fly. This is what that looked like:

Security escorted Waddell from the building, where the Penguins would eventually prevail by a score of 5-3. What Waddell lost in seeing that outcome, he gained in a summons, issued by a Pittsburgh policeman named Bryan Sellers and citing three charges, as reported later that night on the departmental website:

The news this afternoon is that all charges have been dropped. Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala says the accusations Waddell fail to meet the level of criminal charges. The Honorable Jeffrey A. Manning was the judge set to hear the case in Pennsylvania’s Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, where the docket reads, in part:

Game Two goes tonight.

a monkey wrench, a hardboiled egg: only missed my head by a foot

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Rossman: Coach and manager and spirit of the team, Art Ross shaped and led the Boston Bruins. Photographed here in the 1930s.

The legend as it’s been handed down goes something like this: the hockey game got so very testy that the Boston coach reached into the toolbox he happened to have on the bench with him, selected his sturdiest monkey wrench, and hurled it at his Toronto counterpart across the way.

That’s what writer and historian Eric Zweig knew, more or less, when he received the actual almost-lethal item itself as a gift this past summer, 90 years after it was flung. A week before NHL hockey begins in earnest, as beer-cans fly at baseball parks, maybe is it worth a look back at just what happened all those years ago?

Zweig, who lives in Owen Sound, is the esteemed and prolific author of novels along with many books of hockey history, including Art Ross: The Hockey Legend Who Built The Bruins (2015). It was through his work on his definitive biography that Zweig ended up with his unique memento, which was presented to him earlier this year by the Ross family.

The story behind the monkey wrench has a little more mass than to it than the legend, and a finer grain. A short review of it might start with Ross himself. As Zweig deftly shows on the page, he was a complicated man. Before he became a superior coach, motivator, and manager of hockey talent, prior to his invention of the team we know today as the Boston Bruins, Ross was one of the best hockey players in the world.

The best, if you want to go by the obituary that was published in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1918, when the rumour went around that he’d been killed in a motorcycle accident: “Ross stands out as the brainiest, most consistently brilliant player, over a long period of years, that the game has ever known.”

That stood him in good stead for the decades he went on to live, most of which were taken up with the NHL team in Boston, which he more or less hatched and nursed and taught to walk, and definitely infused with his own uncompromising and often contentious personality. The man was tough, Arthur Siegel wrote in The Boston Globe on the occasion of Ross’ actual death, in 1964, when he was 78, though that wasn’t to say he wasn’t affable and loyal, too; he was a man of “tenderness and vindictiveness, of bitter anger and jovial courtliness.”

Along with the stars he shaped and the Stanley Cups he won, Ross’s feuds feature prominently in hockey history, and Zweig pays them their due in book. Most famous, of course, was his battle with Toronto’s own domineering majordomo, Conn Smythe; another, not so well known, was with Smythe’s lieutenant, Frank Selke, who once wrote an article in the Leafs’ game program calling Ross “a sourpuss.”

All of which is to say, simply, that it’s not impossible for Ross, given the tools for the job, to have heaved a wrench at a rival’s head in the middle of an NHL game. Since it’s December of 1926 we’re talking about here — well, that was just before Smythe’s hockey reign in Toronto began, so if Ross was going to be wrangling with someone there, Charlie Querrie was the man.

He’d been a lacrosse star in his younger years, and a sportswriter, not to mention manager of Toronto’s original NHL rink, Arena Gardens on Mutual Street. When the NHA vanished in 1917 only to be instantly re-invented as the NHL, Querrie was offered the chance to buy the Toronto franchise for $1,200. Instead, he ended up buying an interest in the team in 1920, paying $400.  He was soon coaching, too, a job he continued on and off throughout the early 1920s, helping to steer the team that became the St. Patrick’s to its 1922 Stanley Cup championship.

On the bench again in 1926, Querrie was looking for a way out. Weary of the job, looking for a change — I don’t, exactly, the why of it, just that before Christmas he tried to buy forward Jack Adams from the Ottawa Senators to replace himself as coach. When that didn’t work out, he keep going. Not that Toronto’s team had long to live as the St. Patricks: in February of 1927, Smythe and partners would pony up and buy the team, changing its name and its colours in mid-season, and granting Querrie his freedom, which he took, along with a $50,000 profit on his $400 investment.

Back in December, though, Christmas coming, the team was still in green, still Querrie-coached, heading out on a three-game road trip. A dozen games into the season, Toronto was 3-8-1, lurking down at the bottom of the NHL’s five-team Canadian Division while the Boston, Toronto’s second stop, was just a little more respectable, fourth on the American side at 5-6-1.

The St. Pats won the game on December 21 by a score of 5-3 in front the Bruins’ smallest crowd of the year. Featuring that night was a stand-out performance from Toronto goaltender John Ross Roach, who stopped 73 Bruin shots. Of the three pucks he couldn’t stop, one was batted in by his own defenceman, Hap Day — a gesture of “true Christmas spirit,” as the Canadian Press logged it.

“Warmly contested throughout” was another CP drollery when it came to summarizing the proceeding. Boston captain Sprague Cleghorn was a key figure, as he so often was during his unruly career. Central to the drama for Toronto was the rookie Irvine (Ace) Bailey, usually recognized for his finesses rather than fisticuffing. He was going through a rowdy stage, apparently: in the St. Pats’ previous game, he’d fought Lionel Conacher of the New York Americans, for which they’d both been summarily fined in the amount of $15 apiece.

In the third period, Boston’s Percy Galbraith scored a goal that referee Dr. Eddie O’Leary called back for offside. Fans booed, tossed paper, tossed pennies. That stopped the game for ten minutes while the ice was cleared. Continue reading

department of throwing stuff: a rubber baby crocodile

In The Reptile House: Referee Matt Pavelich dispenses with what some papers called "a lizard" in their reports while Bruins Doug Mohns (19) and (next to him) Ed Westfall sit by. "At first everyone thought the lizard was alive," one captioner wrote, "but it proved just as phoney as the Bruins." (AP)

In The Reptile House: Referee Matt Pavelich dispenses with what some papers called “a lizard” in their reports while Bruins Doug Mohns (19) and (next to him) Ed Westfall sit by. “At first everyone thought the lizard was alive,” one captioner wrote, “but it proved just as phoney as the Bruins.” (AP)

The Boston Bruins finished last in the NHL in 1964, missed the playoffs again. Midwinter, through December and into January, they suffered through an 11-game winless streak. Hapless, the Boston Daily Globe’s Tom Fitzgerald called them. Their fans agonized with them, and also laughed, a little. January 9, when the team lost 5-3 at the Garden to the New York Rangers, Fitzgerald sent word of the team’s smallest audience in two seasons, a paltry 6,739. “The crowd again was tolerantly amused rather than loudly critical,” he wrote. “One tangible form of protest was made by a fan who just happened to have a rubber baby crocodile in his pocket and tossed it onto the ice during the second period.” Not everybody got the message that it was a fake: Chicago’s Tribune brought it to life as an alligator.

department of throwing stuff: somewhere else in the nhl

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Throwdown: Yesterday’s Philadelphia Daily News leads with debris.

The Flyers started last night in Philadelphia with a heartfelt tribute to the team’s late owner, Ed Snider, followed by a quick goal for the home team. Game three of their opening-round series with the much-favoured Washington Capitals didn’t end so well. There was, in third period, the hit-from-behind by Flyers’ forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on Washington defenceman Dmitry Orlov that saw the former banished from the ice, and a testy display by fans who littered the ice with the bracelets they’d been given to help with a light-show to such an extent that the referee gave the Flyers a delay-of-game penalty. There was the final score, too: Capitals 6, Flyers 1.

They were warned, the fans, ahead of the penalty. Lou Nolan, the 70-year-old PA announcer at the Wells Fargo Centre, was hired originally in 1972 to be the voice of the old Spectrum. Has he ever sounded so vexed? After the brawl that ensued Bellemare’s hit, once fans had tossed at least 50 wristbands on the ice (Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Sam Carchidi did the estimating), Nolan told fans to “show class.”

He also felt that a reminder might do some good: “This,” he said, “is Philadelphia, not somewhere else in the NHL.”

He wasn’t finished. “The next one who does it will cause us a minor penalty. Do not do it.”

One did, of course. When Alexander Ovechkin scored his second goal of the game, more wristbands flew, and the promised penalty was duly called. Announcing it, Nolan added a message of his own: “Way to go.”

The history of throwing stuff at hockey games is long and — well, I don’t know that the word storied applies, since the story has always pretty much been the same, of disgruntled/mischief-making spectators flinging what’s at hand even though hockey authorities and/or policemen try to stop them from flinging. The stoppers have been largely if not entirely successful, over the years. I wrote about hockey stuff-throwing at some length in Puckstruck, the book, and if I didn’t go too deep into mechanics of the stoppage campaign, I was able to catalogue, I think, just how much it really was a part of the game for a long time while at the same time taking a certain joy in listing the rich variety of stuff that has been flung through the years.

“You look at those bracelets,” Washington coach Barry Trotz was saying this morning, “they’re white, the ice is white. All you need is for Claude Giroux to step on one and snap his leg in half.” That’s true — at least, that’s all you don’t need. The throwing of stuff is dangerous, and always was — I talk about that, too, in the book.

Philadelphia COO Sean Tilger condemned the flingers. “We will not condone or tolerate their behavior,” he said today. “They embarrassed the city and the majority of the fanbase that behaved the right way.”

What will the Flyers do to prevent a repeat performance when the two tams meet again tomorrow night? I’m sure they’ve got plans. For one thing, they won’t be handing out more wristbands. They’ve already promised that. Will they draft in extra ushers to police the aisles?

That was a big part of the anti-toss campaign mounted by the Chicago Black Hawks towards the end of the Second World War. Chicago’s old Stadium was one of the more notorious venues for debris in the old NHL days; it could be the very somewhere else that Lou Nolan was invoking last night when he tried to shame those wayward Flyers fans last night.

April, 1944. That spring, the Hawks met the Montreal Canadiens in the finals. Montreal had won the first game at home and in the second, at the Stadium, Maurice Richard scored a pair of goals in what would end as a 3-1 Canadiens victory. To try to contain him, Chicago coach Paul Thompson sent out winger George Allen to trail the Rocket with thoughts of nothing else. Here’s Dink Carroll of the Gazette to take up Allen’s tale:

Instead of obeying instructions, he tried to check Elmer Lach and the pair tangled near the mouth of the Chicago goal. Suddenly Allen came out of the scramble and made for Referee Bill Chadwick, claiming that Lach had been guilty of holding and demanding a penalty. Chadwick ignored him and play continued with Lach again scooping up the puck and passing out in front to Richard, who banged it into the net.

It was then that the greatest fusillade of missiles ever thrown at a hockey game started to rain down on the ice from the huge crowd. For 17 minutes this barrage held up the game, officials and players being completely helpless.

An inventory of the objects thrown lists a bottle, the back of a chair, a compact followed by a lipstick case, heavy wads of rolled-up newspapers, coins, mirrors, one bicycle horn, apples, orange peels — some with oranges in them — playing cards, chocolate cookies, hamburgers, and a few bolts and nuts. At one stage Elmer Lach, who had collected a deck of cards, sat down in centre ice and started a game of solitaire.

At least one novel descended to the ice: Dorsha Hayes’ 1943 barnburner Mrs. Heaton’s Daughter.

Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was at the game, the baseball commissioner, sitting directly behind the Montreal bench, where a folding chair, hurled from on high, almost hit him.

In The Chicago Tribune, Edward Prell put the crowd at 16,003 and rated their rumpus “the wildest demonstration in the west side arena’s hockey history.” To Carroll’s inventory he added, half-eaten hot dogs, paper airplanes, pennies. “Workmen feverishly swept, but just when the rink was almost cleared, fresh consignments of debris descended to the cheers of the wrought-up fans.”

The Hawks sent their star winger, 38-year-old Johnny Gottselig, to the PA to plead with the loyalists. “Let’s get on with the game,” he suggested. Carroll: “It was the signal for a fresh outburst from the crowd.”

Chicago president Bill Tobin couldn’t believe that the 50 ushers on duty that night hadn’t apprehended a single malefactor. “Somebody might have been hurt, or even killed.”

Black Hawks’ owner Major Frederic McLaughlin vowed that for the next game an extra 50 ushers would be on duty. It was his idea, too, that the home team should be penalized if debris on the ice forced a delay in the game.

Andy Frain was the man commanding the Stadium ushers come Sunday’s game. The Tribune’s list of items confiscated from ticket-holders at the rink’s entrance included:

coat hangers
walnuts and hickory nuts
steel bolts
marbles
bags of rice and flour
oranges and limes
megaphones
playing cards
pieces of steel
quart bottles of beer
rolls of pennies
a couple of folding chairs.

This plunder, and more, was handed over to the Warren Avenue police detachment. “As a result of the frisking,” the Tribune noted, “last night’s game set a model for decorum in the stands.”

Not that it helped the Hawk cause. They lost the game, 3-2, along with the next one, back in Montreal, where the score was 5-4. The Canadiens’ Cup-winning effort didn’t go without disruption, as Edward Prell logged in the next morning’s paper:

Earlier in the evening when things were going against their heroes, the Montreal spectators had demonstrated that Chicago’s fervent fans have no monopoly on the practice of using the rink for a rubbish heap. Their pet weapons were rubber overshoes, and a bottle or two descended on the ice, but the game never was delayed more than a few seconds.

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Ammo Dump: the game-three haul gathered by Stadium ushers, from Chicago’s Tribune, April 10, 1944.

without your help, we would find it very difficult to win

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Chicago’s old Stadium was notorious for the debris that rained down on the ice from fun-loving fans in the gallery seats, coins and shoes and playing cards, paper airplanes and novels, fruit and emptied bottles. The Black Hawks did their best to curtail the bombarding over the years, with pleas (above, from January of 1935) and threats and, sometimes, rewards. Below, calm before they storm, high-altitude fans in February of 1942 play some pre-game pinochle with a deck or two of possible future projectiles.

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public enemy no. 29

Pete Kay

When they are irked or excited, the hockey clan here fires a wide variety of missiles onto the ice, ranging from cabbages, card decks and heated pennies, to a brassiere which floated down from the stadium heights recently.

• Associated Press, Chicago, February 4, 1946

This we know: the Boston Bruins were in town that night, February 3, 1946, a Sunday, to play the hometown Black Hawks.

Also this: at some point a fan high up in the gallery seats let go an empty whisky bottle from on high that dropped and dropped until it found Joseph Fusco’s head. He was another fan, sitting rinkside. I think it’s fair to say that he was caught unawares. He was knocked unconscious, certainly, and when he revived he found that his scalp was split open. Attendants took him away for first aid. The AP: “His departure still left 17,362 fans to cheer a 3-1 Hawk victory.”

Black Hawks president Bill Tobin offered a $250 reward to anyone who could identify the bottle-tosser. He was pleased to hear reports, a few days later, of Fusco’s recovery. He was less happy with the Chicago policemen assigned to patrol the upper balconies: they hadn’t evicted a single miscreant from the rink in the Black Hawks’ 16 home games to date. “It is pointed out,” Edward Burns wrote in The Chicago Tribune,

that standing up in a crowd of 18,000 and throwing a bottle or other missile, is not as subtle a crime as many that have been baffling Chicago police. The only explanation of the zero showing of the police detail in the Stadium in the suppression of hoodlum nuisances, as well as gambling, is that lazy coppers who draw the assignments are hockey fans and usually have their eyes glued to the puck instead of the hoodlum element.

Wednesday the New York Rangers came to play. No word on whether Joseph Fusco was on hand, but at least one fan came to the rink prepared for the worst. That’s him here, above, in the photo; his name was Pete Kay. He was (so the caption a contemporary caption ran) taking

no chances of some Stadium balcony boozer saying, “Well, here’s mud in your eye!” and then conking customer below with empty bottle. Pete comes prepared with air raid helmet at last night’s hockey game, then glances up to see whether any “dead soldiers” are heading his way.

Fusco survived and, I guess, recovered. His name disappeared from the hockey columns as quickly as it had slipped into them. Is it possible that hockey-fan-Fusco was the same man as infamous-Capone-mobster-Fusco? Easy to believe it, if you’re willing to credit the slender circumstantial evidence. Exhibit A: supposing a well-heeled ganglander was a Hawks fan and did decide to take in a game at the Stadium, where else would such a prominent Chicago personality be sitting than right in the front rank? It works even better as poetry: big-time rumrunner gets conked (to borrow the AP’s word) by a whisky bottle falling from on high. That’s something you could make up, I guess, but would you?

Fusco was in his 20s when he went to see Al Capone at the Lexington Hotel suite that served as the mobster’s headquarters, and by the time he left he’d been hired as a beer bootlegger. That’s the story that’s told. By 1930, Fusco was listed as Public Enemy No. 29 by Chicago’s Crime Commission. (Capone, of course, headed the charts.) The following year, the papers identified Fusco as Capone’s second-in-command when both men (along with 67 others) were indicted by a federal grand jury for 5,000 violations of prohibition laws.

Post-prohibition, Fusco stuck with the booze, which is to say that he had majority interests in several breweries, including the Van Merritt; the Bohemian Wine and Liquor; and Joliet Citizens Brewing Co. He also headed up a tile and linoleum company.

In 1952 the Illinois liquor control commission heard evidence from six witnesses that Fusco’s reputation was — and I quote — bad.

That must have stung. It also posed a professional problem, since liquor licenses could be withheld from faulty characters. He appealed and got another hearing. This time, some 25 witnesses showed up to testify to his uprightness and integrity while another 200 friends sent in affidavits. There were aldermen and retired assistant attorneys-general, retired secret service agents, even a former chairman of the liquor commission. They all said he was an excellent fellow. Fusco, for his part, offered that Bishop Sheil had recently named him to helm the beer and liquor division of the Catholic Youth organization fund drive.

The commission thought it over. In the end, the vote went 2-1 in favour of renewing the licenses. “The majority opinion,” said The Chicago Tribune, “held in effect that Fusco had been of good reputation and character since 1934.”

At the initial hearing, the commission had heard about some of Fusco’s youthful adventures. He’d been indicted, for instance, on October 3, 1924, for prohibition violations involving 1,446 quarts of whisky. And in 1922 he’d been fined $50 for transporting 21 barrels of beer from Chicago to Lemont, Illinois.

Like the 1931 charges, the whisky rap had failed to stick. Arrested many times, never convicted: an obituary said that, in 1976, when he died in his Chicago hotel suite at the age of 74.

The list of his known aliases included: Joe Carey, Joseph Sayth, Jo Long, Joe Thompson, E.J. Thompson.