can’t stop, won’t stop

Stop It: Boston goaltender Eddie Johnston gets in the way of J.C. Tremblay’s shot at the Forum in March of 1967. That’s Bobby Orr to the left and, in front of Tremblay, Bruin defenceman Joe Watson. Yvan Cournoyer is the other Canadien on the scene, tussling with Boston’s Ron Stewart. (Image: René Picard, Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

The bustling Boston Bruins, who lead the NHL standings by a stretch, visit the Bell Centre tonight to play the Canadiens, who don’t, not even close: middling Montreal sits in 26th place, 35 points back of their Beantown rivals. It was another story on the Wednesday night of March 15, 1967, when the Bruins, last on the ladder in the six-team NHL, stopped in at the old Forum for an 11-2 pasting.

“Every time I looked up, they were shooting at me,” Boston goaltender Eddie Johnston said afterwards. He stayed in the whole game, facing 43 shots in all, including this one from Canadiens’ defenceman J.C. Tremblay, who finished the night with a goal and an assist and was deemed by his coach, Toe Blake, to have played his best game of the season. He praised his centremen, too, Jean Béliveau, Ralph Backstrom, and Henri Richard. “But the Bruins,” Blake added, “weren’t checking.”

The pick of the Bostonese, according to the Gazette’s Pat Curran? That would be 20-year-old rookie defenceman Bobby Orr, on the left here, who took nine shots on Montreal’s rookie goaltender Rogatien Vachon. Bruins’ captain Johnny Bucyk did manage to make some history of this otherwise woeful night, notching a goal and an assist to give him 538 career points as a Bruin. With that, he nudged ahead of Bill Cowley on the team’s all-time scoring list, in behind Milt Schmidt’s 575.

Bucyk would, in shortish order, surpass Schmidt, of course. As of today, he stands second in the points ledger of all-time Bruins with 1,339, behind Ray Bourque’s 1,506. Still-active Bruins who are high on that list are Patrice Bergeron (in third place with 1,019); Brad Marchand (seventh, 839); David Krejci (ninth, 767), and (between Schmidt, in 14th place, and Cowley, in 16th), David Pastrnak (15th, 569).

 

boston garden blues

Boston’s Brave: Maple Leaf goaltender Turk Broda makes his way to the ice at Boston Garden on the night of Thursday, April 1, 1948, with teammate Vic Lynn following behind. Boston Police doubled their presence at the Garden on this night for the fourth game of the Bruins/Leafs Stanley Cup semi-final after a violent end to game three on March 30.

In the long fierceness that is the rivalry between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston leg of the Stanley Cup semi-final in which the two teams met in the spring of 1948 stands on its obstreperous own.

The Leafs had won the first two games at home. They were the defending Cup champions that year, featuring a stacked line-up that included the sublime talents of Ted Kennedy, Max Bentley, and Syl Apps, and they continued their dominance when the teams moved to Boston, beating the Bruins 5-1 at the Garden on the Tuesday night of March 30 to take a stranglehold on the best-of-seven series.

Boston didn’t go quietly that night, though. The game was an ill-tempered one throughout: “stormy” was the word the local Globe used to describe it.

For instance: when, early on, Milt Schmidt  and Fern Flaman pinned Bill Barilko to the boards, a spectator leaned over to punch the Leaf defenceman. (Referee Georges Gravel did his best to see the fan ejected from the arena, in vain.)

For instance: a late-game jam between the Leafs’ Harry Watson and Boston’s Murray Henderson ended with a broken nose for the latter.

For instance: as the teams were departing the ice at the end of the game, another fan swung a fist at Leaf coach Hap Day.

That was how the Boston press framed it, anyway. Jim Vipond of Toronto’s Globe and Mail had a more nuanced account, alleging that two fans near the Toronto bench were heckling Day throughout the game, “repeatedly calling him ‘yellow.’” Vipond noted that Gravel tried to have this pair removed, too, but Bruins’ president Weston Adams “dashed to the side of the rink and refused to let the police interfere.”

When the game ended, one of these same agitators seized Day’s hat, a light-tan fedora. Other fans joined in, and Toronto defenceman Wally Stanowski came to his coach’s aid, followed by Ted Kennedy, assistant trainer Cliff Keyland, and defenceman Garth Boesch. The fracas spilled on to the ice; general tussling ensued; Boesch was punched in the face; linesman George Hayes and several policemen helped to restore the peace.

Day’s hat was lost, Vipond reported, and Boesch was dazed: he “had to be taken back to the hotel and put to bed.”

The Leafs were, understandably, outraged, but then so were many on the Boston side of things. Boston Globe columnist Herb Ralby went to the Leaf dressing room to apologize. Weston Adams went, too, but Leaf president Conn Smythe pushed him out before a pair of Boston policemen intervened.

“That was a disgraceful occurrence,” Bruins’ captain Milt Schmidt told Red Burnett of the Toronto Star. “They’ll have to do something to curb those morons,” said his teammate Jack Crawford. “The police should step in and chase them before they can molest visiting players. We don’t receive that kind of treatment in Toronto.”

Mrs. Crawford agreed. “That’s the worst piece of sportsmanship I’ve ever seen,” she said. “The better team won and that’s all there should be to it.”

There was more, though. The following day, as the teams prepared to resume their series, a Boston judge issued arrest warrants for linesman George Hayes and King Clancy, who’d been at the game as back-up referee. They stood accused of assaulting a fan by the name of Ed Shallow, an employee of Boston’s housing authority.

Shallow, it seems, had gone after Georges Gravel in the March 30 melee. According to his complaint, Clancy had “grabbed Shallow by the seat of his trousers and hustled into the officials’ room. Inside the room, Clancy and Hayes are alleged to have manhandled Shallow, whose glasses were smashed.”

No fooling: Clancy and Hayes appeared in court on the morning of April 1, with Clancy testifying that he didn’t know how Shallow ended up in the referees’ room, but that no-one had touched him there. Judge Charles Carr acquitted the officials; the assault, he said, was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt. He had strong words nevertheless for Clancy: “I am absolutely certain you are not telling the truth,” Judge Carr told him.

Clancy and Hayes both worked the game that night. The Bruins pulled out a 3-2 win to send the series back to Toronto in what was a relatively peaceful encounter. “The teams tended strictly to their knitting,” Herb Ralby wrote in the Globe. King Clancy, he reported, ruled with an iron hand, “stopping all disturbances in the first period and from there on, the teams just concentrated on hockey.”

Security, he noted, had been stepped up. “There were so many policemen in the rink, it might have been misconstrued as the policemen’s ball.”

“We’ll do everything in our power to protect the visiting players,” said Garden president Walter Brown, “and to prevent a good sport like hockey from being ruined. Anybody who does anything wrong will go right out. Honestly, I can’t understand what’s come over Boston fans to act in the rowdyish way they have this year.”

Bruins’ games were normally policed by 20 patrolmen at this time; on this night, the crowd of some 13,000 was swelled by 50 Boston policemen, three sergeants, and a lieutenant, along with 12 Boston Garden security officers.

Back in Toronto two days later, the Leafs closed out the series with a 3-2 win of their own. Later in April, they went on to beat the Detroit Red Wings in a four-game sweep to take their second consecutive Stanley Cup championship.

hubbub night in canada

Must Be Some Misunderstanding: The modern-day Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Detroit Red Wings tonight, which is as good an excuse as any to recall that in April of 1949, another iteration of the Leafs beat the Red Wings 3-1 to claim their third consecutive Stanley Cup championship in a four-game finals sweep. The deciding match-up was not without melee: here Toronto captain Ted Kennedy and Fleming Mackell row with a deputation of Wings near the Detroit bench. That’s Black Jack Stewart with glove raised along with, nearer the camera, Ted Lindsay, whose stick is helpfully annotated with his number, 7.  Making his entrance at right is referee Bill Chadwick. The colour is courtesy of Mark Truelove at Canadian Colour. You can find more of his outstanding work at http://www.canadiancolour.ca. Follow him on Twitter @CanadianColour. (Original image: City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 132811)

rite of fall

Leafs @ Habs: The Toronto Maple Leafs meet the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre tonight as both teams open a new NHL campaign with … high hopes? unrealistic expectations? The Canadiens skidded through the worst season in their long history last season, while the Leafs … well, as Pat Hickey noted in today’s Gazette, oddsmakers are touting them “as one of the favourites to win the Stanley Cup even though they haven’t advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2004.” Here, from the autumn of 1946, a John Collins cartoon for the Gazette ahead of an early-season encounter between the old rivals. For the record: the two teams ended up in the Stanley Cup finals that season, with the Leafs taking the championship in six games. (Image: © McCord Museum)

adventures in leafland

Press Gang: Born in Waterloo, Ontario, on a Tuesday of this same date in 1915, right winger Bobby Bauer was the brains of Boston’s famous Kraut Line, twice a Stanley Cup winner, and three times the recipient of the Lady Byng. Oh, and, yes, he did captain the Bruins, too. Here he is, number 17, on the attack against the Leafs with his centreman, 15, Milt Schmidt, in an April game at Boston Garden in Boston’s triumphant 1939 Cup run. That’s Turk Broda in goal and Syl Apps back of the net. The Leafs attending Bauer and Schmidt might be … Red Horner and Bing Kampman? Maybe Jack Church and Reg Hamilton? The referee, possibly, is Mickey Ion.
(Image: Leslie Jones Collection, Boston Public Library)

box seats

Published 73 years ago today, the February 1, 1949 edition of Maclean’s magazine featured a couple of longstanding roughhouse rivals, Toronto winger Bill Ezinicki and Montreal’s Maurice Richard occupying the penalty bench at the Montreal Forum, as rendered by artist Franklin Arbuckle.

Richard was 27 that year and, as usual, in the thickest of things, scoring goals and, in the week before the magazine appeared, fighting Detroit’s Gordie Howe and Boston’s Fern Flaman.

But as the Globe and Mail reminded its readers later that week, Ezinicki, who led the NHL in penalty minutes, remained the Rocket’s “arch-enemy.” The main chatter as February got going was the — semi-serious? half-facetious? — offer the Leafs were said to be prepared to make to bring Richard to Toronto. Montreal’s management scoffed. “All the money in Toronto wouldn’t buy him,” said Canadiens GM Frank Selke. Coach Dick Irvin, a former Leaf himself: “It’s propaganda. All this is merely an attempt to upset my boys on the eve of a game.”

Maybe it worked. Thursday, February 3 was the date of the game in question, two days after Maclean’s hit the newsstands. In front of what Al Nickleson of the Globe described as “a violently partisan Forum gathering of 11,226,” Ezinicki and Richard duly engaged in the second period. Richard ran into Ezinicki, breaking his stick; Ezinicki loosed a “mild punch.” Nickleson:

Referee George Gravel blew his whistle to assess minors and both skated slowly toward the penalty box, talking quite earnestly, nose to nose.

Suddenly, Richard let go a right that caught Sweet William around the shoulders. Then they were into it, with [Leaf defenceman] Gus Mortson, never one to miss a battle, rushing to the fray, followed by other players. Combatants wrestled, tugged, and threw an odd punch as the main-bouters went into a wrestling hold. They were separated three times and at the end it looked as if the Rocket had earned a wrestling decision over Ezinicki, who took a couple to the chops, didn’t land any hard ones in return, although he tried mighty hard.

They went to off to serve the majors and minors that Gravel doled out. They were joined in detention by Mortson and Montreal defenceman Glen Harmon. Unlike the Maclean’s version, Canadiens and Leafs were separated in what was then still one big communal penalty box.

The Leafs won the game 4-1, on the strength of two goals by Max Bentley.

boston mass

When the modern-day Montreal Canadiens skate into Boston’s TD Garden tonight to meet the contemporaneous Bruins, it will be the 751st regular-season meeting between the two teams since 1924, when Boston joined the NHL. Canadiens won their first encounter 4-3 at the old Boston Arena, on Monday, December 8 of that year, with Montreal winger Aurèle Joliat putting the winner past Boston goaltender Hec Fowler. The Bruins moved to the brand-new Garden in 1928, hosting the Canadiens for the their very first game there, and losing it, 1-0. Overall, Montreal has the better record, with 363 wins/274 losses/103 ties/10 OT losses entered into the books; Canadiens have a record of 106-71 in the 177 playoff games the teams have played. The last time they met (below) was February 12, 2020, in Boston, with the Bruins prevailing by a score of 4-1 on the strength of a David Pastrnak hattrick. Above, a postcard view of the old rivals at the original Boston Garden in the 1930s.

leafs + canadiens, 1938: laying on a licking, avoiding a sand trap

Net Work: Canadiens threaten the Leaf net on the Sunday night of March 6, 1938, with Leaf goaltender Turk Broda down at left with teammate Gordie Drillon (#12) at hand. That’s Montreal’s Toe Blake with his back to the goal, while Toronto’s Red Horner reaches in with his stick. Canadiens Johnny Gagnon (deep centre) and Paul Haynes are following up, along with an unidentified Leaf. (Image: Conrad Poirier, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Quebec)

The Maple Leafs meet the Canadiens in Montreal tonight, which is as good a prompt as any to cast back to a Sunday night in 1938, March 6, to revisit another meeting of the two old rivals.

The NHL was an eight-team affair then. That year, like this one, there was a Canadian division, though for balance it included the New York Americans as well as the Leafs, Canadiens, and Montreal Maroons. Toronto was top of the section at that late-season juncture, with Montreal in second. Saturday night the Leafs beat the Maroons 2-0 at the Forum, with Turk Broda getting the shutout. The goals came from rookie winger George Parsons and centre Syl Apps.

Sunday night the Leafs and Canadiens played to the biggest crowd to gather that season at the Forum: “11,000 fans banked solidly up the Forum’s sloping sides,” the Gazette’s Marc McNeil reported, and as seen in the photographs here.

McNeil wasn’t so impressed by the Canadiens. To his eye, they came up with “one of their shoddiest and most impotent displays of the campaign.” The Leafs licked them 6-3, in the end; “to make matters worse they didn’t even score a goal until the game had been hopelessly lost, 6-0.”

The Leafs were led by winger Gordie Drillon, who scored a pair of goals, and would end up as the NHL’s top scorer by season’s end. App, who finished second in league scoring, had a goal on the night, along with Bob Davidson, Busher Jackson, and Buzz Boll. Scoring for Montreal were Toe Blake, Pit Lepine, and Don Wilson. Wilf Cude was in the Canadiens’ net.

Other highlights of the night:

• Toronto scored four goals in the second period to pad their lead, but the game was also delayed four times while (as Marc McNeil told it) “sand, thrown on the ice in small bags which burst, was scraped from the surface.”

• A Montreal fan tried to make his way to the ice. Identified as “head of the Millionaires,” the devoted followers who occupied the rush seats in the Forum’s north end, this would-be interloper was apparently intent on making a case to referees John Mitchell and Mickey Ion. He was stopped before he got to the ice — by none other than Frank Calder, who was aided by several ushers in apprehending him as he passed near the NHL president’s rinkside seat.

• Late in the third period, Montreal’s Georges Mantha lost his helmet in the Toronto end. “He finished the contest without it,” McNeil noted, “because Turk Broda picked it up and wore it for the rest of the game. Afterwards, the Toronto goalie returned it to the speedy left-winger.”

 

Banked Solidly Up The Forum’s Sloping Sides: A look at Wilf Cude in the Montreal goal on March 6, 1938, with Toe Blake (#6) chasing Toronto’s Gordie Drillon (#12) into the far corner. A good view here of the Forum’s seating here. Notice, too, the goal judge caged behind Cude. (Image: Conrad Poirier, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Quebec)

the old firm

If Not Now: In another world, one unswept by pandemic, the NHL would have been wrapping up its regular season tonight with a schedule of 15 games, including one featuring old rivals Leafs and Canadiens meeting at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. The image here dates from 1951; if you can identify the artist, let me know.

leafs in boston, 1959: we’re just too good a hockey team for them

It’s been 60 years since the Toronto Maple Leafs overthrew the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs — in April of 1959, the teams took their semi-final to a seventh game, which the Leafs won at Boston Garden by a score of 3-2.

Going into the series that year the Bruins were favourites. They had finished the regular season that year eight points ahead of the Leafs (this year’s gap, you’ll remember, was seven). Familiar ice proved advantageous: starting at the home, the Bruins won the first two games before the Leafs tied the series once it switched over to Maple Leaf Gardens. Back home, the Bruins took the lead once again before the Leafs prevailed in the sixth game.

Going into game seven, the Bruins were hurting. With three key defencemen on the limp, they seemed to be (as Rex MacLeod put it in the pages of The Globe and Mail) “in a grim state of decrepitude.”

Boston coach Milt Schmidt wasn’t arguing. “If this was February 7 instead of April 7,” he said, ahead of the decisive game, “three of our players wouldn’t even be dressing for tonight’s game — [Bob] Armstrong, [Fern] Flaman, and [Doug] Mohns.”

The keys to victory for his battered team? “We’re going to have to forecheck the Leafs like fury,” Schmidt said, “and stay on top of them every minute. Keep the puck out of our end as much as possible.”

“I said it would be a long series. Leafs hit their stride late in the season and I figured it would be difficult for any team to contain that momentum. I’m not going to predict how the seventh game will go, but I think home ice is in our favour, and a team with the spirit my gang showed in Toronto is going to be hard to stop.”

Toronto coach Punch Imlach didn’t buy it. He was willing to foresee an outcome, happy to, telling reporters that the Leafs would not only be beating the Bruins, they would go on to dispense with the Montreal Canadiens to win the Stanley Cup.

“We’re just too good a hockey team for them,” Imlach announced as his team headed into enemy territory. “Forget your injuries and we can match Boston any way they want to play it. If they want it rough, we can take them man for man and earn a decision. I have proved that fact to my men on the blackboard. If they want to throw it wide open, we have the legs to leave them in that type of game.”

“All things being equal, we should win,” Imlach said. “We could lose on a fluke goal or a bad call, but I’m convinced it won’t happen.”

Bold talk. As it turned out, the game was “boisterous” and “rabble-rousing,” the “best of the series,” according to MacLeod of the Globe. The score was tied 2-2 in the third period when, with fewer than three minutes remaining, Leafs winger Gerry Ehman beat Boston goaltender Harry Lumley to win the game. With Johnny Bower standing tall in Toronto’s goal, the Leafs (MacLeod wrote) put in some dedicated checking and “somehow held off a raging, infuriated Boston team for the final two minutes.”

Punch Imlach wasn’t entirely a man of his word. In the Finals, the Leafs fell in five games to the mighty Canadiens, who won their fourth consecutive championship.