Flash Hollett, who died at 88 on a Tuesday of today’s date in 1999, was a son of North Sydney, Nova Scotia, and a star on defence for the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings in the 1930s and ’40s. That’s him here in 1937, on the far left, helmet in hand, along with fellow Boston defenders Sylvio Mantha, Eddie Shore (who was out with a cracked vertebra), Al Shields, and Jack Portland.
Hollett was the first full-time NHL blueliner to score 20 goals in a season, which he did for the Red Wings in 1944-45, when he put a puck past Toronto goaltender Frank McCool to secure a 4-3 Wings victory over the home team at Maple Leaf Gardens on March 17, 1945.
It took 24 years for another defenceman to break that record, Bobby Orr by name: he scored 21 in 1968-69. Paul Coffey holds the record for d-men nowadays with the 48 goals he scored for Edmonton in 1985-86, with Orr’s 46 from 1974-75 next best. If you run a finger farther down the NHL’s list for this category you’ll find Hollett lodged in 120th, between Baldy Northcott (who’s credited with 20 goals for the 1933-34 Montreal Maroons) and Zach Werenski (20 for the 2019-20 Columbus Blue Jackets). I’d submit that Northcott’s season should be withdrawn. He did play some defence during his career, it’s true, but in ’33-34 he scored his 20 goals playing predominantly as a left winger on a line with Hooley Smith and Jimmy Ward.
(Image: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)
Bear Facts: A Boston Garden program, dating to the late 1940s, to mark a modern-day Bruin landmark: with their win last night over the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston (63-12-5, 131 points) set a new NHL record for most wins in a season.
If you grew up in Canada in the 1970s maybe, like mine, your imagination fed on the elegant excellence of the Montreal Canadiens. Maybe you also found delight and inspiration (as I did, endlessly) in Alligator Pie, Dennis Lee’s monumental 1974 collection of poems for children, illustrated by Frank Newfeld. I keep my copy ready at hand to this day, in case I might need to consult a stanza of “Willoughby Wallaby Woo” or “The Fishes of Kempenfelt Bay” or (obviously) “Alligator Pie” itself, even though I know the whole of that by heart, all the way through its bravura finale:
Alligator soup, alligator soup,
If I don’t get some I think I’m gonna droop.
Give away my hockey-stick, give away my hoop,
But don’t give away my alligator soup.
As a kid who loved to draw goaltenders, I was particularly taken with the illustration on page 52, reproduced here, that went with “The Hockey Game, ”Lee’s homage to A.A. Milne. Featuring Squirm (a worm), Wee (a flea), and George (a George), this poem (as maybe you recall) starred the tearful elephantine goaltender pictured above: his name was X. I was fascinated that he was depicted as a Bruin and no doubt looked up the number 30 (as I just did again) to discover that in Boston in those years it belonged to Ross Brooks. Did I worry that X doesn’t seem to be wearing any pants, protective or otherwise? I’m not sure I noticed. I did love (and tried my best to copy) those pads and that blocker.
Maybe you remember? Lee’s play-by-perfect-play goes, in part, like this:
Hockey with a
Hockey with her
Friends and her foes.
Hockey but he
Couldn’t keep his
And George just played with his toes.
March 13 fell on a Sunday in 1955 and as the NHL season wound down, the first-place Montreal Canadiens paid a visit to Boston to play the Bruins. The third was when all hell broke loose. With six-and-a-half minutes remaining and Boston leading 4-1, the Bruins’ Warren Godfrey took a holding penalty. Montreal coach Dick Irvin pulled his goaltender, Jacques Plante, and Canadiens went to the attack. It was then that Bruins defenceman Hal Laycoe, 32, high-sticked Canadiens’ superstar Maurice Richard, 33. Tom Fitzgerald of the Boston Globe gave it a decidedly more passive spin in his description: “Laycoe’s uplifted stick caught Richard on the side of the head.”
In the fight that ensued, blood flowed as both players swung sticks and threw fists, and in the chaos of it all, Richard punched linesman Cliff Thompson. “Thompson tried to pop Maurice right back,” Fitzgerald wrote, “but landed short, and meanwhile Laycoe flung his red-drenched towel at [referee Frank] Udvari, earning his misconduct.”
The coverage next day in Boston also included the headline above in the Daily Record and the artist’s impression below, from the Boston American. NHL President Clarence Campbell wasted no time in suspending Richard for the remainder of the season and the playoffs, a sentence that would have consequences in Montreal four days later.
Boom + Boom: Bernie Geoffrion died of stomach cancer on a Saturday of this date in 2006. He was 75. That very night at Montreal’s Bell Centre, the Canadiens retired Geoffrion’s number 5 in a previously scheduled ceremony. On yet another Saturday, March 11, this one in 1961, Geoffrion scored his 47th and 48th goals of the season on Boston goaltender Bruce Gamble. Geoffrion would win the Art Ross Trophy that year as the NHL’s leading scorer, finishing the regular season with 50 goals and 95 points, five points clear of teammate Jean Béliveau. (Image: Tex Coulter)
Tiny Dancer: Thompson in the workplace, circa the 1930s. (Image: Leslie Jones, Boston Public Library)
Tiny Thompson did some counting before he retired in 1940. Thompson, of course, was a fixture in goal for the Boston Bruins for a decade in the ’20s and ’30s, helping them win their first Stanley Cup championship in his rookie year. After Frank Brimsek displaced him in Boston, Thompson played a couple of seasons with the Detroit Red Wings before calling quits on his NHL career. That’s when he came up with the estimate that he had stopped 100,000 shots in his time tending goals.
Whether or not Thompson notched his stick to keep track of shots incoming, I don’t know. Hard, really, to say whether that’s a realistic number or pure fiction. Thompson, we know, played 553 regular-season games in a 12-year NHL career and another 44 in the playoffs. He played another nine or so in minor leagues, before that, in the 1920s. No-one was keeping official track of shots on goal in those years, so it’s impossible to pronounce on Thompson’s tally one way or the other. We do know that the all-time NHL leader in saves, Martin Brodeur, made 33,758 of them through 1,471 games, regular-season and playoffs. Does that help?
The incumbent Boston goaltender, Linus Ullmark, has played in 199 NHL games, and his save count is up to 5,353. As you maybe noticed, the 31-year-old Swede and his numbers were much this week as he had himself, well, a week, right in the middle of having himself, well, a year.
Both have been extraordinary, but let’s focus here on the week’s doings.
Heading into Boston’s game in Vancouver on Saturday, February 25, Ullmark had nothing but wins to his credit for the month, winning all of his four starts to that point. Against the Canucks, Ullmark and his Bruins won again, 3-1, with the goaltender hoisting a late-game shot at Vancouver’s empty net to finish the night in style, scoring the first goalie goal in Boston’s 99-year franchise history. (He still has some work to do before he catches the all-time NHL goalscoring leader: Brodeur collected three in his day, including a game-winning goal.)
Still, that was exciting.
Three nights later, on Tuesday, February 28, Ullmark was the hero in Calgary as the mighty Bruins rolled on, beating the Flames 3-2 in overtime. Again the goaltender made history, this time for prodigious puck-stopping, as Ullmark turned away 54 Calgary shots, setting a new franchise high for a single game.
The Bruins, thrilled, were quick to herald this on Twitter, broadcasting the image below. If they didn’t quite get it right on the night, well, it was a big thrill, and facts can be hard to corral when you’re so very … thrilled.
Not to take anything away from Ullmark, but the finer points of the case do deserve an airing. As the NHL’s PR department was careful to clarify, Ullmark’s achievement involved, in fact, a somewhat narrower time-frame than all of eternity.
As reported next morning in the NHL’s Morning Skate daily news digest, “Ullmark made a career-high 54 saves and registered the most on record by a Bruins goaltender (since 1955-56 when shots on goal began being tracked), besting Tim Thomas(51 saves on March 1, 2007).”
Good to know. As is what came next in the NHL release: “Of note, Boston has featured one instance of a netminder making more saves in the Stanley Cup Playoffs: Tuukka Rask (59 saves in Game 1 of 2013 SCF).”
Right you are. Just why there should be, in this case, a distinction made between a regular-season feat of this nature and one performed in the playoffs isn’t clear (to me, at least), but then again the dubious distincting between regular season and playoffs is not anything unseen before in NHL record-keeping. It does, nevertheless, seem like a bit of a statistical slight to Tuukka Rask.
Which brings us back to Tiny Thompson. As the PR people at the NHL pointed out, the league didn’t start officially accounting for shots (and thereby, saves) until 1955, well after Thompson’s time, which means there’s no reliable official record of what he and his early netminding brethren were doing in the early decades of the league. That’s too bad.
It doesn’t mean that shots and saves were never counted in the pre-1955 NHL: sometimes they were. Not in every arena, not all the time, nor in any systematic way. There’s no verifying the accuracy of the tallies that contemporary newspapers reported in those years. But report they did, sometimes, and even if those records are anecdotal, these numbers hold their places in hockey history if not in official ledgers.
Well, the 90 shots that Normie Smith of the Detroit Red Wings was reported to have diverted in March of 1936. That’s some goaltending. That game still stands as the longest game in NHL history, wherein Detroit beat the Montreal Maroons 1-0 in the sixth overtime of a Stanley Cup semi-final. (Lorne Chabot of the Maroons stopped 68 shots.)
You’ll find, too, in the annals of Bruins history a Stanley Cup game played in April of 1933 that the Bruins themselves may well have forgotten, something the team tends to do when it comes to its own history, bizarrely, given how rich that history is — but that’s another story, one you can read about here (and here), if you feel the need.
But. 1933. Boston met the defending Cup champions, Toronto’s Maple Leafs, that year in a best-of-five semi-final series that was decided at Maple Leaf Gardens in another epic six-overtimes battle. Tiny Thompson was in the Boston net, facing Lorne Chabot at the other end. Both men were nursing shutouts when Leaf right winger Ken Doraty finally ended the thing (and the series) at five to two in the morning when he beat Thompson for the winning goal.
Leafs Win: Artist’s impression of the game-winning goal Ken Doraty put past Tiny Thompson in April of 1933.
Distressed by the loss, exhausted, Thompson probably didn’t care how many shots he saved that night, but the number does seem to have been a remarkable one nonetheless. As reported in the Toronto Daily Star the following day, the Leafs fired 115 shots at Thompson, who saved 114 of them. 114! Chabot, for his troubles, stymied 93.
Tiny Tally: The Windsor Star clocks the shots, April 4, 1933.
It’s worth noting that most of the summaries that went out from Toronto that night included shot counts, period-by-period. Some, including in the Boston Globe and in both Montreal’s Gazette and Daily Star, offered different numbers when it came to saves, 111 for Thompson and 89 for Chabot. Again, there was no official count. These lesser totals seem to have been the result of someone, somewhere along the line leaving out shots fired (by both teams) the final (sixth) overtime period.
This, again, doesn’t change anything that Linus Ullmark achieved last week. Well done, him. But Tiny Thompson does seem to have stopped more than twice as many shots one long in Toronto in 1933. That seems pertinent, and of interest to Bruins’ fans, according to me.
As is (finally) another entirely unofficial incident from two seasons earlier.
Tiny Thompson is, again, our man. He was 27 in February of 1931 and (apparently) feeling frisky. It wouldn’t happen nowadays, but midway through that NHL season, Boston took the time between two of its scheduled regular-season games to travel to Providence, Rhode Island, to play a benefit against the minor-league Reds of the Canadian-American League. The cause was a good one in those Depression years: all proceeds from the game — $3,800 — went to support the unemployed.
“For the Bruins,” the Boston Globe reported, “it was little more than a workout.” They won easily, by a score of 7-1, powered by a pair of goals by Harry Oliver.
“Everything was in all seriousness until the final minute,” the paper assured its readers. Then? Tiny Thompson decided that he wanted in on the scoring action. So he headed up the ice. Stickhandling the whole way? Maybe. It sounds like the Providence defence parted for him. Did he have any kind of wrist shot? I can’t say. The Globe: “He went in alone from the blueline and beat [Reds goaltender] Mickey Murray on the far side of the nets.”
All in all, it was “a spectacular finish,” the Globe decided — a goalie goal that Linus Ullmark himself might have been proud to score, 92 years later.
On The Go: Boston newspaper clipping from 1932 showing Tiny Thompson heading up ice during a Bruins practice.
Happy 50th To You: A birthday today for the inexorable Phil Esposito, who was born in 1942 on a Friday of today’s date in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario: happy 81st to him. He made a habit, on birthdays past, of scoring milestone goals: on this date in 1971, as he was turning 29, he scored for his Boston Bruins in a 5-4 loss to the Kings in Los Angeles to became the fourth player in NHL history (after Maurice Richard, Bernie Geoffrion, and Bobby Hull) to score 50 goals in a season. (He would finish, that year, with 76.) Three years to the day later, on his 32nd birthday, Esposito became to first NHLer to register four 50-goal seasons in a row as he notched a hattrick (the 21st of his career) in a 5-5 Bruins with the North Stars in Bloomington, Minnesota. That regular season he scored 68 all in. Esposito had one more landmark season left in him: the following year, 1974-75, he scored 61 goals.
Stop Motion: Born in Dysart, Saskatchewan, on a Tuesday of today’s date in 1927, Fern Flaman played 14 years on the Boston defenceman in two stints between 1944 and 1961, manning the line for the Toronto Maple Leafs for parts of four seasons in between. He served as Boston’s captain from 1955 through to 1961. Here, in 1948, Flaman is down to block a shot from Eddie Slowinski of the New York Rangers. Jack Gelineau is the Boston goaltender; #21 is another Bruins d-man, Cliff Thompson. Hard to say who the others are. Zellio Toppazzini for Boston on the left, maybe? For the Rangers, on the right … Buddy O’Connor, possibly? Or Bryan Hextall?
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).
Owen Sound’s Own: Pat McReavy wore #16 for Boston in his rookie year, 1938-39. In 1941, when he helped them win a Stanley Cup championship, he donned #12.
Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada is taking its annual winter show on the road this coming Saturday, settling into Owen Sound, Ontario, for a puckish program of events that Sportsnet will be beaming out across the country in-between NHL games.
The Georgian Bay-side seat of Grey County has spawned a host of hockey talent through the years, of course, Benny Grant and Les Binkley, Teddy Graham and Butch Keeling, Hap Day, and Harry Lumley.
Pat McReavy, too, who was born in town on a Wednesday of today’s date in 1918, and played centre for his hometown Junior B Greys. In 1938, he joined the Sudbury Wolves as they took on the (hockey) universe, representing Canada at the World Championships in Prague. When the Wolves prevailed and won gold, it was McReavy who scored the decisive goal in a 3-1 victory over Great Britain.
He joined the Boston Bruins for the 1938-39 season, shuttling back and forth between the NHL and Boston’s IAHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, over the course of the next several seasons. When Bobby Bauer and Bill Cowley went down injured during the 1941 Stanley Cup playoffs, McReavy was called up as a semi-final reinforcement against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He scored his first NHL goal in Game Five on March 29, beating Turk Broda for Boston’s lone goal in a 2-1 Toronto win. He scored again (on Johnny Mowers) as the Bruins went on to beat the Detroit Red Wings in the Finals. So he got his name on the Cup, or at least a version of it: the engraver mishammered a letter, immortalizing him as “Pat McCeavy.”
His career as a Bruin didn’t last much longer: he was traded to Detroit in the fall of 1941 for Dutch Hiller. He retired from professional hockey in 1947, at the age of 29. Back in Owen Sound, he kept on skating, leading the Senior A Mercurys to an Allan Cup in 1951.
Pat McReavy died at the age of 83 in 2001. Today, Owen Sound’s present-day OHL team, the Attack, commemorate him with an annual trophy: the Pat McReavy Award for Unsung Hero.
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.
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)