boston blockade

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?

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).

 

sound check

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 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.

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)

on this night, 1933: the leafs appeared carrying bailey, and the bruins were carrying shore

Aftermath: Teammates attend Ace Bailey on the night of December 12, 1933, in the moments after he was knocked unconscious in the second period after a blindside hit by Boston’s Eddie Shore. Leaf goaltender George Hainsworth is there, in back, gazing down the ice, and captain Hap Day is in the foreground, facing the camera. Number 10 is Joe Primeau, number 17 Buzz Boll. The Bruins’ number 5 is Dit Clapper; Leaf Bill Thoms is just in front of him. The referee is Odie Cleghorn. The six other Toronto players are harder to identify. The player at the extreme right, on the move, could possibly be Red Horner, on his way to take revenge on Shore. (Image: Leslie Jones Collection, Boston Public Library)

The forecast for Boston and vicinity on this date, 89 years ago: partly cloudy and slightly colder, with strong northwest winds blowzing in. December 12 was a Tuesday in 1933, and if you’d paid your two cents and picked up a copy of the Boston Globe — that’s what it cost, two cents for 24 pages! — the front page of the Globe would have reminded you that just 11 shopping days remained before Christmas.

Otherwise, in the day’s news? Rear-Admiral Richard Byrd of the U.S. Navy was off on his second Antarctic expedition, and Colonel and Mrs. Charles Lindbergh were preparing to fly from Manaus, in the Brazilian Amazon, to Trinidad. The nation’s dry cleaners were resisting government attempts to regulate their prices. Just the week before, the Congress had ratified the 21st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, ending 14 years of Prohibition, and now it was reported that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt, for the moment, that battling bootleggers was more important than talking about liquor taxes. For their part, Boston police noted that that the previous Saturday they’d arrested 153 men and six women on charges of drunkenness. Sunday they collared 73 men and no women.

It was hockey night, too, at the Garden, with the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs making their first visit of the NHL season to Boston. Art Ross’ Bruins were lagging a little in the standings, but they’d won two games in a row as they prepared to welcome Conn Smythe’s Leafs.

“There’s likely to be an old-fashioned turnout of Garden fans,” ran the preview in the Globe. “The fans are like to see a good hard game, chock full of action and involving much body checking, particularly on the part of Bruins. Toronto always has welcomed the man to man stuff, and no matter which was tonight’s match runs there will be nothing in this little Garden party to suggest to the followers of the Bruins that they are watching any ‘pink tea’ affair.”

The Leafs would win, 4-1. The game would be the last hockey one their 30-year-old right winger Ace Bailey would ever play. In the second period, Boston defenceman Eddie Shore hit Bailey from behind. His skull was fractured in the fall, and he was carried from the ice. Doctors feared for Bailey’s life in the days that followed, and he underwent two brain surgeries before he was in the clear.

The NHL suspended Shore for 16 games. Bailey bore no grudge. “During the first year and a half I suffered some bad after-effects of the injury,” he later said. “Since then, I’ve felt fine. For probably a year after I was hurt, I got the jitters just watching hockey. I could see an injury shaping up every time there was a solid check. But that wore off too. No, I never bore any ill-will toward Shore. He and I are good friends.”

 I wrote about the incident in my 2014 book Puckstruck. Some of that went like this:

Dr. G. Lynde Gately was on duty one night in 1933 at what was then still the Boston Madison Square Garden, when the Maple Leafs were in town to play the Bruins. The New York Times: “Both teams were guilty of almost every crime in the hockey code during the slam-bang first session.”

Then, in the second, Eddie Shore skated in behind Ace Bailey, and “jamming his knee in behind Ace’s leg, and at the same time putting his elbow across his forehead, turned him upside down.”

Afterwards, Frank Selke said, Shore stood there “grinning like a big farmer.” The rural glee ended, presumably, when the Leafs’ Red Horner punched him in the jaw, a heavy right that knocked Shore flat, causing him to crack his head on the ice. Horner broke his fist.

The rumpus, the Globe called it. Other contemporary accounts preferred the smash-up. Dr. Gately was treating a Garden ticket agent who’d been punched in the chin by a scalper. “I had just finished with him when a police officer was brought in with a finger someone had tried to chew off. I sewed him up and just then the Leafs appeared carrying Bailey and the Bruins were carrying Shore, both out cold.”

Dr. Martin Crotty, the Bruins’ team doctor, was working on Shore, so Dr. Gately looked after Bailey. Gately’s diagnosis was lacerated brain. (Later what he told the papers was cerebral concussion with convulsions.)

When Bailey woke up, Dr. Gately asked him what team he played for.

“The Cubs,” he said.

The doctor tried again a few minutes later.

“The Maple Leafs.”

Who’s your captain?

“Day,” Bailey said. He wanted to go back to the ice. 

When a revived Shore came in, he said, “I’m awfully sorry. I didn’t mean it.” Bailey looked up, according to Dr. Gately’s recollection, and replied, “It’s all in the game, Eddie.”

Aftermath: A month to the day after he was knocked to the ice and nearly killed, Ace Bailey faced the camera in Boston with his wife Gladys.

 

boston’s captain clam

Gang’s All Here: Marty Barry is the Bruin on the right here, alongside teammate Dit Clapper, the man he succeeded as Boston captain in 1934. The players were on the ice here at Boston Garden (not, as the original caption suggests, in Newton, Massachusetts), conducting a clinic for prospective players. (Image: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)

A friend with impeccable Bruins sources tells me that Boston management aims to correct the record on their missing captains … just not quite yet.

The team’s centennial is coming up, in 2024, and a book and a documentary are planned, and so in one future fell swoop the errors that the Bruins have for so long refused to acknowledge let alone correct will be no more.

So that’s something to look forward to … in two years’ time.

The news from Quebec in November of 1933.

Meanwhile, it was on a Friday of today’s date in 1905 that Marty Barry, one of Boston’s mislaid captains, was born in Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, north of Quebec City. A centreman, he made his NHL debut with the New York Americans in 1927. The Bruins claimed him from the Americans’ Can-Am league team in the NHL’s intra-league draft in 1929 and he played six seasons in Boston.

Barry was 27 when he succeeded Dit Clapper as Bruins’ captain in November of 1933. It was a bit of a homecoming for the new skipper: Art Ross’ team had convened in Quebec City that year for its training camp.

“Some athletes talk a wonderful game,” a dispatch from the Boston Globe began early that month, but that wasn’t “one of the failings of the newly appointed captain of the Boston Bruins hockey club.”

It continued:

Marty “Clam” Barry, following a meeting of the players and Manager Ross late here this afternoon, was asked to make a speech. Barry, who never utters a word in the dressing room, as usual had nothing to say, but his playmates insisted, so Marty stood up and made the longest speech of his career.

“Thanks, fellows.” Then he sat down.

That is Marty Barry, no bluff, no talk, but a man of action on the ice as he was always an outstanding performer of the Bruins since he was drafted from New Haven Eagles four years ago, and he topped an admirable record last season by being leading scorer of the Bruins and one of the top pointmakers of the NHL.

Barry scored 27 goals and 39 points in 48 games as Boston captain, which tied him for the team points total with Nels Stewart. He finished fourth in NHL scoring. The Bruins didn’t fare so well, finishing out of the playoffs in the nine-team league.

The Bruins’ captaincy was, in that era, a one-year appointment, and Barry was duly succeeded in the fall of 1934 by Stewart.

With Art Giroux, the Bruins traded him in 1935 to the Detroit Red Wings, getting back Cooney Weiland and Walt Buswell. In his four years in Detroit, Barry won a pair of Stanley Cup championships (in ’36 and ’37) and a Lady Byng Trophy. He played one last year in the NHL in 1939-40 for the Montreal Canadiens.

Marty Barry died in 1969 at the age of 64.

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:

jack crawford: the captain, the headgear, the hairline

Born on a Thursday of this date in 1916, defenceman Johnny (a.k.a. Jack) Crawford played 13 seasons of hatted hockey for the Boston Bruins, contributing to two of their Stanley Cup championships, in 1939 and ’41. Dublin, Ontario, is where he’s from, in the southwest of the province, on the road to Lake Huron: Howie Morenz (and Alice Munro) country. Crawford died in 1973 at the age of 56.

He served as the Bruins’ team captain, though just a for a single campaign, 1945-46, and not, as the Bruins themselves still seem to think, for four seasons. I’ve been on a bit of a crusade about this and other oversights in the team’s accounting of its own captains, as you may know, having read about it (maybe) here and/or here. (Though maybe not.) The list of the team’s actual early-era captains is here.

Others, like Bruin historian Kevin Vautour, have been making the case for year. Almost two years after I first wrote about it … nothing has changed, Bruinswise. The team still doesn’t want to talk about the facts of their past. The word is getting out despite the team’s puzzling persistence in pretending that Bobby Bauer, Eddie Shore et al. never captained Boston. Last fall, dogged to the end, I shared the evidence with the people at Hockey Reference, the go-to non-league resource for NHL statistics. Having considered what the Bruins won’t, they duly adjusted their online page. (That’s here.)

There’s more historical grist for the mill, meanwhile, in a new and comprehensive book by Burlington, Ontario, historian Jeff Miclash. In its lavishly illustrated game-by-game study of the team from 1929 through 1939, Total Bruins has the goods on many of the missing captains, along with a wealth of other detail and drama.

But back to Jack Crawford. He has featured elsewhere in these Puckstruck pages before, with focusses on both his helmet (he was an early adopter) and on the related question of, well, what was beneath it.

In a pair of 2018 posts (here and here), I picked up on the question of why Crawford donned the helmet in the first place. A Boston Globe story from 1938, when he was a Bruins rookie, told this tale:

As I noted in 2018, Crawford himself is quoted (though with no source provided) in Glenn Weir, Jeff Chapman, and Travis Weir’s 1999 book Ultimate Hockey, where he substantiates the original Globe story. “When I played football as a teenager for St. Mike’s,” Crawford said there, “the paint would peel off inside of my helmet and the doctors say that some chemical in the paint triggered the skin infection that caused all of my hair to fall out over the years.”

If that confirmation needs re-confirming, I can report on the e-mail I received this summer from Jack Crawford’s granddaughter. Jennifer Swaylik is the daughter of Susan (Crawford) Hassett, the youngest of Crawford’s four children, and it’s with Jennifer’s leave that I’m sharing what the family understands to be true about the former Bruin captain’s helmet and hairline.

“My grandmother believed he had what we would now call alopecia,” Swaylik wrote. “He lost all of his hair as a late teen. It eventually grew back, but then fell out again, leaving thin patches until it fell out again, this time for good. He wore a helmet to cover it all at each stage. Any full head of hair you see in pictures was in between the final falling-out period or — eventually — a very nicely done hairpiece. Did the paint in his helmet at St Michael’s trigger something in his skin ? It was the thought at the time. They never knew for sure.”

Bs Team: Members of the 1939-40 Bruins line up for the camera. Standing (and sitting on a net), from left, they are: Woody Dumart, Dit Clapper, Roy Conacher, with Eddie Wiseman crouching in front of him, Frank Brimsek, Jack Shewchuk, Flash Hollett, with Bobby Bauer crouched down, Jack Crawford, and Red Hamill. In front, from left, that’s Herb Cain, Art Jackson, Bill Cowley, Milt Schmidt, Mel Hill, and Des Smith. (Image: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)

(Top image: Tex Coulter, Boston Garden Sport News, December 17, 1961)

cleveland’s dr. no

Stitch Up: Crusader goaltender Gerry Cheevers looks out from the cover of an Edmonton Oilers program from November of 1975. “Cleveland’s Dr. No” the accompanying story was headlined. On the ice, the Oilers won the game, 4-1.

A judge in district court in Boston was considering whether Gerry Cheevers still ought to be a Boston Bruin on a Wednesday of this same date in 1972, but that didn’t keep the 31-year-old goaltender from strapping on his pads for the Cleveland Crusaders as the upstart WHA dropped the puck, 50 years ago tonight, for the first games of its seven-year history.

Cheevers had won a pair of Stanley Cup championships with Boston, including one in the spring of ’72, but when Cleveland came calling that summer, he’d signed a seven-year, $1.4-million contract and headed west. His was one of several WHA getaways that the Bruins attempted to block in court: as hockey season rolled around, they were also doing their best to reel back Derek Sanderson and Johnny Mackenzie from the Philadelphia Blazers.

Cheevers, for one, had judicial permission to play on, and so was able to open his WHA account with a 2-0 home win over the Maurice Richard-coached Quebec Nordiques, stopping 21 shots to record the new league’s first shutout. “I’ve played seven years with the best club in hockey,” Cheevers said after it was all over, “but this was the easiest shutout I’ve ever had.”

Boston’s lawsuit failed to bring Cheevers back; he went on to win 32 of the 52 games he played for Cleveland, securing the Ben Hatskin Award as the league’s best goaltender. His WHA adventure lasted not quite four seasons as he made his return to the Bruins in 1976, playing a further five NHL seasons before he retired at the end of the 1979-80 campaign.

Pictured here in 1975, his famous mask was designed and built by a former plumbing superintendent in Boston, Ernie Higgins, though it was Bruins trainer Frosty Forristall who gets the credit for its famous decoration. Here’s Cheevers telling the tale in Unmasked, the 2011 memoir he wrote with an assist from Marc Zappulla:

The protection the mask afforded me gave me more time on the ice and less time in the locker room getting stitched up, which was nice. However, I hated the color of that thing. It was white. I hated white. I seldom even wore white socks. And if I happened to look down when I did, I felt a fright as if I was exposed to something with ill consequences. Call it what you want: a phobia, or outright disdain for this wholesome shade. The sight of this glimmering, shiny, white mold engaged to my facial pores drove me nuts. The color itself is a sign of purity and that wasn’t me. I was quite the opposite. In fact, I was driven by an unconventional thought process and a wayward nature my whole life; the white had to go.

And so?

One morning I tried to get out of practice, which, again, was the norm for me, not the exception. I was in net when a puck flipped up and grazed mask. The puck’s force was so softly propelled, that, had I not been wearing the mask I seriously doubt I’d have so much as a scratch on my face. It was weak, but I faked like it wasn’t. I winced in pain, came off the ice, and headed into the dressing room. I sat down and sparked up a cigarette when [Bruin coach] Harry Sinden came in and said, “Get your ass out there, you’re not hurt!”

So, before I collected myself and got back on the ice, Frosty the trainer said, “Here, hold it.”

Frosty broke out a sharpie and drew in four or five stitches where I had undoubtedly been hit, right above the eye, I believe it was. Everyone got a kick out of it, so I told Frosty, “Fros, every time I get hit with a puck, or the stick comes up, take care of it.” He did, and all the marks were legit.

 

jean-guy gendron, 1934—2022

Hats Off: A 25-year-old Jean-Guy Gendron shows a smile after scoring his first NHL hattrick on February 1, 1959, at the Boston Garden as his Bruins dismissed the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 6-4. “First time this year anyone take my picture,” he said afterwards, wearing his hat and showing off the puck with which he scored his third goal. That one went into an empty net; the first two he put past Johnny Bower.

Sorry to be hearing of the death last week, on June 30, of Jean-Guy Gendron at the age of 87. Born in Montreal, he made his NHL debut as a left winger for the New York Rangers in 1955. He subsequently played for the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens (just a single game), and Philadelphia Flyers, with whom he posted his best numbers, in 1968-69, when he scored 20 goals and 65 points. Gendron played a couple of seasons, too, in the WHA for the Quebec Nordiques. He coached the Nords, too, in the mid-1970s, steering them to the Avco Cup finals in his first year, 1974-75, where they lost to the Houston Aeros.

 

 

department of throwing stuff: turning back the clock

Tool Time: In February of 1939, 13 years after he was not-quite brained in Boston, Charlie Querrie (right) handed over a repurposed wrench to Boston coach and manager Art Ross. (Image: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 56558)

I’ve reported before on the bedlam that ensued on the night of Tuesday, December 21, 1926, when Toronto’s bygone St. Patricks went to Boston to beat the Bruins and Toronto’s coach was lucky to escape with his life, after frantic local fans threw a hardboiled egg and a monkey wrench at his head — only the egg hit its target.

That’s a chaotic story I told in some detail in a 2016 post — you can find it here. Our business tonight is with the aftermath, which is to say the monkey wrench, insofar as the 1939 photograph shown here of that very implement is one I recently unearthed at the Toronto Archives.

Charlie Querrie was the Toronto coach: that’s him on the right. He was 61 in 1939, and had been out of hockey management for more than a decade. On the left is 54-year-old Art Ross, who was very much in it, still coaching and managing the Bruins as he’d done since their advent in 1924.

The two were old rivals. In the NHL’s very first season, 1917-18, when Querrie was manager of the Toronto team that went on to win the Stanley Cup, Ross was the referee for the penultimate game of the finals. While Toronto did upend the PCHA’s Vancouver Millionaires to take the Cup, that game didn’t go their way, with Vancouver winning by a score of 8-1.

An Ottawa Journal report from February 3, 1939.

Ross did not, shall we say, failed to endear himself to Querrie on that occasion. Talking to reporters after it was over, the referee decried Toronto’s tactics. “The Blues gave a most brutal exhibition,” he said of Querrie’s team, “and unless the western club gets absolute protection from the referees, they will all be killed.”

“If the Vancouver club gets protection,” he added, “it has a good chance to win the world’s championship series with Toronto.”

Querrie was furious. The two had words after the game, which the Toronto manager was only too glad to pass on to the newspapers. “Ross started in by telling me that I was a poor loser,” he said, “and went on to say that I [was] mixed up in a crooked league, and was a crook in sport. I promptly called him a liar, and then he threatened to lick me.”

“If Ross is such a fighter,” Querrie said, “there is plenty of room for him over in France.”

Eight years later, with Ross running the Bruins and Querrie back in charge of a Toronto team now clad in green and called the St. Patricks, the 1926 havoc we’re interested in got going late in the game. With about five minutes remaining, with Toronto leading by a score of 5-2, Boston winger Percy Galbraith put a puck past St. Pats goaltender John Ross Roach. Too bad for Boston, referees W.H. O’Hara and Dr. Eddie O’Leary called it back, for offside. Definitively so, as Charlie Querrie saw it from the Toronto bench. “The offside goal,” he told a Toronto newspaper, “was easily 60 feet offside.”

Boston disagreed. Here’s Querrie’s version of what happened next:

Just as soon as the goal was called back, the Boston players, led by [captain Sprague] Cleghorn, rushed at the officials, and Art Ross, manager of the Bruins, and Charles Adams, the owner, clambered over the fence and took a hand in the argument. Ross had a rulebook and he tried to make monkeys out of the officials by producing it and reding the rules to them in front of the crowd. Naturally the actions of Ross and Adams worked the crowd up and in a moment three or four excited spectators were over the fence and the pennies and the bottles and other things commenced to fly. I got over the fence, too, to protest against the presence of Ross and Adams on the ice and someone hurled a monkey wrench at my head. It wasn’t any toy, either, but a full-sized three-pound wrench, and I brought it away as a souvenir. It only missed my head by a foot.

Querrie didn’t preserve the egg that hit him after that — it was, he quipped, “not an overly fresh one at that” — but he did hang on to the wrench.

Thirteen years later, he dug it out and decided the time was right to send it back to Boston. Globe and Mail columnist Vern DeGeer took note in February of ’39, reporting that Querrie had “had the wrench polished and coated with a glistening touch of varnish. It was converted into a unique desk set, with an eight-day clock attached.”

When the Bruins came to town to meet the Leafs for a Thursday game that February 2, Querrie arranged to hand over the wrench to Ross in the press room at Maple Leaf Gardens. As I’ve written previously, it now bore an engraving:

To
‪ARTHUR ROSS

From
CHARLIE QUERRIE

‪Returning a Gift
Thrown at Him
‪Many Years Ago

Back in those dangerous days of 1926, Charlie Querrie was not only coaching the St. Patricks, he was the owner of the team, too, though not for much longer: in mid-February of 1927, he would divest himself of the St. Pats (and his coaching duties), selling out to a syndicate headed by a Toronto sand and gravel contractor by the name of Conn Smythe, who (spoiler alert) turned them into Maple Leafs.

As I’ve written elsewhere, profiling Querrie’s distinguished sporting career, his post-hockey days revolved around the movie-house he ran on Toronto’s west-end Danforth Avenue. He didn’t stray too far from the city’s ice and its proud hockey record: in 1944, he noted that in the 32 years since professional hockey debuted in Toronto in 1912, he had (incredibly) been on hand to witness all but three games.

Charlie Querrie died at 72 in 1950, four years before Art Ross finally retired from the Boston Bruins. He was 79 when he died in 1964.

And the time-telling monkey wrench? It’s back in Canada, again, having been presented (regifted?) by the Ross family to hockey historian Eric Zweig, author of Art Ross: The Hockey Legend Who Built The Bruins (2015).

Clocked Work: The monkey wrench that almost clouted/could have killed Toronto’s NHL coach in 1926 is now in the collection of hockey historian Eric Zweig.