Easy to finger Maurice Richard as the cause of the kerfuffles pictured here — he was legendarily fiery, often goaded, easily enraged — but the fact is I can’t really say what started these melees in Boston. 1951, maybe ’52? That’s a guess. Before Bob Armstrong taught me history in high school, he wore number 4 and played on the Bruin defence starting in ’50-’51, and definitely not him in the image above, so whoever it is moving in to aid in the argy-bargying (Steve Kraftcheck? Max Quackenbush?), the era is pre-Big Bob. Richard is 9, of course, and he’s facing up to … Milt Schmidt? Maybe. That’s Elmer Lach down on a knee, on the blueline, wearing 16. If you had to predict what was coming next, would it be fists flying you’d have in mind? Or …
… could you see everybody calming down. No harm, no foul does. Richard is the one getting a talking-to here from referee Red Storey, and I guess that does seem to implicate him as the instigator, but again, let’s not assume. Montreal defencemen Doug Harvey and Tom Johnson have moved in to help with the negotiations, which the other official (his suspenders showing through his sweater) seems content to stay out of.
Later — though it might be earlier, for all I know — Richard is at it again. Or — in it. He’s in the middle of it, definitely, though this time Red Storey is discussing the situation with a Bruin, some Bruin who is demonstrably not Milt Schmidt, because he, Schmidt, is 15, down there in the lower right corner. I don’t want to put words into Butch Bouchard’s mouth, but he does seem to have something to say to the Rocket, a point to make, or maybe a plea, enough, let it go, let’s play some hockey. I don’t know whether that’s something you’d say to the Rocket, if you were Butch Bouchard. I’m not, and never have been; I personally wouldn’t dare.
Bill Barilko still hadn’t disappeared on April 21, 1951, and there was no mourning for his memory, yet, just as there were no songs about him and (for a few more hours at least) no famous photographs of him falling to ice as he scored the goal that won the Toronto Maple Leafs their seventh Stanley Cup.
They were close-fought, those Finals, that year: “five consecutive sudden-death overtime heart buster” is how The Globe and Mail’s Jim Vipond wrote it. This last one, the Leafs’ Tod Sloan tied the score at twos with 32 seconds remaining in the third period, goaltender Al Rollins on the bench.
Barilko’s goal came at 2.53 of overtime. You can hear Foster Hewitt’s frantic call at CBC’s Digital Archives, here. James Marsh, founding editor of The Canadian Encyclopedia, attended the game as a seven-year-old, deciding early on, before the goal, that Barilko was going to be his favourite player — I’d read about that, if I were you, here.
As for the songs, I’ll leave you to spin, repeatedly, The Tragically Hip’s “Fifty Mission Cap” at your leisure — but have a listen, too, to “The Bill Barilko Song” by (NDP MP) Charlie Angus and The Grievous Angels. You’ll find it here.
As for the photographs, the best-known is the Turofsky, snapped (most likely by Nat rather than Lou) from behind, with the puck already in the net though Barilko is still falling. “It’s a flawless image, of course,” Andrew Podnieks writes in Portraits of the Game (1997), his fond celebration of the Turofskys’ rich hockey archive, though I have to say I prefer the view from the front, as caught by Globe and Mail photographer Michael Burns from the opposite side. (At first glance, I thought that must be one or other of the Turofskys in the corner, but of course it can’t be, the sightline isn’t right.) I like the handsome hopeful look on Barilko’s face that I’m glad to see in the Burns. In the Turofsky, as Podnieks notes, none of the spectators has realized yet that it’s goal and that the Leafs have won. Montreal goaltender I would have said that Gerry McNeil knows, though, I think, even though he’s got his eyes closed.
This is another Burns, below, I’m assuming. It shows the moment of Barilko’s arising from the ice, just before he’s mobbed by teammates.
Danny Lewicki was a 19-year-old rookie for the Leafs that year. He recalls the aftermath in his 2006 autobiography, From The Coal Docks to the NHL: A Hockey Life:
The roar of the crowd was deafening. I have never heard, nor probably will ever hear such pandemonium. What an unbelievable series! …
The next hour was a blur. We skated around the ice in glee. We posed for pictures. I hugged so many people and shook so many hands that I was sore. But I felt no pain. We went into the dressing room to change into civies [sic] and the Stanley Cup was carried by Ted Kennedy into the Maple Leafs’ dressing room. They brought the Cup in and then they just whisked it out. I didn’t even get the chance to touch it.
Kevin Shea later collected Gerry McNeil’s unhappy view of things for Barilko: Without A Trace (2004). “It’s been my claim to fame,” the old goalie said before his death in 2004. “I still get a lot of mail from that goal — people asking me to autograph their picture of the Barilko goal.”
It wasn’t a hard shot, he said.
“I just simply missed it. You have a sense on most goals of the puck coming and you get ready, but on this one, I don’t know what happened. I had to look at pictures after. It surprised me — I don’t know how the puck got in. At the time, I didn’t even know who shot it — I never knew who scored most of the goals that were scored against me. But there was Barilko. He was right at the face-off circle.”
“It was just a shocker. It was an awful disappointment.”
Blanket Statement: Members of the doubly captained 1947-48 Canadiens show off blankets (in Habs colours, of course) given by Ayers Limited, the famous woolen mill in Lachute, Quebec. At the back are, from the left: Glen Harmon, Billy Reay, Butch Bouchard, Toe Blake, Roger Leger, Bill Durnan, Elmer Lach, and (on quality control) Maurice Richard. Bedspreaded up at the front are Ken Reardon and Bob Fillion.
Toronto would win the Stanley Cup that year — a strange sentence to write and believe in, today. This was 1947, April. The Canadiens were the defending champions, and they started the Finals strongly enough, prevailing at home by a score of 6-0. The Leafs rallied themselves to win four of the next five games, including the one depicted here, a 2-1 victory secured at Maple Leaf Gardens by a Syl Apps goal in overtime. “The game started off on a hectic note,” Jim Vipond accounted next day in The Globe and Mail, “and Referee Bill Chadwick, who handled a competent game, had his work cut out to prevent a riot.” In the moments before the camera found its focus, Kenny Reardon, ebullient Montreal defenceman, boarded Toronto’s rookie left winger Joe Klukay, “qui s’est frappé (La Patrie reported) violemment sur la clôture.” That’s him on the stretcher — you can just spy his nose through the arms of an attendant teammate. He was knocked out, Montreal and Toronto reporters mostly agreed, and his scalp wanted stitching.
“The fans screamed for a major penalty,” Vipond wrote, “and an electric tenseness seemed to fill the big Carlton Street sports palace. The game was less than five minutes old.” Reardon went to serve a minor; Klukay was carried from the ice.
Neither man was gone long. The Montreal Gazette’s Dink Carroll took a slightly more jaded view than some others: Klukay responded to Reardon’s hit, he wrote, with “the dying swan act and … he was back before the period was over.”
Also putting in an appearance above are Montreal’s Butch Bouchard (leaning over the patient) along with Toe Blake (observing, glove on stick), Glen Harmon (8), and Buddy O’Connor (10).
Apps’ winning goal came after 16 minutes and 36 seconds of overtime. Jim Vipond circulated through the Leafs’ dressing room afterwards, where he saw an exhausted Toronto coach, Hap Day, and a happy, Coke-drinking Conn Smythe. “It isn’t funny,” Day told, with no further explanation. “I’m proud of the whole team,” Smythe said.
Klukay was in the shower. Vipond hollered in to ask about his injury and Klukay hollered back out. “Nothing to it,” he said, “just my head.”
The Montreal room was more subdued. With the extra period, they should have missed their train home, but the 11.10 to Montreal was holding for them. The Canadiens dressed quickly and headed for Union Station.
They gave Elmer Lach a car in 1952, yes, and that’s what everybody was focussed on, I’m sure, and remember, if there are still people who remember the night of March 8, a Saturday to some, maybe, but if you were one of the 14,452 fans at the Forum in Montreal, it was Elmer Lach Night. Lach, who died on Saturday at the age of 97, was much honoured over the course of his 14-year NHL career; his success is measured out in Hart and Art Ross trophies, along with the three Stanley Cups he helped Montreal to win. By 1952, he was, as La Patrie put it, the Habs’ centre-star and pillar-veteran. If anyone needed a reason beyond the adjectives to throw him a party, there was, too, the fact that Lach had recently become the NHL’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing a retired Bruin, Bill Cowley, and his 594 points.
Lach was at least a little bewildered by the whole affair, contemporary accounts affirm, if not entirely overwhelmed. He figured not at all on the scoresheet as the Canadiens tied Chicago 4-4. Between the second and third periods they got around to giving Lach his presents. His wife Kay came out on the ice, and their seven-year-old son, Rannie, was there, too, with roses for her and a five-pound box of candies for him, and Montreal Mayor Camillien Houde spoke and so did Canadiens’ captain Butch Bouchard, and Toe Blake was on hand, Lach’s old linemate, three years’ retired, though not Maurice Richard, who was injured, and in Florida, though he did send a telegram, which they didn’t have time to read out on the ice, on account of there were altogether too many telegrams to read.
When it was Lach’s turn to speak, he started in French, and the Forum erupted: the roof and the wall burst, said La Patrie. The Gazette: “Such a roar went up that he was forced to hold up until it died down.”
The presents were said to be worth $10,000 — about $90,000 in today’s dollars. Whatever else you want to say about the loot, the volume and variety was impressive.
It included a cake, from Inter-City Baking in Montreal, and
from Pal Blade Corp., a supply of razorblades to last a lifetime.
Peoples Credit Jewelers and some minor officials who worked for the Canadiens each presented a silver platters. The minor officials numbered ten, and their platter was inscribed with their names and the words In Appreciation of Your Great Sportsmanship With the Canadian Hockey Club.
A third silvery platter arrived from Lach’s hometown, Nokomis, Saskatchewan.
Living Room Furniture gave an armchair and
there was — from admirers and Hartney Limited — a bedroom set and a dining-room set.
Fans gave an Electrolux refrigerator and
there was a deep-freezer from International Harvester.
Also, thanks to Lavigne Window Shades,
Air Cool Venetian blinds for all Lach’s windows.
He got 100 pieces of dinnerware (Ronald Co.) and butchers’ knives (Glo-Hill Co.) and the employees of Butch Bouchard’s club gave him a garburator and
on behalf of the radio and print journalists covering the Canadiens, Baz O’Meara of The Montreal Star presented Lach with an all-in-one radio-phonograph.
Lach’s teammates gave him a washing-machine while
citizens of Lachine who thought the world of him pitched in for a television set.
A fan gave a cushion — maybe hand-stitched? I don’t know any more about that than I do about the blanket given by M. McIntosh or
the other three blankets that travelled all the way from Moose Jaw, sent by admirers.
From Waterman Co. Lach received three pens and pencils and
from A. Gutta, a woman’s bag and
also there were two shirts from Y. Lebrun and
three pairs of shoes from Salon Antoine as well as
a camera, from H. Kirshmer,
a golf bag from Harry Dennis and
a membership courtesy of the Lakeshore Golf Club.
Watches. Lebern Jewelry gave a Roamer and
Sabra Jewelry a Longines.
Letang Hardware contributed two travel clocks.
And what Soireé Elmer Lach would have been complete without a $50 Stetson hat (from the president of the Stetson Hat Co. himself)? Not this one. There was
a suit, too, from Joe Frifero and
a dressing gown that Jack Gold gave, also
a sports jacket from Frank Jerome and
from the mayor, a pair of cufflinks.
The car he got was a 1952 Oldsmobile “Rocket 88.”
Butch Bouchard drove it out to centre ice.
Skates or not skates? I like to think skates.
Imperial Oil threw in 100 gallons of gas.
He got a pair of season’s tickets from the Montreal Baseball Club and
from M. O’Connell, a week’s vacation at O’Connell Lodge on Lac des Loups.
The thoughtful patients at the Hospital for Sick Children got him two dozen golf balls not to outdone by the hospital at Ste. Anne de Bellevue, which sent an ashtray.
From Studio Adolphe Lach got a portrait of himself and
from La Patrie a colour photograph while
not least, but last
there was a rowboat, from La Vecheres Engineering.
[Illustration/Photo: Classic Auctions]
There’s lots you could say about Bill Durnan. Maurice Richard volunteered that he was one of the nicest guys in the whole world — “He had a smile for everybody and never said a word against anyone” — not to mention that he was said to be the best softball pitcher in Canada during the time he was minding the nets for Montreal in the latter 1940s. He did that exceptionally well, of course, winning Vézina trophies in each of his first four campaigns, as well as two more subsequently: an amazing six in the seven NHL seasons he endured. He won two Stanley Cups with the Canadiens, in 1944 and 1946. In 1964 he ascended to the Hall of Hockey Fame.
And yet: they used to boo him at the Forum, hound him with jeers. After some games (Richard was one to recall), he’d return to the dressing room crying. “We want Bibeault,” the fans would holler the year of that second Cup, calling for Paul, the Montreal back-up. Another year, Dink Carroll reported, “the fans would deride him … with mock applause when he made a stop.”
All of which is to say, it’s no wonder the man had nerves. Not so shocking either that he sought to calm them with a post-game smoke. From our modern-day perspective, it is surprising, just a little, to find one of the man’s post-game cigarettes preserved in photographs: that’s something you do sometimes see in hockey scrapbooks and archives, but not so much.
La Presse ran the one above in the spring of 1947. It’s not a great reproduction, but if Durnan’s face is obscured, that’s largely due to the cloud of smoke he’s just exhaled. You can just see the cigarette in his right hand. It’s more obvious in the photo below, from the same night, wherein Durnan poses alongside teammates (from the left) Butch Bouchard, Roger Léger, Richard, Billy Reay, and Buddy O’Connor. The caption for the former reads:
The first thing he did upon entering the locker room was to take a cigarette and light it. He removed his pads only after his relaxation was complete.
It was the first game of the 1947 Stanley Cup final and not a particularly stressful one for Durnan, by all accounts. He’d shut out the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Forum by a score of 6-0. Tame, Montreal’s Gazette called it. “The boys got that for me,” the goaltender said — or in the paper’s telling grinned. “I had a good seat.”
Something else he’s supposed to have said (according to Dick Irvin, Jr. in his 1991 oral history, Habs), “How did the Leafs get this far?” They were eager to demonstrate, of course, and won the next game 4-0 and three more after that, too, to take the Stanley Cup. “I think it’s by far the toughest series I’ve ever played in,” Toronto’s Howie Meeker recalled, citing Turk Broda’s goalkeeping as the key for the Leafs. “I think when it’s all over and you have won the Stanley Cup, your goaltender has to be the best guy on your team. That year Broda was. I thought he was head and shoulders above Durnan, and Durnan was good. We were outplayed and outchanced in scoring chances, I would think, by about three to two. Turk Broda was the guy who won that series.”
Also worth a note is the C adorning Durnan’s sweater. The accepted wisdom is that he didn’t become a Canadiens captain until the 1947-48 season, specifically assuming the role in January of 1948 when the incumbent, Toe Blake, suffered the ankle injury that would prove the end of his playing career. That’s the timing suggested, as well, by modern references, from the Habs’ own historical website at Our History and the Hockey Hall of Fame’s to Wikipedia and Hockeyreference.com. From the photographs here, it’s clear that he was co-captaining the team a season earlier, too.