Another day, another prosecution exhibit in the case of the brazen lunacy that it was to play goal in the NHL without a mask. As noted in a post earlier today, Andy Brown of the Pittsburgh Penguins was the last of his kind in that regard.
But: that’s not him in the photograph above, despite what the league itself would have you think via the page it dedicates to Brown’s NHL numbers on NHL.com, which looks like this:
Both there and here above, the Pittsburgh goaltender pictured doing his best to stymie Montreal’s Peter Mahovlich is in fact Joe Daley. The Penguins were Daley’s first NHL team: he helped guard their nets in 1968-69 and ’69-70 before moving on to stints with the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings. Like Brown, he eventually made the leap to the WHA, wherein Daley was a fixture in the Winnipeg Jets’ net for seven seasons. In November of 1970, when this photograph adorned the back cover of the Canadiens’ game-day program, Andy Brown was playing for the AHL Baltimore Clippers: he wouldn’t make his NHL debut until the following season, with the Detroit Red Wings.
As for Daley’s NHL.com page … the photograph looks like him, too.
Daley, at point, wore a mask in practice but not in games. In ’71, he talked to Joe Falls of the Detroit Free Press about the reasons why. “I know it may sound strange,” he said, “but I think I’m a better goalie without the mask. I’ve got to be more alert. I know the puck is coming and I’ve got to be ready for it, I’d say I see about 90 per cent of the shots — I mean enough so I can bob my head out of the way.”
“I’ve had goaltenders tell me they give up five or six goals a season because of the mask — pucks they lose at their feet, for instance. Well, I can’t afford that. Five or six goals can mean the difference in five or six games.”
Daley played his first WHA season without a mask. He changed his mind the following year, at age 30. In October of 1973, for the first time in his ten-year pro career, he donned a mask in a game as the Jets fell to the Oilers in Edmonton by a score of 6-4.
Why the change? Asked, he answered: “because allowing a goal isn’t as important as it used to be … my life is.”
if tooth be told
barry fraser, 1940—2022
Sorry to see yesterday’s news that former Edmonton Oilers chief scout Barry Fraser has died at the age of 82. Condolences to his family. He was a son of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, who truly was one of the key architects of the juggernaut that the Oilers became in the 1980s.
“As Barry Fraser goes, so go the Edmonton Oilers,” Edmonton Journal columnist Terry Jones wrote in 1979, just as Fraser took up with the team (he stayed on until 2000). It was August of that watershed year, and Oilers were crossing over from the newly defunct WHA into the NHL by way of the entry draft. The team already an 18-year-old Wayne Gretzky aboard, but the future, still, was decidedly murky.
“Scouting,” Oilers coach and director of hockey operations Glen Sather was saying, “is going to be as important to this team as coaching in the next few years.”
“We won’t know if Fraser is a blooming genius or a silly fool,” Jones opined on the same Journal page that listed the players Edmonton secured that day:
Round One: defenceman Kevin Lowe of the Quebec Remparts. Round Three: underage forward Mark Messier from the WHA’s Cincinnati Stingers. Round Four: underage forward Glenn Anderson from the University of Denver.
In 1980, the Oilers drafted Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, and Andy Moog. The following year they snagged Grant Fuhr. By 1983, of course, they were playing in their first Stanley Cup final in 1983. “I don’t know how to even describe it,” Fraser said that year. “It’s a great feeling when you start from scratch and all of a sudden you’re on the doorstep.” As director of scouting and player personnel, Fraser would get his name on the Cup five times, in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1990.
Peter Gzowski included a memorable sketch of Fraser in The Game of Our Lives (1981):
Fraser is a deceptively naïve-looking man who, with his pompadour and generous belly, resembles a contented Elvis Presley. His own playing career stopped in B, when he broke a leg while trying to make a team in Cochrane, Ontario. After his injury, he retired to an office job with Ontario Hydro, but he maintained his interest in hockey by coaching young boys, and gradually the canny reports he sent in on prospects from his neck of the woods drew so much attention that he was swept into full-time scouting, ending up as a senior official of the Houston Aeros of the WHA. By the time the WHA folded, he had achieved such a reputation as a bloodhound that Sather snapped him up to head the Oilers’ scouting staff. Kevin Lowe, who had been the first draft he recommended, had worked out well, but the 1980-81 season would be a full test of Fraser’s powers of discrimination; it was on his word that the Oilers had spent their valuable first-round draft choice on Coffey, had courted Anderson, and had gambled yet another draft choice on being able to talk Jari Kurri into coming to North America. It was on his system, which Sather had urged him to perfect, that the future of the team and its young personnel would depend.
drawing dave dryden
I wrote in my book about drawing Dave Dryden. This would have been 1977 or so, still WHA days for the Oilers, and I would have been 10 or 11. I loved drawing goalies, those fat brown pads and that waffly blocker in particular. I failed to do justice to his famous Oilers’ mask, it’s true, but Dryden was good enough not to mention that. My grandparents lived in Edmonton, where my grandfather was a judge, so I sent the drawing to him. I don’t know if I knew that he’d pass it on to Dryden himself, who then mailed it back to me, along with a kind letter and a team photo. Could be that that was my plan from the start. Or possibly I was surprised and, while pleased for the recognition and the autographs, puzzled at the same time: my grandfather didn’t want my drawing for his own collection?
dave dryden, 1941—2022
Very sorry to be seeing the news that Dave Dryden died this past Tuesday at the age of 81. He was a goaltender, because that’s what the boys in that family did: his younger brother, of course, Hall-of-Famer Ken, followed him into puckstopping. Born in Hamilton in 1941, Dave played 205 games in the NHL, working the nets in his time for the New York Rangers, Chicago Black Hawks, Buffalo Sabres, and Edmonton Oilers. He played 260 WHA games, too, starting with the Chicago Cougars before joining the Oilers; in 1979, he won both the Ben Hatskin Trophy as the WHA’s top goaltender and the Gordie How Trophy as league MVP.
“I don’t know where we went wrong,” Murray Dryden wrote, wryly, in a 1972 account of his hockey-playing sons, Playing The Shots At Both Ends. “The two boys both graduated from university, but they ended up as goaltenders.”
Murray himself never played hockey, though he could boast some NHL pedigree (and did) insofar as he counted former Leafs Syl Apps and Andy Blair as well as New York Rangers’ ironman Murray Murdoch as cousins.
The family moved from Hamilton to Islington, a suburb of Toronto, in 1949. It was there that young Dave found his future, his father recalled:
One Saturday morning, when he was ten years old, we went to a lumber yard and bought some two-by-fours. Then we got some chicken wire at a hardware store and brought it home, and made a hockey net. It was the first and last thing I ever constructed in my life. The total cost was $6.60.
We set it up in the driveway in front of the garage door and the boys peppered a tennis ball at it for hours on end. And from that moment there didn’t seem much doubt that Dave was going to play hockey and he was going to be a goaltender.
When the two Drydens famously skated out on Forum ice in Montreal on March 20, 1971, it was the first time in NHL history that brothers had faced one another as goaltenders. Ken’s Canadiens prevailed that night over Dave’s Sabres by a score of 5-2.
When the two met again at the Forum the following season, the Canadiens fired 54 shots at the Buffalo net on their way to a 9-3 win. Writing in the Montreal Star, Red Fisher nominated Dave Dryden as “a candidate for the first Purple Heart of the 1971-72 season. Never has one man stopped so much for a team which deserved less. Dryden, who shook hands at game’s end with his only friend in the rink — his brother, Ken — was brilliant on many, many occasions.”
All told, the brothers met eight times in the NHL, with Ken’s Canadiens prevailing on five occasions. Dave’s only win came in December 10, 1972, when the Sabres beat Montreal 4-2 at the Forum. Two other games ended in ties.
The photograph here dates to another brotherly meeting, this one on April 4, 1973, as the Sabres opened their first-round series of the Stanley Cup playoffs against Canadiens at the Forum. Montreal won that one by a score of 2-1, with Ken taking honours as the game’s first star, Dave as the second. The brothers faced off again the following night, with Montreal winning that one 7-3. That was all the goaltending Dave Dryden did that year, with Roger Crozier taking over the Buffalo net as Montreal went on to take the series in six games.
Kevin Lowe gets into hockey’s Hall of Fame next week; tonight the Edmonton Oilers raise his number 4 high into the rafters of Rogers Place ahead of their game against the New York Rangers. Lowe played his steady defence for the Oilers back in the heady ’80s and ’90s, winning five Stanley Cup championships in teams that featured Gretzkys and Messiers, Coffeys and Fuhrs. Born in Lachute, Quebec, he played 15 seasons in Edmonton in all, another four with the Rangers. He won another with New York in 1994. He’s 62 now; his number is the eighth the Oilers have honoured, after Al Hamilton’s 3, Coffey’s 7, the 9 Glenn Anderson wore, Messier’s 11, Jari Kurri’s 17, Fuhr’s 31, and Gretzky’s 99.
creases, they’re for crashing
The Chicago Cougars were blue in February of 1975, in a bleak place. I’m not referring to Toronto here, though that’s where they were geographically, on another stop on the WHA’s schedule. The funk that the Cougars were in related to the losing streak they rode into Toronto (they’d won just 3 of 16 games) as well as the team’s uncertain financial future. Before this, their third season in the upstart WHA, the original owners of the Cougars had sold the team to three of its prominent players, Ralph Backstrom, Pat Stapleton, and Dave Dryden. By February, with the new (playing) ownership having trouble finding further financial backing, there was talk that the Cougars might be upping skates and leaving Chicago — that, or folding entirely.
Toronto was a balm, actually, in the face of all this: the Cougars ended up beating the local Toros, 4-3 in overtime, on a goal by Rosaire Paiement. Reporting for The Globe and Mail, Jeff Goodman wrote that the Toros helped in the effort as best they could: his account of the game at Maple Leaf Gardens features the phrase erratic passing and the word sleepskating.
Pictured here in the fearsome mask is Chicago owner Dave Dryden, in the company of Toros defenceman Steve Cuddie and (in back) Chicago’s Darryl Maggs. “This win was something we needed badly,” said Chicago coach Jacques Demers when it was all over but the flood. “Things just weren’t going good. The players were depressed because they didn’t know where they stood.”
The Cougars finished the season, but the franchise didn’t live to see another one. After failing to make the WHA playoffs in April of ’75, the Chicago Cougars were dissolved. Many of the players (Maggs included) ended up with a new franchise, the Denver Spurs. They didn’t last long: by December of that same year, they’d folded, relocating to Ottawa, where they played out the season (but not beyond) as the Civics.
The Edmonton Oilers claimed Dryden in the draft that dispersed the Cougars, and he played there for five seasons, four of them as the WHA wound up and one as the team debuted in the NHL. He took his mask with him, apparently. A friend in Chicago by the name of Bob Pelkowski was an artist and painted its ferocious face, according to Michael Cutler’s 1977 book Hockey Masks and the Great Goalies Who Wear Them. Dryden told Cutler that he had made the mask himself in 1965 at a cost of $10, and it as the only one he’d ever worn during his pro career. When he got to Edmonton, he had Pelkowski repaint it, with drops of oil dripping down over the eyes. Did he subsequently change it up? Certainly this one, below, seems like a different model, with a different array of ventilation holes.
Born in Weston, Ontario, on a Thursday of this date in 1961, Paul Coffey is 60 today, so many returns of the day to him. A three-time Norris Trophy winner, he helped the Edmonton Oilers win three Stanley Cup championships in the 1980s and added another to his CV with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991. He was named to the NHL’s First All-Star Team four times. Other than Bobby Orr, he’s the only NHL defenceman to score over 100 points in a season more than once: Orr did it six times, Coffey five. In 1986, Coffey broke Orr’s seemingly unassailable record for most goals in a season by a defenceman when he scored his 47th. (Coffey finished the season with 48, a record that still stands.)
Writing in 2004, when Coffey was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Jim Matheson of The Edmonton Journal recalled Coffey’s remarkable mobility. “With apologies to Orr, who could spin and bob and weave his way through traffic,” Matheson wrote, “no-one had Coffey’s breathtaking ability to sail effortlessly by checkers like they were construction zone cones.”
Matheson went on to recall the night in Edmonton in ’86 that Orr’s broke in an 8-4 Oiler win over their visitors from the coast.
Coffey rolled back to pick up the puck in the Oilers end and skated through the entire Vancouver Canucks team before lifting a shot past goalie Wendell Young.
Funny thing was, Coffey had nothing left in his tank before the play started.
“I haven’t told this to anybody but I actually was looking to get off the ice,” Coffey [told Matheson].
“I was exhausted when I went to get the puck in the left corner. The first thing that went through my mind was, ‘Geez, it’s a long way to the bench.’ I was trying to get to centre so I could dump it in. But I picked up some speed, looked up and said, “Whoa, there’s some room here.”
He went by five Canucks like they were inanimate objects.