hamby shore: away he goes like a flash

He started as a forward, and he was a good one, at that: in 1905, as what one newspaper would call “a wiry stripling of 17,” Hamby Shore was summoned to play left wing for the mighty Ottawa Silver Seven as the team fended off the challenge of the Rat Portage Thistles to hold on to the Stanley Cup they’d made a habit of winning in the early years of the new century.

An Ottawa boy, born and bred, Shore would play a part in three Cup championships over the course of his career, which included a season in the fledgling NHL in 1917-18, during which he anchored the (original) Senators blueline. His death on a Sunday of this date in the fall of 1918 jarred hockey’s tight-knit community. A victim of the virulent Spanish flu pandemic that killed some 50,000 Canadians between 1918 and 1920, Shore was just 32 when he contracted the virus as he nursed his sickened wife, Ruby. She seems to have recovered, but by early October, her husband was under care at the Rideau Street Hospital, where he died of pneumonia that October 13, a Sunday.

When he wasn’t on the ice, Shore was, like many a star of Ottawa’s early hockey scene, a faithful civil servant, working a job in the federal Department of Interior. On the ice, he made the switch to defence in 1909 when Cyclone Taylor departed Pete Green’s Ottawa concatenation to sign with the Renfrew Creamery Kings in the old NHA, and Shore dropped back from the left wing work from the old cover-point position. The report from the rink early on that winter: “His shooting, checking, passing, and skating were all to the merry.” That same winter he also seems to have had a close call, falling through the ice of the Rideau Canal and being saved from drowning by a friend.

In 1912, when Art Ross put together a team of all-stars from eastern Canada to take on the best of the west, Shore partnered the future Bruins supremo on the Eastern d. (Paddy Moran tended the goal they defended; Joe Malone, Odie Cleghorn, Skene Ronan, and Jack Darragh worked the forward line, with Sprague Cleghorn and Cyclone Taylor standing by as substitutes. For the West, Hugh Lehman played behind Frank Patrick and Moose Johnson, with Newsy Lalonde, harry Hyland, Tommy Dunderdale, and Ran McDonald on attack.)

The Ottawa Citizen may not have been an entirely independent authority, but in 1917, the paper declared Hamby Shore “the most effective chassis in the NHA” and “easily the most spectacular player in the game.”

“He rushes from end to end with more speed than he ever showed previously,” a hockey correspondent advised, “is blocking in clever style, and his shooting has been fatal to opposing goalkeepers.”

The key to his success? His take-off, apparently. “The average defenceman is slow in starting,” the Citizen’s man noted. “Not so with the Ottawa boy. One strike toward the puck, a neat sidestep, and away he goes like a flash.”

“He gets 15 yards on the other players before they know he is off,” added the distinguished referee Cooper Smeaton.

Shore played his final game in February of 1918, when his Senators overwhelmed the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 8-0 at Ottawa’s Laurier Street Arena towards the end of the NHL’s inaugural season. Ottawa released him a few days later: it’s not entirely clear why. The Ottawa Journal reported at the time that he himself was declaring that his career was finished and that “he would not attempt a comeback.”

Following his death eight months later, the Senators organized a memorial game in Shore’s memory and to raise money for his family. With the NHL season over, as the Montreal Canadiens prepared to depart for Seattle for their ill-fated (and never-completed) Stanley Cup series, the game was scheduled at the Laurier Street Arena for the end of March of 1919.

“Two of the fastest and strongest teams that have ever stepped out on the ice lined up,” the Ottawa Journal reported, “they being the All-Ottawas, a team consisting of thoroughbred home brews, and the Imported Stars.

Ottawa’s line-up featured Senators from stem to stern, with Clint Benedict in goal, Eddie Gerard and former Senator Horace Merrill (a former defensive partner of Shore’s) on defence, and a forward line of Jack Darragh, Punch Broadbent, and Buck Boucher. A former NHA Montreal Wanderer, Archie Atkinson, was Ottawa’s sub.

Toronto’s Bert Lindsay tended the other goal, with Ottawa’s Sprague Cleghorn and Harry Cameron on defence, and a forward line featuring Senators’ stars Frank Nighbor and Cy Denneny alongside Toronto’s Dave Ritchie, with Art Ross standing by as a sub.

Canada’s governor-general was on hand, the Duke of Devonshire, with a party of guests from Rideau Hall, and His Excellency brought along the band of the Governor-General’s Foot Guards to strike up a tune.

I haven’t seen word on how much money was raised on the night, but the crowd was reported to have been duly entertained, despite the sticky surface underskate: “the poor ice made the exhibition more of a burlesque than a contest,” the Citizen said. The Ottawas prevailed by a score of 8-3, with Buck Boucher busting out with six goals for the winning side.

The Journal noted that the GG was delighted by the hockey, taking “keen delight in the antics of the players.” Also? “The event was not without its excitement as a real fist-fight started in the bleachers and the police had to take a hand.”

loosening my grip on bobby orr

No quick thought-piece here on why Bobby Orr did what he did, or how terrible the disappointment tastes, or how patently absurd it would be to write a sentence like “President Trump has delivered for all the American people, regardless of race, gender, or station in life,” let alone submit it for publication. The ad that Orr paid to mar half of page A9 of today’s New Hampshire Union Leader is here, if you want to study it.

Me, I’m admiring “Winter on the Don,” above, another of Winnipeg photographer Diana Thorneycroft’s masterpieces, from her 2007 series “Group of Seven Awkward Moments.” Her interest here, she’s said, is in combining “iconic northern landscapes, which have come to symbolize Canada as a nation,” with “scenes of accidents, disasters, and bad weather.”

“By pairing the tranquility of traditional landscape painting with black humour,” Thorneycroft writes, “the work conjures up topical and universally familiar landscapes fraught with anxiety and contradictions.” For more of her bracing views of our north, visit dianathorneycroft.com.

falling through the ice: yow! crash! (crack, crackle) help! holy smoke!

Headed out this week for some pond hockey, a little lake puck? Know that if you’re centrally situated in North America and it’s big wide-open shinny settings you’re after, looks like Lake Erie is your best bet. As of Sunday, some 90 per cent of everybody’s favourite fourth-largest Great Lake was locked up in ice, according to analysis by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. Throw in Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Ontario, and out superlative lakes are, overall, 29.5 per cent frozen. That’s way up from last year at this time, when the number was 11 per cent.

I’m not saying you should. Head out on a Great Lake, I mean. Safer to skate at the park, or on someone’s backyard rink. In Toronto, where the harbour is frozen over for the first time in years, the message from police regarding natural ice is the plain and perennial one: no ice is safe ice. History and hockey literature have lots to say about this — lots and lots. Picture books, too, and horror movies, and archives.

There’s also a rich library of comic books to instruct us in the hazards inherent in taking the good old hockey game out on the bad old treacherous ice. Today’s exemplar is a 1949 edition of New Heroic Comics, a dead-serious venture from your friends at Famous Funnies Inc. For such a bright and colourful publication, it’s actually a terrifying piece of work. The through-the-ice story is just the start of a harrowing 48-page handbook of true-life havoc and misfortune featuring accounts of runaway horses (“Hooves of Horror”), men overboard (“Soldier Rescues Sailor”), riptides (“Riptide”), flash floods (“Canyon Rescue”), and high-rise calamity (“Elevator Firetrap”).

The good news is that everybody gets out okay. That’s the point, of course: heroes prevail. They stop the stallion, drive their jeep into the canyon, force the doors of the elevator. The hockey story celebrates 18-year-old Philip McAuliffe Jr., a member of the Boston College hockey team out for a New Year’s Day skate with some pals on a Massachusetts lake when the inevitable happens. That’s him in the red sweater, going after poor Johnny, and (I’m pleased to report) hauling him to safety. In a later panel, McAuliffe gets a silver medal for his efforts, from the state Humane Society. “That was a brave thing you did, young man!” says the comics-doctor tending his wounds. “You’re a real hero!”

“Thanks, doctor,” comics-Philip says, “but it really wasn’t anything.”

skaters gonna skate

Cautionary Fail: The temperature on the surface of Mars hit a daytime high of -23 C this week, according to weather-watchers at CTV, which is to say it’s been way more clement there than across much of the Canadian map. Ottawa was down to -29 C yesterday, making it the world’s coldest capital (Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia was basking at -26 C). With the wind, in the alpine shadows, Wednesday’s thermometer was down around -29 C, too, under Fairview Mountain in Alberta’s Banff National Park, where a brisk bout of morning shinny quickened the ice of Lake Louise. (Image: Stephen Smith)

falling through the ice: bob the good-natured bay

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He was doing his job, that’s all. A Tuesday in January of 1929, and Bob, as usual, was hauling the scraper across the ice at Boston’s Public Garden, getting it ready for skaters under the supervision of his driver, James Ward. “The big good-natured bay,” is how the Daily Globe recognized him, Bob, “favourite with all the children.” But on this day, as he neared the shore on the rink’s Arlington Street side, he went through. James Ward couldn’t help him, but as luck had it, Patrolman Arthur Blood from the Back Bay Police Station happened by and soon had the call out for reinforcements.

I’m not going to leave you hanging: Bob got out fine. Patrolmen Noyes, Regan, Gervan, and Maguire all lent a hand, roping up Bob’s legs and hauling him free. Although, from the photograph, some firemen were in on it, too. Nothing to worry about, in any case, according to The Globe:

After Bob was steady on his feet, officer Blood took him to the Animal Rescue League on Carver St., where he was given first-aid treatment. He was found to have suffered no serious injury.

(Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)

icelanders

glsea_curThe Great Lakes are 85.4 per cent iced over, or at least they were yesterday, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the U.S. federal body that monitors these things on behalf of science and shinny.

That’s an impressive figure by any standard other than that of impatient hockey players, or Canadians. True, most of us won’t make it out this winter with our Kohos, in our old Tacks, onto a frozen patch of Erie or Ontario or Superior, much less pick up a puck near Kingston and stickhandle it all the way west to Duluth. Still, to the rink born, we feel that such a stretch of ice should be available to us all the same in mid-winter, just in case. It’s what we’re owed, as Canadians — anything short of 100 per cent coverage is at best a disappointment.

If we’re not, at this point, calling it a natural national tragedy, that’s because we know what we’ve learned from all those flooding in our backyards: the freeze takes time. The good news is that the Great Rink is getting there: on Monday last, coverage was at 76.6 per cent. A few more icy nights and we should be good to go — maybe by the weekend, then?

In the meantime, maybe best to review the hazards of pond hockey. Hockey’s literature has been attentive to the dangers involved in venturing out on to natural ice, which you’ll know if you happen to have read all the hockey novels, only a few of which don’t include a scene in which the hero (a) falls through thin ice himself while chasing pucks and/or (b) rescues some other poor sap who didn’t listen and went under. I wrote about that in Puckstruck, citing some of the terrible fictional sounds associated with hockey/ice disasters:

• ominous creaking, anguished cry, crash (Lightning On Ice, Philip Harkins, 1946)
• silence (Pass That Puck! Richard T. Flood, 1948)
• “yow!” “crash!” “crack, crackle!” (New Heroic Comics, 1949)
• gentle splashing, shouts of people running (Brother of the Hero, Lev Kassil, 1968)
• “helllppppp!” (Forever, Roy MacGregor, 1996)

“In fiction,” I continued,

it’s a bit of a rite of passage for young players. If you’re going to learn the game, then you’re going to have to take a swim, losing if not your life then at least a boot. What often happens is that your brother Joe comes by with his hockey stick and lies down on his stomach and says, “That’s a brave boy” and “Wrap your arms around it and hold hard,” and so you do that, and he fishes you out and makes you skate to shore to get your circulation going instead of carrying you, which is smart. That’s what happens in Skating Today (1945), possibly one of the worst titled hockey novels of all, though still compelling as a story in its own hokey way.

You don’t, course, have to be a young scamp in a hockey story to have the ice betray you. It happens in history, too, to Russian armies at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. Whether you’re fulfilling your birthright as a Canadian or retreating from Napoleon with your artillery over a lake in what’s now the Czech Republic, the lesson to learn is the same: as the Ontario Provincial Police like to remind us, no ice is safe ice.

satchan lake

ponderable

We put on our skates in the house and clumped out and into the snow and slid a bit but mostly we stayed steady, moving forward, over the bridge with Kohos in hand and the pucks and shovels, and the axe, blazing our own trail as we struggled up the hill, just like Samuel Hearne, if he’d done his bushwhacking on Bauers.

You need at least three pucks if you’re playing on the pond, allowing for slapshots that the snow swallows and strays stolen by the dog. The Kohos and the shovels — well, obviously. If you don’t have an augur, an axe will do, and did, as we stood on the dock and chopped, gingerly — because you can’t be too careful swinging an axe while on you’re on skates — but also manfully, because is there any other way to swing an axe in the forest?

The pond doesn’t have a name. It’s fine without one. This is up north of Toronto, where this year the winter was for a long time slow to take. The pond used to be a farm field and before that I guess probably forest. Most of the trees closest by the pond are new-growth, pine-trees in straight rows, like puzzled fans who don’t know the game they’re watching well enough to comment. People used to skate here, years ago, but the ice has been lying fallow for — I don’t even know. Decades, maybe?

Two years ago I got a rink cleared at Christmas and kept it going through to March — easy. But last year I had slush problems followed by thaw trouble leading to deer traipsing around while the ice was soft and I wasn’t around and then what happened was the hoofprints froze like one of those learn-your-dance-steps diagrams, except three-dimensional and — I gave up. The tiny goal-nets I had out there stayed sunken and stuck until spring, when I lured them in on ropes.    Continue reading