no-way thruway

Stop Sign: Toronto Maple Leaf winger Busher Jackson did his best on a Tuesday night in November of 1936 to breach the New York Rangers’ defence at Madison Square Garden — and, here, failed, as the puck skittered away. There’s a bit of a question about who the downed Ranger is: Art Coulter, maybe, or Joe Cooper, possibly? Rangers won, on the night, by a score of 5-1.

licence to thwart

Pleased To Meet You: It was four years ago today that Harry Howell, long-time New York Ranger Hall-of-Fame defenceman, died at the age of 86. Hockey’s goalscorers, he mused in 1967, “get most of the ink,” but he said that growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, he never envied them. He said he “always wanted to be a defenceman,” laughing, “maybe because I realized I wasn’t going to make it as a forward.” Howell played in 1,000th game that year; all of them were in Ranger livery, making him only the second player in NHL history (after Gordie Howe) to play that many with a single team. Here, Howell hinders Montreal’s Henri Richard, probably during the ’67 All-Star game at Montreal’s Forum. Canadiens won that game 3-0, with Richard scoring the opening (winning) goal and ending up as the game’s MVP. Both Howell and Richard were penalized by referee Vern Buffey that night, for separate second-period transgressions by tripping. (Image: Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

brakeman bill

Beast On The Beat: A son of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Bill Juzda served in the air with the RCAF during the Second World War and, before, during, and after his NHL career, on the rails for the Canadian Pacific Railway — hence one of his nicknames, “The Honest Brakeman.” He died on a Sunday of this date in 2008 at the age of 87. On the ice, Juzda’s jarring bodychecks helped the Toronto Maple Leafs secure a pair of Stanley Cup championships, in 1949 and ’51. He was a New York Ranger before that, as seen here during the 1947-48 season, railroading  Detroit’s Jimmy McFadden. The linesman on scene is (I think) Butch Keeling. As both a Leaf and a Ranger, Juzda was known, too, as a pastmaster in the fine art of goading Maurice Richard.

boom goes the dynamite

The great Bernie Geoffrion was born in Montreal on a Monday of this date in 1931. As a hard-charging right winger, he starred for 14 years for Montreal’s mighty Canadiens, helping them claim six Stanley Cup championships, and collecting accolades for himself, too, including in the form of Calder, Hart, and Art Ross trophies. He was elevated to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972. He died in 2006 at the age of 75.

After the glory years in Montreal, Geoffrion finished his playing career in New York with the Rangers. His time there included a fit or two of pique, including in February of 1967, when Geoffrion was just about to turn 36. The Rangers were hosting the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden on the night, which ended in frustration. Thanks in large part to 21-year-old Bernie Parent, Boston won the game by a score of 2-1. Geoffrion made his mark, too, scoring the Rangers’ only goal and then, as the game wore down, earning both a misconduct and a game misconduct (along with a $75 fine) as a result of the incident pictured here.

The Bruins had too many men on the ice, is how the story goes, and the officials presiding had missed the call, according to the Rangers. John Ashley was the referee (on the left, behind); Walt Atanas (pushed-upon, left) and John D’Amico (restraining, right). There were two minutes left in the game. Ranger fans littered the ice. As Atanas collected the puck, Geoffrion approached. Here’s Gerald Eskenazi’s report from the New York Times:

The pair had words. Geoffrion swung his stick a stray beer can and it sailed past Atanas. The official was still trying to move out of harm’s way when Geoffrion pushed him twice.

The Boomer and his coach, Emile Francis, said later that Geoffrion had tripped on a beer can and fell into Atanas.

Geoffrion was banished. “The game,” as another dispatch from the scene told it, “was finally finished amid a tonnage of debris on the ice.”

Geoffrion was duly called before NHL president Clarence Campbell for a hearing, who promptly suspended him for three games, ruling that Geoffrion’s “conduct was completely inexcusable and the product of his own temperament, which has got him into trouble on at least two other occasions in the past.”

Campbell was referring to a couple of notorious encounters, both from 1958, one of which involved a $250 fine for manhandling referee Frank Udvari, the other wherein Geoffrion swung his stick into the face of Ron Murphy of the Rangers (and was suspended for eight games).

“I feel bad because I got suspended for a foolish thing,” Geoffrion said of his ’67 sanction. “I thought I’d be fined more, not suspended.”

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?

lone ranger

Stop Right There: A helmeted Ken McAuley turns away Syd Howe of the Detroit Red Wings during the NHL’s 1944-45 season. Following the action is Rangers’ defenceman Bucko McDonald.

Spare a thought tonight for Ken McAuley, who was born in Edmonton on a Sunday of today’s date in 1921. After a respectable junior career tending goals in Alberta and in Saskatchewan senior hockey, McAuley sat out the 1942-43 season while he recovered from what would seem to have been a spate of concussions. Signed by the New York Rangers’ Patrick in the fall of ’43, the 22-year-old McAuley, who had a full-time job as a probation officer in Edmonton, found himself handed the starting net an hour before the season got underway at the end of October. “I was so nervous,” he later recalled, “they had to help me on with my equipment.” With the history of his head in mind, he added a helmet to his rig as he made his debut in Toronto, where the Leafs fired 52 shots his way on their way to a 5-2 win.

It didn’t get better. McAuley and his Rangers staggered through a 15-game winless streak to start the year. By Christmas, they’d lost games by scores of 10-5 (to the Chicago Black Hawks) and 11-4 (to Toronto). It got worse: in January of ’44, he was on the porous end of a 13-3 loss to the Boston Bruins followed by, eight games later, a 15-0 puncturing at the sticks of the Detroit Red Wings. “Poor Ken McAuley,” as the Detroit Free Press noted, actually made 43 saves for his team before they put away the pucks for the night.

It went on and on. The Red Wings retraumatized McAuley with a 12-2 win a few games later, followed by an 11-2 obliteration by the Montreal Canadiens before the season, mercifully, ended. His heroics were often praised in the New York press, despite all the losing. “Brilliant goaling on young Ken McAuley’s part saved the Rangers from a worse defeat,” the Brooklyn Daily Eagle opined in February of 1944, after a 5-2 loss in Montreal. McAuley handled 53 shots that night, the New York Daily News reported, with Canadiens’ Bill Durnan turned away 18.

Rangers bottomed out the NHL that season, finishing last in the six-team standings, in case there was any doubt, anchored down with a record of 6-39-5. McAuley suffered through all 50 games; the only relief he got all season was in December, when the Rangers were playing (again) in Detroit. Struck down by a puck shot by Carl Liscombe of the Red Wings, McAuley was evacuated to Harper Hospital for treatment of a suspected broken jaw. Taking his place on an emergency basis was Detroit’s spare goaltender, 17-year-old Harry Lumley: he played the third period of the Rangers’ 5-3 loss, shutting out his teammates. As it turned out, McAuley’s jaw was lacerated, not broken, and he started New York’s next game, on Christmas Day, a 5-3 Yuletide win over Toronto.

McAuley’s stats for the 1943-44 season are painful to consider: 310 goals allowed in 50 games left him with a 6.24 GAA. He endured a second season with New York, going 11-25-10 through 46 games while putting up a 4.93 GAA, with Doug Stevenson aboard to provide some relief as a back-up.

That was all for Ken McAuley’s NHL career. He went on to coach the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Canada Junior Hockey League, and in 1954, with Norm Ullman and Johnny Bucyk in the line-up, guided them to the Memorial Cup final. He sold cars and insurance and carpets in Edmonton before he retired. Ken McAuley died in 1992 at the age of 71.

moe betters blues

Kenny Mosdell’s big night came on a Saturday night in February of 1955, when the Montreal Canadiens honoured the service their trusty 32-year-old centreman, then in his eleventh Hab season, with a pre-game shower of gifts. Ahead of a Forum meeting with the New York Rangers, teammate Elmer Lach (he was out of the line-up) did a turn around the ice at the wheel of a gleaming new Oldsmobile 98 before handing the keys to the man they called Big Moe. Mrs. Mosdell, Lorraine, was on hand, along with the Little Moes, Wayne and Bonnie, who were presented with a Collie puppy.

“Kenny is a great worker,” Canadiens captain Butch Bouchard announced when he took the microphone, “he gives us his best, and we appreciate him very much.” Mosdell stepped up to offer emotional thanks. “I hope I’m with Canadiens another 11 years,” he said. Canadiens won the game 10-2, with Boom-Boom Geoffrion scoring five goals and Doug Harvey chipping in with five assists. Gump Worsley was the long-suffering Ranger goaltender. Mosdell couldn’t buy so much as an assist on the night. He ended up playing in parts of three more seasons with Montreal, taking a turn, too, with the Chicago Black Hawks.

Kenny Mosdell died on a Thursday of this same date in 2006. He was 83.

(Images: Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

manhattan project

Homestand: Hopes were high for the New York Americans, one of the teams to join the NHL in the winter of 1925 (Pittsburgh’s Pirates were the other), but injuries ended up slowing down their loaded line-up that first year: they failed to make the playoffs. The Americans played their home-opener on a Tuesday of this same date, hosting the defending Stanley Cup champions from Montreal as they inaugurated Tex Rickard’s (also brand-new) Madison Square Garden III. (Canadiens prevailed by a score of 3-1.) New York (and MSG) got a second team the following year when Rickard launched the Rangers. They wore blue, of course, as seen in the illustration here. While the Americans had started with star-spangled sweaters of dark blue, they switched in their second year to red, as pictured above, before returning to the original design in 1930. The Americans were also the first team in the NHL to wear names on their backs of their sweaters.

just play the game

Slapper: Born in 1941 on a Friday of this date in Big River, Saskatchewan, Jim Neilson made the switch from left wing to defence as a junior in Prince Albert. Loosing a shot here in 1971, when he was a veteran of 30, Neilson made his debut with the Rangers in 1962, and manned the blue line in New York for 12 years before joining the California Golden Seals for the 1974-75 season. He was captain in California and for the Cleveland Barons, too, after the Seals moved north. He finished his career with a season in the WHA with the Edmonton Oilers. “I’m an easygoing guy,” he said in the ’80s, looking back on his career. “I never look far ahead and I’ve used that philosophy all my life. I just play the game. It’s over, and there’ll probably be one again tomorrow.” Jim Neilson died on November 6, 2020, at the age of 78.

brothers in blue

Brothers Act: The New York Rangers heralded the rise of new brotherly duo in the fall of 1943 when 18-year-old left winger Billy Warwick (on the right) joined his brother Grant, a right winger, three years older, on the roster. For a team that had had multiple Cooks, Patricks, and Colvilles star for them, the prospect was an exciting one. Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, on a Monday of today’s date in 1924, Billy Warwick only lasted 14 games in the NHL, going on to a long and distinguished minor-league and international career. All three of his NHL goals were scored this month in ’43, with the first coming on November 7 in New York when he beat Benny Grant in the Toronto goal during a 7-4 Leaf win.

opening bell: no quit in new york’s 1926 debut

New York Rangers captain Bill Cook (right) flanks coach and manager Lester Patrick alongside Frank Boucher on the ice at the Chicago Stadium in November of 1934. It was on a Tuesday night eight years earlier that these three featured in the Rangers’ very first regular-season NHL game at Madison Square Garden as the brand-new home team dispensed with the visiting Montreal Maroons by a score of 1-0 on  the night of November 17, 1926 in front of a crowd of 13,000.

It was Cook who scored the first goal in Rangers’ history 96 years ago, beating Clint Benedict in the Montreal net in the second period for the game’s decisive goal. Hal Winkler recorded the shutout for New York. Referee Lou Marsh wielded a bell on the night, notably, instead of a whistle. He put it to use in the third period when the famously peaceable Boucher got into the only fight of his long career, clashing with Montreal’s Bill Phillips. Both players got major penalties for their troubles, and each was fined $15. Boucher was badly cut on the neck in the melee and had to leave the game for repairs.

 

(Image: SDN-077304, Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection, Chicago History Museum)