Playing for a Stanley Cup is
the chance of a lifetime,
and I don’t want to look that far ahead.
I’m trying to take this
if we’re fortunate enough to win that thing,
I hope to be able to take it back
to my hometown of
and get a chance
out of that beautiful trophy.
• from “Desjardins: Hockey isn’t my only passion,” a blog post by Chicago Blackhawks left winger Andrew Desjardins for NHL.com, June 9, 2015; excerpted, edited, and poemized.
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.”
FIRST. Erin Balser of CBC Books was on the radio this weekend with a list of ten recommended hockey books that mixes the unlikely and worth-investigating (Cara Hedley’s 2004 novel Twenty Miles) with a solid core of classics (Quarrington’s King Leary, Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse) and at least one dud (Al Strachan’s 99).
SECOND. The Ottawa Citizen saw fit to publish a sort-of review of Stephen J. Harper’s A Great Game last week, just five-and-a-half months after its November publication.
The reviewer was William Watson, who teaches economics at McGill University in Montreal, and he had a reason, at least, for waiting so long: though his son gave him the PM’s book for Christmas, it took him a while to get around to reading it.
The news he leads with (that Harper thanks Nigel Wright in the book’s acknowledgments) is only five months old — as long as you didn’t read it for yourself when the book came out and waited for it to break in the press. Nothing to get too crabby about, I guess. Although this did catch my eye: “As the reviews generally indicated,” Watson writes, “it is not a great book, though given the author’s day job it is a wonder it’s a book at all.”
True? Was not-greatness generally indicated? I think we owe it to the book’s author to test that statement against the record.
Reviewing the reviews, we find that at Quill & Quire, Perry Lefko called A Great Game “disappointing,” “long-winded” and “conservative.” Bruce Cheadle from The Canadian Press used the words “eye-glazing” — and not admiringly. Chris Selley at The National Post? His review was anchored by the phrases “agonizing pages” and “savagely dull tome.” And yet it did also come around to this:
Mr. Harper has given us a remarkably meticulous academic account of events that, when considered after reading and distilling them, are objectively fascinating. I suspect that’s what he set out to do, and it would be churlish to begrudge him the accomplishment or to pretend I expected a thrill-a-minute page-turner.
The New York Times’ hockey correspondent Jeff Z. Klein: Continue reading