suitcase and his socks

Luggage On The Left Coast: Gary Smith guarded Vancouver nets from 1973 through 1976.

Born in Ottawa on a Friday of this date in 1944, goaltender Gary Smith is 77 today. The nicknames he acquired during his career don’t really need a whole lot of explication, but here goes: Suitcase referenced his travels around the NHL, WHA, and minor leagues, wherein he played for 13 teams in 16 seasons during the 1960s and ’70s; Axe underscored his propensity for swinging sticks at passing opponents. His father, Des Smith, played defence starting in the late 1930s for four NHL teams, including Boston; brother Brian was a left winger for Los Angeles and Minnesota in the latter ’60s. Gary shared a Vézina Trophy with Tony Esposito for their work in the Chicago Black Hawks’ crease in 1972, and Smith backstopped the WHA Winnipeg Jets to the 1979 Avco Cup.

The following year was Smith’s last in hockey; it happened to be Winnipeg’s first in the NHL. Defenceman Barry Melrose was a teammate that season, and it’s to him we go for this news of Smith’s in-game rituals.

“He wore 13 pairs of socks in his goalie skates,” Melrose recollected in 2009, “because he hated pucks hitting his feet. He also wore long underwear and after every period, he took off all his gar and had a cold shower. Can you imagine the laundry the trainers had to do? It was 50-some socks per game plus four sets of underwear. The Axe was a weird dude.”

california goalin’

Sealing The Deal: Charlie Hodge poses for a 1968-69 promotional photo in his second season with the Oakland Seals, in which he and Chris Worthy backed up Gary Smith.

Born in Lachine, Quebec, on a 1933 Friday sharing this date, Charlie Hodge played a part in six Stanley Cup championships won by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1950s and ’60s. Twice he won the Vézina Trophy, in 1964 and again (this time in tandem with Gump Worsley) in 1966. After nine seasons in Montreal, he was claimed by the Oakland Seals in the NHL’s 1967 expansion draft. He spent two years in California before the Vancouver Canucks took him when they joined the league in 1970. He played a single season in Vancouver before calling it quits, sharing the net with Dunc Wilson and George Gardner. Charlie Hodge died in 2016 at the age of 82.

jack mcilhargey, 1952—2020

Sad news today from the alumni association of the Vancouver Canucks: former defenceman Jack McIlhargey died yesterday, July 19, of cancer. He was 68. Edmonton-born, McIlhargey was a Cougar in Victoria and a Bomber in Flin Flon before he got started in the NHL, in 1974, with the Philadelphia. Along with Larry Goodenough, McIlhargey and his moustache arrived in Vancouver in 1977 by way of a trade that returned Bob Dailey to Philadelphia. McIlhargey worked the Canucks’ blueline for parts of four seasons before ending his career with the Hartford Whalers. After retiring in 1982, he worked as both an assistant coach and assistant GM for the Canucks; he also, over the years, steered several of Vancouver’s minor-league affiliates, in Milwaukee, Hamilton, and Syracuse. He had stints, too, back in Philadelphia, with the Flyers, as both an assistant coach and as a scout. Jack McIlhargey was elevated to British Columbia’s Hall of hockey Fame in 2011.

vancouververgaert

VanCityStache: Born in Grimsby, Ontario, on a Monday of this date in 1953, Dennis Ververgaert turns 67 today. The Vancouver Canucks drafted him third overall in the NHL Amateur Draft, behind Denis Potvin (New York Islanders) and Tom Lysiak (Atlanta Flames), and ahead of Lanny McDonald (#4, Toronto Maple Leafs), Bob Gainey (#8, Montreal Canadiens), and Rick Middleton (#14, New York Rangers). As a 20-year-old rookie working the Canucks’ right wing, Ververgaert led the team in goals, with 26, in 1973-74, and ended up runner-up to Lysiak in Calder Trophy voting. He played six seasons with the Canucks and a further two with the Philadelphia Flyers before ending his career with the Washington Capitals in 1981.

 

 

phil maloney, 1927—2020

Coastal Coach: “He’s fiery type of man behind the bench,” the back of Phil Maloney’s 1974 hockey card confided, along with the news that he was “hopeful of vast improvement” for the Vancouver Canucks he was steering as both coach and GM. Born on a Thursday in Ottawa in 1927, Maloney died yesterday at the age of 92. He was a centreman when he played, skating in the NHL for Boston, Toronto, and Chicago, before finishing his career in Vancouver with the WHL Canucks. He started with the NHL Canucks as a scout in 1970, and served as an assistant coach, too, before the taking charge of the team in ’73. His best year behind the bench was 1974-75, when he steered the Canucks to the top of the Smythe Division and the team’s first appearance in the playoffs, where they duly fell to the Montreal Canadiens. In the winter of 1976, the GM in him fired the coach, replacing himself with Orland Kurtenbach mid-season.

coeur de lion

Richard Brodeur was born on this date in 1952 — it was a Monday there, then — in Longueuil, Quebec, which means he’s 67 today. Drafted by the New York Islanders in the seventh round of the NHL’s 1972 amateur draft, Brodeur decided instead to apply his goalguarding talents in the WHA, where he played five seasons with the Quebec Nordiques, helping them to win the 1976-77 Avco Cup.

As an NHLer, he played (not for long) with the Islanders and finished up (only just briefly) with the Hartford Whalers. In between, he featured for eight seasons in the nets of the Vancouver Canucks. In 1982, he helped steer the Canucks into a Stanley Cup finals meeting with the Islanders, who prevailed in four straight games. King Richard, fans nicknamed him then. Grant Lawrence was one such, and he wrote about his admiration in his 2013 book The Lonely End of the Rink:

Unlike many modern-day goalies, where less movement is more, King Richard would excite fans by seemingly throwing his entire body into every shot, making every save look incredibly dramatic and exciting, all four limbs always in action and in full extension. If King Richard was making a high glove save, the glove would shoot straight up in the air whiles his legs would do the splits and his stick hand would shoot out to the side.

During that Cup run in ’82, an Englishman who’d landed in Vancouver put together a group of fellow musicians (he called them King Richard’s Army) and recorded a cheerful dud of a tribute song in Brodeur’s honour. Sample “King Richard!” lyrics: “King Richard/ the lionhearted/ with you in command/ victory shall be ours.” Released as a single, it was given away to frenzied fans at Canucks’ games that spring. On the b-side? A cover of the national anthem of home hockey fans taunting a visiting team on losing night, “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”

 

asahi on ice

The story of Vancouver’s Asahi Athletic Club’s baseball team is a stirring one, even as it spotlights the shameful history of the Canadian government’s internment of Japanese-Canadian citizens during the Second World War. On a day when Historica Canada is unveiling its latest Heritage Minute (the 91st in that sterling series), you might take a look, here below. The club’s hockey team that’s depicted above is from an earlier generation, 1919-20. For more on the bat-and-ball Asahi, visit Historica Canada’s site (here) and maybe stop in at the page devoted to their history at the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame, this way.

 

(Top image: Library and Archives Canada/PA-117267)

the new scream in parlour games

The early pre-Munro table-hockey game known as Hockette would seem to have seen its heyday come and go in the early 1920s. Most of that, as far as I can tell, was on the West Coast. Giving it a go here are members of Charles Royal’s theatre troupe, onstage at Vancouver’s Empress Theatre. Doesn’t look like there was a lot to it: assuming that the table was sold separately, we’re talking about rudimentary wooden puck and peg-goalposts and a handful of wire wands. “Indoor Hockey, the new Scream in Parlour Games” was the sales pitch at one Vancouver store in 1921. At Woodward’s Department Store at Hastings and Abbott, you could pick up yours for 95 cents (reduced from $2.25). The game was already sweeping the city, apparently: the previous November, The Vancouver Daily World was reporting that Mrs. Carr of Strathcona had hosted a Hockette tournament at her house. “A pleasant evening was spent,” and what a crowd: Mrs. Drummond, Miss Clague, Mr. T. Tootle, and Mr. Rufus Dome all partook, though I’m afraid they were losers all. “Mrs. Christie and Mrs. Hendrick secured the honours of the evening.” (Image: Stuart Thomson, City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 99 – 3252)

a fine argument on the ice

The Vancouver Ladies’ Hockey Team line up on the steps of the Denman Street Arena circa 1914. Back row, left to right, they are Connie Smith (right wing), Betty Hinds (rover), Pete Muldoon (manager), Nellie Haddon (centre), Miss Matheson (left wing). From, from left: Mrs. French (coverpoint), Mrs. L.N. McKechnie (goal), Mrs. Percival (point). (Photo: Stuart Thomson, City of Vancouver Archives)

The Vancouver Ladies’ Hockey Team line up on the steps of the Denman Street Arena circa 1914. Back row, left to right (as originally captioned) they are Connie Smith (right wing), Betty Hinds (rover), Pete Muldoon (manager), Nellie Haddon (centre), Miss Matheson (left wing). From, from left: Mrs. French (coverpoint), Mrs. L.N. McKechnie (goal), Mrs. Percival (point). (Photo: Stuart Thomson, City of Vancouver Archives)

“Mr. Muldoon is of the opinion that there is sufficient class among the Vancouver ladies to give either of the opposition teams a fine argument on the ice.” This was February of 1914, and Pete Muldoon was looking to raise a women’s team to challenge those already on skates in coastal British Columbia. Come one, come all, the word went out: first practice will be Monday the 9th at the Denman Street Arena between 11 and noon.

In 1911, hockey’s famous Patricks — father Joseph along with sons Frank And Lester — put the family’s lumber fortune into building rinks and launching professional hockey in British Columbia. When the Pacific Coast Hockey Association got going in January of 1912 it counted in its ranks players whose names today among the most famous in the annals of the game, Cyclone Taylor, Newsy Lalonde, and the Patrick brothers among them.

Pete Muldoon played for Frank Patrick’s Vancouver Millionaires, but it was as a manager and coach that he’d make his name. His PCHA Seattle Metropolitans played three times for the Stanley Cup, winning it in 1917. When Major Frederic McLaughlin bought the Portland Rosebuds and turned them into the NHL’s Chicago Black Hawks, Muldoon was their first coach. He resigned after a year, unless he was fired — either way, the legend goes that he cast the curse that kept the Hawks out of first place in the NHL for 41 years when the spell was lifted/broken/proved to be bunkum.

Back to 1914. As Wayne Norton’s Women On Ice: The Early Years of Women’s Hockey in Western Canada (2009) explains, when teams from New Westminster and Victoria played each other in Victoria that February, Muldoon hatched the idea that a team of women he’d put together in Vancouver would then challenge the winner for the B.C. championship. Never mind that there were other women’s teams playing elsewhere in the province — Muldoon and company conveniently forgot about them.

Following that first practice at the Denman Street Arena and several more besides, the team made its debut on February 20. Wearing the colours of the PCHA Millionaires and playing seven-a-side, they beat Victoria 1-0 on a goal by Betty Hinds. The newspaper coverage was as casually and tiresomely sexist as you might expect, with the Vancouver Daily World reporting that

The game was exciting from start to finish and it was not all “butter fingers” playing at that. Some of the hockey exhibited by one or two of the local ladies and some of the Victoria ladies would certainly make many hockey players take notice.

Victoria and New Westminster had previously tied their game, so that when the Millionaires travelled to play the final game in the series, a win by New Westminster gave them the (somewhat suspect) title of provincial champions.

 

a thousand and thirty-three

#33 SedinTony Harris tells the story of illicitly drawing constant Tony Espositos when he should have been taking notes as a school kid in Lakefield, Ontario: that’s where his career as an artist started. Today, Harris, who’s 49, ranks as one of Canada’s foremost painters of athletes as well as the landscapes they inhabit. His early Espositoing had a practical side, too: Harris was a young goaltender himself, who went on to play in the OHL for the Kingston Canadians in the 1980s. As a hockey painter, his subjects have included Roger Nielson, Ted Lindsay, Zdeno Chara, Chris Phillips, and Daniel Alfredsson, among many others — no further Espositos, yet.

His latest NHL commission came back before Christmas when Vancouver got in touch about Henrik Sedin. “It has to be a good portrait,” Harris was saying this week from his studio in Ottawa, “that’s the first thing I think about. Take away the hockey, out of the rink, is it a good likeness? I want the player to look like he could step out of the painting and engage you.” He prefers to paint a player in repose, he’s said, “between whistles,” rather than in mid-slapshot, “so there’s a little bit of attitude, a little bit of thought of what’s going to happen next.” The Sedin portrait, he estimates, was 75 hours in the making. A week after he’d finished, in mid-March, Harris flew it west, framed if not completely dried. Henrik, who’s 33 and scarce minutes older than his twin, Daniel, played his 1,000th NHL game in Winnipeg on March 12.

In a ceremony on March 23, before a home game against Buffalo, Harris watched from a high Rogers Arena box as the Canucks’ marked the occasion in a pre-game ceremony in which the portrait was unveiled. The night ended with good news: the Canucks won the game, 4-2, though not before Henrik had to leave, in the second period, with an injured leg. “I went to hit a guy and he came back off the boards and he fell on top of me, so we’ll see how it is tomorrow,” he told reporters after the game. “I’m not declaring anything. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow and go from there.”

A later word was that he’d be off the ice for about two weeks.

To see more of Tony Harris’ lucent work, visit http://thfineart.ca.