Viewed 2306 times
In terms of chronology, by inserting an extra day in February every four years, leap years make up for lost time (literally). At least one genuine scenario adds some fun to that particular date—namely dilemmas which results from having been born on February 29—with a birthday only every fourth year. As one old timer gloomily put it: “I’m only 14 years old but look at all the wrinkles I’ve got!”
Cartoonist Al Capp, best remembered for his “L’il Abner” strip, actually started a long-lasting tradition based on a theme which constantly tickled his reader’s fancies for years. In the mythical Dogpatch community, where the Yokums lived, there dwelt “the homeliest gal in all them hills” (her own father’s words). The solution was “Sadie Hawkins Day”. The feature was a footrace, wherein all single gals were given the legal right to marry any eligible bachelor they could catch and drag across the finish line. (From this fanciful event evolved “Sadie Hawkins Dances”, where females invited males out on dates, reversing the normal practice.)
Needless to say, this scenario brought delight to some and dread to others. Spinsters who “got their man” were all smiles; single-minded men who lost their “freedom” were singing the blues.
As we review a century of major league hockey, from 1908 through 2008, Leap Years have continued to bring pleasure to some connected to the game, and pain to others. A number of quarterly occurrences warrant only a passing comment—others invite a more detailed digest.
1908-In the spring of that year, for the first time, an openly-professional Canadian league was represented in the challenge for the Stanley Cup. While the Montreal Wanderers, the reigning champions, had been recognized as a pay-for-play septet since 1904, they still participated in a so-called amateur circuit. But in the fall of 1907 the Ontario Professional Hockey League was founded. The Toronto Pros were the cream of the crop, thus qualifying them the right to contest for the famous award.
On March 14th, in a sudden-death contest hosted by the Montreal club, the Queen City squad came out on the short end of a 6-4 score. But their effort, according to the Globe & Mail (which had opposed the circuit) reported that the match had prompted “spectators to go away with a new impression of the OPHL!”
In his excellent new volume, Art Ross, Eric Zweig revives an amusing anecdote which emanated from this game. The Wanderers, who anticipated an easy romp over the Ontario upstarts, almost blew it with their arrogance. With the Redbands ahead 4-3 in the second half, play was held up for some time over a controversy resulting from a Toronto injury. Once settled, referee Frank Patrick blew the whistle to resume. But Art Ross, goalie Riley Hern, and Walter Smaill were deep in conversation with three lady spectators. After signaling play should resume “two or three times”, the puck was dropped regardless—and “Newsy” Lalonde immediately lifted the disc all the way into gaping Montreal cage—despite efforts by Ross to stop the shot. Had it not been for two later tallies, the reigning champs would have lit up the arena with their crimson faces! (By the way—the players later married those girls.)
1912-On January 2nd the puck dropped to open the first season of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. The shock waves had barely subsided from the December 7th announcement that the newly-organized rival major league loop had granted franchises to Vancouver, Victoria, and New Westminster, when the scheduled matches got underway. The main reason for that frenzy rested on the fact that of the 21 skaters listed on the rosters of the rival circuit, 11 had been recruited from the National Hockey Association in Eastern Canada. In 1913 an aggregation of NHA All Stars journeyed to the West coast to play a three-game exhibition series with the pick of the PCHA. The Cougars bested their Eastern counterparts two games to one, and outscored them 16-12. The new constituency was for real!
1916-Pro hockey’s only military team was admitted to the NHA at a special league meeting on September 30. Included in the 228th Battalion (or Northern Fusiliers) lineup were a number of hockey stars. Originally from the North Bay/Sudbury area, they settled in the Toronto region where they competed in the bulk of the circuit’s schedule before being ordered into active service. Decked out in full kaki uniforms, save for the big battalion logo on their chests, they were a very popular sextet, winning more than their share of games. Controversy plagued them, chiefly about the eligibility of the team members; but also over a postponed game due to the military leave preceding their eventual posting overseas.
1920-With the new NHL on more solid footing after being reduced to three teams in their inaugural season, personal highlights were in the spotlight that year. “Phantom” Joe Malone set a single-season scoring record by potting seven goals in a match again Toronto, in a 10-6 victory for his Quebec Bulldogs. That milestone still stands 96 years later.
On the other side of the coin the boisterous Sprague Cleghorn was making headlines for playing a full game without incurring a single penalty minute.
1924-Heretofore the NHL had been an all-Canadian fraternity. But that fall an American city was granted a franchise in the elite circuit. A team from Boston, nicknamed the Bruins, headed by the blustery Art Ross, was admitted along with an additional team from Montreal, the Maroons. Although this swelled the number of entries to six. This was not “the Original Six”. Strangely enough, the Forum, always known as the home of the Canadiens, was actually built for this new contingent.
1928-Although the story has been told umpteen times, it cannot be overlooked as the prime landmark connected with that season. In the Stanley Cup finals between the Montreal Maroons and the New York Rangers, the Mount Royal’s Nels Stewart backhanded a shot which struck the Blueshirt’s netminder, Lorne Chabot just above the eye. As he was removed to the hospital, the Rangers scrambled to find a replacement to stand between the pipes. The league rule stated that such a substitute must be a player under contract. No New Yorker qualified to fill the bill. When the Maroons refused to allow either Ottawa’s Alex Connell or London’s minor pro backstop, Hugh McCormick, to step into the gap, Manager Lester Patrick donned the big pads himself. Although his style was extremely unorthodox, he managed to lead his troops to a 2-1 victory! (It should be noted that many reports of this incident include the erroneous claim that Lester “had never played this position before”. But indeed he had. Three seasons before he had a 10-minute stint in goal with the Victoria Cougars, of which he was owner, manager, coach, and defenseman)
1932-With the paint barely dry on the brand spanking new Maple Leaf Gardens, the daring “Little Major”, Conn Smythe, celebrated the opening of his modern facility by hanging a Stanley Cup banner in Toronto for the first time in a decade, and the initial triumph as the Maple Leafs (the last time it was as the St. Patricks). While the famous “Kid Line” had skated together previously, this was the season they came into their own. Had it not been for the pesky Howie Morenz they would have been the first triumvirate to finish 1-2-3 in the scoring derby. Three weeks on the injured list dropped Charlie Conacher into fourth spot, a single point behind the “Stratford Streak”.
Their reputation as “Hockey’s Fastest Scoring Line” was borne out in post-season competition. In his 1951 booklet, The Gashouse Gang of Hockey, Ed Fitkin wrote: “The performance of Primeau, Conacher, and Jackson—particularly Jackson—had the hockey world talking about little else!” With the slick-passing “Gentleman Joe” at centre, the speedy “Busher” at left wing, and the “Big Bomber” blasting his devastating shots from the right side, they combined to dominate the ice lanes.
1936-With a big push from Maple Leaf owner Conn Smythe, “King” Clancy reluctantly announced his retirement as an active player. Not only a skilled performer, but the source of antics and quips which injected light-hearted moments into serious situations, it was a boon to the game that he continued as referee in the league.
President Frank Calder requested that the loop accept a trophy in his name, to be presented to the best first-year player at the conclusion of each campaign. Apparently he stipulated that the winner must not have played any games in any previous schedule.
1940-The 1939-40 season has been tagged “the year the Canadiens almost died!” When the 48-game span of matches had been played, the Habs finished dead last in the seven-team fraternity. This was a position they held the bulk of the year—finishing with a mere 26 points, including only 10 victories. They had only two forwards in the top 30 scoring race, and the worst goals-against-average by far. Dick Irvin Jr. recalls that the last time his father coached in Montreal against them, there were only 2500 fans in attendance. The franchise lost $60,000., equivalent to six digits today. One mischievous Montreal newspaper cartoonist depicted the Canadiens as a drowning man off a sinking ship, calling for a life-saver. It was an embarrassment to the oldest franchise in the NHL.
1944-It has happened only once in the lengthy history of the world’s premier shinny circuit, and it went into the record books on February 20th. With a record crowd in attendance at the Chicago Stadium, the host Blackhawks and the visiting Maple Leafs played a scoreless tie—with no penalties called during the 60 minutes. The closest either team came to scoring was a disallowed marker by “Fido” Purpur, who tallied with a high stick. The match took only one hour and 55 minutes to complete.
1948-One of the NHL’s significant black eyes was headlined that calendar year. On March 9th President Clarence Campbell announced the immediate lifetime suspension of Ranger’s Billy Taylor, for gambling on games and his association with Detroit racketeer James Tamer. Don Gallinger of the Boston was also suspended indefinitely, pending further investigation. It was discovered that he had wagered $1000. on a game in which he and his Bruins had played against Chicago. The Beantowners won, and he lost his bet—plus his shinny privileges for life. The ban of both players was lifted in 1970, but was of little consequence to either of them by then.
Viewed 2306 times
The Revival of Hockey's Lost Art of Stickhandling - Part 2
Posted February 15, 2019
The Revival of Hockey's Lost Art of Stickhandling - Part 1
Posted February 01, 2019
The Rise and Fall of Sweater Number 9
Posted January 23, 2019
Penalty-Free NHL Games
Posted January 09, 2019
The Greatest of These is Charity
Posted December 22, 2018
Minor League 'Davids' Defeating Major League 'Goliaths'
Posted December 07, 2018
The Shadow Knows
Posted November 25, 2018
Lying Down on the Job
Posted November 04, 2018
The Perils and Pleasures of Water
Posted October 19, 2018
Hockey's Cinderella Teams
Posted October 07, 2018
Posted May 19, 2018
Hockey's Classic Embarrassing Moments
Posted May 10, 2018
Playing in a Fog
Posted April 21, 2018
Posted April 08, 2018
First Game, First Shift, First Goal!
Posted March 26, 2018
Always a Bridgroom
Posted March 12, 2018
The Year the Canadiens Almost Died
Posted February 24, 2018
Tangled With the Law and the Lawless - Part 2
Posted February 17, 2018
Tangled With the Law and the Lawless
Posted January 28, 2018
Lucky Black Cats and Number 13
Posted January 17, 2018
Concussions in Hockey Nothing New
Posted December 30, 2017
The Best Christmas I Remember
Posted December 18, 2017
Filling the Gap
Posted December 01, 2017
Off Duty Injuries; mishaps away from the rink
Posted November 13, 2017
The Most Cruel Bird of All
Posted October 26, 2017
Las Vegas — NHL's 31st Team — Knights or Knaves?
Posted October 13, 2017
Playing Under the Influence - of Pain
Posted May 29, 2017
In Tune Pucksters
Posted May 14, 2017
Laughter - The Best Medicine
Posted April 29, 2017
The Last Straw
Posted April 15, 2017
Whose Side Are You On Anyway?
Posted March 30, 2017
Ferreting Out Phantom Hockey Stars
Posted March 17, 2017
A Woman's Place...is On the Ice (Part 2)
Posted March 08, 2017
A Woman's Place...is On the Ice (Part 1)
Posted February 19, 2017
Tales From the Sin Bin!
Posted February 04, 2017
Happy 100th Birthday N.H.L
Posted January 25, 2017
New Year's Resolutions that Might Have Been
Posted January 06, 2017
It Happened on December 25th
Posted December 21, 2016
The Best of Hockey's One-Liners
Posted December 10, 2016
The Price of Stardom
Posted November 18, 2016
Is There a Doctor in the House?
Posted November 03, 2016
Auston Matthews: Liberator or Lemon?
Posted October 14, 2016
Hockey's Multi-Generation Families
Posted June 16, 2016
Picture Perfect - A Dozen Classic Hockey Photos
Posted June 08, 2016
Anatomy of the Penalty Shot
Posted May 17, 2016
Hockey's Honourary Indian Chiefs
Posted May 04, 2016
Posted April 17, 2016
Records That Will Never Be Broken
Posted March 31, 2016
Right Church — Wrong Pew
Posted March 23, 2016
Does "Captain" Mean Much Anymore?
Posted March 02, 2016
Posted February 21, 2016
Now That's Not Pun-ny!
Posted February 07, 2016
A Century of Leap Year Landmarks - Part 2
Posted January 26, 2016
Posted December 29, 2015
Practice Can Be Precarious
Posted December 11, 2015
How Much is a Body Worth?
Posted November 25, 2015
Brooklyn Bridge is Falling Down...
Posted November 15, 2015
Did You Have a Good Summer? (Part Two)
Posted November 01, 2015
Did You Have a Good Summer? (Part One)
Posted October 16, 2015
From Champs to Chumps
Posted June 07, 2015
CLEAN PLAY……CLEAN PLAYERS….TRUE SPORTS
Posted May 11, 2015
Putting the Bite on the Opposition
Posted April 24, 2015
One Eyed Wonders
Posted April 12, 2015
Captain Cage Cop
Posted March 26, 2015
Trade Deadline Deals — Blockbuster or Bluster?
Posted March 17, 2015
Fun In the Snow
Posted February 27, 2015
Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated
Posted February 16, 2015
It's not what they said - it's what they meant!
Posted January 31, 2015
Posted January 18, 2015
Hockey's New Years Babies
Posted January 03, 2015
Strange Gifts - Christmas or Otherwise
Posted December 20, 2014
Two Dozen + 1 Wacky Wonders
Posted December 06, 2014
The Last of a Long Line of...
Posted November 24, 2014
A Compendium of Referee Non-Calls
Posted November 09, 2014
40th Anniversary of the 1974 Summit Series
Posted October 25, 2014
The Many Faces of Training Camp
Posted October 13, 2014
The Rise and Fall of Playoff Heroes
Posted May 30, 2014
Boston Bruins Celebrate 90 Years
Posted May 17, 2014
A Curse Upon Ye!
Posted May 01, 2014
For the Birds
Posted April 20, 2014
They Were Not Fooled By Their Birthdates
Posted April 08, 2014
Bitten By The Hand That Feeds
Posted March 22, 2014
Tongue in Check
Posted March 08, 2014
A Few L.A.F.F.S. to Relieve your S.A.D.
Posted February 21, 2014
The Ultimate Valentine - A Kiss
Posted February 08, 2014
Hats Off to Hockey
Posted January 25, 2014
Posted January 11, 2014
New Year's Revelations
Posted December 30, 2013
Posted December 23, 2013
Esposito vs Esposito - Smith vs Smith
Posted November 30, 2013
Just Dying to Play Hockey
Posted November 17, 2013
What's In 50 Years
Posted November 02, 2013
The Ongoing Resolve - NHL Season is Too Long!
Posted October 20, 2013