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Stupid? Ah…..Glen….isn’t that pretty harsh? Would it not have been more politically correct to use the term “ill-advised”, or “unthinking”—rather than applying anything that has related to our National Sport as “stupid”.
Well, you’ll notice that I avoided saying “imbecilic”, or “idiotic”, or even “witless”. You see those terms imply some kind of mental imbalance or shortcoming.
But “stupid” acknowledges the capacity to discern wise or unwise, sensible or foolish, insulting or polite—yet a move to proceed anyway. It smacks of irresponsibility. It has been said: “Stupidity is the deliberate cultivation of ignorance!” That about covers it!
I guess “surfing the net” is probably a bit passé these days. I recall the first mention of it; and I didn’t even have a computer at the time. The closest I could come was TV “channel surfing”. But, I still practice it. Not at random, mind you. But with a particular theme in mind, I take the popular “Google” route—submitting a topic—and letting the chips fall where they may.
Recently, when contemplating this column, my search was for “Stupidity in Hockey”. One of the first hits took me to the Hockey News Ken Campbell’s commentary on dumb move made in the Chinook (Senior) Hockey League operating in Alberta.
Former Oiler’s Star, Ryan Smyth, was skating for the sheer enjoyment of it with the Stony Plains Eagles. On March 11, 2017, he slipped a nifty backhand behind the Lacombe General’s goalie. He was rewarded with an elbow to the head courtesy of Kyle Sheen, whose reputation earned in every league in which he had skated was one word: “goon”. During his stint in the SPHL, he tallied 18 points one season—and was involved in 18 fights. Taking that mindless attitude into the amateur forum, he seriously injured a former pro, just playing for the fun of it. Now that was a stoopid move!
Examples galore have appeared in print during every era the existence of the world’s premier shinny fraternity. In fact there are so many that one could easily pen a small booklet overflowing with such occurrences.
Space is limited in this on-going column, so some of the more formidable instances will be given priority.
**When “Red” Dutton was President of the NHL, he was constantly quoted as being dissatisfied with the method of tabulating assists when goals were scored. In a word he felt that those in charge of that duty were too generous in crediting players with these helpers when markers were tallied. For one thing, official scorers were often journalists covering the action of their respective “home” teams, making them biased in their definition of assists. It was discovered that in some cases these points were awarded to skaters who were not even on the ice at time of the goal.
The most bizarre case of this scenario involved “Pep” Kelly, when he was a member of the Maple Leafs. One night on the early 1930’s the Blue and White were hosted by the Blackhawks in the Windy City. When the game report was examined, Pep’s name was found in the assist column. The problem was, he didn’t accompany his mates that night. He was sitting cosily at home in his house in North Bay! Some reach that!
**Back in the 1940’s the Globe and Mail featured a column by Ralph Allen, titled “Mostly Incidental”. His December 16, 1940 offering profiled the mysterious relationship between the Leafs’ paying customers and their star right winger, Gordie Drillon. He was the club’s leading scorer—who at that time had scored half of the total goals by the club. He was selected as an All Star three times.
But as Allen put it: “…the most effective of the Maple Leafs is the least popular of the Maple Leaf supporters!” They rode him whether he was doing well or doing badly. There were times when he bulged the twine and was met by silence in the stands. Contrariwise, fans actually booed when his name was announced following a marker. Meanwhile they heckled him whenever he was on the ice. Go figure!
**Despite the fact that he lived in Toronto, he was a Chicago fan — in a big way. Just previous to the March 26, 1953 game against the Canadiens, this unnamed shinny zealot, climbed 300 feet up the CBC TV tower, and threatened to jump if the Hawks didn’t win their match against the Habs. He had been there an hour when two detectives, two firemen, and two uniformed policeman, braved the climb to talk him down. While more than 1000 people looked on, detective Bob Miller managed to persuade the man to give up his mission. This enthusiast’s high (groan here) was all in vain. The Windy City troop lost the contest, 4-3.
**It has been said that “Opinions don’t attest facts—but facts should attest opinions.” I was reminded of that when I checked back on two statements made a few months apart by vintage hockey personalities, normally held in high esteem.
Jacques Plante only played part of the 1953-54 campaign with the Canadiens, tending goal in 55 contests for the AHL Buffalo Bisons. But as the iconic backstop gained continuing approval by the parent club, former player and current referee, Carl Voss, opined: “He’s the worst looking goalie I’ve ever seen in the NHL!”
In the November 2, 1957 issue of the Hockey News, Publisher Ken McKenzie quoted Manager Lynn Patrick of the Boston Bruins: “Don Simmons is the best goalie in the National League. I had a chance to get Glenn Hall. He’s the All Star goalie. I’ll take Simmons!” Nuff said!
**I guess it would be safe to say that things started off with a “bang” on February 3, 1962. Just as the house lights dimmed, and the band was tuning up to play the National Anthem, a small bomb exploded in front of the Maple Leaf bench in the Gardens. There was a loud noise, a bright flash, and a cloud of smoke. Linesman Matt Pavelich and Toronto defenseman Bobby Baun got the worst of it. Both had their faces seared. The “Boomer” had automatically raised his hand in defense, and his hockey glove was singed. Pavelich said that he felt something brush his face, and ended up with holes in his sweater and trousers. There were also holes burned in the ice. Miraculously, no one was actually hurt. Because of the darkened building the culprit escaped without detection. But it is just a guess that whoever was guilty probably planted firecrackers under his grandmother’s rocking chair when he was a kid too.
**The Saturday Evening Post was widely read magazine 1897 through 1963. It was not only colourful but a highly-respected publication, published weekly during that time. So its sports-minded readers couldn’t resist shaking their heads at the “People on Their Way Up” in the final March 1962 issue. The complimentary tribute that week featured none other than the wild and rebellious “puck’s bad boy”, Howie Young. He had just recently been suspended by how own team, the Detroit Red Wings, and reinstated for the purpose of farming him out to the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Flyers. Although blessed with natural talent, his penchant for getting into trouble on and off the ice outshone that trait. He was known for his drunkenness, his tendency to get into fights, his high penalty-minute totals, and his disregard for any hockey authority.
NHL President, Clarence Campbell once accused him of being “the greatest determent to hockey that ever laced on a pair of skates!” Hardly the kind of recommendation to warrant such accolades.
**On November 9, 1963, the Maple Leaf’s GM, Stafford Smythe, took the lead in rectifying a long-lasting lame-brain policy held by the NHL. On that evening, for the first time, sparring combatants, Bob Pulford and Terry Harper, served their banishment from active duty for brawling in separate sin bins. The son of Toronto’s founder, Conn Smythe, at long last came to the conclusion that “it was ridiculous to give penalties to the players for scrapping, then to sit them side-by-side while they serve their sentences!” Talk about overlooking the obvious—yet the highest level circuit in the game had hidden their heads in the sand for 46 seasons. That medication was of the slow release kind!
** All hockey fans recognize the 1970’s as a decade when violence prevailed in Canada’s National Sport. Not only did the Broad Street Bullies set the pace for the rest of the league, but the apparent attitude by all and sundry in positions of power, accepted it as a normal approach to the sport.
That explains the lack of intervention by then-NHL President Clarence Campbell to a particularly distasteful incident which took place on November 5, 1975. In the second frame of a match between the Leafs and the Red Wings, Toronto’s young defenseman, Brian Glennie was the victim of a blind-sided sucker punch, courtesy of “Dangerous Dan” Maloney. His goon tactics continued as he hit him a further number of times; then kept lifting him off the ice and dropping him down again. The sum total of Maloney’s retribution was a five-minute major sentence and $100. fine. The league’s C.E.O. announced that he saw no reason for further action against the attacker.
Meanwhile, as the rugged winger continued his tough approach to hockey in that game, Glennie was being admitted to the hospital with a concussion, admitting that he had no memory of the event. Ontario Attorney General, Roy McMurtry, however, didn’t agree that it was just another ho hum dust up in the game. He charged him with “assault causing bodily harm”. Perhaps, predictably, he was acquitted. Just shows to go you—under certain circumstances, there just ain’t no justice no how!
**On February 28, 1978, Howard Baldwin, owner of the New England Whalers, announced that both the Winnipeg Jets and the WHA were on the verge of financial collapse. “The days of the WHA pretending to be a major league are over!” He offered that the loop likely would still be around, but as a minor league. A week later it was announced that the remaining four teams had made application to join the NHL—akin to asking to borrow Dad’s car after complaining the last time “it was low on fuel, so I had to buy gas for it!”
Yet in early April, that same fraternity made public its intention to seek an expansion site in the Pacific Hockey League. This was late in the first season of the fledgling low level pay-for-play loop—a circuit which didn’t even complete its second campaign. Something illogical about that move.
**When it comes to the NHLPA’s attempt to wangle increased stipends for their players, the word “greed” has occasionally found its way into print. I will not ape that accusation at this time. But, I will share the account of how the wrong personal assumption about a player’s worth at contract time can backfire. In August of 1988 the Rangers’ Emile “Cat” Francis offered Rod Gilbert $55,000 annual salary. Sir Roderick was convinced he was a more value to the Broadway Blueshirts than that—so he went to arbitration. When the dust had settled the moderator had advised he should be content with $52,000. Sometimes it pays to leave well enough alone!
“Ill-advised”? “Unthinking”? A backward glance at the episodes listed above suggests that it involves more than that! The lack of common sense demonstrated in each case, suggests that the statement made by “anonymous” was right on target: “You can’t fix stupid!”
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