July 22, 2014

1933-34: Tragedies and Near Tragedies



The Three Stars:

Chuck Gardiner: Triumph and Tragedy

Two time Vezina Trophy winner Chuck Gardiner guides the Chicago Black Hawks to the Stanley Cup, but literally sacrifices his life in the process. Gardiner, a four time all star, ignores a painful tonsil infection that spring. The infection spread throughout his body while he continued to spectacularly play through, hoisting the Stanley Cup in the process. Days later Gardiner collapses and falls into a coma. The 29 year old later died from a brain hemorrhage that originated from that infection.



Ace Bailey Nearly Killed By Eddie Shore

Boston and Toronto have had some heated battles over the many years, but never more so than the frightening December 12th, 1933 match at Boston Garden. In the first period Leafs star defenseman King Clancy dumps Eddie Shore of the Bruins - perhaps the most feared man in hockey. Clancy headed up the ice while the attentive forward Ace Bailey covered Clancy's vacant position. Mistaking Bailey for Clancy, Shore attacks him from behind and Bailey's helmetless head hits the ice. Bailey is rushed to hospital and is listed in critical condition. A death notice even mistakenly prints in the Boston paper the next day. Bailey would survive, but would never play again. Shore was suspended for 16 games.

Bailey Benefit Game Gives Hockey First All Star Game

Bailey considered suing Shore over his career ending injury, so rather than face precedent setting litigation, the NHL offered a solution - a benefit game between the Leafs and a group of NHL All-Stars. $20,900 was raised, all going to Bailey, who famously shakes Eddie Shore's hands. The NHL All Star game would soon become an annual tradition.



Season Highlights:
  • To enhance scoring, NHL mandates that only three players (including the goalie) can occupy the defensive zone.
  • Visible time clocks are required in all NHL arenas
  • Two referee system replaces one referee/one linesman system.
  • James Norris Sr. buys the Detroit Falcons and renames the team the Red Wings.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens strike a blockbuster trade: Goalie George Hainsworth to Toronto for goalie Lorne Chabot.
  • Leafs win "Canadian Division" with 26-13-9 record. Detroit wins American Division, but Chicago notably gives up the fewest goals in the league, earning goalie Charlie Gardiner the Vezina Trophy.
  • Mush March certainly earned the reputation as a scoring hero. He scored the Stanley Cup winning goal at 10:50 of couble overtime in the fourth and final game.
  • The Hawks not only lost Gardiner after the season but rookie Jack Leswick as well. Leswick, who scored only 1 goal in the 1933-34 season, died in August, 1934 in a drowning accident.
  • The Leafs Charlie Conacher wins the scoring title with 52 points in 42 games. 32 times he scored goals, the third goal scoring title for "The Big Bomber" in four season.
  • Pint sized Aurel Joliat of Montreal wins the Hart Trophy, as he takes over from the injured Howie Morenz as the most valuable player in hockey.
  • The Leafs newest superstar, King Clancy, was celebrated on St. Patrick's Day in a hockey celebration never seen before or since!

July 21, 2014

1932-33: Eddie Shore Is All Hart


The Three Stars:

The Red Wings Are Born - These are tough days in the Motor City. The hockey team - the recently renamed Falcons, formerly the Cougars - are in receivership . But in September 1932 the team is sold to Chicago grain millionaire James Norris. Norris instantly renames the team the Red Wings and introduces the now famous winged wheel logo. Norris then begins to build one of the greatest franchises in all of sports history.

Doraty Ends Marathon - The final game of the best-of-five playoff series between Toronto and Boston began on April 3rd but did not finish well into the wee hours of the morning on April 4th. Early in the sixth overtime period, Toronto's Ken Doraty beats Boston goalie Tiny Thompson after 104:46 of overtime! The game ended at 1:50 am! The game is the longest game in NHL history, though it would bettered three years later in a famous game between Detroit and the Montreal Maroons.



Rangers Win The Stanley Cup - The New York Rangers win the Stanley Cup, thanks to the Bread Line and goalie Andy Aitkenhead. The acrobatic Aitkenhead may be the least respected Stanley Cup winning goalie in history's eyes. Meanwhile the Cook-Boucher-Cook line goes down as one of the greatest trios of all time. Bill Cook captures the league scoring championship before scoring a spectacular Stanley Cup winning goal against Toronto.



Season Highlights:
  • Voss Wins First Rookie Of The Year - The NHL introduces a new trophy. The Rookie of the Year award (later named in honour of Frank Calder in 1937) is first awarded Detroit forward Carl Voss. Voss went on to a vagabond career, playing for 8 teams in 8 years. He is better remembered as an official and referee-in-chief for which he was one day enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
  • The Ottawa Senators return following a one season hiatus. The Great Depression is hurting the NHL. A team salary cap is introduced at $70,000 per team and $7500 maximum per player.
  • For the first time the NHL allows teams to choose a skater to serve minor penalties charged against goaltenders.
  • Eddie Shore becomes the first defenseman to win the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player. To this day it is rare for a defenseman to win hockey's most coveted individual prize. Shore would win a total of 4 Hart Trophies in his career.
  • Reg Noble retires at the end of the season, making him the last of the original NHL players who debuted back in December, 1917.

July 20, 2014

1931-32: Gardens Party



The Three Stars:

Maple Leaf Gardens Opens - Toronto's Conn Smythe is laughed at when he reveals ambitious plans to build Maple Leaf Gardens during the Great Depression, but he succeeded with flying colours. On November 12th, 1931 13,233 Maple Leafs fans watch the first game in the fancy new arena at the corners of Church and Carlton, as the visiting Chicago Black Hawks defeat the home team 2-1.  The Gardens were built, amazingly, in less than 6 months for a total of $1.5 million.  Smythe found creative ways to keep the project on budget, such as using Leafs players as security guards at the job site and convincing unionized workers to take 20 percent of their pay in Gardens stock.


Leafs Win The Cup - The Leafs win the Stanley Cup in what was known as "The Tennis Series." That's because they defeated the New York Rangers in straight sets - 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. The Leafs were powered by the fantastic "Kid Line." Left winger Busher Jackson leads the entire league in scoring with 53 points. Right winger Charlie Conacher ties Bill Cook of the Rangers for most goals with 34 tallies. And center Gentleman Joe Primeau sets a NHL record with 37 assists - a mark that would stand for a decade.



Ottawa, Philadelphia Victims Of Great Depression - The financial news outside of Toronto was not nearly as good. On September 26th, 1931 both the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Quakers announce they would discontinue operations. The Quakers claimed to have lost $100,000 in the previous season. The Senators, who would return in 1932-33, lost more than $50,000.

Season Highlights:
  • Interestingly, there was a buyer very interested in the Ottawa franchise. A Chicago investor offered $300,000 for the franchise but it was contingent upon the team moving to Chicago to play out of the new Chicago Stadium. However there was a pretty significant stumbling block in this process as the Chicago Black Hawks exercised their territorial rights. and refused the deal.
  • Conn Smythe was not only throwing around big money with the arena. He offered the Montreal Canadiens $75,000 in exchange for superstar Howie Morenz. The Habs, of course, said no thank you.
  • Smart move for Montreal. Morenz finishes third in the scoring race (24-25-49) and is awarded his third Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.
  • Chicago goalie Charlie Gardiner leads the NHL with a 1.92 GAA and wins the Vezina Trophy.
  • The Montreal Maroons reportedly offered the Boston Bruins $40,000 in exchange for Eddie Shore. Again, no deal.
  • Despite the reduction from 10 to 8 teams, the NHL expands the schedule to 48 games per team in an attempt to increase revenue.

July 19, 2014

1930-31: Smythe's Gamble Pays Off Royally

Red Horner, King Clancy, Hap Day


The Three Stars

Smythe Gambles On King - Wins Royally - Toronto Maple Leafs manager Conn Smythe wins nearly $15,000 betting on Rare Jewel, a thoroughbred racehorse he owns. The horse, who legend has it was fed brandy before the race, was a 100-to-1 long shot to win. Smythe then borrows $20,000 and sends the $35,000 plus defenseman Art Smith and forward Eric Pettinger to Ottawa in exchange for the charismatic defenseman King Clancy. Clancy became the leader of the team that dominated the 1930s. And he continued shaping the franchise for decades later.

Howie Morenz, Aurel Joliat, Johnny Gagnon

Flying Frenchmen Win Stanley Cup - The Montreal Canadiens repeat as Stanley Cup champions, thanks to Cy Wentworth's overtime dramatics, Johnny "Black Cat" Gagnon's addition and the high flying Howie Morenz. "He's the hardest player in the league to stop," boasted Boston's Eddie Shore. Morenz led the league in scoring again this season (28-23-51) and won the Hart Trophy.

Cook Brothers with Frank Boucher

Legendary All Stars - The NHL begins the practice of naming first and second all star honours at the conclusion of the season. The inaugural class sure set the tone as every player would one day be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 1930-31 First All Star Team consisted of Charlie Gardiner in net, with Eddie Shore and King Clancy on defense; Bill Cook joined Montreal teammates Howie Morenz and Aurel Joliat up front. The Second All Star team included Tiny Thompson in net with Ching Johnson and Sylvio Mantha on the blue line. Frank Boucher and Bun Cook were joined by Dit Clapper. Even the coaches would one day get the HHOF nod - Lester Patrick and Dick Irvin.

Season Highlights:
  • February 14th, 1931 sees a rare occurrence as the officials award three assists on one goal. The official scoring lay is Charlie Conacher from Busher Jackson, Joe Primeau and King Clancy.
  • Charlie Conacher leads the NHL in goals with 30. Howie Morenz edges out Ebbie Goodfellow for the scoring title.
  • Philadelphia's Lowly Season - Coming off of a dreadful 5-36-3 season in 1929-30, the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise is transferred to Philadelphia and is rebranded as the Quakers. The team, who were owned by boxer Benny Leonard, posted an even more pathetic 4-36-4 season. That is a puny .136 winning percentage, the worst in NHL history. The team was outscored 184-76! Not even the City of Brotherly Love could get behind these losers, as this team was run out of town after just one season
  • On January 3rd, 1931 Montreal Maroons center Nels Stewart scores 2 goals in just 4 seconds!

July 18, 2014

1929-30: Goal Rush!

The Three Stars:

Goal Rush! - Alarmed by the decrease in scoring, which led to a record low average of 2.9 goals per game in 1928-29, the NHL introduces rule changes that allow forward passing in all three zones, but not over either blue line. The impact is immediate and enormous. The goals-per-game average jumps dramatically to 5.9 while shutouts drop from 120 to just 26. A month into the season the NHL actually invokes a sudden new rule to prohibit attacking players from crossing the opponents before the puck does - essentially what we now know as offside.



Weiland Smashes Morenz's Scoring Record - Cooney Weiland of the Boston Bruins doesn't just break the points scoring record - he shatters it! The slick center with the funny name scored 73 points (43-30-73). That's 22 more than Howie Morenz's record mark of 51. Weiland's mark would stand for another 11 years. Weiland (43) and teammate Dit Clapper (41) lead the NHL in goals and lead the Bruins to an incredible 38-5-1 record. Boston set several records that season, including most points (77), wins (38), goals (179), longest winning streak (14 games) and highest winning percentage (.875). Yet, somehow, the fail to win the Stanley Cup. The Montreal Canadiens win the first of back-to-back championships.



Clint Benedict Becomes First Masked Man - Though Jacques Plante often gets credit for introducing the protective face mask to the goaltending world in the 1950s, Montreal Maroons goalie Clint Benedict actually was the first to experiment with the mask way back in 1930. Benedict suffered a badly broken nose on January 8th, 1930 thanks to a shot off of the stick of Howie Morenz. When Benedict returned to the lineup against the New York Americans on February 20th he wears a leather mask with a big nose piece. The mask lasted just one game - a 3-3 tie - before he discarded it. "The nose piece proved to be the problem, because it obscured my vision," said Benedict.



Season Highlights:
  • While Boston was at one end of the winning spectrum, the Pittsburgh Pirates were at the bottom. Pittsburgh goalie Joe Miller suffers through 35 losses in 43 starts. He allowed 179 goals against for a GAA of 4.08.
  • Also eclipsing Morenz's previous record of 51 points was Frank Boucher (62), Clapper (61), Bill Cook (59), Hec Kilrea (58), Nels Stewart (55). Morenz himself scored 50.
  • The New York Rangers become the first NHL team to travel by airplane. They hired the Curtis-Wright Corporation to flyer them to Toronto on December 13th, 1929 for a game the following day vs the Leafs. The Rangers lost, however, 7-6.
  • The Detroit Cougars change their name to Detroit Falcons.
  • High Sticking penalties are introduced
  • On December 19th, 1929 history is made as two defensemen - Pittsburgh's Johnny McKinnon and Toronto's Hap Day - both score 4 goals in the same game. Day actually had to be convinced to play for the Leafs that season as he was also a successful pharmacist.

July 17, 2014

1928-29: The Year Of The Shutout



The Three Stars:

The Year Of The Shutout - NHL goalies produce a record 120 shutouts in just 220 regular season games. The average goals per game in the NHL this season is a record low 2.9. Leading the way is Vezina Trophy winner George Hainsworth of the Montreal Canadiens, whose 22 shutouts (in 44 games!) and 0.92 GAA still stand as league records. Seven other goalies, including Hart Trophy winner Shrimp Worters of the New York Americans hit double digits in shutouts.

Black Hawk Drought - Believe it or not, the Chicago Black Hawks went eight straight games without scoring a goal. Vic Ripley (hence the earlier pun) finally scores three minutes into the third period of a 2-1 win March 2nd over the Montreal Maroons, ending a NHL record scoreless streak of 601:41. That scoreless drought spanned 28 days! Chicago was shutout a total of 20 times this season and only scored 33 goals in the entire 44 game season, setting a record of 0.75 goals per game. Chicago's goalie Charlie Gardiner posts a 1.93 GAA yet his record is just 7-29-8!



Bruins Win First Stanley Cup - Backstopped by the fantastic rookie goalie Tiny Thompson and the dynamic defensive duo of Eddie Shore and Lionel Hitchman, Boston goes undefeated in playoff competition and wins their first Stanley Cup.



Season Highlights:
  • Hal Winkler had his named inscribed on the Stanley Cup even though he did not play this season. He had retired and was replaced by Tiny Thompson. Winkler and Detroit's Vladimir Konstantinov (1998) are the only two players to have their names inscribed on the Stanley Cup without having played that season.
  • Interestingly, George Hainsworth's record this year - 22-7-15. No, not all 22 wins were shutouts. He played in several 0-0 ties.
  • Toronto's Ace Bailey led the NHL in scoring with 22 goals and 32 points. He regularly played on a forward line with Andy Blair and Dan Cox, but also took turns on defense with Hap Day.

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