November 14, 2007

75 year old fan shares his memories of yesterday

Recently I got an email from a 75 year old hockey fan named John Fleming. I can only hope to have as many great memories of hockey when I reach his age. Check out these memories of players long gone by:

"To this day I still remember the thrill I got when I listened to Danny Gallivan announce a Boom Boom Geoffrion goal. "Boom Boom Ah Geoffrioooonnn."

I remember Foster Hewett lecture during a game about how bad fighting was for hockey and then give a blow by blow description of a fight.

I remember the controversy about the difference between how the Red Wings played and the Canadians played. It came up every time one or the other would lose. The Canadians would generally use at least three passes on the way to the opposing blue line and then set up a shot with some quick in and out passes. The Red Wings were proponents of the "dump it in and hit the boards method." Of course both teams could pass. It was always said that Gordie (Howe) was slow but I can remember many times when (Sid) Abel started up the rink with Lindsay on a break-out with Howe trailing but by the time they hit the blue line Howe had caught up. He was a deceptive skater.

I also remember Rocket (Richard) skating in small circles near the opponents blue line while his teammates doug out the puck and tried to hit him in full stride going across the line. I don't remember Rocket as much of a defensive player, where Howe never got credit for his all-star defensive prowess.

As a goalie by trade, I especially remember Terry Sawchuck's hand speed in the net. It was amazing and discouraging to wingers trying to score against him. When Bobby Hull started using the slap shot I wondered what it would have been like as a goalie to be partially blocked and know that a 100mph plus puck could be coming at him and his unprotected face. No wonder goalies were a little strange back then.

CKLW radio in Detroit carried the Toronto Maple Leaf games and although they don't seem to get much mention in history, I remember Gaye Stewart, as fast a skater as there was in the 40's and Gus Bodner. Who was more ferocious looking in the net that Turk Broda?

As a kid I loved to listen to a description of a check handed out by Black Jack Stewart of the Detroit Red Wings and then the technique of Red Kelly, the first of the goal scoring defensmen.

Fleming seems to have a special soft spot for the old Red Wings. He spoke at length about Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe:

"I invited Ted Lindsay to a Methodist Church youth dinner in Birmingham, Michigan to show the Stroth's Brewery Red Wing Highlights film and talk to the youth of the church. Every thing went very well until Ted said at the end of his speech and the movie that you have to be a good loser to be a real sportsman, which I am sure Ted felt was the right thing to say even though he may not have believed it. The minister then stood up and said "What Mr. Lindsay is saying is that it is all right to lose", where upon Ted disagreed from his seat " I never said it was all right to lose." There was an pregnant pause. Anyone who had watched Ted over the years knew full well that losing was not one of his favorite things in life."

And on Gordie Howe:

"I grew up in Detroit in the late 40's and 50's. I watched the Red Wings at old Olympia Stadium and listened to Foster Hewitt on CKLW and occasionally Danny Gallivan. I played hockey and even had the opportunity to be coached a little by Terry Sawchuck on a shoveled lake north of Detroit and played fast pitch softball with Howe, Lindsay and others. My grandson is playing hockey in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and like many of his age Wayne Gretzky is the one. I have tried to explain to him that Gordie scored many goals with a defensman hanging on his shoulder or grabbing him from behind and it was seldom called. I have seen him score with only one arm free. In my opinion he gave up many goals to feed Abel and Lindsay. I also explain that from all over Canada and the United States only six goalies and six substitutes were selected to the NHL and Howe was shooting then against the very, very best. I remember Gump Worsley, when asked whom in his opinion was the most dangerous shooter in the NHL, he said Howe, because of his wrist shot that seemed to be in the net behind you before you saw him shoot. And I remember what I think was the greatest hockey fight of all times and it came just as the game ended with New York. Howe sought to punish Lou Fontinato (?) for shadowing him ( a new concept to stop Howe) all game long. It was not an equal fight as Lou was damaged badly by Howe. I also remember how they played hockey in those days with each player responsible for offense and defense equally and you never let your counterpart loose on a wing without hearing from the coach. The game changed to a more open form but then the day came when the Russians beat the Canadians and it was suddenly discovered that a free roaming team was not going to beat the Russians who had learned from the Canadians and played their position on defense and offense equally."

No comments: