March 16, 2008

The Ken Reardon-Cal Gardner "Bond" Incident

Memories of Ken Reardon are abundant following his death this weekend. Most of the memories involve some sort of on-ice violence, which surprises no old time hockey fan who even remotely knew Reardon.

Reardon was Don Cherry's boyhood idol, and "Grapes" referred the "bond incident" and Reardon's feud with Cal Gardner. Not a lot of people know about the vicious feud, so here's how that story shook down.

As the bad man of pro hockey, Reardon was certainly no stranger to hot water. He had several feuds around the league, but none more intense than with Cal Gardner.

The rugged Gardner wasn't noted to be a particularly dirty player, but he inadvertently triggered their feud when he crosschecked Reardon in the mouth late in the 1947 season. A donnybrook ensued, with a New York Rangers fan even getting involved and taking a swipe at the bleeding Reardon. Mayhem erupted as the Canadiens attacked the fans as police tried to break it all up.

The vengeful Reardon promised retaliation on Gardner every time they played again, although nothing noteworthy would happen until November, 1949. Gardner, now with the Toronto Maple Leafs, had his jaw broken by Reardon in a game at the Forum. Desperately hoping to end the feud, NHL president Clarence Campbell forced Reardon while he was on the ice to post a $1,000 bond against future violence! Campbell had had enough, especially since earlier in the month Reardon and teammate Leo Gravelle were arrested and jailed for hours in Chicago after Hawks fans claimed they attacked them with their sticks. The case was dismissed by a judge.

Nothing more would happen between Gardner and Reardon, though legend has it that time failed to heal the wounds. Supposedly the two carried ill will to each other long after their careers on the ice ended.

Reardon would never have to pay money for a violent act. He would retired at the conclusion of another all star season in 1950. He said his body could no longer withstand his violent style of game, but that his heart and mind would never let him tone down his game.

Related: Who was Cal Gardner?

No comments: