March 12, 2009

Hockey's Believe It Or Not: Larry Leach's Unusual Penalty Shot

Have you ever heard of Larry Leach? Me neither, until today.

As you can see in the side photo, if Leach is a legend of hockey, it is in the minor leagues more so than the NHL. He played a long time in Portland with the old WHL Buckaroos.

But he also spent parts of three seasons with the Boston Bruins. From 1958 through 1962 he played in 126 games with B's, contributing 13 goals and 42 points. He was described as a useful checker on a line with Dick Meissner and Fleming Mackell.

I recently unearthed a Scott Young Globe & Mail article from the early 1960s. Young tells of "The Funniest Penalty Shot," involving our Mr. Leach.

Mr. Young will tell the rest of the story:
"On November 8th, 1959, Chicago was playing in Boston. Bronco Horvath of Boston was a large man in the league then, sinking goals as if hew were throwing buckshot into a hat. He, Jean Beliveau of Montreal and Bobby Hull of Chicago were leading contenders for the scoring championship and the bonuses that go with it.

"In the third period Alger Arbour of Chicago threw his stick. This was the one infraction which referees of that day were certain called for a penalty shot. Dalton McArthur ruled accordingly.

"Consulting his rule book he read the part saying that the coach of the non-offending team could name the player to take the shot. "Hmmm," said McArthur to himself, "Well, a Boston player had the puck, so Boston was on the offensive. That means Chicago is the non offending team. I will go and inform my old friend Rudy Pilous of his responsibilities in this matter."

He skated to the Chicago bench. "Who's going to take it?" he asked.

Pilous said, "Whah-h-h-h-h?"

McArthur courteously explained the rule to him. On the Boston bench Milt Schmidt, the coach, was being stricken with several successive attacks of apoplexy as he kept sending Horvath out to take the penalty shot and McArthur kept sending him back. With a might effort, Pilous kept a straight face. "Give me a minute to think about," he said. "It's rather an important decision, you know."

As McArthur skated off a short distance, the Chicago players implored Pilous to exercise this once in a lifetime privelege to the fullest extent and request that the Boston goalie take the shot. Pilous was sorely tempted.

However, he said, "I thought that if I called for the goalie, McArthur would catch on that there was something rather unprecedented in this entire matter and send out for a dictionary."

Accordingly, Pilous raised his opera glasses and scrutinze the Boston bench. Down at one end, slowly turning to stone from lack of action through the first month of the season, sat Larry Leach.

Leach is a nice chap. All the goalkeepers in the NHL at the time said so.

"Larry Leach," Pilous said to McArthur.

When McArthur came over and ordered Leach to the ice to take the penalty shot instead of Horvath, only by the quick use of artificial respiration did Schmidt's physicians save him to fight another day.

Leach missed the penalty shot, although Boston still won 5-3.

Horvath, who could drive a puck through a keyhole at one hundred paces that season, missed the scoring championship four and a half months later. To Bobby Hull. By one point."

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