Wally Stanowski. Wally is a long forgotten about and underrated defenseman with the Toronto Maple Leafs during their Cup reign in the 1940s. He was a clever defensive player who excelled in his own zone first and foremost. In fact he was good enough to be named as a First Team All Star in 1941.
But for any hockey fans in attendance at the Boston Gardens in 1948, Stanowski would never be forgotten. It was that night that he skated into hockey legend and out of Toronto!
Wally was being benched during the game as he missed a typically rigid Conn Smythe curfew the night before. When Bruins goalie Frankie "Mister Zero" Brimsek got hurt, play was halted while the stopper was stitched up.
"Wally!'' barked Leaf coach Hap Day. "Get out there and warm up. We may need you.''
Stanowski obeyed, and took a few lazy turns around the ice.
"Not like that,'' cried the coach. "Get out there and go hard. Let's see some real skating.''
Perhaps Day should have been more specific. Stanowski, nicknamed the Whirling Dervish for his skating agility, proceeded to execute a dazzling series of loops and spins that would make Kurt Browning jealous. Soon the organist got into the action, providing some nice music as Wally twirled at center ice
The shocked crowd quickly joined in with the organist, rhythmically clapping as our Stanowski pirouettes over the blue line, ending at centre with a dazzling tippy-toe curtsy, a la Katarina Witt
Swooping back to the bench backward, with one leg extended, Wally asked: "How's that, coach?''
You might expect his coach to be furious, but he, like his teammates, the Bruins and the fans, was consumed with laughter.
However Conn Smythe must not have been impressed. Wally was soon traded with Elwyn Morris to the New York Rangers for Cal Gardner and Bill Juzda.
I bring up this story because CBC has been airing a new TV reality series this fall called Battle of the Blades. The hockey players will be paired up with female figure skaters. The pairs dance in an elimination style contest until one pair is crowned as champions.
Lanny McDonald, Glenn Anderson, Stephane Richer, Bob Probert, Ron Duguay, Claude Lemieux, Ken Daneyko, Tie Domi and Craig Simpson will compete with yet-to-be-named female partners. Ron MacLean and Kurt Browning will co-host the show, which begins in October.