December 20, 2013

So Much For The Christmas Spirit

The National Hockey League has not held games on Christmas day since 1971. A year later marked the end of games on Christmas Eve. Good on the NHL, allowing their players, coaches, managers etc the opportunity to enjoy a little family time and holiday cheer. Hopefully that never changes, although surprisingly the NHLPA was open to discussing the idea fairly recently.

But holiday cheer was not always first and foremost on the minds of hockey players at Christmas time. Just ask the oldtimers, back when hockey players were men and Christmas day was just another game.

Such as in 1930, when the Bruins humiliated the Philadelphia Quakers (yep, that was Philly's original NHL team) by a score of 8-0. A huge line brawl broke out after Quakers forward Hib Milks, pictured, cut open Boston's George Owen with his stick. The legendary Eddie Shore sought revenge, only to find Allen Shields standing up for Milks. Quakers goalie Wilf Cude probably had the best idea - of all the players on the ice, he stayed out of the fracas.

Or how about in 1968, when the elbow of the Leafs Mike Pelyk broke Bobby Hull's jaw so badly that The Golden Jet had to drink his Christmas turkey through a straw.

One team that felt especially merry to be playing on the biggest holiday of the year was the New York Rangers. In fact, the Rangers won 17 of their first 20 games played on Christmas Day.

Their 1949 game was particularly memorable. The Rangers knocked off the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 3-1. But it was the Rangers' forward Phil Watson who made the night unforgettable for those lucky enough to be in attendance.

Watson took to the pre-game warm up dressed up in a Santa Claus outfit. He went through his full workout routine disguised as jolly old St. Nick - taking shots, passing puck and even playfully checking his teammates!

Everyone loved the stunt. And how could the Rangers possibly lose the game? They had Santa on their side!

Update: Hockey Super Sleuth Jennifer Conway found this newspaper clipping of Watson's Christmas escapade (click on the photo for a larger image):


Here's a look at the Original Six teams all time record on Christmas Day:

New York Rangers - 25-11-2 in 38 games played
Chicago Blackhawks - 15-14-8 in 37 games played
Boston Bruins - 17-17-2 in 36 games played
Toronto Maple Leafs - 14-14-4 in 32 games played
Detroit Red Wings - 10-13-2 in 26 games played
Montreal Canadiens 8-9-2 in 19 games played.

1 comment:

Francis Bouchard said...

Great stories once again. I visit your site daily and really enjoy it.

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