July 20, 2014

1931-32: Gardens Party

The Three Stars:

Maple Leaf Gardens Opens - Toronto's Conn Smythe is laughed at when he reveals ambitious plans to build Maple Leaf Gardens during the Great Depression, but he succeeded with flying colours. On November 12th, 1931 13,233 Maple Leafs fans watch the first game in the fancy new arena at the corners of Church and Carlton, as the visiting Chicago Black Hawks defeat the home team 2-1.  The Gardens were built, amazingly, in less than 6 months for a total of $1.5 million.  Smythe found creative ways to keep the project on budget, such as using Leafs players as security guards at the job site and convincing unionized workers to take 20 percent of their pay in Gardens stock.

Leafs Win The Cup - The Leafs win the Stanley Cup in what was known as "The Tennis Series." That's because they defeated the New York Rangers in straight sets - 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. The Leafs were powered by the fantastic "Kid Line." Left winger Busher Jackson leads the entire league in scoring with 53 points. Right winger Charlie Conacher ties Bill Cook of the Rangers for most goals with 34 tallies. And center Gentleman Joe Primeau sets a NHL record with 37 assists - a mark that would stand for a decade.

Ottawa, Philadelphia Victims Of Great Depression - The financial news outside of Toronto was not nearly as good. On September 26th, 1931 both the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Quakers announce they would discontinue operations. The Quakers claimed to have lost $100,000 in the previous season. The Senators, who would return in 1932-33, lost more than $50,000.

Season Highlights:
  • Interestingly, there was a buyer very interested in the Ottawa franchise. A Chicago investor offered $300,000 for the franchise but it was contingent upon the team moving to Chicago to play out of the new Chicago Stadium. However there was a pretty significant stumbling block in this process as the Chicago Black Hawks exercised their territorial rights. and refused the deal.
  • Conn Smythe was not only throwing around big money with the arena. He offered the Montreal Canadiens $75,000 in exchange for superstar Howie Morenz. The Habs, of course, said no thank you.
  • Smart move for Montreal. Morenz finishes third in the scoring race (24-25-49) and is awarded his third Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.
  • Chicago goalie Charlie Gardiner leads the NHL with a 1.92 GAA and wins the Vezina Trophy.
  • The Montreal Maroons reportedly offered the Boston Bruins $40,000 in exchange for Eddie Shore. Again, no deal.
  • Despite the reduction from 10 to 8 teams, the NHL expands the schedule to 48 games per team in an attempt to increase revenue.

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