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1949-50: Gordie Howe Nearly Dies

The Three Stars:

Gordie Howe Almost Dies In On-Ice Mishap - During a playoff loss to arch rival Toronto, Gordie Howe attempts to hit Teeder Kennedy of the Leafs with a big hit. "I saw Howe coming," Kennedy said. "I stepped aside and he crashed into the boards." The Wings saw it different, with coach Tommy Ivan claiming Kennedy butt-ended or elbowed Howe. The debate continues to this day, but the bottom line was Howe crumpled on the ice in a bloody mess. He suffers a skull fracture, concussion, broken nose and cheekbone and a lacerated eyeball. Doctors have to drill through his skull to relieve pressure on the brain. Of course Howe would be okay.

Battle of the Bulge - With the Leafs mired in an early season losing streak, GM Conn Smythe famously decides his team needs better conditioning. Pudgy goaltender Turk Broda becomes the whipping/poster boy, despite his incredible playoff record in recent years. "We are not running a fat man's team. He is off the team until he shows some common sense. Smythe demands Broda get down to 190lbs. He was so serious that he traded 5 players and cash to land star goaltender Al Rollins. Broda does comply though the media have a field day with it all.

Reardon/Gardner Feud Continues - In what may be the most contentious personal rivalry in NHL history, Ken Reardon and Cal Gardner never stop battling one another. When Reardon is injured by Gardner in a game on January 1st, 1949, Reardon tells the media "Even if I have to wait until the last game I ever play, Gardner is going get it good and plenty." This forces NHL president Clarence Campbell to step in and forces Reardon to put up a $1,000 good-conduct bond. Reardon retired at the end of the 1949-50 season without harming Gardner.

Season Highlights:
  • The NHL begins the practice of painting the ice white so that the game is easier to follow. 
  • The Detroit Red Wings' "Production Line" finishes 1-2-3 in the NHL scoring race. Ted Lindsay wins the Art Ross Trophy with 78 points while Sid Abel (69) and Gordie Howe (68) are runners up.
  • Gordie Howe scores 35 goals during the regular season, matching the total from his first three seasons in the NHL combined.
  • The Wings win the Stanley Cup, thanks in large part to goaltender Harry "Apple Cheeks" Lumley who posted 3 playoff shutouts. Pete Babando scored the Stanley Cup winning goal - a rare game 7 overtime goal!
  • Chuck Rayner of the New York Rangers wins the Hart Trophy as the league MVP. The wandering goalie (they say he used to wander up ice hoping to score a goal) had a sparkling 2.62 GAA.
  • But it was a different goalie who won the Vezina. Bill Durnan of Montreal won the top goalie award and the promptly retired.


sd said…
Also and it's interesting to note, no one expected to see the NY Rangers to the Finals that season. The Rangers had to wait until 1972 to get to the Finals again.

Also, it was the last time then the runner-up in the Stanley cup Finals was awarded the O'Brien Trophy.
RobertLidstroem said…
Hi Joe!

Thank you for finally linking players to their bio from an article! So much better reading! Keep up the good work!


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