Stan Fischler is an award-winning writer and broadcaster who's covered the game since 1954. He been a contributor to The Hockey News since 1955 and you can continue to find his Strange But True features in almost every issue. He's also produced the hockey newsletter, The Fischler Report, for the past 20 years. Order Fischler's latest book, "Behind the Net: 101 Incredible Hockey Stories," on amazon.com.
Ed Snider — friend and foe — who died on Monday was above being just special, he was inimitable.
The man, who helped found the Philadelphia Flyers and helped craft the expansion franchise into the NHL’s first expansion Stanley Cup-winners in 1974 and 1975, blended penultimate passion with supreme sagacity.
Snider and I had a friendly-enemy relationship although we had lots in common: both Jewish, both energetic supporters of the State of Israel, both the same age and both hockey nuts from the first time we watched stick handlers.
On a somewhat lesser scale, Andy Bathgate — who died at age 83 on Friday — was to the New York Rangers what Jean Beliveau was to the Montreal Canadiens.
Majestic is the best way to describe the manner in which Handy Andy carried himself both on the ice and away from the rink.
“Andy was a class act,” his former teammate Aldo Guidolin once told me on a Blueshirts road trip. “If Andy had played during his prime in Canada he would be legendary.”
As it was, Bathgate was Mister New York Ranger during the late 1950s although his tenure with the New York sextet was tumultuous at times.
So how in the world did the Toronto Maple Leafs ever manage to win their fourth Stanley Cup in six years in 1967?
For starters, the Leafs survived a mid-season 10-game losing streak and remained in playoff contention. When coach-GM Punch Imlach was hospitalized because of exhaustion and fatigue, president Stafford Smythe’s replacement choice, Rochester’s Joe Crozier, refused to undercut Imlach and take the coaching reins. Instead, Imlach’s sidekick, Francis ‘King’ Clancy, went behind the bench and inspired an unlikely winning streak.
Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall once described the business of puck-stopping as “sixty minutes of hell.” Fortunately, Hall, the man who played 502 consecutive NHL games without a mask, never had to endure the hockey Hades that befell New York Rangers goalie Ken ‘Tubby’ McAuley one night in Detroit. Facing the Red Wings Jan. 23, 1944, McAuley allowed 15 straight goals in what was the most one-sided shutout in NHL history. “Tubby should have been awarded the Croix de Guerre,” said Rangers coach Frank Boucher, “if not the Victoria Cross.”
Alas, McAuley got neither prize, but he sure grabbed plenty of ink in the NHL Record Book. It included his involvement with the following: most consecutive goals, one team, one game; most points, one team, one game; most goals, one team, one period; and most points, one team, one period.
WHATS WITH SIDNEY?
No matter how you shake it Sidney Crosby has become a curious subject for study in Pittsburgh. His slow scoring start was enough to raise eyebrows through the season’s first quarter although Sid seems to be back on track. What’s troublesome are reports of a feud with his former landlord and boss Mario Lemieux. That has created more negative vibes than the Penguins need.
The captain remains an untouchable, but it seems more and more likely that Evgeni Malkin will be GM Jim Rutherford’s best chip to play in the trading sweepstakes. The deal I can see — Malkin to Carolina for Eric Staal.
* There’s only one super team in the NHL right now and, ironically, barring the goaltender, that club doesn’t boast a single superstar. It happens to be the New York Rangers who are destined for the 2016 Stanley Cup. The reasons are simple: 1. New York features more good — not great — players at more positions than any other squad. 2. Henrik Lundqvist is at least as good as — I say better than — Vezina-winner Carey Price. 3. The Blueshirts collective defense beats those of any other NHL club. 4. Too-often-overlooked Alain Vigneault is at the top of his coaching game and certainly an Adams Award favorite.
These Rangers remind me of the 1946-47 Cup Champion Toronto Maple Leafs who failed to place a single player on either the First or Second All-Star Teams. A season later — when Toronto won its second of three straight titles — the only Leaf to place either on the First or Second All-Star Team was goalie Turk Broda. Leafs boss Conn Smythe called that club the best Toronto team he ever managed. Next June, I predict, we’ll be saying that this is the best Rangers team ever, and with only one All-Star, Lundqvist.
* Mike Babcock’s idea for the NHL to widen the nets is nuttier than a fruit cake. Sorry, Mike, but there is such a thing as “tradition” in hockey and tampering with the four-by-six feet goal is sacrilegious, no more, no less.
* For starters, 1-0 games through the years have been among the best I’ve ever seen, way back to 1951 when the Rangers Chuck Rayner shut out Detroit’s Terry Sawchuk two 1-0 games in a row.
* But if you want more scoring there are three very harsh ways to bring it about, starting with equipment-cheating goalies. “I don’t want to say ‘cheating,'” Jonathan Quick observes, “but there’s been some trying to supplement their gear a little bit.” Ray Ferraro says, “The upper body gear is, in some cases, comical. The sizing on goalie pants is crazy.”
As unknown goalies go, Jack McCartan was right up there – or down there, if you will – at the start of the 1959-60 season. After three years at the University of Minnesota, he seemed more destined for hockey oblivion than stardom on a world stage. Certainly no New York hockey savant could in his wildest fantasies picture this St. Paul product dislodging Hall of Famer Lorne ‘Gump’ Worsley or Stanley Cup-winner Al Rollins from the New York Rangers net. But McCartan did.
Even more far-fetched was the mere suggestion Jack would spearhead Uncle Sam’s Olympic team to gold at the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif. “Before we even hit the ice, everybody said we couldn’t possibly win gold,” said U.S. coach Jack Riley. “We were up against powers like Canada, Russia and Sweden.”