If you were a smart player when Conn Smythe ruled Toronto hockey – and he paid your salary – you didn’t mess with the ‘Little Major’ of Maple Leaf Gardens.
Smythe had his rules, and woe to those who chose to break them. One of Conn’s canons had to do with weddings. Get married during the season and – uh-oh – brother you’ll get Zamboni-ed right out of the lineup. Johnny ‘Goose’ McCormack, who just happened to be the Leafs best penalty killer, couldn’t wait and wed Margaret Gordon during the 1950-51 campaign. Alas, the Goose was cooked. Faster than you can say mazel tov, McCormack was sold to Montreal. Read more
If the supreme boss of an NHL team tells his son – who had been the team’s leading scorer – he’s no longer good enough to make the club, how could the son possibly outwit his dad and get back on the squad?
This curious generational battle – won by the son – involved one of the NHL’s foremost powerbrokers, New York Rangers GM-president Lester ‘The Silver Fox’ Patrick, who demanded his oldest son, Lynn, a Hall of Fame left winger, not return to the Blueshirts lineup in October 1945 at the age of 33. Read more
You couldn’t make this up. An American-born National League baseball umpire coaches the Chicago Black Hawks in the 1937-38 season. His club finishes dreadfully under .500, yet manages to make the playoffs. His goalie is injured the day of Game 1. A replacement is reputedly found in a Toronto tavern. He beats the heavily favored Maple Leafs and then is suspended by the league. Eventually, the Hawks win the championship, but Lord Stanley’s Cup isn’t even around for the players to haul around the rink.
Go figure. Read more
It never happened before, nor has it happened since. And it very likely never will happen again.
Coached by Clarence ‘Hap’ Day, the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs remain the only team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup final. They accomplished that feat because Day went totally against the coaching grain, and then some. Read more
There are all kinds of doctors. You can start with medical doctors, shrinks and those who live in ivory towers, otherwise known as PhDs. In the NHL there have been two distinct species of docs: the ones who tend to wounds and the one who skated for the Chicago Black Hawks.
Elwyn ‘Doc’ Romnes, out of White Bear Lake, Minn., was a slick center who just hated his given name but loved being called ‘Doc’ – a moniker he got because he carried his skates in a physician’s case, of all places. Read more
No other goaltender in NHL history can lay claim to a record number of saves on the ice and then produce one of the most extraordinary saves of all-time at sea.
Sam LoPresti made his big-league saves for the Chicago Black Hawks and his even harder-to-believe save for the U.S. Navy. First, let’s start with the ice part of this saga that truly strains credulity. Read more
Everything about the New York Americans was bizarre, from the club’s oddly illegitimate birth to its remarkable involvement in the longest hockey game ever played in the Big Apple.
Let’s start with the fact that the Star-Spangled skaters arrived on Broadway in the fall of 1925 because of an illegal players strike in Canada the previous spring. Angry because they were denied a post-season bonus, the Hamilton Tigers refused to show up for the playoffs. NHL president Frank Calder suspended the strikers and then helped move the Tigers into just-completed Madison Square Garden. Just like that, the Tigers became the New York Americans. Meanwhile, the shadowy, behind-the-scenes enabler happened to be one of the most notorious gangsters of the Roarin’ 20s.
Only one team in NHL history ever had the sobriquet “Gashouse Gang” attached to it, and that was the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1930 through 1937. They earned the label by pulling off some of the most mirthful, colorful off-ice antics imaginable. “As their coach, they were my dream team type of players,” said Dick Irvin. “But they were certainly my nightmare types in hotels and on trains.”
No prank was too outlandish and no hostelry was too swank, not even Boston’s high-brow University Club, where one Maple Leaf, Charlie Conacher, once barricaded his buddy, Harold ‘Baldy’ Cotton, in their room just for the fun of it. Only Cotton’s screams brought an unsuspecting Irvin to the rescue. “It was during an era that lasted all too briefly,” said Ed Fitkin, an erstwhile Maple Leafs press agent. Read more