As you might know, I’ve spent a long time living, reporting and researching the history of hockey and there’s nothing I love more than telling a good hockey story, sharing an interesting bit of hockey history and enjoying the human drama and humor by recounting the best of hockey with other people who love the game. I hope you enjoy hearing the stories as much as I did collecting them. I’ll post something new, fairly frequently here so I hope you’ll visit me often.
by Darcy Richardson
Nov. 6, 2012
The lockout continues, Day fifty-two?
I just want to watch some good Hockey with you.
The dollars and cents just don’t matter to me,
We just watch at home where some games are still free.
The cost of a bus, and of tickets for two,
More than the wages of both me and of you,
While they all bicker of digits and zeros,
The fans just want to go cheer on their heroes.
It’s not that their hungry, it’s not that their poor,
But with dollar signs comes the wanting for more.
The guys that once played and the guys that once bled,
Took an offseason job to keep moving ahead!
But now there are Sponsors and big Corporate deals,
Draining the life from the fans that have zeal,
They think their entitled and only want more.
I’d like to see fans lined up at the door.
But not for the profit and not for the bucks,
The ones that are there with their eyes on the pucks!
Forget the rich clients the Sponsors will woo,
Or forget the fans that built this great league for you.
October 31, 2012
They come to the door and scream “Trick or Treat!”
Here comes a small boy as he trips on his feet.
A big red moustache and some curly hair too,
This child’s excitement, it really shines through.
The socks on his legs look familiar to me,
Who is this boy trying to be?
He unzips his coat with a bit of a gaffe.
His Dad and I both have a pretty good laugh.
I reach out with candy, he tells me “Not yet.”
He’s ripping his coat, his Dad smiles again.
He gets off his coat and he shows me a C.
He’s got Lanny McDonald’s first Flames Jersey!
by Darcy Richardson
October 31, 2012
So he wipes of his make-up and packs up his gear.
Maybe he’ll get to collect treats next year.
He gets to the practice, a dressing room bare.
Him and two Coaches are all that is there.
For weeks they all revel in sugar and screams,
He smiles and remembers the night of his dreams.
The night they all had something better to do,
He worked with two Coaches until he was blue.
The first Tourney Day comes while they’re all fat and worn,
He’s had things to work on; this is why he was born.
The ref drops the puck as he turns them away.
Two more MVP’s the day after today.
Hockey’s Most Incredible Comeback
Old-time Leafs fans will never forget the Stanley Cup final series in 1942. It matched the Leafs, coached by Hap Day, against Jack Adams’ Detroit Red Wings. There has never been a series quite like it.
For starters, the Leafs were fortunate to be in the finals. In the first round of the playoffs against New York, the NHL’s top team, it took a goal by Nick Metz with seven seconds left in the deciding game to propel the Leafs into the final series.
Playing for the Cup against the Detroit Red Wings, the Leafs were odds-on favorites. Hadn’t they finished the regular season with eight more wins and 15 more points? But the Leafs stumbled through the first two games on home ice and lost them both. Then they dropped the third game back in Detroit. Leafs fans were frustrated and furious, sneering at Day’s name and saying he was no coach. The Toronto sportswriters were similarly merciless in their criticism of the coach and the players. Andy Lytle of the Toronto Star wrote, “Except for the gate receipts and the records, there is little apparent use in prolonging this series.”
Hap Day told the Maple Leafs directors that Detroit’s style had his team buffaloed. It marked the first time a team had consistently shot the puck into the Leafs zone and flooded in after it. In those days there was no center-ice red line. The Wings simply worked the puck over their blue line and then fired it into the Toronto zone. Day told the directors that defenseman Bucko McDonald was worn out and that Gordon Drillon’s talents weren’t suited to the Wings’ shoot-and-chase style.
“Are there any other players available?” he was asked.
“Well, yes, there’s Ernie Dickens and Don Metz,” he replied. “They’re green, but I’ll work them in and drop McDonald and Drillon. We’ll also change our style and play the same way the Red Wings are playing. Maybe we can beat them at their own game.”
Don Metz was an unlikely replacement for Drillon, the team’s leading scorer. Metz had scored only two goals all season while Drillon finished eighth in the NHL scoring race with 23 goals and 41 points. Ernie Dickens was another two-goal man; a lad who’d played only 10 NHL games in his brief career.
In game four at Detroit’s Olympia, Nick Metz, the brother of Don, got the winner in a 4–3 victory, forcing the Red Wings to put the champagne back in the cooler. Their coach and manager, Jack Adams, also required some cooling down. He was suspended for the rest of the series after he leaped onto the ice after the game and attacked referee Mel Harwood. The official was badly mauled in a free-for-all triggered by Eddie Wares and Don Grosso of the Wings.
In game five, Don Metz scored a hat trick, Syl Apps picked up a pair of goals and the Leafs romped to a 9–3 triumph. Andy Lytle wrote: “This series gets curiouser and curiouser. Only Alice in Wonderland would believe it from beginning to end.”
It was back to Detroit for game six, in which Toronto goalie Turk Broda had a hot night and blanked the Red Wings 3–0. For game seven, the fans almost broke down the doors at Maple Leaf Gardens in their frantic efforts to see the game. A record crowd of almost 17,000 witnessed the culmination of the most incredible comeback in playoff history. It ended when the Leafs’ Sweeney Schriner scored two third-period goals and Pete Langelle added a bit of insurance in a 3–1 Toronto triumph. Hap Day and his weary men, blistered for their incompetence a few days earlier, were now the toast of the nation. Day had captured his first Stanley Cup as Maple Leafs coach. Many more would follow.
Read More: The Leafs
by Brenda McFarlane
Hi, I’m Brian’s daughter and I am considering putting together a small self-published hockey poetry book. I work on this site for my Dad. I’ve noticed we get a lot of visitors here seeking out hockey poetry and even a couple comments asking for anthologies.
As poets and writers probably know, the internet offers on-demand publishing tools like Lulu.com. The resulting books tend to be expensive but at least they exist as options for small niche markets.
So, I am seeking hockey poetry submissions, if anyone is interested. It is okay if the poem has been published before but make sure you have the right to re-publish.
John Tonelli and I always got along although I didn’t know him as well as some of the other NHLers. When the New York islanders traded him to Calgary in 1986 we rushed to Long Island to cover the story for Hockey Night in Canada. When our crew arrived at the Nassau County Coliseum we were told that Tonelli was very upset with the deal and that he was not talking to the media, not giving interviews to anyone.
I asked the PR person for the Islanders to go to John and plead with him to make an exception, since we’d some all the way from Toronto. She returned and said, “He’ said all right, he’ll do it for you, Mr. McFarlane.”
John gave me an excellent interview, then packed and left for Calgary.
John had a long and productive career in hockey, beginning in junior with the Toronto Marlboros where he scored 49 goals in his final junior season. In the NHL he played in over 1,000 games and scored 325 goals. He was the MVP of the 1984 Canada Cup and played on four Stanley Cup winning teams–all with the Islanders.
We sat over coffee on Long Island one day and he reminisced about his early days in the game:
I wrote this poem and recited it for Keith McCreary at a roast in his honor in Bolton, Ontario several years ago
McCreary’s First Goal
On a stormy night in Sundridge
In nineteen forty‑two,
The kids were playing hockey,
What else was there to do?
When a young lad named McCreary
Took his place at centre ice.
He couldn’t skate and couldn’t score,
And he fell down once or twice,
Still he loved the game the other boys
Played happily every day.
And late at night with the covers drawn
This is what he’d pray;
“Dear Lord, let me score a single goal,
Let me find the net with a shot,
Let me learn how to skate, and stickhandle too,
For I’m giving it all I’ve got”
One night in the snow (it was 20 below)
Little Keith was given the puck,
he stepped on it, fell on it, pushed it on ahead,
And then…through a stroke of some good luck,
The wind blew up, blowing snow in the eyes
Of the goalie facing his shot,
The puck skipped in, Keith roared with a grin,
“Fantastic! It’s the first goal I’ve got!”
Now, decades later, Keith still says his prayers
Every night when his Carol tucks him in,
“Dear Lord, believe me, I’ve been a good boy,
My life is devoid of all sin,
Lord help me, please help me before I’m too old,
And my teammates tell me I’m through,
Help me relive that great day in my life,
Please help me score goal number two
I don’t have any bad memories of Team Canada in 72. There were a lot of things that you could go over and decide that they were learning curves, but I could honestly say there was not a bad memory. I mean it was certainly a learning experience for all of us.
They say I was one of the guys who pulled off a lot of gags in Moscow. Well, that’s always important to a team, keeping things light. There was enough stress and enough pressure being placed on us by outside sources. I wouldn’t say from inside, but certainly from outside. The expectations were so high and having a little fun breaks the tension. Actually, now that I think back on it, I have to blame Bill White for those gags I mentioned. I had very little to do with them. And somebody has to take the blame. The deal I think that was funniest, was when everybody got on the bus that was booked to go to the Chinese restaurant. Bill White and I were standing around and somebody said, “Where have you guys been?” We said. “Oh, we just got back from a great Chinese restaurant. I think we even had a name for it–the Pe King if I remember right. There was a game the next day and then after that everybody wanted to go for Chinese food because everybody was fed up with the food that they were getting. They thought that a nice Chinese dinner would be great. So they all agreed to go and Bill and I helped out by ordering a bus. Everybody showed up and got on the bus. But Bill and I didn’t show.
My friend in broadcasting, the late Dan Kelly, once referred to the 1969 stick-swinging battle between the Bruins’ Ted Green and the Blues’ Wayne Maki as “one of the most horrifying, most violent exchanges I’ve ever seen in hockey.”
It happened on September 21, 1969 during a pre-season game in Ottawa. Kelly was calling the play-by-play for a St. Louis radio station that night. Early in the game, Green and Maki collided in the Boston zone. Linesman Ron Finn, officiating in only his fourth NHL game, was close by when they bumped, close enough to feel the breeze when Green turned and swung his stick viciously at Maki, missing him by a few inches. Maki retaliated instantly with a stick swing of his own, catching Green flush on his unprotected head. Green dropped to the ice and lay there, barely conscious and groaning.
At the Bob Gainey roast in Peterborough, Ken Dryden was at this eloquent best in talking about his former teammate. Later, at a reception, Red Fisher and I talked about Dryden’s presentation. As wordsmiths, we expressed our admiration for the brilliant verbal descriptions Dryden painted for his audience.
Dryden began, “The first time I was aware of Bob Gainey was during the draft of 1973. I was at home with the radio on. And the announcer said the Canadiens had drafted Bob somebody. I didn’t catch the last name, a player with the Peterboro Petes. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized the Canadiens had not drafted Bob Neeley but Bob Gainey. A few months later I left the Canadiens for a season to article with a law firm in Toronto and a few months after that I was at sports banquet in New Brunswick where many of the guests convened in a large room where there was a television set with a large screen. Because of the noise in the room I couldn’t hear the sound of the hockey game but I could see the images. Whenever I looked up at the screen I saw an image that I didn’t recognize. Whoever he was, this fellow could really skate. I decided right then that whoever I was watching would someday become a big star. A few months later I realized that I was wrong. The fellow I so admired couldn’t score. (laughter)
But that didn’t matter. I played with Bob Gainey for five years. In that time we played on four Stanley Cups and each year he played a larger role on the team. By the end of my time there he was really the driving force on the Canadiens. We put through a very difficult last season and in many ways it was Bob who held things together. He was a goalie’s best friend, in all senses. He made me look good in practice and even better in the games. I haven’t played in about four years now so I don’t get to see Bob play much anymore. But I have a very vivid image of him and when I close my eyes this image is very clear to me.
It starts at center ice and there’s a puck moving slowly out of the Canadiens’ zone. I see Savard or Robinson perhaps, skating up the ice slowly, somebody skating up the ice slowly. Then a pass, this one to Gainey in the centre zone. He’s the last player out of the Montreal zone and he comes from behind the play, bursting into the open. I can see him, bent over, looking like a train in an open field. Then an opposing defenseman comes into the picture, scrambling backwards with an eye on Gainey. It’s then you realize how fast Bob is skating. Now the defenseman is really scrambling, trying to keep up. I, in the net, straighten up from my crouch, and for four or five seconds the game seems to stop.
It becomes a contest, their contest, Bob and the defenseman. It’s a sprint, then they meet about the top of the circle. They bump at each other, strain against each other, then slowly and with great effort, Bob powers by. (Pause) Unfortunately, you know the rest of the story. (Laughter).
It was on that night that Dryden favoured us with an excerpt from the book he was completing, an excerpt that revealed his feelings about Gainey.
One time someone mentioned that Bob Gainey scored very few goals and my wife Linda turned to me, a little surprised. She said,” Do you know, while I’ve watched him play for nearly five years I never realized that.” Then she shrugged and went on to something else as if in Gainey’s case it really didn’t matter.
While a team needs all kinds of players with all kinds of skills to win, it needs prototypes, strong, dependable prototypes as examples of what you want your team to be. If you want a team to be cool and unflappable, you need at least one Savard to reassure you, to let you know that the time you need to do what you want to do is still there. If you want a team to be able to lift the level of the game, to find an emotional level higher than any opponent can find, you need players like Lapointe and Tremblay. Mercurial players who can take it to a higher level.
And if you want a team to succeed, where the goal is to win game after game, you need a player with an emotional and a practical stake in the team game, a player to remind you of that game, to bring you back to it whenever you forget, to be playing conscience of the game then you need a man like Bob Gainey. (Thunderous applause).