50 Years Ago in Hockey – Bower Stars as Leafs Edge Habs

Veteran Toronto Maple Leaf netminder Johnny Bower was once again the hero as the Maple Leafs claimed a narrow 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens last night at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.  Bower stopped a Montreal penalty shot late the third period to ice the win for the Leafs.

Bower stops penalty shot

The rare penalty shot call was made by referee Frank Udvari when he detected Toronto defenceman Carl Brewer closing his hand on the puck in the Toronto goal crease.  He whistled the play dead and informed Montreal coach Toe Blake that he could select any player on the ice to take the free shot.

Even though superstar Jean Beliveau was  present and ready to go, Blake opted to send rookie winger Yvan Cournoyer to do the job.

Johnny Bower stopped a third-period penalty shot.

Cournoyer a seven-goal scorer this season and one of the league’s fastest skaters, streaked straight in from centre with the puck. Bower quickly moved out 10 feet in front of his goal crease to cut down the angle.  The move appeared to surprise the Montreal rookie, who made no move to go around the Toronto goalkeeper.  He deposited the puck gently into Bower’s pads, and the victory was preserved.

Bower: “I cheated a little”

Bower described what happened on this, hockey’s rarest play:

“I was glad when Blake selected the kid to take the shot instead of Jean Beliveau.  Big Jean has a tremendous reach and it is almost impossible to defend against him when he has no one but the goalkeeper to beat.

“I cheated a little on Cournoyer, moved out quick and played him for a shot and guessed right.  After all, we older chaps can’t let those kids show us up.  I think he tried to put the shot between my legs and hit my left pad.”

Blake: “I played a hunch”

Blake explained his reasoning behind the decision to go with Cournoyer:

“Maybe I should have picked Jean.  But heck, in Chicago the kid went the length of the ice and beat Glenn Hall with a whizzer to the top corner, so I played a hunch.”

Kent Douglas, Frank Mahovlich and Ron Ellis were the Toronto marksmen.  Bobby Rousseau and Ralph Backstrom replied for the Habs.  Ellis’ game-winner was a bank shot off Montreal defenceman J.C. Tremblay’s skate.

Ron Ellis
Ron Ellis

Blake summed up his team’s performance:

“We didn’t deserve to win.  Four of our guys were trapped on their tying goal.  When you have a 2-1 lead in the third period of a must game, there’s no excuse for that.  It’s bad hockey, not the kind you’d expect from a team going for first place.”

Leaf manager-coach Punch Imlach sang the praises of Mahovlich, who was Toronto’s best skater, after the game.

“Mahovlich lifted us in this game, tipped the scales in our favour.  We have to have him playing that way to repeat for the Stanley Cup.  And, I think he will.  This was the indicator.”

Execs love colour TV, players not so much

The experimental colour television broadcast of last night’s Toronto – Montreal game received rave reviews from the select circle of viewers who took it in.  However, those who put the show on, the players, were less than enthusiastic.

Maple Leaf Gardens president Stafford Smythe described what he saw this way:

“It’s as big an improvement as television was over radio.

“What amazed me was the sound.  You could hear the puck hitting the sticks and the players’ skates digging into the ice.  Somebody told me it was stereo.

“Another thing was the sharpness of the picture.  You could follow the puck better than you can on black and white.”

Staff Smythe  loved the colour TV experiment.
Staff Smythe loved the colour TV experiment.

NHL president Clarence Campbell echoed his approval.

“Add another entire dimension to the game.  It’s surprising, the intensity of the colour was just amazing.”

The environment, however, was completely different for both players and fans.  The Gardens was fitted for double the normal game lighting, and the ice was tinted blue to accommodate the colour cameras.

Leaf goaltender Johnny Bower said that high shots were difficult to see and that the blue uniforms of his team seemed to blend in with the blue ice.

Players felt ice was “chippy”

Toronto captain George Armstrong had this opinion:

It reminded me of the days when the ice was taken out for wrestling and put back in for Saturday’s game.  The puck bounced and the ice was chippy and hard to skate on.”

Allan Stanley agreed with his captain about the difficulty skating, but forward Bob Pulford said that he didn’t notice much of a difference.

Montreal general manager Sam Pollock simply said the ice was “lousy”.

There were glitches as well.  The extra lighting and heavy-duty colour cameras proved to be too much for the Gardens’ electrical system.  A fuse blew in the first period, shutting down the game clock and the lights at both ends of the arena.  The game was delayed for six minutes.

Milt Schmidt denies Boston shakeup rumours

Boston Bruins coach Milt Schmidt tried to put to rest persistent rumours that he will not be coaching the Boston Bruins next season.  The Boston Globe is reporting that Schmidt will be out at the end of this season.  Schmidt termed the report “ridiculous”.

Bruins’ coach Milt Schmidt plans on returning next season.

Schmidt said, “I have another year to go on my contract and that’s what I’m counting on.”

The Globe story was carried on the paper’s front page.  It stated that Schmidt would be replaced by former Boston defenceman Hal Laycoe, currently coach at Portland of the Western Hockey League.

Other sources claim that Bruin general manager Lynn Patrick will leave the team at the end of the season.  Some feel that Schmidt will be kicked upstairs and take on the manager’s portfolio.  Another source claiming to be close to the situation says that Niagara Falls Flyers owner and general manager Hap Emms will take over as the Bruins general manager shortly after the season comes to an end.  The Flyers are sponsored by the Bruins.

Niagara Falls is currently engaged in the OHA playoffs after a very successful season and is thought to be a Memorial Cup contender.

Campbell says NHL will help with national team

NHL president Clarence Campbell said yesterday that the league would be open to helping with the establishment of a Canadian national team to complete internationally.

Campbell was at a meeting of the Canadian Club in Hamilton.  He said that a suggestion that a national team be made up of graduating junior players was a viable plan.  Any use of those juniors would need to meet the approval of the NHL clubs, and Campbell said that would not be a problem.

Campbell did say the team would be completely under the direction of the NHL, even to the extent that the league would appoint coaches and managers.


  • Boston Bruins are planning on playing regular goaltender Ed Johnston in Montreal on Saturday.  Johnston has missed 21 games with a broken hand.
  • Seventy-year-old Conn Smythe, former president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been cited for bravery for his part in rescuing his Kerry Blue Terrier, Billy, who fell through the ice on a pond near Smythe’s farm.  Smythe jumped into the frigid chest-deep water and carried the dog to safety.
  • Latest name under consideration to replace outgoing NHL referee-in-chief Carl Voss is Hugh McLean.  McLean is the former NHL referee who was once punched by Maurice Richard.
  • The Rangers have called up right-winger Dick Meissner from Baltimore of the AHL.  Forward Jimmy Johnson and defenceman Mike McMahon were returned to St. Paul of the CPHL.
Mike McMahon:  going back to the CPHL
Mike McMahon: going back to the CPHL
  • A Felony Court judge in Chicago has signed arrest warrants charging two men with ticket scalping.
  • Vern DeGeer of the Montreal Gazette reports that he feels the proposed NHL expansion will include six west coast cities, with Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington at the head of the list.