50 Years Ago in Hockey – Bruins Win, Howe Upsets Fans

The Boston Bruins, losers by a score of 5-2 to New York the previous evening, turned the tables last night on the Detroit Red Wings by that same 5-2 count.  The game featured a bit of everything – pretty goals, bone-crunching body checks, and even a police escort out of the rink for Detroit superstar Gordie Howe.  It was the only NHL game on the schedule.

Rookies open scoring

The Bruins led from start to finish in this one, scoring at 1:06 of the first period and never surrendering the lead thereafter. Rookie Billy Knibbs, whose injury touched off a  controversy late in the game, gave Boston the early 1-0 lead.  Another Boston rookie, Wayne Rivers, upped the count to 2-0 and that’s the way the first frame ended.

Wayne Rivers
Wayne Rivers

In the second period, Boston added two more goals, with Murray Oliver and Eddie Westfall doing the honours.  Early in the third, Tommy Williams made it 5-0, and at that point the home side started to relax and the crowd at Boston Garden was relatively content with the proceedings.

That’s when Gordie Howe decided to stir things up.  Less than a minute after Williams had scored, Howe ruined Boston goaltender Eddie Johnston’s shut out bid with his 10th goal of the season.  The Boston faithful were none too pleased that the veteran Detroit superstar had spoiled Johnston’s night, and the derision, aimed directly at Howe, began in earnest.

A little jeering never did slow big Gordie, and just before the 12-minute mark, Howe counted again.  That only set the stage for the fireworks that were to follow in the next few minutes.

Knibbs crushed by Howe

With 5:03 left in the game, Howe decided it was time to introduce himself to the rookie Knibbs.  He caught the kid, seemingly with his head down, with a typically solid body check into the boards.  The youngster went down as if struck by a sniper’s bullet, and appeared to strike his head on the ice.  This drove the Boston fans, who didn’t really need much encouragement, into a frenzy.

Referee Vern Buffey acted quickly and decisively, banishing Howe with a five-minute major penalty for boarding.  That sentence didn’t placate the crowd, who were now littering the ice with all sorts of debris.  Buffey, sensing the situation was soon to get out of hand, sent Howe directly to the Detroit dressing room, but not without a police escort being summoned to the scene first.

Police escort fails to deter angry fans

As Howe was walking from the bench area to the Detroit room, somehow a fan (or, more likely , three) got through the security escort and doused Howe with beer.  The player was none the worse for wear and made it to the change room relatively unscathed, save for the beer shampoo.

After the game, the Boston Police Department decided to ensure that Howe would escape safely from Boston Garden by providing an escort from the rink to his hotel room.  They wanted to be sure the enraged Bruins fans wouldn’t rip Howe limb from limb.  Howe, for his part, felt that the Boston’s finest were underestimating his ability to protect himself and protested, asking to just let him be on his way.  The cops won out (as they usually do) and Howe had the free ride to the hotel in grand style.

Knibbs’ injuries initially appeared worse than they turned out to be.  The young Boston forward described his encounter with Howe this way:

“I kind of knew he was coming.  But I never thought I’d get hit that hard.  My head snapped back.  I thought I had wrenched my back.  I got my hands up to protect my head , but I got the knee jammed into the boards.  I got hit just as I shot the puck into the Detroit end.”

Strangely enough, there was no mention of the legendary Howe elbow on this occasion.

“Howe just doesn’t realize how strong he is”

Boston coach Milt Schmidt was not terribly upset by the hit.  “He (Knibbs) should be all right to play Saturday.  Howe just doesn’t realize how strong he is.”

Milt Schmidt : Howe doesn’t realize how strong he is.

Howe shrugged off the entire incident.  “I didn’t think I hit the kid that hard.  I can hit 10 guys a night like that and they wouldn’t get hurt.  He must have had his feet tangled up.

“This is what I get paid to do.  It sounds crazy but it’s part of the game.”

Campbell: Waiver price too low

NHL president Clarence Campbell says that the $20,000 waiver price is too low.  He feels that by raising the fee to $30,000, clubs would feel it would be more profitable to allow a player to go to another team if they can’t use him themselves.  Campbell feels that many capable players are left sitting in the stands because teams don’t want to lose the asset for such a paltry sum.

“I think it’s silly for players to be sitting in the stands because the roster is full when another club could use them.”

Two cases that come to mind this season involve rookies Dennis Hull of Chicago and Montreal’s Yvan Cournoyer.  Both Montreal and Chicago felt that time in the minor leagues, most likely the Central Professional Hockey League, would provide much-needed seasoning for the two players.  However, under the waiver rules, because the players had exceeded the games-played limit, they could not be sent to the minors without passing through waivers.

Habs GM Sam Pollock couldn’t get Yvan Cournoyer through waivers.

In both cases, Toronto manager Punch Imlach put in claims for the players, citing the fact that for only $20,000 these were bargains not to be passed up.  Montreal manager Sam Pollock tried to make side deals with every other team in order that he could dispatch Cournoyer to the CPHL, but Imlach wouldn’t budge, so the young forward remains with Montreal.  The same fate befell Hull, who had been ticketed for St. Louis.  He also remains in the NHL.

Bruins talking trade

Boston Bruins general manager Lynn Patrick said yesterday that his club is indeed talking trade with several NHL teams.  He confirmed he has had discussions with Toronto’s Punch Imlach, but maintains that Leaf forward Eddie Shack was not part of the dialogue.

Eddie Shack – not going to Bruins at this time.

Patrick said, “I don’t want to get involved in rumours.  Sure, we’re looking for a deal and I’ll probably try again with the Leafs when we’re in Toronto on Saturday.

“I haven’t approached them about Shack since last season.  We have mentioned (Ab) McDonald to several teams, among them Chicago Black Hawks.  I think they might be interested in getting him back.”

McDonald was traded to Boston last summer, along with winger Murray Balfour, who is now in the minors, for defenceman Doug Mohns.  He has only three goals in 31 games this season.

Ranger moves

The New York Rangers, who just a couple of days ago recalled Billy Taylor from Baltimore, sent the forward back to their AHL club yesterday.  With the injury to rookie defenceman Rod Seiling, manager Emile Francis felt more depth was needed on the blue line, so Ron Ingram has been summoned the Clippers to replace Seiling.

Ron Ingram, shown here with Buffalo, was called up by Rangers
Ron Ingram, shown here with Buffalo, was called up by Rangers

The Rangers also sent forward Dave Richardson from Baltimore to Vancouver of the Western Hockey League.  The Canucks had requested help from the Rangers to bolster their playoff drive in the last half of the season.