50 Years Ago in Hockey: Cheevers Haunts Leafs

Former Toronto Maple Leafs goalkeeper Gerry Cheevers, now trying to win a regular job with the Boston Bruins, took a giant step in that direction last night. He stopped everything his former employers could throw at him as the Bruins blanked the Leafs 4-0 at the Boston Garden. The only other National Hockey League game last night also ended in a whitewash, with the Detroit Red Wings upsetting the Chicago Black Hawks 3-0 in Detroit.

Thirty-one Saves for Cheevers

Murray Oliver
Murray Oliver

Cheevers, who arrived from the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Professional Hockey League four days ago, flawlessly handled the 31 shots Toronto directed his way. It was the first shutout of his NHL career in his second game this season. He was in goal for the Bruins 3-3 tie with the New York Rangers Wednesday evening and played very well in that one.

Four different Bruins shared the scoring duties. Murray Oliver connected for Boston in the first period. Pit Martin added his sixth in the middle frame with Wayne Connelly rounding out the evening’s scoring with a third-period marker.

At the game’s end, as Cheevers skated from the Boston goal, surrounded by team mates in the usual post-game congratulatory celebration, Toronto netminder Terry Sawchuk took the unusual step of skating the length of the ice to shake the rookie goalie’s hand. Sawchuk was that impressed with his counterpart’s performance.

Cheevers learned his craft in the Toronto system. He starred for the Toronto St. Michael’s Junior A team in the Ontario Hockey Association before turning professional in the 1961-62 season. He split that year with the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds of the Eastern Professional Hockey League and the American Hockey League Rochester Americans. He even got into two games with the Leafs as an emergency replacement for Johnny Bower. He remained in the Toronto system until the summer of 1965.

With veterans Terry Sawchuk and Johnny Bower the incumbent netminders, Toronto general manager tried to sneek Cheevers through the Intra-league draft by protecting him as a forward. The ploy was foiled by NHL president Clarence Campbell who ruled that Imlach could only protect two goalkeepers. Punch opted for his two veterans and the Bruins wasted no time in snatching Cheevers off the Toronto list.

Cheevers played seven games with Boston last season, spending he rest of the season with Oklahoma City. He led the Blazers to the CPHL championship, impressing then-coach Harry Sinden, now in his first season as the Bruins mentor. Sinden knew all along he would  eventually bring Cheevers to Boston. Cheevers said that revenge against his former employers was not a motivating factor in last night’s performance:

I got as big a drive out of that 4-0 shutout over Maple Leafs as I did the day Northern Dancer won the Kentucky Derby.

That (revenge) never entered my mind. This was just my first shutout in this league and it came against a club that had gone seven games without a defeat. Leafs kept a pretty good one (Sawchuk) in letting me go.

But this makes up for my other start against them (October 27, 1965). We got beat 2-1 and I suffered torn knee ligaments. Was out six weeks and my chance of making the team was shot.

Sawchuk didn’t have his best game as a Leaf and was replaced at the end of the second period by Bruce Gamble. Terry knew it wasn’t his night:

I wasn’t sharp. I fished Pit Martin’s goal in myself trying to glove it and gave them a juicy rebound for their second goal. When I tired a little, Punch put Gamble in.


Delvecchio, Crozier Lead Wings

Detroit's Alex Delvecchio is tied up by Hawks' Pierre Pilote in last night's game.
Detroit’s Alex Delvecchio is tied up by Hawks’ Pierre Pilote in last night’s game.

Roger Crozier made 29 saves for his second shutout of the season and Alex Delvecchio provided all the offence the Red Wings would need in Detroit’s 3-0 blanking of the Black Hawks. Delvecchio scored the first and third goals of the game for the Red Wings.

Crozier has seldom looked better than he did last night against Chicago’s vaunted offence, generally ranked best in the league. He had to be extremely sharp early, as the Hawks came out flying while Detroit seemed listless and disinterested in the first period. Buoyed by their goalkeepers heroics, the Red Wings broke through on Delvecchio’s first of the night at 12:42 of the middle frame and took over the match from there.

The score remained close until 10:06 of the third when veteran defenceman Leo Boivin notched his first of the year to make it 2-0. Gordie Howe had dug the puck out of a corner scrum and fed a perfect pass to Boivin. Boivin beat Chicago goalie Denis DeJordy with a quick shot from about 40 feet through a maze of legs.

Delvecchio finished the night’s scoring activity 58 seconds later. He slipped behind the Chicago defence and took a pass from Howe at his own blue line. The Red Wing captain skated in alone on DeJordy and fired a shot from about 10 feet.

The Red Wings were in a light-hearted mood after the game, as could be expected after upending the powerful Chicago club. Most of the mirth was directed at Boivin, not known as a goal-scorer.

Trainer Lefty Wilson asked “Did you give it the wrist or the slap?”

“Or did you use the nine-iron?” chimed in defenceman Gary Bergman.

Rookie Bob Wall added “Was it your change-up?”

Boivin simply replied “The light went on and that’s all that matters.”


Junior Wings Unbeaten in Seven

Fred Speck
Fred Speck

The Hamilton Red Wings ran their unbeaten skein in the Ontario Hockey Association Junior A Series to seven games last night with a 4-3 win over the Oshawa Generals. The win leaves Hamilton just one point behind first-place St. Catharines Black Hawks. Montreal Junior Canadiens dumped the Peterborough Petes 6-1 in the other league game at Peterborough.

Hamilton captain Fred Speck scored a pair of goals for the Wings before 2,871 fans at the Hamilton Forum. Speck’s first goal came on a penalty shot. Ron Climie and Jim Adair also scored for the home side. Jerry Dionne, Danny Sanford and George Babcock had the Oshawa goals.

At Peterborough, Don Liesemer was the star for the Baby Habs with a pair of goals. Singles came off the sticks of Jude Drouin, Bernard Gagnon, Jacques Beaudoin and Steve Sutherland. Dale MacLeish had the only Peterborough tally.

Montreal goalie Ted Ouimet had a big night as well, with 41 saves. The Petes were without regular goalie Brian Caley, who suffered a sprained ankle in practice on Wednesday. Rookie Gary Holbrook was his replacement.