50 Years Ago in Hockey: Death Threats Can’t Deter Howe

Gordie Howe scored his 20th goal of the season and added an assist as his Detroit Red Wings skated to a 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins. Howe’s strong performance came amidst an unsettling story the saw the big Red Wing star accompanied by a police escort to and from the Boston Garden.

In the other scheduled National Hockey League game Jean Beliveau scored two goals including the game-winner to pace the Montreal Canadiens to a come-from-behind 5-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Montreal.

Howe Upset with Reporters

Bruce MacGregor opened the scoring for Detroit.
Bruce MacGregor scored his 13th for Detroit.

Howe’s goal and assist led the Detroit attack against the Bruins. Other Detroit scorers were Bruce MacGregor, Alex Delvecchio and Floyd Smith. Johnny Bucyk and John McKenzie replied for the Bruins.

Delvecchio’s goal was the 300th of his NHL career and also his 20th of the season.

The game was decided in the first period when the Red Wings built a 3-0 lead. Red Wing goalie Roger Crozier then held the Bruins to only two goals the rest of the way to salt away the win.

After the game, Howe was uncharacteristically upset with reporters who broke the story of the death threats made against the Detroit superstar.

Alex Delvecchio scored the 300th goal of his NHL career.

“All I’ve done since the story appeared is answer phone calls and on top of that, my family is all upset.

“My wife didn’t know about it until the story appeared. Maybe some of you reporters want to handle my mail from now on. I can just picture what it’ll be like. All the cranks will be writing.”

A story appeared in the morning papers outlining the circumstances that led to the security detail for Howe. He received a letter postmarked from Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago. The letter was apparently quite obscene and described threats on Howe’s life that might be carried out during last night’s game in Boston.

The police and the FBI were notified by club officials and agreed to keep the matter out of the public eye. The FBI made a request to the Boston police and Captain Peter Donovan was assigned to the case.

Donovan had two detectives drive Howe from the team hotel to the Boston Garden. They were followed by another vehicle carrying four plainclothes detectives. They repeated that drill after the game.

During the game, in addition to the detectives who escorted Howe in the two cars, seven extra policemen were added. Five uniform officers were stationed around the rink, and two extra plainclothes detectives also roamed the rink. With the regular compliment of Boston police at the game, the total number of lawmen present was 26.

Each police officer was furnished with a copy of the anonymous letter.

Arena security was also beefed up for the game. The 40 ushers and 15 Pinkerton security men were briefed on the situation. The Pinkerton men worked outside the arena and patrolled the fire escapes.

Lieutenant William O’Brien of the Boston police said that his men had lots to go on:

“The letter writer described himself as being 6 feet 4 and weighing 250 pounds. He also described himself as being a Negro. That may or may not be true. The letter was very vulgar and obscene and I’m convinced it’s the work of a crackpot, but you can’t take any chances.”

The detectives that escorted Howe met him at the airport terminal upon the team’s arrival in Boston. They waited with him while he picked up his luggage and drove him to the hotel.

Howe took the matter in stride. He seemed unaffected by the affair until he lashed out at reporters after the game.

Sixth Game-winner for Big Jean

Jean Beliveau - six game-winners this year.
Jean Beliveau – six game-winners this year.

Beliveau’s game winning goal was his sixth deciding marker of the season. The goal capped a third period Montreal comeback. They scored twice in the final 20 minutes after trailing 4-3 at the end of the middle frame.

The game was wide-open with end-to-end rushes and great goaltending. Both Gump Worsley of Montreal and the Leafs’ Terry Sawchuk were great despite the nine-goal total. Sawchuk got the start for the Leafs after a shaky game against the Rangers on Sunday, when he surrendered eight goals. Johnny Bower was nursing a leg injury and didn’t accompany the Leafs to Montreal.

The game started out with lots of goals, four in the first period. Eddie Shack’s 18th of the season put Toronto in front 1-0 at 12:25. Canadiens responded with two quick ones about two minutes later. Bobby Rousseau connected at 14:49, followed by Beliveau’s first of the night a minute and 14 seconds later.

Frank Mahovlich evened things up with about a minute and a half later and the first ended even at 2-2.

Noel Price
Noel Price

Leafs scored a couple of quick ones of their own to start the middle stanza. Ron Ellis notched his eighth at 3:08. Then at 5:43 Dave Keon scored his 15th of the year and Toronto had a 4-2 lead. Claude Provost drew Montreal to within one at 13:24. That set the stage for the home side’s comeback in the final 20 minutes.

Canadiens tied the score at 4-4 on Henri Richard’s goal on a power play at 11:15. Richard deposited Yvan Cournoyer’s rebound behind Sawchuk after the Toronto netminder had made a fine save on Cournoyer’s sizzling drive.

Beliveau’s winner came just about two minutes later. Noel Price, called up from Quebec of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis, took a long floating shot from the blue line. Leafs defender Larry Hillman tried to bat the puck down and missed. The disk went directly to an uncovered Beliveau, who whipped a quick wrist shot past a helpless Sawchuk.

Price had a great game for the Habs, and the fans certainly enjoyed his performance. He was in for Jean-Guy Talbot, who begged off with a back injury. The veteran, who has seen NHL time with Toronto, Detroit and New York, was nervous about the sudden promotion:

“I was nervous all during the bus ride and through most of the first period. But I was thinking out there and got the feel of things as the game wore on.”

Montreal coach Toe Blake paired Price with Terry Harper and the duo made an efficient team on the Habs blue line. He threw out a few good checks and kept the area in front of the Montreal goal quite tidy.

It even appeared that Price scored a goal in the first period. He let a hard shot go from the blue line that bounced off Sawchuk and towards the goal line. Beliveau was there to sweep the puck into the net and was credited with the goal.

Beliveau himself wasn’t sure, but he left no doubt by swatting the puck into the back of the net:

“I’m not sure if it was in or not, maybe right on the goal line.”

The Montreal captain is not the type to claim a goal he doesn’t deserve.

Toronto coach Punch Imlach was steaming after the game. He claimed that the two goals scored by Montreal in the first period were both offside.

“There’s no question about it. The people sitting behind us were laughing about it. They told me they were Montreal fans but they had to admit those goals were offside.”

The win was Montreal’s third straight. They are now just one point behind co-leaders Chicago and Detroit.

NHL Gets Two New Refs

Bruce Hood, here in his playing days gets a refereeing tryout with the NHL.
Bruce Hood, here in his playing days gets a refereeing tryout with the NHL.

The National Hockey League will introduce two new referees over the next few games, according to a report by the Toronto Star’s Jim Proudfoot.

Minor-league officials Bob Sloan and Bruce Hood will be given tryouts by the NHL in upcoming games. The new officials are needed to cover time that will be missed by Art Skov, who is ill. The league is also looking at successors for veteran referee Frank Udvari, who is well into his forties.

The league’s other referees are Bill Friday and Vern Buffey.


  • New York Rangers have sent defenseman Mike McMahon to their Minnesota Rangers farm club in the Central Professional Hockey League. McMahon was sent out to make room for junior tryout Allan Hamilton.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs have moved forward Milan Marcetta and defenseman Fred Hucul from Victoria Maple Leafs of the Western Hockey League to Tulsa Oilers of the CPHL. Going to Victoria as replacements from Tulsa are defenseman Jack Chipchase and forward Ed Ehrenverth.
  • Andre Lacroix scored in the final minute of the game to give Peterborough Petes a 4-3 win over the St. Catharines Black Hawks in Ontario Hockey Association Junior A play.
  • Hamilton Red Wings dumped Montreal Junior Canadiens 6-2 thanks to two goals by Nick Libett.