50 Years Ago in Hockey: Habs Have Leafs on the Ropes

After three games in their Stanley Cup semi-final playoff series, the Montreal Canadiens have the Toronto Maple Leafs squarely behind the eight-ball. Montreal downed the Maple Leafs 5-2 last night at Maple Leaf Gardens to take  a three games to none stranglehold on the best-of-seven series. In the other National Hockey League playoff game, Chicago rebounded to edge the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in Detroit.

Leafs Grab Early Lead, Then Falter

Early on in this one it looked like whatever ailed the Leafs in the first two games had been cured. Toronto came out flying, with Eddie Shack scoring after only 1:26 of the opening frame to put the home side up 1-0.

Shack’s goal seemed to ignite the Toronto offence. The Leafs had several outstanding chances, and missed open net after open net. They would come to regret those gaffs as the game wore on.

Toronto did take a 2-0 lead late in the period when Tim Horton beat Montreal goalie Gump Worsley with a bullet drive from the right point.

Leafs opened the second much like they did the first. And like the first period, they missed three open net opportunities. It was shortly after that third big miss in three minutes that things changed for the Leafs.

Terry Harper
Terry Harper

Having only used two forward lines to that point in the game, Maple Leaf coach Punch Imlach threw out his third line of Brit Selby, Ron Ellis and Wally Boyer. Montreal wasted no time taking over the play against the kids. Ralph Backstrom scored for Canadiens on a nice setup by former Leaf Dick Duff. The momentum shift was palpable in the Gardens.  Bobby Rousseau knotted things at two at the 11:00 minute mark of the second and the momentum at that point had swung fully into Montreal’s favour.

Only 26 seconds after Rousseau’s goal, it was Terry Harper, of all people, who put the visitors ahead for good. His long, low shot from the blue line somehow got past Leaf goalie Johnny Bower.

John Ferguson and Jean Beliveau added insurance markers in the final 20 minutes to make the route complete.

Imlach was downtrodden after the game. It’s clear he firmly believed this team could skate with Canadiens and he’s having a hard time believing he could have been so wrong about his club. He bemoaned the fact that his boys weren’t able to cash in when the chances were there:

Ralph Backstrom
Ralph Backstrom

“Missed chances beat us early. We couldn’t put the puck in the net, and I mean an open net.

“But let’s face it. Even when we were rolling we only had four or five guys really going. Get behind like we finally did and you can’t come back unless everybody is playing all out.”

The big change in momentum came right after Backstrom’s goal. The moment was orchestrated by Canadiens’ John Ferguson. The bruising winger caught Eddie Shack with a thundering bodycheck. Shack was never the same after the big hit and neither were the rest of his mates.

Montreal defenseman Terry Harper said that was the turning point:

“Backstrom’s goal was a big lift for us. But Fergy’s check on Shack was just as big. Shack had been the Leafs’ best man to that point. He was the guy who kept them moving and when Fergy checked him it took a lot of the starch out of them.”

Hawks Come Back Against Wings

Chico Maki
Chico Maki

Maybe the Chicago Black Hawks just need a drubbing to get them moving. After one of their worst losses in several years in game two, the Hawks rebounded to take the third game of their semi-final series against the Detroit Red Wings. They eked out a 2-1 win over the Detroit right on the Wings home ice, the Detroit Olympia. Chicago now leads the series two games to one.

The win was a costly one for the Hawks, however. They lost winger Chico Maki and defender Elmer Vasko to injuries.

Vasko left the game with a severe thigh cut that required 20 stitches to close. Maki was carried off on a stretcher after suffering a sprained right knee. It’s feared he also has torn ligaments and that would spell an end to his playoff.

Detroit took a first-period lead that they couldn’t hold. Pesky Bryan Watson, the proverbial thorn in the side of Chicago superstar Bobby Hull, was the goal scorer. He beat Chicago goalie Glenn Hall with a rising screened shot.

Eric Nesterenko
Eric Nesterenko

Hull, playing at near to full-speed for the first time in the series, finally began to show his frustration with Watson’s shadow job. He punished the little Detroit checker physically and his reaction seemed to spur the Hawks.

Hull set up Maki for Chicago’s first goal at 6:19 of the second period, shortly before his injury. About 12 minutes later Eric Nesterenko scored what would prove to be the winning goal.

Detroit coach Sid Abel, who had openly professed his club’s strategy of trying to out-muscle Chicago, acknowledged that the Wings had received some of their own medicine in this one.

“They were rougher. We let them off the hook in the second period. We stopped hitting and let them take it away from us.

“Now it’s a case of which team stays the fittest.”

Chicago coach Billy Reay said that the key to the game was controlling the Detroit power play:

“We were killing penalties tonight. Sunday the penalties killed us. That was the big difference.”

Another factor for the Black Hawks was the return of blue liner Doug Jarrett. Jarrett had been injured in game one and sat out the second game with a sore back. He was his old self last night, adding much-needed muscle to the Hawks defence.

Friday Escapes

Referee Bill Friday
Referee Bill Friday

National Hockey League referee Bill Friday, who officiated the Chicago-Detroit game last night, had a close call just before the game.

As he was preparing to leave for the arena, Friday smelled smoke. He went into the hallway, found it was filled with smoke from a fire in a neighbouring room. The referee grabbed his gear and left the building by way of an emergency exit.

Fortunately, quick action by the Detroit Fire Department had the blaze under control and minimal damage was done.

Oshawa Wins OHA Championship

The Kitchener Rangers gave it a game effort but in the end the Oshawa Generals were just too strong. The Generals won their fourth game of the Ontario Hockey Association final series by the narrowest of margins, 3-2 over the Rangers last night in Oshawa.

Oshawa coach Bep Guidolin
Oshawa coach Bep Guidolin

Thus ended the Cinderella story that the Rangers were trying to write. Seventh-place finishers in the regular schedule, they upset both the Niagara Falls Flyers and Toronto Marlboros en route to their date in the finals with Oshawa. But the Generals were just too strong, too talented and too experienced to let this series slip away.

Oshawa got goals from Bill Little, Wayne Cashman and Barry Wilkins. Walter Tkaczuk and John Beechey replied for the Rangers.

Oshawa coach Bep Guidolin nearly wasn’t around for the final trophy presentation. At the end of the first period, he became embroiled in an altercation with a Kitchener fan who had taken up residence behind the Oshawa bench. Police intervened and hustled the Generals coach down a nearby corridor where he finally calmed down. He returned behind the bench and ignored the leather-lunged Kitchener supporter for the rest of the night.

Long Beach Offers to Help Cooke

City officials in Long Beach, California say they will offer Jack Kent Cooke use of the $10-million shoreline Arena for his Los Angeles Lakers and his new National Hockey League expansion team. They went on to say that if scheduling issues exist, they will help Cooke find city-owned land on which he can construct his own building.

Councilman Robert F. Crow says that the Long Beach facility is superior to the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The Sports Arena is managed by the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission, who recently turned town a lease application from Cooke.


Lowell MacDonald
Lowell MacDonald
  • Lowell MacDonald scored the game winner in overtime as Tulsa Oilers downed the Minnesota Rangers 5-4 to send their CPHL playoff series to a seventh game.
  • Oklahoma City Blazers downed the St. Louis Braves 3-1 to move the CPHL finals. Brian Bradley had the game-winner for the Blazers.
  • Sidney Salomon Jr., owner of the new St. Louis Blues of the NHL, says ticket prices have not yet been set, but they will be on sale for fans soon. The Blues are slated to begin NHL play in 1967-68 but are already swamped with ticket requests.
  • Rumours persist that Hamilton Red Wings coach and general manger Rudy Pilous will sign a four-year contract to coach the San Francisco Seals, another new NHL expansion club.
  • The WHL Seals will have to use Bob Gray, an International Hockey League goalie, for their playoff series against the Victoria Maple Leafs. Joe Daley, who was playing for San Francisco on loan from Memphis of the CPHL, was ruled ineligible by WHL president Al Leader.
  • Singer Bing Crosby has already sold his interests in the San Francisco NHL franchise.