50 Years Ago in Hockey: Late NHL Start Avoids World Series

The National Hockey League knows that at some time during its season it must compete with baseball for the attention the paying sports fan. The bigwigs at the league off (with, of course, the blessing of the six league governors) have decided that they would rather go head to head against the diamond sport in April and not during baseball’s showcase – the World Series.

Schedule Kicks Off October 23

The NHL clubs will face of to begin their 70-game schedules on October 23, well after the winner of the World Series will have been decided. Two games will go that night, with Detroit visiting Montreal and Toronto hosting Chicago.The late start necessitates a later schedule finish, and for the first time the regular NHL schedule will run into April, wrapping up on the third of the month.

Canadiens will host Detroit in the NHL opener on October 23.
Canadiens will host Detroit in the NHL opener on October 23.

The governors figure that as baseball is just about to get going in April, the NHL will be into the Stanley Cup playoffs. The thinking is that sports fans will want to watch exciting playoff hockey instead of the early-season baseball matches. It’s also acknowledged that college and pro football, who do siphon off some sports fans in the autumn, will be long gone by April.

NHL president Clarence Campbell explains it simply:

We have never had any difficulty selling hockey that late before.”

The late start also sees the All-Star game played later than usual. Normally held just before the start of the NHL schedule, the game sees the NHL All-Stars line up against the Stanley Cup champions. This year’s game will be played on October 20 at Montreal.

Teams To Warm Up Separately

Another format change for the league this year will be how the pre-game warm-ups are handled. With teams now having to dress two goalkeepers, the teams will hold their pre-game skates separately. Each team will use the full ice surface for their warm-up so both goalies will get the full benefit. The home team will take to the ice 45 minutes before game time, with the visitors coming on 30 minutes ahead of the opening faceoff. That will leave 15 minutes for ice resurfacing.

NHL statistician Ron Andrews with Leafs Bobby Baun.
NHL statistician Ron Andrews with Leafs Bobby Baun.

Fans this year will see some new statistics. League statistician Ron Andrews says that for the first time shots on goal will be tracked instead of saves by goaltenders. There is even a new definition for the term “shot on goal”:

A shot on goal is defined as any deliberate action taken by an attacking player to shoot or deflect the puck with his stick into or toward the opposing net.”

According to Andrews, under this definition, a shot might be blocked by a defenseman or miss the net altogether and still be counted.

Hebenton Likes Leafs

Veteran forward Andy Hebenton, picked up from the Boston Bruins in the June trade that sent Ron Stewart to Boston, likes the fact that Toronto is giving him a decent shot at making their team this fall. Hebenton feels he never got a fair shake from the Bruins.

Andy Hebenton
Andy Hebenton

Hebenton was claimed by the Bruins from the Rangers in the 1963 Intra-league Draft. He had just completed eight seasons with New York, and during that time he did not miss a game. In 1963-64, his first season with Boston, he also played every game, setting the NHL record with 630 consecutive games played.

Bruins Left Him in the Dark

In July of 1964, Hebenton, heard nothing from the Bruins between the time the season ended in March and July. Hebenton related what happened to Red Burnett of the Toronto Star:

“In July of 1964 I wrote a letter to the Bruins asking them what plans they had for me and when they wanted me to report to training camp. They didn’t even give me the courtesy of answering the letter.

Portland's Hal Laycoe
Portland’s Hal Laycoe

“Finally Hal Laycoe (GM-coach of Portland Buckaroos of the WHL) telephoned and said ‘Andy I hate to have you find it out second-hand like this, but Boston has loaned you to us for the season.’

“As if that weren’t bad enough, I wrote them last February saying I liked it in Portland and wondered if they would sell me to the Buckaroos. I haven’t received an answer to that letter either.”

Hebenton looks at the trade to Toronto as a blessing. He wishes he had been sent here five years ago, figuring he is Punch Imlach’s kind of player.

“At least they’re giving me a shot at the big team. This is vastly different treatment than I received in Boston.”

Hebenton was one of the early surprises in camp, but in recent exhibition games, he has made some defensive miscues. He’s also a half a step slower than his Ranger days and is admittedly in tough to make the Leafs roster. But, he’s not about to give up yet.

Habs Likely to Stand Pat

With opening night only 16 days away, things are going along pretty much as expected at the training camp of the Stanley Cup champions. And with a lineup like Canadiens will ice, one wouldn’t expect anything else.

In fact, the Canadiens might even be stronger than the club that hoisted Lord Stanley mug last spring. The Habs had to navigate their playoff road without two mainstays. Left winger Gilles Tremblay had been missing since December with a badly broken leg, while key defender Jacques Laperriere broke his ankle during the semi-finals.

Gilles Tremblay
Gilles Tremblay

Both players have been outstanding in camp. Each reported in superior condition and have been among the team’s best performers so far. There were whispers last season that Tremblay’s career might be over due to the severity of his injury, but he is exhibiting no ill effects so far this fall.

Two others who are showing well for Montreal thus far are captain Jean Beliveau and winger Dave Balon.

Montreal made only a few minor moves during the off-season, but none of the acquisitions were of the game-changing variety.



  • F’s Garry Peters and Lou Angotti have signed their New York Ranger contracts for the upcoming season.
  • Rookie F Andre Champagne of Toronto has been hospitalized with a serious eye injury after being struck with a stick. He is expected to miss at least a month.
Andre Champagne: out for a month
Andre Champagne: out for a month
  • Boston Bruins sent veteran F Forbes Kennedy to San Francisco of the WHL, and young F Keith Wright to Oklahoma City of the CPHL
  • Toronto dropped a 5-4 decision to the New York Rangers at Kitchener, Ontario.
  • Last year’s WHL rookie-of-the-year George Swarbrick has been given a tryout by the Boston Bruins. Swarbrick is rumoured to be one player in a proposed six-man deal between the Bruins and the San Francisco Seals.
  • Montreal Canadiens whipped their CPHL farm team, the Houston Apollos, 6-2 in Sept Iles, Quebec. Henri Richard led the way for the Habs with two goals.