The Toronto Maple Leafs are down to just one healthy goaltender again. Injuries have forced the top three netminders on Toronto’s depth chart out of the lineup for the second time in a week. That means that young Al Smith, goalkeeper of the Toronto Marlboros Junior A team, might be between the pipes tomorrow night against the Montreal Canadiens.
Bower Hurt Sunday
Johnny Bower is the latest Leaf puckstopper to go down. He returned to the Toronto lineup this past weekend and was injured on a play not many remember Sunday against the Rangers. Bower collided with forward Jean Ratelle of New York. Although it seemed an innocent enough play, Bower sustained a rib injury which will sideline him for at least one game.
The other Toronto goalies, Terry Sawchuk and Gary Smith, are still out with injuries. So, the younger Smith, no relation to Gary, will get the call against Montreal. Al made his NHL debut last Sunday for a five-minute stint against Detroit. He then backstopped Toronto to a 3-2 win over Chicago on Wednesday after Gary Smith was injured just two minutes into that game.
Leafs coach Punch Imlach was hopeful that Sawchuk would make a return to the lineup by Wednesday. That went by the wayside at this morning’s early skate. Sawchuk aggravated the charley horse injury that has kept him out of the lineup. Word from the dressing room is that he’ll probably be out another two weeks.
Imlach Reluctant to Use Jr. Goalie
Imlach is reticent to start Al Smith. The 19-year-old was great against Chicago, but Imlach is afraid it may be too much, too soon for the youngster:
“I just don’t want to push my luck with him. He was great, but how much can I ask of him? And we’ve got three crucial games coming up in four nights. Our chances of moving up depend on how we do in them.”
There are other options in the Toronto system. Al Millar of Victoria of the Western Hockey League is a possibility, as is another WHL’er, Don Head. That’s a curious situation that has yet to be rectified, as far as Imlach knows.
Millar is a 36-year-old veteran who has been playing with Toronto’s WHL farm team. He had a falling out with management recently and asked for a trade. Imlach had arranged a deal with Portland for another veteran goalie, Don Head. Imlach hasn’t been able to figure out whether the deal was consummated or not, so he isn’t sure who is available for call-up. And to make matters worse, Portland plays Victoria tomorrow.
Another possibility is journeyman Bruce Gamble. He’s played well with the Tulsa of the Central Professional Hockey League this year. He was picked up from Springfield of the American Hockey League in a September trade for a couple of minor leaguers. He sat out most of last season after leaving Springfield over poor treatment he received from Indians owner Eddie Shore.
Baby Habs’ Goalie Hot
In the high-scoring Ontario Hockey Association Junior A Series, shutouts by goaltenders are not common-place occurrences. So when someone has a week like Montreal Junior Canadiens goalkeeper Ted Ouimet had, people take notice.
Ouimet blanked the Niagara Falls Flyers on Sunday evening, extending his shutout streak to 192 minutes – that’s over three games. He last allowed a goal on February 19 in Oshawa. His goals-against average is the best in the league at 2.86.
Andre Lacroix of the Peterborough Petes has the scoring title all wrapped up. He has scored 40 goals and added 79 assists for 119 points. He has a 24-point lead over team-mate Danny Grant. Grant leads the league in goals with 43.
Bobby Orr, with those 37 goals from his defense position, is in third place.
Buyer for St. Louis Arena?
Arthur M. Wirtz, president of the Arena Corp. of St. Louis says that he has a buyer for the St. Louis Arena. Wirtz owned the building with the late James Norris Jr. He didn’t identify the prospective buyer, but indicated that it was a group applying for a National Hockey League expansion franchise.
St. Louis received a conditional NHL franchise three weeks ago. It is contingent on suitable ownership being found by April 5.
Wirtz says that he could close the deal immediately, but the purchaser wants to have firm knowledge of the mechanics of the league’s expansion. He said they need to know the team’s startup date and the means by which the new clubs will be stocked with players.
They want to know what they are getting for their money.
The new franchise will cost $2,000,000. It has been widely speculated that the asking price for the St. Louis Arena is at least $4,000,000.
- New York Rangers have returned F Paul Andrea to Minnesota Rangers of the CPHL. Andrea had a goal and an assist in four games for New York.
- The Ontario Hockey Association will allow its champion to determine the venue if that club reaches the Memorial Cup final.
- Brit Selby and Kent Douglas of the Toronto Maple Leafs will return to action after missing weekend games. Selby had an injured hand and Douglas was down with a throat infection.
- Gump Worsley’s dizzy spells were caused by an inner ear infection and he will return to the Canadiens’ lineup shortly.
- San Francisco Seals of the WHL have tried to pick up goalie Bob Gray of the Fort Wayne Comets of the IHL for a five-game professional trial. Fort Wayne, fighting for first place in their league, nixed the deal.
Retired police detective, involved in hockey at all levels for over 50 years. Member of Society for International Hockey Research and presently a video analyst for the leader in advanced hockey analytics (we work exclusively for 2 NHL clubs, and provide advice on an ad hoc basis to many other clients). Currently the Assistant General Manager for the Pelham Pirates of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League. Previously owned the Faceoff computer hockey simulation and also provided all player ratings for the EA Sports series of NHL computer games from the late 90’s into the mid 2000’s.