Viewed 2467 times
It’s that time of year again. People are wrestling with the symptoms of S.A.D.—Seasonal Affective Disorder—sometimes known as winter depression or winter blues.
The symptoms include lack of energy, difficulty in concentration, pessimism, unusual tiredness, and mood changes. This is normally associated with too many dull days and the resulting lack of sunlight, cold weather which keeps people inside, and winter being too dad blamed long.
The simple answer—if it can be realized—is an increased amount of light—preferably sunlight. Life needs to experience brightening up.
Well, we can’t do much about getting the sun to shine longer and more often. But perhaps some excerpts from the lighter side of Canada’s National Sport will be an acceptable substitute.
Finding yuks and guffaws connected with shinny personalities is no problem. It’s deciding which ones to ignore that is the real dilemma. This is especially true of the “good old days”, when kibitzing made up for the size of paychecks and the overall affluence so connected with the modern pay-for-play scene.
In fact that’s a good place to start—the size (or lack of size) of the stipends divvied out to skaters in the pre-WHA/NHL salary wars. “Babe” Pratt , who had to take a summer job as a switchman with the CPR, once illustrated how poorly major league professionals were paid: “One day, after getting my wages, I stepped out of the hotel where the team was staying, and accidently dropped it. An ant with a hernia scurried out from under a garbage pail, snapped it up, and hurried off with it before I could reach it!”
When the NHA embraced teams from Cobalt and Haileybury for that one season in 1909-10 there was never any concern about not having ice for games. It was just plain cold in them thar parts of Ontario. One night when those two clubs squared off it was 25 below zero F (minus 33 C). A bitter wind only added to the frigid touch in the air. Art Ross, who was the Haileybury captain, wore a pair of fur mittens, and had a woolen toque rolled over his face with only peep holes for his eyes. Typical of those fledgling years of pay-for-play competition, “Uncle Arthur” challenged Lester Patrick with his stick clubbing him in the jaw. Ready for the expected retaliation, he flung his mitts off and posed with his fists in a prize-fighting stance. But suddenly he scrambled to retrieve his gloves and put them back on. Lester burst out laughing, realizing the scrap had been “called on account of cold”.
“Patsy” Callighen played but one campaign in the NHL back in 1927-28. One evening one of his teammates was penalized and led to the sin bin by referee Mickey Ion. Having skated back to the faceoff circle, he was getting ready to drop the puck. But in a “better late than never” act of protest, Callighen banged his stick on the ice so loudly that it sounded like a gunshot.
Up went the official’s hands signaling a penalty. “What does that mean?”, Patsy asked.
“It means a 10-minute misconduct!”, shouted Pick Hines the other whistle tooter. “And you’d better be on your way before he makes it a life sentence!”
“Well, I’ll be! This is the first league I ever played in where you get a misconduct penalty for golfing a peanut off the ice!”
Myles Lane skated for the New York Rangers briefly, and it was while there that Lester Patrick proposed a trade which would bring Eddie Shore to the Big Apple in exchange for the studious rearguard. Art Ross’ answer was blunt and to the point: “Lester, you’re so far from Shore you need a life preserver!” But eventually he was sold outright to the Bruins in 1929. While he plied his trade on the ice he was studying law. The Beantown management saw leadership potential in Lane, and made him playing coach of the Can-Am Boston Cubs.
While he was there he had trouble controlling a little firecracker named Joe Geroux. Prone to lose his cool, he was continually losing money due to fines for misbehaving. He asked his mentor for advice, and was told to count to ten rather than retaliating.
It wasn’t long until he almost caused a riot by clubbing “Duke” Dutkowski over the head with his stick. On the way back home on the train Lane had a heart-to-heart chat with his delinquent skater. “What did I tell you to do instead of lashing out?”, the future Supreme Court Judge asked.
“You told me to count to ten—and THEN I could swing!”
“But I saw the incident and I only got as far a five when you let your stick go!”
“Myles. I forgot to tell you. I was born in Poland, and whenever I get mad I forget to count in English and do it in Polish—and I do it twice as fast. I did that with Dutkowski. I counted—then let my stick go!”
No account about humour would be complete without a paragraph about the incomparable “King” Clancy. Just before he was transferred to Toronto, the little Irishman, who started many bouts, but never finished one, picked on the Maroons’ burly Harold Starr—who, by the way, moonlighted as a professional wrestler. Not surprisingly his fellow Ottawa native easily mopped up the ice with him, concluding the bout heaving him halfway across the ice, then sitting on him!
“Let me up! Let me up!” Clancy demanded.
Finally granting the request, Starr chuckled, “Well I licked you, eh Clancy?”
Members of both teams almost fell over when the never-say-die half-pint stuck out his chin and proclaimed: “Starr! You never saw the day you could lay a hand on me!”
Nick Metz joined the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fall of 1934. By the time 1941 rolled around he had established himself as one of the premier penalty killers in the NHL. Although he generally conducted himself in a gentlemanly manner, and received fewer than the average number of penalties, he was guilty one night of abusing the privilege of wearing the big “A” on his sweater.
He was hassling referee Bill Chadwick about the calls he was making during the course of the match. Finally, the big official had had enough. “Look Nick!” he exploded. “I’ll referee the game. Your job is to put the puck in the net!”
In no time at all the red-headed prairie farm boy did just that. As he skated by Chadwick he cracked: “You know Bill, you’re just supposed to referee. You’re not supposed to coach the players!”
Another “Original 6” stalwart, Fern Flaman, had a different approach to haggling with referees; and one night “Red” Story bore the brunt of his frustration. After a fellow Bruin was whistled to the fence, Fernie skated straight over the lanky whistle-tooter and went nose to nose with him. After what seemed like a long time, the veteran official griped:
“What’s the matter Flaman? Can’t you talk? And why are you breathing all over me?” His answer deserves to be in the archives of witticism: “Red”, he growled. “I’ve got the lousiest cold in Boston, and I’m standing here until you catch it!”
In 1944 the Canadiens had just won their third straight over the Blackhawks, leaving them one victory short of the coveted Stanley Cup. However, they just squeaked out a 3-2 win, and Coach Dick Irvin was not pleased with their performance. He proceeded to tear strips off the team collectively for “dangerous complacency”, in what he felt was a “bad game”.
Just as he reached a crescendo, Manager Tommy Gorman burst through the locker room door, and shouted: “Wonderful game fellows! A grand win! Terrific! Keep that up and we’ll win the Cup!”
Irvin stood speechless! “Rocket” Richard and Elmer Lach, seated side by side, started making choking sounds, while their line mate, “Toe” Blake hurriedly bent over his skate laces. Then, abruptly, the entire room convulsed. Their startled bench boss took a kick at a bucket, missed, and joined the laughter. Only Gorman was silent—puzzled as to what he had said that was so funny.
From the Hab’s dressing room we move to Toronto’s locker where the silver-tongued Conn Smythe was giving one of his flowery pep talks. As a horse breeder and stable owner, he launched into an analogy between thoroughbreds and hockey players.
“Some horses are strictly front-runners. They go to the front, hold out most of the way, but when it comes to the wire they just fold up. Other horses lay back, rate the race, then come in to win in the last eighth!”
“Babe” Pratt was so impressed by the address that he turned to rookie “Teeder” Kennedy and asked: “Which end of the horse do you want to be?”
Few players could send both teammates and opponents into fits of laughter like the poker-faced Ron Stewart. Playing at his best in 1960’s, his versatility made him a favourite with Coach “Punch” Imlach. One afternoon, at an optional practice, Bert Olmstead was assigned to be “coach for the day”. He announced there would be an inter-squad game with Stewart serving as referee. In his typical quasi-serious fashion, the latter had the players line up, face the picture of the Queen which hung at one end of the gardens, then dropped the puck.
It wasn’t long until he began to assist on some of the action by kicking the puck in certain directions. Eventually this led to a breakaway by Brian Cullen. Suddenly Stewart blew the play dead. “What was that for?”, Cullen demanded. “Oh I just wanted to tell you what a nice play that was!”, came the explanation.
Still with the Queen City sextet, Billy Harris, who was anything but a rugged player, got tangled up with the grizzled old Bill Gadsby while he was still patrolling the blue line for the Rangers. The latter became very angry at the slim pivot, and his language, apparent even to lip readers, was enough to make a sailor blush. When Harris was asked what it was all about, he said Gadsby accused him of kicking him. “Hinky”, as he was nicknamed, protested that he wasn’t kicking him; he was just trying to get his leg loose.
To that William responded that if he was kicked again he would break his stick over his head.
“What did you do then?”, he was asked.
“Well. For one thing, I stopped kicking him!”
Leap-frogging ahead to the 1970’s, we hear from former Leaf director, Terry Kelly. He recalls a slug-fest between tough guy “Kurt the Hurt” Walker and Dave Schultz, Philly’s resident enforcer. “Tiger” Williams was, on this occasion, just a bystander as the bout continued. He suggested to referee Bruce Hood that he “let them fight! Their IQ’s don’t add up to 11!”
Replied Hood to Williams: “Do you want to get in it and make it an even dozen?”
All of the above anecdotes are gospel. But this concluding one cannot be verified as such. It comes from the archives of the late “Babe” Pratt, who was as skilled at spinning yarns as he was at hockey.
He used to love to tease John Ferguson, who, although he played for the Canadiens, was not bilingual. He enjoyed playing the horses, and one night he dreamed that the winner of the eighth heat at the local track was a filly with a name with “hat” in it. He rushed out to get a racing form, and, sure enough—there was a “Hat-Check Girl” listed. He laid down his pesos at the window, and waited. Later, when he came home, his wife asked how his dream pick had fared.
“She came in eighth!”, he grumbled.
“Well, who won?”, she enquired.
“Oh, some nag called ‘Chapeau’.”, came the disgusted reply.
Viewed 2467 times
That Decisive Seventh Game
Posted May 26, 2019
You Gotta Have Hart!
Posted May 13, 2019
He Shoots! He Scores! Hockey's Clarion Call
Posted April 25, 2019
Second Thoughts on Penalties
Posted April 14, 2019
His Night to Howell
Posted March 30, 2019
Posted March 18, 2019
Humour - A Way to Catch Your Balance
Posted March 03, 2019
The Revival of Hockey's Lost Art of Stickhandling - Part 2
Posted February 15, 2019
The Revival of Hockey's Lost Art of Stickhandling - Part 1
Posted February 01, 2019
The Rise and Fall of Sweater Number 9
Posted January 23, 2019
Penalty-Free NHL Games
Posted January 09, 2019
The Greatest of These is Charity
Posted December 22, 2018
Minor League 'Davids' Defeating Major League 'Goliaths'
Posted December 07, 2018
The Shadow Knows
Posted November 25, 2018
Lying Down on the Job
Posted November 04, 2018
The Perils and Pleasures of Water
Posted October 19, 2018
Hockey's Cinderella Teams
Posted October 07, 2018
Posted May 19, 2018
Hockey's Classic Embarrassing Moments
Posted May 10, 2018
Playing in a Fog
Posted April 21, 2018
Posted April 08, 2018
First Game, First Shift, First Goal!
Posted March 26, 2018
Always a Bridgroom
Posted March 12, 2018
The Year the Canadiens Almost Died
Posted February 24, 2018
Tangled With the Law and the Lawless - Part 2
Posted February 17, 2018
Tangled With the Law and the Lawless
Posted January 28, 2018
Lucky Black Cats and Number 13
Posted January 17, 2018
Concussions in Hockey Nothing New
Posted December 30, 2017
The Best Christmas I Remember
Posted December 18, 2017
Filling the Gap
Posted December 01, 2017
Off Duty Injuries; mishaps away from the rink
Posted November 13, 2017
The Most Cruel Bird of All
Posted October 26, 2017
Las Vegas — NHL's 31st Team — Knights or Knaves?
Posted October 13, 2017
Playing Under the Influence - of Pain
Posted May 29, 2017
In Tune Pucksters
Posted May 14, 2017
Laughter - The Best Medicine
Posted April 29, 2017
The Last Straw
Posted April 15, 2017
Whose Side Are You On Anyway?
Posted March 30, 2017
Ferreting Out Phantom Hockey Stars
Posted March 17, 2017
A Woman's Place...is On the Ice (Part 2)
Posted March 08, 2017
A Woman's Place...is On the Ice (Part 1)
Posted February 19, 2017
Tales From the Sin Bin!
Posted February 04, 2017
Happy 100th Birthday N.H.L
Posted January 25, 2017
New Year's Resolutions that Might Have Been
Posted January 06, 2017
It Happened on December 25th
Posted December 21, 2016
The Best of Hockey's One-Liners
Posted December 10, 2016
The Price of Stardom
Posted November 18, 2016
Is There a Doctor in the House?
Posted November 03, 2016
Auston Matthews: Liberator or Lemon?
Posted October 14, 2016
Hockey's Multi-Generation Families
Posted June 16, 2016
Picture Perfect - A Dozen Classic Hockey Photos
Posted June 08, 2016
Anatomy of the Penalty Shot
Posted May 17, 2016
Hockey's Honourary Indian Chiefs
Posted May 04, 2016
Posted April 17, 2016
Records That Will Never Be Broken
Posted March 31, 2016
Right Church — Wrong Pew
Posted March 23, 2016
Does "Captain" Mean Much Anymore?
Posted March 02, 2016
Posted February 21, 2016
Now That's Not Pun-ny!
Posted February 07, 2016
A Century of Leap Year Landmarks - Part 2
Posted January 26, 2016
A Century of Leap Year Landmarks - Part 1
Posted January 06, 2016
Posted December 29, 2015
Practice Can Be Precarious
Posted December 11, 2015
How Much is a Body Worth?
Posted November 25, 2015
Brooklyn Bridge is Falling Down...
Posted November 15, 2015
Did You Have a Good Summer? (Part Two)
Posted November 01, 2015
Did You Have a Good Summer? (Part One)
Posted October 16, 2015
From Champs to Chumps
Posted June 07, 2015
CLEAN PLAY……CLEAN PLAYERS….TRUE SPORTS
Posted May 11, 2015
Putting the Bite on the Opposition
Posted April 24, 2015
One Eyed Wonders
Posted April 12, 2015
Captain Cage Cop
Posted March 26, 2015
Trade Deadline Deals — Blockbuster or Bluster?
Posted March 17, 2015
Fun In the Snow
Posted February 27, 2015
Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated
Posted February 16, 2015
It's not what they said - it's what they meant!
Posted January 31, 2015
Posted January 18, 2015
Hockey's New Years Babies
Posted January 03, 2015
Strange Gifts - Christmas or Otherwise
Posted December 20, 2014
Two Dozen + 1 Wacky Wonders
Posted December 06, 2014
The Last of a Long Line of...
Posted November 24, 2014
A Compendium of Referee Non-Calls
Posted November 09, 2014
40th Anniversary of the 1974 Summit Series
Posted October 25, 2014
The Many Faces of Training Camp
Posted October 13, 2014
The Rise and Fall of Playoff Heroes
Posted May 30, 2014
Boston Bruins Celebrate 90 Years
Posted May 17, 2014
A Curse Upon Ye!
Posted May 01, 2014
For the Birds
Posted April 20, 2014
They Were Not Fooled By Their Birthdates
Posted April 08, 2014
Bitten By The Hand That Feeds
Posted March 22, 2014
Tongue in Check
Posted March 08, 2014
The Ultimate Valentine - A Kiss
Posted February 08, 2014
Hats Off to Hockey
Posted January 25, 2014
Posted January 11, 2014
New Year's Revelations
Posted December 30, 2013
Posted December 23, 2013
Esposito vs Esposito - Smith vs Smith
Posted November 30, 2013
Just Dying to Play Hockey
Posted November 17, 2013
What's In 50 Years
Posted November 02, 2013
The Ongoing Resolve - NHL Season is Too Long!
Posted October 20, 2013