Legendary hockey reporter and analyst Stan Fischler writes a weekly notebook for NHL.com. Fischler, known as “The Hockey Maven,” shares his humor and insights with readers every Wednesday.
This week, Stan sees some forgotten NHL heroes, players who played a key role in the success of their team but have largely disappeared from history.
Reserve keeper launches Maple Leafs dynasty – Toronto’s second dynasty Maple Leafs, with Punch Imlach behind the bench, began in 1961-62 and ended in 1966-67 with four Stanley Cup championships in six seasons.
The Imlach title winning team featured two future Hockey Hall of Fame goalkeepers, Terry Sawchuk and Johnny Bower. But there is a third almost-forgotten keeper who plays a key role: Don Simmons. Nicknamed “Dippy” because of his penchant for bending over looking for loose pucks, Simmons was a forgotten hero of the 1962 Toronto championship, the first of three in a row.
Bower was in goal when Maple Leafs won the first two matches of the 1962 Stanley Cup Final against defending champions Chicago Blackhawks in Toronto, and when they lost Game 3 at the Chicago Stadium. Bower started Game 4 but was injured in the first period after giving up a goal. Simmons was relieved and completed a 4-1 series defeat. Word soon spread that Bower was likely to work on this series, but Imlach did not panic.
“I see no reason why Simmons cannot handle tasks aimed at achieving goals,” he insisted. “He will be better when we return to Maple Leaf Gardens. He will know beforehand that he is on deck and will not be cold.” As Imlach predicted, Simmons was on par with the opportunity, winning 8-4 to put Maple Leafs 3-2 ahead in the best-of-7 series.
The biggest match in Simmons’ career came at the Chicago Stadium on April 22. During two goalless periods and nearly nine minutes into the third round, Simmons and Chicago’s Glenn Hall saved to be saved. Chicago won 1-0 at 8:56 when Bobby Hull scored, but Toronto Bob Nevin tie the game less than two minutes later, and a power-play goal by Dick Duff at 14:14 puts Toronto ahead 2-1.
Then it’s up to Simmons to lead, and he does it. Victory gave Toronto its first Stanley Cup championship since 1951.
Simmons remained with Maple Leafs for three more seasons but never played another postseason match for Toronto. He was traded to the New York Rangers in 1965 and ended his career as a reserve for another future Hall of Famer, Ed Giacomin4-10 occurred with four ties in the three seasons before retirement. It was far from the heroic moments of 1962, but the 1960s dynasty of Maple Leafs would not have happened without Simmons.
Being a hit outside Broadway – Rangers made the news in 1948 when they sent three players and cash to Providence from the American Hockey League for the defender Allan Stanley. “Blueshirts Get $ 70,000 Defenseman” is one of the headlines.
Rangers publicist Stan Saplin is responsible for the price tag. “I ask (general manager-coach) Frank Boucher to give a dollar value to every player we give up,” Saplin recalled. “The price reached $ 35,000, so I just doubled the number and gave it to the newspaper.”
$ 70,000 was a fortune in those days, so New York hockey fans were expecting spectacular players. But that’s not what they got. “Stanley is one of the most spectacular players in NHL history,” wrote historian Andrew Podnieks in his 2003 book “Players: The Ultimate A-Z Guide of Every Who Ever Ever Played in the NHL.” Stanley “is an extraordinary defender who rarely looks extraordinary.”
New York fans began calling him “Sonja,” after the famous skater and movie star Sonja Henie. Stanley dismissed insults and excelled for Rangers in the 1950 Stanley Cup Playoff, when Rangers angered the Montreal Canadiens in the Semifinals and took the Red Wings to double overtime in the Game 7 Final before losing. “Stanley is our best defenseman,” Saplin said, “but the fans don’t understand.”
The anti-Stanley ridicule at Madison Square Garden became so strong that Boucher finally played it only in a road game, and sent it to the minor league briefly before trading it to Chicago on November 23, 1954. He was traded to the Boston Bruins before the start of the 1956-57 season and sent to Toronto two years later. Stanley soon became as popular in Toronto because he was not popular in New York. His unspectacular but effective game helped Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup four times in the span of six seasons from 1961-62 to 1966-67.
At that time, most New York fans had forgotten about the defenseman they had reviled loudly. But not all. After one match at the Garden, Stanley walked out of the arena and walked along 49th Street. A local fan noticed Stanley and ran towards him. “Allan,” the fan asked, “why don’t you play like that – so good – for Rangers?” Stanley calmly replied, “But I did it; but I did it.”
There is no room for Cup heroes – It looked like Maple Leafs’ championship hopes were lost when they lost the first three matches of the 1942 Stanley Cup Final to the Detroit Red Wings. Instead, they acted with three consecutive wins, setting up Game 7 at Maple Leaf Gardens on April 18, 1942.
The 16,218 crowd, the biggest to see a game in Canada at the time, hoped one of the Toronto stars was like a captain Syl application or snipers Sweeney Schriner and Lorne Carr will produce a big goal. Schriner made the score at 7:47 the third period to tie the match 1-1. But the Cup winner was printed by an undetected attacker Pete Langelle, of which 10 goals in 1941-42 was a high NHL career. Langelle scored at 9:48 to put Toronto 2-1 up. The purpose of Schriner insurance is 3-1 wins who completed what is still the most extraordinary comeback in the history of the Stanley Cup Final.
It was also Langelle’s last NHL match. He enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces during World War II, and when he returned there was no room on the Maple Leafs list. He played professionally until 1953-54, but never saw action again for the NHL team.
Goat to hero for ‘getting lost at random’ – After losing the Red Wings’ to Leafs Maple in the 1942 Cup Final, the keeper Johnny Mowers considered by many in Detroit as a goat. “Part of the reason why Detroit lost,” wrote Ken Campbell a few decades later on The Hockey News, “is that Mowers gave up 19 goals in the last four matches. Such insults may have subverted inferior people. “
But the Cutting Machine only needs one year to move from a goat to a hero. Not only did he win the Vezina Trophy after the Red Wings allowed the fewest goals in the League in 1942-43, he also defeated the future Hall of Famer. Turk Broda to help Detroit beat Toronto in six games in the Semifinals. He followed him by getting better than other Hall of Famer in the future, Frank Brimsek, in the Stanley Cup Final against the Bruins. The lawn mower allows five goals in a four-game sweep, has shutouts in Games 3 and 4 and finishes with 1.94 goals against the average in 10 playoff games.
However, the lawn mower soon became a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force and was stationed in England. He played goals for the RCAF team, and his club won the Foreign Championship in 1944. But losing three seasons in the military effectively ended his NHL career; he played all seven games in 1946-47, losing his job to Harry Lumley. As historian Bob Duff said, “The mower got lost in the shuffle.” The lawn mower remains a forgotten sporting hero of Detroit.
Underdog Bruins disappoints Red Wings – The Bruins were barely given a chance when they faced defending champions Red Wings in the 1953 Stanley Cup Semifinals. The Red Wings had finished first in 1952-53 with 90 points; Boston is third, 21 points behind them. “To say we are seeded,” said Bruins coach Lynn Patrick, “would be an understatement.”
Game 1 runs as expected, with Red Wings wins 7-0. But Bruin recovered with a 5-3 won in Game 2, as an unknown goalkeeper Jim Henry outperform Sawchuk. Henry did the same thing in Game 3 at Boston Garden, and Boston wins 2-1 When Jack McIntyre, the striker who has scored seven goals in 70 games during the regular season, defeated Sawchuk at 12:29 on the PL. The stunned-to-core defending champion never recovered.
McIntyre scored two goals in Game 4, a 6-2 wins which gave Boston a 3-1 lead in the series. Detroit wins 6-4 at the Olympia Stadium in Game 5, but Henry was amazing again in Game 6 and the Bruins closed the series at home with a 4-2 win.
Both Henry and McIntyre did not last long with the Bruin family. Henry left at the midpoint of the 1954-55 season. McIntyre was sold to the Blackhawks on January 20, 1954, and played at the NHL until 1960 but only had two more playoff goals – one less than he printed when he and Henry helped the Bruins do one of the biggest upsets in NHL history.
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