Monday, May 12, 2008

The Memorial Cup: A history . . . 1945

Moose Jaw Canucks vs. Toronto St. Michael's Majors
at Toronto (Maple Leaf Gardens)

A couple of well-known NHL veterans met up in the best-of-seven Memorial Cup final which was played in its entirety at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Joe Primeau, a member of the Kid Line that had sparked the Toronto Maple Leafs to the 1932 Stanley Cup title, was at the helm of Toronto St. Michael’s Majors (St. Mike's as they were known), while Roy Bentley, one of the famed brothers from Delisle, Sask., worked the bench for the Moose Jaw Canucks.
The pressure was on the Canucks as Saskatchewan hadn't won a Memorial Cup since 1930, the last time the Regina Pats turned the trick.
"Is this Moose Jaw club good enough to win down east?” asked Ted Allan of the Winnipeg Tribune. "Well, all I can say is that Canucks are a very good buy at the 3-1 odds which St. Mike's supporters are said to be offering. Unquestionably, Canucks are better equipped to go up against St. Mike's than our Monarchs.”
Moose Jaw went in to Maple Leaf Gardens with a playoff record of 15 wins against just one loss, having scored 110 goals and allowed 40.
St. Mike's advanced by bumping off the Montreal Royals in six games in the best-of-seven eastern final. They won the sixth game 7-4 behind Joe Sadler's three goals in front of 10,548 fans at Maple Leaf Gardens on April 11.
Five of the St. Mike's players had junior experience in the west -- Jimmy Thomson, Bob Gray and Johnny Arundel were from Winnipeg; Frank Turik had played the previous season for the Trail Smoke Eaters; and, Johnny McCormack was from Edmonton.
Going into the final, the Canucks were concerned that they had lost Gerry Couture, their best player. A medical student at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, it was expected he would stay behind to write exams.
But darned if he didn't show up in Toronto ... in the red-and-white of the Detroit Red Wings. Couture, 19, played on a line with centre Jud McAtee, a former Oshawa Generals star, and 18-year-old rookie left-winger Ted Lindsay in a 1-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a Stanley Cup final game.
"He is a good boy and we were hard up,” explained Detroit coach Jack Adams, adding that Couture was free to return to the Canucks if he wished.
Bentley said he would use Couture so long as the CAHA felt he was still eligible.
St. Mike's won Game 1 by an 8-5 count before 12,420 fans on April 14.
"Beaten only four times in 38 previous starts this season, coach Joe Primeau's class-laden collegians struck swiftly for two goals in the first eight minutes, held Moose Jaw at bay through a bristling second period and sealed the issue with three rapid-fire goals early in the third,” reported The Canadian Press.
Tod Sloan and Thomson sent St. Mike's out front 2-0, before Bert Olmstead got Moose Jaw on the board. Turik's goal sent St. Mike's into the second period with a 3-1 lead.
Olmstead promptly scored twice to open the second period, only to have St. Mike's regain its two-goal lead on scores by McCormack and Gus Mortson.
Len Costello, Mortson and Sadler upped St. Mike's lead to 8-3 in the third before Moose Jaw made it respectable on goals by 17-year-old Metro Prystai and Frank Ashworth.
Couture was not in Moose Jaw's lineup; instead, he played with Detroit in a 5-3 victory over Toronto. It was Detroit's first victory, after three losses, in the Stanley Cup final.
Moose Jaw turned the tables on April 16, dazzling 12,399 spectators with a 5-3 victory to even the series 1-1.
"Saturday's horrible nightmare was completely erased on Monday as Canucks took charge of the traffic lights, stared Toronto's fancy St. Mike's in the eye and challenged them to do their darndest,” wrote Dave Dryburgh in the Regina Leader-Post. "The eastern champs didn't have it and Canucks scampered home with a 5-3 decision that wasn't exactly easy to pick up. But it wasn't a toughie, either.”
Sadler and Prystai exchanged first-period goals, with Frank Ashworth giving Moose Jaw a 2-1 lead midway in the second. Sloan tied it at 17:34 only to have (Hurricane) Lou Hauck put Moose Jaw ahead, off a pretty feed from Prystai, at 18:13.
Clarence Marquess upped the Canucks' lead to 4-2 in the opening minute of the third. Sloan cut into the deficit midway in the third period, but Marquess wrapped it up just 17 seconds later.
"We haven't much to talk about but I think we'll come back Wednesday,” Primeau said.
He was right.
On April 18, before 14,032 fans, St. Mike's overwhelmed Moose Jaw in taking a 6-3 victory and a 2-1 edge in the series.
McCormack struck twice for St. Mike's in the game's first eight minutes. Thomson added two more before the first period ended and St. Mike's took a 4-0 edge into the second.
Doug Toole and Ashworth got Moose Jaw back in it, only to have Sloan make it 5-2 at 11:34. Hauck, however, struck before the period ended and it was 5-3 going into the third.
Costello finished the scoring midway in the third.
Officials with Maple Leaf Gardens were so pleased with the attendance to date that the Canucks were handed a bonus cheque for $500. They would have preferred a victory or two.
By now, the Canucks were saying they had forgotten all about Couture. He was still with the Red Wings, who now had two wins in the Stanley Cup final.
And by now the Canucks had been bitten by the injury bug -- Ashworth (leg), Toole and Dick Butler (back) were all shelved.
Noted Dryburgh of Ashworth: "The wizard of stickhandling from Notre Dame is a hopeless cripple.”
With the junior final and the Stanley Cup final on at the same time, Dryburgh noted: "Despite injuries and what not, the ticket situation hasn't improved. It is a vexing and exhausting problem.
"As of this time, a person might secure a ducat for the junior matinee that would enable him to climb on the Gardens roof and view the proceedings through a periscope. For the Stanley Cup game in the evening, the closest standing room available is at the corner of Yonge and Carlton streets, two blocks away from the main entrance.
"But still the telephones ring.
"The Royal York switchboard operators are threatening to install a direct line to our quarters and have laid a charge of unfair tactics to the management. We're taking the punishment in two-hour shifts up in the rooms and outlasting the operators who are toiling on six-hour stretches.
"By actual count, well, almost, on Friday, 39,000 former Moose Jaw citizens, 339 Dryburghs, who all claim relationship, 416 Hendersons, who swear they rocked Cliff on their knees when he was a youngster, and 117 sundry individuals with even more elaborate stories, placed a bid for ducats.
"New York's Grand Central Station is a lonesome spot compared to this.”
St. Mike's took a 3-1 series lead on April 22 with a 4-3 victory over the Canucks, who had taken an early 2-0 lead.
St. Mike's, which hadn't won the national title since 1934, thrilled the crowd of 12,740 with the come-from-behind victory.
Jackie Miller gave Moose Jaw a 1-0 lead in the game's first minute and Ralph Nattrass made it 2-0 some 13 minutes later. Turik, who would score three times, cut into the deficit before the period ended.
Thomson and Turik scored in the second period to give St. Mike's the lead. Hauck tied it at 17:56, only to have Turik put St. Mike's back out front with 15 seconds left in the stanza. The third period was scoreless.
By this time the Leafs had won the Stanley Cup in seven games. Couture was still with the Red Wings. He never did return to the Moose Jaw lineup.
The very next night, April 23, St. Mike's wrapped it up with a 7-2 victory before 13,715 fans.
Dryburgh wrote: "Canucks knew they were at the end of the trail very soon after the puck was dropped. They tried to break into a gallop, found that the old zip was missing and all the encouragement that 14,000 spectators provided failed to produce the spark that would make the red-and-white Moose Jaw flyers flame again.”
CP wrote: "Before 13,715 paid admissions, Leo Gravelle paced the powerful Irish machine to its first national championship since 1934 with three goals. Frank Turik, 19-year-old Trail, B.C., product, accounted for two and the others went to Gus Mortson and Johnny McCormack.”
Olmstead got Moose Jaw's first goal but by that time the Canucks trailed 5-1 in the final minute of the second period. Marquess had Moose Jaw's other goal.
The Memorial Cup-winner? It came from Gravelle just 34 seconds into the second period.
Paid attendance for the five games was 65,437, which exceeded the Maple Leaf Gardens junior record for five games (59,301) that had been set in 1943 when the Winnipeg Rangers tangled with the Oshawa Generals. That 1943 series still held the six-game record of 73,867.

NEXT: 1946 (Winnipeg Monarchs vs. Toronto St. Michael's Majors)

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