Friday, May 23, 2008

The Memorial Cup: A history . . . 1955

1955 MEMORIAL CUP
Regina Pats vs. Toronto Marlboros
at Regina (Exhibition Stadium)

It was a talented group of Toronto Marlboros that arrived in Regina on April 20 to meet the Regina Pats in the best-of-seven Memorial Cup final, with all games scheduled for Exhibition Stadium.
Coached by Turk Broda, the retired star netminder who had moved on to the NHL from the Brandon Native Sons and was in his first season as a head coach, the Marlies featured the likes of captain Al MacNeil, Bob Baun, Billy Harris, Gerry James (a two-sporter, he also played football with the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers), Mike Nykoluk, Bob Pulford and Gary Aldcorn.
The Marlboros had dumped the St. Catharines Teepees in a six-game eastern final.
Stafford Smythe was the Marlboros' manager; Harold Ballard was the president. Ballard wasn't in Regina long before he was complaining. It seems he didn't like the fact the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association had his club traveling tourist class on the train to Regina. It seems his club always traveled first class.
"The CAHA takes all the gate receipts as soon as a team gets out of its own province,” Ballard said, "but the governing body only allows $180 daily expenses for an 18-man team.”
Tom Melville had this to say in the Regina Leader-Post: "Mr. Ballard objected to traveling in a so-called tourist sleeping car and is reported to have paid the difference for a standard. Because Marlboros did most of their eastern traveling by bus, he may be forgiven for not knowing that eastern trains on the short hauls do not carry tourist cars. Western clubs, both in football and hockey, in the main use tourist cars. What is the difference between the two classes?
"A tourist car has 12 lowers and a drawing room; the standard has 12 lowers and a drawing room. The tourist cars are a little older than the standards, although not always, and on a tourist car the door is taken off the drawing room and a curtain substituted.
"If Mr. Ballard preferred a newer car and a door on the drawing room, surely he could have made arrangements for this without making a national issue out of it.”
The Pats, who had taken care of the Winnipeg Monarchs in five games in the western final, were coached by Murray Armstrong. Included on the roster were Bill Hicke and Bill Hay. Murray Balfour, an all-star defenceman, would miss the first two games as he recovered from a cracked kneecap suffered seven weeks previous.
Regina had added three players for the series -- defenceman Lionel Repka from the Edmonton Oil Kings and forwards Earl Ingarfield and Les Colwill from the Lethbridge Native Sons. Ingarfield, however, was injured and would miss the start of the series.
Ken Girard, the right winger on Toronto's first line, suffered a charleyhorse when checked by James during a practice and was on the limp when the series opened.
Prior to the opener, Broda said: "I haven't seen the Regina Pats in action, so I don't know just how the Marlboros will stack up against them. It takes a game in any series to sort things out. I hear the Pats are pretty fast and throw the puck around rather well. The Marlboros had to beat some pretty good teams to get where they are, so I guess I shouldn't be backwards in touting my own boys.
"Let's say this, though. If we don't win the series in five games I might be looking for a new job. The pattern lately has been the east in five and I might get thrown out if I let the side down.”
History shows that Broda didn't let the side down.
The Pats opened the series with a 3-1 victory before 4,756 fans on April 21.
"Pats were outshot and outweighed,” wrote Ernie Fedoruk in The Leader-Post. "But Armstrong's warriors didn't let the coach down in vital departments. He expected hustle and desire. He got that and an excellent defensive and backchecking display which proved to be the big factor in an important contest.”
Armstrong, so far, was refusing to use the three additions that were allowed under CAHA rules. Neither Ingarfield, who was hurt, nor Colwill dressed for the opener; Repka was dressed but never got off the bench.
Glenn MacDonald and Harry Ottenbreit, who played on Regina's third line with Hay, scored the first two goals, both on passes from Hay. Elmer Schwartz added Regina's other goal. Gary Collins scored for Toronto.
"We'll play it the same way Saturday,” Armstrong said, "with the same lineup. We'll have to keep with them all the way. When things got really bad, Joe Selinger came through. Joe's like the pitcher on a ball team. If you haven't got good pitching, you haven't got anything. It's the same think in goalkeeping.”
The Marlies tied the series on April 23, scoring a 5-2 decision thanks to four power-play goals before 5,478 fans.
Toronto, which outshot Regina 31-10, led 3-0 halfway through the game and Regina rarely threatened. Nykoluk scored twice for Toronto, with singles coming from Glen Cressman, James and Pulford. Regina's goals came from Danny Wong and Schwartz.
"It was a dandy hockey game,” Broda said. "Regina fans may never see another one as good.
"Still, the boys didn't play as well as they could. Their checking has improved and after another game, we'll be hard to beat.”
Immediately after the game, Armstrong announced that he would dress Balfour, Ingarfield and Colwill for Game 3. Repka finally had played halfway through Game 2.
To get in the replacements, Armstrong scratched defencemen Wayne Klinck and Fred Buchan, while forward Harvey Flaman bowed out with the flu.
After Game 3 on April 25, Fedoruk reported: "Pats outskated, outshot and outchecked the heavier Toronto team. Regina spotted Dukes a 2-0 first-period lead, then came back to stage a display that had Marlboros hanging on the ropes.”
However, the Pats didn't win. With 4,500 fans on hand, the Marlboros scored a 3-2 victory.
Still, the Pats were upbeat despite trailing 2-1 in the series.
"They're not half as tough as we're going to be,” Armstrong said.
Harris, Pulford and Nykoluk scored for Toronto, with Colwill and Hay scoring for Regina.
Broda, commenting on his team's play, said: "They were terrible. That was the worst game of hockey I've seen them play all winter.”
Toronto would play better on April 27 and earn a 3-2 overtime victory to go up 3-1 in the series.
"When the going gets tough and the games get bigger, then Billy Harris will get us the big goals,” Ballard had said back when the series was even at 1-1.
And that's exactly what happened.
"Harris dropped the Pats after 44 seconds of overtime action, scoring a pretty unassisted goal,” wrote Fedoruk.
Harris figured in all three Toronto goals as he set up MacNeil and Girard for the other goals.
The best of the Pats was Balfour, who sent 5,378 fans into hysteria when he forced overtime with 13 seconds left in the third period. It was his second goal of the game.
"Our boys couldn't get up for the overtime,” Armstrong said. "I thought when we tied it they'd rise and really go. But they were awfully tired. We had to make the game after Toronto got the goal but we couldn't make a go of it.”
Said Broda: "I think we played our best hockey game, but winning that way is awfully bad for the heart. Sure, we only need one more, but it'll be just as hard to get.”
It was hard, but the Marlies got it in Game 5, winning 8-5 in overtime in front of 5,718 fans.
"Pats, great in defeat, blew a 3-0 first-period lead and the hard-hitting Dukes exploded for three goals in a minute and 27 seconds midway in the third period to send the game into overtime,” read one report.
Harris, again, scored the winner. It came at 6:13 of overtime on Toronto's first good scoring chance of extra time. Cressman had two goals, the tying goal in the third period and an insurance score in overtime. Collins also scored twice, with James, Pulford and Bill Kennedy getting one each. Hay fired three goals for the Pats, with Ottenbreit and captain Bev Bell getting the others.
Armstrong finished the series the way he started it -- he didn't use any of the players who had been added from other teams.
"Pats were powerful,” Ballard said. "Make no bones about it. If the breaks in those three games fell in favor of Regina, all this noise you hear would be coming from the Pat dressing room instead of ours.
"It was your Pats, and not the Marlboros, who have regained for the Memorial Cup final the prestige it so rightfully deserves.”
The attendance at Game 5 brought the total to 25,821, almost 8,000 more than had witnessed the 1954 Memorial Cup final.
"Hold your heads up -- high,” Armstrong told the Pats. "You've got nothing to be ashamed of. You gave everything you had and I'm just as proud of you as I would be if you had won. There's no disgrace in losing a series like that and to a team like that.”

NEXT: 1956 (Regina Pats vs. Toronto Marlboros)

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