Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Memorial Cup: A history . . . 1959

Winnipeg Braves vs. Peterborough TPT Petes
at Winnipeg (Arena) and Brandon (Wheat City Arena)

Scotty Bowman, who would go on to an amazingly successful career as a National Hockey League coach (and sometimes general manager) with the Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings, was back in the Memorial Cup final in the spring of 1959.
It was Bowman's third straight appearance in the national junior final.
He was an assistant coach with the Ottawa Canadiens when they lost to the Flin Flon Bombers in 1957. That year, the final was played in the west.
And he was back as an assistant coach with the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens in 1958 when, playing the series in Hull and Ottawa, they beat the Regina Pats.
This time around, the final would be played in the west and Bowman, 26, was the head coach of the Peterborough TPT Petes, so named because of a major sponsor -- Toronto-Peterborough Transport.
The Petes were in their third season in Peterborough, having moved over from Kitchener. They finished seventh in a seven-team league their first season there, then moved up to fifth the following season under coach Teeder Kennedy. They finished second under Bowman.
The game of hockey was slowly changing, witness the fact that Peterborough defenceman Barclay Plager set a club record with 252 penalty minutes. People were starting to pay attention to that kind of stuff. Plager's record, by the way, would last until 1972-73 when it was broken by Bob Neely.
The Petes were captained by Bill Mahoney, who would later take a turn at coaching the Minnesota North Stars in 1982-83. Unfortunately, a broken ankle suffered against Hull-Ottawa -- in an eastern final that featured two Montreal Canadiens' farm clubs -- kept him out of this Memorial Cup final.
Wayne Connelly, a 19-year-old right winger, was Peterborough's leading scorer, with 36 goals and 90 points. He went into the Memorial Cup with 15 goals and 31 points in 26 playoff games. With Mahoney gone, Connelly played alongside centre Larry Babcock and left-winger George Montague.
Gary Darling, with 15 goals in 26 playoff games, centred Wayne Boddy and Freddy Dart, with Pat Casey, Tom Clark and Bob Rivard the other forwards. With Mahoney injured, Darling also served as captain.
The roster also included goaltender Denis Dejordy, who was added from the St. Catharines Teepees when Jacques Caron went down with a hip injury against Hull-Ottawa. On defence, the Petes had Plager, Tom Thurlby, Jim Roberts, Larry Kish and Chuck Hamilton, a converted forward.
The OHA final would last eight games that year. It featured Peterborough and the St. Michael's Majors from the Irish Catholic school in Toronto. St. Mike's posted two victories and three ties in the first five games and needed just one more tie to wrap it up. But the Petes wouldn't let that happen -- they won the last three games and the series.
Hull-Ottawa was a force again, and it advanced to the eastern final by swatting aside the Quebec Baronets, 8-1 and 6-0.
The eastern Canadian final lasted seven games, with Peterborough winning four, losing two and tying one. The Baby Habs won the first two (5-2 and 4-1), Game 3 ended in a 2-2 tie, and Peterborough won the next four games (5-2, 6-2, 2-1 and 2-1).
Out of the west rode the Winnipeg Braves.
They were managed by Bill Addison, later the genial long-time commissioner of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, and coached by Bill Allum. Allum was a longtime minor pro defenceman, who had done time in the American Hockey League cities of Buffalo, Philadelphia, Cleveland and St. Louis. He had also had a couple of cups of coffee in the NHL with the Chicago Black Hawks and New York Rangers.
Allum replaced the legendary Harry Neil as the Braves' coach during the 1957-58 season. That was the Braves' first season after Neil had put the organization together. Unfortunately, Neil died one day in November, shortly after a practice session.
Winnipeg featured Laurie Langrell, its leading scorer with 42 goals (including one six-goal game) and 63 points. Ernie Wakely was the goaltender and he was supported by the likes of Rene Brunel, Ted Green (an addition from the St. Boniface Canadiens), Doug Monro, Lew Mueller, Howie Hughes (another pickup from St. Boniface who would start the series as Connelly's shadow), Al LeBlanc, Gary Bergman, Bobby Leiter, and captain Wayne Larkin (who would die at the age of 29 on Sept. 10, 1968, after suffering a heart attack at the New York Rangers’ training camp in Kitchener). They also added right-winger Don Atamanchuk from the Transcona Rangers.
When the Memorial Cup opened, Allum had Leiter between Langrell and LeBlanc, the latter from Campbellton, N.B.; Hughes between Larkin and Atamanchuk; and, Brunel with Pat Angers and Al Baty. First-year player Ken King was the extra forward.
It's also worth noting that Braves fans, and there were lots of them, were able to follow their boys through play-by-play man (Cactus) Jack Wells on Winnipeg radio station CKY.
After bouncing St. Boniface in the MJHL final, the Braves ousted the Fort William Canadiens in five games, winning the opener (9-4), losing the second game (3-1) and then taking three in a row (4-3, 5-1 and 3-1).
At the same time, Flin Flon was sweeping the Edmonton Oil Kings -- 6-3, 8-3, 10-1 and 11-6.
The western final for the Abbott Cup lasted six games. The Braves fell behind by two games, losing 5-1 and 7-4, before roaring back to win four in a row -- 5-2, 6-4, 5-1 and 3-0. Wakely shone in that last game, stopping 37 shots before 9,018 fans, believed to be the largest crowd to witness a junior game in western Canada.
The Braves promptly added three players from St. Boniface to their roster -- left-winger Jerry Kruk, goaltender Paul Sexsmith and centre Johnny Rodger.
The Braves were the first MJHL team to win the west since St. Boniface did it in the spring of 1953. (Remember that Flin Flon played in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.)
"It's got to be hustle, hustle, hustle if we're going to win,” Allum said. "I don't know anything about this Peterborough team, but they must be pretty good to beat Hull-Ottawa. But we've got a pretty good team, too.”
The keys for Winnipeg as the series opened: 1. The Braves were counting on Hughes to stifle Connelly, just like he did to Flin Flon ace Cliff Pennington; and, 2. Wakely, the 157-pound goaltender, had to be at the top of his game.
The series was to open in Winnipeg on April 24.
At a practice on April 23, Bowman commented on the ice in the Winnipeg Arena.
"It's the best ice we've been on,” he said. Which is somewhat ironical considering the Winnipeg Arena would later become known for its poor ice.
Only 6,239 fans showed up for Game 1, thanks to a heavy, wet snowfall that plugged city streets. Those who couldn't make it missed a hard-hitting, fast-skating game which the Petes won, 5-4.
Peterborough trailed 1-0 after one period but scored four straight second-period goals and took a 4-3 lead into the third.
Boddy made it 5-3 at 1:06, before Langrell scored the game's last goal at 12:27.
Bergman had the only goal of the first period. Babcock, Thurlby, Rivard and Babcock again sent the Petes out front in the second, but Langrell and LeBlanc cut the deficit by two in the last 1:07 of the second period.
The Petes took seven of the 11 penalties handed out, with Plager getting four -- three minors and a misconduct, the latter for joining in a fight between Larkin and Darling.
The Braves tied the series on April 26, posting a 5-2 victory before 9,171 fans.
"Braves showed some of the speed up front that won them the western title as they beat the Petes to the puck while their defence and goalie Ernie Wakely left little to be desired,” reported The Canadian Press.
Langrell scored twice for the second straight game, while Winnipeg got singles from Leiter, Brunel and Angers. Tom Clark and Thurly replied for the Petes.
Leiter and Brunel gave the Braves a 2-0 first-period lead, before Clark and Langrell traded second-period goals. Angers and Langrell upped Winnipeg's lead to 5-1 before Thurlby closed out the scoring late in the third.
"All our forwards have got to check harder and we've got to start shooting better,” Bowman said. "We've been missing too many opportunities.”
Bowman also admitted the Petes were going to have to stop the Braves' ‘L' line -- Leiter, Langrell and LeBlanc had six goals and eight assists between them -- but, he said, "I'm not going to send any particular line against them.”
"Mahoney could have done the job,” Bowman said of his injured captain. "We really miss him.”
As for Connelly not having scored yet, Bowman said: "He's a streaker. He goes hot and cold. At one stage, he went nine games without scoring and then hit five in a row.”
The Braves went up two games to one on April 28, blowing a 2-0 lead before prevailing 5-2 before 7,939 fans.
Langrell had his third straight two-goal game, while Larkin also scored twice. LeBlanc got the Braves' other goal. Rivard and Boddy scored for the Petes.
Langrell and Larkin scored in the first period and the teams played a scoreless middle frame. Rivard, at 1:16, and Boddy, at 7:54, tied it in the third period, only to have Larkin get what turned into the winner just 15 seconds later. LeBlanc followed with a goal at 9:44 and Langrell wrapped it up at 17:12.
After the game, Ron Campbell wrote in the Regina Leader-Post: "For a Canadian final, the action left much to be desired and if it is any indication of things to come (both clubs are two of the weakest overall to have reached the final in the last decade -- an opinion shared by the experts) the National League will have trouble filling their ranks in the next few years. Without senior hockey the NHL could be in for plenty of grief.”
The Braves took a commanding 3-1 series lead on April 29, winning 5-3 before 8,375 fans.
"What can a guy do?” asked Bowman. "We play our best game of the series and a couple of bad breaks cost us a chance of drawing even.
"The winner was a really tough break. Our boy (Rivard) made a great play and had three of their men trapped. Then on a dubious call (Bowman felt a tripping penalty should have been handed out by referee Len Corriveau of Quebec) the puck bounces right on to the stick of their winger.”
The Braves trailed 2-0 after one period as Roberts and Rivard scored for the Petes. Larkin and Leiter tied it in the second, only to have Montague put Peterborough out front again at 14:11.
Leiter tied it at 7:40 of the third period, Baty got the winner at 15:12 and Larkin iced it at 18:19.
"We'll wrap it up on Friday,” Allum said, referring to Game 5 which would be played on May 1 in Brandon. "They had us on the run in the early stages but the fellows never quit trying and it paid off. You can't let up against them -- they proved it tonight.”
Toe Blake, head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, offered this analysis: "The Petes seemed to back into their own end too often in the final period. Their defence has a bad habit of dropping down on almost every shot and with the wide ice surface here they have trouble recovering.”
Bowman, meanwhile, was upset with Corriveau's work, saying he "called only the glaring trips, never the hooking or boarding.”
But Bowman had cooled off by the next day.
"I guess it wouldn't do any good any way to protest,” he said. "It wouldn't make that much difference to have a change in the referee; my boys will just have to work harder.
"Maybe my outburst will wake (Corriveau) up.”
The Braves wrapped it up on May 1 in the Wheat City Arena, getting three goals from Baty in a 6-2 victory.
Bowman, however, wasn't around for the end.
"The rugged game almost got out of hand in the third period,” reported The Canadian Press, “when coach Scotty Bowman of the Petes was first given a bench penalty for slapping a stick on the boards, then ejected from the rink for pulling out his wallet and appearing to offer money to referee Len Corriveau of Quebec City.”
Atamanchuk, Brunel and Larkin also scored for the Braves, with Darling and Boddy replying for the Petes, who didn't get one goal from Connelly during the entire series.
In giving Winnipeg its first Memorial Cup since the Monarchs won in 1946, the Braves blew a 2-0 lead in the first period before scoring the game's final four goals.
Baty scored at 3:53 and 4:08 of the first period. But the Petes tied it when Darling (7:28) and Boddy (17:09) counted.
Atamanchuk got what proved to be the winner at 3:08 of the second period, with Larkin and Green earning assists. Baty, Larkin and Brunel put it away with third-period goals.
It was the west's 18th Memorial Cup triumph, against 23 for the east.

NEXT: 1960 (Edmonton Oil Kings vs. St. Catharines Teepees)

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