Monday, June 9, 2008

The Memorial Cup: A history . . . 1971

Edmonton Oil Kings vs. Quebec Remparts

at Quebec city (Le Colisee)

The Western Canada Hockey League, no longer operating outside the jurisdiction of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, sent its first representative to the Memorial Cup.
But the Edmonton Oil Kings had to issue a challenge to the eastern winner before it could happen.
“The Memorial Cup is greatly needed for the good of the game, the players and fans. Having games in both the east and west would mean that fans in both parts of the country would be able to attend,” said Edmonton general manager-head coach Bill Hunter in issuing the challenge during the Eastern Canadian final between the Quebec Remparts and St. Catharines Black Hawks.
Hunter began by proposing a best-of-seven series and combined with the Edmonton Exhibition Association to cover all expenses for the eastern champion, along with a $5,000 per-game guarantee.
He said the $5,000 guarantee was the largest financial guarantee ever offered in the west “and shows our sincerity and desire for a Memorial Cup final.”
Making sure all the bases were covered, Hunter also said the Oil Kings were prepared to play a one-game winner-take-all affair. The Oil Kings, he said, were also prepared to play all games in the east, if necessary.
And if the challenge was turned down, Hunter said the Oil Kings would claim the Memorial Cup by default, but “we hope we don't have to get it that way.”
WCHL president Ron Butlin said he would meet with various eastern officials. “We don't care where the series is played,” Butlin said.
A couple of days later, on May 8, CAHA president Earl Dawson said he wasn't optimistic that a Memorial Cup final would be held.
The big hangup was the fact that the WCHL had different age restrictions than did the leagues in Ontario and Quebec. While the eastern leagues had an age restriction of 19 years, the WCHL allowed each of its teams to use four 20-year-old (or overage) players, although the Oil Kings didn't have any of the older players on their roster.
A monkey wrench landed in the middle of all the talks and all the plans when St. Catharines, trailing Guy Lafleur and the Remparts 3-2 in the best-of-seven eastern final, refused to play another game.
The Black Hawks had won the Ontario Junior Hockey League title by sweeping the Toronto Marlboros, winning the fourth game 5-3 behind three goals from Marcel Dionne.
That set up an eagerly anticipated eastern final for the Richardson Cup, featuring Dionne's Black Hawks versus Lafleur's Remparts.
The Black Hawks went into Game 4 in Quebec City trailing two games to one. The Remparts won the fourth game 6-1 before 13,410 fans. It was a victory interrupted by a couple of third-period brawls and marred by postgame incidents involving fans.
The Black Hawks bench was bombarded with, among other things, potatoes, tomatoes, bolts from seats, eggs, golf balls, erasers imbedded with nails and at least one knife.
St. Catharines got a police escort to its bus. Later, according to Black Hawks coach Frank Milne, the bus was surrounded by about 2,000 bottle-throwing fans. Milne also said carloads of fans spent several hours circling the team's motel.
The Black Hawks moved the fifth game to Toronto, where they posted a 6-3 victory. It was then that Fred Muller, the Black Hawks' co-owner and president, dropped the bombshell.
The Black Hawks, he announced, would not return to Quebec City for a sixth game.
Muller, The Canadian Press reported, said: “St. Catharines would rather forfeit the series.” St. Catharines team management felt it could play if the game was moved to Montreal, but officials were adamant that they would not return to Quebec City.
Muller claimed his life had been threatened and that “one detective in Quebec City told me that they are helpless in the situation because they are dealing with a small group of radicals who carry knives, guns and grenades.”
“The lives of our hockey players are in danger,” Mueller continued. “We've had threatening phone calls to the parents of our players and to the executive of our club.”
Dawson got involved by saying the series should continue in Quebec City, no matter what the Black Hawks said.
The next day, however, Dawson declared the Remparts the series winners after he was officially informed by the Black Hawks that they were withdrawing.
“I got a phone call at home from the St. Catharines officials and they are not going back,” Dawson said from his home in Rivers, Man., about 30 miles from Brandon.
“The official story I get,” Dawson stated, “is that the St. Catharines players held a vote this afternoon and the coach and five players were the only ones that signified they would return.”
Muller confirmed that, saying that he, Milne and five players were prepared to go back to Quebec City. The other players and their parents refused.
One of the Remparts officials pointed out that they had had problems the previous season in Charlottetown and “we did not want to go back.”
“The CAHA made us and there was no trouble at all,” he said. “I can't see why St. Catharines won't play.”
It also was revealed that St. Catharines officials weren't enamoured with the winner of the eastern final possibly having to play a team from the west.
“We had a firm agreement between Ontario and Quebec that we would not play the west for the Memorial Cup this year,” said Black Hawks vice-president Ken Campbell. “Now I hear that if they win the series, they're ready to start playing the west (in three days).”
What apparently convinced Dawson to forfeit the series was an official statement from the Black Hawks:
“As far as the management of the St. Catharines Hockey Club Ltd. and the coach are concerned they would be willing to attend the scheduled game on Friday, May 14, in Quebec City.
“However, the management has received requests from numerous parents of the players demanding that these players not be taken to Quebec.
“We feel that to do so contrary to wishes of the parents, and taking into consideration that these boys are minors, would be contrary to the best interests of the players and would also expose the St. Catharines hockey club to very serious liability in the event of an injury to one of these players.”
The forfeiture was announced on May 13 and Dawson signified that he felt there was time for Quebec and Edmonton to meet in a best-of-three Memorial Cup final, with all games in Quebec City. But that couldn't be approved until a vote of the CAHA directors.
That was done almost immediately and the stage was set for a series that would be played in Quebec City.
Commenting on the politics of the game, Hunter said the actions of the St. Catharines team and the Ontario Hockey Association were a disgrace, and that the agreement on an Edmonton-Quebec series was a victory for the WCHL.
(At the CAHA annual meeting in Thunder Bay in late May, Muller was hit with an indefinite suspension.)
As for what was ahead for the Oil Kings . . .
“The Remparts are the fastest skating junior club in Canada,” Hunter said. “Our biggest problem will be keeping up with them.”
Harvey Roy had coached the Oil Kings through the regular season and into the playoffs only to have Hunter, the general manager known far and wide as Wild Bill, move him out from behind the bench early in the postseason.
The Oil Kings could call on the likes of defencemen Phil Russell, Derek Harker, Tom Bladon and Ron Jones, the latter having been named the WCHL's top defenceman. Up front, the Oil Kings had Danny Spring, Darcy Rota, Dave Kryskow, Don Kozak, John Rogers and Doug Bentley Jr. And in goal it was Larry Hendrick, their sensational goaltender who was only 15 years of age.
Spring led them in the regular season with 43 goals and 122 points in 65 games, some 41 points off the pace set by Chuck Arnason of the Flin Flon Bombers, the WCHL's scoring champion. Kozak helped out with 60 goals and 61 assists. Spring showed the way in the postseason, with 20 goals and 15 assists, his 37 points two fewer than Arnason's. And Kryskow had 16 goals and 17 assists.
The Oil Kings had finished the regular season with the WCHL's best record, 45-20-1. That gave them the West Division pennant, 10 points ahead of the Calgary Centennials.
Edmonton opened the postseason by ousting the Saskatoon Blades 4-1 in a best-of-seven quarterfinal. That put the Oil Kings into a semifinal with the Centennials.
Down 2-0 in games to the Centennials, Hunter took over from Roy behind the bench and turned to Hendrick, whose WCHL experience amounted to 30 minutes in the regular-season's final game, as his starting goaltender, usurping Jack Cummings.
Hendrick was superb and the Oil Kings lost just one more game during their run to the WCHL title.
The Flin Flon Bombers, under coach Pat Ginnell, had won three straight WCHL titles. But because the league wasn't sanctioned by the CAHA, the Bombers weren't permitted to appear in the Memorial Cup.
The first season in which the WCHL moved back into the CAHA's good graces, the Bombers -- featuring the likes of Blaine Stoughton, Ken Baird, Gene Carr and goaltenders Cal Hammond and Herman Hordal -- were knocked off their throne by the Oil Kings.
Edmonton won the best-of-seven WCHL final in six games (4-1-1), winning the sixth game 7-6 right in Flin Flon's legendary Whitney Forum.
While the Oil Kings were winning the west, the Remparts, under general manager-head coach Maurice Filion, were skating through the east.
Led by Lafleur, who had scored 130 goals in the regular season, this was a team that could score and score and score some more. Andre Savard, Jacques Richard, Jacques Locas and Michel Briere were perfect complements to Lafleur. And the Remparts got championship-calibre goaltending from Michel Deguise, and great defence from Pierre Roy.
The Remparts had cruised through the Quebec league playoffs, taking best-of-seven series from the Verdun Maple Leafs in five games (one game was tied) and the Trois-Rivieres Ducs in four games, before meeting the Shawinigan Bruins in a championship final that lasted five games.
The Oil Kings had to sit for almost two weeks before they got to play Game 1 of the Memorial Cup final. That was in Quebec City on May 17.
Lafleur and his teammates would make short work of the Oil Kings, who hadn't appeared in the Memorial Cup final since the spring of 1966, when they beat Bobby Orr and the Oshawa Generals.
Briere scored twice and Lafleur had a goal and three helpers in Game 1 as the Remparts won 5-1 before 10,812 fans at Le Colisee.
Spring scored the game's first goal, a shorthanded effort that went in off one of Deguise's skates and stood as the first period's only score.
After that, it was all Remparts.
Briere tied the score at 1:49 of the second period, some 30 seconds after Hendrick had stoned Richard on a breakaway.
Savard scored less than five minutes later to give the Remparts the lead for the first time and they carried it into the third period.
Deguise beat Spring on a breakaway about 8 1/2 minutes into the third period. That was as close as the Oil Kings, who outshot the Remparts 39-36, would get.
Rejean Giroux scored some 30 seconds later and it was all but over. Briere and Lafleur scored before the period ended.
“The difference in the game was Guy Lafleur,” offered Claude Ruel, chief scout for the NHL's Montreal Canadiens. “I hope that those who doubted he was the best junior hockey player in Canada now are convinced that he is.
“He never lets his fans down and that's the sign of a star.”
Another scout offered:
“They said if Lafleur ever played in the Ontario junior league, he wouldn't get any goals. Well, against St. Catharines in the third game of that series, Quebec was leading 2-0 after the first period and who had both goals? Lafleur.”
Meanwhile, the Quebec City fans, who gave the Oil Kings a hearty round of applause prior to Game 1, were getting nothing but praise.
“They are great fans,” Hunter said. “I hope they sing as loud as they did (in Game 1) when we are leading 5-1 in the second game.
“We needed that game. We hadn't played since May 5 and the players put on a uniform for the first time since then when we got here (May 16).
“You will see the Oil Kings play their game (in the second game). We are going to win . . . you can be sure of that.”
Well, so much for Hunter's guarantee.
The series ended on May 19 as Quebec scored three unanswered second-period goals and won 5-2 in front of 11,401 fans in Le Colisee.
Richard and Jean Landry scored two goals each for the Remparts, with the singleton coming from Savard. Harker and Bruce Scott replied for Edmonton.
As time wound down, the fans stood and broke into song – ‘Ils Sont En Or’, the Remparts' theme song.
This was the 53rd time the Memorial Cup had been awarded; it was the first time a team from Quebec City had won it.
It was the third straight Memorial Cup victory for the province of Quebec -- the Montreal Junior Canadiens having won it the previous two springs -- and the fifth straight championship for the east.

NEXT: 1972 (Cornwall Royals, Edmonton Oil Kings and Peterborough Petes)

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