Tuesday, May 15, 2012

1972 Memorial Cup

With the Edmonton Oil Kings representing the WHL in the Memorial Cup tournament that opens Friday in Shawinigan, Que., let’s take a look back at four of the franchise’s appearances in the national championship.
We start with a look at the 1972 tournament. Then, as this week progresses, we’ll revisit 1971 and then the Oil Kings’ two Memorial Cup championships, in 1966 and 1963.

Cornwall Royals, Edmonton Oil Kings and Peterborough Petes
at Ottawa (Civic Centre)

“It will be a classic, one of the best junior finals ever played and Edmonton will win it,” said Del Wilson, a scout for the Montreal Canadiens and the president of the Regina Pats.
Wilson, whose Pats lost the WCHL final to the Oil Kings in five games, was speaking as the Edmonton Oil Kings, Peterborough Petes and Cornwall Royals gathered in Ottawa for the first Memorial Cup to be decided using a round-robin format.
As what was once simply junior hockey split into two distinct groups – major junior and junior A – the premier group formed three leagues, one in Ontario, one in Quebec and another in Western Canada.
The three major junior leagues would continue to compete for the Memorial Cup, but it was obvious it no longer could be capped with two teams playing a best-of-seven final.
It was decided, then, that each league would send its champion to a predetermined site and the Memorial Cup would be decided there.
Originally, this was done in a single round-robin tournament – each team would play the other team once. The two teams with the best records would meet in the final. If each team finished the round-robin with a 1-1 record, the finalists would be decided using a formula based on the ratio of goals-for to goals-against.
All three coaches who would appear in this Memorial Cup – Edmonton's Brian Shaw, Peterborough's Roger Neilson and Cornwall's Orval Tessier – were against the new format.
According to a Canadian Press report, “They complain of the pressure put on their players in so short a series, the lack of home crowds and other factors.”
However, NHL president Clarence Campbell told folks at the Memorial Cup luncheon in Ottawa that junior hockey just might be on to something here.
According to CP: “To accomplish this, Campbell noted, the series would need television coverage (which was) lacking this year. The strike at CBC, and CTV's already hefty sports programming, ruled out TV coverage.”
(The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET) was on strike.)
Edmonton, with Shaw running the bench, featured goaltenders Larry Hendrick, Doug Soetaert and John Davidson, the latter added from the Calgary Centennials with whom he had been named the WCHL's most valuable player.
The Oil Kings had finished second in the West Division, their 90 points from a 44-22-2 record leaving them 11 points behind the Centennials.
Edmonton was a team that scored 320 regular-season goals, the league's fifth-highest total, but didn't have a scorer in the top 10. In the postseason, Darcy Rota led the offence with eight goals and nine assists in 16 games. Terry McDonald, at 15 years of age, was Edmonton's best penalty-killing forward.
On defence, Edmonton was led by Keith Mackie, at 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds perhaps the first of the really big defencemen who would become so common in future seasons.
The Oil Kings opened by eliminating the New Westminster Bruins in five games. Edmonton then took care of Calgary in six games, setting up what was a five-game final with Regina.
Edmonton's style of play was similar to Peterborough's – physical and close-checking.
Neilson and his Petes opened postseason play by dumping the St. Catharines Black Hawks 4-1 in games. They then finished off the Toronto Marlboros, also 4-1.
And, in the final, the Ottawa 67's also went out in five games, but in this instance – remember, these were eight-point series – the Petes won three and tied two.
With the Ottawa Civic Centre the predetermined home for this first tournament, organizers were not overly thrilled to see the 67's get bounced. Still, they forecast good crowds for the games in the 10,000-seat facility.
Tessier's Royals, meanwhile, counted on goaltender Richard Brodeur in a big way.
Brodeur, who would go on to some fame as King Richard with the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, sparked the Royals past the Verdun Maple Leafs 4-0, the Shawinigan Bruins 4-1 and, in the Quebec final, the Quebec Remparts in seven games (the Royals won four, lost two and tied one).
(The Remparts, Memorial Cup champions in 1971, promptly announced that head coach Maurice Filion's contract wouldn't be renewed because of differences of opinion between he and the team's board of director. Within a week, he had replaced the fired Ron Racette as general manager and head coach of the Sherbrooke Castors.)
As the tournament opened, the CAHA revealed that 70 reporters had applied for accreditation and that 50 of those were from outside the Ottawa area.
Peterborough got great goaltending from Mike Veisor and opened with a 4-2 victory over Cornwall before 7,893 fans in the Civic Centre on May 8.
The Royals pressed the Petes for much of the game and were in it until the dying seconds when defenceman Ron Smith lost control of the puck in front of his empty net and Peterborough's Ron Lalonde pounced on it to score his second goal of the game.
Peterborough's other goals came from Doug Wilson and Paul Raymer, who gave the Petes a 3-1 lead six minutes into the second period.
The Royals' goals came from Bob Murray and Yvon Blais, the latter pulling Cornwall to within one, at 3-2, with two minutes left in the second period.
The first period was awfully physical – referee Joe Cassidy, a WCHL regular from Calgary, hit the Petes with eight of 14 minors and gave Cornwall's John Wensink a misconduct – but the teams settled down afterwards.
Cornwall dominated the third period but wasn't able to beat Veisor.
“He has been doing that for us for a long time,” Neilson said of Veisor, who was backed up by Rolly Kimble and Michel (Bunny) Larocque, the latter having been added from the 67's.
By now, most of the scouts were touting the Oil Kings as the favourites.
But Shaw, with his boys preparing to meet Peterborough in the tournament's second game, wasn't buying it.
“The scouts have been wrong before,” he said, pointing out that earlier in the season the scouts had tagged the Marlboros as the country's best junior team. “Peterborough beat them, so Peterborough must be better than the Marlies.”
As for Cornwall, Shaw said that the Royals “come from the league that last year won the cup, so they have to be strong.”
Still, Shaw liked his team's chances.
He said his players “are extremely dedicated. We had to come off the floor four times to get this far.”
Shaw added: “We have been able to win key games and we play well away from home.”
What the Oil Kings hadn't counted on was running into Neilson, who was just beginning to carve out a reputation as a coach who would play the game by the rules and take advantage of the loopholes when it was needed.
In the second game, on May 10, the Petes beat Edmonton 6-4 before about 5,800 fans, clinching a berth in the tournament's final in the process. Peterborough hadn't been in the Memorial Cup final game since 1959.
The score was 4-4 when, prior to the start of the third period, Rota was fingered for playing with an illegal stick. Referee Michel Vaillancourt of Sherbrooke, Que., found the stick to be 1 3/8 inches thick at the tip of the blade, while CAHA rules called for a minimum of two inches.
Peterborough, which got two goals and two assists from Doug Gibson, scored on the ensuing power play.
“They're sick . . . it's the cheapest way I know to win a hockey game,” seethed Edmonton general manager ‘Wild’ Bill Hunter. “If we're going to lose to them, we're going to lose on the ice . . . not through cheap penalties . . . we'll win it.”
Hunter's demeanour wasn't helped any by the fact that Brian Ogilvie was fingered for playing with an illegal stick later in the third period.
Said Neilson: “I know it's a cheap penalty for the Memorial Cup . . . I didn't call it.”
As for the play on the ice, Neilson said: “We heard that Edmonton was better than Cornwall but I'm not sure now . . . the edge for us was in the goals.”
After Gibson's power-play goal, the Oil Kings managed just two shots on goal as the Petes put on the defensive clamps.
Overall, though, the Petes outskated, outhit and outclassed the Oil Kings, outshooting them 49-33.
Lalonde, Jim Turkiewicz, Rick Chennick and Jim Jones also scored for the Petes.
Edmonton got its goals from Ogilvie, Gerry McDonald, Don Kozak and Rota.
The next day, Shaw was trying to forget about the first illegal-stick penalty.
“That was just an excuse,” Shaw said. “We didn't play as well as we can. We'll just have to win the next two games.
“We didn't have six goals scored against us before this year in the playoffs. We didn't play our game.”
While most observers felt the illegal-stick call was the turning point, Shaw pointed to a missed opportunity early in the second period. With the Oil Kings leading 2-1, they hit a goal post with Veisor cleanly beaten.
“We're a good checking team, too, and able to protect a lead,” Shaw said. “We didn't hit nor shoot as well as we can.”
The Oil Kings didn't do anything very well on May 12 as coach Orval Tessier's Royals blanked them 5-0 before 8,408 fans.
Cornwall, which scored two power-play goals, led 3-0 in the third period before scoring two empty-net goals, by Dave Johnson and Gary McGregor, as Shaw pulled Davidson with just less than three minutes to play.
After McGregor's goal, Cornwall fans unveiled a banner that read: ‘Happiness is a Royal Memorial’.
Johnson and McGregor both had two goals for the Royals. The other came from Gerry Teeple.
The Oil Kings apparently played better than they had against the Petes, but they weren't able to beat Brodeur, who kicked out all 40 shots he saw.
The game was marred by an injury to Mackie, who was struck in the face by a deflected puck. Mackie, who was wearing contact lenses, was hit in one eye. He was carried off the ice on a stretcher and taken to Ottawa General Hospital where an eye specialist was called in to look at him.
The diagnosis was a torn iris, and Mackie spent a week in hospital.
As for the game, Hunter said: “Cornwall had a wide edge in play. We disappointed ourselves . . . but I'm proud of the team.”
Shaw felt that his club had been beaten by a better team.
Asked to pick a winner in the final, Shaw said: “I have no predictions . . . but I would like to see Cornwall win.”
Looking ahead to the final, Tessier said: “We have to take control of the game early. We have to come out skating and hitting.”
Tessier also thought his club had something of an edge – the Royals were “a little bit fresher” – because he used four lines a lot, while the Petes went primarily with three.
Cornwall, in the Memorial Cup final for the first time, then edged the Petes 2-1 on May 14 in front of 10,155 fans to win the title.
It was the second straight year a team from the Quebec Junior Hockey League had won the Memorial Cup. Governor-General Roland Michener presented the trophy to the Royals after the game.
The busiest guy around in the first period was Cassidy, who handed out 76 penalty minutes, including a game misconduct to Peterborough's Craig Brown. By period's end, the fans were chanting: “We want hockey.”
McGregor scored the winner at 2:01 of the third period as a hooking penalty to Peterborough's Danny Gloor expired.
Cornwall's Brian Bowles scored the game's first goal early in the second period when his slapshot from the point bounced off the end boards, hit Veisor and rolled into the net.
The Petes' Mike St. Cyr tied it at 11:17 of the second.
Peterborough outshot Cornwall 47-38 but couldn't put more than one puck behind Brodeur, who was selected the tournament's most outstanding player. As such, he was the first recipient of what was then called the Conn-Stafford Smythe Trophy.
“He's never been in a playoff game before,” Tessier said of Brodeur. “He's just a great goaltender.”
As for Brodeur, he sat in one corner of the Royals' dressing room, smoking a cigar and saying he didn't deserve the award.
“They're the toughest bunch of kids in the world . . . they've never stopped since last fall and will probably want to practise tomorrow morning,” Tessier said.
“Peterborough was the toughest club we've played this year.”
It was a tough loss for the Petes, who had been the only team to win both its round-robin games.
“Cornwall outhustled us a little,” Nielson said. “It was a goalkeepers' duel.
“We knew what to expect . . . it's tough to lose the Memorial Cup.”
With this being the first time around for this format, a tournament all-star team was selected – Brodeur, defencemen Colin Campbell of Peterborough and Murray, Teeple at centre, and wingers Bob Smulders of Peterborough and Johnson.
As for the new format, CAHA officials said the Memorial Cup would be decided the same way in 1973. And, because of the great reception the teams received in Ottawa, the nation's capital apparently had the inside track as the host city.
That turned out to be just talk, however. The 1973 tournament would be played in Montreal.
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