Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Memorial Cup: A history . . . 1941

Winnipeg Rangers vs. Montreal Royals
at Toronto (Maple Leaf Gardens) and Montreal (Forum)

The reign of the Oshawa Generals was over.
The Generals, having lost in the 1938 Dominion final and having won the Memorial Cup in 1939 and 1940, came awfully close to getting to the final for a fourth straight spring.
But the roadblock was in the form of the Montreal Royals, a team led by centre Ken Mosdell, who would go on to play in the NHL with the Brooklyn Americans, Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks, and featuring goaltender Ross Ritchie.
The Royals drilled the Ottawa Canadians 6-1 and 12-2 to sweep a best-of-three series and advance to the best-of-five eastern final against Oshawa.
Montreal, coached by Lorne White, won the opener 7-4 on April 5 but Oshawa, getting three goals each from Roy Sawyer, Ron Wilson and Ron Nelson, hammered the Royals 10-2 in Toronto two nights later.
On April 9, the Generals were jolted 7-4 in Toronto as the Royals, as they had done in Game 1, scored five times in the third period. But Oshawa roared back to win 7-1 on April 12 before 6,500 fans in Toronto to even the series 2-2.
It all ended for the Generals on April 15 when they lost 7-4 (all three of Montreal's victories were by the same score) to the Royals, half of whom had become ill on the flight to Toronto earlier in the day, before 8,000 fans in Maple Leaf Gardens.
Amazingly, the Royals became the first team from Quebec to advance to the Memorial Cup final. This would be the 23rd Memorial Cup final.
Montreal suffered three injuries in the fifth game against Oshawa -- defenceman Bob MacFarlane was left with a badly bruised side, defenceman Bruce Ward twisted a knee and forward Buddy Farmer was scheduled for surgery to repair a broken cheekbone.
The Royals had also won the east despite having four players writing exams at McGill University during the series. Those players flew between Montreal and Toronto after each game.
Because of that situation, the Royals hoped to have the entire Memorial Cup final played in Montreal. There was even talk that the Royals wouldn't be able to ice a team if the final was held in Toronto as was being discussed.
The west, meanwhile, was represented by the Winnipeg Rangers, a team that featured Bill Mortimer who would go on to play for the 1941-42 Oshawa Generals who would lose the Memorial Cup final to the Portage la Prairie Terriers. The Rangers were captained by Hugh Millar and coached by Lawrence (Baldy) Northcott, who had played in the NHL with the Montreal Maroons and Chicago. Among the top players were Doug Baldwin (Toronto, Detroit, Chicago) and Glen Harmon, a native of Holland, Man., who would play for the Canadiens.
It came down to the Saskatoon Quakers and the Rangers in the western final for the Abbott Cup.
Saskatoon, featuring the likes of Keith Allen, Hal Laycoe, Harry Watson, Mike Shabaga and Pete Leswick, had beaten the Edmonton Athletic Club in a best-of-five series, losing Games 1 (5-2) and 4 (7-2) and taking the others, in order, 3-1, 6-5 and 2-1.
Winnipeg swept a best-of-three affair from the Port Arthur West Ends, 6-3 and 9-1.
The western final would go seven games and enthrall a lot of hockey fans.
It opened in Winnipeg on April 4 with the Rangers winning 6-4. The Quakers won 4-1 on April 7 to tie the series. On April 9, the Rangers got goals from Les Hickey and Dave Livingstone 41 seconds apart early in the second period and went on to a 3-1 victory.
The series continued in Saskatoon, with the Quakers posting a 10-5 victory -- Ken Ullyot scored four times for the home side -- on April 12. Two nights later, the Rangers won 4-3 on centre Bill Robinson's goal at 19:33 of the third period. The Rangers lost Hub Macey (back) for the rest of the season in Game 5. Bill Mortimer, out since Game 3 when he injured a shoulder, was still on the shelf. As well, spare forward Lou Medynski suffered a deep facial cut in practice and was believed lost for the season. Medynski, however, would resurface and play a crucial role before the season was done.
The Quakers evened the series on April 16, with Shabaga scoring three times and Laycoe twice in a 10-2 victory in front of fewer than 2,000 fans. That decision set up a Game 7 in Winnipeg on April 18.
And the Rangers finally won the Abbott Cup, posting a 7-3 victory before more than 5,000 fans, the largest crowd in Winnipeg that season. The Rangers scored three power-play goals en route to taking a 4-0 lead by early in the second period. Mortimer returned to action with two goals. Macey also dressed but was used sparingly.
Education was still front and centre with the Royals as the teams prepared to open the best-of-five final in Toronto.
"Four R's blocked the path that Montreal Royals hope leads to the Canadian junior hockey championship with three of them those oldtimers -- reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic -- and the fourth a Ranger team from Winnipeg,” reported The Canadian Press.
When the final opened on April 21 in Montreal, the Royals were without three players -- Ritchie, Ward and left-winger Grant Morrison -- all of whom still were writing exams.
Leith Dickie would start in place of Ritchie, with Allan Hall taking Ward's place. Johnny Horman, who would in later years become a force in Quebec junior hockey at the executive level, played in Morrison's spot.
Of more urgency was the injury to Farmer. His broken cheekbone would keep him out of the entire series. That put Allan (Bunny) Glover into the lineup, but broke up Montreal's first line of Farmer, Morrison and Bob Carragher.
The Rangers won the opener 4-2 on April 21, scoring twice in each of the first and third periods.
A 36-hour train ride got Winnipeg to Toronto just 12 hours before game time, but the Rangers showed few ill effects from their journey.
Sam Fabro, with two, Robinson and Les Hickey scored for the Rangers, with Carragher getting both Montreal goals. The Royals led 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period before Robinson tied it with 11 seconds left in the frame. The teams played a scoreless second and Winnipeg won it on goals from Fabro and Hickey in the third.
"You know,” said Fabro, who played on a line with Robinson and Hickey, "I'm only out there to do the backchecking. I scored only twice in the seven-game series with Saskatoon, although I did pick up quite a few assists. However, I suppose every guy has to have his night, and it was my turn tonight.”
Robinson, meanwhile, felt this would be a long series.
"They're unlike anything we've met so far, and we're in for a tough series,” he explained. "And we've never been bumped around quite so much.”
The scene shifted to Montreal for Game 2, which meant the Royals had all of their students back in the lineup. But there was concern about the future -- Games 3, 4 and 5, if necessary, were scheduled for Toronto. The third game was to be played on a Saturday, which wouldn't pose a problem, but the students would miss Games 4 and 5. As it turned out, it wouldn't be a problem -- all hands were on deck for the rest of the series.
On April 24, the Royals earned Quebec's very first victory in a Memorial Cup final series -- posting a 5-3 triumph on a pair of goals from Mosdell and singles from Glover, Jim Planche and Carragher, and superb goaltending from Ritchie.
Bob Ballance, Millar and Harmon replied for Winnipeg, which trailed 2-1 after one period, but led 3-2 after the second.
Millar and Harmon scored early in the second to put Winnipeg out front. But Montreal won it on third-period goals by Mosdell (at 3:35 and 6:30) and Glover (at 7:45).
"The Royals, bolstered by the return of three players who missed the first game ... through college examinations were much stronger than the club which bowed 4-2 in the initial meeting,” reported The Canadian Press.
The Rangers resumed the series lead with a 6-4 victory on April 26 before almost 9,000 fans at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Medynski, thought done for the season when he suffered a severe facial cut during a practice prior to a game in the western final, was the hero.
Playing despite the gash not being completely healed -- a photo published in the Regina Leader-Post on April 29 shows Medynski with a huge dressing wrapped around his head -- Medynski scored the winning goal, breaking a 4-4 tie at 18:36 of the third period.
According to writer Robert Clarke: "Medynski's payoff goal came on a passing play with Bob Ballance and was fired while Royals were resting their main defence star, Bill Southwick, due to the indication that the game would go into overtime.”
Fabro put it on ice, scoring on a breakaway at 19:38.
Winnipeg also got goals form Hickey, Babe Hobday, Ballance and Millar.
Montreal got two goals from Glover and singles from Jimmy Peters and Southwick.
Clarke also reported that the two real stars were goaltenders Ritchie and Hal Thompson.
It had been decided to move the series to Montreal, rather than finish it in Toronto, and the Rangers came back to tie the series on April 28 in Montreal, scoring a 4-3 victory on goals from Morrison, with 49 seconds left in the third period, and Roland Bleau, with 25 seconds left.
There were 3,826 fans in attendance and they watched as the Rangers scored at 16:52 of the third period to take a 3-2 lead and move to within three minutes of winning the Memorial Cup.
Carragher had scored for the Royals in the first period, which preceded a scoreless second period.
Peters gave Montreal a 2-0 lead at 1:07 of the third period and the Royals seemed on their way.
But Winnipeg got three goals -- from Medynski (4:54), Mortimer (8:20) and Fabro (16:52) -- to close in on the championship.
But Fabro's tripping penalty with two minutes remaining gave Montreal its chance and the Royals didn't waste it.
Morrison stickhandled through a crowd and beat Thompson with a waist-high shot at 19:11. And Bleau scored from a scramble seconds later.
The series was back in Toronto for a fifth game on April 30 and the Rangers won it all, thanks to a 7-4 victory -- Winnipeg won the three games played in Torono, Montreal won twice at home.
It was the 12th Memorial Cup championship for the west, versus 11 for the east.
According to The Canadian Press: "The Rangers gained their triumph on the great offensive play of Bill Robinson, centre on their first line, and one of his linemates, Les Hickey. Although they couldn't have won without the work of the Robinson-Hickey combination, it was just as true that Royals would have won had it not been for the spectacular goaltending throughout of Hal Thompson of the Rangers.”
The Royals held an edge in play through two periods but trailed 4-3 thanks to Thompson's play.
Robinson, with two goals, and Hickey gave Winnipeg a 3-1 first-period lead, Morrison having scored for Montreal.
Bleau and Planche pulled the Royals even in the second before Hickey, from Robinson (who set up two goals), sent Winnipeg out front at 10:36.
That set the stage for the third period and three straight Winnipeg goals -- by Mortimer, Millar and Ballance. Carragher counted for Montreal in the game's final two minutes.
Mortimer's goal, at 9:37 of the third period with MacFarlane off for charging, proved to be the series winner.
Carragher and Hickey led the championship in points, each with nine. Carragher had five goals, and Hickey four.
"It doesn't seem real,” Thompson said.
"We had 18 good men to start with,” Northcott stated, "and we were able to throw in replacements at any time without weakening our team. Our defencemen were better because they could score. On the whole, however, the balance of power rested in goalkeeping.”
Farmer played in the final game, wearing a helmet to protect his cracked cheekbone.
"We were all pretty tired, and in my opinion that explains everything,” Farmer said.

NEXT: 1942 (Portage la Prairie Terriers vs. Oshawa Generals)

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