Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Memorial Cup: A history . . . 1943

Winnipeg Rangers vs. Oshawa Generals
at Toronto (Maple Leaf Gardens)

Yes, the Oshawa Generals were back in 1943.
It was their fifth visit to the Memorial Cup final in six years, although they had only the victories of 1939 and 1940 to show for their troubles.
This time, the Generals would find themselves up against the Winnipeg Rangers, a team that had last appeared in the Memorial Cup final in 1941 when it had won it all.
Oshawa again was coached by Charlie Conacher. He had stepped in as the interim coach the previous season when Tracy (The Fox) Shaw was suspended after an altercation involving a referee. During the 1943 Memorial Cup final, the CAHA would announce that Shaw's suspension would be lifted as of May 1, 1943.
In the eastern playdowns, the Montreal Junior Canadiens advanced to the final by sweeping Sydney, N.S., 14-3 and 5-3.
Oshawa, meanwhile, had sidelined a team from Hamilton and then the Brantford Lions. The Generals then dismantled Ottawa's St. Patrick's College, 12-1 and 7-2, to earn the other berth in the best-of-five eastern final.
That final was no contest, Oshawa winning three straight -- 9-2, 6-4 and 9-1.
The Rangers were coached by Bob Kinnear. Their best player was arguably Cal Gardner, who would go on to a solid NHL career. Bill Boorman was the team captain.
Also on the roster were the likes of Church Russell, Frank Mathers (a broken ankle kept him out of the final), Eddie Kullman, goaltender Doug (Stonewall) Jackson and Tom Fowler, all of whom would play in NHL. Ben Juzda -- Bill's brother -- played for the Rangers, as did Bill Tindall, who would later play for the Winnipeg Monarchs, a team that would qualify for the 1946 Memorial Cup final.
As a note of interest, most of the Rangers players came out of the ranks of the midget Winnipeg Excelsiors, who were coached by legendary Winnipeg newspaperman Vince Leah.
On the western playoff trail, the Edmonton Canadians swept the Trail Tigers, 5-2 and 4-3, and then lost 3-2 and 4-2 to the Saskatoon Quakers. At the same time, the Rangers swept the Fort William Hurricanes -- 7-5, 7-3 and 5-4.
The Rangers then sidelined Saskatoon -- winning Games 1 and 2 by scores of 12-8 and 7-2, losing 12-4, and then wrapping it up with a 3-2 victory.
The Memorial Cup final, a best-of-seven affair, was played in its entirety at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Oshawa right-winger Floyd Curry (knee) was the only regular player in doubt for the opener.
Conacher admitted he didn't know much about the Rangers.
"We don't need to scout them anyway,” he said. "They'll have to be pretty good to catch up to my kids, I think.”
Conacher refused to name his starting goaltender, an oddity for a period in hockey when virtually every team played one goaltender almost all of the time. This season, however, Conacher had alternated Regina native Harvey Bennett and Johnny Marois. Under that rotation system, it was Marois' turn, but Conacher wasn't saying anything. (Bennett, however, would start all six games.)
The Rangers, the 11th Manitoba team to represent the west in the final, included seven players who were in the navy -- Russell, Ritchie McDonald, Bill Vickers, Joe Peterson, Jack (Smiley) Irvine (he replaced Mathers in the final), Jackson, and Bill Boorman -- and one -- Eddie Coleman -- awaiting his call from the RCAF.
Also helping out was Lawrence (Baldy) Northcott. The coach of the Rangers when they won the 1941 Memorial Cup, Northcott joined the Rangers in an advisory capacity for the 1943 final.
The Rangers didn't make a lot of noise before this series started, preferring to let the Generals do the talking.
"This may not be the best Generals team to ever go into a Memorial Cup final,” offered Oshawa manager Matt Leyden, "but in my opinion it's the best-balanced club we've ever had.”
Conacher added: "Our formula will be speed and plenty of it when we meet the Rangers. Just keep pouring it on will be our motto.”
Red Tilson and Ken Smith, two former Regina juniors, combined with Curry on Oshawa's top line. The second line featured Charles (Chuck) Scherza, Nelson and Bill Ezinicki.
Ed Reigle, Ross Johnstone and Frank Bennett got most of the work on defence.
"Regardless of all the reports we have heard about Oshawa's power,” Kinnear said, "our boys are certain to make it a real series.”
Which is just what they did.
Suffice to say the Generals were stunned when the Rangers won the opener 6-5 before 12,739 fans in Maple Leaf Gardens on April 17.
"The fast-skating Winnipeg squad back-checked the powerful eastern Canadian champions dizzy almost from bell to bell and cut loose with an all-out offensive in the second period of a thrill-packed game to score four goals which clinched the victory,” reported The Canadian Press.
Coleman and Russell scored twice each for Winnipeg, which trailed 2-1 after the first period but scored the only four goals of the second period. Boorman and Gardner added one each for the Rangers. Oshawa got two first-period goals from Scherza, while Nelson, with two, and Smith scored in the third.
The Generals were without Curry and now were admitting his knee injury might keep him out of the entire series.
"The fans saw a real hockey game out there and we're glad,” offered Winnipeg manager Scotty Oliver. "We just came down here to do our best. We haven't got any big ideas. That's about all there is to say.”
Conacher felt his club had a bad case of overconfidence.
"They probably thought all they had to do was to go through the motions,” he said, "particularly after they moved into a 2-0 lead in the first period.”
After the game, a telegram was read in the Rangers' dressing room: "Win this one for Ronnie Ward.”
Ward, a former Rangers player, was in hospital with severe burns suffered when his RCAF trainer crashed 10 months previous near Dafoe, Sask.
A hush fell over the room as the telegram was read. Then, someone said: "Well, we did, didn't we?” And then the cheering started.
Oshawa got back on track on April 19, whipping the Rangers 6-2 before 9,402 fans.
Tilson scored twice and set up another for the Generals, who got singles from Ezinicki (he also had two assists), Russ Johnstone, Scherza and Smith. Oshawa also had Curry dressed but he didn't play much.
Peterson and Gardner scored for Winnipeg, which trailed 3-1 and 4-2 at the period breaks.
By now, the Generals had decided not to do their bragging out loud.
"Wait until we win that Memorial Cup and then you'll hear some real shouting,” Conacher said. "(The Rangers) have got a real good team and don't let anybody kid you about that.”
Kinnear, meanwhile, was planning the next day's practice.
"We played a terrible game,” he said. "Work is the only thing to get them back clicking again.”
The Generals had Curry's leg examined on the off-day and it was discovered it wasn't healing all that well. Conacher then chose to use Don Batten in Curry's place. Batten was the only Oshawa native in the Generals' lineup.
The Generals went up 2-1 on April 21, posting a 5-3 victory in front of 10,872 fans.
Ezinicki, a Winnipeg native who would make a name for himself with the Toronto Maple Leafs, struck for three Oshawa goals, while Batten got the other two, scoring them six seconds apart late in the second period to put his mates up 3-0.
Irvine, Boorman and Coleman replied for Winnipeg in the third period, cutting Oshawa's lead from 4-0 to 4-3. But Ezinicki put it away with seven minutes left to play.
"Despite the loss,” reported The Canadian Press, "the Rangers whooped it up for a full 15 minutes. In contrast, the Generals took the victory that moved them ahead in the series calmly.”
"That was a real hockey game out there,” Conacher said. "You couldn't have watched better hockey in a Stanley Cup final. I'm proud of the way my kids came through. But they've still got a tough fight on their hands. These Ranger boys don't quit -- they fight until they're ready to drop.”
Oshawa was starting to look a little worn. Already without Curry, Bennett, a defenceman, and Scherza, a winger, were now nursing sore knees. (Scherza’s son, Ron, would be the general manager of the Selkirk Steelers who would win the Centennial Cup, as Canadian junior A champions, in 1974.)
There were 13,868 fans in Maple Leaf Gardens for Game 4 on April 24 and they saw the free-wheeling Rangers roar to a 7-4 victory.
Oshawa led 1-0 on Nelson's first-period goal when Winnipeg exploded for three quick goals early in the second period. Irvine, Boorman and Gardner scored before the period was half over and the Rangers were on their way.
Smith narrowed the lead to 3-1 at 11:30, but Vickers and Coleman replied and the Rangers led 5-2.
Vickers and Irvine scored again in the third period to up the lead to 7-2, before Smith and Tilson pulled Oshawa to within three.
Oshawa tried to use Curry again, but it didn't work out. Batten would be back in the lineup for Game 5.
"The Rangers held an edge in the offensive exchanges all the way and were bulwarked by Jackson's brilliant display in goal when the Generals did get close,” reported The Canadian Press. "Ticketed for future delivery to the Chicago Black Hawks of the National league, the teen-aged youngster performed in big league fashion.”
"That's one of the hardest games I've ever played,” Jackson said. "They've certainly got a good team, but we whipped them and we can do it enough times to win the series.”
Which is just what happened on April 26 when the Rangers won 7-3 in front of 12,420 fans to take a 3-2 lead.
Winnipeg led 1-0 after the first period on Gardner's goal, and 2-1 after the second as McDonald and Reigle exchanged goals. Ezinicki tied it early in the third before Winnipeg exploded, getting a goal from Gardner and a pair from Russell in less than six minutes to go up 5-2.
Tilson cut the lead to 5-3 only to have Coleman and Gardner score in the game's final minute.
"I'm so darn tired I can hardly stand up,” Kinnear said. "We really showed them out there, didn't we? I think we'll take it now. Possibly not in the next game. But we'll take it.”
And that's just what happened on April 28 as the Rangers won 6-3 before 14,485 fans.
"The western Canada champions won the game in the third period with a scoring outburst which produced three goals, while the Generals faltered in the closing minutes before the relentless offensive,” reported The Canadian Press.
Coleman scored three times and Gardner added two for Winnipeg. But it was Peterson who broke a 3-3 tie in the third period with what turned out to be the Memorial Cup-winning goal.
Johnstone, Ezinicki and Tilson replied for the Generals.
"Boy oh boy, wouldn't it have been awful if I'd missed that shot,” said Peterson, who finished off a brilliant rink-length dash by whipping the puck past Harvey Bennett.
Paid attendance for the six games was 73,867 -- an average of 12,311, which was a record for amateur hockey in Canada.

NEXT: 1944 (Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Oshawa Generals)

  © Design byThirteen Letter

Back to TOP