Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Memorial Cup: A history . . . 1946

Winnipeg Monarchs vs. Toronto St. Michael's Majors
at Toronto (Maple Leaf Gardens)

The 1946 Memorial Cup drew to a conclusion the first hockey season following the end of the Second World War.
Canada lost a lot of young men, many of them hockey players, on the battlefields of Europe. And as the 1945-46 hockey season wound down, it was as though a country had decided to rediscover itself in its arenas.
The 1946 Memorial Cup would feature the old Irish college from Toronto, St. Michael's, against the Winnipeg Monarchs.
But the road to Maple Leaf Gardens, site of what would be a thrilling best-of-seven series that would go the distance, was quite interesting.
In Eastern Canada, St. Patrick's College of Ottawa swept a best-of-three series from Halifax St. Mary's, 9-5 and 11-2, only to fall 11-3 and 10-6 to Montreal Junior Canadiens, coached by Wilf Cude, in a best-of-three semifinal.
St. Mike's ousted the Oshawa Generals of coach Charlie Conacher in six games in a best-of-seven series. The Generals actually held a 2-1 lead before losing three straight -- 4-2, 4-2 and 9-0.
That put St. Mike's, coached by former NHL star Joe Primeau and now oftentimes referred to as the Saints, into a best-of-three provincial final with the Copper Cliff Redmen, coached by Jim Dewey.
The Redmen had sidelined the Porcupine Combines, the first junior team they had played all season. Copper Cliff had played in a senior league in Sudbury, finishing with a 3-5-1 record. You're right ... it was no contest. St. Mike's won this one 13-2 and 8-1 and then won the eastern final from Montreal, winning a best-of-five series in straight games.
St. Mike's took the opener 7-2 before more than 7,000 fans in Montreal. Tod Sloan scored three times as St. Mike's won the second game 8-2 before more than 12,000 fans at Maple Leaf Gardens. St. Michael's took Game 3, 6-5, as Johnny Blute, on passes from Leonard (Red) Kelly and Fleming Mackell, broke a 5-5 tie late in the third period before 6,934 fans.
In Western Canada, it appeared for a while that the Edmonton Canadians were going to grab the Abbott Cup.
The Canadians first took a best-of-five series from the Nanaimo Clippers in four games, losing the opener 4-3 and then taking three in a row _ 4-1, 7-0 and 6-3.
Edmonton, under coach Earl Robertson, then took five games to eliminate the Moose Jaw Canucks from a best-of-seven series. Edmonton went up 2-0 with 7-4 and 7-6 victories, lost 10-4, and then finished off the Canucks, 5-4 and 4-3.
That last game was played in Regina's Queen City Gardens and draw a paid crowd of 6,672 fans (officials estimated there were at least 7,000 fans in the building), the biggest crowd in western Canadian junior hockey history. A 12-coach special train brought in some 900 Moose Jaw fans. The previous single-game record, of 6,300, had belonged to Edmonton.
Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Monarchs, of coach Walter Monson, advanced to the Abbott Cup final against Edmonton by winning a best-of-seven series from the Port Arthur Flyers. Port Arthur took the opener 5-4, only to lose the next four -- 5-4, 7-3, 5-4 and 8-3.
The Abbott Cup final, a best-of-seven affair, belonged to Winnipeg, although Edmonton took Game 1, 4-2. The Monarchs won the next four -- 5-1, 6-3, 5-3 and 9-2.
During the western final there was talk, perhaps for the first time, that these games should be available on radio throughout western Canada.
"As it stands,” wrote Dave Dryburgh in the Regina Leader-Post, "Foster Hewitt has the contract to sell all rights for Memorial and Allan cup games. He handles the job on a percentage basis and probably does all right down east where he is on the inside track. But Foster doesn't know the western picture and nothing is done about it.
"Even if it costs money, the CAHA should make an effort to broadcast all its important games. The association has an obligation to the public. It takes overall provincial winners and moves them around the country -- often to centres where rich gates are gathered in. The fans back home are entitled to some compensation.
"After all, the fans built the hockey teams that made the CAHA the powerful and wealthy organization it is today.”
The Monarchs were sparked by four University of Manitoba students -- forwards Clint Albright, Don McRae, Al Buchanan and Hy Beatty. Buchanan was the team captain. And as they prepared for the Memorial Cup they were uncertain as to whether defenceman Bill Tindall would be able to get time off from his job.
McRae and Albright didn't travel to Toronto with their teammates. They stayed home to write exams, but got to Toronto in time for Game 1.
Tindall got there too, as he was finally able to arrange for time away from his job. Tindall keyed a defence corps that included Tom Rockey and Laurie May. They relied on goaltender Jack Gibson.
Winnipeg's top forward line featured McRae, Harry Taylor and Gord Fashoway.
Prior to the series a Winnipeg report noted that Monson "expects the series to go close to seven games while confident that he has a squad that is capable of winning the prized mug.”
Primeau's club, meanwhile, could boast of Pat Boehmer in goal, defencemen like Kelly, and forwards like Mackell, who was but 16 years of age, Les Costello and Sloan.
The two teams had played two early-season games, with Winnipeg winning the first 2-1 and St. Michael's taking the second 5-4. It seemed, then, that these were two evenly-matched teams.
In fact, about all that was certain was this -- hockey fever had Toronto by the throat. Before the series even began there was talk of a new Memorial Cup attendance record. More than 30,000 ticket applications had been received for Game 1. A year earlier, St. Mike's and Moose Jaw had drawn 65,437 fans to five games, an average of 13,087. The Maple Leaf Gardens attendance record for a junior game was 15,065, set when St. Michael's and Galt Biltmores closed out the 1945-46 regular season.
In case you were wondering, the CAHA, according to a Canadian Press report from Toronto, "provides transportation and berths for the travelling teams and allows $120 a day while the club is staying in a hotel and $90 a day while travelling. The home team is allowed $100 per game and the visiting club $50 per game for incidental expenses.
"In the final series ... the clubs will receive a bonus of $500 for qualifying. In addition, they share in division of the profits, with each club participating in the series receiving an allowance in accordance with the number of games played in CAHA competition.”
Just prior to the start of Game 1, Canadian Press reported that one Winnipeg supporter "had $4,000 in cash to back up his belief and was overjoyed when he found the odds were two to one against the Monarchs in the first game.”
Monson felt his charges were ready.
"We're better than we were at Christmas,” he said. "We're sharp right now, and I'm not worrying about their performance. They'll do all right.”
St. Mike's had made two previous Memorial Cup final appearances, beating the Edmonton Athletic Club in 1934 and Moose Jaw in 1945.
The Monarchs also had two titles to their credit, having beaten the Sudbury Wolves in 1935 and Copper Cliff in 1937.
The series opened on Saturday, April 13, and the Monarchs scored a 3-2 victory before "a roaring crowd of 14,000.”
Experts, according to one report, "had set pregame odds of 8-5 on the east for the 28th renewal of the cup final.”
Winnipeg scored the first period's only two goals, those coming from Taylor (6:48) and McRae (14:58), who was set up by Taylor.
Eddie Sandford scored for St. Mike's in the second period, the only shot to beat Gibson who would later say: "I sure was lucky half-a-dozen times. Hope it holds.”
Winnipeg took a 3-1 lead at 4:40 of the third period when George Robertson, on assists from Taylor and McRae, beat Boehmer from a scramble.
Sloan, the Ontario Hockey Association's regular-season scoring champion, rounded out the scoring at 14:07.
"Gee, I'm tired,” Sloan said afterwards, echoing the sentiments of both players who had participated in what was a speedy, hard-fought battle.
"It's a keen series and a tough game to lose,” Primeau said. "They play a close-checking, fast-skating game and never seemed to tire.
"But I honestly think we can take them. It may have to go the limit, but I think we'll retain the cup.”
Monson offered: "They're a solid team and there's still a whole series to play. The lads fought hard -- the way they should -- and I've every reason to believe they'll come through again.”
Two nights later, on April 15, St. Michael's evened it up with a 5-3 victory before 14,263 fans.
"That's the best thing that could have happened,” Monson said of his club losing the game. "Now they know how they've got to play to win. That's probably the best hockey St. Mike's ever played and there's a good chance they won't do it again.”
The Monarchs, who fell behind 2-0 in the first period and trailed 4-1 in the second, got back into this one on goals by Eddie Marchant and Robertson near the midway point of the third period.
Only a goal by Sloan at 19:01 of the final period thwarted the Winnipeg comeback.
Sloan finished with two goals and an assist, while Mackell scored once and set up two others.
Blute and Bobby Paul had the Saints' first-period goals, before Taylor halved the deficit at 18:35.
Mackell and Sloan upped it to 4-1 late in the second period and set the stage for Marchant (who replaced Gordon Scott in the Winnipeg lineup) and Robertson.
Canadian Press reported: "Although the game was bruising, with the Toronto team especially trying to bodycheck Monarchs and cut down their speed, only two minor penalties were called -- one to each team -- and both were in the first period.”
Maurice Smith of the Winnipeg Free Press wrote: "St. Mike's pulled every trick they could on Monarchs and got away with a lot of stuff that would have drawn penalties in Winnipeg. St. Mike's, apparently under orders, really roughed it up.”
An off-day followed -- the Monarchs were back in Maple Leaf Gardens anyway as Monson took them to watch Willie Joyce and Jimmy Hatcher battle in a lightweight boxing match.
Game 3 was played on April 17, with St. Mike's winning 7-3 to take a 2-1 edge in games. Suddenly, the Saints were seen as distinct favorites.
Winnipeg outshot the Toronto team 38-26, before what was said to be just under 15,000 fans, but St. Mike's got a big game from Boehmer and had a lot more polish around the net.
"If you play aggressive enough hockey, you make the breaks for yourself,” Primeau said. "And we sure had the breaks (in Game 3).”
The teams were tied 1-1 midway in the first period -- Costello having scored for St. Mike's and Clint Albright (he wore glasses while he played) for the Monarchs -- when the Saints struck for two goals 24 seconds apart to take control. Again, it was Mackell (10:17) and Sloan (10:41) scoring the key goals.
McRae pulled the Monarchs to within one at 7:29 of the second period, only to have Sloan and Sandford up the Toronto team's lead to 5-2 going into the third. The goal was Sloan's fifth of the series.
Taylor scored for the Monarchs early in the third period. But the Saints won going away as Blute and Paul found the range.
There was some concern in the Winnipeg dressing room because McRae was limping on a gimpy knee. The right winger, nicknamed Red, developed water on his right knee in February and took a shot on it in Game 1. The knee was now swollen.
And for the first time there was criticism of -- guess who? -- the officials.
The criticism came from Jim Primeau, Joe's brother and an NHL linesman. Asked about the officiating in the series, Jim replied: "It's crummy.”
Monson agreed, but said he wasn't complaining because "the refereeing hurt both sides.”
The CAHA was still using the two-referee system and Monson said he felt it was time to go to two linesmen for the final and "let the referee look after his own job.”
The two officials for the first three games were Stan Pratt of Ottawa and Port Arthur's Harold Guerard.
The teams took two days off before playing Game 4 on Saturday, April 20.
The talk before Game 4 was that Monson would drop Cam Millar, the fourth defenceman, and add forward Hy Beatty. Millar had gone in for Beatty for Game 3.
And the Monarchs took Game 4, scoring three power-play goals and posting a 4-3 victory before 14,371 fans to even the series, 2-2.
The story this night was the Winnipeg line of McRae, Taylor and Robertson. Taylor scored twice and set up another by McRae. That gave Taylor nine points in the series, one more than Sloan, who drew two assists.
Rockey opened the scoring for Winnipeg at 9:36 of the first period. Blute tied the score at 13:20.
St. Michael's took a 2-1 lead at 13:06 of the second period -- its only lead of the game -- when Sandford scored and Taylor tied it at 19:21.
The Monarchs won it in the third on goals by McRae (5:44) and Taylor (11:19). Eddie Harrison pulled the Saints to within one at 17:16, after which Gibson held the fort.
"There's no doubt about it,” Joe Primeau said, "this series is going the full seven games. I can't see either team winning two straight now.
"It's down to a best-of-three series now, and it's going to be a mighty tough proposition.”
Both coaches did have one common complaint -- "too much holidaying and partying.”
Said Primeau: "Easter holidays are no good for my boys. They're getting too lax.”
Monson admitted he was afraid his players would be "killed by kindness” with all the parties thrown on their behalf.
Two nights later, with 14,264 fans looking on, Sloan pumped home five goals and St. Michael's won 7-4 to close to within one victory of the Dominion championship.
According to The Canadian Press, "A near free-for-all in the final period produced four major penalties, and a penalty shot against goalie Jack Gibson of Monarchs, who participated in the battle. Sloan scored his fifth goal by beating Gibson on the penalty shot.”
That goal, at 11:13 of the third period, gave St. Mike's a 7-3 lead.
The Toronto lads jumped out to a 4-0 first-period on goals by Ted McLean, Paul and two from Sloan. Robertson got Winnipeg on the board before the period ended.
Sloan scored again early in the second period, before Robertson and Tindall cut the deficit to 5-3. That was as close as Monarchs would get as Sloan scored at 19:40 of the second.
Sloan, on the penalty shot, and Rockey exchanged third-period goals.
That lifted Sloan's points total to 13, tops in the series. In the regular season, Sloan, a 155-pounder from Falconbridge, Ont., had won the OHA scoring title with 132 points in 49 games.
The third-period donnybrook featured Rockey, Tindall and Gibson of Winnipeg against Harrison and Costello. Gibson and Costello paired off and came to blows.
After the game, Pratt and Guerard, the two officials, came under heavy fire from both teams.
But Monson admitted: "There was a heck of a lot wrong with our playing. We lost control of the puck and ourselves completely.”
And now the fans of the St. Mike's boys were expecting a six-game series victory.
McLean, the team captain, cautioned: "After we took them 7-3 in the third game, they came back to wallop us. We'd better watch ourselves or we'll be flat on our seats again.”
McLean then yelled across the dressing room to Sloan: "Take two Cokes. You deserve them.”
The Monarchs had played without Albright, who needed stitches to close a gash in his left leg that he incurred in practice earlier that day. He would return for Game 6.
Before Game 6, word got out that Guerard would be replaced as one referee by Geroge Hayes of Ingersoll, Ont.
Before Game 6, Monson was heard to say: "I'll sure be glad to go home, but I want to stay around at least until Saturday (April 27).”
He got his wish.
The Monarchs won Game 6 on April 24, posting a 4-2 victory in front of 14,970 fans, the largest crowd of the series so far.
The attendance was a record for a six-game Memorial Cup final, surpassing the mark of 73,867 from 1943 (the Winnipeg Rangers beat the Oshawa Generals in a six-game series in Maple Leaf Gardens).
The Monarchs took period leads of 2-1 and 4-1.
Rockey and Buchanan got Winnipeg off to a 2-0 lead with goals 12 seconds apart, at 17:30 and 17:42, in the first period. Costello pulled St. Mike's to within one when he scored, after being set up by Sloan, with 56 seconds left in the opening period.
McRae and Albright scored the only goals of the second, before Sloan rounded out the scoring with his second penalty-shot goal in two games.
Hayes, reffing his first game, award Sloan the shot after ruling that Rockey had held the puck in the Winnipeg crease with his hand.
"Two factors were mainly responsible,” Monson said of the victory. "We had Clint Albright back in the lineup and that George Hayes as a referee.”
Primeau didn't see it quite that way.
"Sure (Hayes) galloped around a lot,” he said, "and blew his whistle. But he let an awful lot of rough stuff go.
"There's no doubt about it. We were off our game and were outplayed.”
The teams then took two more days off before playing Game 7 on Saturday, April 27, before a record-breaking crowd of 15,803.
(Because it was a Saturday night, the teams would have played just one 10-minute overtime period had they been tied after three periods. If they were still tied after OT, an eighth game would have been played on Monday, April 29.)
"Two sensational goals by a truly great right winger, Georgie Robertson, provided the third-period victory margin that gave the west the coveted cup for the 15th time in 28 years of competition,” reported The Canadian Press.
The pregame odds were 7-5 against Winnipeg, but the Monarchs didn't pay that any mind.
They fell behind 1-0 when Mackell scored at 6:38 of the first period, an ominous sign for the westerners as the team that had scored first had won each of the first six games. But Albright tied it at 10:59.
May, with his first goal of the series, gave the Monarchs the lead at 1:55 of the second period. Paul tied it at 3:05.
The teams went into the third period tied 2-2, at which point Robertson took things into his own hands.
CP reported: "Robertson, who gathered 10 points during the series, took the puck at centre, shifted the two-man Irish rearguard out of position, and fired a waist-high shot from 15 feet out and to the side. Goalie Pat Boehmer never touched it.
"Then, the ubiquitous Robertson did it again, with the clincher just 47 seconds before the end, and at a time when it appeared certain the desperate, ganging Saints were about to at least score the deadlocking goal.”
In a wild Winnipeg dressing room, there was one calm individual. Lefty Laird, a commerce student at the University of Manitoba and a huge Monarchs fan, said he wasn't worried.
"They always win on Saturday nights,” he explained. "In two years, they've only lost one Saturday night game -- that was to Moose Jaw Canucks last year.”
The Game 7 attendance set a record for a junior hockey game in Canada, breaking the previous record of 15,659 set at Maple Leaf Gardens for a 1938 Memorial Cup game between the St. Boniface Seals and Oshawa Generals.
All told, the series drew 102,575 fans, a record for a seven-game amateur series in Canada.

NEXT: 1947 (Moose Jaw Canucks vs. Toronto St. Michael's Majors)

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