Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Memorial Cup: A history . . . 1970

Weyburn Red Wings vs. Montreal Junior Canadiens
at Montreal (Forum)

Once again, a team from the Saskatchewan Amateur Junior Hockey League carried the west's colors into the best-of-seven Memorial Cup final.
(Again, the eight teams from the Western Canada Hockey League were ineligible as the league continued to operate outside the CAHA.)
This time it was the Weyburn Red Wings of coach Stan Dunn representing the west.
And as in 1969, the Montreal Junior Canadiens, with Roger Bedard behind the bench, provided the opposition.
The Junior Canadiens, featuring among others Gilbert Perreault, Richard Martin, Norm Gratton, Ian Turnbull, Paulin Bordeleau and Bobby Guindon, swept Guy Lafleur and the Quebec Remparts in the best-of-five eastern final. And Montreal added goaltender John Garrett from the Peterborough Petes.
First of all, though, the Baby Habs had to get out of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. They had finished on top of the regular-season standings, their 37-12-5 record good for 79 points, nine more than Peterborough. Montreal then sidelined the Ottawa 67's and St. Catharines Black Hawks before being forced to go seven games with the Toronto Marlboros.
The Junior Canadiens won the seventh game from the Marlies, 6-3, with Perreault scoring four times and setting up the other two goals.
That sent Montreal into a best-of-seven eastern semifinal against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, champions of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. The Soo surprised visiting Montreal in the first game by winning 5-4. It was the first victory by an NOJHL team over an OJHL club since 1947.
The Junior Canadiens then went out and won four straight, including a 20-3 romp in the fifth and final game. Turnbull and Perreault had four goals each in that victory.
While Montreal was battling the Soo, the Remparts were scrapping their way past the Charlottetown Islanders in the other eastern semifinal.
The Remparts lost the first two games and then won the series in six games. But the sixth game just about wasn't played, at least not in Charlottetown. The second game of the series had ended in a brawl and Charlottetown police ended up on the ice. The Remparts weren't impressed with the treatment they received and asked the CAHA to move Games 6 and 7 to neutral ice.
The CAHA refused. The Remparts, who would be involved in a similar controversy again in 1971, wrapped it up with a 5-2 victory in Game 6 in Charlottetown.
That set up a classic matchup -- the Remparts, coached by Maurice Filion and featuring Lafleur, against the Junior Canadiens, starring Perreault, in the best-of-five eastern final.
Lafleur had totalled 103 goals in 56 regular-season games as the Quebec Junior A Hockey League played through its first season. Perreault had 51 goals in 54 games.
Montreal won the opener 7-4 behind Perreault's four goals and one assist. Lafleur, playing in front of more than 10,000 fans in Quebec City, more than held his own as he scored twice and set up Quebec's other two goals.
The Junior Canadiens won the second game 9-7, also in Quebec City, as Perreault scored twice. Lafleur had one goal for the Remparts, who led 6-3 after the second period and then surrendered six third-period goals.
The next night in Montreal, before 18,571 fans in the Forum, Martin scored three times as the Junior Canadiens won 7-1 to wrap up the series. Perreault had one goal, while Lafleur was blanked.
Weyburn, meanwhile, won its very first Saskatchewan junior title, beating the Regina Pats in six games in the SAJHL's best-of-seven final. The Red Wings had been around since the 1961-62 season.
In interprovincial play, featuring best-of-seven series, Weyburn opened by ousting the Vernon, B.C., Essos in six games and then took out Alf Cadman's Red Deer Rustlers in six games.
That put the Red Wings into the Abbott Cup final and they took care of the Westfort (Thunder Bay) Hurricanes, coached by former NHLer Benny Woit, 4-2, winning the sixth game 8-6 in Weyburn.
The Abbott Cup, it seems, hadn't been seen for two or three years, depending upon whom was telling the story. And then it reappeared.
In late April of 1970, the trophy showed up in Weyburn where the Red Wings were playing the Hurricanes in the western final.
Mal Isaac reported the finding in the Regina Leader-Post of April 30, 1970:
“It seems that Red Wings president Don Garinger just happened to be walking down the street and noticed the trophy sitting on the back seat of a car. Just what happened after that is not quite clear, but one of the many accounts of the incident goes like this.
“Garinger apparently waited until the owner of the vehicle and two other companions returned and immediately laid claim to the trophy. However, since the Wings had not won the series at that time, the trio was somewhat reluctant to part with the tropy.
“With the aid of one or two other Weyburn citizens, Garinger finally convinced the culprits to turn over the trophy. However, in the confusion, the identity of those responsible for the absence of the trophy during the past two seasons remained a mystery.”
Going in, Dunn felt his boys had a chance, even though the Red Wings didn't have a true superstar, at least not one in the Perreault mold, in their lineup.
“You can stop a superstar,” Dunn said, “but this type of team should be harder to hold. We have no superstars, but we have three balanced lines, and these kids want to play.”
As for stopping Perreault, Dunn said: “We haven't seen Perreault, but our scouts told us there is no way to cover him. I understand that to stop him, you have to keep him from winding up in his own zone.”
Weyburn, which won 20 of 28 playoff games en route to the Memorial Cup, went into the final with three goaltenders -- regular Brent Wilson and pickups Jerome Mrazek (Moose Jaw Canucks) and Gary Bromley (Regina). Wilson was injured in the first game against Red Deer, which resulted in Bromley joining the team. When Wilson returned for the first game against Westfort at the Fort William Gardens, Bromley was in Regina writing university exams. In Wilson's absence, Mrazek had taken over and played well.
Up front, the Red Wings had added 17-year-old Scott Smith, a pickup from Regina, and played him between two 19-year-olds _ left-winger Cal Booth and right-winger Wendell Bennett. Smith had won the SAJHL scoring title with 68 points, including 33 goals, and added another 22 goals and 28 assists in the playoffs. Booth struck for 32 regular-season goals and then added 32 in 28 playoff games through the Abbott Cup final.
Unfortunately, Smith suffered a broken ankle during a practice prior to the first game of the Memorial Cup final.
The Red Wings also counted on forwards Garnet Currie, Rod Norrish, Gene Sobchuk, Gary Leippi, Bob Miller, Bob Gerrard, and Vic Venasky. Norrish, Sobchuk and Leippi were added from Regina, while Venasky came over from the Hurricanes.
The defence, which allowed 223 goals in 64 regular-season games, featured Greg Hubick, Larry Giroux, Al Wawro and Graeme Bennett. Coming on board as pickups were former Canadian national team member Steve Carlyle, who had finished the season with Red Deer, and Ron Lemieux of the Dauphin Kings.
Norrish, Leippi, Smith and Bromley had been with the Pats one year earlier when they were swept by the Junior Canadiens in the national final.
“I saw Montreal play Toronto Marlboros in the OHA final,” said Garinger, “and I feel we can skate with them. But they're deadly within 30 feet of the net.”
Truer words were never spoken.
The Baby Habs made it two sweeps in a row as they routed the Red Wings in a four-game series that was played in its entirety in the Montreal Forum.
There was a disappointing crowd of 6,067 fans in the Forum on May 6 as the home-town lads opened with a 9-4 victory on the strength of four goals from Martin.
Bordeleau, Bobby Lalonde, Pierre Brind'Amour, Serge Lajeunesse and Claude Moreau added Montreal's other goals. Perreault was held to two assists.
Giroux, Leippi, Carlyle and Gerrard replied for Weyburn, which trailed 5-2 through two periods after being tied 1-1 after 20 minutes.
Despite outshooting the Baby Habs 20-12 in the first period, Weyburn was on the short end of the shots at game's end, 40-37. Wayne Wood went the distance in goal for Montreal, with Mrazek doing the same for the Red Wings, who surrendered four power-play goals.
“They forechecked us like crazy in the first period,” offered Montreal right-winger Scott MacPhail, who was inserted onto Perreault's line to replace Hartland Monahan (sore knee), “and then they just ran out of gas. They've got no stars really, but they're not a bad team. They work hard.”
Two nights later, on May 8, only 4,100 fans showed up at the Forum. They saw the Junior Canadiens get two goals from Bobby Guindon en route to a 6-2 victory.
“We were much sharper and if we had received an all-out effort from everyone on the club it would have been a much closer hockey game,” Dunn said.
Lajeunesse, Lalonde, Gratton and Richard Lemieux added Montreal's other goals.
Venasky and Currie counted for Weyburn.
“We didn't start as well as we did in the opener but we still should have been all even at 1-1 at the end of the first period as we were on Wednesay,” Dunn said. “Cal (Booth) took a bad penalty just after we had killed one off and they scored. It came in the final minute of the first period and gave them a 2-1 edge.
“Goals in the final minute of any period really hurt you. It gave them a big lift and they got the jump again in the second period to go up 3-1. Even then we came back to stay with them.”
Garrett stopped 29 shots in Montreal's goal, including 12 in the second period. Mrazek made 39 saves for Weyburn.
“(Montreal) has three solid lines and three more forwards sitting on the bench that can step in and you wouldn't know the difference,” Dunn said. “Their defence hasn't impressed me that much. The big difference is that they have been playing together all year and have been faced with tough opposition. It's paying off for them now.”
The Junior Canadiens upped their lead to a commanding 3-0 on May 10 when Lajeunesse, a defenceman, scored on a 40-footer through a maze of legs with 33 seconds left in the third period to give Montreal a 5-4 victory before 4,030 fans.
Perreault, who would be the first pick in the NHL's 1970 draft, going to the expansion Buffalo Sabres, scored twice for Montreal, including the game-tying goal at 16:46 of the third period.
Martin and Monahan, whose knee had gotten well enough for him to play, had Montreal's other goals.
Weyburn's goals came from Venasky, Bennett, Booth and Sobchuk, whose brother Dennis would play a key role in the 1974 Memorial Cup tournament with Regina.
After a scoreless first period, Weyburn led 2-1 going into the third period.
Mrazek was superb in the Weyburn goal but was forced from the game at 4:13 of the third period when he took a puck in the head. Bromley finished up, and the two combined for 31 saves. Wood stopped 28.
“When Montreal has to use its best eight players in the last eight minutes to win, there's nothing wrong with our club,” Dunn said.
The Red Wings lost Norrish with a bruised left leg after he was on the receiving end of a first-period check from Lajeunesse. Montreal was without Gratton for the last two periods after he banged up his left elbow.
“Weyburn gave its ultimate effort and lost. I'm sure we can win in four,” offered Martin.
Which is what happened two nights later when 4,561 fans watched the Baby Habs win 6-5 as Gratton, sore elbow and all, scored three times. Monahan's goal at 14:16 of the third period proved to be the winner.
Lalonde and Perreault also scored for the home side. Perreault also had three assists as he finished out his junior career.
Weyburn's goals came from Bennett, Currie, Miller, Giroux and John Rogers.
Montreal led 2-0 after one period, with Gratton scoring both goals.
Weyburn then scored four consecutive goals -- Garrett was replaced by Wood after the first two of those. But, Montreal scored twice in the last two minutes of the second period and took a 6-4 lead on third-period goals by Perreault and Monahan.
The Junior Canadiens became only the third team to win back-to-back championships, following the Oshawa Generals (1939 and '40) and Toronto Marlboros (1955 and '56).
It was the ninth time in 11 seasons that the OHA representative won the Memorial Cup.
(It's worth noting that in mid-April, the Western Ontario Junior A Hockey League decided not to enter a team in an east-west final that would have featured a team from the Western Canada Hockey League. Both leagues were members of the Canadian Hockey Association which operated outside of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association umbrella.)

NEXT: 1971 (Edmonton Oil Kings vs. Quebec Remparts)

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