Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bob Nevin: A Return Visit to Maple Leaf Gardens

On February 17, the Ontario Heritage Trust launched Heritage Week 2015. The event took place at the Ryerson Athletic Centre, which is located in the former Maple Leaf Gardens.

According to a media release, "Heritage Week - which runs from February 16 to 22 - is an annual celebration of Ontario's rich history and provides an opportunity to recognize the important work of heritage organizations and volunteers across the province. This year's theme - Play. Endure. Inspire. Ontario's sports heritage - explores the traditions, innovations and heroes of sport in Ontario."

On hand to take part in a question and answer session was two-time Stanley Cup champion Bob Nevin. Bob played his junior hockey at Maple Leaf Gardens with the Toronto Marlboros and won a Memorial Cup in 1955-56. He captured hockey's ultimate prize with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1962 and 1963.

During the Q&A, most of the inquiries came from students, who got time off school to join in the fun. In addition to Bob, several other athletes, including Olympian Perdita Felicien, were peppered with great questions from the youngsters. And it seems no matter the generation, hockey remains to be a hot topic. It was amazing to listen to the wide range of questions that were directed to Bob, who last skated in the National Hockey League in 1976 with the Los Angeles Kings. Of all the athletes, Bob appeared to be the favourite with those picking up the microphone to ask a question or make a comment. The most repeated phrase was, "this question is for Bob."

One girl told Bob she didn't have a question, but asked if it was okay if she could get a close look at his Stanley Cup ring. Another asked Bob to comment on the state of the current Maple Leafs. He responded by telling the crowd it may well be the right time for a rebuild. Also, Bob pointed out that he played several sports when he was a boy and encouraged his young audience to do the same. "You never know," Bob stated, "you may not like a sport, but until you've tried it, you won't know if you are good at it."

Bob made such a good impression that one student suggested that he join the 2014-15 edition of the Maple Leafs to help them get back on track! All Bob could do with that was smile as those piled into the basketball facility clearly understood that Bob and his fellow teammates from the 1960s knew what it took to be a Stanley Cup winner.

After the closing comments, Bob was swarmed by those requesting a picture or an autograph and he took part in several media interviews.

Bob Nevin wearing the Blue & White.

The Heritage Week launch was hosted by Anne-Marie Mediwake and Dwight Drummond from CBC  News.
Bob listens as wheelchair basketball player, Tyler Miller, answers a question.  Left to Right: Mandy Bujold  (boxer), Tyler Miller, Bob Nevin, Perdita Felicien, and CBC anchor Anne-Marie Mediwake.
A crowd favourite, Bob Nevin signs an autograph.
After taking questions from the students, Bob did the same for the CBC.
Last month, Bob attended an event hosted by Mike Wilson and Kevin Shea, honouring former Boston Bruin Derek Sanderson.

A trade on February 22, 1964, sent Bob Nevin to the New York Rangers, but 51 years later, it was great seeing him back at the grand old building situated at Carlton and Church.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Last Time it Happened

On January 29th and January 31st, 2015, the Montreal Canadiens won consecutive games by a score of 1-0. In victories over the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, Carey Price earned the shutouts and Montreal forward Max Pacioretty scored the winning goals.

The last time the same goalie and skater accomplished this in back-to-back 1-0 contests was in 1954.

Early in the 1954-55 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings met in home-and-away games. The first encounter took place at the Olympia in Detroit on November 11, 1954. Starting in goal for Toronto on the road was Harry Lumley. After a scoreless opening period, Toronto's Sid Smith beat Detroit goalie Terry Sawchuk in the middle frame. The Globe and Mail described Smith's goal as follows:

Smith grabbed a pass from skipper Ted Kennedy before letting go a short shot that struck the stick of Detroit defenceman Bob Goldham, and sipped off-course into the cage.

Toronto's game-winning-goal was scored at the 19:44 mark, resulting in the Red Wings having to wait until the final twenty-minutes for a prolonged stretch of time to try and score the equalizer. And they came out blasting. Detroit carried the play for most of the period and out shot Toronto 15-5. Harry Lumley, who was celebrating his birthday, kept the barn door shut and the Leafs departed the Motor City with a 1-0 win.

Two nights later, on November 13, 1954, Toronto hosted Detroit at Maple Leaf Gardens. Fresh off a brilliant performance on Thursday evening in Detroit, Lumley got the call to start at home. Once again, the two clubs played a tight defensive game with Lumley and Sawchuk not allowing a single shot to get past them. The lone goal of the game came early in the third period with Sid Smith finding a way to give his team the lead.

Writing in the Toronto Daily Star, Gordon Campbell noted:

But came the third, and at the 42-second mark Wings' Tony Leswick was doing penance for hooking Ted Kennedy at 19:52 of the second period when Sid Smith scored the game's only goal. He was in like a flash to fire (shooting) Kennedy's across-the-goal-mouth pass into the rigging. 

Right down to the final moments, the Red Wings attempted to tie the game. Detroit coach, Jimmy Skinner, pulled Sawchuk for the extra-attacker and as Al Nickleson observed in The Globe and Mail:

The Leafs, fighting bitterly, prevailed and Detroit's Johnny Wilson helped by missing the net when in alone, to climax a spine-tingler.

The next night at Boston Garden, Sid Smith continued to hold the hot-hand for Toronto. He scored two goals in the Leafs 3-1 win over the Bruins.