Skip to main content

From the Archives: A 1947 Feature on Conn Smythe

Shortly after World War II -- before the television era -- magazine reading peaked both in the United States and Canada. Stan Fischler looks at a particular feature on Conn Smythe, written by a writer that meant a lot to Stan.

Shortly after World War II -- before the television era -- magazine reading peaked both in the United States and Canada.

Uncle Sam's favorites include Life, Look, The Saturday Evening Post and Collier's. The number one mag in Canada was Maclean's, which frequently featured hockey stories.

On the South side of the 49th parallel, hockey got scant attention in the popular weekly and monthly publications. That helps explain why I was amazed to pick up a copy of Collier's in my dentist's office one afternoon during the 1947-48 NHL season.

There -- with a rare color photo -- was a full-length feature on the Maple Leafs supreme hockey boss, Conn Smythe. I asked Dr. Singer, my denist, if I could take the coveted Collier's magazine home with me and he obliged. And that's how it wound up pasted in the 1947-48 edition of my scrapbook just as you see it here.

The color picture, taken by crack sports photographer David Peskin, was marvelous enough for me to love the feature on the picture alone. But my extra added attraction was the byline -- Trent Frayne.

Wow! Not only was he one of my all-time favorite writers but -- much later -- I got to know Frayne personally as an all-around great guy. As for his Smythe profile, well, title was perfect: ICEMAN.

Nor was the subtitle too bad either: With a fighting background of 30 years in hockey, Conn Smythe, manager of the champion Toronto Maple Leafs, has added plenty of youth to the game.

What's more -- even without full faces -- I could name all the photographed Leafs.

They are (left to right) Turk Broda, (partial) Harry Watson, Bill Barilko, skate guy Tom Naylor, Smythe, (distant) Don Metz, Joe Klukay, Jim Thomson, (back of head) Gus Mortson and Vic Lynn.

The story is a long one -- over three full pages -- and I only wish I could read it to you because Frayne did such a splendid job. Here are a few representative lines.

Start with Smythe on how he built an underdog Toronto team, teeming with rookies, to an upset 1947 title, the youngest team to win a Stanley Cup.

"I should have figured it out years ago. Youth is the answer in this game. Only the kids have the drive, the fire and the ambition. Put the kids in with a few

old-pappy guys who still like to win and the combination is unbeatable." (They won four Cups in five years.)

Frayne retold the story of Smythe's fury at old Madison Square Garden where Conn was sitting behind the penalty box. His defenseman Red Horner brawled with Art Chapman of the New York Americans. Both were penalized and resumed their fight in the penalty box.(In those days penalized players sat in the same sinbin.)

Frayne: "A fan near Smythe jumped up and was aiming a blow at Horner's head when something stopped him and he fell over. The something was Smythe's fist

which somehow had reached the fellow's chin before he reached Horner."

Needless to say, "Iceman" has been well-preserved in my scrapbook for 75 years. And, guess what? The story reads as well as it did when I was just a 15-year-old Leaf fan!



Cole Schwindt Is Now One To Watch in Calgary

Cole Schwindt might have been an afterthought in the Matthew Tkachuk trade. But his value to the Calgary Flames could be extremely important moving forward.

Nick Robertson

What's It Like to Compete For an NHL Roster Spot?

The stress of the NHL roster bubble is intense this time of year. How do two players at different ends of their careers handle the stress of trying to crack the lineup?


Five Of The Coolest NHL Preseason Moments Ever

From Pavel Bure's skate-to-stick goal to Manon Rhéaume making NHL history, let's take look at some of the coolest moments to happen during the preseason.