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From the Archives: Killing the Black Hawks

If ever there was a study in National Hockey League contrasts, a classic "Battle Of The Opposites" took place during the 1946-47 season. Stan Fischler looks at the difference between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black hawks that season.

If ever there was a study in National Hockey League contrasts, a classic "Battle Of The Opposites" took place during the 1946-47 season.

On the one hand, Conn Smythe's Toronto Maple Leafs had skyrocketed to the top of hockey's major league while the Chicago Black Hawks brought up the rear of the six-team circuit.

"I want a fighting team," said Smythe, "filled with a desire to mix it with anyone."

The "Little Major," as former military hero Smythe was known, got what he wanted in the autumn of 1946. In fact, he got a lot more than he -- or anyone else in the NHL expected.

With six rookies sprinkled over its roster, the Leafs defied predictions that they would be bottom-feeders. And, as a 14-year-old supporter of the Royal Blue and White-sweatered skaters, I was thrilled to the limit by their early success.

Although I lived in Brooklyn at the time, I was able to keep pace with my favorites having become a subscriber of the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper. The minute I finished devouring all the hockey stories in the daily Globe's sports section, I'd clip them out and paste them in my scrapbook as you see right now.

This week's ARCHIVE lead story featured a Saturday night Toronto-Chicago game at Maple Leaf Gardens on November 30, 1946. The headline capsulizes the entire game:


It wasn't the worst regular season drubbing in history. That took place in January 1944 when the Rangers were clobbered, 15-0 by Detroit at Olympia Stadium. That debacle took place during wartime when rosters were depleted by vast enlistments in the armed forces.

Coach Hap Day's winning Leafs lineup was spearheaded by three well-balanced forward lines. The new fans' favorite "Kid Line" featured center Ted Kennedy with Vic Lynn on the left side and Howie Meeker on right wing.

In the accompanying photo, taken by ace Globe photographer Nat Turofsky, Meeker (15) has just beaten Chicago goalie Paul Bibeault while Howie's linemate, Lynn (14) signals a goal with his upraised stick.

Toronto's scoring balance was evident in the box score. The first line featured captain Syl Apps at center with Harry Watson on the port side and Wild Bill Ezinicki tossing body checks on the right.

That unit lit five red lights with Ezzie winding up with a three-goal hat trick. But the surprise third unit, featuring Gaye Stewart, Bud Poile -- father of Predators g.m. David Poile -- and Harry Taylor was especially effective.

"The beginning and the end," laughed Stewart after the game. "That's us." The line scored the opening goal at 6:24 of the first period and closed it with the eleventh red light at 17:50 of the final frame.

No less than in today's hockey, goaltending played a huge role in determining the final result. Covering the game for The Globe, reporter Jim Vipond lauded Leafs goalie Turk Broda.

"He worked hard for his third shutout since returning from overseas last February," Vipond noted. "He came up with some of the most sensational saves seen in the Gardens in a long time."

By contrast, Vipond wrote of Chicago's goalie Paul Bibeault, "He looked particularly inept in the last half of the game."

As you can see, the rest of the Globe's sports page -- it was published on a Monday while the Leafs-Hawks game was played on Saturday night -- also covered games played on Sunday night.

Chicago lost that one to the Rangers. The other story -- on the left -- covered both Detroit weekend games -- a 3-3 tie with Boston and a 4-1 loss to Montreal.

The ultimate of terse, pithy loser comments was uttered by Black Hawks coach Johnny Gottselig after his Windy City sextet was beaten by eleven goals.

Cornered by the media in the Chicago dressing room Gottsellig was asked to comment on the game.

His response: "Ugh!"

As for the winning side, those '46-'47 Leafs became my favorite team of all-time. They blended romance -- assuming a hockey club can be called romantic -- fire, finesse and a formidable lineup.

The Kid Line was so inspiring that reporter Gordon Walker of The Toronto Star actually penned a poem about them. It was patterned after the baseball classic, "Tinkers to Evers to Chance" and went as follows:

These be the choicest of summary words:

Kennedy , Meeker and Lynn.

Trio of Leaflets, fleeter than birds,

Kennedy, Meeker and Lynn.

Thoughtfully clicking on passing plays,

Doing tricks with the puck that amaze,

Words becoming a popular phrase,

Kennedy, Meeker and Lynn.



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