Thursday, December 06, 2007

More Old Hockey Programs

Time once again for a look at an old Leafs Program - a Saturday night game on November 12, 1983 – Toronto Maple Leafs v. Philadelphia Flyers.

At 150+ pages, this is one big program. Does anyone know how many pages a current game program is, I'd love to compare page counts (yeah, I'm geeky like that).

Back to the night in question...I was 12 years old at the time of this tilt, but I have no memory of the game. The program cover has Mike Palmateer in a cage mask and helmet, sporting old brown leather pads that are likely the same size as those worn by Atom goalies today.

It may be three years later than the last program I looked at, but the opening letter from Harold Ballard hasn’t changed much. There’s a new paragraph about the Leafs exciting first round match-up against the Minnesota North Stars in the previous season (I do remember the Leafs losing that last match against the Stars in OT, a flopping Palmateer prone on the ice while the puck spiraled in above him). Pal Hal has toned down his assessment of the club somewhat, noting “the ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup and I believe we are headed in the right direction with a blend of solid veterans and promising youths.”

Just like the last program I looked at from 1980, John Anderson and his burger empire get a big write up - this time it’s the lead article. Playing on a line with Petr Ihnaccak and Miroslav Frycer, Anderson jokes “I’m thinking of changing my name to Johnaslav Anderchak.” No word on any plans to offer Smažený Sýr on the menu at his burger empire, which at the time of publication was up to eight outlets.

Boston Bruin Rick Middleton is the subject of the second article, a rather laudatory piece with Wayne Cashman calling Middleton “the most exciting one-on-one player in hockey today, bar none” (I'm guessing Cashman hadn't watched any Oiler games) and Scotty Bowman saying Middleton was the second best player at the 1981 Team Canada camp. The best quote in the article though goes to none other than Mr. Donald. S. Cherry:

When Rick Middleton came to the Bruins he was chicken. On defence, he wouldn’t even stick his foot in front of a shot. When we got through with him, he’d stick his face in front of one.
Each team within the Norris Division gets a mini-profile. When I read the Leafs profile the first thing that came to mind was the movie Groundhog Day. Sure, it’s 24 years ago, but once again the experts aren’t sure what to make of the Leafs. That 1983 Leaf team was seen as lacking in depth and thin in terms of prospects (they list Gary Nylund and Gary Leeman (?) as two promising young defencemen). One big difference? The club had a middling previous season, going 5-21-7 in their first 33 games – if that happened today, the ACC would be burned to the ground and Leafs senior management would have their heads put on pikes at the entrance to the city as a warning to others.

The St. Louis Blues get an interesting, almost surreal write-up. I knew the team had some tough times in the past and had proposed a move to Saskatoon, but I had no idea how bad it actually was. According to this article:
Throughout each round of last summer’s entry draft at the Montreal Forum, NHL Executive Vice-President Brian O’Neill would turn to his right, face a large table with a St. Louis Blues logo in the middle and ask 10 empty chairs if they’d like to select a player. Unfortunately, furniture does not communicate very well and O’Neill was forced to continue on with the next order of claim…the organization – its proposed move to Saskatoon nullified by the NHL Board of Governors – had no arena to play in, no front office, no general manager, no coach and no scouts – thus, the empty chairs.

The Blues didn’t get a single pick in that draft, but were bought by Harry Ornest in July of 1983 and the team managed to stay afloat in St. Louis. The story of the draft sounds too crazy to be true...oh, if only youtube were around in 1982...

Rounding out the rest of the 1983 Norris Division: Minnesota is apparently in need of leadership, the Blackhawks will be turning to Murray Bannerman to help spell a 40 year old Tony Esposito and the Detroit Red Wings are looking to pin their future on an 18 year old Steve Yzerman and a 19 year old Lane Lambert (Lambert is sure to be a “whatever happened to…” in a future Simmons column).

Next up is a two-page spread with a crazy cartoon drawing of the NHL’s first-team all-stars: Lanny MacDonald, Dennis Savard, Michel Goulet, Paul Coffey, Roland Melanson and Ray Borque. I really need to get to a scanner…

Three useless bits of trivia from page A-16 of the program:

  1. Ron Sutter’s first goal against John Garret and the Quebec Nordiques was history in the making – never before had five brothers scored an NHL goal;
  2. The Flyers-Penguins 0-0 tie was 139th time an NHL game ended in a scoreless draw; and
  3. Philadelphia’s Bobby Clarke is the only player to have played in both the 1972 Soviet NHL Series and the 1982-83 Super Series.

The prize for the most-misleading headline ever written goes to: "Celebrities in the Crowd – Personalities from many walks of life number themselves among hockey’s most avid fans.”

You’d think this article would be a look at the wide variety of famous or semi-famous people who are hockey fans. Um, well, it’s actually about the US Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, Minnesota. Apparently, due to the extreme climate during the winter in Eveleth the hall isn’t drawing attendees (go figure). The other gem from this article: each inductee to the hall (57 as of 1983) is enshrined on a pylon. That’s right, a pylon. The perfect symbol to honour and recognize the best in hockey…the article concludes with a three paragraph blurb on Jane Fonda who says, “We’re not exactly at The Forum every game, but we go when we can. It’s a fun thing to do.” The headline mis-match is so bad, I have to presume something went wrong in production...

Oddest advert so far – new Kleenex “Man-Size” tissues (Ick. Feel free to write your own punch-line). The ad photo is a close up of a man’s suit jacket, the catchy copywriting: “Instead of a cotton hankerchief.” Amazing that these never caught on…

Petr Ihnacak is the subject of a very well-written, but sadly uncredited, profile. It details Petr’s escape from the Czech Republic at a hockey tournament in Finland (his brother set-up a boat trip to Stockholm where the US Embassy arranged for Petr's immigration). It’s amazing to think back on the trials and tribulations players went through trying to get out of the eastern bloc. Near the end of the article Ihnacak talks about the prospect of never seeing his Czech mother again…

Most ridiculous sub-head? The Leafs won a slo-pitch tournament and another un-credited writer wonders if “Winning the Molson Slo-Pitch Classic Could Give the Leafs a Big Boost.” Yes, because if the history of hockey has taught us anything it’s that to build a cup winner your team must excel in the off-season at a beer-fueled sport.

For those Leaf fans that need the details, the Leafs snuck through the quarter finals against the Detroit Red Wings on the strength of a grand-slam from Walt Podubny. They destroyed the Calgary Flames 26-8 in the semis (Calgary’s just never had the pitching) setting up a match-up with the defending champion Los Angeles Kings. No score is listed, but as the Leafs won I think one can safely assume Kerry Fraser wasn’t around to ump. Bill Derlago was the Leafs MVP with 8 RBI in the championship game. In other extraneous news, the Campbell Conference beat the Wales 11-9 in the slo-pitch all-star game. Marcel Dionne and Bernie Nichols combined for four homers and seven RBI.

The rosters – it’s a leaf team I can actual recall from my youth, but once again Leeman is listed as a defenceman. Is this really so? Did he really start out with the Leafs on D? Why don't I have any recollection of this?

Here’s the bulk of the roster from that November night: Palmateer and Rick St. Croix between the pipes. Benning, Leeman, Gingras, Korn, Farrish and Salming on D. Derlago, Vaive, Anderson, Daoust, Terrion, Gavin, Frycer, Ihnacak, Harris, and Dale McCourt up-front (I have no idea who forwards Pat Graham and Greg Britz are).

The Patrick and Smythe Division each get a quick preview. The Islanders remain the team to beat in the Patrick, while David Poile’s Caps are hoping to build on the 94 points they racked up the previous year. In the Smythe division, Edmonton draws the accolades and Al Cotes, the assistant GM in Calgary offers up a beauty quote: “We realized in order to compete with the Oilers, we needed to add a lot of team speed. We think we’ve done that in obtaining Steve Tambelini and Steve Bozek.” Yeah – the two Steves were just what Calgary needed to take on the Oil…

And then it’s time for the Leaf Quiz, 10 quick multiple choice questions about the record holder for all-time games played as a Leaf (George Armstrong); Most points as a rookie (Ihnacak – 62); Only leaf to score 100 points (Sittler); Last Leaf to win the Lady Byng (Keon); etc.

Rick Drennan (finally, a writer gets a credit) turns in a nice piece on Bill Barilko and the Leafs policy of honouring, not retiring, player numbers. It features this interesting aside: “The only other sweater that’s off-limits to Leafs is No. 13 – for obvious reasons. ‘Hockey people are a superstitious bunch,’ [Leaf trainer Greg] Kinnear says. ‘The policy for not having a number 13 goes way back to when the Leafs were formed.’”

Wonder when that policy changed? Has anyone told Mats?

Matt Carlson writes an article that could easily be re-run today, some 24 years later: The NHL Knows it Can’t Operate in the US south, but right now it’s not interested. Harold Ballard, of all people, sounds pretty rational in this piece, calling for a shift to Canadian expansion, pointing out that the US has continually failed to sell it’s product south of the border, while, “there isn’t one Canadian team that needs financial help.”

In a national survey commissioned by the NHL and Miller Brewing, only 6% of American sports fans said they are always interested in watching hockey and 52% said they would never watch games (52%!). In light of the survey results, NHL President John Zeigler says the NHL needs to change its mission “ interest fans locally and regionally where our fans already are. We are not dedicating a great deal of effort to selling hockey in places where there is little interest now. We don’t see our future there.” Maybe that Zeigler was on to something...

The celebrities return with an extended one-on-one interview with Norman Jewison, "Hollywood's Avid Hockey Fan." The photo of a young Gretzky with Goldie Hawn, Burt Reynolds and Phil Esposito in front of what looks like a Buffalo Sabres rug/wall-hanging is pure gold.

Chris Zelkovich (who know calls the Toronto Star home) turns in a cringe-inducing fake Q&A piece called “Hockey Nut in Canada” A small taste is all you need:
Dear Hockey Nut, Who is the best right winger in hockey?
Without a doubt, Peter Pocklington
Yikes. Keep this in mind next time Zelkovich files a column on the state of sports media today…

Another golden advert - a permed out Gary Carter pimpin' some sporty casuals from Penmans. Elastic waistband rugger pants anybody?

And it's all wrapped up with a final photo montage of players with their tongues hanging out, called "Tongue Twisters"


  1. Anonymous3:49 pm

    Excellent stuff - I'm loving these reviews though the Leaf clubs were well before my time - keep it up! One small correction...Rollie the goalie was only a second teamer.

  2. Anonymous2:48 pm

    Hey there;

    As a *gulp* fan of that era, I can tell you that Pat Graham came to the Leafs in the blockbuster Rocky Saganiuk trade with Pittsburgh. I think he wore #23. He was not very good.

    Greg Britz was a guy who got called up and down from St. Catharines that year, but probably got into only 4 or 5 games. I recall in those days that if a player got called up from the minors for a game or two, he often would play without his last name on his jersey. How embarrassing would that be? "I'm the new guy. I'm clearly not staying long because they didn't bother to take the time to sew 5 letters onto my jersey".

  3. Anonymous3:41 pm

    Leeman = defenceman? True story. Same with Wendel when he first came up.