Sad Ending to a Great Hockey Life

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Oct. 21) – Allan Stanley, the great Maple Leafs defenseman of the 1960’s, took his last breath on Friday afternoon at 87 years of age. Somber truth be known, however, the man they called “Sam” had long before faded from life.

“When I saw Allan the last time – nearly a year ago – he didn’t even know who I was,” recalled Johnny Bower in a phone conversation earlier today. “It was so sad. And, in the last few months, if one of the fellows [a former Leaf teammate] said he wanted to visit Allan, we’d tell him it was no use. Sam wouldn’t even know you were there.”

Such is the plague of Alzheimer’s, to which Stanley succumbed after a protracted illness. “Allan was a great teammate and friend,” said Bower, the Maple Leafs goaltending stalwart of the 60’s, “and he had a good life until the final few years. He and his wife, Barbara, lived in a cottage in Bobcaygeon [part of the Kawartha Lakes region of central Ontario] and he really enjoyed it there. It’s just sad the way his life had to end.”

For Maple Leaf fans of a certain vintage, and those that appreciate the club’s long history, Stanley will always be remembered as one of four principal blue-liners during the championship dynasty of 1962 to 1967. He skated alongside the legendary Tim Horton, while Bob Baun and Carl Brewer comprised the other unit. Baun, now 77, is the lone surviving member of the group. Such others as Marcel Pronovost, Larry Hillman, Al Arbour and Kent Douglas also played defense for the Blue and White, but mostly in relief. Stanley, Horton and Baun skated on all four Stanley Cup teams in the decade (1962-63-64-67); Brewer was part of the first three before abruptly quitting the Leafs after the 1964-65 season. He came back to the NHL in 1968 and played with Baun in Detroit.

DEFENSE-MATES TIM HORTON (LEFT) AND ALLAN STANLEY POSE WITH STANLEY CUP IN DRESSING ROOM AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS AFTER WINNING 1963 TITLE OVER DETROIT.

“They called Allan ‘Snowshoes’ because he was so darned slow, but we wouldn’t have won the Stanley Cups without him,” Bower said. “He was the best defenseman I ever played with at taking the proper angle on [opposition] shooters. When Gordie Howe came over the blue-line, Sam knew just how to steer him away from me and toward the side-boards. In fact, our defensemen all had unique qualities. Timmy [Horton] was great at clearing the front of the net. Bobby Baun could block shots like no one else and Carl [Brewer] had the most skating and puck-handling skill. What a terrific bunch of guys to have in front of you as a goalie.”

Stanley played in the NHL from 1948 to 1969 with New York Rangers, Chicago, Boston, the Leafs and Philadelphia, retiring after the 1968-69 season. He was twice a Second Team All-Star (1959-60 and 1960-61) and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981.

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Not sure I remember, prior to Saturday, the last time Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks were featured on Hockey Night In Canada from the Windy City.

The pre-expansion rivals did not play last season during the post-lockout schedule of 48 games, all of which were Conference only match-ups. The Toronto at Chicago encounter of two seasons ago took place on a Wednesday night [Feb. 29, 2012] and is best remembered for being Ron Wilson’s final game as coach of the Leafs. General Manager Brian Burke fired Wilson two days later and Randy Carlyle debuted triumphantly the following night in Montreal.

Saturday’s clash at the United Center brought to mind a DVD I was recently given of a Leafs-Blackhawks game at the old Chicago Stadium on Mar. 10, 1968. It was one of those Sunday afternoon games televised nationally in the United States on CBS, and available here on WBEN Channel 4 – the network’s cross-border affiliate in Buffalo. It capped a remarkably eventful week for the Maple Leafs, late in the first season of the newly-expanded NHL – the league, in 1967-68, having doubled to 12 teams by adding California Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues.

CBS LOGO FROM TORONTO AT CHICAGO TELECAST OF MAR. 10, 1968.

One week earlier – on the night of Sunday, Mar. 3, 1968 – Maple Leafs and Detroit had pulled off a monster, seven-player trade that sent four-time Stanley Cup winner Frank Mahovlich to the Red Wings with Peter Stemkowski, Garry Unger and Carl Brewer’s NHL rights, for Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson and Floyd Smith. A wonderful coincidence in the schedule had the Leafs and Detroit playing six nights later – Saturday, Mar. 9 – at Maple Leaf Gardens… a game that I attended as a nine-year-old with my Dad, and which remains among my fondest, early memories of watching Leafs in their storied arena.

Mahovlich scored for Detroit early in the game, helping stake the Wings to a 4-0 lead. But, Leafs roared back to win, 7-5 – the decisive goal coming on a third-period penalty by center Mike Walton. Incredibly, Walton took another penalty shot the following afternoon in Chicago – quite the coincidence (and rarity) given that Leafs were awarded only nine such opportunities in the entire decade of the 60’s.

Here are CBS images from that Toronto-Chicago game of Mar. 10, 1968:  

JOHNNY BOWER AND ALLAN STANLEY (26) COMBINE TO THWART THE BLACKHAWKS.

PAUL HENDERSON (19) AND FLOYD SMITH (17) WERE PLAYING THEIR THIRD GAMES FOR TORONTO AFTER MAMMOTH LEAFS-RED WINGS DEAL A WEEK EARLIER.

THE GOLDEN JET, BOBBY HULL (9), AND HIS BANANA-BLADE.

STAN MIKITA (21) FACES OFF AGAINST TIM HORTON (7). THE GAME WAS PLAYED IN CHICAGO STADIUM, WITH ITS OLD HAND-CLOCK TIMER ABOVE THE BLUE LINE.

IN THE SECOND INTERMISSION, JIM GORDON OF CBS INTERVIEWED BOBBY HULL’S WIFE, JOANNE, ?? ABOUT A PAINTING SHE CRAFTED OF HER HUSBAND.

MIKE WALTON OF LEAFS (16) HAD SCORED ON A RARE PENALTY SHOT THE PREVIOUS NIGHT AT HOME IN A COMEBACK WIN OVER DETROIT.

      

HE WAS PULLED DOWN BY PIERRE PILOTE (3) AND DOUG JARRETT (20) OF THE BLACKAWKS ?? THE FOLLOWING AFTERNOON AT CHICAGO STADIUM. REFEREE BRUCE HOOD AWARDED WALTON ANOTHER FREE SHOT.

WALTON SLAPPED THE PUCK AT JACK NORRIS…

… AND WAS DENIED BY THE GOALIE ACQUIRED IN THE INFAMOUS DEAL WITH BOSTON THAT SENT PHIL ESPOSITO, KEN HODGE AND FRED STANFIELD TO THE BRUINS.

NEW HOCKEY BOOK

Among the hockey books on the market for the Christmas season this year is a terrific compilation written by my pal, Rob Del Mundo, of the website TMLfans.ca. The title of the book (below) tells you all you need to know. On-line price is $12.99 at chapters.indigo.ca.   

          

EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

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