Debunking My Own Myth

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (July 26) — Perhaps I’ve been caught drinking the Kool Aid.

Though it is mid–summer, and thirst can become pervasive, I’ve normally strayed from gulping blue–and–white beverage. But, maybe not this time.

In my Friday blog, I began by marveling (gushing?) over the collective experience of the Toronto Maple Leafs front office — tabulating that Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello, Cliff Fletcher, Mark Hunter and Mike Babcock have combined for 17 appearances (while playing, managing or coaching) in the Stanley Cup final and nine titles. I later received an email from a former Leafs employee, who posed a cryptic question: “How many GM’s have won the Stanley Cup in more than one city?”

Hmmmm.

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SMILIN’ LOU LAMORIELLO WON THE STANLEY CUP THREE TIMES AS GENERAL MANAGER OF THE NEW JERSEY DEVILS — IN 1995, 2000 AND 2003.

After a moment of consideration, I could arrive at only one name: Frank J. Selke, who worked with Toronto and Montreal from 1929 to 1964. But, I was only half–right. Selke was “business manager” of the Maple Leafs and aide–de–camp to Conn Smythe. He helped to raise funds for the construction of Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931. When the Leafs founder, owner and GM took his Sportsman’s Battery to Europe during World War II, Selke ran the team in Smythe’s absence and raised the Stanley Cup in 1942 and 1945. But, Selke was never more than “acting” GM of the Blue and White. Once Smythe returned from battle, tension developed between the two men and Selke tendered his resignation in May 1946.

It was in Montreal that Selke crafted his Hall–of–Fame resume as manager of the Forum and GM of the Canadiens. He developed such legends as Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore and Henri Richard while winning the Cup six times, including the National Hockey League standard of five consecutive titles between 1955–56 and 1959–60. Therefore, I suppose we can say (though not technically) Selke won the Cup with two teams.

NOTE: The award for best defensive player in the NHL each season is named in memory of Mr. Selke, whose son, Frank Selke Jr., was a Hockey Night In Canada commentator in the 60’s and GM of the expansion California Seals in 1967–68.

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FRANK J. SELKE (1893 — 1985).

A couple of more–recent executives came close.

Punch Imlach was GM and coach here in Toronto during the Stanley Cup dynasty of the 1960’s, and then manager in Buffalo when the Sabres lost the 1975 championship to Philadelphia. Glen Sather managed Edmonton to five Stanley Cup titles between 1984 and 1990 and was boss of the New York Rangers when his team fell to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014.

In truth, only one man in the nearly century–long history of the NHL has lifted the Cup as GM–in–title with more than one team… and chances are you’ll learn about him here for the first time. His name: Tommy Gorman. He was among the league founders in November 1917; a part–owner and manager of the original Ottawa Senators. With early–NHL stars Frank Nighbor, Clint Benedict and future Leaf King Clancy, Ottawa won the Stanley Cup in 1920, 1921 and 1923. Gorman later won championships as GM of the Chicago Black Hawks (1934), Montreal Maroons (1935) and Montreal Canadiens (1944/1946). He died in May 1961 at age 74 and was inducted into the Builders’ section of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963.

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GENERAL MANAGER TOMMY GORMAN (LEFT) WITH CHICAGO BLACK HAWKS CAPTAIN CHARLIE GARDINER IN THE 1930’s. GORMAN AND GARDINER WON THE 1934 STANLEY CUP.

If history means anything, this will put into perspective the chore facing Lamoriello, who has — contractually — only three seasons to become the second GM–in–name to lift the Stanley Cup with different franchises. More to the point: Lou has three years to somehow turn around arguably the worst team in the NHL from mid–December to the end of last season.

A daunting task, to be sure.

Damn, that glass of Kool Aid was so refreshing.

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4 comments on “Debunking My Own Myth

  1. Whoa whoa whoa…..who said anything about the Leafs ever winning a cup??? You didn’t did you Howard???

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