Saturday, July 23, 2016

Archie Wilcox

Here is an interesting piece of hockey trivia for you.

Archie Wilcox became the first rookie defenseman in NHL history to score a playoff overtime goal, when he connected at 6:27 of the second overtime as the Maroons took a 1-0 win at Boston, in Game 3 of the 1930 Stanley Cup Semi-Finals.

Wilcox, a Montreal native, was a natural athlete. He was really good at soccer, with one source even suggesting he had an offer from Chelsea. There has been no evidence to confirm that. But there is plenty of evidence to prove he was an excellent hockey player.

Wilcox would play in 208 NHL games, mostly spread out over five seasons with the Montreal Maroons back in the 1930s.

Joining the NHL's now-defunct Maroons was not an easy choice for Wilcox. He was a star in the very competitive Railway-Telephone senior league in Montreal and had attractive offers to stay.

"In 1926, the Canadiens came after me," he recalled years later. "They wanted me to meet them at the station that night at 8 to go to a game in Pittsburgh. The CNR manager promised me a job with the railway for life if I stayed. That night, I got a call from Jimmy Strachan (the Maroons' president) who offered me a $1,000 bonus if I turned pro with them. We were living with my wife's parents then, and she kept saying, 'take the money, take the money, and we'll use it to get a home of our own.' I was sent to Providence where they offered me $2,500 for the season but I held out for $3,000 and they finally gave it to me if I promised to shut up and not tell anyone."

By the 1929-30 season Wilcox was a regular with the Maroons. For the next four seasons he patrolled the Maroons defense and also played a lot of right wing. He would score 8 goals and 22 points in his career.

Late in his career, Wilcox briefly played for Boston, "but they wanted to cut my salary $500, and the most I ever made was $6,000." He also briefly played with the now-defunct St. Louis Eagles.

Beyond that he also had his chance to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs taken away from him.

"Later, Connie Smythe offered me my Boston salary to help the Toronto kids at their Syracuse farm team. Red Horner then got hurt and the Leafs were going to bring me up, but I had a leg injury. It's too bad, because I always wanted to play for Smythe. He was a swell guy."

Wilcox returned to Montreal and opened a fleet of 160 trucks for his own transporting business. He also was active in civic politics in Verdun.

Archie Wilcox relocated to Brockville, Ontario is his 80s. He passed away in 1993 at the age of 90.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Vern Ayres

Vern Ayres is another player who should be included in the "hockey's wildest misfits" category.

Like the modern-day misfit Steve Durbano, Ayres loved to lap up the liquor and was mean on defense in the NHL. If he wasn't partying in New York Americans owner Bill Dwyer's company, he was belting opponents with his fists or nailing them with very hard, devastating body checks.

Ayres broke in with the New York Americans in 1930-31 and spent three years on the Amerks blueline. He had 97 minutes in penalties in 1932-33 in his 48 games. He was traded to the Montreal Maroons and played much of 1933-34 in the minors. He was traded to the St.Louis Eagles for 1934-35 and gave a real display of why he was one of the hardest bodycheckers in the NHL at the time when he broke a few of Harvey Jackson's ribs with a devastating bodycheck.

However, he was a slow skater, as his 6'2" 220lb body made him a plodder. Anyone with any skating ability could beat him without too much trouble with a good change of speed.

When the Eagles folded, the New York Rangers claimed him but there was no way he could crack the Ranger lineup regularly. He was sent to the minors where he finished his career.

Vern Ayres died February 18th, 1968 while playing in a father-son hockey game for fun. He was 59 years old.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Raymie Skilton

This is Raymie Skilton. He is one of many one game wonders in NHL history. He played his lone NHL game way back in 1917, with the Montreal Wanderers.

Yes, there was a team called the Wanderers in the NHL's first season, season. They were one of three NHL teams based out of Montreal - the Canadiens and later the Maroons. Though they had a good local history (winning the Stanley Cup several times in the early 1900s before the NHL existed) the Wanderers did not last very long. After six games their arena burned down, under rather mysterious conditions. They forfeited the rest of their games and never reformed.

Skilton was a rare American player back then. The Boston raised Skilton was actually a munitions expert that the US government posted in Montreal. He expressed a desire play the game, and offered the Wanderers a price they could not refuse: one dollar.

 No newspaper reports suggest much about Skilton's play on that game on December 21st, 1917. No one on the team must have played very well at all in that game, as they lost 11-2 to the Canadiens.

Skilton's military duties must have kept him too busy to remain on the ice. Statistical records suggest Skilton returned to amateur hockey in the Boston area after World War I.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jerry Shannon

Jerry Shannon patched together a 183 game NHL career in the 1930s. He played with the Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Eagles, Boston Bruins and, for two complete seasons, the Montreal Maroons.

Nicknamed "River" for reasons unknown to me, Shannon was a junior and senior sensation in Niagara Falls, leading the junior Cataracts to a Memorial Cup appearance and the senior Cataracts to an Allan Cup final.

In 1933, Jerry signed as a free agent with the Ottawa Senators along with three Niagara Falls teammates - Ralph "Scotty" Bowman, Max Kaminsky and Walter Kalbfleisch. The Ottawa franchise was relocated in 1934, settling in St. Louis. In 1935 he was traded to the Boston Bruins and then traded to the Montreal Maroons in 1936. In 1938, the Maroons traded Jerry to Cleveland for cash and then he was traded again to Hershey.

Shannon returned home to Ottawa after his professional career was over. He regained his amateur status and returned to senior hockey. He also became legendary for organizing drop in youth hockey games. Kids from all over would show up. No matter how many came, he organized it so that everyone could play.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Harold Starr

Harold "Twinkle" Starr was one tough workhorse of the NHL for most of the dirty thirties. In fact, King Clancy once told famous sports writer Jim Coleman he may have been the toughest of his time.

Here's how Coleman retold the story in the January 18th, 1943 edition of the Toronto Telegram:

"Clancy spoke affectionately of Harold Starr, the brutal beer baron who once at Maple Leaf Gardens felled Clancy in exactly fourteen seconds with a reverse hammerlock and a flying-mare. 'A powerful fellow, that Starr,' said Clancy judiciously, 'but a trifle crude.'"

Like Clancy Starr hailed from Ottawa, born there in 1906. He was a junior hockey star, playing with Gunners, St-Brigid's and Shamrock teams. He was real good on the gridiron too, playing professional football with the CFL's Ottawa Rough Riders. He was every bit as tough on the grass as the ice, playing tackle and end spots. He helped the Rough Riders win the Grey Cup in 1925 and 1926.

By 1929 he filled his winters playing in the NHL, too, with the Ottawa Senators. He would bounce around the NHL quite a bit, never settling down in one place for too long. Starr would play for three seasons in Ottawa, one each with the Montreal Maroons and Montreal Canadiens, two with the New York Rangers and just two games with the Detroit Red Wings.

After hockey, Starr was a very successful co-owner of the Carleton Hotel.

Long time Ottawa sports reporter Eddie MacCabe wrote an article that quoted one of Starr's old buddies as saying "Harold was a quiet man. But he never forgot anybody. Many's the night I drove around the city with him and he'd stop in here and there and help out guys who were down on their luck and I'd stay on the car and he'd say 'there's a fellow here I have to talk to for a few moments.' He was one of those great guys."

Harold died at his home in Ottawa on Friday, September 25, 1981.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Glenn Brydson

In eight seasons right winger Glenn Brydson, known by his nickname of Swampy, played in 299 NHL contests with the Montreal Maroons, St. Louis Eagles, New York Rangers and Chicago Black Hawks.

The Maroons signed him as a free agent after a notable 1931 season saw him lead the amateur Montreal AAA to a strong showing at the Allan Cup. He would play with the Maroons for four seasons, before being traded to the St. Louis Eagles in exchange for legendary goalie Alex Connell.

The following year Brydson moved to New York to play with the Rangers, only to be traded mid-season to Chicago. Interestingly, the way the schedule played out, the trade allowed Brydson to play in 52 games in a 48 game schedule.

Brydson would play with Chicago through to 1938. He would bounce around the minor leagues during the war years.

He retired in 1943 and ran his own hotel for many years. He died in Rockwood, Ontario on December 8th, 1993.

The native of Swansea, Ontario was the younger brother of Gord Brydson, a noted Toronto golfer who also briefly played with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Max Kaminsky

Max Kaminsky was clever center, excelling defensively while showing promise for offensive upside.

Born in 1913, he played his junior hockey with the Niagara Falls Cataracts of the OHA and in 1930-31, in 7 games, he scored 14 goals and had 15 assists for a whopping 29 points. He then played successfully for Niagara Falls in Senior OHA before turning pro with the NHL's Ottawa Senators in 1933-34.

He showed some ability, as he had 27 points in 38 games centering the Roche brothers Desse and Earl. The next year he did nothing for the St.Louis Eagles in 12 games, but when traded during the season to the Bruins, he had 12 goals and 27 points.

He never played well again after that, though. He was awful in 1936-37 and, following a contract dispute, Art Ross sold him to the Montreal Maroons where he played six games and then was sent to the minors. He spent the rest of his career in the minors where he did achieve some success. He made the AHL's second all-star team in 1939-40 having 11 goals and 29 assists. He played for Springfield until 1941-42 and then closed his career with the Pittsburgh Hornets in 1944-45, becoming coach in 1945-46, and was a long-time coach and general manager for many years.

The memory of Kaminsky, who died May 5th, 1961, is perpetuated by the Max Kaminsky Memorial Trophy, awarded yearly to the OHL (formerly the OHA) most gentlemanly player who also displays a high standard of playing ability. In 1969 they created the William Hanley Trophy for such nice guys, and gave the Kaminsky trophy to the league's top defenseman.

Kaminsky, who after he retired as a player became an AHL coach and a notable OHL coach, died of cancer in 1961, just months after leading the St. Catherines TeePees to the Memorial Cup in 1960

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