• U.S.

Sport: Win, Place or Show

8 minute read

(See front cover)

The difference between professional hockey and professional baseball is a lot bigger than the difference between the two games. In the U. S., big-league baseball is 62 years old, big-league hockey 13. Whereas baseball has two big leagues of eight teams each, hockey has one big league divided into two divisions—International and American—of four teams each. Whereas baseball’s annual championship is a World Series in which the leading team of each league takes part, hockey’s championship is not a series between the leading teams but a complicated round robin (for a battered $50 cup) in which the three top teams of each division take part.

Since no team is out of the race for the Stanley Cup until it can no longer climb out of cellar place in its division, last week, with only five games to go, the hockey season was at its height. In the International Division—led by the Toronto Maple Leafs, with the Montreal Canadiens and New York Americans struggling for second place—the Montreal Maroons seemed destined to stay in the cellar. But in the American Division— with the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers well out in front—the Detroit Red Wings, in the cellar, were close on the heels of the Chicago Black Hawks. Thus seven of the eight teams still had a good chance to win, place or show, and the Rangers, famed for their spirited stretch finishes, were only four points behind the Bruins and battling for first place.

Red Light Parade. To the uninitiated, hockey, the fastest game in the world, looks like a haphazard melee in which someone by luck occasionally pokes a puck into a net. But professional hockey players, who are required to make snap decisions while speeding 30 ft. a second, have well-timed plays ready for almost every circumstance that arises, seldom make goals save by effective teamwork. Baseball had its famed Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance combination, but every big-league hockey team has a forward line (left wing, centre and right wing) that functions with the precision of baseball’s great trio.

Every time a goal is made, a red light winks. Last week the fast-passing Rangers were leading the red-light parade with 135 goals, seven more than their nearest rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs. To the confusion of casual readers of sports pages the individual scoring heroes were two gentlemen named Dillon and Drillon. Cecil Dillon, Ranger forward, was leading the American Division last week with 20 goals and 17 assists for a total of 37 points for the season. He stood, however, well behind the leader of the International Division, 187-lb. Gordon Drillon of the Maple Leafs who had tallied 22 goals and 24 assists for a total of 46 points.

Saving Grace. While the goal-scoring forward line goes zooming towards fame and the two burly defensemen crash violently against their opponents to the cheers of the galleries, the goaltender, encased in 25 lb. of pads, is grimly occupied with the job of making saves. If one of his teammates makes a slip, it is too bad, but if a goalie makes a slip, it is a score against him and his team. Target of whizzing pucks, he must be nimble as a squirrel, sharp-eyed as a hawk. And since a perfect performance for him is a shutout, he works for naught on the scoreboard.

Back in 1928-29 Goalie George Hainsworth of the Montreal Canadiens made a fabulous big-league record. In a 44-game season, he had 22 shutouts to his credit, had only 43 goals scored against him. Even though nowhere near that mark, a goalie may still be great.

Out in front last week for this year’s goalie honors was Cecil (“Tiny”) Thompson, 200 pounds of brawn, whom the Boston Bruins have had for ten years since they picked him up from the famed Minneapolis Millers. Aided by famed Defenseman Eddie Shore, the Bruins’ No. 1 performer for the past twelve years. Tiny Thompson had up to last week chalked up six shutouts this season, had allowed only 81 goals to be scored against him.

A hair’s breadth behind Tiny Thompson stood the goalie who has been the sensation of this season: Dave Kerr of the Rangers. Kerr last week had had 83 goals scored against him, and if Tiny Thompson should lose his slim two-goal advantage, Kerr would lead the race because in an extraordinary early season performance he had chalked up eight shutouts.

Born in Toronto 27 years ago, Dave Kerr started to skate as soon as he could toddle, played organized hockey (for boys up to 15) when he was 9, was a star player in the Ontario Junior Hockey Association when he was 12. He got his high-school education (and an “expense account”) by playing hockey at Iroquois Falls for the Abitibi Paper Co., which made a practice of rounding up the best available amateurs to keep its employes in good temper during a long Canadian winter. He went to McGill University while playing for the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association. After his team won the Allan Cup, Canada’s No. 1 amateur trophy, Goalie Kerr turned professional, joined the Montreal Maroons, from whom the Rangers bought him in 1934.

In the summer, Dave Kerr works for a Toronto stockbroker, plays tennis and handball to keep in trim. In a sport which batters and bruises players so badly that the average hockey player is forced to retire after five years, he is outstanding. Only one stitch has been taken in his anatomy in the past four years. Famed Ching Johnson in twelve seasons of big-league hockey has had bones broken in 27 different parts of his body. Even more outstanding may be the records Dave Kerr establishes by the time he is Ching Johnson’s age.

Patrickmen. Striking fact about this year’s Rangers is that they have Dillon and Kerr, top team rating in goals scored, a standing of 55 points* last week and as a team are only two years old. Only team with a higher standing (59 last week) was the seasoned Boston Bruins, managed by Art Ross, who in his playing days once got $10 a minute for six exhibition games.

Manager of the Rangers is silver thatched, 54-year-old Lester Patrick. Patrick has been a name known to hockey fame since the early days of the century. Trained on Montreal’s corner-lot rinks, where the game was played with tin cans and tree-branches, Lester Patrick went on to star at McGill University.* In 1909, the year after the sport was first professionalized, he became the most publicized player in Canada when he got $3,000 for playing twelve games for the famed Renfrew Millionaires.

With his younger brother Frank he went in 1911 to Victoria, B. C., where he introduced artificial ice plants to the Northwest, founded and promoted the professional Pacific Coast Hockey League, continued playing hockey until he was 42. In 1926 Boston, New York, Detroit and Chicago, suddenly enthusiastic about professional hockey, began looking for talent to exploit the franchises they had purchased in the National Hockey League, so the Brothers Patrick sold the cream of their players to the Eastern clubs and disbanded the league. While Brother Frank became managing director of the National Hockey League and more recently coach of the Boston Bruins, Brother Lester became the most famed of all hockey managers.

Started in 1926 as a novelty for Manhattan’s new Madison Square Garden, the Rangers, under Manager Patrick, were developed into an effective machine of famed players including Frank Boucher, Bill & Bun Cook, Murray Murdoch, Ching Johnson, who won the Stanley Cup twice (1928 and 1933).

To do so in 1928 Lester Patrick himself had to perform a feat. In the first period of the second game of the playoffs, when the Ranger goalie was removed to a hospital after being struck in the eye by a whizzing puck, Manager Patrick, who had been out of the game since 1921, came from the sidelines, took his place. Never a goalie in his playing days, Patrick allowed the puck to slip by him only once, saved the game. In the third game, with a borrowed goalie, the Rangers won the Cup.

Two years ago Lester Patrick did the same thing that Connie Mack has twice done in baseball: disbanded his great team to start building another from scratch. He had paved the way for doing so. Scouting —from the mill pond up—has long been the customary procedure in big-league hockey, but Lester Patrick four years ago brought an innovation to the sport when he started a training school for likely prospects. Because Eastern Canada has been so thoroughly scoured by scouts (75% of major-league players come from either Toronto or Ottawa), Manager Patrick opened his school in Winnipeg, where he could have the field to himself.

From the Winnipeg training school Patrickmen now move, in an orderly progression, to the New York Rovers (Ranger-supervised amateurs), the minor-league Philadelphia Ramblers (for which Lester Patrick’s son, Murray, now plays) and finally to the top-notch Rangers. Among the young players recently elevated to the Rangers is another son, Lynn Patrick, 25— who is so good that Manager Connie Smythe of the Maple Leafs recently offered Father Patrick $20,000 for him.

This year’s Ranger team, with a few exceptions, consists of the first graduating class of Patrick’s Winnipeg training school. In light of its 1938 record, it appears to have had a good commencement.

* Team standing in hockey is reckoned two points for a victory, one for a tie, nothing for a defeat. *Where hockey was invented by two students in 1879.

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