Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Maurice "Moe" Savard Inducted into Charlotte Checkers Hall of Fame

3-25-09 CHARLOTTE, N.C. –There is a rich tradition of hockey in Charlotte and the Checkers are set to make the past present by inducting some of the legends of Charlotte hockey into the Charlotte Hockey Hall of Fame presented by American Airlines on Friday night at Time Warner Cable Arena when the team battles the Mississippi Sea Wolves.

Maurice “Moe” Savard:
If you’re looking for a player that was a staple of Checkers hockey in the early days of the Eastern Hockey League, then you will come across the name of Maurice Savard. The man they simply called “Moe” spent all but one game of his professional career in a Charlotte sweater. Amassing an amazing 755 points over nine seasons (303 goals, 452 assists), Moe was a real fan favorite in the early days of Checkers hockey. In his 55 games during the 1964-65 season, he did not record a single penalty minute. Ex-Checkers coach Fred Creighton once said “If I had 15 hockey players like Moe…I’d be taking money under false pretenses – I wouldn’t have to coach.” Coach Creighton’s words are a testament to the greatness of Moe on and off the ice.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Jack McIlhargey and the 1972-73 EHL Jersey Devils at Cherry Hill Arena from NHL.com

NHL.com article:
McIlhargey Went From the Low Minors to the NHL

Who knew that Jack McIlhargey, John Brophy and Curt Brackenbury shared an apartment?

For me the essence is this:
McIlhargey made the jump to the NHL, but he thinks people are too judgmental looking at the old EHL as a place filled with legendary tough guys like Brophy, Don Perry, Kevin Morrison, Blake Ball and others who became movie characters in Slap Shot.

"I went to the Richmond Robins, which was the American Hockey League and was the Flyers' (farm team)," he said. "It was a good league. It was a very good league, but the Eastern League was a good league, too. There were a lot of good players back then. The Eastern Hockey League fans were good. They expected a tough brand of hockey and you gave it to them."
which reminds me of this bit from the National Post article on John Brophy's ECHL HOF induction :

The EHL was a blood-and-guts loop with teams scattered across the U.S. eastern seaboard. Games featured stick fights and brawls and a brand of nightly mayhem that inspired the cult movie Slap Shot, starring Paul Newman.

Newman's character, Reggie Dunlop, the player-coach with the bare-knuckle roster, was said to have been inspired by Brophy. But Brophy never liked the movie. He can't even watch it. He says it depicts a goon league and forgets some of the players could actually play.

It seems that a lot of people remember or the younger ones only know of the EHL as a "the Slapshot league". While those elements were present, the fact that there was some very good brand of hockey often missed. Remember the late sixties and early seventies was also the era of the Big Bad Bruins and the Broad Street Bullies, and some nasty stick fights at the NHL level. So it's not as if the EHL was special in this regard. The entire hockey scene was doing the fighting part of Slapshot. The EHL merely had the busrides and the struggle to stay afloat. It had more talent than Slapshot depicts - players who would make the NHL and WHA on skill.

WHen I remember the EHL, I remember how fast and exciting it was. When I saw my first NHL game live, I couldn't believe how slow and plodding it was in comparison to the EHL. And that was a 12-2 NHL game. Certainly part of that is that some of the EHL ice surfaces were smaller, and that even the worst seat at Cherry Hill Arena was much closer to the action than most of the seats I've had NHL games. But most of it was how hard these guys played. This with a roster maxing out at 15, often less, and traveling by bus with one mattress to sleep on where some seats had been torn out to the next game.

Yes, the EHL had talent. Remember, before NHL expansion in 1967, there were fewer combined teams in the NHL, AHL, CHL and WHL, than there are teams in the NHL now. Which means that the players at the EHL and IHL level then were at the same level as today's AHL. Hundreds of EHLers made the NHL. (At some point I will have them all recognized at http://TheEHL.com ). Even a team as obscure as the 60-61 Jersey Larks sent Ross Brooks and Noel Picard to the NHL.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Philadelphia Ramblers Owner George L Davis Jr Obit

From this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer:
George Davis, society sportsman
George L. Davis, 86, of Pompano Beach, Fla., a sportsman and businessman who served on two Olympic committees and was a guest at Grace Kelly's wedding, died March 5 at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"He was a gentleman of charm, wit, insight, and integrity," his daughter Margaret Packer said.

Mr. Davis grew up in Mount Airy and graduated from William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia. He earned a bachelor's degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was president of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity; was a member of the Kite and Key, an honor society; and played on the baseball, basketball, and soccer teams. During World War II, he served in the Navy in the States.

Mr. Davis married Kelly's sister Margaret in 1944. The couple had met in Ocean City, N.J., where their families had homes. Mr. Davis was president of Davis Building Supply Co. and later did business with his father-in-law, John B. Kelly Sr., a brick-company owner and three-time Olympic gold medalist in rowing....

In the 1950s, Mr. Davis co-owned the Arena, a skating facility in West Philadelphia, and for several years, until 1960, he owned the Ramblers, a team in the former Eastern Hockey League. He served on committees for the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team and for U.S. Olympic Figure Skating in 1960.

He loved golf, travel, and boating, his daughter said, and served on the board of Chris-Craft, a boat manufacturer....

The September 24, 1959 Bridgeport Telegraph states that
George Davis Jr., head of the Philadelphia Ramblers, was elected vice president of the expanded league. (The New York Rovers and Greensboro Generals were added as new teams in the EHL.)
The EHL had the George L. Davis Jr. Trophy for goaltender with best Goals Against Average, but that appears to go back to at least 1935 in the EAHL, when this George L. Davis Jr. was only 19. I'm researching to see what I can find on the matter.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Martin Brodeur's Father Played Goal for the EHL Charlotte Clippers

From A Look at Martin Brodeur's Beginnings at NHL.com, Martin Brodeur's father, Denis Sr., played goal for the Charlotte Clippers in the 1958-59 season.

Denis has a pair of identical images of himself as a goalie in 1958-59 for the Charlotte Clippers of the Eastern Hockey League and Martin in a Devils white uniform during the late 1990s. Denis is not wearing a mask in his photo -- and amazingly, Martin isn't either. "His mask had just fallen off and they got that shot," Denis said.

The November 4, 1958 Florence (SC) Morning News lets us know that Denis (the Menace) Brodeur beat out Les Binkley for the lone goaltender position.

Clippers Make Limit For Hockey Squad
CHARLOTTE — Three veteran players and a rookie were sliced by Charlotte Clipper coach Andy Brown as dixie's only ice hockey team got down to the Eastern Hockey League limit of 14.
Cut from the squad were defenseman Bobby Maxwell, goalkeep Les Binkley, winger Yvan
Houle and Rookie defenseman Pete Tuggard.
Binkley had been with the club two and one-half seasons, while Maxwell and Houle have spent two campaigns with the Clippers. The pink slip barrage left the Clipper squad list as follows:
Goalie — Denis (The Menace) Brodeur.
Defense -- Gordie Tottle, Red Barrett, John Muckler and John Brophy.
Centers — Jim McNulty, Chucky Stuart and Herve Lalonde.
Right Wingers — Bibber O'Hearn, Bill Sinnett and Red Murphy.
Left Wingers — Gerry Sullivan, Bobby Ewer and Mike Mahoney.
Both Ewer and Mahoney are 20-year-old junior players. Their presence
on the Clipper roster fulfills the Eastern League requirement that each club use two juniors this season.
Tottle, a massive 214-pound veteran of 10 American League seaions, and Barrett are also newcomers to the squad, as Brodeur, the goalie.
From an October 30th Article in the same paper:
The Clippers, have added five now faces to the squad of 14 including a new goalie. Replacing Les Binkley, a three-season veteran, in the Charlotte nets will be Denny Brodeur, a pint-sized Frenchman.
The Clippers went from first to worst in 1958-59, while the Clinton Comets went from worst to first.

In case, like me, you were wondering, Martin Brodeur was born May 6, 1972, when his father was 42 and been out of hockey since that one season with Charlotte.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

40 Years Ago This Week - Clinton Comets Clinch Second Consecutive EHL Title / Dick Roberge Closes In On 1500 Career Points

From AP Wire Report March 6, 1969:
Comets Win Hockey Title
UTICA, N.Y. (AP) - The Clinton Comets clinched their second consecutive Eastern Hockey League championship Wednesday night with a win here over the Johnstown Jets 2-0.
The victory was goalie Lyle Carter's 13th shutout of the season and snapped a 10-game Jets winning streak.
Joe Robertson got the first score in the second period. Dave Armstrong shot in the second goal with 22 seconds left in the game, when Johnstown pulled their goalie. Carter had 45 saves for Clinton, now 42-17-10. For Johnstown, now 39-23-7, Lynn Zimmerman made 39 saves.

In other EHL news of this week in 1969:
Johnstown player coach Dick Roberge is within 3 points of becoming the first player in the history of U.S. hockey to score 1500 points. He already holds the record for the Eastern Hockey League and Amateur Hockey Association of the U.S.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

50 Years ago this week - Clinton Comets Finish First in EHL

From today's Utica Observer-Dispatch, This Week In History ....
The Clinton Comets win the Eastern Hockey League pennant. Last year, the team finished in last place. Players include Fern Bernaquez (5), Norm Defelice (1) (league’s leading goalie), Tim Hook (6), Dick Wray (league’s top scorer)(9), Leon Bouchard (3), Angie Defelice (8), Gordon “Spider” Brown (12), Jerry Stringle (14), Mike Kardask 2), Ed Calhoun(5), Rudy Balone (4), Doug MacPhee (11) and Willie Pawchuk (10). They’re coached by Bill Watson (7).

The Comets went on to win the 1959 EHL Championship, beating the Johnstown Jets in the finals.

An article in the April 8, 1959 Oneonta Star states:
Except for the use of 'Al "Nipper" O'Hearn and John Lehner as temporary subslitutes for ailing regulars, the Cornets closed the season with the same 14 players they started with last October.
The March 1, 1959 Utica Observer states that it was actually Ed Giacomin, Washington's 19-year-old backup goalie, who played for the Comets in a 2-1 loss against the Lions, who had O'Hearn in net.

Also, the 1959 EHL All-Star Teams were announced on Mar 9 :

First Team:
Dick Wray - LW - Clinton
Billy Watson - C - Clinton
Dick Roberge - RW - Johnstown
Gordon Tottle - D - Charlotte Clippers
Moose Lallo - D - Washington Presidents (tie)
Steve Brklacich - D - Johnstown (tie)
Leon Bouchard - D - Clinton (tie)
Norm DeFelice - G - Clinton

Second Team:
Don Hall - LW - Johnstown
Don Davidson - C - New Haven
Doug Adam - RW - Philadelphia
(Since there were 4 1st team Defensemen, the 2nd team was considered filled.)
Jim Shirley - G - Johnstown