Friday, April 22, 2011
During the 1944-45 NHL regular season, Maurice "Rocket" Richard broke Joe Malone's record for most goals in a season (44) on his way to becoming the first player to score 50 goals in an NHL season, which also established the standard of achieving 50 goals in 50 games, as the NHL schedule was then 50 games long.
Richard's teammate Elmer Lach won the scoring title with 26 goals and 54 assists for 80 points, with Richard coming in second with 73. Their linemate Toe Blake's 29 goals and 38 assists gave him 67 points, bettering the Boston Bruins Bill Cowley at 65, making it only the second time in league history that all three members of the same line finished 1-2-3 in scoring.
The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frank McCool won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, the third consecutive season the Calder Trophy winner came from the Maple Leafs following center Gus Bodnar in 1944 and right wing Gaye Stewart in 1943.
McCool with his Calder Trophy
Goaltender Bill Durnan of the Montreal Canadiens won the Vezina Trophy for the second consecutive season as the league's best goaltender, as his stellar 38-8-4 record gave him 14 more wins than McCool and the Detroit Red Wings Harry Lumley's 24 wins.
The final standings were clearly a case of the "haves" and "have nots", as Montreal easily led the league with 80 points, followed by Detroit with 67 and Toronto's 52. Boston qualified for the playoffs despite a poor 16-30-4 record, as their 36 points bested the Chicago Black Hawks 33 and the New York Rangers at 32.
For reasons we will never understand, the four playoff teams were not paired up with first place playing against fourth place and second place taking on third, but with the first overall club from the regular season hosting the third place finisher while the club finishing in second place drew the weakest qualifier from fourth place!
In the First Round of the playoffs, Toronto took the first two games in Montreal, with McCool outdueling Durnan in Game 1 to win 1-0 and following that with a 3-2 win. Montreal won Game 3 in Toronto 4-1 before Toronto put Montreal on the brink of elimination with a 4-3 win in overtime of Game 4 in Toronto.
The series moved back to Montreal for Game 5, where the Canadiens pounded the Maple Leafs 10-3, but the Maple Leafs rebounded back in front of the home fans to end their rivals season 3-2 to win the series in six games 4 games to 2.
In the other series, Boston gave Detroit all they could handle. The Bruins won the first two games in Detroit 4-3 and 4-2 before the Red Wings returned the favor and evened the series by winning twice in Boston by identical 3-2 scores. The series then completely switched form, as the home team won the remaining three games. First Detroit took a 3-2 lead in games with their third consecutive 3-2 victory, this one in overtime. Then Boston forced a deciding Game 7 with a 5-3 win at home, only to have Detroit return the favor with a series clinching 5-3 win of their own back at The Olympia.
The story of the 1945 Stanley Cup Finals was the defense. For the first time, two rookie goalies met in the finals, the 26 year old McCool and Detroit's Lumley, who was just 18 years old. McCool stonewalled the Red Wings in Game 1 at Detroit, which allowed the single Maple Leafs goal to stand, giving them a 1-0 victory.
Toronto managed two goals in Game 2, which turned out to be twice as many as they needed, as McCool again stymied Detroit on their home ice with his second consecutive shutout. Game 3 saw Lumley do just about all he could to keep the Red Wings in the game, but for the third consecutive game, McCool could not be solved and he put the Maple Leafs on the verge of a championship with yet another shutout by a score of 1-0, this time at Maple Leaf Gardens.
In Game 4 in Toronto, Detroit, who had gone 8-1-1 against Toronto during the regular season, finally solved McCool with a goal two minutes into the contest, proving to themselves that he was, in fact, human after all. Despite Teeder Kennedy's hat trick for Toronto, Detroit staved off elimination by a score of 5-3, doubling the total number of goals scored in the first three games combined.
Lumley now got on a roll and blanked Toronto back in Detroit in Game 5 by a 2-0 score before the dramatic Game 6 in Toronto. McCool and Lumley both kept clean sheets for 60 minutes and the contest entered overtime with both teams scoreless. Detroit not only stayed alive, but evened the series and denied the home fans a championship celebration when they won in overtime 1-0, giving Lumley his second consecutive shutout and the fifth one in the series six games.
The decisive Game 7 took place on this date in 1945 in Detroit with the Red Wings now on a roll, having come back from being down 3 games to none and having posted two consecutive shutouts. The game was tied at 1-1 with more than half the third period gone when defenseman Babe Pratt scored at 12:14 to give Toronto a lead McCool would protect to the end, giving the Toronto franchise it's fifth Stanley Cup championship.
The 1944-45 Stanley Cup Champion Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto also became the first team to ever win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on the road, something that would not happen again until 1971, and to date has only happened three times following the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.
McCool would only play another 22 games in the NHL due to recurring health issues with ulcers, combined with the return of the Maple Leafs incumbent goaltender Turk Broda, who had already been their starting goaltender for seven seasons, from his absence due to his military service during World War II, to backstop the Maple Leafs for another six seasons.
Pratt's goal was the first time in NHL history that a defenseman would score the cup winning goal, which seemed only fitting that a defenseman would win the cup seeing how defense ruled the day with five shutouts in the series seven games.
Today's featured jersey is a 1944-45 Toronto Maple Leafs Babe Pratt jersey. This style of Toronto Maple Leafs jersey was first used in 1938 when the previous crest was replaced with this style. The lettering in the crest was changed to red for the next three seasons, before returning to this exact style with blue lettering in the crest, which would be retained through 1958.
This jersey would be revived as Toronto's choice as their Turn Back the Clock jersey for the NHL's 75th anniversary season in 1991-92. It was so well received that they redesigned their jerseys the following season to reintroduce this jerseys striping pattern and incorporate the crest as a retro style secondary shoulder patch paired with the continued use of their modern leaf as the main crest.
After being dropped in 2007 for a simpler jersey without the waist stripes for the introduction of the Reebok Edge jerseys, this basic pattern would return again this 2010-11 season with the addition of a lace up collar which was used on this jersey from 1958 to 1967.
Furthermore, a white version of this jersey would be first used in 1998-99 to commemorate the closing of their long time home, Maple Leaf Gardens. After a one year absence, the white throwback jersey would return as one of the, if not the finest alternate jerseys in league history.
Pratt would play eight seasons for the New York Rangers prior to joining the Maple Leafs for four seasons and the Boston Bruins for one. When the NHL portion of his career came to and end, Pratt would play five more seasons, mainly with the New Westminster Royals of the PCHL.
During his NHL career, Pratt would win the Stanley Cup twice, first in 1940 with the Rangers and then again with Toronto in 1945. Additionally, he would be named the winner of the Hart Trophy in 1944 as the NHL's most valuable player and inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.
He went on to work as both a TV analyst and goodwill ambassador for the Vancouver Canucks, who named the club's annual trophy for their best defenseman in his honor and wore a memorial patch in his memory on their jerseys after his passing at the arena during a game in 1988.
Oh. My. God.
Babe Pratt jokes with Harold Snepets at a charity softball game in 1982 when shorts were short. Really short. We mean really, really unfortunately short.
Here are the Canucks receiving their 2011 awards, including past winner of the award Snepts, wearing thankfully longer pants this time around but a nearly as hideous retro jersey, presenting the Babe Pratt Award to Christian Ehrhoff.