Sunday, January 29, 2012
With the 59th NHL All-Star Game being held today, we take to opportunity to have a look back at the origins of the all-star game.
The first of four benefit/memorial games was originally held in 1908 as a benefit for the family of drowning victim Hod Stuart, followed by three in the 1930's, with the first coming in 1934 as a benefit fundraiser for the Toronto Maple Leafs Irvine "Ace" Bailey, who had been hit from behind by Eddie Shore, which caused Bailey to violently flip over backward, hitting his head on the ice so hard it fractured his skull and ended his career.
The lasting image from the game is the cordial handshake which took place between Bailey and Shore to a resounding ovation from the crowd.
Bailey greets Shore to a rousing ovation prior to the game
The second came in 1936 as a benefit for the family of the late Howie Morenz of the Montreal Canadiens, who died in the hospital in March, 1937, five weeks after breaking his leg in four places during a game.
A ticket stub from the Howie Morenz Memorial Game
The final one came in on October 29, 1939 to benefit the family of Babe Siebert, a 14 year NHL veteran who had been named coach of the Montreal Canadiens upon his retirement as a player in March of 1939, only he drowned in Lake Huron that August before he was ever able to coach the Canadiens.
The program from the 1939 Babe Siebert benefit All-Star Game
Subsequently, there were no NHL All-Star games held until the Players Committee proposed it as an annual charity game to benefit the Players Emergency Fund as well as a players pension fund eight years later in 1947.
The first of the annual games was held in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens,which was upgraded to have glass on the boards instead of the usual fencing that was common at the time, on October 13, 1947. When it first began, the format called for the defending Stanley Cup Champions to take on an All-Star team made up of players from the other five Original 6 clubs, with the game to be played prior to the start of the regular season.
The inaugural 1947 NHL All-Star Game program
The scheduling of the game would remain during the pre-season (or at least very early in the season) through 1965. It was then shifted to a mid-season spot on the calendar for the 1966-67 season, which meant there was no game during the 1966 calendar year.
The practice of having the defending Stanley Cup champions take on the All-Stars lasted through 1968 before a change was made to have the Eastern Conference battle the Western Conference All-Stars. The only exception to this format was in 1951 and 1952, when the end of season First Team All-Stars played against the end of season Second Team All-Stars, with both games ending in ties.
During the era when the Stanley Cup champions would face an All-Star team, the All-Stars prevailed nine times, the cup champions seven and there were three ties.
Prior to the first NHL All-Star Game, the players attended a Canadian Football League game and were treated to a fine dinner. Gifts were given to all the players, with the defending champion Maple Leafs each receiving extra gifts, such as gold cufflinks, a lifetime pass to Maple Leaf Gardens, a coat, a hat and tie, a lighter and cigarette box, golf balls, a pocket knife, a team photo, a silver tea tray and and engraved gold watch with a silver chain.
The game was played in front of 14,169 fans who saw the Maple Leafs leading at the conclusion of the first period by a score of 1-0.
They extended their lead with a second goal just 1:03 into the second period before the All-Stars got on the board at 4:39. The Maple Leafs responded just 22 seconds later to restore their two goal margin, but the All-Stars scored their second of the period just before the halfway point of the game to make it 3-2 for Toronto.
Maurice Richard tied the game with an unassisted goal just 28 seconds into the third period, followed by Doug Bentley's game winner less than a minute later as the All-Stars would come from behind to win 4-3.
The reunion of the original 1947 All-Star Game players in 2000 at
the 50th NHL All-Star Game, also held in Toronto
The Maple Leafs wore their home white sweaters for the game and the referees wore dark blue sweaters.
The NHL All-Stars wore newly designed red sweaters adorned with the NHL logo and white stars on the chest and short white and blue stripes which repeated down the length of the arms and across the shoulders.
The 1947 NHL All-Star Team, the first to wear the new All-Star design
This style of All-Star jersey would remain in use through 1954 until a change in NHL policy saw the home teams now wearing their dark jerseys, which led to a revival of the white version of this sweater for the All-Stars first used in 1951 and 1952 when the format of the game was tweaked to feature the NHL First Team All-Stars facing the Second Team All-Stars with one team wearing the red version and the other the white.
The 1951 NHL Second All-Star Team, the first to wear the white version of the All-Star sweater
The white sweaters were then used from 1955 through 1959 until a new design was finally adopted in 1960. This style jersey was revived for the 1993 NHL All-Star Game in Philadelphia during the NHL's 75th Anniversary season.
Today's featured jersey is a 1947 NHL All-Star Edgar Laprade jersey as worn in the first of the annual NHL All-Star Games. This design was created specifically for that particular event and would remain in use through 1959, although sometimes in a white version.