Sunday, 17 April 2016

FAMOUS NHL HOCKEY LINES

Harvey "Busher" Jackson of the Kid Line
(courtesy www.beehivehockey.com)

It’s something you don’t see anymore: hockey lines that stick together for an extended period of time, like a season or several seasons. In today’s game coaches shuffle their forwards each game, each period, and even each shift on occasion. Of course, free agency plays a big part, also, because players don’t hang around long enough on one team. But prior to expansion in 1967, things were different. I found eight classic lines from that era, and, as it turned out, at least one from each of the Original Six teams.


The Bread Line (New York Rangers 1926-36)…

They were the toast of Broadway, and the first great NHL forward line. The name Bread referred to left winger Fred “Bun” Cook, although he actually received his nickname from hopping on his skates like a bunny rabbit. I realize it doesn’t sound too manly. But really, it’s true. Coming from the disbanded professional Western Hockey League Saskatoon Crescents, he along with brother and future team captain Bill Cook, the right winger on the line, combined with center Frank Boucher to win a Stanley Cup in their second season in 1927-28, then won a second Cup in 1932-33.

An excellent fit, the Cook brothers knew how to score and Boucher knew how to feed them the puck. In their span together, Bill led the league in goals three times and total points once, while Boucher led in assists three times. All three are enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.


The Kid Line (Toronto Maple Leafs 1929-36)

Named for their youth, these darlings of Toronto were formed in 1929 by owner Conn Smythe: center Joe Primeau was 23, left winger Harvey “Busher” Jackson and right winger Charlie Conacher both only 18. All three were products of the Toronto junior farm system, with Jackson and Conacher coming off the Toronto Marlies 1929 Memorial Cup winners. This trio was instrumental in the Leafs first Stanley Cup in 1932 in which they helped sweep the New York Rangers. During the 48-game schedule in the regular season, Jackson finished first in scoring with 53 points, Primeau second with 50, and Conacher tied in fourth with 48.

The line skated together for four more Stanley Cup appearances over the next six years where during the regular seasons they continued to be scoring threats. All three are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Doug Bentley of the Pony Line
(courtesy www.beehivehockey.com)

The Kraut Line (Boston Bruins 1936-42, 1945-47)

Calling someone a Kraut today would be racist. Center Milt Schmidt was the roughest of the boys and the most talented, someone who knew how to deal out body checks. Right winger Bobby Bauer was the gentleman in the group, while left winger Woody Dumart was somewhere in between. These three players of German descent did everything together. They grew up the best of buddies in the German community of Kitchener, Ontario. When they played for the Bruins, they roomed together in Boston. In 1942, they enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force, played hockey with them and after winning the Allan Cup, they were then sent overseas…together. Then they returned together in 1945.

On two Stanley Cup winners in 1938-39 and 1940-41, they were 1-2-3 in scoring in 1939-40, Schmidt with 52 points, Dumart and Bauer tied with 43. Over the course of 40 years, Schmidt was a lifetime Bruin: He captained them, coached them, then became their GM on two more Stanley Cups in the Bobby Orr era. Together, all three players are in the Hall of Fame. I’m think I’m beginning to see a pattern of Hall of Famers here. Hmmm.


The Pony Line (Chicago Black Hawks 1945-47)…  

Although they didn’t win a Stanley Cup as teammates, they were still a great line for a short period of time. They were all of slight stature, one possible reason behind the pony reference: not one of them was more than 160 pounds soaking wet. But they had big hearts, a ton of talent, and were extremely fast. All three could hold their own. The Bentleys were from Saskatchewan: Max at center and Doug at left wing, along with Manitoba’s Bill Mosienko on the right. Together for two full seasons, where they were the highest scoring line overall, they made an impact stickhandling and shooting their way through the stunned opposition on a Black Hawk team that had a lot of offense but very little defense.

The trio broke up when the Hawks traded Max Bentley (the best all-around of the three) and another player to the Maple Leafs in November 1947 for six Leafs. Without a Stanley Cup in his six years as a Hawk, Bentley contributed to three championships over the next four seasons in Toronto. Again, all three line mates are in the Hall of Fame.


The Punch Line (Montreal Canadiens 1943-48)…

Put together by fiery coach Dick Irvin, the threesome composed of play-making center Elmer Lach, left winger and team captain Toe Blake, and right winger Maurice “The Rocket” Richard clicked immediately by helping the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup in 1944 aided by Richard’s 12 playoff goals and 11 assists each by Lach and Blake. Then in 1944-45 in a 50-game schedule, they finished 1-2-3 in scoring, Lach with 80 points (a league-leading 54 assists), Richard with 73 points (a record-setting 50 goals in 50 games), and Blake with 67 points. All three represented the forward line on the NHL’s First All-Star team. They were the highest-scoring line at 220 points, a record that was finally broken 15 years later, taking a 70-game schedule to do it.

In 1945-46, with the Second World War over and the vets all back home, the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup with all three Punch Liners in the league’s Top Ten scoring for the next two seasons. Blake later coached the Canadiens to five straight Stanley Cups from 1956-1960 on a team captained by the Rocket. Again, all three players are in the Hall of Fame.


The Production Line (Detroit Red Wings 1947-1957)…

Named after the Detroit’s Motor City tag, they were adored by their fans. The veteran Sid Abel centered the tough youngsters Ted “Terrible Ted” Lindsay on the left and Gordie Howe on the right. Detroit won a Stanley Cup in 1950 with the line 1-2-3 in league scoring with Lindsay leading the way with 78 points, and Abel and Howe right behind with 69 and 68, respectively. Lindsay’s 55 assists were 19 better than his nearest competitor. Lindsay and Howe were the most feared players in the game. An opposing player once said: “As soon as those guys step on the ice, we’re already down two goals.”  Following another Stanley Cup win in 1952, in which the Red Wings were the first NHL team to sweep two straight best-of-seven series, Abel left for a player-coach position with the Chicago Black Hawks.

Alex Delvecchio took over at center and the Wings won two more championships in the next three seasons. By 1954, Howe had won four straight scoring titles. The line broke up when Ted Lindsay was traded to Chicago in the summer of 1957, his “punishment” for starting a Players’ Association. In the late-1960’s, the Production Line was revived for the third time when Frank Mahovlich (traded from Toronto) joined Delvecchio and Howe for a couple seasons.

So far, a clean sweep: six famous lines, 20 players, all immortalized in the Hall of Fame for their abilities.

Johnny Bucyk of the Uke Line 
(courtesy www.beehivehockey.com)

The Uke Line (Boston Bruins 1957-61)…

Like the Kraut Line, another name with a racial tone in today’s politically correct world. This threesome were all of Ukrainian descent with prairie backgrounds. Ironically, all were Detroit property earlier, playing on the same line for the Edmonton Flyers of the Western Hockey League before making their way to the Bruins through trades. They were a grind line with speed and talent. Right winger Vic Stasiuk was the physical two-way player. Left winger Johnny Bucyk was the digger and consistent scorer, while Bronco Horvath was the playmaker and ultimate scorer who finished one point away from capturing the Art Ross Trophy for total points in 1959-60, beaten out by Bobby Hull whom he tied with at 39 goals.

At one time or another, Horvath was property of all six NHL Original Six teams, putting on the uniform of every squad except Detroit, the first team that owned his rights. The line broke up due to injuries and what some believed was average defensive play. The pattern is splintered here: Only Bucyk made it to the Hockey Hall of Fame.


The Million Dollar Line (Chicago Black Hawks 1959-62)…

The Chicago fans remember hearing “Hull to Hay to Balfour” on their radios and TVs. With Bobby Hull’s wicked slapshot from the left side, Bill “Red” Hay’s playmaking abilities, and Murry Balfour’s aggressive crash-and-bang style, this young line jelled from the start. They could stickhandle, pass and shoot in the blink of an eye. College graduate Bill Hay--he obtained a degree in geology that he used later in Alberta’s oil industry--quarterbacked the team’s devastating power play.

Hay and Balfour were Montreal Canadien castoffs who had played junior hockey together for the WCJHL Regina Pats in Fifties. During the Hawks run to their Stanley Cup championship in 1961, Balfour scored in the triple overtime third game to beat his old Montreal team. Tragedy hit Balfour only four years later when he died at the early age of 28 of a cancerous lung tumor. Bobby Hull and Bill Hay are enshrined in the HOF.


Eight lines from a bygone era. Back when it was fun.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

“THE ENEMY CALLING!”

“Lord Haw-Haw,”  “Axis Sally” and “Tokyo Rose” were names familiar to millions during World War II. They were the English-speaking Axis propaganda radio voices whose main objectives were to upset, confuse and demoralize the Allied forces on the worldwide battle fronts.

Who were these people?

William Joyce, after his capture, 1945
(Imperial War Museum, United Kingdom)

Using the Lord Haw-Haw handle from 1939 to 1945, William Joyce was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1906 to an Irish father and an English mother. As a three-year-old, Joyce moved to Ireland with his parents, then to England on his own when he was 15, where, as an adult he joined the British Union of Fascists. He was a rough character with a short temper. An understudy to BUF leader Oswald Mosley, Joyce felt comfortable behind a microphone giving dynamic speeches in favor of Nazism, discrediting the Jewish influence around the world and especially in Europe. Later, due to a falling out with Mosley, who thought his student too radical, Joyce formed his own group: the National Socialist League.

Escaping the British net for his beliefs, Joyce and his wife fled to Germany on August 26, 1939, days before breakout of war. There, he took up with the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda who hired him for Nazi German on-air propaganda. Many Brits listened to him, finding his show informative (although laughable most times) because their own radio programs were highly censored. Before long--according to British stats--he had six million regular and 18 million casual listeners in the UK alone.  

Joyce would open each program with “Germany Calling! Germany Calling!” in a nasally, upper-English accent with a prominent speech impediment brought on by an unfixed broken nose he had sustained in a street fight as a young boy in Ireland. Using threats and misinformation, such as phony Allied battlefront losses, his favorite target was the “Jewish International Finance.”

With Allied forces closing in on Germany, Lord Haw-Haw gave his last broadcast April 30, 1945, a week away from war’s end. A month later, he was captured by British forces in northern Germany near the Denmark border. Tried and convicted for treason, his last words to the press before he was hanged were: “In death, as in life, I defy the Jews who caused this last war, and I defy the powers of darkness they represent.”
Mildred Gillars mugshot, 1948
(U.S. Public Domain)

Axis Sally
was actually two distinct women. One broadcasted out of Berlin to the Allied forces in Europe; while the other one used Rome, Italy for the benefit of Allied troops in Italy and North Africa. However, the more famous of the two was Mildred Gillars, the Berlin “Axis Sally.”
Born Mildred Elizabeth Sisk in Portland, Maine in 1900, she took the surname Gillars when her mother remarried. With dreams of acting, Gillars studied dramatic arts in France and Algiers, then settled in Nazi Germany in the late-1930’s, where she took music in Dresden, before becoming an English teacher in Berlin. In 1940, German State Radio hired her for propaganda purposes.

In her sophisticated voice calling herself Axis Sally, she wasn’t taken too seriously by most soldiers and airmen, but they loved her great swing music. Her most popular show was Home Sweet Home Hour, which opened with the sound of a piercing train whistle, before she went into her usual taunting of Allied troops telling them to go home to their wives and sweethearts who were cheating on them. Another was Midge-at-the-Mike, where she played her popular music and criticized the Jews and American president FDR. On GI’s Letter-Box, she took advantage of the wounded and captured Allied airmen by naming those who had been shot down over Germany, to supposedly strike fear into the families back home.

She made her last broadcast two days before Germany surrendered in May 1945, then disappeared into the migrant population. Found and arrested a year later, Gillars was flown to the United States in 1948 to stand trial. Convicted of one count of treason in 1950, she paid a $10,000 fine and served 11 years at the Federal Reformatory for Women at Alderson, West Virginia, until released in 1961. She died of colon cancer in Columbus, Ohio, 1988.

Rita Zucca (US Public Domain) 
The Rome “Axis Sally” was cross-eyed Rita Luisa Zucca, born to Italian immigrants in New York City in 1912. Her father owned a popular restaurant in Manhattan called Zucca’s Italian Garden. In between working in the family business, she spent most of her teenage years at a Florence, Italy convent school. Returning to Italy for good in 1938, she worked as a typist until the war started, and for a short time after. By mid-1943, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini wanted to have his own Axis Sally, so he hired the smooth-talking, English-speaking Zucca to broadcast from Rome.

On her program Jerry’s Front Calling, she used the same Axis Sally moniker as Gillars and would sign off in her sexy voice by saying, “A sweet kiss from Sally.” She opened her programs with “Hello Suckers!” and promoted “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” as her theme song. She obtained most of her information from intelligence operatives inside the German embassy in Rome.

In 1983, a World War II bomber vet flying B-24 Liberators--pilot William Bruce from Buffalo, New York--recalled for me one of the Italian Axis Sally broadcasts while he was stationed at Pantanella, Italy in 1944 with 782 Squadron, 465 Bomb Group of the 15th Air Force. On the day before a bombing mission to Friedrichshafen, Germany on October 3, he spent a few hours playing poker with other officers in the nearly completed Officers’ Club.

The next day, after dropping their bombs and heading back to base, Bruce and his crew picked up Axis Sally’s radio broadcast, in which she commented on the Officers’ Club of the 782 Bomb Squadron near completion, and about the tight formation his group were flying. She went on to say that one day soon they could expect a visit from the German Luftwaffe. Minutes later, German fighters attacked the formation with devastating results.

“That night in the Officers’ Club, we were twenty men short.” Bruce said. “Five airplanes failed to return.”

As the Allied invasion forces moved north, Zucca fled with the German and Italian troops, eventually broadcasting out of Milan. When the war ended, she hid out in her uncle’s home until arrested June 5, 1945. The Allies chose not to prosecute her for treason because she had renounced her American citizenship prior to broadcasting. But the Italians put her on trial for collaboration charges. She was sentenced to four years, five months in prison, but was released after serving only nine months. Banned from returning to the United States, she lived her remaining years in Italy until she died in 1998.

Tokyo Rose
plied her trade in another part of the world: the South Pacific. Her real name was Iva Toguri. Born July 4, 1916 in Los Angeles, California to Japanese immigrants, Iva was raised a Christian. A registered Republican, she graduated from UCLA with a degree in zoology in 1940.

Iva Toguri mugshot, 1946
(U.S. Public Domain)
In July, 1941 she sailed to Japan to visit a sick aunt. But the war intervened when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, leaving her stranded overseas.  Meanwhile, the Japanese secret police paid Toguri a visit and pressured her to forsake her American citizenship. She refused and was declared an enemy of the state, denying her any chance of obtaining ration cards. With no money, Toguri took a typist job first with Domei News Agency, then Radio Tokyo. In late-1943, she was hand-picked for a 75-minute-long program called The Zero Hour, in which she performed comedy sketches, introduced popular American music that the American forces thoroughly enjoyed, and gave news announcements. Her own average time was about 20 minutes each program.

Using the name “Ann” and later “Orphan Annie,” she made 340 broadcasts in all, and at no time did she call herself Tokyo Rose: the name was a GI invention. Her producer, a captured Australian Army officer who had previous broadcasting experience, and other captured Allied service men controlled the scripts and made sure Toguri did not say anything damaging against her home country, the United States.

Following the war’s end in the Pacific, Toguri was arrested September 5, 1945 in Yokohoma, but after a year in prison was released when American forces, including the FBI and the staff of General Douglas MacArthur, found no evidence of any treasonous activity on her part.  She then made arrangements to return to the US, but gossip columnist Walter Winchell created such a stink that others eventually picked up on. She was rearrested and transported to San Francisco in September 1948 to stand trial.

Found guilty this time on September 29, 1949, built on one very flimsy count of treason--a recorded broadcast she had made regarding a loss of US ships--was fined $10,000 and handed a 10-year prison sentence. Her lawyer, Wayne Mortimer Collins, was enraged, calling the verdict “Guilty without evidence.” She spent six years and two months in the same prison at the same time as Mildred Gillars, then was released in early 1956. She then moved to Chicago, Illinois.

On January 19, 1977, based on information revealed in 1976 that uncovered perjury and trumped-up charges against her almost 28 years prior, Toguri was granted a full and unconditional pardon by US President Gerald Ford on his last day in office. This returned her US citizenship which she had lost as a result of the trial.

Toguri lived the longest of all four radio propaganda voices, dying of natural causes at age 90 on September 26, 2006, a loyal American to the end who got a bad rap.