Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - One on One with Allan Stanley
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One on One with Allan Stanley

9 APRIL 2010
Allan Stanley as a member of the New York Rangers with his parents following a game at Maple Leaf Gardens. (Imperial Oil-Turofsky/HHOF)
Allan Stanley's NHL career endured more ups and downs than a carnival ride. Yet, in spite of it all, he endured, played 21 NHL seasons, was part of four Stanley Cup championships and earned a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Allan Herbert Stanley was born March 1, 1926 in Timmins, Ontario. Stanley came by his hockey ability honestly. His father, Bill (the town's fire chief), was the brother of Hall of Famer Barney Stanley, who mentored the aspiring hockey player. "I was just a kid, but I remember asking my Uncle Barney what hockey players drink between periods to make them play hockey better. He said, 'We usually drink tea with honey,' so I drank tea and honey for years after that. It seems to have helped."

Allan starred locally, and played his minor hockey with the Holman Pluggers. "There was a businessman in Timmins who wrote his company and said, 'I have a bunch of kids around here who want to play hockey. Will you buy sweaters and stockings?' The company wrote back and said, 'That's a good idea,' That was the Holman Pluggers. We were together for five years."

The team won the Ontario juvenile championship in 1942-43 and 1943-44, with a team that included future NHLers Pete Babando and Eric Prentice, as well as Stanley. Carlo Cattarello Jr., the coach's son and team mascot recalled, "Allan started as a centreman, but my Dad moved him back to defence because he was too slow at centre."

"That started my career," states Stanley. "I was scouted by Boston and went to the Bruins' camp the next fall." Just 16 years old and still eligible to play junior, Allan was invited to play for the Oshawa Generals, but Boston's general manager, Art Ross, refused to have his defence prospect playing under the nose of his rivals in Toronto, so declined. Instead, Allan played for Port Arthur in the Thunder Bay Junior Hockey League during 1944-45. He joined the Bruins' farm team, the Boston Olympics of the Eastern Hockey League, in 1945-46.

Allan Stanley as a member of the New York Rangers.
(Imperial Oil-Turofsky/HHOF)
The Bruins owed the American Hockey League's Providence Reds a player from an earlier transaction, and the decision came down to either surrender Stanley or Bill Shill. Allan was finally sent to Rhode Island to join the Reds, where he toiled for three seasons. After arriving on the radar of New York Rangers' GM Frank Boucher, Stanley was traded from Providence to the Rangers in December 1948 for Ken Davies, Ed Kullman, Moe Morris and a considerable amount of money.

That season (1948-49), Allan Stanley made his NHL debut as a member of the New York Rangers. The transaction set expectations high on Broadway, and although Stanley was a reliable blueliner, the fans never appreciated his play.

In 1953-54, after five full seasons in New York, including a term as team captain, Stanley was demoted to the Rangers' Western Hockey League affiliate in Vancouver.

Boucher acknowledged that the move was less about talent and more about acquiescing to the ire of the New York boobirds, but it was a substantial setback for the young defenceman. In spite of that, he performed admirably and was named to the league's First All-Star Team.

Stanley returned to the Rangers for the 1954-55 season, but was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks after 12 games. Allan, Richard Lamoureux and Nick Mickoski joined the Hawks with Pete Conacher and Bill Gadsby moving to New York. That season, Stanley scored 10 goals, a career-high he'd later match in Toronto.

Allan Stanley joined the Toronto Maple Leafs in October of 1958.
(Graphic Artists/HHOF)
In October of 1956, Stanley was sold to the Boston Bruins. Lynn Patrick, Boston's general manager, had coached the Rangers to the Stanley Cup final in 1950 and knew Stanley's value. Allan was an excellent fit in Boston, but with just 6 games remaining in the 1956-57 season, he damaged his knee in a contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The injury precluded his playing in the post-season as the Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup final. Milt Schmidt, Boston's coach, contended that losing Stanley was the main reason the Bruins were defeated by the Montreal Canadiens that spring.

In 1957-58, Allan was selected as Boston's most valuable performer, and he helped lead the Bruins to the final once again, and again, facing the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs were in the midst of a five-season championship run, leaving Boston frustrated for a second straight year.

By the start of the 1958-59 season, Boston had given up on Stanley and he was once again traded, this time to Toronto for Jim Morrison. Punch Imlach was resurrecting careers in Toronto, and while most of the league believed that Stanley's career was on its last (very slow) legs, Imlach breathed new life into the veteran. Paired with Tim Horton, another veteran, the two complemented each other and became rocks on the Leafs' blueline.

"Horton was my buddy. I roomed with Tim," explained Allan. "We played together for most of 10 years. On the road, we were inseparable. It seemed like all the defensemen were pretty close, but Tim and I, wherever we went, we went together." George Armstrong contended that Stanley was the reason Horton developed into the All-Star defenceman he became.

Allan Stanley as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
(Imperial Oil-Turofsky/HHOF)
The Leafs, who had endured a horrific decade, benefited from the addition of veterans, including Johnny Bower, Bert Olmstead and Stanley, and they made an improbable gallop to the Stanley Cup final in 1959 before losing, like Boston, to the Montreal juggernaut. The next season, one in which Allan was named to the NHL's Second All-Star Team, Toronto again met the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup final, but were swept in four games.

The Maple Leafs were legitimate contenders again in 1961, but lost out in the first round of the playoffs. Allan's talent was recognized through his selection to the Second All-Star Team for a second straight season.

The dream was finally realized in 1962 when the Maple Leafs defeated the defending champion Chicago Black Hawks to claim the Stanley Cup, the first since Allan's hometown friend Bill Barilko scored the winning goal in overtime in 1951. "Punch would say, 'I'm playing for today, not 10 years from now, because 10 years from now, most of the players won't even be here. I want the Stanley Cup now,'" recalled Stanley. "That's what he traded for, and that's what he worked and played for."

Allan Stanley and Bobby Hull battle behind the net. (HHOF)
The Leafs would collect the Stanley Cup again in 1963 and 1964, and then, with the veteran team dubbed the 'Over the Hill Gang,' Stanley and his teammates captured the Cup again in 1967.

The decade proved to be the Maple Leafs' glory years, and the dynasty is regarded with great affection by fans. Allan was at the heart of the team, named to the Second NHL All-Star Team for a third time in 1966. In addition, the Maple Leafs awarded him the J.P. Bickell Memorial Award in both 1965 and 1966, recognizing his contributions to the franchise.

After one more season in Toronto, Stanley was claimed by the Philadelphia Flyers as part of the Reverse Draft in June 1968. After one season with the fledgling club, Allan retired in 1969 at the age of 43. In 1,244 regular season NHL contests, Allan Stanley scored 100 goals and added 333 assists for 433 points. In 109 playoff games, he scored 6 goals and 33 assists.

Once booed out of New York and deemed too old to continue with Boston, Allan Stanley found a home in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981. He was inducted beside Frank Mahovlich, a teammate in Toronto, and Johnny Bucyk, a teammate with the Bruins.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.