Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 24
The Stanley Cup Journal


Wally Stanowski (left) beams as he poses with coach Hap Day and teammate Nick Metz (right). Stanowski scored 23 goals and 88 assists for 111 points in 428 regular season games beginning with Toronto and finishing as a New York Ranger. (Imperial Oil-Turofsky/HHOF)
Wally Stanowski exhibited his extraordinary skating ability during ten NHL seasons. Although originally owned by the New York Americans, Wally was obtained by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1937, and made his NHL debut on November 4, 1939 in a 5-0 win over the Boston Bruins in the opening night of that season.

By his second season in the league, Stanowski had already proven his ability and was elected to the NHL's First All-Star Team. At the time, the role of a defenseman was going through a metamorphosis. For decades, defensemen had been rendered immobile by coaches that insisted they reserve their space on the ice to their own team's half of the rink. But offensively-gifted defensemen like Flash Hollett and Wally Stanowski helped shatter that stereotype, jumping into the rush and contributing to their team's offense.

Yet, as much as Wally was serious once the puck had dropped, he could be equally lighthearted when the opportunity presented itself. During game delays when an injured player was lying on the ice, restless fans occasionally were treated to Wally gliding on one blade and pirouetting like a figure skater.

Wally had been an integral part of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942 when they made their miraculous comeback after being down three games to none that wrestled the Stanley Cup away from the Detroit Red Wings. But 1944-45 was a different story.

The Second World War decimated the ranks of a number of NHL teams, and the Maple Leafs were no different. Hall of Fame netminder Turk Broda was replaced by rookie Frank McCool in 1944-45. University students Jack McLean, Windy O'Neill and Ross Johnstone filled slots vacated by established stars like Syl Apps, Billy Taylor, Gaye Stewart and Bob Goldham.

Stanowski's track record is remarkable -- 10 NHL seasons (7 with Toronto) and 4 Stanley Cup celebrations.
(Dave Sandford/HHOF)
With a roster patched with Band-Aids and Elmer's Glue-All, the Toronto Maple Leafs finished third during the regular season, but met the powerful first-place Montreal Canadiens in the semi-final.

Toronto won Game 1 by a score of 1-0 after Ted Kennedy scored with just 22 seconds remaining in regulation time. Game 2 again went to the Maple Leafs who won 3-2. Stanowski went toe-to-toe with Toe Blake of the Canadiens in the first period with both earning 5-minute majors. Montreal beat Toronto 4-1 in Game 3 but the biggest loss looked like it was going to be Toronto goalkeeper Frank McCool, who took an Elmer Lach shot to the forehead at the one-minute mark and was led off the ice bleeding profusely. After both teams kept loose by circling their respective defensive zones, referee Bill Chadwick sent both teams to their dressing rooms. Yet, McCool emerged ten minutes later, bloodied and bandaged, but ready to play the rest of the contest.

Game 4 was a 4-3 overtime win for Toronto with Gus Bodnar emerging as the hero 12:36 into the extra stanza. Montreal roared back, kicking Toronto butt 10-3 in Game 5. It was a one-man explosion as 'Rocket' Richard recorded 4 goals in that game. The series ended with a 3-2 Leaf win in Game 6, earning Toronto the right to move into Stanley Cup contention against the Detroit Red Wings.

A lone goal by Sweeney Schriner in Game 1 gave Toronto a 1-0 win and a 1-0 lead in the Stanley Cup final. Maple Leafs netminder Frank McCool earned a second straight shutout with a 2-0 Toronto win in Game 2, even though he had to excuse himself briefly midway through the second period to calm his jangled nerves. McCool starred again in Game 3, earning a shutout in a 1-0 Leaf win in which Wally Stanowski picked up an assist on Gus Bodnar's tally.

Detroit thundered back with wins of 5-3, 2-0 and 1-0 to tie the series at three games apiece. Was it going to be a repeat of 1942's miraculous comeback in reverse? In that series, Detroit had been up three games to none when the Maple Leafs roared back to steal the Stanley Cup.

Game 7 was played in Detroit on April 22. Mel Hill opened the scoring putting Toronto ahead in the first period. The teams were scoreless in the second. Murray Armstrong tied the game for Detroit at 8:16 of the third but Babe Pratt scored what proved to be the Stanley Cup winner at 12:14. The score held and Wally Stanowski and the Toronto Maple Leafs were the Stanley Cup champions for 1944-45!

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The 86-year old Stanowski entertained the Stanley Cup at his Etobicoke, Ontario home, joined by family and friends.
(Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
A spry 86-years-old now, Wally Stanowski still retains his sense of humour. At a recent Alumni Dinner, a gentleman read a lengthy list of NHLers who had died during the previous twelve months. The room was somber when Wally hollered, "Hey, why don't you just read the list of those of us who are still around? It wouldn't take so long!" The laughs continued for some time afterwards.

The Stanley Cup arrived at 9:00 am on Sunday, August 21 and was taken to the backyard of the comfortable home in a quiet neighbourhood in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke. There, Wally and his wife Joyce greeted the trophy like an old friend. Their son Craig and Wally's brother Skip were on hand too. Half an hour later, the Stanowskis' daughter Adrian, who had been traveling, arrived from Germany.

Wally pulled out photos of him with the Stanley Cup in the mid-forties. At that time, the Stanley Cup looked very different. It was long and much slimmer and today is referenced as the 'stovepipe' version of the Stanley Cup. Since its introduction in 1893, the Stanley Cup has certainly gone through a number of incarnations and the 'stovepipe' version was reconfigured to the shape we know today prior to being awarded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1948.

Wally lit up his pipe and talked about the best players he ever faced. "I'd have to say Gordie Howe," began Stanowski. "He was one tough son-of-a-gun but I left him alone and he left me alone. 'Rocket' Richard was hard for me to control. I was playing the left side and he was a rightwinger so he was always on my side of the ice. But 'Rocket' shot left so it was tricky. He'd cut into the middle with those glaring eyes of his. He was so determined. But the 'Rocket' never went back into his end of the rink so I'd have to give my best player of all time to Gordie Howe."

It was tough to crack the line-up of any NHL squad during the Original 6 era. Over the course of 5 seasons, Hassard played 126 regular season games, scoring 9 goals and adding 28 assists for 37 points.
* * *

Bob Hassard was a fine hockey player who was burdened by his position. A good skating centre, Hassard fired 33 goals in 35 games during his final season of junior. But the parent Toronto Maple Leafs were heavy with centres during the early 1950's. Ted Kennedy and Max Bentley went on to the Hockey Hall of Fame after playing centre for the Leafs during that era. Cal Gardner and Tod Sloan were excellent centres. Hassard, in spite of his prodigious talent, was well down the pecking order of centres for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Yet, in 1950-51, Bob was called up for 12 games through the season. He earned 1 assist but was not employed during the playoffs that spring. Nevertheless, after Bill Barilko's dramatic overtime goal on April 21, 1951, the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup and agreed that Bob Hassard's name should be engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Bob Hassard played just 12 games for Toronto during the Stanley Cup-winning 1950-51 season, but the executives felt the centre's name should be included with those engraved on the prestigious trophy. (Dave Sandford/HHOF)
* * *

Bob Hassard and his wife Helen live just north of Toronto near the beautiful town of Stouffville, Ontario. They have three children — daughters Jackie and Kim and son Bill, who was a Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick in 1974.

After leaving Wally Stanowski's home on Sunday, August 21, the Stanley Cup arrived at the Hassard home just past noon that same day. The magnificent trophy was taken downstairs where friends and family filtered through to catch a glimpse of the trophy Lord Stanley donated and that Bob Hassard helped win. On the wall in the area where the Cup was being displayed were a number of noteworthy pictures. One showed Hassard as coach of the 1968-69 Stouffville PeeWees who went to the Ontario finals. One youngster on that team was Keith Acton, currently an assistant coach of the Maple Leafs. Keith dropped by later that afternoon to celebrate his coach's wonderful day. Another photograph showed Bob as a centre with the Allan Cup champion Whitby Dunlops in 1958-59.

Helen and Bob Hassard enjoyed a Stanley Cup celebration at their home near Stouffville, Ontario. Hockey friends Keith Acton and George Armstrong joined the Hassards on their special day. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
Another picture of note was a baseball photograph. "Oh that," smiled Hassard. "I used to be a pretty good ballplayer. This picture is from 1948 when I played with the Toronto Staffords. I was an infielder and was offered a tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers."

Bob was standing beside his friend, the great Leaf George Armstrong, as he reminisced about how wonderful it was to be part of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. "I can still remember how great I felt when I was 14 years old and getting a tryout with the Bantam Marlies, who were part of the Maple Leafs organization," smiled Bob. "I didn't live too far from Maple Leaf Gardens and was so excited to be skating on the same ice as my heroes. I couldn't believe it, to tell you the truth! And best of all, I made the team!"

The Stanley Cup was brought outside for a backyard barbecue. Hamburgers and sausages browned on the grill as people took the opportunity to examine the Stanley Cup more closely. Bob's granddaughter and her fiancée spent a fair bit of time reading some of the legendary names, including her Grandpa's, that are engraved on the Cup.

Bob, playing his steel guitar, provided entertainment for his friends and family during his Stanley Cup celebration.
(Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
As guests enjoyed their meal, Hassard and some friends decided to provide the entertainment. With Bob on steel guitar, the band delighted those in attendance by playing some country favourites.

By 8:30, the party had wound down. Bob and Helen Hassard and their kids helped put the Stanley Cup in its case and waved as the van pulled away down the streets of Stouffville.

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On Tuesday, the pages of the Stanley Cup Journal flip to Boston, Massachusetts, where hockey's most glorious award was the guest of Milt Schmidt and Fern Flaman.

Kevin Shea is the Manager of Publishing and Editorial Services at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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