“My goodness, I know you’re the team historian in Chicago,” Stapleton was saying over the telephone. “But that’s ancient history. Don’t you write about current events? You have a nice club there in the Blackhawks. And you’re calling me about a puck?”
Well, we contacted Stapleton in part because of current events. The Los Angeles Kings recently recovered their landmark puck after winning the Stanley Cup. It was found in Patrik Elias’ equipment bag; he unwittingly tossed it there after his New Jersey Devils succumbed in the finals. Meanwhile, [Patrick Kane]’s 2010 overtime Stanley Cup winning disk in Philadelphia is still at large.
Stapleton was on the ice when Paul Henderson scored the famous tie-breaking goal with 34 seconds remaining in regulation, then remained on defense when Canada prevailed 6-5 in Moscow on Sept. 28, 1972, to win a storied tournament that captivated both nations. Schools were let out, offices were closed and streets were empty across Canada when its native NHL heroes won a third straight contest in hostile territory to claim victory in a taut eight-game series, 4 to 3 with one tie........
Stapleton and his Blackhawk blue-line partner, Bill White, who will attend this weekend's Blackhawks Convention, sat out the opener. But they were inserted into a loaded lineup for Game 2 and became the most reliable defense tandem for Canada as the series progressed. Stapleton and White also kept everybody loose, or at least leery, with their pranks. The puck caper is vintage material for them. Despite film clips that show Stapleton grabbing the puck at game’s end, he neither admits nor denies owning it.
“Actually, to tell the truth,” Stapleton said, “Bill White has it. I might have taken it with me off the rink in Moscow, but Bill has it.”
When White heard that, he was nonplussed.
“Pat said I have it?” said White. “Well, you know better than to believe him, don’t you?”
Stapleton confused the issue in 2008 when he was asked to appear at a rink in his native Sarnia, Ontario, to honor the memory of Tommy Norris, a mentor. Norris’ son requested that Stapleton bring the puck to drop for a ceremonial faceoff. Stapleton obliged, sort of. He said he brought a puck, but that doesn’t mean it was the puck. Later, in a video interview with his sister’s daughter’s son, Brad Weed, the young man held up the puck in Stapleton’s living room.“Oh, that was just a school project,” Stapleton said. “Brad did a nice job. But the puck? Brad mentioned it was the puck, I didn’t. I couldn’t have. Not unless we were in Bill White’s house.
Stapleton was injured when Blackhawks general manager Tommy Ivan acquired White from Los Angeles in February 1970. When Stapleton healed, they instantly became a superior and complementary pairing. Also, Stapleton identified a co-conspirator to torment teammates, trainers, broadcasters and writers. Stapleton and White had Keith Magnuson “traded” on multiple occasions. Stapleton would deliver the grim tidings, then Maggie would seek out White, who faked sadness.
They were at it in Moscow, too. Stapleton and White wove a tale about this fabulous Chinese restaurant. Fellow players and some of 3,000 Canadian tourists took the bait, to the point of piling onto a bus for dinner one night. They stayed there for an hour, waiting for Stapleton and White to show up and provide directions. Never happened, nor did the “golf outing” Stapleton and White organized at one of Moscow’s finest country clubs.
“I feel bad about that,” lied Stapleton. “There were a lot of complaints about the food, so when Bill and I talked about this fabulous Chinese meal we just had, word spread real fast.”
Stapleton and a half dozen other Summit participants recently visited Russia in a 40th anniversary celebration. They had lunch with President Vladimir Putin. Stapleton raved about the hospitality and the food.
“We didn’t eat Chinese,” he said. “That was a pretty tense couple weeks in 1972. It became very political, and of course, a lot of Canadians were down on us when we went to Moscow, looking like we were destined to lose. People still talk about it up here, 40 years later. It wound up being an eye-opener for us, and as you’ve seen since then, there are a lot of Russians who come to the NHL and play well.”
Stapleton left the Blackhawks in 1973 for the rival World Hockey Association Chicago’s Cougars, where he was not only a player, but eventually coach, president and part owner. In 1975, he joined the WHA’s Indianapolis Racers, where he became the first professional coach for a baby-faced prospect who was built like a thermometer.
The 1928 Stanley Cup series against the Montreal Maroons was a memorable one in the life of Taffy Abel, for it was during a game in that series that he rose to national acclaim. The goalie for the Rangers was hit in the head with a shot and was removed from the ice on a stretcher. After an attempt by the Rangers to sign a goalie from the stands was nullified, Ranger Manager Lester Patrick donned the pads and stood between the pipes. Abel and Johnson allowed only three shots to be fired at Patrick, playing his first game ever in the nets. Abel also was a member of the 1933-34 Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks.
For many years Able was the only American-born player in the NHL and at one point, with the Hawks, set an NHL record when he played 100 minutes in a series against Les Canadians without a substitution.
The goalie for the Rangers was hit in the head with a shot and was removed from the ice on a stretcher. After an attempt by the Rangers to sign a goalie from the stands was nullified, Ranger Manager Lester Patrick donned the pads and stood between the pipes. Abel and Johnson allowed only three shots to be fired at Patrick, playing his first game ever in the nets.Thats a cool story Alfred. I saw a documentary type show about this incident on CBC a while back. It was very interesting. Funny how after fans witnessed a goalie being struck in the head and hulled away, they tried to hire someone from the stands to play. Probably wouldnt have been to many takers :) Did you happen to catch that show? Maybe you cant get CBC where your at. Good stuff.
Lyle Wright was identified with organized hockey from the first moment it existed in Minneapolis and remined identified with it, in one capacity or another, until his death. Wright served in the Canadian artillery in World War I and moved to Minneapolis in 1919.
After four years of playing hockey, he brought the famed Ching Johnson from Eveleth to Minneapolis to play for the Minneapolis Millers. He managed the Millers, who played in the American Hockey Association, from 1928 until 1931, and then moved to Chicago to become business manager of the Blackhawks. He returned to Minneapolis in the early 1930s and remained there for the remainder of his life serving in varying capacities with the minneapolis Arena eventually attaining the office of the president.
Over the years of his affiliation with the Minneapolis Arena, he was involved with the minor-league professional Minneapolis Millers almost continuously during their existence. But the Millers were not his only hockey interest. It was at the Arena that University of minnesota hockey got its start, justifying the construction of a hockey arena on campus. It was also at the Arena that through Wright's cooperation high school hockey flourished to become a major high school sport.
Wright's friends described him as a "practical promoter, a man with bold ideas, and a skilled organizer." In hockey he was an advocate of more scoring, less padding for goalies, and the determination that Minneapolis was a major league town. He was instrumental in bringing the Millers such hockey greats as Tiny Thompson, Stew Adams, and the United States Hockey Hall of Fame enshrinee Taffy Abel. In addition to hockey, Wright was also involved in figure skating, the Ice Follies, and the Minneapolis Aquatennial.