Part 3 of this set will mostly focus on Detroit. The Wings had been the best team in the game for a long, long time. From 1947-48 through 1956-57, they finished no worse than second and were first eight times, winning four Cups along the way. They were still the top team in the league in 1956-57 despite the fact that Montreal won its second straight Cup.
The summer of 1957 basically undid that team. The Wings had a poor first-round against Boston and went out in five games. Wings GM Jack Adams laid the blame for this at the feet of his young star goaltender, Glenn Hall. From the summaries, only the last game appears at all suspect, but Adams made up his mind. He wanted Sawchuk back, despite the fact that Terry had left the Bruins in January because his nerves were cooked. On July 10, he sent promising winger John Bucyk and to Boston for the rights to Sawchuk. On the 23rd, he sent Hall and Lindsay (guilty of starting a players association) to Chicago for a bunch of support players.
So in the span of two weeks, Adams sent three Hall of Famers away and got back a sub-par Sawchuk and some checkers. The Wings moved Delvecchio to the wing and Ullman to the top line and became a one-line team. They fell to third in 1957-58, dead last a year later. There would be a brief revival in the early sixties, but other than 1964-65, the team only finished higher than fourth three times between 1959-60 and 1982-83.
The Wings, as shown by some of the players in this set, tried to strike gold with some players from the Western League, but most didn’t pan out.
Page 5 – cards 37-45
#37: Tom McCarthy (RC) was a big, tough winger who had put up good numbers with the Edmonton Flyers of the Western League. He’d get into 18 games with Detroit but only score three points. He’d play 60 NHL games in total over four seasons, finally retiring from senior hockey in 1973.
#38: Al Arbour is known to most as the coach of the Islanders dynasty, but had a very long career as a defenseman, winning three Stanley Cups along the way (one in Chicago, two in Toronto). Up and down from the minors with some regularity, he finished as a St. Louis Blue in 1971 before moving behind the bench. He was known as “Radar,” as that was the only way teammates felt he could find the puck when his glasses would fog over during the games.
#39: Billy Dea (RC) (pronounced “Day”) would split this season between Detroit and Chicago, then spend a decade in the minor leagues, putting up quite good point totals for the Buffalo Bisons. NHL expansion would save him, as he would resurface with the Pittsburgh Penguins at age 34 in 1967-68 and would rejoin the Wings in 1969-70 and 1970-71. He coached the Wings briefly in 1981-82.
#40: Lorne Ferguson was traded with Dea to Chicago in the pre-Christmas deal. He had scored 20 goals for the 1954-55 Bruins, but otherwise tended to top out around 15. He played 422 games over parts of eight seasons and finally retired from senior hockey in 1970. His card has the French and English portions of the bio reversed. Someone was napping.
#41: Warren Godfrey was a hard-hitting defenseman who split sixteen NHL seasons between Boston and Detroit, though he only played 55 NHL games between ’63-64 and ’67-68. Topps liked this picture so much that they used it again (including a Boston Bruin paint job/makeover) in their 1962-63 set. Warren had 18 points in 1957-58, including a career-high 16 assists.
#42: Gordie Howe would slip back to 77 points in ’57-58, but still won his fourth Hart Trophy as MVP. He was second in goals and fourth in assists and points. This was the ninth straight season he was in the top five in points. That’s impressive, but not as impressive as the fact he would do it the next eleven seasons, as well. Gordie wouldn’t fall out of the top five until 1969-70, when he finished ninth – at age 42. He’d retire for good in 1980. This card needs an upgrade, but unless one falls in my lap, that’s not coming anytime soon.
43: Marcel Pronovost only scored 20 points in ’57-58, but still made the Second All-Star Team and placed fifth in Norris voting. He’d be an all-star the next three seasons, as well. A noted rusher when he was younger, it was on one of his hip checks that an 18-year-old Bobby Orr would sustain his first (recorded) knee injury.
#44: Billy McNeill (RC) is the answer to a good trivia question. It was his assist that set up Gordie Howe’s 545th NHL goal, making him the league’s all-time leading goal scorer (now 2nd behind Gretkzy). It was his only assist that season and the last of his NHL career. For ’57-58, McNeill went 5-10-15 in 35 games. He’d play in the minors until 1971.
#45: Earl Reibel went to Chicago in the big pre-Christmas trade talked about in Part II. “Dutch” spent three seasons (1953-54 thgouth 1955-56) as one of the best points-per-game performers in the NHL, but fell off sharply and would be out of the NHL after 1958-59.
Page 6 – cards 46-54
#46: Norm Ullman (RC) was about to have his first 20-goal season. He was rather adept at this – he wouldn’t score fewer than 20 again until 1969-70, and then again until 1974-75. A highly-skilled centre, Norm would score 490 NHL goals and another 47 in the WHA. He was the fourth-highest all-time NHL scorer at the time of his retirement. He had been third going into the season, but was passed by Stan Mikita.
#47: Johnny Wilson was rejoining the Wings after a couple of seasons in Chicago. He came back to Detroit in the Hall/Lindsay trade. A solid two-way winger, his 39 points would be fourth on the team. He was still in the midst of what was then a record-setting 580 consecutive games – a little over eight complete seasons.
#48: Red Kelly was a First-Team All-Star in ’56-57 and #2 in Norris voting. This year, though, would be the first time since 1948-49 that he wouldn’t get an All-Star nod. His numbers would drop each of the next two seasons as he battled nagging injuries, leading Jack Adams to flip him to Toronto. The Leafs would convert him to a centre, where his career had a dramatic rebirth. Kelly won the inaugural Norris Trophy in 1953-54. This card has a small corner crease and is the other one on the upgrade list.
#49: Bill Dineen was playing his last NHL season at just 25. He went to Chicago in the pre-Christmas deal. His minor league career went on until 1971, when he finally retired from the Denver Spurs at age 38. He put up pretty solid numbers in the minors, but was basically a victim of the six-team league and was entering his downswing just as expansion hit. He was the architect of the Houston Aeros of the WHA and was instrumental in bringing Gordie, Mark and Marty Howe together professionally. Three of his sons played in the NHL.
#50: Forbes Kennedy (RC) was a tough winger who had one of the more famous exits from the NHL. His last NHL game came as a Maple Leaf in 1969 – a playoff game in which they were mauled 10-0 by Boston and famous as the game in which Pat Quinn flatted Bobby Orr. In the third, there was a wild melee in which Kennedy wound up setting a record for the most penalties achieved in a playoff game: four minors, two majors, a ten-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. A write-up is here.
The Rangers make their appearance here and will make up the balance of the cards in the set. I’ll talk a bit more about them in the preamble to part 4. The old Rangers teams were often thought of as doormats, but this team actually finished second overall in 1957-58. The Habs were just too much that year.
#51: Harry Howell is one of the key defensemen in Rangers history and always notable as the last defenseman to win the Norris before Bobby Orr made it his personal property. He was rarely among the offensive leaders (though he found some offensive spark as he entered his 30s), but played a solid game that carried him through 24 seasons in the bigs. A Ranger until some back issues crept up in 1968-69, he served time with the Oakland Seals and LA Kings before heading over to the WHA. He retired as a Calgary Cowboy in 1975-76.
#52: Guy Gendron (more often known as Jean-Guy) bounced back and forth between New York and Boston (with one year as a Hab) for the first eight years of his career, peaking at 24 goals in 1959-60. Sent to the minors, he enjoyed a nice revival as a Philadelphia Flyer in the late 1960s, scoring at least 20 goals three times. He’d retire from the WHA in 1974 at age 39.
#53: Lorne (Gump) Worsley had the best GAA of his Ranger career in 1957-58, posting a 2.32 over just 37 games. The Rangers’ defensive woes generally placed his numbers a lot higher (when questioned by a reporter which team gave him the most trouble, his answer was “the Rangers”) and most of his best statistical seasons came after he was traded to Montreal in 1963. Gump retired in 1974, just prior to his 45th birthday.
#54: Larry Popein was a rangers regular for six seasons in the ’50s, during which he invariably put up somewhere around 12 goals and 35 points. He checked, killed penalties and even sometimes centered Andy Bathgate. After 1959-60, he spent eight seasons with the Vancouver Canucks of the WHL, surfacing with the Oakland Seals for part of a season at age 37. He retired in 1969-70.
The backs of these cards always offer something interesting. On the Popein, it mentions that he’d never even seen an NHL game until he played in one, and in that game, his opponent was a kid he’d known from his small town in Saskatchewan – Merto Prystai.