A Gum Wars Bruin – Dit Clapper (1933-34 CCG V-252)

There simply aren't enough people named Dit today.

Congrats to the Bruins and all their fans on the ending of another sports drought.  This is the second year in a row that an Original Six team ended a Cup drought, which would bode well for Toronto if they could manage to get into the playoffs.

*Sigh.*  Next year.

My oldest Bruin is also my only good example of one of my favourite Gum Wars sets.  I assume that baseball also had a Gum Wars era.  Most every card era in hockey seems to have a parallel in baseball given that the same basic factors were in play and the histories more or less overlap. 

The 1930s saw a proliferation of card sets in hockey as various gum producers fought for dominance.   1933-34 was the biggest year for competition, with four major sets released by various gum manufacturers.  These were the first cards of note since the last cigarette cards of the mid-1920s and as such are loaded with most of the RCs of the pre-war era. 

The Canadian Chewing Gum cards (CCG), designated as V-252, are some of my favourites.  They are tough to find in good shape and generally run well over $100 when they are complete.  This one has the corners clipped, presumably for insertion into a photo album, but it’s the only one I have in which the base is intact.  Many of the cards had the bottom cut off to be redeemed as part of a promotion.  If the collector could put together the letters of 5 NHL teams, the cards could be exchanged for a tabletop hockey game of some kind.  This is the only hockey set CCG made.

Dit Clapper (stats) played his junior hockey in Parkdale in Toronto.  He was the first 20-year player in the history of the NHL and the only player to be an All-Star at both forward and defense.  He was the Bruins’ captain for all but one season between 1932 and 1947 and helped win their first three Stanley Cups (1929, 1939, 1941).

He’s also an example of why it can be so hard to read/interpret old hockey stats.  First off, his 20 seasons only amounted to 833 games because the seasons were shorter.  833 games is about the total of an 11-year vet today.  That’s why so few old-time records stand in hockey. 

Further, you look at his scoring totals and see him jump from 9 goals in 1928-29 to 41 in 1929-30.  Where did that come from?  Well, he was part of the “Dynamite Line” with Cooney Weiland and Dutch Gainor and they ran rampant, but 1929-30 was also the year the NHL introduced the forward pass.  Every significant defensive record was set in 1928-29.  Before the offside rule was introduced in mid-season, every sigificant offensive record was about to be shattered in ’29-30.  Things settled down slightly the following season and Clapper only scored 22, but that total was still a top-10 finish overall.  Goal totals of 9, 41 and 22 were all pretty good, but they’re very context-dependent.

You see this later after his switch to defense.  In 1940-41, he scored 8 goals and 18 assists in 48 games, which was only eighth in scoring on his own team.  Given the way defensemen were used, though, that was fantastic and got him a First-team All-Star berth. 

I always used to struggle when I’d read about a guy being one of the top puck-rushers of his era and then see a stat line like 2-13-15.  Much of it seems to come from the way defensemen were deployed.  In an era of straight-bladed wooden sticks and no slapshots, defenders – even the great puck movers – were rarely in a position to factor into the offense.  They’d carry the puck out of the zone with great control, then get it to the forwards and retreat.  The point shot wasn’t really the same kind of threat that it is now and you didn’t see as many of them taken.  It’s kind of hard to describe without seeing it.

There was no waiting period for Dit Clapper to get into the Hall of Fame.  It was waived.  He retired during the 1946-47 season and was inducted the following summer.  His number 5 was retired by the Bruins.

Oh – the nickname?  “Dit” was his best approximation of “Vic” at age two.  It stuck.

See also the HHOF write up on Dit Clapper.  

Three of these teams won't survive the Depression - thus the "Original Six."

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2 Responses to A Gum Wars Bruin – Dit Clapper (1933-34 CCG V-252)

  1. Pingback: Top 11 of 2011 – A double-folding Mecca Leaf and a boy named Dit | Diamond Cuts and Wax Stains

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