Team photo courtesy: Galt Museum and Archives

Contact: Trevor Esau at

How to Read the Site:

We have tried to capture the story of the Lethbridge Maple Leafs and provide a site to post stories, documents, links and photos of their incredible journey to the Championship.

To read their great story from the beginning, scroll to the bottom of the site to part 1 and work your way up through the 34 parts (You may have to click on “older posts” at the bottom to get to part 1). Each part is in chronological order and describes a part of the journey and many contain photos (We continue to add new photos to these posts as we get them).

After part 34 we are posting current related activities, stories and photos from the Galt Museum & Archives, Lethbridge Hurricanes, City of Lethbridge and private collections, as they become available. If you have a photo or story contribution for the site we would be happy to post it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winston Churchill Trophy Presentation to Player/Coach Dick Gray in 1951

Player/Coach Dick Gray Accepts the
 Sir Winston Churchill Trophy in England, 1951
Photo Courtesy City of Lethbridge Enmax Collection
Donor:  Dick Gray

Player/Coach Dick Gray Accepts the
 Sir Winston Churchill Trophy in England, 1951
Photo Courtesy City of Lethbridge Enmax Collection
Donor:  Dick Gray
This photo hangs in the Enmax Centre as part of the City of Lethbridge Photograph Collection. The photo also contains the signatures of the Lethbridge Maple Leaf players.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Homecoming: Parade, Banquet and City Hall Greeting, Part 34

Welcome Home Parade
Photo Courtesy Galt Museum & Archives
UID 19753810012

Welsome Home Greeting at City Hall
Photo Courtesy Galt Museum & Archives
UID 19753810017

Banquet in the Maple Leafs' Honour
Photo Courtesy Galt Museum & Archives
UID 19753810016
More homecoming pictures:

The Airplane

Families Greeting Players

More Family Greetings

Arriving Home in a Blizzard

At the Lethbridge Airport

The Parade

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lethbridge Maple Leafs Homecoming, Part 33

Coming Home
Photos Courtesy James Sinclair Collection
The Lethbridge Maple Leafs arrived home in Lethbridge, Alberta during a raging spring blizzard.
The first evening the Leafs were guests at a banquet with many speeches and greetings.  The next night a huge dance was held in their honour with 2,500 in attendance.

This was followed the next day by  a one mile long parade.  Each Maple Leaf road in a convertible and all Lethbridge lined the streets. 5,000 school children waved school colours along the route. The parade ended at the steps of city hall.  On top of city hall a huge banner read, Welcome Home Champs.
Lethbridge stores had windows decorated for them.

Obodiac wrote: “It is a wonderful feeling to be champion of the world p. 150.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Going Home as World Champions, Part 32

Empress of France II (Formerly the Duchess of Bedford)
The Lethbridge Maple Leafs Were Going Home

After their long journey to world champions they wanted to get home as soon as possible. On April 10, 1951 they started the long trip to Canada. The Lethbridge Maple Leafs boarded the Empress of France for the voyage home.
The trip home was anticlimactic and they passed the time with diversions from the other 700 passengers, conversation, games, dances and food. Tom Wood paced the decks awaiting news from home of the impending birth of a baby. They sailed into a severe 2 day storm that left many ill and delayed their trip.

Tom Kirkham, a Lethbridge business owner, sent the Leafs a wire on behalf of the citizens of Lethbridge:  Welcome home. Families will meet you at the airport in individual cars then rush to parade starting at 10:30. Civic welcome city hall at noon. Civic provincial banquet Thursday at 6:30. Dance at arena Friday night……Bring both cups, God bless you all p. 145

On the Ship Home with Trophies
Photo Coutesy James Sinclair Collection

It would be quite a homecoming!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Look Back: Maple Leafs Played in Front of 400,000 People and Travelled 30,000 Miles in 14 Countries, Part 31

A Look Back

There were several more exhibition games in England but they were anticlimactic except for Bill Flick breaking his wrist and requiring surgery.

The journey to the championships and beyond had been a long one!  The Maple Leafs began the journey in early December 1950 in Lethbridge, Alberta. Including games in Canada they played 62 games. They won 51, lost 7 and tied 4.  This included an amazing 44 game unbeaten string in Europe. By the time they were getting ready for home they had traveled close to 30,000 miles by bus, train, ship, airplane and car and played before about 400,000 people in 14 countries.
In the 6 World Championship games, the Leafs scored 62 goals and only allowed 6 goals against them.  A truly dominating performance!  Maple Leaf goals scorers in the World Championships:  Obodiac (12), Gibson (8), McLean (5), Roth (5), Flanagan (8), Flick (5), Chandler (5), Negrello (4), Rimstead (3), Gray (2), Vogan (1), Wood (1), Knibbs (1), Milroy (1), Siray (0), Malacko (0).
Obodiac's footnotes to their victories included (p. 139 -140):
Best Rinks-Wembley or Earl`s Court in England, Hellenstadion in Jurich, and the Olympic rink in Germany.
Biggest Rink- Atreatham in England, 110 by 210
Smallest Rink- Brussels, 47 by 160
Best Team Played: English All-Stat team.
Most Goals in a game:  Billy Gibson with 5
Most Points in a Game: Stan Obodiac with 10
Leading Scoring Defenseman: Vogan with 25 goals
Leading Scorers: Hec Negrello, Bill Gibson and Stan Obodiac
Most Penalized: Bill Gibson, Don McLean and Don Vogan
Inspirational Leaders: Dick Gray and Hector Negrello
Ontario Line's Effectiveness: It was felt that the Maple Leafs could have won the world champioships without the Ontario line from the Kitchener -Waterloo Flying Dutchman but they defenitely could not have won the Winston Churchill Cup without them!

Players received offers to play in Europe and Malacho took an offer to finish the season with Harringay in England. Dick Gray was offered a coaching job with Sweden but returned home.

Lethbridge Maple Leafs Win the Winston Churchill Cup, Part 30

Coach Dick Gray Accepts Churchill Cup
Courtesy City of Lethbridge Collection

Lethbridge Maple Leafs vs English All-Stars 

They arrived at the magnificent Wembley ice rink on March 22, 1951 for the big game. Mallie Hughes said, "You won`t find a finer rink anywhere!" p. 133 The Leafs were amazed at the rink and facility that includes a restaurant and orchestra.Even the ice cleaners were finely dressed and marched to music as they cleaned the ice surface.  There was a screen at the end of the rink where artists put information and drawings depicting the game using old cinema slides. A more than capacity crowd of 10,000 jammed the rink for the game.
To motivate the Leafs Coach Gray said, We never wanted these games, we were pushed into them-let`s go out and do our best p. 132

 The Leafs were now very motivated by the atmosphere and crowd. The English threw the best they had in the country at them. They had the 3 top lines from Harringay, Wembley and
Earls Court
.  The Leafs considered this team a powerhouse, the best competition they would see in Europe.

The game started and continued at a torrid pace.  The English All-Stars were flying out there and built up an impressive 3-0 second period lead against the world champions.
Then, later in the second period Captain Hec Negrello ignited the Leafs with the first goal. Near the end of the second period Obodiac got the second Leaf goal and they entered the third period down 3-2.  The game was televised and Heg Negrello was interviewed on TV in the second intermission.

In the third period the Leafs were flying whenMcLean passed to Gibson who scored to tie the game at 3.  And then at about the 10 minute mark, the player who always scored big goals for the Leafs when they counted most, came through again.  Captain Negrello, the emotional leader of the Leafs scored is second goal of the game and the Leafs lead the game 4-3.

Obodiac wrote: Then we slaved to preserve our lead. We shoved out lines after every minute and every man gave all we had.  It was agonizing, but then the bell sounded and ended our anguish, and turned anguish into roaring delight….others will win the Winston Churchill Trophy, but the Lethbridge Maple Leafs are the first to win it… they can never take that away from us. p. 133

The Lethbridge Maple Leafs Won the Winston Churchill Cup!

Lethbridge Maple Leafs Play in the Winston Churchill Ice Hockey Series, Part 29

Click on program to enlarge

From the Churchill Cup Program
Courtesy James Sinclair Collection
Coutesy James Sinclair Collection

Winston Churchill Cup

On February 1, 1951 the Lethbridge Maple Leafs first learned they would be the first Canadian team to play in the newly created Winston Churchill Ice Hockey Series. Bunny Ahearne was the originator of the series which would be for the Winston Churchill Cup. Organizers had high hopes for developing this series into one of the premier championships in hockey.  It took place after the Paris world championships, in London, England.  Three nations were invited: The Lethbridge Maple Leafs represented Canada, Lewiston represented the United States and an all-star team was formed out of the English National League.

After the Leafs won the World Championship they had trouble getting motivated to prepare for the Winston Churchill Cup.  It appeared that the cup was originated to revitalize the English game. They hoped the cup series would not tarnish their world championship win if they did not win the cup.

The Maple Leafs first game was against the Americans at Harringay.  The Leafs handled them easily at the world championships. The Americans used the Swedish strategy of strong defence to keep the score down.  Negrello and McLean were not in the line-up and Rimstead was rested. Flanagan led the scoring with a 2 goal night as the Leafs won the game 5 – 0. Sorokoski got the shutout.

The Leafs were one win away from a Winston Churchill Cup victory but it would be against the strongest team they had seen to date.

Friday, November 26, 2010

CHAMPIONS: Canada Against Sweden, Final Game of the 1951 World Amateur Hockey Championship, Part 28

Lethbridge Maple Leafs vs Sweden

The day finally arrived.  In the Maple Leafs final game of the tournament, a win against Sweden and they would be world champions.  It had been a long journey. They were tense the entire day. Obodiac wrote, "We were almost afraid to go to the rink."p. 127
However, they were very determined.  A full house of  17,000 packed into the Palais Des Sport in Paris.  The Swedish team decided to play a very defensive strategy.  They hung back in their own zone all evening. If they limited the number of goals Canada scored they would get the European Championship title on goal against average from the Swiss. They were determined not to let Canada score many goals against them.

McLean soon scored the first goal from a Gibson pass.  Then Gibson set up Captain Negrello for another goal.  The Leafs were up 2 -0.  The next goal was Roth's from a Flick set-up. The Leafs  were up 3 -0 when Sweden got on the score sheet with their first goal. The crowd had started off favouring the Swedish team as underdogs.  However after  McLean scored his second goal to go up 4 -1,  the crowd started to admire the Canadian team. Roth finished off a play from Flanagan and Flick to end the scoring.  The Lethbridge Maple Leafs from Canada emerged with a 5 -1 win and the World Championship! 

Obodiac wrote, "All of a sudden the game was over…we were world champions."
"We hugged each other like a bunch of school boys. There were movie cameras and a battery of cameramen all about. Then they played O Canada and raised our flag for the victory. We all faced it as it rose to the top.  Bill Gibson said there was a tear in his eye.  Tommy Wood said it was the happiest day of his life" P. 128

The world championship trophy was presented to Captain Hec Negrello on a pedestal at centre ice.  The Leafs then carried the trophy on a victory lap around the rink to the applause of the large crowd.
The victory was the Maple leafs 40 straight game without a defeat.  They were being called the greatest team ever to show in Europe! 

"So ended the greatest days of our life!" 

Canada Against Switzerland, Game 5 of the 1951 World Amateur Hockey Championships, Part 27

Lethbridge Maple Leafs vs Switzerland

The next game was against the Swiss.    It was to be there first real test of the championship. It was like a semi-final game. The Maple Leafs were tense before the match.  Even though there was a major transportation strike in Paris, 15,000 very enthusiastic fans came to the Palais Des Sports for the game!

The Swiss jumped into an early lead and led 1 – 0 after the first period. The large crowd was behind Switzerland and joined in with rabid Swiss fans in cheering for them.
In the second period Gibson got the Leafs started scoring a goal after a nice pass from Flanagan.  6 minutes later Obodiac finished off a passing play from Rimstad and Chandler for the second Leaf goal and a 2-1 lead.  Then Hec Negrello made a great play which resulted in Gibsons second goal of the game. The Leafs started to take control of the hard fought game when Obodiac scored his second from a Vogan pass for a 4 – 1 lead. Gibson continued his great game by scoring his third goal converting a McLean pass for the hat-trick.  Gibson was the star and the Leafs got a solid effort from goalie Sorokoski.

The Maple Leafs had passed the first solid test with a hard fought win!  One more game to go against the strong Swedish club.

Canada Against the United States, Game 4 of the 1951 World Amateur Hockey Championships, Part 26

From the Championship Program
Courtesy James Sinclair Collection

Maple Leafs vs United States

Wednesday, March 14 was a day off for the Canadian and American teams.  The Catholic Sports Association of Paris provided a tour of Paris for both teams together during the day and the teams socialized at the Palais des Sports while watching the games during the evening. The combined tour continued the morning of the March 15, which was game day between the Canadians and Americans.

That evening they face-off against each other.  On the ice the Maple Leafs showed what the French papers called, "Pas-de-pitie!" The Leafs easily won the game 16 -2.  The victory was led by hat-tricks from Rimstad, Flick and Flanagan.  Gibson, MacLean and Obodiac each had 2 goals. Ontario line member Bill Flick had a great game and was dangerous all the time.  It was evident why the Boston Bruins wanted him.

Of all the cablegrams received ,one that came in that day from someone known as Parker from Kamloops, B.C. meant a lot.  "It read, Win or Lose I am with you."

Obodiac wrote about this cablegram, "We know that it is possible to lose..We feel good that we also will be accepted in Canada if the championship isn't ours". P. 126

The Leafs were now just 2 wins away from being World Champions!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Canada Against England, Game 3 of the 1951 World Amateur Hockey Championships, Part 25

Photo Courtesy James Sinclair Collection

Maple Leafs vs England

The Leafs had March 12 off using the time to  tour Paris. On the 13th it was coach Dick Gray`s birthday and they played Game 3 of the championships against the English team.  England had beaten them 3 time when they first arrived.  These defeats caused great concern in Canada about the Maple Leafs ability to win and the Canadain Amateur Hockey Association was harshly criticized for choosing the leafs as Canada`s representative.

The Leafs were extremely nervous and uptight going into the game. The British team surprised them with their strong play.   Concerns seemed justified after the first period with the Leafs trailing 1 - 0.   However, the Maple Leafs loosened up and went on to score 17 straight goals on their way to an overwhelming  17-1 win!

Everyone on the team figured in on the scoring and Obodiac led the way with a hat-trick and another 5 point game.  Sorokoski was in the net for the win.

Canada Against Norway, Game 2 of the 1951 World Amateur Hockey Championships, Par 24

1951 Championship Entrance Pin
Courtesy Jim Sinclair Collection

Maple Leafs vs Norway

Game 2 was in the afternoon against Norway. Norway was coached by Bud MacEachern formerly from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The Norwegians played a completely defensive game and coach MacEachern said, ``We have to play that way. When we get back to Norway people will only ask how many goals the Canadians scored against us`` p. 120.

The Maple Leafs recorded their second win of the championships by defeating Norway 8 - 0 with Mallie Hughes getting the shutout. Chandler and Obodiac had hat-tricks while Flanagan got the other 2 goals. Obodiac led the Leafs with a 5 point night.

After the game the teams lined up and the Canadian national anthem was played while the Canadian flag was raised.  Tommy Wood said, ``That flags got to go up there 4 more times``. p.120

Canada Against Finland, Game 1 of the 1951 World Amateur Hockey Championships - Part 23

It was a long wait for game 1 against Finland.  The Maple Leafs had drawn the 4th and last game time of the day making for a 10:00 pm start.  However, their spirits were buoyed by a flood of telegrams from home wishing them good luck.

10,000 fans were on hand for the game.The national anthems were played and the game started.    By the time they started their game the ice was in bad condition. Karl Sorokoski started in net for the Leafs and had a great game. Billy Gibson scored the first goal of the championships for the Maple Leafs.The Finnish team had a good young team.  The Maple Leaf`s new Ontario line played surprisingly well given they had not skated for 8 days. The Maple Leafs  dominated the game and  outworked and outplayed the Finns rolling  to a convincing 11 - 1 win.  Gibson had the hat-trick, while Negrello, Flanagan and Obodiac each scored a pair. Roth and Macean had one a peice.

Opening Ceromonies: World Amateur Hockey Championships 1951, Part 22

Opening Ceremonies - Teams from the 13 Participating Countries on Paris's Palais Des Sports  Ice,
Canada 4th from the Left Photo Courtesy James Sinclair Collection

The World Championships finally arrived on March 9, 1951. Teams were from 13 countries, including 225 hockey players. The goaltender from each team carried their country flag and led their team's  procession. The team followed the goalie in rows of 3. Goalie Mallie Hughes led the Canadians onto the ice. The nations entered the arena in alphabetical order and someone yelled to Mallie, " Hold our flag high Mallie, it's a pretty good flag".

Austrian, Belgiun, Canadian, United Staes, Finland, Great Britain, Holland, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Swiss, Yogoslavian and the hosts from France all skated around the ice in front of a battery of cameraman, newsreel cameras and TV cameras.  After lining up in order La Marsellaise was played and the head of European hockey, Dr. Kraantz welcomed the countries. Oboiac wrote:  "it was an inspiring sight...the moment was great for Dick Gray. Maple Leafs had come a long way". p. 117, 118
The Lethbridge Maple Leafs were Canadas team!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lethbridge Maple Leafs: New Recruits Arrive, Part 21

Kitchener-Waterloo Flying Dutchman Line:  Flick, Roth, Flannigan
Photo Coutesy James Sinclair Collection
Unfortunately Lethbridge Maple Leafs, Jack Sumner, Ken Branch, and Rod MacGregor were going home.  They had not been playing much and space was needed for new recruits who were being sent over as "insurance" just in case they were needed. They left for Canada on February 13. In Paris the Leafs received letters of support from Sumners and Branch.

The new recruits turned out to be one of the best lines in the Ontario Hockey Association from the Kitchener-Waterloo Flying Dutchman.  They were the top scoring line in the Ontario Hockey Association major series but the Flying Dutchman failed to advance making the line available. The Ontario Line  was supposed to arrive in time to play in the last game before Paris, in England.  Their airplane had trouble in Gander, Newfoundland.  They were delayed 9 hours and missed the game.

On March 8 the line of Flanagan, Flick and Roth arrived. Denny Flanagan was a top player and was supposed to report to the Boston Bruins for a 3-game tryout which was delayed due to his participation with the Leafs.  The city of Kitchener gave them leather cases for the trip. All 3 were from Stratford, Ontario.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More posts to come as we research the journey to the championship...

Thanks for visiting this site.  More posts will come soon....

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Final Leg of the Tour: Belgium, Holland, Sweden, and England, Part 20

Maple Leafs pose in native Dutch costume
Taken from Obodiac's No Substitute for Victory
p. 99
The Leafs had lopsided wins in Belgium against a team bolstered by 4 Canadians in a small rink – about 160 feet long. They  won 13-2. Then the game in Brussels was in a rink 50 by 160. The rink was so small the Leafs didnt play with a full team -Gibson, Negrello and MaClean got the day off and they won 21 -1. Milroy said, "I learnt my hockey on a bigger rink in my back yard" ( p.95)

The Leafs then left for Holland on February 19 and got a well needed rest. They only had  1 game in 3 days. They toured the country and saw the tourist spots. The Leafs had to give the Dutch the "pony line" and goalie Mallie Hughes for the game .For Mallie they found a pair of Turk Brodas pads that he left in Holland when he had been there in the war. The Leafs won 11-2.

Then they went to Sweden where before the game the crowd all stood and gave the Canadians 3 cheers. The Leafs won 2-1. After the game many youth swarmed them for autographs which led Obodiac to predict that judging from the enthusiasm from the youth for the game " Sweden would be a great hockey competitor in the future". They won the next 2 games by the same score:  10-2;  this was followed by a 7-2 win. They won 2 more games in Sweden in the early days of March.

Obodiac wrote, "our team is at a peak now fore we have beaten very strong teams by a large score. It is hoped we do not lose this edge of keeness for Paris. We feel our touring is over now, we have beaten every team inEurope; we have played 40 games."

The last game before Paris back in England:

The last game before Paris was in London on March 7. The London game was very important. When they Leafs first started their tour they lost all 3 games in England. The English started the game strong and led 2 -0 after the first period. However, the Leafs poured it on and ended with an 8 -3 convincing victory. The game was televised on the BBC. They had now gone 34 games without a loss.

The European tour was over - they were ready for Paris!

The Leafs Tour Rolls on, Next: France, Italy and Switzerland, Part 19

The Maple Leafs players were finding their game and playing excellent hockey. Other teams often had Canadians and recruits from other countries playing for them.

Back in Paris, a crowd of 15000 packed into the beautiful arena to watch the Leafs play the Americans. The Leafs were flying, skating and passing well. They trounced the Americans 11-1! Billy Gibson and Lou Siray had 3 goals and 2 assists each. The French liked the Canadian style of play! Many movie cameras were filming parts of the game and the game had been televised.

In Italy the game had a short interuption: "`At our first hockey game in Milan Bill Chandler received a telegram in-between periods that he had become a father. Both teams mauled him in congratulations and the crowd gave him a terrific hand when it was announced that he was 'lil pappa'. " (P. 72) The Leafs won 10-3. The "pony line" of Siray, Knibbs and Milroy were playing great in the last 4 games and a key to the Leaf resurgence. Dick Gray was playing with a badly bruised hand but doctors said it was not fractured. They play against a different style in Italy with a very rough game in Milan. They won 2-1. The Leafs left Italy on Feb 2, 1951 for Switzerland.

In Switzerland they were met with everything from harsh weather conditions to magnificent arenas. Games in the smaller venues were often added to the schedule as people wanted to see the Canadian team.  Just when they thought they had seen everything, they played in one rink that  had grandstands constructed out of snow and 2,500 watched an easy 12 – 1 Leaf win.

In another game, they had melting ice condition but continued the game as they didn’t  want to disappoint the 2,500 fans. On the ice they had to run not skate as the blades dug in. They stumbled around, and took golf shots but went on to a  12-1 victory.

At the beautiful new 15,000 indoor rink in Zurich they won 11-2 in front of a full house  and  finally felt like they were playing up to expectations. They then won 15- 0 against a good club in Zurich for their first shut-out. Playing daily had them in excellent physical and game condition.

The next game had them in a rink with plexiglass boards so spectators could see pucks at all times. 9,000  rabid ,frenzied fans jammed in the arena and cheered wildly. The Leafs narrowly won 2-0 for their second shutout in a row and of the tour. Their goaltending was getting continually stronger.

Another game in a small town , not initially on the schedule but added, was called after 20 minutes due to melting ice. Billy Gibson crawled to centre ice – dangerous and humourous at the same time!

One game they played was at 6,000 feet and they had trouble catching their breath due to the high altitude. They were down 2-0 after the first period but made adjustments and went on to a 7-2 win.

The last game in Switzerland was at a magnificent rink, filled to capacity.
Figure skating exhibitions were featured in-between periods. They won.

The Lethbridge Maple Leafs left  Switzerland having  played 31 games in 43 days with an overall  record 23 -5-1 and 2 exhibition games.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Germany: Unbelieveable Ice Hockey Conditions - Part 18

From Stan Obodiac's book, No Substitute for Victory P. 49

In Germany they were part of International Sport Week which featured many sports and athletes from around the world.They met the German people and saw a war torn country trying to rebuild, drove through dangerous blizzards, and played in outdoor rinks in deplorable weather conditions.

It was challenging to compete in the games and innovations had to be made.
To make the puck slide officials pounded tacks into it. At an outdoor rink it snowed heavy for all 3 periods and at one point had to be cleaned every 5 minutes. Jan 20 game in Munich, Germany they had hard driving rain for all periods and the Canadian  goalie warmed up in net with someone holding an  umbrella over   him.
Games were played  with 2 inches of water in some spots, it was near freezing and  players were wet to the skin. They called it, disgraceful conditions. Animal droppings were thrown on the ice after a disputed goal causing problems in one game that ended in a 6-6 tie.

12000 fans packed in the outdoor rink to watch the game in a driving snowstorm.
"…cleaned the ice every 5 minutes. There was so much snow the cleaners couldn't push it. At times we aided them and the 12000 crowd cheered wildly. Everything on us was wet, the flakes made us squint, the snow hid the puck, it was impossible to carry it" p. 59

However, hockey was played and the Canadians were getting stronger, leaving without a loss in Germany and with an overall record now at 9-5-1.Bunny Ahearne met them in Paris and seemed satisfied with their German results.

The Turning Point and the Beginning of an Incredible 44 Game Unbeaten Streak- Part 17

The turn around game!

On January 13, 1951 the town of Zurich and the Swiss ice Hockey Federation held a banquet for the Leafs as the official welcome to Switzerland. Dignitary speeches, photographs, gifts, a fine dinner and the press made up the evening. Yet for all these wonderful experiences they were denied the one thing they wanted most, a win in there last 3 games. But that would all soon change!

The game in Zurich was again against the Swiss national team.  It was to be played on an outside rink on a warm, beautiful sunny day.  15,000 very enthusiastic fans crowed the rink.  People climbed fir trees to get a view of the game. This time they saw a different Maple Leaf team.  Mallie Hughes was now healthy and back in net.  Captain Hec Negrello was also healthy for the first time in many games. Lethbridge won 3-1.  At the end of the game a rocket was exploded and a Swiss flag floated down on a parachute.  This was a great surprise for the capacity crowd. More importantly for the leafs, they had got that win!

The Maple Leafs and Canada did not realize the significance of the victory but this was to be the turning point for the team and the beginning of an incredible 44 game unbeaten streak!

Canada is Concerned, Canadian Amateur Hockey Associaiton is Being Harshly Criticized for Sending the Maple Leafs- part 16

After the loss to the Swiss All-Stars the Lethbridge Maple Leafs came under harsh criticism from Canadians for lack of effectiveness.  The Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) was often  "violently criticized" for its selection of teams to represent Canada in Europe, including the Lethbridge Maple Leafs . This lead to a statement being issued by George Dudly, secretary/manager of the CAHA. defending the selection of the Maple Leafs. The statement appeared in the Lethbridge Herald on Jan 13, 1951.  It read, " It's easy to talk about sending a stronger team but know one says where that team would come from.  Everyone knows that you can't send a major league team or and outstanding junior team......Very few outstanding players play outside these organizations."

The statement went on to remind the critics that the teams they had played so far were all-star aggregates and the CAHA was confidant that there would be a better result during games on the continent. The statement also said  that responsible hockey people in western Canada were  confidant in a Canadian victory at the championships.

The statement was not an overwhelming show of support of the Maple Leafs as a defence of the CAHA. In fact, plans soon would be underway to send new players to strengthen the team.

A National Disaster and the Low Point- Game 1 on the Continent- Part 15

The Maple Leafs flew to the continent for games in France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, and Sweden.

The first game was a major test in Switzerland against the Swiss All-star team. There was a huge crowd of 16,000 gathered at the outdoor artificial ice rink. The crowd was packed in and extended up the embankment. A dozen photographers were taking pictures during the anthems. The Swiss were wearing red sweaters with the red cross of Switzerland over their hearts.  Each captain exchanged flowers and then each team gave the other a round of "three cheers".  The game was close going into the third period tied at 2.  The Swiss were effectively playing their style of lateral passing. There was fast skating a little body contact. With Negrello`s injury slowing him down, the Swiss scored 4 goals to defeat the Maple Leafs 6 – 2 in front of a jubilant crowd. The newspapers the next morning commented, more than any other aspect of the game, on how sportsmanlike the Leafs were in the loss.

Stan Obabiac wrote that the Swiss said it was the finest hockey game they had ever seen.  The Leafs felt humiliated and disgraced at the defeat, being soundly beaten at Canada’s game.  It felt like a national disaster(p. 41). Their record was now 3 wins and 5 losses.

This was the low point for the Lethbridge Maple Leafs on their journey to the Championship.
They then got on the train to Zurich.

Off to a Bad Start- The England /Scotland Tour! Part 14

On the last day of 1950 the Leafs got on the ice for the first time in two weeks. They were at the Streatham ice rink in south London for a practice. The week at sea, sea sickness, and travel fatigue were evident. The last night before getting back to hockey the Lethbridge Maple Leafs experienced the 1950 News Years Eve in London England at an All Nations Club with 30 nations represented. On January 1, 1951 they travelled to Nottingham for their first game of their extensive exhibition tour.  The first leg of the tour was 7 games in England and Scotland.  They were out of game shape and lost to Nottingham 8 – 6.  After the game they were besieged by autograph hunters, which they initially found thrilling and complimentary.  It was clear that they would have to play themselves back into top game shape.

In the first game in Scotland they played better winning easily, 7 -3. The third game in Falkirk was a 3 -1 victory but came at a cost as Negrello went down with a groin injury. Siray was out of the lineup with a bad cold. They came to the realization that they were going to need all 18 players to be successful.  Injuries, especially to Captain Hec Negrello and goaltender Mallie Hughes, the flu, travel fatigue and the long layoff resulted in a poor start to the European tour.  They left England and Scotland having lost 4 of the 7 games.  

On the last day in England tour organizer Bunny Ahearne gathered the team for an informal meeting.  He said the team had only been moderately satisfactory to date… The strange country, food, injuries,and colds all had taken a toll but they had to do better. There was concern!

Stan Obobiac wrote, "Dick is bearing a terrific load…Dick is worrying."

The  Maple Leafs then left for the next part of the European tour.  They flew to the continent for games in France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, and Sweden.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Arrival in London: Ambassadors for Canada! Journey Part 13

Bunny Ahearne head of British Ice Hockey and organizer of the Maple Leafs' rigorous European exhibition tour prior to the championships met the team upon the ship prior to their arrival in London. They were assembled and the expectations of the trip were clearly laid out- they were to be ambassadors for Canada. It was emphasized that good sportsmanship was expected and imperative. Ahearne said that the Sudbury Wolves had cost the Dominion of Canada $400,000 dollars in business in Sweden alone due to “ill behaviour” when they were playing there.

Later they were joined by hockey writers, the press and camera crew.  Maple Leaf coach Dick Gray was coordinating interviews and photo opportunities. Mallie Hughes said, “Now our trip is real!”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lethbridge Maple Leafs Boarded the Scythia in Halifax Habour: Part 12

The Maple Leafs boarded the Scythia on December 22, 1950. A smaller number of passengers were on board than usual voyages because it was Christmas. There were 150 passengers and a crew of 450. Most of the players were mildly sea sick. The players spent Christmas a sea, somewhere on the Atlantic. For a description of the day and the Christmas dinner click on (Christmas Dinner).  They passed the time on the ship with deck games, dancing, walking the deck, horse races, laundry, card games and laying down due to the sea sickness.

Postcard of the Scythia

The Cunard Line embarked on a building program after losing ships during World War I. The Scythia was the first ship built in 1920. The Scythia was:

1939 - requisitioned for use in World War II
1940 - first used as a troop ship
1942 - carried evacuees from Liverpool to New York
1942 - she was struck by an aerial torpedo (five casualties out of 4,300)
1943 – salvaged and repaired in New York
1945 – took American troops home after the war
1946 - war bride repatriation ship completing a number of voyages to take Canadian war
brides and their children from Liverpool to Halifax
1948 - the International Refugee Organisation to take refugees from Europe to Canada
1950 - became a passenger ship again, sailing from Britain to Canada
1950 – left Halifax habour carrying the Lethbridge Maple Leafs
1958 - the Scythia was delivered to the ship breakers

Deck Photo

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stan Obodiac: Lethbridge Maple Leaf Leading Scorer and Team Reporter

Obodiac, Stan (1922-1984)

Stan was the top scorer with 24 points (12+12) in the 1951 World Championship and his sweater from that series is in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He became the Public Relations Director for the Toronto Maple Leafs 1958-64. He was fiercely loyal to the Toronto Maple Leaf organization and its owner Harold Ballard.

Stan was the designated reporter for the championship trip and wrote daily of the experiences of the Lethbridge Maple Leafs long journey to the world championship and home again.  His reports were featured in the Lethbridge Herald during the trip. However, he was not happy with the editing and in the introduction to the book he wrote about the championship journey called: "No Substitute for Victory: The Story of the Canadian World Hockey Victory", he wrote:
Some of the articles in this book appeared in edited form in the Lethbridge Herald...but were so expurgated that those who read those will not recognize these.

Stan Obodiac's reports and book are references for many of the posts in this site.

He authored several books, including, "No Substitute for Victory: The story of the Canadian world hockey victory", and  "Maple Leaf Gardens: 50 Years of History".

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lethbridge Maple Leafs Player Coach and Captain

Captain Hector Negrello on left, Player-Coach Dick Gray
Photo Coutesy of Galt Museum and Archives
UID: 19753810013

Lethbridge Maple Leafs: Meet the Team

Photograph of the Lethbridge Maple Leafs. Front row, left to right: Jim Malacko, Don McLean, Carl Sorokoski, Mallie Hughes, Bert Knibbs, and Nap Milroy. Second row, left to right: Hec Negrello, captain; Tom Wood, Stan Obodiac, Dick Gray, playing coach; Bill Gibson, Whitey Rimstad, and Lou Siray. Third Row, Ken Branch, Don Vogan, Bill Chandler, Robert McGregor, and Jack Sumner.
Photo Courtesy Galt Museum and Archives UID 19753810014

Dick Gray (age 30):  Player coach, 6', 180 lbs.
Whitney Rimstad (age 34):  Defense, 6 ', 180 lbs.
Robert McGregor( age 23): Defence, 5'10", 185 lbs.
Bill Chandler(age 20): Left wing, 5'10", 155 lbs.
Mallie Hughes (age 29):  Goalie, 5'10", 185 lbs.
Bill Gibson (age 23):  Centre, 6', 175 lbs.
Tom Wood ((age 23) :  Centre/Right wing, 6', 165 lbs.
Don McLean (age 24):  Left wing, 5'9", 160lbs.
Bert Knibbs (age 24):  Both wings, 5'6", 160 lbs.
Don Vogan:  Defense, 5'10", 170 lbs.
Stan Obodiac:  Centre, 6'1", 180 lbs.
Nap Milroy (age 30): Centre, 5'7", 130 lbs.
Lou Siray (age 28): Right wing,5'10", 165 lbs.
Carl Sorokoski (age 27):  Goalie, 5'11", 165 lbs.
Jim Malacko (age 20):  Defense, 5'9", 160 lbs.
Hec Negrello (age 29):  Captain, Right wing
Ken Branch:  Utility player
Jack Summer:  Equipment manager

3 players were added to the team from the Kitchner Waterloo Dutchman:

Mickey Roth, Centre
Billy Flick, Right wing
Dinny Flangen, Left wing

Lethbridge Herald, December 16, 1950, Leafs in a Nutshell

Train Ride Across Canada, Part 11

After the Melville game they returned to Regina to resume their train trip.The train trip was delayed by an accident outside of Regina. The train hit a truck going 55 mph, the truck engine thrown from the vehicle and the truck's driver died. Several players inspected the scene and damage during the delay.

The long days on the train were filled with card tournaments, singing, reading, viewing the Canadian landscape and discussions about the journey they were on. They discussed how their team name "Maple Leafs" was very fitting as they represented the Dominion of Canada. It was close to Christmas and they were homesick at times.

At Winnipeg, Manitoba, they were interviewed by a sports reporter in the rail station. While at Ottawa, Ontario they received a telegram from Lethbridge with $50.00 as a Christmas gift. It is about 2,177 miles from  Lethbridge to Montreal. They had a 3 hour stop over in Montreal. Here Christmas was in the air and they shopped, observed Christmas decorations and a large Christmas tree. They still had 1,000 miles to go to Halifax.

They read a lot while traveling especially the news about the raging war.  Eastern newspapers had big war headlines, Mallie Hughes said of Europe, "I am glad I am going over there to shoot pucks instead of bullets".

As they finally reached the Halifax, Nova Scotia Habour, Stan wrote,

" Our long train journey was over...It was night but we could dimly see ships in the habour. One of the fellow-it was Hec Negrello- said, 'One of those tubs is ours for the next 8 days'".


No Substitute for Victory, pages 10-13

Lethbridge Herald, December 1950

The Train Trip, First Stop: Re-Match with the Melville Millionaires; Part 10

The Re-Match with the Melville Millionaires, the Last Game on Canadian Soil: 

After boarding the train the Maple Leafs headed for Melville, Saskatchewan for their final exhibition game in Canada.  The Maple Leafs had beaten the Melville Millionaires in a very close 8 game series to win the Western Canada Championship and the right to represent Canada. This game was billed as a re-match of the 2 best teams and Melville was out to prove they were the best team. 

This time it was not even close.  The Leafs dominated from the opening face-off to go on to a convincing 7 – 1 win.  Sniper Bill Gibson led the way with a hat trick while Mallie Hughes was very strong between the pipes. Player-coach Dick Gray also scored for the Leafs.

The people of Melville treated the Maple Leafs very well with generous applause as each player was introduced. After the game the Board of Trade and team gave them a banquet with speeches wishing them well on the trip.
Lethbridge Herald, Tuesday December 19, 1950

Lethbridge Maple Leafs Leave:Tears and Cheers, “Good-Bye Honey”: Journey Part 9

A smaller than expected crowd of 250 were on hand at the Lethbridge CPR station to send-off the Lethbridge Maple Leafs.  The enthusiastic crowd watched as the clubs “special train car” was hooked on to the east-bound train and the players boarded.
There were many “tears and cheers” as parents, wives and children, and “rabid” Leaf fans gathered about a hour before the departure. Syd Walls, the veteran time-keeper of the Lethbridge arena, led the crowd in “three- cheers” for the Maple Leafs send-off. Player-coach Dick gray told the crowd, “We’ve got a good club, a good bunch of fellows and providing we don’t run into a bunch of injuries or a lot of sickness, we’ll win!”

The “boys and fans ‘wise-cracked’ back and forth” until the train left at 5 minutes to 11:00 a.m. on Sunday December 17, 1950. They were on their way on a trip that would take almost 4 months, over 6,000 miles, the Atlantic Ocean, Europe and the World Championships.

Lethbridge Herald, Monday December 18, 1950

Lethbridge Train Station 1950, Photo Coutesey: Galt Museum
and Archives UID 19752909014

Lethbridge Maple Leafs Final Home Game and $1,000 Donation: Part 8

Lethbridge Maple Leafs bid farewell to the hometown fans on December 13, with their final home exhibition game against the Lethbridge Native Sons. 600 faithful supporters were on hand at the Lethbridge arena as Captain “Hammerin” Hect Negrello scored a hat trick  on route to a 6 -3 Maple Leaf win. After the game the governing body of amateur hockey in Canada, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association presented coach Dick Gray and the Leafs with $1,000 for the trip.

Lethbridge Herald, Thursday, December 14, 1950

Jim Dryden Benefit Game: Journey Part 7

Jim Dryden Benefit Game

The Lethbridge Maple Leafs took part in a benefit game against the Junior All-Stars of the Western Canada Junior Hockey League in Medicine Hat, Alberta on December 12. The game ended in a 6 -6 tie. The proceeds of the game went to Jim Dryden who had lost an eye while playing for the Medicine Hat Tigers earlier in the year. On December 13, the Lethbridge Herald proclaimed the benefit game a huge success. At the emotional closing ceremonies of the game Jim Dryden was introduced to the crowd as “a young man who lost his eye but never lost his heart”. He was presented with an original Detroit Red Wings jacket. Jim Dryden Future Fund organizers also announced that the objective of raising $3,000 was achieved!

After thanking the crowd for their generous donations the announcer bestowed upon the Lethbridge Maple Leafs, “blessing of the league to the Leafs to bring the championship back to Canada.  Good luck boys, play clean, play fair and you can’t lose”.

Lethbridge Herald, December 13, 1950

The Campaign to Raise $10,000: Journey Part 6

The Campaign to Raise $10,000

The club needed to raise $10,000 to help offset the costs of the player wages while they were gone.  The player’s employers had granted them time off work and were holding their jobs for them when they returned.  There was no pay for the participation in the trip and amateur championship which would take them away for almost 4 months. 

The funds came in slow.  On December 13, 1950 prior to their last exhibition game in Lethbridge against the Lethbridge Native Sons they had only raised $6,255.95. A general canvass of the businesses would be needed and campaign officials were still confidant. On December 15, the Government of Alberta announced a $500 donation and Ellison Milling donated $140 to bring the total close to $8,000. By December 16, the eve of the Maple Leaf departure, they had only raised $8,181, well short of their goal. However hard work by the campaign committee paid off and after their final exhibition game in Canada against the Melville Millionaires on December 18, the Lethbridge Herald headline stated,  “Objective Near”. Campaign officials were happy to report they were almost at their objective, with only $769 needed to top $10,000.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Then the Announcement Came: Journey to the Championship, Part 5

Then the Announcement Came! Lethbridge Maple Leafs Picked to Represent Canada

All that remained was for the decision to be made as to which team would represent Canada. Then Dr. W. H. Hardy made the announcement that Lethbridge hockey fans were hoping for:  The Lethbridge Maple Leafs were chosen to represent Canada at the World Amateur hockey Championship to be held in Paris, France in March, 1951.  As the Canadian representative the Leafs would be involved in a European Exhibition tour set up by the British Ice Hockey Association’s Bunnny Ahearne. They would also represent Canada at the Winston Churchill Cup after the World Championships.

One requirment remained, thy would have to raise $10,000!

Western Canadian Intermediate Championship: Journey to the Cup, Part 4

Celebration After the Western Canadian Intermediate Championship
Photo Courtesy James Sinclair Collection

Western Canadian Intermediate Championship: Took 8 Games in a Best-of-Seven Series

The city of Lethbridge was host to the Western Canadian Intermediate Championships.  The Lethbridge Maple Leafs were to play a best of  7 series against the Melville Millionaires from Melville, Saskatchewan for the Western Championship. However the games were so close that 8 games were required to decide the winner as the second game ended in a tie that could not be broken.  This was a closely contested series.  After 7 games, they were tied at 3 games a piece and one tie. 
This great series came down to another close contest in the 8th and final game.  The teams had battled to a 2 – 2 tie after 2 periods. Heading into the third period the Maple Leafs would have to rely on late game heroics again to win the championship and continue their journey.   They did it again as in the third period Captain Hec Negrello emerged the hero scoring the game and series winning goal giving the Lethbridge Maple Leafs the Western Canadian Intermediate Championship.

BC-Alberta Play-offs: Journey to the Championships, Part 3

BC-Alberta Play-offs Go to Sudden Death Overtime!

The Lethbridge Maple Leafs had successfully made it to the next leg of their journey.  Winning the Alberta play-offs gave the Leafs a birth in the BC-Alberta play-offs which were held in Kelowna, BC.  The BC champions from Trail played Lethbridge in a best of 5 series.  With Hec Negrello out of the lineup the first 2 games, Trail came away with victories.  Down 0 – 2 in the series, Negrello returned to the line-up giving Lethbridge a needed boost. The Leafs won the next 2 games to even the series at 2.  The fifth and final game was a hard fought contest that could not be decided in regulation time, ending in a 5 – 5 tie.  It all came down to sudden-death overtime!  Lethbridge won in dramatic fashion when Maple Leaf Bill Gibson scored at 7:20 of sudden-death overtime to secure the victory and championship! However, there was controversy regarding the coaching and the game was protested by Trail. The protest did not hold up. The exciting win advanced Lethbridge Maple Leafs to the Western Canadian Intermediate Championship!

The Alberta Intermediate Play-offs: Journey to the Championship, Part 2

The Alberta Intermediate Play-offs Won in Convincing Fashion!

The Maple Leafs started the playoffs strong with a convincing 13-2 win over the High River Flyers. They defeated the Flyers again and then took two games from the Coleman Grands. Coleman battled to a close 5-2 loss in the first game.  These victories put the Leafs into a semi-final series against Canmore. The Maple Leafs won the series against Canmore putting them into the Alberta final against Camrose who were coached by former New York Ranger player, Mac Colville. The Lethbridge Maple Leafs claimed the Alberta crown with a series victory over Camrose. Three Leafs stood out with strong performances: Don McLean, Nap Milroy and Captain Hec Negrello.


Exhibition Games in Preparation: Qualifying Alberta Intermediate Play-offs.

The Lethbridge Maple Leafs set there sites on winning the Alberta Intermediate Play-offs in 1950.  They played 13 exhibition games in preparation for the Alberta Intermediate play-offs.  They won 9 and lost 4. One of their losses was to the Edmonton Mercurys, the 1950 Canadian representative at the World Amateur Hockey Championship.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Cinderella Club of All Time" and References for the Journey to the Championship Series

The Lethbridge Maple Leafs were called the " Cinderella Club of All Time" in the Lethbridge Herald on December 22, 1950, even before they won the gold medal at the 1951 World Championship in Paris, France, becoming World Amateur Hockey Champions.  The Canadian Amateur Hockey Association selected the Lethbridge Maple Leafs to represent Canada after they had won the Western Canadian Championship in 1950. Prior totheir world championship win they completed an extensive European tour.  They posted a very impressive record of 51 wins, 4 ties and 7 loses.  They also won the Sir Winston Churchill Cup Competition.

Stan Obodiac wrote:

The Tour Begins:

This is undoubtedly the Cinderella hockey club of all time.
Imagine,….Here we are representing the Dominion of Canada and on our way to the world hockey championships in Paris.  And just last year the hockey players themselves organized this club chiefly for exercise, and to play in the Lethbridge district! They sharpened their own skates, used their own equipment, and practised at hours that only night watchman new… page 9.

References for the Journey to the Championship Series

Obodia, Stan ( 1952)  No Substitute for Victory: The Story of the Canadain World Hockey Victory, Redeemers Voice Press, Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Canada

Galt Museum and Archives:  Lethbridge Maple Leafs Fonds In particular, UID 20011015000   which includes the following paper:       

Bowie, Gary, Bowie, Chad (1995), The Lethbridge Maple Leafs: World Hockey Champions 1951, prepared for: Canadian Association of Health, Physical    Education, Recreation and Dance Conference. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

James Sinclair Collection

Lethbridge Herald - 1950-1951