Bobby Hull - 1964-65 Topps Tall BoysYears ago (might be 10, might be 20), I was at a destination card shop in downtown Toronto and got into a conversation with the owner.  I don’t remember the full context, but the subject came to Bobby Hull.  The shop owner’s reaction to the name was visceral. The second it was mentioned, his face creased with disgust and he spat, “Hull!  He was a mean drunk and beat the shit out of his wife!”

I remember being taken aback.

It’s not that we didn’t know. We knew. We knew that Bobby and Brett had been estranged and it had to do with Brett’s mother.  There were stories about how Bobby would chase her around the house in a rage.  We knew that there had been a very nasty, very public divorce and that spousal abuse had been a key allegation of it.

Yet even the word “abuse” somehow sanitizes the action.  It doesn’t really capture the reality of Joanne Hull’s swollen face.  Saying he beat the shit out of her – that captures it.

Gare Joyce wrote a book a few years back entitled “The Devil and Bobby Hull.”  It came out of a series of interviews he did with Bobby over a period of time and the portrayal is of a person who is, to put it charitably, not easy.  He comes across a person who can charm a room and be everyone’s best friend, then turn around and stab a family member in the back.  He can be generous to fans and harsh to teammates. He talks of Joanne and expresses resentment about her (that she still uses his name is a huge sticking point for him) but I can’t recall seeing anything like remorse.

I don’t really know why we value sports the way that we do.  It’s nothing new. This sort of thing goes back as far as the Greeks. We want heroes, we find them in sports and sports is only too happy to market them right back to us. This was certainly true of Hull. Handsome, young, immensely talented and telegenic, he was hockey’s Mickey Mantle. In a game that could be brutish, Hull was speed and skill and grace combined with raw power in the form of an unmatchable shot. Joining a team that had been a train wreck for a decade, he was a fresh start and the face of the future.

The relationship between players and media was mutually beneficial. If the players were heroes, the papers would sell. If the papers sold, the interest was raised and everyone got to make money. It even shows up in the cards. For most of Topps’ run as a producer of hockey cards up to this point, Bobby Hull was their number one draw.  On every one of his cards from 1958 through 1963, his card is the best-looking card in the set.  In every picture, he’s a bronzed god.  This card always stikes me as interesting because it’s the first time he’s ever shown with what could arguably be called a lousy picture.  It’s also the first set where Topps had the rights to the entire NHL.  I don’t know whether it means anything, but it’s interesting.

Sometimes the people we lionize are legitimately heroes. Sometimes they’re just very good, solid people. Sometimes they just happen to be really, really good at a sport we happen to like but lack any other quality we find desirable. Sometimes they’re great actors and we take that as the reality, finding out years later about drug-based rapes and assaults or broken ribs from what the assaulter claims was just “kinky” sex. Then we’re shocked and ask “Why didn’t we know about this?” when odds are that we should have.

Any tell-all sports book you read will depict women as things – things that were won, things that were earned or came to you as tribute for being awesome. It’s a sickness that infects not just sports and celebrity – it’s everywhere. It infects our kids, whether they’re playing junior hockey in small-town Ontario or high-school football in the States.  We punish the girls who speak out about it.  It’s insane.

Bobby Hull is arguably the best left wing of all time and quite likely the most significant player of the past 50 years.  Gretzky allowed the sunbelt strategy to exist, but Hull allowed an entire league to come into being and survive.  Four teams directly owe their existence to his decision to jump to the WHA and another four were caused indirectly as the NHL sought to capture new markets before the WHA got there.  He shattered the system by which teams owned the rights of players and ushered in the free agent market we see today.

These things are all out there.

So are the pictures of Joanne’s face.

They’re the ones I’m going to remember longer.

Bobby Hull - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys back

The kid brother, Dennis Hull, played 55 games for Chicago in 1964-65 and got his Topps RC in 1965-66.

Dean Prentice - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

Whoever was responsible for cropping out the background of Dean Prentice’s photo got a little overzealous and left a rather large hole under his right arm, presumably where there was a shadow.  It takes a minute to notice at first, but now it’s the first thing I see when I look at this card.

Dean Prentice is one of a number of players in this set who appear with teams they are not normally associated with.  Dean, to my mind, is a Ranger first and foremost.  He broke in with them in 1952 and was a regular until being traded to the Bruins in mid ’62-63.

Prentice was a very good winger who spent most of his career on weak teams and is thus less well-known than he should be.  The Rangers scuffled through most of the fifties, the Bruins were horrid in the early sixties, there was a brief moment with a decent Wings squad in mid-decade and then it was expansion teams for the rest of his career.  Through it all, Prentice was a reliable twenty-plus goal-scorer (ten different seasons) who played 22 NHL seasons and almost 1400 games.  He was reputed as a good two-way player and spent most of his Ranger days as the defensive conscience of the top line.  He peaked at 32 goals in 1959-60 and was a Second-Team All-Star.

His teams, unfortunately, only made the playoffs eight times and got out of the first round just twice.  He only appeared in 54 playoff games, scoring 13 goals and 17 assists.

Dean’s 1964-65 season (the season this card was released) ended early and dramatically.  He was off to a good start with 13 goals in his first 30 games, giving him a decent shot at his second 30-goal season.  Game 31 was in Chicago on Dec. 27.

Early in the second period, Prentice blocked a Stan Mikita shot at his own blue line and took off on a breakaway.  The rest unfolded as follows:

 While speeding toward the goal Prentice was tripped from behind by Mikita and crashed into the end boards. Referee Frank Udvari ruled that Mikita tripped the Bruin winger on a clear breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. However, Prentice was sprawled on the ice, unconscious. Through the fog of pain and only slightly revived as a result of his trainer’s cracking an ammonia sniffer under his nose, Prentice heard the taunts of his fierce Blackhawk opponent, Bobby Hull: “Come on Dean, you are not going to let one of your dummy teammates take the penalty shot for you are you? ”

The piercing words hit a nerve. The wounded Bruin pushed aside the pain, took up the challenge, jumped to his feet, grabbed the puck at centre ice, sped in on the goal, pulled a nifty move and tucked the puck behind Blackhawk goalie, Denis DeJordy.  Back on the bench…the unexpected. As the penalty shot champion tried to answer the call for his next shift he was frozen to the bench; his back and legs wouldn’t budge. Dean was carried off on a stretcher and x-rays later revealed that he had a broken back. The tenacious hockey legend had pulled off an unparalleled feat in NHL history in scoring with a broken back. His reward: a goal and a body cast.

(story quoted from

The goal tied the game at two, but with Prentice out, the Bruins would give up the next four and lose 6-2.  Prentice would see no more action until the following season.  He wouldn’t miss significant time again.

Dean Prentice retired in 1973-74, never having played a game in the minor leagues.  He is also my uncle’s cousin, though there was a big age gap and I don’t know how well they knew each other, if at all.

Dean Prentice - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys back

Eric Prentice played 5 games with the Leafs in 1943-44.

Orland Kurtenbach - 1964-65 Topps Tall BoysNo matter how many teams there are in the league at a given moment, there will always be players who seem to get buried – guys who could score at every level, but get stuck behind other players or get slotted into roles that never really let them develop.  If they never get that chance to shine, they get labeled as yet another guy who never panned out.  If that chance does appear, though, it can be pretty special.

Marty St. Louis might be the most famous current example of this.  A waiver-wire pickup by Tampa years ago, the smallish bit-player from the Flames became one of the best scorers of our era and became the oldest Art Ross winner a year ago at age 37.  In this set, Ab McDonald fits that description and Phil Goyette will, as well.  A third player who enjoyed a brief period in the sun late in his career when finally given an offensive role was Orland Kurtenbach.

Orland was a big guy with the reputation of being one of the best fighters in the game.  He was never near the league penalty-minute leaders, so presumably the rep was enough to ensure he didn’t have to do it all that often.  I do know he had some famous battles with Terry Harper.

A Saskatchewan kid, Orland played his junior in the SJHL and turned pro with the Vancouver Canucks of the WHL in 1957-58.  In three seasons with them, he put up solid numbers and was generally near a point-per-game player.  (One year with the AHL’s Buffalo Bisons didn’t go so well.)  It was enough to get him a 10-game call-up from the Rangers in 1960-61, where as a 24-year-old rookie he put up six assists in ten games.

Boston acquired him in the 1961 Intra-League draft, though he’d spend most of the next two seasons in the minors.  An 87-point season with the WHL’s San Francisco Seals in 1962-63 punched his ticket back to the NHL, where he’d stay for the balance of his career.

In the NHL, though, Orland always was stuck behind other centres.  His role seemed to be fixed as third-line centre and tough guy.  Through several seasons in Boston, one in Toronto and a handful with the Rangers, this was always the case.  It wasn’t that he played badly – he put up double digits in goals three times and twenty-plus assists four times between 1963-64 and 1967-68 and was always a contributor – it was just a limited role.

A serious back injury limited him to just two games in 1968-69 and required spinal fusion to correct.  He’d only play sparingly in 1969-70 and posted the worst offensive totals of his career.  Pushing 34 years of age and apparently in decline, he was exposed in the 1970 expansion draft and was chosen by the Vancouver Canucks.

Orland was named the Canucks’ first captain and the return to the site of his WHL success was a tonic for him.  The chance to finally play a scoring role and see real power-play time didn’t hurt, either.  For the first time in his NHL career, he scored better than a point per game, scoing 20 goals and 53 points in 52 games.  He followed this with his second 20-goal effort in 1971-72, scoring 61 points in 78 games.  Age and injury caught him after that, and after two shortened seasons, he’d call it a career after 1973-74.  He would serve a season and a half as head coach of the Canucks, from mid-1976-77 through 1977-78.

Orland Kurtenbach - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys back

I always love the cards that describe the players’ off-season jobs.

Charlie Hodge - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

There are a lot of things that have changed about hockey in the past 50-odd years and while many are inarguably for the better, one thing that I do miss is the small goaltender.  Modern goaltenders are incredibly efficient and there is a certain technical beauty to the way they play.  Older, smaller goalies were just a lot more fun.  In order to cover the same amount of net, they had to play a lot further out and this demanded a lot more movement and action.  It was really exciting to see a great save and there were lots of them.  I went into this in more depth a number of years ago.  I don’t think it’s any less true today.

Now, even by the old standards, Charlie Hodge was a small goalie.  At 5’6″ and 150 pounds, he’s about 7-8 inches shorter and 50-60 pounds lighter than a modern goaltender and he’s over a foot shorter than Tampa’s Ben Bishop.  I never got to see him play, but he must have been a hoot.  To play as long as he did and as well as he did, he had to have been agile, lightning-quick and aggressive.  Any short goalie who didn’t play that way usually added the adjective “former” to their description.

Charlie spent most of the 1950s as the #2 goalie in the Habs system.  Given that the starter was Jacques Plante and most teams tended to run their goalies for full 70-game seasons, this meant that he spent all his time in the minors save for the occasional injury to Plante.  When he did get to play – 14 games in 1954-55, 12 in 1957-58, 30 in 1960-61, he always gave a good account of himself.  His 2.47 GAA in 1960-61 actually led the NHL.  Inevitably, though, Plante would return and Hodge would go back to the AHL.

In 1962-63, Plante was injured and missed 14 games and rather than bring up Hodge , the Habs went with youngsters Cesare Maniago and Ernie Wakely.  For Charlie, the writing must have seemed to be on the wall.

Funny things happen, though.

After the ’62-63 season ended, Plante was traded to the Rangers in a swap of starting goaltenders (amongst a bunch of other players).  Gump Worsley came over in the deal and was expected to be the 1963-64 starter, but he was injured early on.  The call went out for Hodge, now 30, to fill in.

He was brilliant.

He led the league with 8 shutouts, posted a 2.26 GAA, won the Vezina Trophy (goalie for team with fewest goals against) and was voted to the second All-Star team.  It was Worsley who would have to fight his way back into the lineup.

As the 1960s progressed, the goalie tandem became more common and Hodge began to split time with the Gumper.  They combined to win the 1965-66 Vezina along with Stanley Cups in 1965 and 1966.  The arrival of expansion and the emergence of a young Rogie Vachon (also a rather short netminder) finally pushed Hodge out the door.  He became an Oakland Seal for three seasons and then an original Vancouver Canuck in 1970-71.  He retired following a contract dispute prior to the start of the 1971-72 season.


Charlie Hodge - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

Charlie wasn’t really that wide.

Ab McDonald - 1964-65 Topps Tall BoysLooking at the smile on Ab McDonald’s face, it’s hard not to like him. It’s also hard not to feel for him a bit because 1964-65 was going to prove to be a lousy season and the next two were arguably worse.  Better things were to come, but they would take some time.

Ab was a new Bruin.  He’d spent the last four seasons holding down the left wing on the extremely-potent Pony Line in Chicago.  With Stan Mikita at centre and Kenny Wharram on the right, ab brought solid two-way play and scored as many as 61 points.  Chicago won a Stanley Cup during his first season there (1960-61) and were just coming off a .600 season and second-place finish.  That said, they had exited the playoffs in the first round two years running and some changes were afoot.

Boston, on the other hand, had been last four seasons in a row and was about to make it five.  They couldn’t score and were worse at defending. Ab was seen as a guy who could help with both.  He and Reggie Fleming arrived in Boston in exchange for long-time Bruin defender Doug Mohns.

Mohns, upon arrival in Chicago, switched from defense to Left Wing, took McDonald’s place on the Pony Line and looked like he’d been a forward all his life.  Ab McDonald’s 1964-65 Boston number, conversely, look like he spent the spent the season on the blue line.  He fell from 46 points to 18 and from 14 goals (which itself was a bit low for a guy like Ab) to just 9.

Usually, when a forward’s production falls off that badly, it points to either an injury or a significant change in usage (meaning ice time, linemates, assignments or a combination of all of the above).  Looking at Boston’s lineup, they had Johnny Bucyk, Reggie Fleming (who had a really good ’64-65) and Dean Prentice (who missed half the season) on the left side.  Ab, based on his numbers, probably saw third-line duty at best.  He basically lost his job to Fleming.

McDonald had actually been in this kind of spot early in his career.  He broke in with the Habs in 1958 and was expected to fill the shoes of Bert Olmstead, the great winger who had been moved to Toronto.  It was a tall order for a 22-year-old and it didn’t work out that well.  He played mainly a checking role and was more than happy to go to Chicago in 1960.  He got a new role and new linemates and blossomed.

1965-66 seemed to offer that same kind of opportunity. Ab was sent to Detroit and in the early going, his touch seemed to return.  A thigh injury then hampered him and he spent part of the season in the minors trying to work through it.  He’d spend most of 1966-67 there, as well.

Like so many others, expansion saved what might have been the balance of his career being spent outside the NHL.  Ab was claimed by the new team in Pittsburgh.  He’d score 22 goals for them, then move on to St. Louis and score 21 and then 25.  After an injury-shortened 1970-71 and an up-and-down 1971-72 (spent with Detroit), Ab would become a charter member of the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets, retiring for good after the 1973-74 season.

Between the NHL and WHA, Ab McDonald scored 211 goals and 500 points in 909 games.  He won three Stanley Cups – two in Montreal and one in Chicago.

Ab McDonald - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys back

Norm Ullman - 1964-65 Topps Tall BoysNorm Ullman was about to have the best season of his career.

He’d finish second overall in both goals (42) and points (83), place second in voting for the Hart Trophy (MVP) and be named to the First All-Star team at centre.  For a guy whose card notes him as “long regarded as one of the most underrated players in the NHL, ” it was quite the coming-out party.

I think that centre might be the hardest position at which to gain recognition.  There are always so many strong ones in the league that very, very good players can spend their entire careers in the shadows.  I see Ullman as somewhat akin to a Dale Hawerchuk, who would have been a perennial All-Star had he not been playing at the same time as guys like Gretzky and Lemieux.  The centres of the sixties included the likes of Jean Beliveau, Stan Mikita, Henri Richard, Alex Delvecchio, Dave Keon.  Phil Esposito would appear in 1964-65 and own the latter part of the decade.  It’s rather hard to get noticed amongst that crowd, particularly when your game is about steady excellence rather than explosive play.  When I see Ullman playing in an old game, he’s smooth, polished, subtle.  He doesn’t always jump out unless you’re paying attention.

Norm broke in with the Wings in 1955.  In his second season, following an injury to Alex Delvecchio, he found himself centering a line with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay.  He responded with 52 points and was eighth overall in assists.  When Lindsay was sent to Chicago in 1957 for daring to start a player’s association, Norm, then just 21, was promoted to a full-time job as number-one centre as Delvecchio shifted to the left wing.  It was heady times for a young kid and he played well.

Norm would become a mainstay on the Wings.  He was durable and a lock for 20-30 goals every season.  (He only missed 20 once between 1957-58 and 1973-74.) He could be moved around from line to line and it didn’t seem to impact his performance.  He was top-ten in scoring eight different times.

Late in 1967-68, the Wings were playing badly and in need of a shake-up and the Leafs, who had been in first place in January, were in free-fall.  A major shake-up was in order as Toronto tried to save its season and Detroit tried to retool.  Norm, Paul Henderson, Floyd Smith and Doug Barrie went to Toronto in exchange for Frank Mahovlich, Carl Brewer, Pete Stemkowski and a young kid named Garry Unger.   Ullman had 17 points in 13 games and the Leafs won most of them, but it was too little, too late.

As a Leaf, Norm carried on just as always.  Head coach Punch Imlach called him the most talented centre he’d ever had.  He maintained about a point-per-game clip until the middle of 1973-74, when a young Darryl Sittler rose to prominence and took the lion’s share of the ice time.  After a disappointing 1974-75, he moved to the WHA and the Edmonton Oilers.  It was a natural fit for Norm, a native Albertan who had played both junior and minor pro in Edmonton.  He put in two more solid years before calling it a day at age 41.

By the time he left the NHL, Norm was the fourth-highest scorer in NHL history, trailing only Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio and Stan Mikita.  Part of this comes from the fact that he broke in just after the extension of the schedule to 70 games and the dead-puck era of the early 1950s, but even it is just fourth amongst his peers, it was still an accomplishment of note. ( Of the top ten all-time scorers in 1974-75, only Howe broke in before 1950. The growth of the schedule from 48 games in the 1930s and 40s to 70 games basically eliminated all the early players from the record books.)

In the last number of years, a more advanced form of statistical analysis has come to hockey, aided by an explosion in the amount and variety of data available for analysis.  I’d love to have that sort of data available for this era.  The performance of the greats shows up in the awards they won (for the most part), but there are a whole host of players just a tiny step behind that are basically lost.  There’s no real way to measure the difference between an Ullman and a Beliveau or any ot the other great centres in history, and that’s a shame.

Norm Ullman - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys back

Camille Henry - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

Camille Henry’s playing weight was 145 pounds.  It is claimed on the card that this would sometimes range all the way up to 150, but that may have been the difference between being in and out of skates.  It’s not clear.  At one weigh-in in 1965 he was 138, but asked the team not to post it for fear of embarrassment.

Typically, when a player is really small, his survival (perhaps literally) in professional hockey is dependent on him being really, really fast.  Henry’s nickname, “Camille the Eel” would suggest as much.  The odd thing is that he wasn’t.  He didn’t skate particularly well at all.  His nickname came from the same sort of ability that Wayne Gretzky had – the ability to find an open space in the scoring areas and never be hit directly while doing so.  Henry was elusive with great hands and this enabled a pro career that spanned 1953-70.

Born in Quebec City, Camille burst onto the public stage in 1953-54 with the Rangers.  He scored 24 goals as a 21-year-old, which doesn’t sound like a ton, but in the dead-puck era of the early 1950s, this was good enough for sixth overall.  He won the Calder over Montreal’s prize rookie, Jean Beliveau.  (In fairness, Beliveau only played 44 games and wins this in a walk if he played a full season – just based on points per game.)

Someone with a lot of time on their hands determined (since the NHL didn’t track this officially yet) that 20 of those 24 goals came on the power play.  Certainly, for someone lacking speed and size, that was the best time to find open ice.

The Calder win didn’t seem to settle the minds of the Rangers’ brass on Henry and they stuck him in the AHL for most of the couple of seasons. His scoring ability eventually won out, though, and starting with the second half of 1956-57, he became one of the Rangers’ most effective scorers for most of a decade.  If he dressed for at least 50 games, Henry was a lock for 20 goals.  He bettered 25 goals five times, twice scoring 30-plus.  He peaked at 37 in 1963.  He was a top-ten goal scorer six times in his career and was named to the Second All-Star team in 1958, the same year he won the Lady Byng for gentlemanly play.  He probably deserved a few more of those trophies as only once in his career did he top 10 penalty minutes in a season.

The Rangers disposed of most of their veterans in the mid-1960s and retooled.  This saw Henry shipped to Chicago in February, 1965.  Chicago was much more heavily-stacked up front than New York and Henry’s numbers dipped.  He spent more time in the minors.  When expansion came in 1967-68, a lot of veterans made NHL reappearances.  Henry surfaced again in New York, then spent his remaining NHL days in St. Louis.  He finished with 279 goals and 528 points in 727 games – all good totals for the era.

He coached briefly, but struggled with health issues (diabetes) which tied into financial issues.  He was beneficiary of a nice settllement from the NHL when the Eagleson/pension suit finally reached its end, but didn’t really get to enjoy it for long.  He died of complications from diabetes in 1997 at age 64.
Camille Henry - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys back

Junior Langlois - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

An injury to Hab defenseman Dollard St. Laurent gave Al Langlois of the Rochester Americans a break he didn’t expect – a playoff run with the mighty Montreal Canadiens.  Al would play seven of Montreal’s ten playoff games in the spring of 1958 and get a Stanley Cup ring for his trouble.

St. Laurent would be moved to Chicago that summer, opening up a full-time job for Al as a regular partner of Doug Harvey – one of the top five defensemen ever to play the game (not a bad gig, that).  He’d win another Cup in each of the two following seasons as Montreal finished off their run of five straight in 1960.

After failing to win another Cup in 1961, Doug Harvey was sent to the New York Rangers to become a player-coach- rather a shocking move.  I don’t know whether it was more shocking to Langlois that his partner was now a Ranger, or that in a separate deal the same day, he would become a Ranger as well.

Picking up the two of them worked well for the Rangers, who improved by 10 points and made the playoffs for the first time in four years.  Harvey won another Norris and was second in Hart voting. Al put up 7 goals and 18 assists, both of which were high-water marks for his NHL career.

The next season didn’t go as well.  Harvey decided he didn’t want to coach anymore and the team struggled under first Muzz Patrick and then Red Sullivan.  The team slumped to just 56 points and out of the playoffs.  The year following, 1963-64, Harvey was demoted to the minors after just 14 games and Al was shipped to Detroit in February.  This was a good move for Al, as the Wings went to the Stanley Cup Final, losing in seven games to Toronto.

1964-65 was Al’s only full season in Detroit.  He would put up one goal and 12 assists, break 100 PM for the first time in his career.  After the season was over, Al was part of the May, 1965 trade with the Bruins. As such, he joins the six-degrees-of-separation game, being traded with Parker MacDonald (card #11) for Bob McCord (card#10).

The year in Boston was not that eventful, though Al became the answer to a trivia question as the last player to wear #4 prior to the arrival of a certain player named Orr.

Langlois would play the 1966-67 season with the Los Angeles Blades of the WHL, then retire to a career in real estate, eventually moving to Beverley Hills as a stock broker.  From a call-up to a Stanley Cup champ to a pairing with Doug Harvey to a career in California, I’m thinking Al Langlois doesn’t have a lot of complaints with how things worked out.

As always, Joe Pelletier did a great interview and write up.

Junior Langlois - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

This is another cartoon that suggests “goon” until one reads the caption.

Glenn Hall - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

I’ve had this card for years and this is the first time I’ve ever noticed that Glenn Hall is holding a mask in his left hand.  This makes this card the first mainline card to picture a goalie together with his mask.  The first card to actually show a goalie wearing said mask wouldn’t appear until 1971-72 when the Ken Dryden RC used a cropped game-action shot for his card.  Jacques Plante appears on a Bee Hive photo wearing a mask, but not on a card.  There’s probably a York Peanut Butter card from 1968-69 with a goalie in mask, and maybe a Toronto Star photo from 1965, but this is the oldest hockey card.

What’s particularly odd about it is that from what I can gather (and find online), Hall didn’t actually wear a mask in 1964.  The first time he wore one in a game, he was a St. Louis Blue and it was 1968.  So what is it doing here?  There were netminders who would have a mask for practice (why take stitches when it wasn’t necessary) and ditch it for games. Presumably this is his practice mask and it may tell us something about how or when the photo was taken.

by 1964, the goalie mask was no longer a sign of weakness.  Jacques Plante’s intestinal fortitude had been questioned when he began wearing his mask in games back in 1959, but the sheer number of games he won silenced his critics.  Don Simmons adopted one shortly thereafter and by this time, Terry Sawchuk wore one as well.  Momentum was building and the only odd thing was how long the full conversion took.  Andy Brown was still going bare-faced in 1974.

I don’t know when exactly Glenn Hall picked up the name “Mr. Goalie,” but he was certainly known that way by the time he retired.  He was such a good prospect for Detroit that he was able to push Terry Sawchuk out of the way, but just two years later he took the fall (rather unfairly, I think) for an early Red Wings playoff exit and was sent off to Chicago, with whom he’d win a Stanley Cup in 1961.  Coming off the 1963-64 season, he was the reigning First-Team All-Star goaltender.  His seven First Team selections are still an NHL record for goalies.

1964-65 was the only season between 1955-56 and 1965-66 that Hall wouldn’t play at least 64 games.  His iron-man streak of 502 straight games in goal (all maskless) will stand for an extremely long time.

By 1966-67, Glenn Hall was 35 and Chicago had Denis DeJordy waiting to take over.  Glenn was left unprotected in the Expansion Draft and became a Blue.  He gave them far and away the best netminding of any expansion team (particularly playing alongside Jacques Plante starting in 1968) and St. Louis represented the West in each Stanley Cup Final between 1967 and 1970.  It’s Hall in net for the famous Bobby Orr flying goal of 1970.  He won the 1968 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP despite the Blues getting swept in the Final by Montreal.

Glenn Hall retired in 1971 but remained connected to the game, most recently as a goalie coach and consultant for the Calgary Flames.

Glenn Hall - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys back

Parker MacDonald - 1964-65 Topps Tall BoysWith the old six-team league being as small as it was, it gets real easy to play “six degrees of separation” with the players of the era.  Within approximately a year of the release of this card, Parker MacDonald would be traded twice – both times for players already featured in the first ten cards of this set.

Parker MacDonald (who, just for the record, is the only player ever to play in the NHL with the given name Parker) was born on Cape Breton Island (Sydney) in 1933.  That must have been Leaf terriitory during the post-war years, since Maritime-born players were rare, but the ones who did appear typically showed up in Toronto.  Parker was no different, coming to Toronto to play for the Marlies in 1950 and making his first NHL appearance with the Leafs in 1952-53.

A good scorer in junior and in the minors, Parker had a tough time filling the net at the NHL level.  Two things happened to change this for him.  One was getting an opportunity to play on the left side of a line that just happened to include Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio.  The other was the discovery and subsequent removal of a broken piece of drill bit from his shoulder – the remnant of a much earlier surgery that surprisingly hadn’t been all that successful.

All factors combined to allow Parker to become an overnight sensation at 29 after three full NHL seasons and parts of four others.  Never having scored more than 14 goals in an NHL season (and that was the only time he’d hit for double digits), he exploded for 33 – fifth overall in the NHL and only five off the pace set by linemate Howe.

Thirty-three goals proved to be a high-water mark as he slipped to 21 the following year and 13 the year after that.  He did manage 46 points both seasons, which was a perfectly-acceptable total for the era.  His 33 assists in 1964-65 would be a career high and good for tenth overall.

1965, as mentioned above, would see him traded twice.  He was sent to Boston in May as part of a seven-player deal.  Bob McCord (card #10) was one of the players coming back the other way.  In December, Detroit brought him back again, this time in a one-for-one deal involving Pit Martin (card #1).

Now safely into his 30s, MacDonald’s role was reduced and his stats went with them.  He spent most of 1966-67 in the minors before getting one last full season with the expansion North Stars in 1967-68.  He scored 19 goals and 42 points.  After one last season split between Minnesota and their farm club in Memphis.

He’d move into coaching in 1969 and twice had NHL head-coaching stints – 61 games with the North Stars in 1973-74 and another 42 with the Kings in 1981-82.  In both cases. he resigned, finding the positions too stressful.  He had great success with the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks.

Parker MadDonald - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys back

Moving from a bit role to left wing on a line with Howe and Delvecchio does wonders for one’s offense.