Posts Tagged ‘red wings’

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

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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.

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.

Doug Barkley - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys On of the biggest reasons I was always drawn to old cards is that I liked reading contemporary views of players that either I never saw or that I only remembered as being really, really old.  In a sense, this blog offers the same opportunity.  I learn a lot about these guys as I try to figure out what to say.

Doug Barkley is a case in point.  I knew he had played for a little while, since I have the cards that came out during his career.  I knew he was briefly a Wings coach and didn’t have a ton of luck, but really very little else.

It turns out that Barkley is one of those cases of a promising career cut short by injury – and it really makes me wonder why we put up with this sort of thing.  Equipment is better than it once was, but the number of careers that are derailed by completely-preventable accidents remains mind-boggling.  (I still get bent out of shape over the loss of Bryan Berard and the long-term effects that had on a team that was very close to contention.)

Like Gary Bergman in card #8, Barkley was an old rookie.  He’d had cups of coffee in Chicago in the late 1950s, but didn’t register a point and really didn’t score a lot in the minors either.

Starting in 1959-60, Doug began to find his offensive game, putting up seasons of 25 and 37 points before exploding for 25 goals and 74 points in 1961-62 for the Calgary Stampeders of the WHL.  This got the attention of the Detroit Red Wings, who traded for him in June, 1962.

As a Red Wing, Doug played a robust game with offensive upside.   Stan Fischler compared his play to that of Larry Robinson, who would come a decade later.  He put up 27 points as a rookie, narrowly missing out on the Calder to fellow defenseman Kent Douglas.  He would lead all defensemen in 1963-64 with 11 goals before slipping back to 5 in 1964-65.  

His 1965-66 campaign was shaping up to be of potential all-star calibre.  By late January, he’d already matched his previous season’s goal total and was heading for a career high in points.  His season ended abruptly when he was clipped in the eye by an accidental high stick of Doug Mohns.  Mohns was attempting to lift Barkley’s stick, missed, and the blade instead came up and struck Barkley’s face.  Surgery was unable to restore his sight, and Barkley never played another game.

Barkley’s career was done before it really ever began. The loss cost the Red Wings greatly, who certainly could have used a top-end defender in the 1966 Stanley Cup Final, and who would slip into mediocrity in the later 1960s and 70s and could definitely have used the help on the back end.

Barkley stayed with the team and coached the team for three short-lived stints.  He was later known back in Calgary as the long-time radio colour commentator of the Calgary Flames.

H/T again to Joe Pelletier for so much of the backstory.

Doug Barkley - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys back

Gary Bergman - 1964-65 Topps Tall BoysOne of the joys of collecting Tall Boys in hockey is that one of every five cards is a short print.  Unlike today, where short-printing is basically a marketing ploy designed to drive value, this was just an effect of the sheet design.  The set was released in two 55-card series.  The sheets were printed eleven cards across, nine rows deep.  A full series was printed on rows one through five, then the first four rows would repeat as rows six through nine.  The centre row of cards thus was printed at only half the rate of the rest of the set.  I have no idea why they chose to do this, other than it probably had to do with the sheets of card that were either available of would conveniently fit in the cutting machines.

The second-series short-prints have been long-known to collectors and they are annoyingly expensive.  Relatively nondescript RCs can run $250 if they’re short-printed.  The existence of first-series short-prints was long suspected, but only proven a few years back when an uncut sheet of 1964-65 Topps was unveiled at the Toronto Expo.  Experienced collectors could guess at the contents of row number five, but it was cool to see it proven.

Interestingly, the prices of the first-series short-prints saw about a two-month bump, but this never really held because Beckett, for whatever reason, never updated the designations in their guides. While the information on the short-prints is out there, the guides don’t have it.

The first of the first-series shorties (in terms of numerical order) is the Gary Bergman RC.

Like Bill Hay, Gary Bergman was comparatively old to be a rookie.  He was 26 in 1964-65, a veteran of a number of minor-league seasons.  He’d belonged to both Chicago and Montreal since leaving junior but hadn’t had an NHL look with either.  In the summer of 1964, Detroit picked him up in the intra-league draft.

Detroit had been a fourth-place team in ’62-63 and ’63-64 and had struggled to keep the puck out of their own net.  In 1964-65, they finished first overall and cut their goals against by 29, finishing two off the league lead.  Bergman can’t be credited for all of that, but this was the first of nine straight seasons where he’d give the Wings solid two-way play.  He never made an All-Star team or won an award, but he was good enough to be chosen for Team Canada in 1972 and was an absolute rock on defense.  Guys like Park, Savard and Lapointe made the rushes, but Bergman stayed back and did the heavy lifting.  It was Bergman whose shin guard was kicked through by Mikhailov in Game Seven.

Bergman’s character was one of the standouts in the made-for-TV series about the 1972 Summit.  The team was hurt by players grousing about ice time and a number of high-profile players bailed and went home as their respective training camps were getting underway.  Coach Harry Sinden called the team together so everyone could air their grievances.  Bergman’s character quipped, “Well, what about me? I was promised a vacation and I can’t get off the (bleeping) ice!”

Bergman continued his solid play for the Red Wings as the team began to slide in the early 1970s.  He found himself dealt to Minnesota early in 1973-74, required for 1974-75, then deal again to the woeful Kansas City Scouts for his last season.

Gary Bergman’s play in 1972 garnered new attention when the team reached it’s 25th anniversary in 1997 and the games were re-released on VHS and DVD.  Sadly, he died of cancer in December, 2000.  He was 62.

Gary Bergman - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

Topps clearly didn’t love him, either, as Gary wasn’t a goalie.

Pit Martin – Tall Boy #1

Posted: February 11, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,
Pit Martin - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

Come on, Pit, you’re in the NHL. Be happy.

(originally posted April 27, 2011)

Good thing the Jays bats came alive last night, otherwise I’d be looking about as grim as Pit Martin does on this card.  It’s a good thing I didn’t have any money riding on any of last night’s hockey games.  I’d have been 0-fer.

I said a long time back that I wanted to go through the ’64-65 Topps set.  The thing that has been holding me back has been Pit Martin.  I just don’t know what to make of that expression on his face.  There’s no apparent reason for it.  Pit, at the time of this card’s printing, had just completed a pretty credible rookie season for Detroit, who went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.  His offensive totals weren’t huge, just 9 goals and 21 points in 50 games, but when you consider he was a centre playing behind the likes of Alex Delvecchio and Norm Ullman, ice time would have been at a premium.

A little guy with wheels, he’d go on to an 18-year career (well, 17 if you leave out his cup of coffee in 1961) in which he’d play in three Stanley Cup Finals, win the 1970 Masterton, take part in four All-Star games and just be a really sound #2 centre, scoring 30 goals three times and topping out at 90 points in ’72-73.  He’d put in over 1100 games, 324 goals, 800-odd points.  These are very good numbers, the totals of a very solid pro.  Everything about Pit is upside, yet he looks oddly haunted.

Of course, Pit Martin was also famous as the player who went the other way in one of the most lopsided trades in hockey history.  It certainly wasn’t Pit’s fault.  It was Terry Sawchuk’s – and beer’s.

The 1966-67 Chicago Black Hawks (as they were then commonly spelled) were the top team in hockey.  They finished in first, seventeen points better than anyone.  They scored more goals than anyone.  They gave up fewer.  They had the scoring leader, the league MVP, four of the six First-Team All-Stars and one of the Second-Team.  They were the odds-on favourite to win the Stanley Cup.  Unfortunately, in the playoffs they drew an experienced Leafs team that could check anything to death and had Terry Sawchuk in goal.  Terry was lights out and took anything the Hawks could throw at him.  Toronto eliminated Chicago in six games, en route to a Cup win.

After their season ended, a young Black Hawk named Phil Esposito had a couple of pops at a team party and decided to give the GM a few suggestions about how best to handle the team in the off-season – specifically how not to screw everything up.  This went over about as well as one would expect.

Despite showing a fair amount of promise, Phil found himself shipped off less than a month later to the worst team in hockey – the Boston Bruins.  With him came a pair of underperforming kids named Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield.  In return came Pit Martin (traded to Boston in Dec. ’65), a young banger of a defenseman named Gilles Marotte and a minor-league goalie named Jack Norris.

The trade wasn’t really so much a bad one for Chicago as it was spectacular for Boston.  Pit Martin was a very, very solid performer for the next ten years, while Marotte found some good offensive upside in Chicago before being shipped out in a trade to LA.

Espo, on the other hand, combined with a sophomore defenseman named Bobby Orr and immmediately became the dominant centre in hockey.  He became the first player to reach 100 points in a season and set scoring records that were unsurpassed until a kid named Gretzky arrived.  He led the league in scoring 5 times between 1969 and 1974, was the First-Team All-Star every year between 1969 and 1974, second-team in ’68 and ’75.  He would retire as hockey’s second-leading scorer of all-time.

As for the other kids, Ken Hodge immediately became a constant 40-goal threat who hit 50 once.  Stanfield became a dependable 20+ goal scorer and depth guy.  Boston, dead last in 1966-67, became a powerhouse that won championships in 1970 and 1972 and probably would have won more had Orr been blessed with something other than kindling as knees.

None of this was Pit Martin’s fault, but how do you live up to a trade like that?  Maybe that’s why he looks so glum.

He obviously gets over it, because he’s smiling on all the rest of his cards.

Sadly, Pit died in a snowmobiling accident in 2008.

Pit Martin - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys back

Cartoon Pit is having more fun.