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Apps was more than hockey star

Hall of Famer's experience as pole vaulter in 1936 Olympics among Fischler's favorite NHL fun facts

by Stan Fischler / Special to

Legendary hockey reporter and analyst Stan Fischler will write a weekly scrapbook for this season. Fischler, known as "The Hockey Maven," will share his knowledge, humor and insight with readers each Wednesday.

Today he reveals 10 of his favorite off-the-wall facts about the NHL.


Apps the Olympian

Syl Apps is best known as a Hall of Fame center who was captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs when they won Stanley Cup championships in 1942, 1947 and 1948. Longtime owner Conn Smythe called him the greatest player in Maple Leafs history. But Apps was more than just a hockey player; he was a tremendous athlete who also played football at McMaster University and competed for Canada at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, finishing sixth in the pole vault.


First Swedes to wear "C" in NHL

Lars-Erik Sjoberg and Thomas Steen were the first and second Swedish hockey players to be captain of an NHL team. Each did it with the first version of the Winnipeg Jets (now the Arizona Coyotes). Sjoberg, a defenseman, was captain in 1979-80, the Jets' first season after joining the NHL from the World Hockey Association. Steen, a forward, was a co-captain in 1989-90 and 1990-91.


Nine championships, no Hall call

Claude Provost spent his entire NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens and was one of the best defensive forwards in NHL history, spending his career effectively shutting down high-scoring rivals such as Bobby Hull. Provost was a member of nine Stanley Cup-winning teams, more than anyone else except longtime Montreal teammates Henri Richard (11) and Jean Beliveau (10), but never made it into the Hockey Hall of Fame.



The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation featured the first hockey telecast in Canada when it broadcast the game between the Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs on March 21, 1951. CBC's cameras transmitted images of the game to a control room inside Maple Leaf Gardens, where they were viewed by six people.


Sundin's signal draft

Mats Sundin became the first player born in Europe to be selected No. 1 in the NHL Draft when the Quebec Nordiques chose him with the first pick in 1989. He played four seasons for the Nordiques before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1994. Sundin spent 13 seasons with Toronto and one with the Vancouver Canucks before retiring in 2009 with 1,349 points (564 goals, 785 assists), still the most by any NHL player born in Sweden. He is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Clarke first expansion MVP

Bobby Clarke of the Philadelphia Flyers became the first player from an expansion team to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player. Clarke, Philadelphia's first-line center, won MVP honors in 1975, one year after he was captain when the Flyers became the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup.

Video: Bobby Clarke led Flyers to back-to-back Stanley Cups


Alexei's achievement

Alexei Kovalev became the first player born in the Soviet Union to be chosen in the first round of the NHL Draft when he was selected No. 15 by the New York Rangers in 1991. Kovalev, a forward, was a valuable contributor to New York's 1994 Stanley Cup championship team and went on to finish with 1,029 points (430 goals, 599 assists) in 1,316 NHL games.



How come a "Garden"?

There have actually been four arenas in New York named Madison Square Garden, two of which have housed the Rangers. But how does an arena get the name "Garden" in the first place? Turns out that the open-air arena originally built by P.T. Barnum in the 1870s was leased to Patrick Gilmore, a band leader who used it for events such as flower shows. He called it "Gilmore's Garden." When the Vanderbilt family, which owned the site, took back control in 1879, they renamed it "Madison Square Garden," because the arena was situated across from Madison Square Park. The roofless arena was sold in 1889, and a new arena with the same name was built on the same site and opened in 1890. That Garden was demolished in 1926, and neither of the next two arenas to bear the same name was adjacent to Madison Square Park.


Islanders get first White House invitation

After winning their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup championship 1983, the New York Islanders became the first NHL team to be invited to the White House. President Ronald Reagan, who had played a coach in a hockey movie called "Hell's Kitchen" in 1939, issued the invitation. Reagan also held a luncheon at the White House for players, coaches and NHL officials prior to the 1982 All-Star Game, which was hosted by the Washington Capitals.


War hero remembered

Dudley (Red) Garrett was a promising 20-year-old defenseman who split his first pro season in 1942-43 between the Rangers and Providence of the American Hockey League before enlisting in the Canadian Navy during World War II. He died while working on a destroyer escort off the coast of Newfoundland on Nov. 25, 1944. Beginning with the 1947-48 season, the AHL has honored its rookie of the year with the Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award.

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