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Dave Stubbs

Etched in History

Red Wings rode 'Production Line' to Stanley Cup in 1953-54

Detroit powerhouse featured in series about teams being removed from trophy

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

Every 13 years when the bottom band of the Stanley Cup is filled with names of champions, the top band is removed and retired to be displayed in the vault of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The current top band, featuring NHL championship teams from 1953-54 to 1964-65, is coming off, and four bands below it are sliding up one place to make room for a fresh fifth band at the bottom that will begin with the 2017-18 Washington Capitals. Each day through Oct. 2, NHL.com will look at one of the 12 Cup-winning teams leaving hockey's most coveted trophy.

 

1953-54 DETROIT RED WINGS

Regular-season record: 37-19-14 (88 points), first in NHL
Coach: Tommy Ivan
Captain: Ted Lindsay
Names on the Cup: 28
Players on the Cup: 20
Future Hall of Fame players on the Cup: Alex Delvecchio, Gordie Howe, Red Kelly, Ted Lindsay, Marcel Pronovost, Terry Sawchuk

 

Stanley Cup engraving anomalies: Coach Tommy Ivan (full name Thomas N. Ivan) appears as Thomas Nivan; Alex Delvecchio appears as Alex Belvecchio; Tony Leswick appears as Tony Leswich.

A name on the Cup: Stickboy Walter Crossman appears as W CROSSMAN ST BOY. He was promoted to assistant trainer in 1954-55 and was on the staff for that Red Wings championship, but his name doesn't appear that year.

Captain Ted Lindsay kisses the Stanley Cup, just presented to him by NHL President Clarence Campbell. Looking on is Detroit Red Wings owner Marguerite Norris, the first woman to have her name engraved on the trophy.

 

How they made history

The Red Wings of the first half of the 1950s were a powerhouse, winning the Stanley Cup four times (1950, '52, '54 and '55). They had a balanced attack and were strong on every inch of the ice, led by goaltender Terry Sawchuk, the "Production Line" of Alex Delvecchio, Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, and defenseman Red Kelly.

The 1949-50 Red Wings began the decade by ending the Toronto Maple Leafs' run of three consecutive Stanley Cup championships. Detroit won the Cup two years later, then again in 1954, the first of two straight titles for them. Those 1953-54 and '54-55 teams featured the take-no-prisoners Lindsay, hockey's best left wing of his day and among the finest of all time, as captain.

The 1954 Stanley Cup Final was decided in Game 7 at 4:29 of overtime when Tony Leswick's shot deflected off the glove of Montreal Canadiens defenseman Doug Harvey and over the shoulder of goalie Gerry McNeil, who later wept in the dressing room at the Detroit Olympia.

 Team portraits of Red Wings legends Gordie Howe (left) and Ted Lindsay.

 

A crowd of 15,791, then the largest to attend a game in Detroit, saw the second Game 7 of a Final to go to overtime; the first was in 1950 when the Red Wings defeated the New York Rangers on Pete Babando's goal at 8:31 of the second overtime.

"You little toad!" Lindsay said to Leswick in the dressing room after the Cup had been awarded, twice kissing the Game 7 hero.

"It seemed like an eternity before that red light went on," coach Tommy Ivan said. "When it did, I didn't dare move, thinking anything might happen."

Red Wings owner Marguerite Norris, the 25-year-old daughter of recently deceased owner James Norris, was presented the Stanley Cup on the Olympia ice by NHL President Clarence Campbell, becoming the first woman to have her name engraved on the trophy. She remains the only woman to be presented with the Cup following a victory, doing so again in 1955.

Marty Pavelich won four Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings during the 1950s, valuably cast in a checking role.

 

But the on-ice celebration wasn't without controversy. The Canadiens left the rink without congratulating the winners, and only Montreal's Gaye Stewart, a former Detroit forward who had played with many on the Red Wings roster, later extended his good wishes.

"I guess I should apologize for some of our fellows," Stewart said, dropping by the Red Wings victory party. "They felt like I did and wanted to come out on the ice and shake hands all around, but we were restrained from higher up."

Canadiens coach Dick Irvin said, "If I had shaken hands, I wouldn't have meant it." His sentiments were shared by general manager Frank J. Selke.

Red Wings coach Tommy Ivan (left) with the Prince of Wales Trophy, general manager Jack Adams with the Stanley Cup, and a delighted Gordie Howe (second from left) and Terry Sawchuk.

 

Montreal Gazette columnist Dink Carroll called Montreal's breach of protocol "a matter of regret. … There was no loss of honor in Canadiens' defeat and it would have been easy to be graceful about it."

As Ed Hayes wrote in the Detroit Times, "They left Olympia in record time, apparently anxious to get home for the next hockey game, scheduled for some time in October."

After the 1955 Final, the Canadiens would have another chance to stand on Detroit ice and congratulate the Red Wings on another championship. This time they were good sports.

The rivalry between the Canadiens and the Red Wings from the late 1940s through the 1950s was ferocious, in the standings and beyond. Detroit had the best regular-season record in the NHL for seven straight seasons, from 1948-49 through 1954-55, with Montreal the runner-up five times. The teams were Stanley Cup Final opponents in 1952, '54 and '55, Detroit winning all three times before the Canadiens began their historic streak of five consecutive titles from 1956-60.

 Detroit goalie Terry Sawchuk fends off a Toronto attack.

 

Lindsay told author Dick Irvin Jr., "When you ask me about the games we had with the Canadiens back then, I say there was never hockey like that before and there hasn't been since. There'll never be hockey like that again."

The morning after Detroit's 1954 victory, the Montreal Gazette published a one-column, black-bordered photo of the game's most coveted trophy with flowers above and below it. The illustration was captioned, "REST IN PEACE: THE STANLEY CUP (Mourned by many Montrealers)." After all, the slumping Canadiens now had not won the Cup for one year in a row.

Red Wings defenseman Bob Goldham carries the puck out of harm's way in front of goaltender Terry Sawchuk.

[Read all Etched in History stories: 1954-55 Red Wings | 1955-56 Canadiens | 1956-57 Canadiens |

1957-58 Canadiens | 1958-59 Canadiens | 1959-60 Canadiens | 1960-61 Black Hawks|

1961-62 Maple Leafs | 1962-63 Maple Leafs | 1963-64 Maple Leafs | 1964-65 Canadiens]

 

Stanley Cup Playoffs

Won Semifinal 4-1 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Won Stanley Cup Final 4-3 vs. Montreal Canadiens

Game 1: April 4 at Detroit: Red Wings 3, Canadiens 1
Game 2: April 6 at Detroit: Canadiens 3, Red Wings 1
Game 3: April 8 at Montreal: Red Wings 5, Canadiens 2
Game 4: April 10 at Montreal: Red Wings 2, Canadiens 0
Game 5: April 11 at Detroit: Canadiens 1, Red Wings 0 (OT)
Game 6: April 13 at Montreal: Canadiens 4, Red Wings 1
Game 7: April 16 at Detroit: Red Wings 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)

Stanley Cup-winning goal: Tony Leswick, Game 7, 4:29 of overtime

Red Wings' leading scorer in Final: Alex Delvecchio, (six points; two goals, four assists)

Winning goalie: Terry Sawchuk (4-3, 430 minutes played, 12 goals against, one shutout, 1.67 GAA)

 

Regular-season trophy winners

Art Ross Trophy: Gordie Howe

Norris Trophy: Red Kelly

Lady Byng Trophy: Red Kelly

Tony Leswick, who scored in overtime in Game 7 of the Final, and the original NHL scoresheet from that game.

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