Skip to Main Content
All-Star

First NHL All-Star Game was a different affair, Fischler says

Longtime hockey analyst remembers highlights of game between Maple Leafs, top stars from around League

by Stan Fischler / Special to NHL.com

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

Today, he remembers the first NHL All-Star game. (Photos courtesy Hockey Hall of Fame)

Those of us who were around for the first NHL All-Star Game, in Toronto on Oct. 13, 1947, treated it as if this was the seventh game of a Stanley Cup Final.

Since it was the first of its kind and pitted the defending champion Toronto Maple Leafs against the All-Stars, there was an extra-special aura about the event, plus it was being played on Thanksgiving Day in Canada.

 

[RELATED: Full NHL All-Star Game coverage]

 

"HOCKEY'S GREATEST SHOW," blared a huge ad in the Globe and Mail newspaper.

There were storylines galore, starting with the fact that no player from the Cup champion Maple Leafs had been voted to the First All-Star team.

"Coach Hap Day will attempt to prove that his fellow strategists made a colossal error in passing up his boys on the all-star selects last Spring," wrote Jim Vipond in the Globe and Mail.

Globe and Mail columnist Jim Coleman wrote: "The Maple Leafs will be skating against a team which probably is the best aggregation of players ever assembled on one ice surface."

Who could argue with that assessment?

Dick Irvin, who was coaching the All-Stars, had two Hall of Fame goaltenders in the Montreal Canadiens' Bill Durnan and the Boston Bruins' Frank Brimsek.

Irvin, coach of the Canadiens, had four defensemen, Butch Bouchard and Ken Reardon from Montreal, and Jack Stewart and Bill Quackenbush of the Detroit Red Wings.

The forwards were the Canadiens' Maurice Richard, the Red Wings' Ted Lindsay, all three members of the Boston Bruins' Kraut Line, Milt Schmidt, Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart, and all three players from the Chicago Blackhawks' Pony Line, Max Bentley, Doug Bentley and Bill Mosienko. Also on the roster were the New York Rangers' Edgar Laprade, Grant Warwick and Tony Leswick.

There was much debate over who would win, with Bruins general manager Art Ross saying, "Sorry for (Maple Leafs GM Conn) Smythe. The All-Star team is unbeatable."

Smythe replied, "Ross had better bring a supply of aspirins with him. We'll shove the whole Leaf team down his throat."

Rangers GM Frank Boucher was more objective: "If an all-star team played several games together I have not the slightest doubt they could beat all comers easily. But since this is not so I shouldn't be surprised if Toronto defeated the All-Stars."

The pregame ceremonies had an aura of pomp and circumstance with Ontario Premier George Drew handling the honorary face-off, and referee King Clancy and linesmen Jim Primeau and Eddie Mepham wearing midnight blue uniforms specially ordered for the game. But once the puck was dropped no player was standing on any ceremonies.

"The clash was 'exhibition' in name only as the opposing players ripped into each other with Stanley Cup gusto to the noisy delight of 14,318 fans," Vipond wrote in the Globe and Mail.

The Maple Leafs took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Harry Watson at 12:29 of the first period, and then Bill Ezinicki scored 1:03 into the second to make it 2-0.

Slowly the All-Stars began to gel, and Max Bentley scored at 4:39 of the second to make it 2-1.

Syl Apps scored for the Maple Leafs to make it 3-1 at 5:01 of the second, but Warwick got the All-Stars back within a goal at 3-2 at 9:25 of the second.

Richard tied it 3-3 28 seconds into the third period, and then set up Doug Bentley's go-ahead goal at 1:27. 

When the clock ran out, the All-Stars skated away with a 4-3 victory.

The event had a gross gate of $25,842, of which $17,228 was earmarked for the new players' pension fund and $8,614 to the Toronto Community Chest.

The only blemish was the broken left ankle sustained by Mosienko during the second period, an injury that sidelined him for a month. 

"He was one of our key men," Blackhawks forward Johnny Gottselig said. "And a potential 60-point man."

To replace Mosienko, the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs engineered what at the time was the biggest trade in hockey history. On Nov. 2, 1947, Toronto acquired Max Bentley and forward Cy Thomas, while Chicago received forwards Gus Bodnar, Gaye Stewart and Bud Poile, plus defensemen Bob Goldham and Ernie Dickens.

With Bentley leading them, the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cups three times (1948, 1949, 1951) in the next four seasons.

Despite the injury to Mosienko, the all-star game became an annual affair, with Chicago chosen to host the second game. Blackhawks officials wanted it cancelled because of the Mosienko injury but NHL President Clarence Campbell insisted that it be played, and it was.

Once again the All-Stars beat the Cup champion Maple Leafs, this time 3-1 at Chicago Stadium, on Nov. 3, 1948.

While the game has gone through several changes, when the players skate out for the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game at SAP Center in San Jose on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), it will be the renewal of a wonderful staple of the hockey season.

View More

The NHL has updated its Privacy Policy effective January 16, 2020. We encourage you to review it carefully.

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.