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NHL history replete with zany episodes

Resch, Conacher were involved in some of Fischler's most memorable incidents

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 shares three of the zanier incidents he's run across during his long career covering the NHL.

"People Are Funny," hosted by Art Linkletter, was a popular TV show in the 1940s and 1950s. But I always wanted to offer Linkletter an NHL version of his program called "Hockey People Are Funnier."

These would be three of my choices for oddball NHL episodes:


Man over Manhattan

Charlie Conacher and Baldy Cotton were best friends, road roommates and occasional linemates on the Toronto Maple Leafs' Stanley Cup-winning team in 1932.

Conacher, nicknamed "The Big Bomber," went on to earn induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame and was named to the 100 Greatest NHL Players largely because of his booming shot and its accuracy. Cotton was more of a plugger than a scorer during most of his 12 NHL seasons.

During a game at Maple Leaf Gardens, Cotton skated alongside Conacher and, as usual, was hopeful of scoring his odd goal. He found himself in excellent scoring position several times and shouted to Conacher to get him the puck, but found himself waiting in vain. On that night, Conacher invariably shot instead of passing, and that set Cotton's blood boiling.

Baldy fumed during the game, after the game and on the train ride to New York, where the Maple Leafs were scheduled to play the Rangers. Cotton still was whining about Conacher being a puck hog when they unpacked in their room at the Hotel Lincoln on Eighth Avenue, a few blocks away from Madison Square Garden.

After Cotton swore that he wasn't going to pass the puck "to anyone in scoring position as long as I'm with the Leafs," Conacher finally exploded -- and what followed was one of the most unusual punishments a hockey player ever inflicted on a teammate. Ed Fitkin, who had been a publicist for the Maple Leafs, recorded it for posterity in his 1951 book, "The Gashouse Gang of Hockey."

"Charlie suddenly grabbed Cotton in one of his unbreakable bear hugs and hauled him toward the hotel window," Fitkin wrote. "Before Hal knew it he was hanging out the window, held by his ankles, seven stories above the street.

"Cotton stayed out the window until he admitted that Conacher was right [in not passing the puck]; then the laughing Charlie hauled him in and dumped him on the floor."


A kiss to remember

The Pittsburgh Penguins entered Game 6 of the 1975 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals leading the New York Islanders 3-2 in the best-of-7 series. The Penguins had won the first three games before losing the next two, but a win at Nassau Coliseum would move them into the Semifinals against their in-state rivals, the defending Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers.

It looked like the Penguins were going to take the lead in the first period when Pittsburgh forward Ron Schock took a shot that beat Islanders rookie goalie Glenn Resch -- but instead of nestling in the back of the net, Schock's shot clanged off the left post and skidded across the crease. Resch smothered the puck while sitting on the ice.

When he finally regained his feet, Resch received a standing ovation from the Coliseum crowd. Reacting to the cheers and pleased that the post had kept the puck out of the net, he leaned forward and gave the iron a great big kiss.

This was quite a trick, because Resch was wearing a mask at the time. "I did it," he explained later, "by sticking my lips through the hole for my mouth."

The kiss turned out to be a good luck charm. Resch and the Islanders won the game 4-1, then defeated the Penguins 1-0 in Game 7 at the Civic Arena, with Resch making 30 saves and his posts stopping two other shots. New York became the second team in NHL history to win a best-of-7 series after losing the first three games.


Steak helped Cude decide to hang up pads

Few NHL goalies experienced more ups and downs than Wilf Cude, whose career included stops with the Philadelphia Quakers, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens.

In 1930-31, Cude's rookie season, he played for one of the worst teams in NHL history, the Quakers, who were 4-36 with four ties in their lone season in the League after moving from Pittsburgh. Cude finished 2-23 with three ties and a 4.38 goals-against average.

Yet just three years later he carried Detroit to the Stanley Cup Final, and his 1.52 goals-against average was the best in the NHL. He was also a Second-Team NHL All-Star in 1935-36 and 1936-37. But by the 1940-41 season, Cude had become just a shade of his former self while playing for the Canadiens, who finished sixth in a seven-team League.

Friends worried about Cude, who seemed to have succumbed to the goaltending ailment known as "rubber-itis" -- or seeing too many pucks, during a decade-long NHL career. His pals suggested that it was time for him to retire.

Cude took their counsel under advisement before the final verdict was provided by a T-bone steak.

He seemed pleased when his wife brought a pregame steak dinner to the table. However, when Cude thrust his knife into the meat, the steak at first proved impenetrable. The disgusted goalie then jammed the knife into the T-bone and hurled it across the room, hitting the far wall.

"From the time it hit the wall to the time it slipped to the floor," he recalled, "I knew that I had enough of goaltending and quit then and there!"

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