St. Pats 2, Canadiens 1
Saturday, December 15, 1923
Arena Gardens, Toronto, Ontario
Two unexpected results featured opening night in the National Hockey League, the St. Patricks beating the Canadiens here by 3 to 1, and Ottawa outscoring the Hamilton team in the Ambitious City by 3 to 2.
Predictions that the four teams would show real strength were not wide of the mark. Never before in the history of president Calder’s league have four better matched teams started a season. Capacity crowds attended each game, and the fans lucky enough to see the pros in action will return again as long as the teams can live up to the standard set last Saturday night.
The St. Patricks missed the accurate and deadly marksmanship of “Babe” Dye, but their defence was so powerful that the Canadiens could not make any headway, and it was not until the game was almost over that Aurèle Joliat scored the only counter for the Frenchmen. It was a well contested struggle, with the Irish earning their one goal lead, although they were favoured by good fortune in scoring both their goals, the puck hitting one of the visiting defencemen before going past the ever-watchful Vézina.
For those fans who prefer combination attacks to the individual style of attack, the game lacked a lot. The checking was so close that neither side could use the passing attack very often. Occasionally a player would see an opportunity and take advantage of it, and in this way work past the opposing defence, but Roach and Vézina were unbeatable from close range.
The pace was very fast throughout, neither side showing lack of condition. Manager Dandurand of the Canadiens stated before the game that the Frenchmen would outlast the locals, but in this he was disappointed, as the Irish players were in equally as good condition as the visitors, and they seldom showed signs of exhaustion.
The first period was almost finished – 30 seconds only remained – when Bert Corbeau shot from outside the defence. The puck hit Sprague Cleghorn, and caromed into the net just barely inside the post. Corbeau had been persistent in trying all his shots from a “mile” out, and his success showed that he was justified in sticking to this attack.
The second period was lightning fast with play even, and the rival defences too strong for the attackers. Most of the shots were from long range. The players tried strenuous tactics, and referee Laflamme gave six penalties, these being equally divided. In each case, the player banished tried to argue with the official, but Laflamme has been too long in the sport to allow any such tactics as these to disturb him, and both teams soon discovered that he was in full charge of proceedings.
Two minutes after the last period opened, “Red” Stuart shot from outside the defence, hit Mantha, the new Canadien defence player, and the puck caromed in past Vézina. Then the Frenchmen commenced to show what they could do. Manager Dandurand had started his substitutes, and he allowed them to remain in action until the last ten minutes, when he sent the regulars out to overcome the lead.
Joliat, Boucher and Morenz cut out a killing pace, but the Irish hung on, and it was not until the clock showed less than two minutes to play that Joliat tricked Roach with a great shot from ten feet in front of the net. Roach never had a chance to make the stop.
The newcomers to professional hockey, “Howie” Morenz of Stratford and Mantha of Montréal, made good. Morenz fitted right into the Canadien machine, and the manager thinks so well of his ability that he started him at centre in place of Odie Cleghorn. Mantha was used for about 30 minutes on the defence, and his showing indicates that he will be a star in short time.
Bert Corbeau, the former Canadien defenceman, broke in right with the locals. His checking was the best supplied by a local player in years, and the visitors did not go out of their way to start rough tactics with him. Corbeau was none too gentle, and he aroused the ire of some of the visitors, but never to such an extent that they decided to select him as the victim of any illegal checking.
“Butch” Arbour, another Canadien castoff, played well. It was his best game in years, and shows that no mistake was made when he was traded for Corbett Denneny. Arbour can stand the bumps better than the Hamilton speed merchant.
From the first faceoff, it was plain to see that “Red” Stuart was a favourite with the fans. They cheered him to the echo every time he started one of his hurricane rushes, and Stuart responded by playing high class hockey. Stuart monopolized the attention of the spectators until little George Carey, the champion castoff of them all, swung into action.
Immediately he was made the recipient of some heavy checking, the visitors being under the impression that they could stop him, but Carey fooled them all. He stood up under the gruelling so well that he actually improved as the game progressed, and when he was relieved near the end of the contest, he was given a great hand by the crowd.
Carey took care of himself by closely watching his opponents, and once when Joliat tried to trip him, he made the latter look foolish and earned him a penalty by leaping over his outstretched foot. Joliat fell, but he was ordered to the bench.
Ganton Scott and Stan Jackson were not used, but Wilf Loughlin, the big defenceman from Victoria, got into the game for about ten minutes. For some reason or another, Odie Cleghorn jabbed the newcomer in the face shortly after he made his initial appearance, and the blow did not add to Loughlin’s effectiveness.
Jack Adams and Reg Noble did an immense amount of work, their backchecking being the best shown by any of the players. Adams had several chances to score, but Vézina outguessed him. He is a powerful fellow and is brilliant in flashes, this being especially noticeable when he is surrounded by opposing defencemen.
Both goalkeepers lived up to the reputations made in past years, all of which means that they are two of the best the sport ever produced. Roach made many exceptionally fine saves, and he had more real work to do than did the able French net custodian. In the first period the game was stopped twice, the delay being caused when Roach broke a skate in making a brilliant stop, and the second when one of the straps on his pad broke.
Joe Malone, who is more effective than he was last year, Odie Cleghorn and Mantha were the Canadien substitutes, and each did his part. The regular forward line of Joliat, Boucher and Morenz is one of the fastest and trickiest in the league. Joliat has more speed than he ever had before, and his shot is always dangerous. Boucher did not get a chance to shine, as Arbour and Noble made life miserable for him.
Sprague Cleghorn checked well, but was off colour in his rushing. This was when the Canadien star would go from end to end every time he carried to and from the finish of these attacks, there was no more dangerous man playing hockey, but Cleghorn has lost some of his speed, and his stick handling is not what it used to be.
Story originally published in The Globe, December 17, 1923
TOR GOAL – 19:45 – Corbeau
TOR GOAL – 02:45 – Stuart
MTL GOAL – 18:30 – Joliat
TOR – Adams (2), Corbeau (2), Noble
MTL – Boucher (3), S. Cleghorn (2), O. Cleghorn, Joliat
TOR – Roach (W)
MTL – Vézina (L)
TOR – Goaltenders: John Ross Roach. Defence: Bert Corbeau, Wilf Loughlin, Billy Stuart. Forwards: Jack Adams, Lloyd Andrews, Amos Arbour, George Carey, Reg Noble, Ganton Scott.
MTL – Goaltenders: Georges Vézina. Defence: Sprague Cleghorn (C), Billy Coutu, Sylvio Mantha. Forwards: Billy Boucher, Odie Cleghorn, Aurèle Joliat, Joe Malone, Howie Morenz.
TOR – 1-0-0 (1.000)
MTL – 0-1-0 (.000)