Allan Stanley

ImageAllan Stanley (right) battles Ken Schinkel of the Penguins.

 

Allan Herbert Stanley

Born: March 1, 1926 (Timmins, Ont.)
Died: October 18, 2013 (Bobcaygeon, Ont.)

Member:
Hockey Hall of Fame (1981)
Lindsay and District Sports Hall of Fame (2005)

The clock showed 55 seconds left in regulation of Game Six of the 1967 Stanley Cup finals. The Toronto Maple Leafs nursed a 2-1 lead in the game and a 3-2 lead in the series. The Montreal net was empty. With a face-off in the Toronto end to the side of goalie Terry Sawchuk, 37, Leafs coach Punch Imlach sent out his other old warriors — Red Kelly, 39; George Armstrong, 37; Bob Pulford, a mere babe at 31; and defenceman Allan Stanley, 41, whose unenviable job it is to take the decisive face-off.

After the game, Punch called them his Old Boys A.C. It was an athletic club whose every member would be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

As the lineman drops the puck, Stanley swiped at it, but his intent was to press forward like a football blocker and tie up Beliveau, which he did. Kelly slipped in from the right side of the face-off circle to grab the loose puck. He flipped it forward to Pulford who put it on his backhand for a long, cross-ice pass to a streaking Armstrong. The captain picked it up on his side of the centre red line, took three strides, and lined up the shot before flicking it into the empty Montreal net for the sweetest insurance goal of his long career.

ImageStanley got his name on the Stanley Cup for the fourth time. The big, lumbering defenceman, who was a plodding skater even as a young man, gaining the nickname Snowshoes, played for another two seasons, finally retiring at age 43 with the Philadelphia Flyers.

In memory, Stanley is so associated with the championship Leafs teams of the 1960s it is easy to forget he salvaged his reputation for being an overpaid, overrated bust.

The lumbering defenceman, who stood 6-foot-2 and weighed 191 pounds, played 11 seasons for three of the six NHL teams before coming to the Leafs in the third trade of his NHL career. He had played 547 games before joining the team with which he would win four Stanley Cups.

After a notable amateur career with the Boston Olympics, Stanley turned professional with the Providence Reds of the minor American Hockey League. He came to the New York Rangers early in the 1948-49 season, the NHL team sending two players, future considerations and cash in a deal worth a reported $60,000 in exchange for the big defenceman. The transaction was described as the biggest of its kind in club history.

The husky, square-jawed defenceman had matinee-idol looks and a point-per-game output with Providence (seven goals and 16 assists in the first 23 games of the season). The Rangers promoted Stanley as the club’s saviour.

A fortnight after the deal, Canadian Press staff writer Bert Allen wrote, “Any doubt the experts had that defenceman Allan Stanley wouldn’t live up to his clippings when New York laid a bundle of cash and players on the line to grab this blueline blocker two weeks ago have vanished in that short space of time.” The Rangers lost only one of six games since he joined the club, and he seemed to be setting up goal scorers with nifty passes. His early defensive partner was Fred Shero, a future coach of the Flyers.

Stanley finished second in the voting for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie behind teammate Pentti Lund.

The Rangers made it to Game Seven of the 1950 Stanley Cup finals. Stanley’s superb playoffs included scoring a goal and adding five assists in the first 11 games. With the Cup on the line, he opened the scoring by getting the puck past Harry Lumley in the Detroit net midway through the first period. The Rangers jumped to a 2-0 lead, but thge game was tied 3-3 by the end of the second. There was no scoring in the third period, or the first period of overtime. Pete Babando finally scored for at 8:31 of the second overtime to give Detroit the Cup.

A badly separated shoulder limited his effectiveness as he tried to play himself back into shape. In time, Stanley became a target for boo birds at Madison Square Garden. Fans brought signs, one displaying his name beside a black 8-ball, another calling “Sonja Stanley,” as though he were no more masculine than figure skater Sonja Henie. By November, 1953, the situation became critical enough for Rangers coach Frank Boucher to announce he would bench the defenceman for home games.

Image“They’ve been booing him for almost a year not, but last night in the warm-up before the game they really let him have it,” Boucher said. “It’s tough to take when your own fans get on you, not only for Stanley, but for any player. There’s no sense torturing the fellow.”

The Rangers soon demoted him to the Vancouver Canucks of the Western Hockey League, giving rise to headlines, such as this one from the Calgary Herald: “Allan Stanley is booed out of National League.”

The lumbering rearguard was unaccustomed to such treatment.

“New York fans first got on me last year,” he said. “It was new to me, something I hadn’t experienced . Such a reception hurt my play but I thought I had recovered from it this season.”

Stanley was never a goal scorer and his style was such you might not notice if he removed a scoring chance by blocking an opponent without the puck from the net.

He again wore Rangers blue for the start of the 1954-55 season, but after just 12 games was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks. He scored 10 goals in just 52 games with the Hawks, the most productive goal producing stint of his career. Chicago sold him to the Boston Bruins. After two seasons, Boston traded him to Toronto for Jim Morrison in a straight up swap of blueliners.

A 32-year-old journeyman now with his fourth club who had never won a Cup would have seemed a most unlikely candidate for future Hall of Fame induction in 1958. He had played in two all-star games before the trade to Toronto; he would play in five more afterwards. The NHL named him to the Second All-Star team in 1960, ’61 and ’66. The seasons with the Leafs built the Stanley legend, as he paired with solid Tim Horton, of Cochrane, another mining town in Northern Ontario, to provide a fearsome bodychecking duo for unwary opposition skaters.

He never scored more than 10 goals in a season, nor recorded more than 26 assists, but Stanley’s role was to prevent goals, not score them.

The Leafs dynasty deserved those three consecutive Cups in the early 1960s, while the Centennial Year triumph in 1967 was a bonus for a team already showing its advanced age. To beat the arch-rival Canadiens during the Expo 67 world’s fair also meant the Stanley Cup would not be placed on display in the Quebec pavilion, as planned.

No one expected it would be the most recent Leafs championship nearly a half-century later.

On the 20th anniversary of the 1967 Cup, Stanley said he watched Leafs games on television at home, during which he hip-checked furniture as though his easy chair was a rushing forward.

“I die with the Leafs,” he told me. “When I watch, I work just as hard as I did when when I was playing the game. I make every move with them. I squeeze by the defencemen, and I hit those forwards. I’m tired when I’m through.”

The veteran was left unprotected in 1968, so the Flyers grabbed him as an anchor on the blueline corps.

In 21 NHL seasons, Stanley scored precisely 100 goals with 333 assists. He had seven goals and 36 assists in 109 playoff games.

Allan Herbert Stanley was born in Timmins, Ont., on March 1, 1926, to Ann and William Stanley, who was the city’s fire chief. His uncle, Barney Stanley, had helped the Vancouver Millionaires win the Stanley Cup in 1915. The uncle was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.

(Young Allan once asked his uncle what hockey players imbibed between periods to revive their strength, he once told the hockey writer Kevin Shea. “We usually drink tea with honey,” Barney replied, so Allan made that part of his routine for years.)

He won a provincial championship with the Holman Pluggers juvenile team in his hometown. (His defensive partner was Pete Babando, who would score the decisive goal in double overtime in the 1950 Cup final. The team’s stickboy was young Bill Barilko, who would score a Cup-winning overtime goal for the Leafs in 1951. It is said Stanley was invited aboard the flight with a local dentist in which Barilko would die in the summer of 1951.) Stanley never played junior hockey. The Bruins identified Stanley as a top prospect, but were reluctant to have him play for their junior team in Oshawa, so close to Toronto’s hockey braintrust. Instead, he joined the Boston Olympics at age 17 before enlisting in the Canadian navy at age 17.

Stanley had a colourful life away from the rink.

In April, 1957, while with the Bruins, Stanley sought the Progressive Conservative nomination in Timmins. He lost the nod to Percy Boyce, a 60-year-old local school principal, who went on to finish third in the June general election behind a Liberal candidate and the victorious Murdo Martin, a firefighter and Co-operative Commonwealth Federation standard-bearer.

A prospector in the offseason, he worked 36 claims around his hometown after winning the 1964 Cup.

In 1969, his final year as a pro, he bought a 200-acre resort on Sturgeon Lake near Bobcaygeon. It boasted a coffee shop, a dining room, and a golf course. For nine years, he ran a hockey school, later returning the property back into an adult resort. He retained a lot when the property was subdivided for a development and he sold his interest in 1988.

Stanley died at Specialty Care Case Manor in Bobcaygeon. He was 87. He was predeceased by his wife, Barbara (née Bowie), who died in 2010, and his brother, Murray.

ImageAllan Stanley meets with his parents after a game at Maple Leafs Gardens.

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