As the Maple Leafs continue with day two of their training camp, the focus continues to be on the four missing players who declined to show up yesterday. Bob Pulford, Mike Walton, Tim Horton and Brian Conacher have yet to arrive in Peterborough and no light has been shed on when they might appear. The team has not commented or indicated what sanctions the recalcitrant players might have to endure once they do show up for work.
Imlach Low Key
Leafs general manager-coach Punch Imlach has shown surprising restraint (at least with reporters such as Lou Cauz of the Globe & Mail) when talking about the situation. He’s responded to most queries about the four missing athletes with a terse “No comment.” The answers he did provide shed some light on how the man who is likely the highest-profile National Hockey League general manager will deal with the players who are withholding their services because they have not signed their 1967-68 contracts.
Asked if they are considered holdouts, Imlach said unequivocally that they are not:
“They’re not holdouts until October 11 (the season opener). As far as I’m concerned they may have a million reasons for not being here. Yes they could be suspended or fined. I’ve never seen a guy who didn’t show up on time who didn’t have a reason for not showing up.
“It’s ridiculous. They should all be here. How is a hockey player going to get ready for the season if he doesn’t attend training camp? It’s like a carpenter showing up on the job without his tools.”
Imlach went on to say that King Clancy has talked to all of the players except Walton, who was unavailable due to work commitments. Unlike last fall, both Imlach and Clancy will attempt to negotiate contracts. Last year, Clancy was the point man on all contract signing issues.
Imlach went on to minimize the absence of the missing players and even admonished them for being away from workouts:
“What are we missing? Lemee see. One guy (Pulford) hurt himself in the first or second practice last year and missed the rest of the workouts. The other guy (Walton) was here, in Rochester and at home, all over the place.
“Is Conacher such a star that he can afford to stay at home? How many goals did he get last year? Fourteen? I don’t think if I scored 14 goals I’d take a chance of letting somebody else get my job.”
Imlach didn’t mention Horton at all.
Unger’s Knee Injury
More was learned about the knee injury suffered by Garry Unger, the highly touted young centre from the London Nationals. It appears the lanky blonde is headed for knee surgery. He injured his leg during a workout in Ottawa late Tuesday afternoon.
Unger showed up to camp on crutches and was the only player out of the 55 who were present to fail his physical. Leafs Dr. Hugh Smythe said that Unger will have torn cartilage removed from his left knee.
Unger told Lou Cauz that he injured the knee in a basketball game:
“Some fellows were playing basketball and the ball came over near me. I jumped up in the air for it and when I came down, I twisted my knee.”
Unger will miss six to eight weeks.
Some Maple Leafs players showed up a tad overweight. Peter Stemkowski came in 10 pounds heavier than his playing weight last season. George Armstrong, Larry Hillman and Johnny Bower each tipped the scales seven pounds heavier.
Punch Buys the Haircut
Young defenceman Jim McKenny found out that the long-haired “mod” look won’t be tolerated in the Leafs camp once again this year. He was the first player to get the message yesterday when he arrived from Ottawa sporting a bushy, full head of hair and long sideburns.
Imlach spied McKenny standing near the hotel barbershop and advised the youngster that he would be well-advised to slide in and get a trim. When McKenny advised the coach that he had just had a haircut, Imlach reached into his wallet and said,
“I don’t care if you have or not, get another one and now. Here’s five dollars. Nobody with long hair plays on my team!”
Bower To Try Mask
Veteran goalie Johnny Bower is finally going to give wearing a face mask a try. After a long career such as he’s had, Bower figures the facial protection may actually add more years:
“I figure a mask will give me more confidence and cut down on my injuries. I missed too many games last season and I think a mask might have prevented a few of those injuries. Anyway, it’s worth a try. If I don’t like wearing it in games, I can always discard it.
“I understand that Punch figures on keeping Bruce Gamble this season. That would be a wise move unless Al Smith has a really hot training camp.”
Davidson Likes Young Rearguards
Leafs chief scout Bob Davidson kept a close eye on the first workouts yesterday. He was impressed by a group of young blueliners:
“I have to give defencemen Randy Murray and Rick Foley of Charlotte, Mike Pelyk from Marlboros and Gord Nelson from Three Rivers a chance.
“Jim Dorey (London Nationals) has a chance if he’ll start playing with two hands instead of his fancy-dan one-handed style on defence.”
Davidson also took notice of a couple of Marlboro forwards, Gerry Meehan and Mike Byers. He felt that they could catch on with the Leafs as well.
The chief scout also singled out another forward prospect for special mention:
“And as an added tip, watch Andre Champagne. That operation for the removal of his spleen has worked wonders. The guy is healthy for the first time in years.”
Champagne says he worked in a Tulsa lumber yard all summer and came to camp at 181 pounds. He reports that he hasn’t felt this good since his junior days with St. Michael’s College.
Pittsburgh Hockey Name ‘For the Birds’
Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jack Riley doesn’t seem to be all that impressed with the new National Hockey League team’s moniker. Riley had hoped to keep the name secret for a while longer, hoping that the team’s upper management might change its mind after “Penguins” was chosen in a name-the-team contest. To that end, even the club’s uniforms were designed with no reference to the bird. Riley explained:
“I thought our stockholders might change their minds about the name before the uniforms were ready.”
When Pittsburgh vice-president Peter Block announced the name, Riley’s reaction was, “You’re kidding!”
Penguins coach Red Sullivan was a bit more magnanimous about the team name:
“Look at it this way, Detroit has a team called the Red Wings and it’s a famous name in hockey. Well, what is a Red Wing, anyway? Is it a bird? Is it a flower? At least we have something that people recognize.”
One thing Sullivan and Riley agree on is what the team should have been called: The Shamrocks. As Pittsburgh sportswriter Roy McHugh says, “Two Irishmen…it figures.”
Riley actually is warming up to the name. The team has come up with an official crest with a penguin, and the general manager likes it so much he plans on incorporating it with the team uniforms – next year.
- Leafs Murray Oliver bemoaned the fact he hasn’t had a chance to skate prior to training camp. He attended college in Boston this summer and was busy house-hunting in the final weeks of August. He came to Toronto from the Bruins in a summer trade for Eddie Shack.
- Leafs have given Jim McKenny Red Kelly’s number 4 sweater.
- Wayne Carleton ran an ice cream shop near Meaford, Ont. this summer.
- Reporting late (with permission) to Rochester Americans (AHL) training camp are Bobby Perreault, Gerry Ehman, Red Armstrong, Bronco Horvath, Stan Smrke, Don Cherry, Merv Kuryluk, Leo Olivier and Camille Bedard. Amerks are holding their camp with Leafs at Peterborough
- Roger Bedard, former coach of Peterborough Petes, has signed on as coach of the Montreal Junior Canadiens OHA Jr. A team.
- LW Don Marshall has signed his 1967-68 contract with the New York Rangers. It will be his 14th NHL campaign.
- Roger Delcourt, 21, a member of the Kitchener Rangers last year, was fined $250 and had his license suspended for a year when convicted of dangerous driving in court in Lindsay, Ont. yesterday. The charge stemmed from a head-on collision in June which injured six people. Delcourt was scheduled to report to Pittsburgh Penguins training camp next week.
- Blackhawks coach Billy Reay says he may line up Bobby Hull at centre this season, with rookie Wayne Maki on left wing. No one really thinks Reay is serious.
- Defencemen Gary Bergman and Bert Marshall are the first Detroit Red Wings to sign their contracts for this season.
- Good news for the Boston Bruins. Last year’s rookie sensation Bobby Orr will have the cast removed from his injured knee this week.