With a quiet night last night in the National Hockey League keeping news to a minimum, we’ll take a look today at a couple of players who are playing in new surroundings this year. Plus the usual Quick Hits!
Eddie the Entertainer Happy in Beantown
Eddie Shack, the whirling dervish winger who often caused as many headaches for his coach in Toronto, Punch Imlach, as he did for opposing bench bosses, says he is happy as a member of the Boston Bruins. Fast Eddie was traded by the Maple Leafs to the Bruins last May in a straight-up swap for centre Murray Oliver.
Eddie returns to Maple Leaf Gardens tomorrow night as his Bruins face the Leafs. He’ll be wearing his familiar number 23, albeit with a radically different colour scheme on the uniform. And you can expect that Toronto fans will afford Eddie lots of attention.
Ken McKee of the Toronto Star managed to get Shack on the phone for a bit of a rambling conversation. Here’s McKee’s account of their talk, completely one-sided as Eddie rambled about his new environs:
“Great place Boston…wonderful…bought a house in Saugus…got a job all set for next summer…sure we’re stayin’…great country.
“Playing left wing, y’know…yeah, with Derek Sanderson, great prospect, and Tommy Williams…yeah, I know I had trouble on that side with Toronto…nah, not here…well, maybe I could be going better…four goals so far…missed a great one last night against Philadelphia, we’re down 3-2, I hit the post.” (Bruins lost the game to the expansion Flyers 4-2.)
“Differences? No pressure on me, y’know…well, I always felt there was in Toronto…y’know Punch would bench me if I had a couple of bad shifts…Harry’s using me regularly.
“Fans? Great people down here…nah, I’m not as popular as I was in Toronto…a lot of that was because I’d come off the bench and stir things up…y’know ‘we want Shack’ and all that…lotta games I only had a couple minutes to show myself…hadda go all out plus…when you play regular you gotta pace yourself.”
McKee asked Shack how he will feel coming back to the Gardens to face his old mates:
“Oh, I think it’ll be interesting. Funny, y’know when you’re on the other side. Bobby Baun used to be the first guy to come to my aid when I was in a fight. Now, he’s with California and I’m here. Saturday night he caught me with a couple of real good shots.”
The Bruins are happy with Shack’s work so far. He’s scored four goals and added one assist in 12 games. They would like to see his production upped a bit, but realize he’s playing what is basically a new position to him. They feel he’s adjusting well.
Shack will likely get an ovation from the crowd when he first appears during the game. But you can bet the first time he decks a Leafs player, those cheers will take on a different tone.
Wayne Rutledge – An Unexpected Asset
Goalkeeper Wayne Rutledge is perhaps the most unlikely NHL regular the Los Angeles Kings have. He’s been an integral part of their surprising early-season success story. Not bad for a kid they said was too big and too blind to be a big-league goaltender.
At 6-2 and weighing in at 210 pounds, the 24-year-old native of Barrie, Ontario is an imposing figure in the purple and gold Kings uniform. Thought to be too big and therefore too slow for the speed of the NHL game, Rutledge has been more than able to deal with the rigours of big-league competition.
Big Wayne played his junior hockey in Niagara Falls but didn’t follow most of the prospects who played there to the Boston chain. He ended up in the Rangers organization and caught the eye of Kings general manager Larry Regan when he was the Central Professional Hockey League’s top goaltender with Omaha in 1966-67. He was the Kings’ second pick in the goalie phase of the Expansion Draft. As everyone knows, future Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk was the first man taken in the draft, by the Kings.
The Kings’ plan was to have Sawchuk play the majority of the games, likely about 45-50, with Rutledge picking up the slack. But injuries to Sawchuk early on have seen Rutledge take on the bulk of the playing time. He’s appeared in nine games for the Kings so far, posting a very respectable 2.57 goals-against average.
Chuck Garrity of the Los Angeles Times sat down with Rutledge. They spoke about his notoriously poor eyesight, his size and working with the legendary Sawchuk.
“I can see all right out there. And my height is an advantage. I can see over the players when there is traffic in front of the net.
“I knew I’d get my share of games when I came here. I never thought I’d start the season. But when Terry got hurt and I had to play those first few games, it was a big break for me – and the team. I was getting a chance to play and the other players got more confidence in me. They found out I wasn’t going to get bombed out there and that helps them relax.
“Terry helps me with my weaknesses, like positioning myself when the other team has the puck behind my goal or in the corners. Before the Toronto game, he went over the players with me and told me where they liked to take their shots.”
Rutledge doesn’t wear a mask, at least not yet. But he is considering facial protection, especially having to face shooters like Bobby Hull. They don’t shoot the puck like that in the Central League.
“It’s different up here, there’s more pressure. This is the best hockey you can play and you’re always playing before big crowds and very likely on television. There’s an image you have to live up to.
“When a goalkeeper has a bad night, it goes up on the scoreboard. A forward can have an off night and the other team might not score.
“Rebounds and screen shots are the toughest for me to handle. Up here the forwards seem to shoot just hoping for a rebound. The first shots don’t bother you so much but the rebounds can. Deflection shots are tough too and NHL forwards are very good at deflecting them into the net.
“Screen shots are worse because you don’t know where the puck is or where it is going.”
“You have to talk. You keep telling yourself to be ready all the time – even when it’s in the linesman’s hands during the faceoff”
Rutledge says that right now his career is unfolding as he planned it would:
“I gave myself ‘til I was 25 to make it. The expansion gave me my chance and I’m finally making fair money. But I have to have a good year to make more money next year. If I don’t, I’ll still give it up.”
Based on the fine start to his NHL career he’s had thus far, it’s not likely we’ll see Wayne “giving it up” any time soon.
- Looks like the Leafs will keep young Garry Unger around a few more days. Centre Dave Keon is hurting and may not play against the Bruins tomorrow night, so Unger will stay around in case he’s needed. Leafs have signed him to a professional contract and had planned to send him to their CPHL farm club in Tulsa.
- Frank Mahovlich is receiving about 100 cards and letters of support each day while he is in a Toronto hospital. Mrs. Mahovlich has the task of responding to the Leaf star’s mail.
- Montreal coach Toe Blake says that Maple Leafs general manager-coach Punch Imlach wasn’t scouting the Canadiens Sunday night in Detroit. Blake says the Habs haven’t discussed a deal with Toronto and that Imlach must be working on something with the Red Wings.
- Red Wings goaltender Roger Crozier has reiterated that he is not thinking of making a comeback from his recent retirement right way. Crozier is still in Detroit, but is making preparations to return to his home near Bracebridge, Ontario.
- The strongest trade rumour making the rounds in the NHL has the Oakland Seals trying very hard to deal defenceman Kent Douglas. Douglas’ poor play and lack of conditioning has him in coach Bert Olmstead’s dog house.
- Last week we mentioned that there were rumblings that retired Montreal and Toronto great Dickie Moore was considering a comeback with the Pittsburgh Penguins. This week, it’s the Philadelphia Flyers who are said to be trying to talk Moore into playing again. Philadelphia is rumoured to have offered Moore $30,000 to sign.
- Former Canadiens and North Stars defenceman Jean-Guy Talbot is happy with the Detroit Red Wings. Talbot hasn’t played much, however, as he recovers from a hand injury. He was recently acquired in a trade from the Minnesota North Stars, who selected him from Montreal in the Expansion Draft.
- Boston’s Bobby Orr had his nose broken for the second time in a week during that fight with Bill Hicke of the Seals on the weekend. He won’t miss time because of it.
- Bruins coach Harry Sinden gave his team the day off yesterday after their loss to Philadelphia Sunday night. It was the team’s first full day off since training camp.
- Bobby Hull continues to lead the NHL scoring race with 14 goals and seven assists for 21 points in 14 games. Gordie Howe of the Red Wings is second with 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points.
- Doug Favell and of the Flyers continue to be the NHL’s top goaltending duo. The pair have combined for a 2.08 goals-against average in 12 games.