With no on-ice action on which to report from last night, the big news today comes from non-game activity. We have the details on a significant National Hockey League trade, an update on a couple of ailing Maple Leafs and the usual Quick Hits.
Rangers Grab Stewart from Blues
The New York Rangers have acquired veteran right winger Ron Stewart from the St. Louis Blues in a four-player trade. Coming to New York along with Stewart is centre Ron Atwell. The Rangers will send centre Gordon (Red) Berenson and defenceman Barclay Plager to the Blues.
Plager is currently with the American Hockey League Buffalo Bisons. It’s expected that Atwell will be shipped to Buffalo to replace Plager on their roster.
Stewart is St. Louis’ leading goal-getter this season with seven. He is a veteran of 13 NHL seasons, 11 with Toronto and two with Boston. He was selected by the Blues in last summer’s NHL Expansion Draft. Rangers general manager-coach Emile Francis explains why the transaction was made:
“Stewart gives us added depth on the right side. He’s a valuable addition.”
What Francis didn’t say is how displeased he is with the production from the Rangers right wingers. None of Rod Gilbert, Bob Nevin or Bernie Geoffrion has done much lately. Geoffrion, still recovering from stomach issues that hospitalized him, has had his ice time cut lately. Stewart is expected to pick up the slack there.
Berenson is a fine skater, but woefully weak offensively. He has scored two goals for New York this season, used mainly as a spot player and penalty killer. He can play both centre and left wing.
Plager has played 20 games with Buffalo this season, netting a pair of goals and 12 assists. He joins his brother Bob with the Blues. While more mobile and offensively skilled than Bob, Barclay is just as rough and mean, and will cause opposing forwards to keep their heads up when playing the Blues.
Atwell spent most of his career with the American Hockey League Cleveland Barons. In 18 games with St. Louis this year he had one goal and seven assists. He seemed happy to be escaping the Blues and especially coach Scotty Bowman:
“I wasn’t the worst centre on this team by a long shot. But I can’t say that I’m unhappy. I wasn’t looking forward to playing for Scotty Bowman. We’ve never got along since we played junior hockey together.
“I don’t mind going to Buffalo because it means I can live in Fort Erie on the Canadian side of the border.”
Bowman was happy to be able to get Berenson, whom he knows from his time in the Montreal organization:
“Although he didn’t play that much, I thought he looked extremely good against us last Sunday. We’re just a step away from being a winner and I feel that Berenson and Plager can help us get there.”
Blues general manager Lynn Patrick, who engineered the deal for St. Louis, has liked Plager for a while:
“The best season Barclay ever had was when he was paired with Noel Picard at Omaha in 1963. He’s a very offensive-minded player and he’s been getting lots of points at Buffalo. We might put him back with Picard again, but I’d like to see him with his brother.”
Keon, Mahovlich Work Out With Leafs
Welcome news for Toronto Maple Leaf fans. Dave Keon and Frank Mahovlich, both absentees from the Toronto lineup for some time, worked out at yesterday’s practice at Maple Leaf Gardens. And both, according to all accounts, were flying.
Mahovlich in particular stood out. He worked on a line with Keon and rookie Garry Unger. He flew up and down the left side with his usual aplomb, and unloaded a barrage of shots at Leafs goalie Johnny Bower. Most must have looked like laser beams to Bower.
The Big M figures he’s ready to go tomorrow night when Montreal comes into town.
“I think I’m ready to play Wednesday. In fact, I’d like to.”
Keon was sharp as well. He was feeding pin-point passes to Mahovlich during line rushes, enabling his big left winger to take the puck in full stride and get off those blistering shots.
With their two big stars back on the ice, the Leafs were a loose group yesterday. There was lots of kibitzing and jocularity – even Punch Imlach seemed more relaxed than usual.
- Lots of rumours flying around Detroit that Red Wings goalie Roger Crozier, who announced his retirement two weeks ago, is considering making a comeback any day now. A return to duty for Crozier would begin with a stint at the Detroit Central Professional Hockey League farm team at Fort Worth.
- Red Wings general manager Sid Abel is working hard to bolster his defence corps via a trade. Abel has been talking to the Oakland Seals about rearguard Kent Douglas. It’s suggested he’s offering a forward of the calibre of Bruce MacGregor. Abel would prefer to get Bob Baun from the Seals, but Oakland is reluctant to trade their captain this early in their first season.
- Andy Bathgate, the Pittsburgh Penguins early-season scoring leader, hasn’t scored a goal in nine games. Coach Red Sullivan isn’t worried, at least not yet: “I’d like to see him get his goals, but as long as he’s doing his job defensively – and so far he has – I’ll be happy. He’ll bust out some night with a pair of goals.”
- Starting this Sunday, Chicago Black Hawks fans can hear all Hawks home games on radio station WBBM. The broadcasts will start at 8:30 p.m., an hour after the opening faceoff.
- Former Canadiens great Dickie Moore was upset that the St. Louis Blues disclosed that he was trying out with the team before a possible comeback to the NHL. Moore wanted to work out in anonymity to see if he will be able to be competitive in the newly-expanded NHL.
- There is talk that the Blues may also bring in all-time great defenceman Doug Harvey. Harvey is currently the general manager-playing coach of the Blues farm team at Kansas City and is reportedly the talk of the town. Harvey would be a great mentor to the Blues inexperienced rearguard unit.
- Flyers forward Claude Laforge and defenceman Larry Zeidel will both likely miss the Flyers’ next game, which is against Chicago. Both players are nursing muscle pulls.