THE TOUGHEST SEMI-FINAL EVER PLAYED

by Ron Spence

Clint Smith passed away last week. He was 95-years-old and had won a Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1940.

I met with Clint – and interviewed him on a couple of occasions – and we talked about hockey during the 1930s and 1940s.

He called the semi-final series between the Bruins and Rangers – exactly 70 years ago – in 1939, “the toughest series ever played.”

Boston would win the seven game series 4-3, and then beat Toronto 4-1.

One of the highlights of the Bostons vs. Rangers series was a fight between New York’s Muzz Patrick and Eddie “Old Blood ‘n Guts” Shore.

I had asked Clint about this tilt, because I had read conflicting reports.

“With the Boston write-up,” Clint shook his head, “the propaganda had it how Muzz had cross-checked Shore and broke his nose and Muzz didn’t even have a stick.”

“This Phil Watson was an awful needler,” Clint explained, “and he couldn’t speak English too well.”

Jeez, he was fast.  He came up against Shore two or three times and threw ice on him.

‘You God damn old bin haz.  You’re so God‑damned old you got fedders in your skates,’ he’d say.

The next time Watson came down Shore met him at the blue line and Watson put the breaks on, and was going to go around him, and Shore just let him have it across the head with his stick, about 10 stitches worth, and knocked him out cold.

Clarence Campbell [later NHL president] was the referee, but he’d gotten into refereeing because of Shore. He’d been refereeing out in the Western league in Edmonton. He was a crooked guy.

When the penalties were metted out, he gave Shore 10 minutes for drawing blood, and Watson 10 minutes for antagonizing Shore.

Oh jeez, it was terrible. He wasn’t going to give Shore the worst of it.

The next time we played we were back in New York and Watson goes down, and Shore was going after Watson again, and Muzz came down and left his gloves and stick at the blue line and he really clobbered Eddie and knocked him practically behind the net and the thing was over.

Then Big Jack Portland and Gordon Pettinger were holding Muzz against the screen ‑ we didn’t have glass in those days ‑ the fight’s all over.

And Shore sees this, and gets up and comes after Muzz, and Muzz throws them like they’re little turkeys, and hit Shore and knocked him colder than a billygoat.”

Picture 3

The billygoat returned, however, ten minutes later with a black strip across his nose and for the rest of that night, was the best player on the ice.

Shore broke up the Rangers’ rushes, led counterattacks and was as tough as ever.

So, former boxing champ Muzz Patrick had laid a beating on Shore – and not used his stick, as the Boston press had claimed – but Shore returned to the ice and was the star for the rest of the series.

A series, according to Clint Smith, that was “the toughest…ever played.”

*****

In 1998, Eddie Shore was ranked #10 on The Hockey News’ list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players.

Shore is the only defenseman in the history of the NHL to win the Hart Trophy four times (1932–33, 1934–35, 1935–36, 1937–38).

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One response to “THE TOUGHEST SEMI-FINAL EVER PLAYED

  1. Hey Ron,

    Great read…almost seems like you watched it live!

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