Sunday, March 27, 2016

HOCKEY'S LOST BOY

During the 2016-17 hockey year the city of Toronto will celebrate the 100th anniversary of their National Hockey League franchise.

Toronto's first club in the new league was named the Arenas and they captured the Stanley Cup in 1917-18.

The team underwent an identity change in December 1919 and became the St. Pat's. The name was partially selected to appeal to the large Irish population in Toronto.

On February 14, 1927, a group of investors that included Conn Smythe, purchased the St. Pat's and they announced their team would be known as the Toronto Maple Leafs. One newspaper headline read,"GOOD-BYE, ST. PAT'S! HOWDY, MAPLE LEAFS."

In Detroit on February 16, 1927, the St. Pat's era ended when they fell to the Cougars 5-1.

The next night at home in Arena Gardens on Mutual Street, the newly named Toronto Maple leafs made their debut.

After the New York Americans took a one goal first period lead in the Leafs first outing, the home team responded in the middle frame. The honour of scoring the Toronto Maple Leafs first goal went to George "Paddy" Patterson.

A native of Kingston, Ontario, Patterson was obtained from the Hamilton Tigers on February 8, 1927.

 The Globe newspaper described Patterson's historic goal:

This one-goal lead was overcome by one of the prettiest shots of the night. George Patterson took a pass from Brydge (Bill) after nine minutes of the second period had been played and his drive on the goal was so fast and well played that Forbes (Jake, the Americans goalie) hardly saw it.

A new hockey documentary made by Dale Morrisey to be released this Fall explores the life and career of George Patterson.

'Hockey's Lost Boy: The Rise and Fall of George Patterson' packs a lot of history and action into its 90 minutes.

As the title indicates, there was two sides to Patterson's life in hockey. The film chronicles his rise, which led him to the NHL and American Hockey League.

On the darker side, Patterson's fall came when he coached the senior B Kingston Nylons. A scandal in 1951 resulted in Patterson being suspended for life. As the story goes, his team "had tossed a whole series," against Peterborough to avoid being promoted to senior A. The Nylons felt they would suffer at the gate if they were kicked up to the next level of play.

The ban left Patterson on the outside of the hockey world looking in. His past accomplishments were forgotten and the invitations to hockey events stopped coming.

The cast of authors and historians in the film provide excellent background on Patterson's rise and fall. An appearance by Patterson's grandson, Brian Johnson, adds a personal touch.
Dale Morrisey (right) with Brian Johnson

Former Leaf players Ron Ellis, Rick Vaive and Doug Gilmour offer insightful commentary. Vaive and Gilmour noted the lack of recognition Patterson received for scoring the first goal. They pointed out that during all the time they spent in the Leaf dressing room there was no plaque or banner honouring the goal.

Since most hockey fans are not aware of George Patterson, the film should arouse their interest. Also, it will be timely what with the Leafs and the NHL about to embark on their centennial year. But most important, Patterson's crowning moment will once again be in the spotlight for a new generation.

The script is well written and allows the story to shine through. Morrisey's use of  filters to age material gives a vintage look to the presentation.

Like watching a playoff game in overtime, you won't want to miss one-second of Hockey's Lost Boy.

Prior to a screening hosted by Mike Wilson, I talked to Dale Morrisey about his latest film.

On getting started in the business: I got started in the business of making documentaries out of necessity. I was working as a television journalist and videographer. It was a case where the perfect storm happened. My wife was pregnant and they wiped out our news division at the same time. So, rather than move a pregnant woman I decided  to open up my own business and that was 14 years ago. I started out by putting together any little bit of work I could do. The first real broadcast work I managed to get going was a series of shorts called Forgotten Ontario. I sold the first licensing to them in exchange for money to buy a used camera to get them made. From there, I sold them to PBS affiliates and TVO and I went from there.

On choosing George Patterson as his next subject: I wish I could say it was entirely my idea. I had just finished a very long, grinding process to make a film called The Father of Hockey: Captain James Sutherland and the Battle for Hockey's Hall of Fame. It was released by Entertainment One Films and I thought great I'm done with hockey for a while. It's been four years doing this and I'm going to go out and make a basketball film on James Naismith. A gentleman by the name of Ken McCullough, who lived near me, had seen the film and loved it. He asked me if I ever thought of doing another hockey film. He told me he had an idea for one so we met to discuss it. He told me about George Patterson and the fact he scored the Leafs first goal. I'm a life long suffering Maple Leafs fan and I never heard of him. Syl Apps is my favourite Leaf, so my knowledge of the Leafs goes back beyond the 1980's. I looked through all the files and here is the guy. He scores the first goal for the Leafs and then plays for the New York Americans and he's a founding player in the American Hockey League. He does all this great stuff and no one knows about him. I pitched the idea to my agent, then he could pitch it to a distributor. And that's how it happened.

On the response to Hockey's Lost Boy: It's been overwhelming. Anybody I've approached to be in the film has jumped at the chance. I've been lucky enough to interview the likes of Doug Gilmour, Rick Vaive and Ron Ellis. They talked what the Leaf legacy meant to them and what it should be moving forward. Also, it was fun learning about George. The public response has been great. We had a screening at the Kingston (Ontario) Film Festival and they approached us before the film was even finished. We sold out the screening and there were people waiting in cue in the rush ticket line that had to be turned away. This was on a Sunday morning, which usually isn't the best day for a screening. We packed the place.

On what surprised him about George Patterson: When I started doing the research and the interviews, I was of the impression he was a grinder. The type of player who was in the right place at the right time. A player who scored a really pretty goal for the Maple Leafs and that should have been it. That was the story on George. What I started to find out was that he had a really great career with the New York Americans at a time when the Americans were just figuring out what they wanted to be. They were known as the loveable losers. Their battle cry was "play for the Americans and laugh yourself to death." For about a four year run, George was a prototypical power forward at a time when they didn't call them power forwards. He skated up and down his wing and he could flatten guys and played a very strong defensive game. He piled up the goals at a time when the NHL was low scoring and a two-line league. He was a really good hockey player. Under different circumstances, he probably could have stuck in the league.

On his next project: I'm working on a film about the Brooklyn Americans. It sort of grew from the time working on George. It will also come out in the Fall. Also, I'm going to get to work on the Naismith film. 



  


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