Monday, April 4, 2016

A TRIBUTE TO TOD SLOAN




Last Saturday (April 2, 2016) family and friends gathered north of Toronto to pay tribute to former NHL player Tod Sloan. The Original Six Alumni and the Royal Canadian Legion –Branch 356 – Sutton West Ontario organized the event. Pete Conacher, Johnny McCormack, Ivan Irwin, Bob Beckett and Ron Hurst represented the alumni. To show their appreciation, Conacher presented an NHL jersey to the Legion to put on display in their hall.

Much of the legwork to get this tribute off the ground was done by Al Shaw and Jim Anderson on behalf of the alumni and Joanne Sloan (Tod Sloan’s daughter). Local politician, Peter Vanloan, read into the record a proclamation honouring Sloan. Video archivist, Paul Patskou, put together a DVD of Sloan’s career highlights and it was shown during the course of the festivities and Jim Anderson presented Sloan with an album of photographs.

Two special guests, George Armstrong and Dick Duff, were on hand to make it a memorable afternoon for Tod Sloan. They were his linemates in 1955-56, when Sloan had his best year in the National Hockey League.


The Leafs top line in 1955-56, Tod Sloan flanked by George Armstrong (L) and Dick Duff


“I had the good fortune that in my first year Tod was my centreman,” Duff told me after the official ceremony. “He got 37 goals, I got 18 and “The Chief” got 16 goals. “It was a solid line with three guys from northern Ontario and we understood each other. Tod was a highly skilled player and he could play tough.” The Sloan-Armstrong-Duff trio were the main reason the Leafs even made the playoffs in 1956. "We made the playoffs in the last game of the year," Duff explained. "I scored one goal and "The Chief" scored the other and Tod assisted on both goals, as we beat Detroit 2-1."

“There are two things Tod did well in his life, he could play hockey and he liked to argue,” Armstrong recalled. “He was on the wrong side with Smythe. Tod always use to argue against Smythe and Smythe didn’t push him for All-Star selections or for the best player in the league. Tod didn’t become well known. He was a better hockey player than me and I’m well known and he’s not.” 


Tod Sloan (L) at the tribute with Dick Duff (Standing) and George Armstrong 


Tod Sloan first descended on the Toronto hockey scene when he was a 16 year-old youngster. His team, the midget Copper Cliff Redmen, travelled from northern Ontario to play the Young Leafs in a semi-final match-up at Maple Leaf Gardens on April 7, 1944. The Redmen lost 5-4, but Tod held a hot-stick as he scored all 4 goals for the Redmen.

Next up for the future Toronto Maple Leaf was a two-year stint with the OHA Jr. “A” St. Michael’s Majors. His first season with the Majors was in 1944-45.

And like his time in midget, Tod continued to deposit the puck into the net. During the regular season, he scored 21 goals and produced 37 points in 19 games. In the playoffs, he helped St. Mike’s advance to the Memorial Cup and Tod Sloan the scoring machine went into overdrive. He led all scorers with 17 goals and also led in penalty minutes with 32.

On April 23, 1945, Tod became a Memorial Cup champion when St. Mike’s downed the Moose Jaw Canucks 7-2 at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Tod continued to burn up the OHA in his second and final term with St. Mike’s. Listen to these numbers. In 25 league games he led the OHA in scoring with 43 tallies and 75 points. For the second year in-a-row St. Mike’s played for the Memorial Cup, this time against the Winnipeg Monarchs. Tod led all scorers in Memorial Cup play, scoring 23 goals in 12 games.

Although he wasn’t able to win another Canadian junior championship, Tod did add another piece of silverware to his trophy cabinet. St. Mike’s lost the seventh and deciding game to the Monarchs 4-2, but earlier in the Memorial Cup Final, Tod was named the winner of the “Red” Tilson Memorial Trophy. A standout junior player with the Oshawa Generals, Tilson appeared to be a can’t miss future star with the Toronto Maple Leafs. But he never made it to the National Hockey League as he lost his life in World War Two.

To honour the memory of “Red” Tilson, The Globe and Mail created a trophy in his name. As the newspaper noted, “the trophy is awarded annually to the Ontario Junior “A” player who, in the estimation of the coaches, combines sportsmanship and outstanding ability. ”Tod became only the second individual to win the Tilson Trophy. Also, Tod nabbed the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy as the OHA’s scoring champion.

Tod’s brother, Joe Sloan, was also a Leaf prospect, but during World War Two he was shot in the leg and the injury ended his time on the ice.

With his junior career in the books, Tod signed his first professional contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 30, 1946. At the press conference to announce the signing, Leaf coach, Hap Day, compared his budding star to two NHL sharpshooters, Carson “Old Shovel Shot” Cooper and New York sniper Bill Cook. “Coop and Bill could pick their spots any time and never be a fraction off their target, especially in laying in those scoring shots an eighth-of-an-inch within the goalpost and Sloan is the nearest thing to them I’ve seen.”

Tod’s first couple of years in pro hockey was spent in the American Hockey League with the Pittsburgh Hornets, where he gained the necessary seasoning prior to jumping to the NHL.

In 1947-48, Tod was called up by the Leafs for one game and he played in his first NHL contest on Christmas Night 1947. An injury to Don Metz provided Tod the chance to make his NHL debut against the Canadiens at the Montreal Forum. Then, the following year in 1948-49, Tod was once again summoned by the Leafs when Howie Meeker fractured his right collarbone. In 29 games with the parent club, Tod scored 3 goals and 4 helpers.

Tod closed out his minor-league career in 1949-50 with the Cleveland Barons. Twice during his time in the AHL, he played in the Calder Cup Final, but didn’t win the championship.

From 1950-51 to 1960-61, Tod played 7 seasons with the Maple Leafs and 3 with the Chicago Black Hawks. In his first full year with the Maple Leafs, Tod scored 31 goals in a era when the benchmark for elite scorers was 20.

In the 1951 Stanley Cup Final, Tod scored perhaps the biggest goal in his National Hockey League career. In game 5 against Montreal, the Leafs trailed the Habs 2-1 late in the third period. With time running out, Ted Kennedy, Max Bentley, Sid Smith and Tod Sloan went to work. Kennedy won the faceoff in Montreal’s zone and pulled the puck back to Bentley at the point.

An article in the Globe and Mail noted that Bentley, and I quote, “Worked his way goal ward firing through a maze of players. The puck bounced out, Smith smacked at it and hit a goalpost, the disc landing at Sloan’s feet. Tod did the rest.” The time of the goal was 19:28 and it was Tod’s second of the game.

Another account offered that Tod’s goal “took the heart out of the Habs, cost them a victory they had locked up. It was like having a man steal home on you in the ninth to tie the score.”

In the overtime, Bill Barilko scored the Cup winning goal for the Leafs and in August ’51 was killed in a plane crash. Without Tod’s tying goal, Barilko may not have been able to leave his very special mark in Toronto Maple Leafs history.

Tod’s best year in the NHL was in 1955-56. In 70 games, he scored 37 goals, tying a club record for most goals in a regular season. He equaled the mark set by Gaye Stewart in 1945-46. He finished second in the voting for the Hart Memorial Trophy to Jean Beliveau, who was named the NHL’s MVP.  However, Tod was named the Leafs MVP by the Gardens board of directors when they awarded him the J.P. Bickel Trophy. On April 17, came the news that Tod was voted to the Second All-Star Team at centre. He also played in the 1951 and 1952 All-Star games.

In June of 1958, Tod was traded to Chicago and in the spring of 1961 helped them win their first Stanley Cup since 1937-38. Tod ended his NHL career in the winner’s circle as he retired after the Hawks won the Cup.

In late December 1962, Tod was reinstated as an amateur and joined the OHA Senior “A” Galt Terriers. The Terriers represented Canada at the 1962 world championships in Denver, Colorado. In a losing cause, Tod recorded 16 points in 6 games.

Tod Sloan went on to play for the NHL Oldtimers and helped raise a lot of money for various charities.  

2 comments:

  1. PROBABLY NOT REMEMBERED OR OFTEN THOUGHT ABOUT BY MANY OVER THE AGE OF 60 NOW, TOD SLOAN WAS ONE OF THOSE REAL AND TRUE GENTLEMEN YOU COULD EVER WISH TO SPEAK WITH OR KNOW AND AS YOUNGSTERS WE ALL LOOKED UP TO HIM AND OTHERS OF THAT ERA AS PRIME EXAMPLES OF HOW TO PLAY THE GAME AND PLAY IT PROPERLY ...
    NICE TO READ THROUGH THIS NOSTALGIC TRIBUTE TO A FINE FELLOW AND ONE OF THE FOREMOST GREATS OF THE GAME.

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  2. TOD SLOAN DEPARTED THE SCENE ON WEDNESDAY 12 JULY 2017 AT AGE 89 ... HE WAS ONE OF THE VERY BEST OF HIS ERA AND MOST POPULAR WITH EVERYONE AS WELL ... WE SHALL REMEMBER.

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