Back-to-back penalty-free games in Toronto when New York teams were visiting. Was everyone on their best behavior or were the officials lax? The news out of Toronto only cared that they were clean. It helped that the Maple Leafs won both games – against the Rangers on January 9 and against the Americans on January 11, 1941.
When the Rangers came to town, they put up a fight (without fighting). Both teams scored in the first period, and the Rangers took the lead in the second. The Maple Leafs tied up the score in the third, so the game went into overtime. The Maple Leaf Garden crowd of 10,556 surely enjoyed watching Syl Apps score the winning goal. The 3-2 finish for the Leafs made this the second overtime victory in three nights. From Toronto’s recap, the New York Daily News printed the line, “Though hard fought, the battle was the first of the season free from penalties.”
Two nights later, the other New York team, could have used some power plays to give them an extra-man advantage. The Americans held off the Maple Leafs for almost six minutes. Then the 10,326 fans watched as the home team scored two goals in the first period, four in the second, and three more in the third. According to the recap, “The Americans new brand of hockey, streamlined, was a total failure, as the New Yorkers were continually hung up in Toronto territory while some Leaf stole the disk for a solo charge on poor Earl Robertson.” The game ended in a devastating shutout of 9-0. The newspapers noted, “The battle may not have been hard-fought, but it was clean. For the second successive time on this ice, a NHL game was played without any player penalties.” Fortunately, the Americans did not have to stick around but flew home that night for a matchup against the Rangers back in New York.
On January 9, Bert McCaffrey, a former NHL defenseman, refereed the game without calling a penalty. He then, on January 11, served as linesman under referee King Clancy, a more-famous former NHL defenseman. McCaffrey played for Toronto teams from 1924 to 1927 and then for two seasons each with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Montreal Canadiens. He was perhaps best known for his role in winning Canada the gold at the 1924 Olympics in Chamonix, France. As for Clancy, he played for the Ottawa Senators from 1921 until 1930 and then for the Maple Leafs from 1930 until his retirement in 1936. Although short, Clancy was tough, and he did not shy from checks and fights, often instigating with comments. In his final playoffs, he helped the Leafs win by telling Boston Bruins Eddie Shore that the referee was unfair. An enraged Shore “fired a puck at the ref, earning a 10-minute misconduct,” during which time the Leafs scored four goals. With their reputations as tough guys, were these officials letting things slide or did the Toronto and New York teams really play clean games back-to-back?
- “Leafs Nip Rangers, 3-2” and “Rangers Lose, 3-2,” New York Daily News, 10 Jan. 1941, p. 48.
- “Leafs Smother A’s, 9-0, In Scoring Spree” and “Leafs Lead Amerks In Second Period,” New York Daily News, 12 Jan. 1941, p. 82.