Charlie Conacher, who as a player played 12 seasons in the NHL—nine of them with the Toronto Maple Leafs—began his coaching career six years later at the start of the 1947-50 NHL season. He coached the Chicago Blackhawks for three years.
While playing, Conacher earned the nickname of “The Big Bomber,” due to his size, powerful shot and goal scoring. However, during his last year of coaching with the Blackhawks, he may have earned a new nickname “Haymaker.”
On February 9, 1950, while reporters were in the Blackhawks dressing room after a loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Conacher and Lew Walters of the Detroit Times got into an argument about supposedly about something Walters had written in regard to the Blackhawks. Walters accused Conacher of hitting him. The next day, Conacher—who was no longer in Detroit—was charged with assault and battery. Connacher was to be served the next time the Blackhawks played in Detroit—which was to be March 11, 1950.
As reported in The Cumberland News (Cumberland, Maryland) on February 10, 1950:
“Conacher admitted in Chicago that he punched reporter Lew Walter in the Hawks dressing room at the Olympia last night. Conacher claimed: ‘He called me “the worst of all the coaches to talk to.” I resented the remark and punched him. I don’t have to take that from anyone.’”
Walter had gone to the dressing room to ask Conacher about his assault on NHL Referee Bill Chadwick during the game. Conacher had grabbed and shaken Chadwick when Chadwick wouldn’t penalize a Red Wing. With that Conacher was already likely to get fined by the National Hockey League.
As reported in The Cumberland News according to the article that Walter wrote, as he started to leave the dressing room “Conacher approached me, made a number of baseless charges and then landed his sneak punch…a terrific overhand right.”
It’s clear that Walter thought little of Conacher, because he had started out his story by saying “All the coaching brains Charlie Conacher can muster on his most lucid days aren’t enough to teach his last-place Blackhaws to drive their way out of a wet paper sack. But old Charlie himself hasn’t lost his punch.”
At that time Clarence Campbell, president of the National Hockey League, indicated that he wouldn’t take any action on either of the incidents that Conacher was involved in that night. Campbell indicated that the fight between Conacher and Walter was outside the jurisdiction of the NHL, and he felt the incident with Chadwick was actually blown out of proportion due to the fight. As was reported in the February 10, 1950 issue of The Ottawa Journal “Campbell commented that any newspaper reporter entering a club’s dressing room does so at his own risk.”
Interestingly enough, a month later Campbell would change his tune about Conacher’s fight with Walter. Conacher received a $200 fine from he NHL for punching Walter.
“The sports writers and radio men have a job to do in covering the activities of the league and its clubs and they are entitled to decent, courteous treatment from all hockey personnel while they are carrying out their duties,” Campbell was quoted.
This was quite an about face from Campbell’s comments just after the incident.
For Conacher, that was his last year of coaching in the NHL. Of the three years he was behind the bench the Blackhawks were in last place in the first and last year and only made it up to fifth place in his middle year.
- “Charlie Conacher Charged with Assault for Slugging Writing,” The Ottawa Journal, February 9, 1950, p. 1
- “No NHL Reprimand for Chuch Conacher,” The Ottawa Journal, February 10, 1950, p. 4
- “Walter Walloped, Warrant Issued for Hockey Coach who Socked Detroit Sports Writer,” The Cumberland News (Cumberland, Maryland), February 10, 1950, p. 23
- “Charlie Conacher Drew $200 Fine,” The News Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan), March 10, 1950, p. 15.