Flashback March 8, 1968: Photos of the EHL's Long Island Ducks hosting the New Haven Blades
In the old Eastern Hockey League (EHL), New Haven and Long Island were two rough and tumble teams. Not only that but after playing in the same division for many years, they had become fierce rivals. The prime example is from the 1965-66 season, when the Ducks and Blades played all of 90 seconds before a bench clearing fight erupted that took 25-minutes to sort out. This was likely a hold over of anger from fights from the team's previous game. After things finally calmed, New Haven player-coach Jackie LeClair pulled his team off the ice. So that gives you an idea of what this league, and specifically these teams, was like on its craziest day.
Two years after that bench clearing brawl, a pair of feisty Ducks defenders who had been central pieces in the 1966 chaos weren't on the ice anymore. John Brophy, who was the basis for Reg Dunlop in Slapshot, was now the Ducks' coach. For New Haven, ex-Duck Don Perry had taken over as head coach. The two teams were, as usual, in the playoff hunt. In this campaign, New Haven finished second in the division with 93 points, Long Island fourth with 65. In the six team division, the top four would make the playoffs.
It's at this point we are able to pick up the story that was captured in photographs by Look magazine. Available from the Library of Congress, a few dozen rolls of film shot by Jim Hansen capture the Ducks throughout the final three games of their 1965-66 campaign in the Eastern Hockey League. The magazine itself was a Life Magazine sort of publication that ran from 1937 through 1971. It's not clear what sort of story these photos were meant for. I've tried looking through some online archives of the magazine but wasn't able to ascertain if these were ever published.
What is clear from the photos is that they were dated from March 1968, and capture a three-game stretch for the Ducks that saw them host New Haven and the Clinton Comets at home in the final two regular season games before going to Clinton for their first playoff game. Based on some newspaper research for background, I'm very certain these are the games that these photos cover, as the Ducks played those three games in a five day span and were finished for the season by March 15.
This set of photos covers the first game of the trio between the Ducks and New Haven at Long Island Arena in Commack. This game ended in a 5-5 tie, with the teams playing pretty evenly as New Haven had a 38-35 edge in shots. One interesting story, New Haven's trainer Gunner Garrett was pressed into action in goal. Their regular netminder, Roger Wilson, took a puck to the elbow during warmups and was unable to play, so New Haven turned to their trainer. This wasn't even the first time he had stepped in, playing two previous games during the season.
I'll post two more sets of photos later on as I am able to go through them (there's a lot and the scans from the LoC are so big they drag my computer to a complete stop). For anyone interested these are available to anyone by making a request through the Library of Congress. I believe I paid about $50 for contact sheets of all the rolls to be made. Individual copies of photos are pretty pricey, they cost about that much per photo.
If you're able to help identify anyone in these shots, please send me a note on Twitter @vintageicehky or an email at Kevin@vintageicehockey.com. I've tried to not definitively name anyone I'm not sure about and most of what I speculate below is according to HockeyDB's rosters. Even tougher, multiple players wore the same number for during this season, so it's tough to identify many players by number.
Note: These photos have been lightly edited to improve color contrast and highlights.
1. In the above photo, Ducks owner Al Baron sits a top a desk with coach John Brophy sitting in the lighter tan coat. Presumably this is somewhere inside the Long Island Arena at the team offices.
2. Ducks coach John Brophy (right) has a conversation with an unidentified person.
3. Coach Brophy sizing up a stick.
4. Above, action between the Ducks and Blades. The Ducks are wearing their home white jerseys that say 'Long Island' across the front. New Haven is wearing what I presume are blue jerseys (their main color) with a script 'New Haven' across the front. #4 is likely Don Newman, although Ken Liebel also wore the same number during this season. The man in the middle is #5 (determined from other photos) who is either Tom Burgess or Bob Taylor.
5. A fracas breaks out involving all ten skaters on the ice. Note that there isn't any glass at Long Island Arena, above the boards is chicken wire that separates the fans from the players.
6. Action in front of the Ducks' goal. Number 10 for New Haven is Murray Klein, per hockeydb. The goalie is likely Wayne Doll, who played 60 of the Ducks' games during this season and would play the next game against Clinton. But it could possibly be Jim Knox who wore the same number and played net for Long Island.
7. The Ducks' goalie lays out in net. And no, he wasn't wearing a mask.
8. Another kick save from the Ducks goalie. #9 in the dark jersey is likely Michel Rouleau for New Haven. In the background, the fans have hung a sign welcoming back Ben LeBlanc who played for both teams during this season. LeBlanc may have been wearing #14.
9. A New Haven player looks for options in the offensive zone.
10. The aftermath of a fight, one of the Ducks players has lost his jersey and is being restrained by a teammate while referees try to calm him. Note the fans climbing up the boards for a better view.
11. Continued aftermath, as the referees try to sort things out. #2 with hands on hips for Long Island is likely Hal Willis. #8 is likely Dwight Winters, who led the Ducks in scoring with 123 points.
12. The Ducks and fans celebrate one of their five goals on the night.
13. Another fight breaks out.
14. It's not clear what this meeting is, but possibly a league meeting or a Ducks board meeting. Ducks owner Al Baron is pictured on the right side of the table.
15. Another shot of the meeting, with Al Baron facing the camera on the right.
We'll have more from this collection of photos in the coming weeks...
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