48 Days Until The Season Begins
By Zach Laing27 days ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane.
Long before there were Stanley Cup championships in Edmonton, there was an Allan Cup championship. It came in 1948 after years of spirited battle with their foes down south, the Calgary Stampeders.
It’s the latest edition of the countdown to the start of the 2023-24 season that has dove into Edmonton’s hockey history pre-NHL.
On Day 72, we looked at the WHA’s Alberta Oilers. Day 66 was about the Edmonton Oil Kings beating Bobby Orr’s Oshawa Generals in the Memorial Cup. Day 49 was about the Edmonton Mercurys.
Now, let’s turn back the clock to the 1940’s.
Images from the May 10, 1948 Edmonton Journal show the Edmonton Flyers’ Allan Cup win. Pictured atop, Flyers head coach Frank Currie and forward Andy Clovechok hang onto the Allan Cup. Pictured below shows Clovechok scoring the championship-winning goal — one of three from that night.
The Edmonton Flyers joined the senior hockey circuit in 1940 getting their start in the Alberta Senior Hockey League. Their first season had them show well finishing the year with a 15-14-1 and a first-round matchup with the Calgary Stampeders. While the Calgary club took game one of the series 6-1, the Flyers roared back in game two with Joe Brown scoring a game-winning goal in overtime at the Edmonton Arena.
“It has been years since the Edmonton Arena has been the scene of a more dramatic goal while the famous old hockey battleground probably never saw a goal scored with finer craftsman,” Edmonton Bulletin scribe Jack Kelly wrote in a March 5th, 1941 edition of the paper.
The Flyers, described in an edition of the same paper two days prior, were described as a team who had “done nothing all season except spring surprises—losses when everyone anticipated a win and wins when all the folks were resigned to loss.”
The club was chaulked full of talent that season in the four-team league. Forward Eddie O’Keefe who “smashed every individual Alberta league scoring record except one this season,” was named a first-team all-star alongside Lefty Grove. No, not baseball’s Lefty Grove. Edmonton rearguards Riley Mullen and Gordon Watt earned second-team honours.
Back to the playoffs where in game three, the Flyers failed to solve the Stampeders dropping a 9-1 decision that eliminated them from the playoff picture.
Hockey in Canada and around the world hit a major pause as in 1942, the Second World War broke out halting any competitive play — at least for the Flyers — until 1945.
When the war ended and the Flyers were ready to begin play again, they joined the Western Canada Senior Hockey League organized by W.G. Hardy. The Flyers would square off against the Calgary Stampeders, Lethbridge Maple Leafs, Regina Capitals and Saskatoon Elks finishing second in the league in each of its first two seasons to the Stamps.
Calgary would go on to win the Allan Cup in 1946 defeating the Ontario Hockey Association’s Hamilton Tigers, but would fall to the hands of the Montreal Royals in 1947.
The Flyers, meanwhile, were biding their time. 1948 was the year they struck.
They finished the 1947-48 season in similar spots they had in years past with a 24-22-2 record, but placed third in the league. It was a slow start and thunderous finish that, at least early on, had head coach Frank Currie on the hot seat.
Edmonton squared off with the Regina Capitals in the semi-finals, but pulled away “with flying colours,” a March 25th, 1948 edition of the Edmonton Journal read, setting them up for a finals date with the Stampeders, who more than had their number.
And early on in the series, it looked like it would continue. The Flyers dropped game one of the series and tied another, but a top line of Dougie Anderson, Andy Clovechok and Bing Merluk would help lead the charge toward victory. By the end of the series, which would see Edmonton beat Calgary 6-2 in the sixth game of the foray, they would finish 1-2-3 in playoff scoring combining for two goals in the finale.
It landed the Flyers a date with British Columbia’s Trail Smoke Eaters with Currie’s men. It was a short one at that. Edmonton travelled west for the first two games of the series returning home up 2-0 for games three and four at the Edmonton Arena. There, in front of their home town crowd, would dominate the Smokies winning game four a staggering 10-0.
Next stop: Winnipeg.
The Flyers would head east to take on the Winnipeg Reos with another dominant performance securing the series in five games.
“The Flyers are comfortably seated on the western hockey throne as Allan Cup finalists and there’s nobody left to dispute it,” the Edmonton Journal’s Don Fleming wrote in an April 19, 1948 edition of the paper. “The Currie-men brushed aside the last objector before an enthusiastic throng at the Arena Saturday night when they emerged triumphant 3-2 over Winnipeg Reos in the fifth game of the of the western finals.
“It gave the Edmontonias the best-of-seven set four games to one, and was their fourth straight victory after tail-spinning in the initial meeting.”
A March 25, 1948 edition of the Edmonton Journal details the Edmonton Flyers winning the Western Canada Senior Hockey League championship over the Calgary Stampeders.
An April 5, 1948 edition of the Edmonton Journal details the Edmonton Flyers beating the Trail Smoke Eaters in the Western Senior Finals.
An April 19, 1948 edition of the Edmonton Journal details the Edmonton Flyers defeating the Winnipeg Reos to qualify for the Allan Cup.
Win or lose, the city of Edmonton already planned a parade for their Flyers when they were to return home. But out east, the Ottawa Senators had gone through a similar playoff gauntlet
The series kicked off on April 28th in Regina seeing the Flyers have an “easy time” taking on the Senators winning game one 6-2.
“It would be easy to suggest that Flyers, using speed and more speed, simply skated the Easterners into the ice racking up their one-sided victory,” Edmonton Bulletin sports editor Stan Moher said of the game in an April 29th edition, “but it wouldn’t be very close to the truth.
“Actually, the Western Canada League kings weren’t out of a high gallop at any time. They didn’t have to be. The vaunted offensive dynamite which Senators are supposed to have in large gobs failed to show itself.”
The Senators would respond with a 3-2 victory in game two of the series showing this matchup had tones of previous battles the Flyers faced. And much like in those other matches, Frank Currie’s men knew how to respond.
It would come in the fashion of three significant trounces en route to the Flyers’ Cup win. Game three saw Edmonton dominate 7-0, while games five and six would see them secure back-to-back 5-3 wins.
“Hail the conquering heroes! And that’s just what more than 50,000 Edmonton men, women and children have in mind for tonight,” the front page of the May 10, 1948 edition of the Edmonton Bulletin read. “Already, in this hockey-crazed northern Alberta metropolis, advantageous sites along the city’s main thoroughfare are being surreptitiously eyed by young and old as everyone vies for ‘my spot’ in the huge victory celebration, scheduled to get underway at 7 p.m., in honor of Canada’s senior amateur hockey champions, the Edmonton Flyers.”
The game was one in thanks to the aforementioned talents of Andy Clovechok, who in this game found the back of the net three times including scoring the game-winning goal.
This, from Edmonton Bulletin sports editor Stan Moher, described the player and the night it was.
“Out in the Pacific coast a couple years ago an enterprising sportswriter took a look at winger Clovechok of the Vancouver Canucks and quickly hung on him the nickname ‘Handy Andy.’ Little did the typewriter pounder know how squarely he was hitting the nail on the head.
“Clovechok, a Czechslovakian born sniper who can put the puck where he wants it to go, was even more than just a handy guy in Calgary’s Victoria Arena Saturday night. As a matter of fact he personally saw to it that a large sized gob of hockey history was made.
“For the first time in the close to 40 years of Allan Cup competition an Edmonton team is in possession of the prized trophy. A 5-3 conquest of Ottawa Senators by Flyers in the fifth game of the finals turned the trick.
“It was the ‘Handy Andy’ one who sparked a thrilling payoff Flyer uprising in the last four and one-half minutes of play. During this time the westerners tallied thrice to wipe out a one-goal lead the Senators were nursing.”
An Edmonton Bulletin article from May 10, 1948 details the Edmonton Flyers winning the 1948 Allan Cup.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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