Johnny Bower

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Johnny Bower
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1976
Chex Johnny Bower.JPG
Born (1924-11-08)November 8, 1924
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada
Died December 26, 2017(2017-12-26) (aged 93)
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Height 5 ft 9 in (175 cm)
Weight 170 lb (77 kg; 12 st 2 lb)
Position Goaltender
Caught Left
Played for New York Rangers
Toronto Maple Leafs
Playing career 1945–1969

John William Bower (born John William Kiszkan;[1] November 8, 1924 – December 26, 2017),[2] nicknamed "The China Wall", was a Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender who won four Stanley Cups during his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs. On January 1, 2017, in a ceremony prior to the Centennial Classic, he was named one of the "100 Greatest NHL Players" in history.[3][4]

Playing career

Bower was born John William Kiszkan into a Ukrainian Canadian family in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, to Johnny Kiszkan, a labourer, and his wife, Betty.[5] He had one brother and seven sisters. He taught himself how to play hockey, using a branch as a stick, and made himself goalie pads out of old mattresses. When he was 15, he lied about his age and enlisted in the Canadian Army during World War II, where he was stationed in England as a gunner with the 2nd Canadian Division from 1940 to 1943.[6] His service ended when he was discharged due to rheumatoid arthritis in his hands.[7][8][9]

After his discharge, Kiszkan returned to Prince Albert in 1944 to play junior hockey there. In 1945, he turned professional and moved to the American Hockey League (AHL), where he spent 11 seasons playing mostly for the Cleveland Barons in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Kiszkan began to use his mother's maiden name, Bower, after his parents divorced in 1946.[10] He legally changed his surname during his first year of professional hockey, because sports writers often had trouble spelling "Kiszkan".[5][11]

In the AHL, he proved himself the star goaltender of the circuit, winning numerous awards and leading his teams to three Calder Cup championships.[7][9][12]

Johnny Bower in goal, undated

Bower was picked up by the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League (NHL) for the 1953–54 season. At the age of 29, Bower made his NHL debut, and the team made him their starting goaltender over the previous season's rookie of the year winner Gump Worsley. Bower played in every game that season, recording 29 wins. The following season Worlsey won back the starting job for the Rangers, and Bower was returned to the minor leagues.[13] He played here for four more years across three different teams; the Providence Reds (1945–46, 1955–56 and 1956–57), Vancouver Canucks (1954–55) and Cleveland Barons (1945–53 to 1957–58). Bower would briefly play for the Rangers again in 1954–55 and 1956–57, before being claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1958 Inter-League Draft.[7][14][15]

Despite being claimed by Toronto, Bower intended to stay with the Barons, as he was tired of moving all over the country. When the Leafs hired Punch Imlach, he visited Bower, and convinced him to give the NHL one more try, and became a strong supporter of his during his time with the Leafs, calling him "the most remarkable — and maybe the best — athlete in the world." The Leafs at this time were an up-and-coming team of young star players, and after Imlach traded for Red Kelly, the Leafs were ready for contention.[9][15]

Bower won his first Vezina Trophy in 1961 for leading the Leafs to the lowest goals allowed in the 1960-61 season. The height of his NHL career came during the Maple Leafs' three consecutive Stanley Cup victories in the early 1960s: 1961–62, 1962–63, and 1963–64. He later said, "When we won the Stanley Cup, my head went numb, my whole body went numb. That was my dream from Day One. You just can't explain the feelings inside you."[7][9][15][16]

Bower's career would be hampered by poor eyesight, but despite that he remained a top-tier goaltender. He was known for his hard-nosed, scrappy playing style and would win another Stanley Cup in 1967 in tandem with another Hall of Famer, Terry Sawchuk. He claimed, "I wasn't all that glad to see the two-goalie system come in. I wanted to play as many games as I could."[17] Bower and Sawchuk shared the Vezina Trophy when the Leafs allowed the fewest goals in the NHL in 1964–65. On April 22, 1967, in the second game of the Stanley Cup Finals, he shut out the Montreal Canadiens for his fifth (and final) career playoff shutout — four of them against the Canadiens.[18] In the third game of the Stanley Cup Finals, on April 25, 1967, and in his last Stanley Cup Finals appearance, he became the second-oldest goalie to play in the Finals at the age of 42 years, 5 months, 17 days (Lester Patrick holds that record). The Leafs won in double overtime when Bob Pulford scored.[7][19]

On April 6, 1969, at the age of 44 years, 4 months, and 29 days, Bower became the oldest goaltender to play in a Stanley Cup playoff game.[20] His last full season was 1968–69. He played his final game on December 10, 1969, a 6–3 loss to Montreal;[21] mainly due to injuries, this was his only game of the 1969–70 season. At the time, he was the oldest full-time player ever to participate in an NHL game, and remains the second-oldest goaltender (45 years, 1 month, 2 days), behind only Maurice Roberts; he was surpassed as oldest full-time player by Gordie Howe, Chris Chelios, and Jaromir Jagr.[7][9][22][23][24]

On March 19, 1970, Bower publicly announced his official retirement — four months after his 45th birthday. He played 11 full seasons in all with the Leafs. When asked, in light of his retirement, if he might reveal his true age, he replied "If you don't know by now, you never will".[14] He subsequently revealed his birth date as November 8, 1924.[25]

His regular season career statistics include: 552 games played, 250 wins, 195 losses, 90 ties, 37 shutouts and a 2.51 GAA. In addition, he remains the AHL career leader in wins.[26][27]

Post-retirement and death

Johnny Bower attends an autograph signing in Surrey, B.C. in 2013

Bower worked for the Maple Leafs after his retirement in various capacities, including as a scout and a goalie coach. He was assistant coach for the Leafs from 1976–78. He retired from the organization in 1990, but continued to make public appearances on behalf of the organization for the rest of his life.[7][15][28]

Bower was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976, and the AHL Hall of Fame as a member of its inaugural class in 2006. In 1998, he was ranked number 87 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest NHL Players. He was inducted into the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame in 1994, and into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.[29] He was married to wife Nancy with a son, two daughters, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and previously resided in Mississauga, Ontario.[7][9][15]

In January 2004, Bower was featured on a postage stamp. As part of the NHL All-Stars Collection, he was immortalized along with five other All-Stars.[8][30] In 2005, the Royal Canadian Mint featured Bower on a non-circulating fifty-cent coin, as part of its four-coin Legends of the Toronto Maple Leafs coin set.[31] In 2007, it was announced that Bower would receive a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.

On October 7, 2010, Bower opened the first game of the regular season for the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre by walking out on an implied "bridge over water" with his goalie stick.[32]

On May 24, 2014, Bower attended a street renaming ceremony in Weston in Toronto, where he once lived for many years. Patika Avenue was ceremonially renamed Johnny Bower Boulevard to honour him for the time during the 1960s when he lived at 16 Patika Avenue.[33][34] He proudly stated "It’s a great day for me and my family...this is a better ovation than I used to get at Maple Leaf Gardens."

Bower was once again immortalized on September 6, 2014, when the Leafs unveiled him, alongside Darryl Sittler, as two of the first three inductees of Legends Row (Ted Kennedy was the first, announced some months earlier), with statues outside Air Canada Centre depicting twelve of the greatest players in Maple Leafs history.[35]

On December 26, 2017, Bower died at the age of 93 from pneumonia.[7] In the days following Bower's death, multiple teams, including the Maple Leafs, Jets, Coyotes, and Toronto Raptors of the NBA honoured Bower with pre-game tributes.[36] On January 3, the Maple Leafs hosted a public celebration of Bower's life at the Air Canada Centre. Thousands attended the event, including various former NHL alumni, the current Maple Leafs team and other major figures.[37][38] The memorial was televised across multiple channels in Canada, and in accordance with the event, Toronto Mayor John Tory declared January 3 to be "Johnny Bower Day" in the city of Toronto.[39] For the remainder of the 2017–18 season, the Maple Leafs will wear patches on their jerseys and helmets in honour of Bower.[40]

Legacy

Bower was the first goaltender to effectively employ the poke check, an aggressive move wherein the goalie uses his stick to poke the puck away from an attacking player, sometimes leaving his crease in the process. This move has since been imitated by goaltenders across all levels of hockey.[9][41][42]

Awards and honours

Bower's star on Canada's Walk of Fame

Career statistics

Regular season and playoff statistics.[54]

Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP W L T MIN GA SO GAA SV% GP W L MIN GA SO GAA SV%
1944–45 Prince Albert Black Hawks SJHL 10 5 4 1 630 27 0 2.57
1944–45 Laura Beavers SIHA 1 0 0 60 3 0 3.00
1944–45 Prince Albert Black Hawks M-Cup 3 0 3 180 23 0 7.67
1945–46 Cleveland Barons AHL 41 18 17 6 2460 160 4 3.90
1945–46 Providence Reds AHL 1 0 1 0 48 4 0 5.00
1946–47 Cleveland Barons AHL 40 22 11 7 2400 124 3 3.10
1947–48 Cleveland Barons AHL 31 18 6 6 1880 83 1 2.65
1948–49 Cleveland Barons AHL 37 23 9 5 2200 127 3 3.43 5 2 3 329 23 0 4.19
1949–50 Cleveland Barons AHL 61 38 15 8 3660 201 5 3.30 9 4 5 548 27 0 2.96
1950–51 Cleveland Barons AHL 70 44 21 5 4280 213 5 2.99 11 8 3 703 32 0 2.73
1951–52 Cleveland Barons AHL 68 44 19 5 4110 165 3 2.41 5 2 3 300 17 0 3.40
1952–53 Cleveland Barons AHL 61 40 19 2 3680 155 6 2.53 11 7 4 745 21 4 1.69
1953–54 New York Rangers NHL 70 29 31 10 4200 182 5 2.60
1954–55 Vancouver Canucks WHL 63 30 25 8 3780 171 7 2.71 5 1 4 300 16 0 3.20
1954–55 New York Rangers NHL 5 2 2 1 300 13 0 2.60
1955–56 Providence Reds AHL 61 45 14 2 3710 174 3 2.81 9 7 2 540 23 0 2.56
1956–57 New York Rangers NHL 2 0 2 0 120 6 0 3.50 .882
1956–57 Providence Reds AHL 57 30 19 8 3501 138 4 2.37 5 1 4 300 15 0 3.00
1957–58 Cleveland Barons AHL 64 37 23 3 3870 140 8 2.17
1958–59 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 39 15 17 7 2340 106 3 2.74 .913 12 5 7 746 38 0 3.06 .906
1959–60 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 66 34 24 8 3960 177 5 2.68 .918 10 4 6 645 31 0 2.88 .916
1960–61 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 58 33 15 10 3480 145 2 2.50 .922 3 0 3 180 8 0 2.67 .911
1961–62 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 59 31 18 10 3540 151 2 2.58 .918 10 6 3 579 20 0 2.07 .927
1962–63 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 42 20 15 7 2520 109 1 2.62 .913 10 8 2 600 16 2 1.60 .949
1963–64 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 51 24 16 11 3009 106 5 2.11 .933 14 8 6 850 30 2 2.12 .930
1964–65 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 34 13 13 8 2040 81 3 2.38 .924 5 2 3 321 13 0 2.43 .916
1965–66 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 35 18 10 5 1998 75 3 2.25 .929 2 0 2 120 8 0 4.00 .893
1966–67 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 27 12 9 3 1431 63 2 2.64 .924 4 2 0 183 5 1 1.64 .957
1967–68 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 43 14 18 7 2329 84 4 2.25 .934
1968–69 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 20 5 4 3 779 37 2 2.85 .910 4 0 2 154 11 0 4.29 .888
1969–70 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 1 0 1 0 60 5 0 5.00 .868
AHL totals 592 359 174 57 35,799 1684 45 2.82 55 31 24 3465 158 4 2.74
NHL totals 552 250 195 90 32,016 1340 37 2.51 .922 74 35 34 4378 180 5 2.47 .922

References

  1. ^ "Johnny Bower: A Goalie For All Ages". Greastest Hockey Legends. 21 January 2012. 
  2. ^ Woolsey, Garth (2008-12-14). "Winter reading for the hockey fan". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2007-12-14. 
  3. ^ a b "100 Greatest NHL Players". NHL.com. January 1, 2017. Retrieved January 1, 2017. 
  4. ^ NHL (2017-03-22), Johnny Bower led Leafs to four Stanley Cup titles, retrieved 2017-04-25 
  5. ^ a b Hornby, Lance (26 December 2017). "Maple Leafs legend Johnny Bower dead at age 93". London Free Press. 
  6. ^ Hornby, Lance (27 December 2017). "Hall of Famer Johnny Bower had massive smile, heart and dedication". Toronto Sun. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cleveland, Amy (2017-12-26). "Maple Leafs legend Johnny Bower dead at 93". CBC Sports. Retrieved 2017-12-26. 
  8. ^ a b FOCUS ON PHILATELY, The Ukrainian Weekly (February 1, 2004)
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "NHL.com: Bower dies at age 93". nhl.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  10. ^ Robson, Dan (27 December 2013). "Greatest Maple Leafs: No. 5 Johnny Bower". Sportsnet. 
  11. ^ Canada Post - Press Releases - Ice dreams : Fifth set of hockey All-Stars to be honoured with stamps Johnny Bower, Brad Park, Larry Robinson, Marcel Dionne, Ted Lindsay and Milt Schmidt selected for Canada Post's All-Star list for 2004
  12. ^ "Johnny Bower passes at 93, leaves behind generational legacy". InGoal. December 26, 2017. 
  13. ^ Kreiser, John (December 31, 2017). "Bower, Ilitch among deaths in hockey world in 2017". NHL.com. National Hockey League. Retrieved January 3, 2018. 
  14. ^ a b Johnny Bower (1953-70)
  15. ^ a b c d e McGran, Kevin. "Leafs legend Johnny Bower dies at 93". thestar.com. John Boynton. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  16. ^ "Via Rail Stanley Cup Dynasties". Hockey Hall of Fame. 
  17. ^ Dambrauskas, Colin. "The Original Six Goalies ...And Their Masks - Part 2 - Toronto Maple Leafs". hockeybuzz.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  18. ^ Leafs Trump Habs with Right Bower The Montreal Gazette - April 24, 1967, page 25. Retrieved 2010-08-16
  19. ^ Pulford Gives Leafs 3-2 Overtime Win The Montreal Gazette - April 26, 1967, page 39. Retrieved 2010-08-16
  20. ^ Punch fired as Leafs Ousted The Montreal Gazette - April 7, 1969, page 21. Retrieved 2010-08-16
  21. ^ Canadiens’ rally beats Toronto 6-3 The Montreal Gazette - Dec. 11, 1969, page 11. Retrieved 2010-08-16
  22. ^ "Sportsnet Top 10: Oldest NHLers of all-time". sportsnet.ca. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  23. ^ Proteau, Adam. "Dwayne Roloson - at 45 years of age - makes a surprise return to an NHL team". thehockeynews.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  24. ^ "Legends of Hockey: Johnny Bower (biography)". legendsofhockey.net. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  25. ^ Johnny Bower: A Goalie For All Ages, February 16, 2009
  26. ^ "Hockey Reference: Johnny Bower". hockey-reference.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  27. ^ "AHL Hall of Fame: Goaltending Wins". ahlhalloffame.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  28. ^ Rush, Curtis (9 Dec 2014). "Maple Leafs legend Johnny Bower endures as ambassador, icon". thestar.com. John Boynton. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  29. ^ "Johnny Bower". oshof.ca. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  30. ^ Canada's Stamp Details, January to March 2004, Volume XIII, No. 1
  31. ^ The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins, 61st Edition, p.209, W.K. Cross, Editor, 2007, The Charlton Press, Toronto, Ontario, ISBN 0-88968-315-8
  32. ^ Hockey Night in Canada: Toronto Maple Leafs Home Opener--Oct 7, 2010 (Television). Toronto, ON: CBC Sports. 7 Oct 2010. Retrieved 26 Dec 2017. 
  33. ^ "Legendary Leaf Johnny Bower scores hometown welcome". Toronto Star. May 4, 2014. 
  34. ^ "Toronto road named after legendary Leaf Johnny Bower". Toronto Sun. May 24, 2014. 
  35. ^ "Maple Leafs Legends Row starts with Ted Kennedy, Darryl Sittler, Johnny Bower". thestar.com. Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  36. ^
    • "Maple Leafs, Coyotes Honour Late Johnny Bower with Moment of Silence". Sportsnet. Rogers Communication. December 28, 2017. Retrieved January 3, 2018. 
    • "Jets Salute Johnny Bower". NHL.com. December 27, 2017. Retrieved January 3, 2018. 
    • Zeisberger, Mike (January 2, 2018). "Maple Leafs pay tribute to Bower". NHL.com. National Hockey League. Retrieved January 3, 2018. 
    • "Raptors pay tribute to Maple Leafs legend Johnny Bower". Sportsnet. Rogers Communications. December 29, 2017. Retrieved January 3, 2018. 
  37. ^ "Johnny Bower tribute at ACC brings out hockey royalty". Toronto Star. Torstar. January 3, 2018. Retrieved January 3, 2018. 
  38. ^ Warmington, Joe (January 3, 2018). "Celebration of life at ACC will be a fitting tribute for Maple Leafs great Johnny Bower". Toronto Sun. Postmedia Network. Retrieved January 3, 2018. 
  39. ^ "Memorial service being held in Toronto for hockey legend Johnny Bower". Global News. Corus Entertainment. January 3, 2018. Retrieved January 3, 2018. 
  40. ^ "Maple Leafs to honour Bower with celebration of life, uniform patches". Sportsnet. Rogers Communications. December 28, 2017. Retrieved January 3, 2018. 
  41. ^ "The Aggressive Poke Check". stevedaviesgoalietraining.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  42. ^ Ritter, Mark. "Has the Poke Check become a thing of the past?". bleacherreport.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  43. ^ "Harry Hap Holmes Memorial Award". AHL Hall of Fame. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  44. ^ a b "Johnny Bower Stats and News". NHL.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  45. ^ a b "1961 NHL All-Star Game Rosters". hockey-reference.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  46. ^ "Les Cunningham Award". AHL Hall of Fame. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  47. ^ "Calder Cup Champions: The Players". AHL Hall of Fame. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  48. ^ Kay, Jason. "The Top 100 NHL players of all-time, throwback style". The Hockey News. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  49. ^ "Bower, Johnny -- Honoured Player". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  50. ^ "Johnny Bower - AHL Hall of Fame". American Hockey League Hall of Fame. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  51. ^ "Johnny Bower". Canada's Walk of Fame. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  52. ^ Peticca, Mike. "Lake Erie Monsters add to Cleveland's rich hockey history in AHL Calder Cup 2016". Cleveland.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  53. ^ "Toronto Maple Leafs retire the numbers of 17 players". NHL.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  54. ^ "Johnny Bower's stats". The Goaltender Home Page. Retrieved 2017-08-05. 

External links

  • Biographical information and career statistics from NHL.com, or Eliteprospects.com, or Legends of Hockey, or The Internet Hockey Database
  • Age never got in Bower's way
  • AHL Hall of Fame bio
Preceded by
Jacques Plante
Winner of the Vezina Trophy
1961
Succeeded by
Jacques Plante
Preceded by
Charlie Hodge
Winner of the Vezina Trophy
with Terry Sawchuk

1965
Succeeded by
Gump Worsley
and Charlie Hodge
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