The Canadiens had, in fact, come out hitting from Game 1 of the series and now, in what was to be the last game, it was obvious that Toronto tempers were frayed. Toe Blake actually cautioned his Canadiens to avoid fights.
"We're good enough to win without fighting," he told them beforehand. And afterward he said: "Well, that shows you how much they listen to me."
The fights that went on between these statements made that game a subject for awed study by the league's statisticians. The war began in the first period when Ferguson elbowed Pete Stemkowski of the Leafs. Stemkowski responded with a fist but lost the decision to Ferguson. Shack came over to deliver a protesting swing and found himself jostled out of position by Claude Larose. The Canadiens' Dave Balon rushed to Larose's assistance, holding Shack while Larose threw rights and lefts at Shack's nose, which may be the biggest in professional sport. (At one time he was known as Pinocchio.) Then there were Ted Harris, the Canadiens' second-best policeman, and Orland Kurtenbach, the Leafs' utility player who is—now was—considered the best puncher in the league. They sparred for a minute. Kurtenbach threw a left-right combination that did little harm. Harris then caught Kurtenbach with a right, followed it with a left, and Kurtenbach sagged to the ice, where Harris pounced on him. They wrestled there for several minutes.
Out of it all, Ferguson had the honor of being required to sit out a full 20 minutes of the game. The brawl lasted 17 minutes and it took Referee Art Skov another 15 minutes to work out what the penalties were. In total, he assessed 124 minutes in the box. There were two minor penalties, a dozen five-minute major penalties and six misconduct penalties. With records falling all over the lot, the statisticians were delighted.
But many fans to the contrary notwithstanding, in hockey the game's the thing, and Montreal went on to win with Gilles Tremblay proving the most effective attacker. Toronto had gone into the lead in the first period on a goal by Larry Hillman. In the second, Tremblay scored twice on power plays. It was an anticlimax when Jim Roberts and Dick Duff added two more Montreal scores in the third period.
Meanwhile, south of the border, a less one-sided series was being played out in Chicago and Detroit. Chicago had come through the season in second place, possibly as a result of the emphasis put on making sure that Bobby Hull got his chance at beating Maurice (The Rocket) Richard's record of 50 goals in a season.
Bobby beat it all right. He shot his 51st goal on March 12 (SI, March 21) and wound up the regular season three weeks later with three more goals and enough assists to give him an additional record for scoring points, but his team was in second place and he himself had a lame left knee that was further injured early in the playoffs. This physical handicap was made worse by the clinging tactics of Detroit's tigerlike Bryan Watson, whose sole assignment was to keep Hull too busy to put his famous slap and wrist shots—the fastest in hockey—to effective use.
Sid Abel, coach of the Red Wings, had declared quite brazenly before the playoffs that his sole hope of beating a Chicago team that had overwhelmed him throughout the regular season was to "hit" the Hawks. The Wings did hit the Hawks and hit them hard in the very first game. They lost 2-1, but the new strategy made them look respectable against Chicago for the first time since regular-season play began, and Abel determined that he would continue it.
"I wouldn't say it was a rough game," he said after that first defeat, "but rather that it was just playoff hockey, what you expect to see in the playoffs. We're going to keep right on hitting."
Hull is pretty much accustomed to being followed about the rink. All season long he had been shadowed by experts like Claude Provost of Montreal and Ed Westfall of Boston. He had shrugged them off and made his record nonetheless. But Watson quite clearly got on the big blond's nerves and toward the end Hull permitted himself a mild complaint.