This day in hockey history - August
This day in hockey history, August 18th 1955, Bronco Horvath and Dave Creighton were traded from the Detroit Red Wings to the New York Rangers for Billggie Kukulowicz.
Horvath, born in Port Colborne, Ontario later blossomed into a scoring star with Boston playing on the famed UKE Line with Johnny Bucyk andfinished second in scoring to Bobby Hull in 1959-60 with 39-41 -80. Creighton potted 20, 17 and 18 goals with the Rangers before moving on to the Toronto Maple Leafs and a long career in the minors iincluding one season with the Buffalo Bisons. His son Adam would later be drafted by the Buffalo Sabres. Billy Dea played 397 NHL games but was primarily a minor league player including nine season with the Bisons between 1958-59 and 1966-67. Aggie Kuklowicz played only four NHL games, But his greatest contributions to hockey came off the ice.
On ice, hockey player Aggie Kukulowicz was a giant of a man
who punished his opponents with ease. Off ice, he was a
gregarious man who made everyone feel like his best friend.
Later, his years of experience in key contractual agreements
sometimes led him to be called the "Henry Kissinger of
Hockey" after helping make a success of the 1972 Summit
series against the Soviet Union.
"Aggie loved everyone and everyone loved Aggie," said his
long-time friend Alan Eagleson, the former hockey agent and
promoter. "He was a glowing personality."
The son of Polish émigré parents, Adolph (Aggie) Kukulowicz
grew up in Winnipeg with a poor command of English but a
fine grasp on a hockey stick. By the time he was 7, he was
often hurrying off to the local ice rink to play the game he
loved. Raised on the wrong side of the tracks in the North
End, playing sports was a way for Mr. Kukulowicz could make
a name for himself. Despite his English abilities, he had
already established himself academically in school and
regularly brought home the best marks.
By 16, the young man loomed over his peers. He stood six
feet, three inches and weighed 180 pounds. But he was
distinguished by more than his build. "He was really an
absolutely high-quality junior," said Mr. Eagleson. "He was
sought out by every team in the NHL when he was 16 years
When hockey agents showed up at home to try and sign him, he
was nowhere to be found. In fact, he was hiding under his
bed at the instruction of his mother, who felt he was too
young to begin a career in hockey. But the temptation proved
too much and he appeared in the kitchen, where the agents
In 1949, he joined the junior leagues, signing on with a
$7,500 bonus, which was a lot of money at the time, Mr.
Eagleson noted. From 1950 to 1952, Mr. Kukulowicz earned his
stripes with the Brandon Wheat Kings and then as a top
scorer with the Quebec Citadelles.
In 1952, he moved up to the NHL, scoring a goal for the New
York Rangers in his first game. But his stay at the top
level was short-lived. In one of his first games, he took a
body check that left him with a back injury. In total, Mr.
Kukulowicz would only play four games for the Rangers.
The injury sent Mr. Kukulowicz back to the minors, going on
to play in the now-defunct World Hockey League and the
International Hockey League for such teams as the Saskatoon
Quakers, the Seattle Totems and the Winnipeg Maroons. With
consistently strong scoring, he helped the St. Paul Saints
win the IHL championship in 1960 and 1961. "He was one tough
s.o.b.," Mr. Eagleson said.
While playing for the New Westminster Royals in 1956, Mr.
Kukulowicz met his wife, Diane. During a free skate, he
zipped on to the ice and proceeded to show off his skating
skills in order to impress her.
In 1965, Mr. Kukulowicz retired from the rink and spent a
year coaching the Polish GKS Katowice team, but then decided
to leave hockey altogether. Improbably, he took a job as a
baggage handler with Air Canada.
While lugging suitcases and boxes sounded tremendously
unpromising, Mr. Kukulowicz transformed the job into a
It all started one day at work, when a request came over the
intercom system asking if anyone spoke Polish. Three hours
later, Mr. Kukulowicz had acted as an interpreter between
the prime ministers of Poland and Canada, helping to secure
a major wheat deal.
Air Canada soon learned that he was also fluent in
Ukrainian, Czech and Russian. Duly impressed, airline
officials decided to make him their man in Russia. He had
been a baggage-handler for just one year.
In 1965, Mr. Kukulowicz moved to Moscow and took up lodgings
at the a famously bedbug-ridden Hotel Metropole. When his
family arrived, Mr. Kukulowicz moved and took up residence
in an apartment complex for foreigners. A high fence
surrounded the building and a guard was posted at a gate
that was either to keep the Russians out or to keep the
foreigners in, recalled his son, Shayne Kukulowicz.
It was the height of the Cold War and paranoia ran high. At
one point, while embassy staff were repainting the
apartment, listening devices were discovered in the walls.
Mr. Kukulowicz was also followed. Everywhere he went, he was
shadowed by a KGB agent; not once in six years did the two
men speak. One day, at the height of the summer, Mr.
Kukulowicz stopped at an ice cream vendor, bought two cones
and handed one to his shadow. "The guy took it," said
Shayne, a Toronto lawyer. "They never said a word."
In 1969, he met Mr. Eagleson for the first time. The Toronto
lawyer was in Moscow to begin discussions on what would
evolve into the Summit Series and he needed a translator. As
a former NHL player, Mr. Kukulowicz was the ideal man for
the job. "Aggie was part and parcel of it from the very
first day," Mr. Eagleson recalled.
Mr. Kukulowicz also warned him about the notorious vermin at
the Metropole, to which he had been sent. It was winter, and
Mr. Eagleson chose rooms so cold it killed the bedbugs.
During the series itself, the Canadians ribbed Mr.
Kukulowicz that he was a spy for the Russian team because he
was so close to the Russians but, as Mr. Eagleson notes, "He
was Canadian through and through."
As it turned out, Mr. Kukulowicz needed every atom of
goodwill he could cultivate. Near the end of the series, Mr.
Eagleson, Mr. Kukulowicz and John Ferguson, the assistant
coach of Team Canada, were locked in furious negotiations
with the Russians over referees for the final game. It was
Canada's turn to choose the officials and the Russians
wouldn't agree. While Mr. Kukulowicz translated, the pitch
of the debate rose.
Shouting and screaming ensued and finally, in a rage, Mr.
Ferguson grabbed a pitcher of ice water and flung it against
the wall. Stricken, Mr. Kukulowicz turned to Mr. Eagleson
and said, "Alan, how do I interpret that to the Russians?"
Mr. Eagleson chuckled at the memory. "That's how he was. He
thought, 'Jeez, how am I going to explain this to them?' "
In the end, agreement was reached and the storied
Canada-Russia Hockey series culminated in Paul Henderson's
historic winning goal.
After Moscow, Mr. Kukulowicz settled in Toronto, where he
became the manager of sporting sales for Air Canada. In that
capacity, he marketed the airline to sports teams to attract
their business. Even so, he wasn't quite finished with
hockey. He continued to interpret for and help negotiate on
behalf of the International Ice Hockey Federation.
"Hockey was his life and golf his hobby," Mr. Eagleson said.
Mr. Kukulowicz golfed as often as he could after his
retirement from Air Canada. After a game, his favoured drink
was either a vodka martini with five olives or Canadian
The highlight of his career may very well have been last
August, when he returned to Russia for the 35th anniversary
of the 1972 series. Mr. Eagleson and former NHL president
John Ziegler joined Mr. Kukulowicz at centre ice. Russian
and Canadian players from the series assembled to shake Mr.
Eagleson and Mr. Ziegler by the hand. When they came to Mr.
Kukulowicz, they hugged and kissed him like a brother.
Visit vintagehockeyjerseys.net for more vintage hockey
Kuklowitz, left Horvath, right
This day in hockey history, August 19th 1983, Jim Schoenfeld signed as a free agent with the Boston Bruins. He had most recently played two seasons for the Detroit Red Wings following ten seasons with the Buffalo Sabres.
This day in hockey history, August 18th 1985, Petr Klima defected from Czechoslovakia to join the Detroit Red Wings.
This day in hockey history, August 19th 1982, the Philadelphia Flyers traded a kings ransom of Ken Linseman, Greg Adams, and a first and third round draft pick in to the Hartford Whalers for Mark Howe and a third round pick. Hartford immediately flipped Linseman along with Don Nachbaur to the Edmonton Oilers for Risto Siltanen and the rights to Brent Loney. With the picks acquired from the Flyers, the Whalers drafted David Jensen 20th and Leif Carlsson 41st in the 1983 entry draft. The Flyers used their 3rd rounder from Hartford to select Derrick Smith. Mark Howe had a Hall of Fame career and was the Flyers best player on their strong 1980's teams when they lost back to back Stanley Cup finals to the Edmonton Oilers.
On this day in hockey history, August 19th 1988, the New York Rangers signed 37-year-old Guy Lafleur to a one year contract. Lafleur was coming out of retirement and had been inducted into the Hockey Hall of the Fame in the previous year. This made Guy only the third player to play an NHL game as a member of the Hall of Fame, along with Gordie Howe and Mario Lemieux. He then played two seasons with the Quebec Nordiques after his one season with the Rangers.
The signing of Lafleur by Rangers GM Phil Esposito led to one of the most stirring nights in league history on February 4th 1989 when Guy returned to the Montreal Forum as a New York Ranger. It was his first appearance on that hallowed ice surface since retiring as a player five years earlier.
Fans of the Montreal Canadiens have seen numerous former players return in opposing uniforms, to the Montreal Forum or the Bell Centre. But no player has ever received the welcome that Guy Lafleur did, and it actually happened twice.
In his final season with the Canadiens, Lafleur was not happy with the way his coach, and former teammate, Jacques Lemaire was using him on the ice. In his previous 13 seasons, the Canadiens right winger never scored less than 21 goals. Nineteen games into his last season with Montreal, he had just a pair of goals and was getting far less ice time. At the age of 33, Lafleur decided to retire, even though he still loved the game.
After a brief stint with the Canadiens front office, Lafleur spent the better part of two years thinking about what to do next. "I didn't want to wake up when I was 50 and be second-guessing myself, telling myself I should have given it another shot," he said. In the summer of 1988, shortly after the announcement that he would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Lafleur and his agent began contacting NHL teams. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings both reportedly passed on Lafleur’s services, but the New York Rangers were certainly interested.
Four years after his retirement, the 37-year old winger was with the Rangers, where a 20-year old defenseman was just breaking in. “At first I didn't think it was such a great idea, him coming to training camp," said Brian Leetch, who himself would have a Hall of Fame career, "but then I saw him in the first practice skate faster than me and most of the other guys, and I realized, 'Christ, this guy has something the rest of us don't have.' "
As the 1988-89 season progressed, fans in Montreal waited in anticipation for Lafleur’s return to the Forum. The Montreal media were covering Lafleur’s season with the Rangers as if he still played for the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.
The Rangers paid their first visit to the Forum in December, but Lafleur had suffered a a fractured foot, in the previous game, and couldn’t play. Those who paid over $300 a ticket from scalpers would be disgruntled, but they at least got a glimpse of the living legend.
The Canadiens honored “Le Demon Blond” in a pre game ceremony acknowledging his induction into the Hall of Fame. Lafleur received a two minute standing ovation, with the fans cheering, “Guy!, Guy!, Guy!” and it extended another 60 seconds as he donned a Rangers sweater.
On February 4, 1989, the Canadiens faithful finally got to see what they paid for, and they certainly got their money’s worth. The chants of “Guy!, Guy! Guy!” started as soon as the Forum doors opened, an hour and a half before game time. They rose to their feet and applauded, as Lafleur skated onto the ice with his Rangers teammates.
“When I first stepped onto the ice, it was something else,” said Lafleur, who admitted being nervous during the pre-game skate. “I got a good feeling inside. I was proud to be here.”
With the Canadiens taking an early lead, the Rangers responded with Lafleur assisting on the Rangers first goal by David Shaw, at 4:19 of the second period.
The second period was vintage Lafleur. With the Rangers leading 3-2, he was left unattended in front of the Canadiens goal by Chris Chelios and Craig Ludwig. He picked up the rebound off of Jason Lafreniere’s shot to beat Patrick Roy at 10:57. The crowd went crazy as the Rangers celebrated.
Six minutes later, Lafleur picked up a loose puck at center ice, and headed towards the Canadiens end. Rick Green and Peter Svoboda were all that stood between him and Roy. Seeing Svoboda was going to play the puck, Lafleur tipped it past the Canadiens defender and raced past him. He moved in on Roy and put it between the pads of the Habs goaltender at 16:44.
The ovation this time was possibly louder than the previous one. As renowned Canadiens historian Robert Lefebvre once wrote, “In the distinct 100 year history of the hockey club, no opponents' goal would ever be cheered as much.”
The Rangers had a three-goal lead before Shayne Corson scored to narrow it to two by period’s end and the home team openly admitted they were a bit star-struck. “For a long time we were Lafleur watchers rather than playing our game," said veteran defenseman Larry Robinson, who shared five Stanley Cup with his former teammate.
The thoughts were echoed by other Canadiens players, including Stephane Richer, who idolized Lafleur as a kid. “All the French kids in Quebec wanted to be Guy Lafleur,” said Richer, who had become the last Canadiens player since Lafleur to score 50 goals. “I know how I feel playing against him, and I know there were times in the game when I was just standing and watching him."
Pat Burns was watching from the Canadiens bench, and he was not happy with what was happening. He rallied his team, likely enhanced with some screaming between periods and they responded. The Habs scored four unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes to escape with a 7-5 win. Corson scored the game-winner and added an empty-net goal for the hat trick.
Lafleur was not on the ice for any of the Montreal goals and his three-point night was enough to warrant him the game’s Second Star. “He’s a proud hockey player,” said Rangers coach Michel Bergeron, “Tonight he wanted to prove to the Montreal fans that he could play again, and that’s what he did.” Had the fans been allowed to vote, as they do now, he easily would have been the First Star, no matter the outcome on the evening.
“It was my best game of the year,” said Lafleur, who despite his coach’s thoughts, said he didn’t come to prove anything. “I just wanted to play my best and give something back to the fans. In a way I’m sad we lost.”
For the fans they couldn’t have asked for more. The home team won, and one of the all-time greats to wear the “CH” performed as he had for years. “I don’t think fans will ask for their money back,” said Patrick Roy after the game was over.
This day in hockey history, August 18th 1994, following the trade of Wendel Clark to the Quebec Nordiques,.Doug Gilmour was named the 15th captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
This day in hockey history, August 18th 1997, Mike Vernon was traded from the Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings along with a 1999 5th round pick (#149-Andrei Maximenko) to the San Jose Sharks for a 1998 2nd round pick (#41-Maxim Linnik)
1999 2nd round pick (#47-Sheldon Keefe).
Visit vintagehockeyjerseys.net for mor