In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
A new tradition is born as the first official NHL All-Star Game is played with the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Toronto Maple Leafs taking on a team of all-stars from the five remaining teams at Maple Leaf Gardens. The All-Stars would win the game 4-3, thanks to two goals in 58 seconds at the start of the third period. Proceeds from the game would go to charity and the Players’ Emergency Fund, which led to the creation of a pension fund.
While it was the first official NHL All-Star Game, it was not the first time the best players in the National Hockey League were on the ice for an exhibition game, as there had been several benefit games over the years. On February 14, 1934, the Maple Leafs hosted a team of All-Stars in a benefit game for Ace Bailey, who suffered a career-ending injury when his head struck the ice after a hit by Eddie Shore in December. The Leafs would retire Bailey’s #6 that night; the first number ever retired in the NHL. Ace Bailey, who was once given last rites, came on the ice and shook Ed Shore’s hand to show that he had forgiven the Boston Bruins defender in the night's most dramatic moment. The Maple Leafs would win the Ace Bailey game 7-3. Despite hopes to make the game an annual affair, such charity games would only happen sporadically, and none were able to match the success of the “Ace Bailey Game.”
The idea of an annual All-Star Game came from the NHL Players’ Committee. Negotiations for the game had the first game being played in Toronto and the second in Chicago regardless of who won the previous year’s Stanley Cup Championship. In subsequent years it would be hosted by the defending champion, who took on a team of All-Stars before the start of each season. Money raised from the game went to charities in Toronto and Chicago, along with the Players’ Emergency Fund, set up to help former players who have become disabled or were struggling financially.
The Toronto Maple Leafs wore their white sweaters for the game, while the NHL All-Stars wore a red jersey with three white stars above the NHL shield in a game played on Thanksgiving in Canada. The Maple Leafs drew first blood on a goal by Harry Watson in the first period. Toronto added to the lead with a second goal 63 seconds into the second period, scored by Bill Ezinicki. The All-Stars got on the board on a plan by Max Bentley of the Chicago Black Hawks at the 4:39 mark of the second period. The Leafs would answer 22 seconds later with a goal by Captain Syl Apps. At 9:25, the All-Stars cut into Toronto’s lead with a goal by Grant Warwick of the New York Rangers. With Toronto holding a 3-2 lead after two periods, the All-Stars came out flying in the third period. Montreal Canadiens star Maurice Richard evened the game with a breakaway goal 28 seconds into the final stanza. Nearly a minute later, Doug Bentley of the Black Hawks gave the All-Stars the lead for the first time. The lead would stand as Frank Brimsek of the Boston Bruins did not allow another goal to earn the win.
The NHL would stage its All-Star Games at the start of the season for 19 years before moving the game to the middle of the season in 1966. The NHL briefly experimented with true All-Star Games in 1951 and 1952, but most seasons, it was a team of All-Stars taking on the reigning Stanley Cup Champion until 1969, when it switched to a battle between the Eastern and Western Divisions. The NHL All-Stars had a 9-7 with three ties in those seasons.