Monday, 7 January 2013

How About A Hockey Strike Or Two?

It's a pretty nondescript building from the front, but this place has a pretty big hockey tie-in. It's a bowling alley and it certainly doesn't seem like a place where hockey would be prominent, but hockey is easily seen once you change perspectives. Ladies and gentlemen, this quaint storefront is the entrance to the Billy Mosienko Bowling Alley in Winnipeg.

If you're heading north on Main Street in Winnipeg nearing the Redwood Avenue, you'll immediately see the sign that sticks out from the building. The bowling pin design is pretty distinctive, but it doesn't really tell you much about the alley itself. Once you get closer, you can read that it is indeed Billy Mosienko Bowling Alley.

What will strike you - excuse the pun - is the face on the side of the building! You'll see the famous image of Billy Mosienko holding three pucks to represent the record-setting hat trick he scored against the New York Rangers on March 23, 1952.

On that date, Mosienko went off in third period of the final game of the season against New York Rangers goaltender Lorne Anderson when he scored goals at 6:09, 6:20, and again at 6:30 to complete his hat trick in 21 seconds! The Black Hawks, as they were called, went on to win 7-6 to close out the season on the strength of the Mosienko hat trick! Just as an aside, Mosienko almost added a fourth goal just 45 seconds later, but the puck banked off the goalpost behind Anderson! However, only 3254 fans witnessed the game and record at Madison Square Garden as the fifth-place Rangers and last-place Black Hawks had long been eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff action.

Sports Illustrated has an excellent recollection of "Mosie" setting the record.
Suddenly, Gus Bodnar, the Chicago center, picked up a loose puck at center ice and passed it to Mosienko, who was straddling the Ranger blue line. Only Ranger Defenseman Hy Buller was between Mosienko and the goal. Buller, however, was off balance just long enough for Mosienko to skate around him. He cut straight in at Ranger Goalie Lorne Anderson, faked to the left and sent the puck flat along the ice into the right side of the cage. The public address system blared out: "Chicago goal by Bill Mosienko, assisted by Gus Bodnar. Time: 6:09."

A few seconds later Bodnar got control of the puck on the ensuing face-off at center ice and again spotted Mosienko on the Ranger blue line. Slipping backward a bit, Mosienko took Bodnar's pass and skated through the Ranger defense. He slammed the puck along the ice into the right side of the cage. Time: 6:20.

"I'm sure Anderson was expecting high shots," recalled Mosienko recently. "Twice before during the game he had stopped high ones and I thought that he'd fall for the low shot. He did—a lucky thing for me."

Mosienko skated into the goal mouth, picked up the puck and took it back to the Chicago bench. "I dug that puck out because it was my 30th goal of the season," said Mosienko. "I guess some of the fans thought it was pretty funny when I got the puck. A bunch of them hooted and laughed."

Chicago Coach Ebbie Goodfellow motioned Mosienko's line to stay on the ice, and, as the remaining spectators stamped their feet in appreciation of Mosienko's two quick goals, the referee dropped the puck. Again Bodnar won the face-off. He slapped the puck to Left Wing George Gee, who relayed it to Mosienko near the Ranger blue line. Mosienko skated halfway in toward the goal, then slowed down. His hesitation drew Anderson out of the nets, and Mosienko lifted the puck high into the right side of the goal. ("I figured Anderson would be looking for another low shot.") Time: 6:30.

For a second, Madison Square Garden was quiet. Then, as Mosienko skated to the Chicago bench, the stunned crowd rose as one and burst into applause. "I wasn't quite sure what to do," said Mosienko, "until one of our forwards, Jimmy Peters, told me to get the puck. 'That's a record, Mosie,' he kept yelling."
Pretty cool, right?

If you were to park in the parking lot beside the large painting of Mosienko, you can see the detail that went into the image as the original artist clearly wanted it to be accurate. While it is starting to flake off thanks to weathering and time, the image is still very clear from Main Street while driving.

Further down the wall, there's a large mural of Mosienko and his linemates, Max and Doug Bentley. The "Pony Line", as they were called due to their speed and small size, were one of the most potent lines in the NHL in the mid-1940s. Max Bentley led the league in scoring in 1945-46, and Mosienko was named to the NHL All-Star Game at the start of the 1947-48 season where he unfortunately broke his leg.

Heading right down the wall, the Billy Mosienko Bowling Alley logo is present and there is a clear image of a hockey puck knocking down bowling pins as the hockey and bowling worlds collide. Ok, it's not as clear as it once was thanks to weathering and time, but the image is still pretty clear.

From there, one can go inside the bowling alley through the front door to discover an actual working five-pin bowling alley. Surprisingly, there aren't a lot of references to Billy Mosienko inside the bowling alley. All that could be seen was on the north wall where Mosienko's image can seen firing a puck into bowling pins. The picture of Mosienko is, in my opinion, very well done. Other than this mural, there's not a lot of Mosienko memorabilia or pictures inside the bowling alley.

The alley itself is ten lanes upstairs and ten lanes downstairs. The lanes have gone to electronic scoring, and that might be a good thing as there's not a lot of room for scoring tables near the alleys themselves. Personally, I like scoring when I bowl, but the size of the building doesn't really allow for it. As seen on the scoring machines, there's a heavy Brunswick presence in the alley as well. Covering the pin reset machines are those psychedelic art covers, but I'm not really a fan of them in any alley.

The downstairs lanes are used for glow bowling, and there was less downstairs in terms of Mosienko stuff than there was upstairs. As fun as glow bowling can be, it doesn't really turn my crank in terms of sports. It's fun, but it seems more hobbyish. The one cool thing I found near the counters where the employees worked was an advertisement offering a Winnipeg Jets bowling ball. $99 plus tax? If I was serious about bowling, I may consider that. Then again, is that remotely near the going rate for five-pin bowling balls?

So Billy Mosienko has a special place in Winnipeg history. While high-scoring Max Bentley was already gone to Toronto in an earlier trade, he still set the hat trick record with Gus Bodnar, one of the returning players in the trade, as his centerman. While Mosienko would play in five NHL All-Star Games, he was never as good as he was when he was paired with the Bentley brothers.

So how did the bowling alley get its famous hockey name? Well, after Mosienko retired in 1959 after spending the last four seasons with the WHL's Winnipeg Warriors, he and partner Joe Cooper operated a string of bowling alleys in Winnipeg. The bowling alley in today's article is still owned and operated by members of his family!

Unfortunately, Bill Mosienko died of cancer in Winnipeg in 1994 at the age of 72. His grandson, Tyler Mosienko, recently played for the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL and the Las Vegas Wranglers as of 2011, and won a Memorial Cup with the Kelowna Rockets in 2004-05! Tyler's father and Bill's son, Brian Mosienko, has run the bowling alley named after Bill Mosienko for the last 40 years, and it's still going strong!

The other neat thing? There's an arena in the north end of Winnipeg named for Billy Mosienko as well! He truly was one of Winnipeg's brightest stars, and his legacy that he left on hockey has not been forgotten!

Here's a great video piece about Bill Mosienko's record.
So who is second-place in terms of the next fastest hat trick? Long-time Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau who comes in at 44 seconds! It seems that this may be a record that stands the test of time for a long time as coaches now plan defensive systems to prevent these kinds of quick scores for happening.

That's the story about a Winnipeg-born player, his NHL record, and how a bowling alley in Winnipeg was named for him.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Anonymous said...

Brian sold the bowling alley about 5 years ago. It went downhill after that. The people who work for the lanes are very rude.

Teebz said...

I was not aware! Thanks for the info! :o)

The people who were working when I was there seemed quite nice, although they had little to no information on the alley which disappointed me. You would think that would be part of the mystique of working at such a landmark.