In some households, hockey is a key element during the Christmas break. Skates under the tree. That long-desired California Golden Seals sweater from Santa. Fans that cannot be pulled away from the TV during holiday games and tournaments. Christmas songs recorded by a favourite player.
We didn’t make the last one up.
There were people who believed that goaltender Johnny Bower had patrolled the net since the dawn of man, which wasn’t far off the mark. His professional career began after a military stint during World War II and he toiled in the American Hockey League until he joined the Rangers in 1953. The Maple Leafs signed Bower in 1958 and he remained with the team until his retirement in 1970. He would serve the team as a goalie coach and nearly returned to active duty during the 1979/80 season, when the Leafs’ goalie roster was decimated. Had Bower suited up, the 55-year-old would have been the oldest player to ever take the ice in an NHL game.
Bower ended up in a recording studio when songwriter Chris Young failed to convince other hockey players to test their vocal chords. Agreeing to perform the song if all proceeds would go to charity, Bower and a group of children (including his son, the ‘Little John” referred to on the cover) gathered in a CBC studio to lay down the vocals. The result sold over 40,000 copies and landed on the CHUM Chart in December 1965. Other versions followed, notably by Jack Benny regular Dennis Day. Bower still performs the tune during the holiday season.
Bower’s recording wasn’t the only Leafs-related tune to hit music shops in the mid-1960s. The following year, Douglas Rankine and the Secrets hit the charts with Clear The Track, Here Comes Shack, an ode to Eddie “The Entertainer” Shack.
You can listen to Honky the Christmas Goose at the NHL Alumni site along with its B-side, Banjo Mule.
Image courtesy of Squeakyrat