His only 12 playoff games came in as the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup championship, getting another Conacher name engraved on the holy grail of hockey. The Rochester Americans met up with the Cleveland Barons in the finals with the Amerks coming out ahead in six games.
Conacher played 69 games for Rochester during the regular season, contributing 30 points. In 12 playoff games, he scored six goals for six points. He played one year with the Ottawa Nationals in , scoring eight goals and assisting on 19 for 27 points over 69 games. Conacher was head coach in the North American Hockey League for parts of three seasons. He coached the Mohawk Valley Comets for all of and and was replaced just 12 games into the season. During his time with the Comets, Brian got a chance to play the game again.
In three games in , he scored two goals and assisted on one. Conacher got his image on the front of just two major brand hockey cards during his playing days.
The Brian Conacher rookie card appears as number 17 in the Topps set. At long last, Canada would have a legitimate chance to reclaim its place at the top of international hockey. I felt from experience that the Nats were only one or two experienced and skilled players away from capturing the coveted gold medal that had eluded Canada since And after years of lobbying to get the WHC, Canada would host the tournament for the first time, in Winnipeg, in February However, international competition stirs deep emotions in all Canadians, no matter what the sport, and none more than hockey.
Canadians had always felt that Canada was the best hockey nation in the world, for it had the NHL, stocked primarily by Canadian talent. After all, hockey was our game!
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And what better place to do it than on a home rink in Winnipeg? Father Bauer contacted me for a third time about joining the Nats. With the tournament in Canada and the apparent unified support of all hockey bodies, Canadians hoped it would be the year Canada pulled its face out of the mud in international hockey. Although they could have used nine former professionals, the Nats headed to the Izvestia Tournament in Moscow in December with only five players added to the lineup. Only MacKenzie and I had played with the Nats before.
Most players on the team were highly regarded NHL prospects; there were also some top senior-level players. We all knew we were not the best players Canada had to offer, only the best available at the time and under the circumstances. We were a motley ragtag crew as we headed to the Izvestia Tournament. Our team included players of many ages from many different organizations and systems, and we had varying degrees of skill and experience.
We were even required to use hand-me-down equipment. The chemistry was right, and we were a team. We all knew the Izvestia Tournament would show whether using pros made the Nats more competitive. We defeated East Germany , trounced Finland , convincingly dumped Sweden , tied the Soviet Union and lost our only game to Czechoslovakia Overnight, Canada was back in the running for a gold medal.
The Nats returned to Canada with renewed enthusiasm. Our confidence grew with success, but unknown to us, things were again brewing in the backrooms of the international hockey world. The IOC also got involved. Ahearne and Brundage probably felt that permitting Canada to use some former pros would make the Nats more competitive, but not likely improved enough to win the WHC or Olympics.
But with the Nats dramatically improved performance in Moscow using only a few pros, Ahearne and Brundage likely feared a threat to their power base if Canada restored itself as the top international hockey power. In collusion with Ahearne and prodded on by the Soviet bloc, the IOC threatened that players would be ineligible for the Olympics if amateur and professional players competed together in official tournaments. As had happened so often before, yet again, to preserve their self-interests, the IIHF and IOC were trying to cheat Canada out of a chance to compete fairly.
Then, on January 5, , after our game with the Czechoslovakian national team in the Ottawa Civic Centre, John Munro, the federal minister responsible for sports, walked into our dressing room, accompanied by Gordon Juckes, the chairman of the CAHA, and Father Bauer. In a state of shocked disbelief, all the players sat in stunned silence.
Was it the right decision? After I got over the extreme personal disappointment, I agreed it was not only the right decision at the time, but probably the only one Canada could have made. However, our withdrawal from international hockey created more questions and challenges than it answered, as it was made without any real plan for how to proceed. And regrettably, it almost certainly meant the end of the Nats program envisioned and nurtured by Father Bauer. And it left Canada on the outside of the international and Olympic hockey worlds. To most hockey fans in Canada, withdrawal from hypocritical and frustrating international hockey was no big deal and seemed to go mostly unnoticed.
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Canadian hockey fans still had their NHL to follow where it was felt the best players played the best hockey. International hockey went on the back burner for the Canadian hockey fan after our unceremonious withdrawal. How strong were the Nats teams from their inception in to their temporary demise in ?
Obviously not strong enough to win gold for Canada in the six world competitions in which they competed.
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But, as the future would show, the Nats teams were a lot better than most Canadian hockey people—particularly the NHL—gave them credit for. Most Canadians looked upon the Nats as a second-rate team and completely underestimated the calibre of top international hockey. Sports broadcasting seemed like an ideal post-hockey career. Their plan was to revitalize the station and try to better penetrate the adjacent Detroit market. It was a great opportunity for me to build a sports broadcasting career.
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On July 1, , my wife, Susan, and our son, Sean, who was born June 26, headed out to a new career in a new city. In the summer of , Ned Harkness, the general manager of the Wings, approached me about making a comeback. Detroit still had my playing rights, and I was only thirty years old, healthy and still fit.
While I enjoyed my job as a sports broadcaster, I got itchy feet to try to play again. My comeback was less than successful. The Red Wings were a team in real transition at the time, struggling for a winning combination. I was a utility forward who could fit in almost anywhere, which had some value.
But about halfway through the season, Johnny Wilson, the coach, took me aside after practice one day. I started to realize my worst fears about making a comeback. The Detroit organization owned three professional teams at the time. Billy Hicke and Tom Martin joined me as veteran players brought in to bolster the team in the push for the playoffs.
Susan and I packed up enough for a few months, bundled Sean, who was about eighteen months old, into our car, and headed south to Fort Worth, Texas. When we got to Fort Worth the team was out of the playoff picture with half the regular season remaining. The second half of the season was fun! The Wings went from being the doormat of the CHL to being a contender. We qualified for the playoffs. Even though it was the minors, I was determined to make the best of the situation.
Also, I was playing regularly, and that always solved a lot of problems for a player. If you liked watching from the bench, then you were in the wrong business.
I was only in Fort Worth for about four months, but I thoroughly enjoyed playing there. The team lost out in the second round of the playoffs, but we had salvaged what earlier in the season had been a possible disaster. Susan had gone to college in the US. By coincidence, one of her roommates lived in Fort Worth. As a result, we had an enjoyable time off the ice as well. My professional hockey playing days were behind me forever, or so I thought. After months of complex international negotiations, they came up with a scheme that would see our best players face the best of the Soviet Union, the dominant international hockey power at the time.
On April 23, , they reached an agreement: there would be an eight-game exhibition series between September 2 and 28, in which a team of Canadian NHL all-stars would face-off against the Soviet national team. Finally, Canada would have a chance on a level playing field to establish that it was the supreme hockey nation in the world. Or so the media and most hockey people and fans naively thought. While the games were to be strictly exhibition games, everyone knew they would be of utmost importance.