Busher Jackson

Mostly forgotten by today's fans, Harvey "Busher" Jackson ranks as one of the greatest and most controversial players in Toronto Maple Leafs history.

Conn Smythe signed 18 year old Busher (the youngest player in the league) and Charlie Conacher in 1930 and immediately placed both of them on "The Kid Line" with Joe Primeau at center. They would become hockey's dominant line for the next few years, and would win the Stanley Cup in 1932. Jackson, a power forward long before anyone coined the term, led the whole league in scoring in 1932 and was recognized as an All Star in 5 of the following six years.

When Primeau retired Busher and brother Art Jackson teamed up with Pep Kelly for a while before Busher found a home on a line with Syl Apps and Gordie Drillon in 1937.

Hap Day remembered Busher's jet-like speed - as fast as the legendary Howie Morenz some insisted.

"Busher is so fast that one night in Montreal he circled his net, started down ice, and shot the puck when he was nearing center. And you know what? He was travelling so fast that he caught up with the puck and passed it before he got to the blue line."

Okay, Day had to be exaggerating there. But there was little doubt that Busher was the class of the league. Frank Selke Sr. once remembered Jackson as "the classiest left winger I ever saw.

For all of Busher's on-ice greatness, Leafs boss Conn Smythe grew increasingly disenchanted with Jackson. Jackson, you see, was quite the party boy and a heavy drinker. Smythe, a strict disciplinarian with elitist standards, despised Jackson's behaviour. As a result there was no denying the two were at odds until Jackson's inevitable departure in 1939.

Jackson, coming off a dislocated shoulder, was traded off to the New York Americans with Buzz Boll, Doc Romnes, Jimmy Fowler and Murray Armstrong in exchange for Sweeney Schriner. Schriner would go on to become a favorite of Smythe. Jackson, meanwhile, played (alongside Lorne Carr and Murray Armstrong) two unsatisfactory years in New York. The cash-strapped Amerks sold Jackson off to Boston in 1942.

Reunited with his brother Art in Boston, Busher was hot and cold in Boston in his final 3 years in the NHL. He often played on a line with Art. Bill Cowley and Herb Cain were regular linemates as well. Busher even played some defense in Boston.

Conn Smythe's disdain for Jackson's lifestyle continued long after Jackson hung up his blades. Based on his ability, there was no doubt Jackson belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame. After all, his 241 career goals in Toronto remained a Leafs all time record until Frank Mahovlich broke it in the 1960s. But Smythe blocked any and every attempt to induct Jackson into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The HHOF embargo was finally lifted in 1971 when Jackson was inducted. Unfortunately Jackson's enshrinement came five years after his death. The respect he so struggled to get and truly deserved never came in time for Jackson. For Smythe, who resigned as president of the Hall after Jackson's inclusion, it was his lowest act.


Anonymous,  11:18 AM  

How come the Leafs still Haven't put his number up in the rafters?

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