Some say it’s the greatest tradition in Sport, while others say it’s the greatest tradition in recorded history. Even more claim it to be the peak moment of humankind – The NHL Playoff Handshake Line.
But what are the true origins behind this grand gesture of peace and solidarity? The Hi-Top Investigative Team did some digging and what we found out was even more amazing and humbling than even we could have imagined.
The year was 1925 and the Saskatoon Keeners were on a real hot streak, eh. Local boy wonder Davey Davidson, then a tender 17 years of age, was manning the blue line like he was born on the icy side of a moose’s hindquarters, which wasn’t far off from the truth, let me tell ya. The Keeners were a rough bunch of lads who liked their beer Molson and their bacon hammy. They played a fast and tough brand of hockey, the way the game was played out West, where the ice was rough and the players rougher, eh. Their run to Lord Stanley’s Cup was to be a mere formality. That is until the Keeners crossed paths with Eastern Canada’s finest – the Renfrew Creamery Kings.
The Creamery Kings were a refined group of gentleman. Eastern Canadians through and through. They took their tea at noon and were in bed by nine. They played the Queen’s brand of hockey – passes were crisp and sweaters even crisper. The Creamery Kings were led by their Center, Handsome Frank LaPierre, a dapper man in his late 20s, the son of Franklin LaPierre, owner of the team’s namesake – the Renfrew Creamery. Handsome Frank skated with a smile on his face and delighted crowds with his majestic pirouettes and sleight of hand puck control. His stick was a magic wand they said. His feet blessed by the Gods.
The two teams, the Keeners and the Creamery Kings could not have been more diametrically opposed and it was this fact that captured the hearts and attention of Canadians from coast to coast. Thousands were in attendance and millions more listened in on the wireless as Saskatoon faced off against Renfrew for the chance to take on the mighty Toronto Blue Shirts in the Cup Final.
The match started off with a literal bang as young Davey Davidson took dead aim at Handsome Frank leveling the Gentleman Center within moments of the initial puck drop and the intensity never wavered from there. It was a back and forth affair, the grace of the Creamery Kings balancing out the brute force of the Keeners.
Notched at 2 all in the Final Period with the clocking ticking down, the brash, aggressive adolescent fervor that fueled the play of Davey Davidson proved to be his downfall. A two-minute roughing penalty gave the Creamery Kings just the advantage they had been waiting for all game. Handsome Frank lulled and baited the Keeners then finished them off with a nice one-two pass and shoot. The deed was done. The Creamery Kings would move on. The Keeners season was over.
In the aftermath of the final whistle the crowd’s attention turned from the Creamery Kings celebration to the apparent aggressive posturing of the defeated Keeners. As the crowd braced themselves for an old fashioned Canadian brouhaha, they were instead shocked to see the Keeners, led by Davy Davidson, skate to center ice and line up with hands out stretched. The Creamery Kings recognized the moment immediately and replied in turn. Audible gasps turned to cries of joy as the frenzied spectators witnessed the ultimate act of sportsmanship.
And thus a tradition was born.