Church Leafs

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Bob Haggert, trainer for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1960s, got married in Orillia to a local girl who was the daughter of someone my grandma knew. Grandma gave me a heads up about the wedding at a church in Orillia (St. Paul’s United Church on Peter St) and I went up there and there were a whole bunch of Leafs standing outside the church talking and smoking and probably commenting on how hot the bride was.

I was about 11 or 12, and I remember only Dave Keon and Red Kelly. The rest are a blur. And I swear on my mother’s grave, the next morning at my own church, Guardian Angels, Keon and his wife sat right in front of me and my family!

Most of the circa 1962 Toronto Maple Leafs were standing outside a church in Orillia, and the only other person there was a little guy who appreciated the whole thing but probably wished they were Montreal Canadiens instead.

Frozen Cranberry

Years ago, long before I showed up in Powell River, a small lake here, Cranberry Lake, would freeze over in the winter and folks would skate on it.

I’ve heard many times about this, and it is a little odd considering that these days the temperature only slightly dips below freezing a handful of times, and Mexican Windmill palm trees grow without a problem in these parts.

But back in the day, they skated and played hockey and had kind of a normal winter considering this town on B.C.’s west coast is within a temperate rainforest.

The other day my friend Dave McLennan left a Powell River Living magazine in my mail slot that shows kids on the lake back in 1950, the year I was born.

I love this picture. Thanks, Dave.

And of course, Go Habs Go tonight in Toronto!

Habs Thoughts

Earlier today, Sam Armenio on Facebook sent me his excellent rundown on this year’s Canadiens. He also asked me to share my views, which I do after you read Sam’s really well-written and well-thought out essay.

Here’s Sam –

Dennis,

I just viewed your website and I think you’ve done a great job…I find some of your commentary entertaining and in some cases quite interesting. So I thought perhaps we can share some views as we both enjoy the feats/blunders and all thing Habs…how did that loss(Leafs) strike you? Some people didn’t think (I’m one of them) that the Habs couldn’t turn things around this season…and pleasantly I was wrong. The Habs actually played a quality type game and I thought they should have won. Directly pointing to a less than appealing power play…especially during the last 40 seconds and then into the overtime…but the chances throughout the game is a far switch than what would have been last year.

I still feel the team didn’t get the push they needed…sort of what we witnessed in the Superbowl, where the defenses really shut down the offenses and then 1 team taking the bull by the horns and making something happen and a blown coverage or soft play would eventually decide the fate of the game.

Here classically, we have Price again…yes he played a super game focused well throughout but after a mishap at the Leaf’s blue line getting caught and then the subsequent attack by the Leafs, catching the defense off guard…Petry late in getting to Marner and then the smooth pass to Tavares and Danault taking the wrong turn and giving Tavares the space and time to flick the puck up over Price’s glove… where I think Price just under played it…yes if only he moved up a foot before dropping to his knees…His glove was right there!! Ahhhh…. such has been my view that he almost never bales out a teammate who makes a blunder and leads to a sudden rebound attack on him…this to me is a trait that I don’t believe he will ever shake and not sure because of that…if ever the Canadiens will hoist the cup while he’s there…yes I hope I’m wrong and he’ll shake this out and we will eventually land the Stanley Cup…the only other way is to have the offense score more goals than the other team…which is really what the Washington Capitals did last year.

But at least the team is exciting…definitely missed Byron’s quickness on this night…generally he can provide some sudden attack and catch the other team…I still think the coaching has been better too…why the power play sucks?? I mean look at what the strong teams in this area are doing and replicate it…practice it…you know the rant by Allen Iverson…it’s only practice…well that doesn’t apply here…they need to do it until it’s fluidity applies and the quicker the puck movement and the better decision making then will there be success (I think Kotkaniemi needs to be there as a second trigger point to Weber (which will give him more space and time) kinda what Galchenyuk did sparingly)…There were times also that the players just didn’t shoot…why? Where’s the hit the net…mantra?…are the coaches doing their best behind the bench…I always said throughout the last 3 seasons where’s the adjustments made as the game progresses?? With Therrien there seemed to never be any adjustments…players with short limited skills always doing the same obvious plays, no setting up…dumping the puck in…missing teammates that are open or soft passes that get picked off going the other way…poor decisions by not choosing the opposite or open space areas and forcing the puck in the area where the other team is in good position to get the puck and a quick transition to the offense and catching the Habs defense for a strike on Price…Oh well!!

What about the Marc Bergevin reign…what’s your thoughts on his tenure? Management’s finally put a better effort on the big center dilemma…I still think they need a strong type defenseman to match up with Petry and another strong winger…here don’t think Shaw fits in…yes he scored that early goal but really it was a deflected shot on Anderson…which is another factor that the Habs cannot do well…that is getting in front of the other team’s goalie and distracting him on the play…get rebounds….break the obvious play and get to rebounds or cause deflections…this is a coaching issue!! I would sure like a guy with tenacity and soft hands…thinking of a Duchesne or even Jeff Skinner…yes both of these players are of the smaller type (and surely can’t have too many of the short kind) but they bring another dimension of speed and soft hands which the Habs don’t have enough of…

Till the next time…

Sam

And now me –

Good stuff from Sam, eh?

This gives me a chance to say what I think about the team, as I haven’t really done it yet this year, and I also haven’t done many game recaps lately either. So Sam has kind of motivated me.

I only saw half of the first period of the Habs and Leafs battle at the Bell, as I was sitting in the Puerto Vallarta airport with my iPad, and then I had to get on the friggin plane just as the second period was about to begin.

Maybe it was good that I missed it. Seeing Tavares score in overtime would’ve drove me to the dark side, or at least to the pub a couple of blocks away here in Powell River.

I agree with what Max Domi said. This team can beat any team in the league (as least when they’re looking sharp), and with all the orgasms and giddiness we’ve had to endure from Toronto media about the Leafs, it would’ve been unreal to see the Canadiens win that game.

I’ve mostly been an optimist about the Habs. It’s been that way every year since the 1950s, and for the most part, even if they were down 4-0 after the second period, I’d always hold out hope that they’d come back and win the game. I never said they were tpoast when it was still possible to win. And if they can make the playoffs, what if we see magic happen?

That sort of thinking changed a few years ago, when they became absolutely dreadful, with not a hope of doing anything remotely good near season’s end. They were incredibly boring, I’d find my mind wandering and my eyes looking at the wall, and they were small and star-less, and did I say boring? Where is that 50- goals scorer? I thought Max Pacioretty was a lousy captain, and although he could be a sniper at times, he avoided physical contact even though he’s a big man. I hated that. Brendan Gallagher has shown from the get-go that’s he the real deal because of his heart, and imagine if Max had even a decent chunk of what Gally has.

I had originally thought (or hoped) that Galchenyuk would blossom into a superstar and the next great hero of the CH. But it turned out he was just a young kid who, even with great talent, apparently could be easily distracted by the ladies and such, and he pissed me off to no end about what could have been.

Carey Price, over the course of his career, has been either unreal between the pipes, or a true sieve who seems to let things get into his head from time to time, even though he told us all to chill out a few years back. I remember a game in Vancouver when he’d been in the league just a few years, and he was as brutal as can be. Just a horrible night for him. The pucks he let in were, for the most part, terrible goals that had us all wondering. Then, years later in the Sochi Olympics, he was unreal, the best in the world, nothing could get by him.

So when I see Sam mentioning that the overtime goal might have been stoppable but many on different websites say the tic-tac-toe play was unstoppable, I have to agree with Sam a bit, even though I didn’t see the goal. Price can be as brilliant as can be, but there are times when he doesn’t stop something that maybe Terry Sawchuk or Jacques Plante or Vladislav Tretiak or Martin Brodeur might have stopped, when we really needed him. He’s been good this year, though. At least for the most part.

One thing I’d like to say about the Canadiens of the last few years, the ones who sucked royally. At least they weren’t the smurfs of the years prior, with wee Gionta, Cammalleri, and the guy who stills makes me grind my teeth – Scott Gomez. It’s hard for me to even write his name. And I don’t care if sometimes Gionta and Cammy contributed, it was the fact that the team was so friggin small it was embarrassing. Did you ever look at the Habs and some of the teams they were playing against from back then, lined up for the national anthem? It looked like fathers on one side and sons on the other.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi makes me smile several times every game. This guy could be a real beauty in a few years. He’s got great style, nice centreman height and he shows surprising confidence for being only 18. He’s smart, and he seems to have good hands. I think he’ll be what Galchenyuk couldn’t be. Taking KK in the draft was a fab move by Bergevin.

Jonathan Drouin reminds me of Saku Koivu the way he handles the puck, he’s got 17 goals so far this season, and is a terrific skater. Lots of people complain that he’s too hot and cold, and maybe he is, but he’s still only 23, which people forget. And it’s not really an honest comparison, but people whined about Frank Mahovlich, especially when he was with the Leafs. They said he was asleep half the time. But he wasn’t asleep, it was his style, and there were those nights when the magic happened.

Phillip Danault has been a solid centreman who is smart, with good size, and good hands. He’s the skilled kind of player would help any team, and he’ll be a key guy if the team makes the playoffs.

I think Jeff Petry is getting better and better. I remember when a TV commentator questioned Petry coming to Montreal in the beginning, saying he wasn’t at all impressive in Edmonton and too soft. But the guy’s turned out to be excellent, even though he sometimes coughs up the puck near his goal.

My favourite Bergevin move? Just after he was hired, his first order of business was to buy out Scott Gomez. I was a big fan of Bergevin after that.

I’m not always a big fan of our GM, though, but I will say one thing. I completely agreed with the Weber-Subban trade. I think Subban was a distraction, and I think he could be an asshole sometimes in the dressing room. I remember on one inside-look TV show when they showed him throwing sticks around the room and swiping tape off the table, as kind of a rah-rah thing. The cameras showed other players nearby looking bemused, and you could almost read their minds. And Subban knew he was on camera. It’s been said many times by people that PK is all about his brand, and I firmly believe that. And from Brendan Gallagher’s comments to the media last year or the year before, he thinks the same thing. Gally’s probably not the only one either.

Saying anything bad about Subban isn’t a popular thing with a lot of fans but I don’t care, I’m too old to let that bother me. I’m glad he’s gone and I think Weber is dominant in many ways – his shot, his hard-hitting, his leadership, and the respect his teammates have of him. And of course, a much better captain that Pacioretty.

I think the future looks bright for the Habs, and maybe, just maybe, young KK will be the big star we’ve all hoped for every year but an elusive one for sure.

I think they’re going to make the playoffs, and who knows what could happen after that? Isn’t it great!


A Life-Changer

This is Lyla. She’s four years and three months old now, and we’ve had her since she was seven months old when we sprang her from a foster home. It took me a while to come to grips with the idea of raising a baby, we’d gotten her just months after I’d retired, and our marriage was completely strained and on thin ice.

But more and more I fell in love with Lyla and I wouldn’t have it any other way now. My only worry is that when she’s 15, I’ll be 80, Lucy isn’t far behind, and that’s pretty friggin old. I wonder if she’ll be embarrassed when she brings friends home.

The Beginning

The spring of 1971. The beginning of a Hall of Fame career for Ken Dryden. After playing in just six regular season games, Dryden backstopped his team to a Stanley Cup, and was also awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Dryden would win the Calder for top rookie the following season.

Habs coach Al McNeil wasn’t as fortunate. Because of a clash with Henri Richard over ice time, McNeil, even though the team had just won the Stanley Cup, was demoted to the minors and replaced by Scotty Bowman.

Below, from the Toronto Star after the big win.

The Old Montreal Barns

On one summer day back in 2013, while you were at the beach getting high and ogling the opposite sex, I was getting stuck in Montreal traffic, working my way around an inner city marathon involving thousands of runners, all of whom seemed in slightly better shape than me.

I did this because I wanted to see where the old Habs barns once stood or still stand. And I’m almost sure I didn’t hit one runner.

First, the 3,200-seat Jubilee Arena in east-end Montreal, at the corner of St. Catherine and Malborough (now Rue Alphonse – D. Roy.)

The Canadiens played there during their first ever season, 1909-10, and again from 1917 until it burned down in 1919.

What the Jubilee looked like, inside and out –

Jubilee Arena
Jub.

And what it looks like now. Nice, if you like warehouses.

Jubilee 1
Jubilee 2

From 1910 to 1918, the Canadiens played at the Montreal Arena (or Westmount Arena as it was also called), at the corner of St. Catherine and Wood, one block west of what would become the Forum.

The place held 4,000 people seated and another 6,000 standees, and burned down in 1918, forcing the Canadiens to move back to the Jubilee for a very short period.

The Montreal Wanderers played there also, and I kind of feel for this long-gone team. After being a powerhouse in the old ECAHA and NHA, they joined the NHL in 1918 and played just four games before their barn burned down. So they called it quits permanently.

What the Montreal Arena looked like then –

Westmount Arena

And what it looks like now –

Westmount 1
Westmount 2

Next, the 6,000-seat Mount Royal Arena near the corner of Mount Royal and St. Urbain, where the Canadiens, after the Jubilee burned down, played from 1920 to 1926 . After that they would take residence (with the Maroons) in the Forum, which was built two years prior in 1924.

The Mount Royal Arena burned down in 2000.

What it looked like then –

Mount Royal Arena

And what it looks like now. A Provigo supermarket –

Mount Royal 1

The classic Montreal Forum, built and opened in 1924 –

Forum_Montreal
Forum 1

Renovations in 1968 made it look like this –

New Forum
Forum inside

And then, after the team had moved to the Molson (Bell) Centre, the beautiful Forum became this –

Forum 8
Forum 1
Forum 2
Forum corridor
Forum hall
Forum 4
023
003
041

And finally, the Bell Centre, originally named the Molson Centre, which opened in 1996.

Bell
pressbox
seats

The Canadiens’ dressing room, which the tour guy said is the smallest dressing room in the league, partly because they wanted to keep it as similar as possible to the Forum dressing room. and something about moving from the Forum after the season had already started.

dressing room

‘Chez Butch’ Postcard

The postcard below, which I bought on ebay, is from Chez Butch Bouchard, a classy joint that was located in downtown Montreal at 881 Demontigny East.

Chez Butch was owned by the big defenseman from the late-1940s to late-1970s, and was a popular spot for teammates and wives to let off steam.

Emile ‘Butch’ Bouchard passed away in 2012 at the age of 92.

The extra large postcard is in mint condition.

Below, from circa-1954, Butch and the gang, which includes, among others, Doug Harvey, Elmer Lach, Gerry McNeil, Bernie Geoffrion, Ken Mosdell, and of course the Rocket, enjoy a few pops with their wives at Chez Butch.

Habs Let it Slip Away

The Canadiens led 3-1 at one point in the second period of Tuesday’s game at Madison Square Garden, ¬†Carey Price was stellar for only part of the evening, Jonathan Drouin was terrible for most of the evening, and by game’s end it was the Rangers who had skated away with a 5-3 win.

The Habs were playing their second game in two nights, and at times appeared out of whack, particularly Drouin, who turned the puck over so many times it was sometimes hard to tell what team he was playing for.

Drouin has had a slew of lousy games this season and he needs to stop this nonsense before Habs fans and media turn on him in a big way and he passes the point of no return.

Tomas Tatar scored twice, the first coming just 23 seconds into the game, which was also the first shot of the game, and he now has five on the season. Tatar had almost as many scoring chances as Drouin had turnovers.

Max Domi notched his 9th on a power play in the second period, which made it 3-1 at that point.

After Domi’s goal, the Rangers slowly but surely took over and scored the final four markers as the Canadiens, possibly because of fatigue from playing the night before, simply ran out of gas. Although being tired might be a easy excuse.

Turnovers, fatigue, and bad penalties, including another ‘too many men’ infraction with just 3:50 left in the game with the score tied 3-3. The Canadiens did the same thing the night before in Brooklyn.

New York scored the winner with 2:44 remaining when Neal Pionk, doing a fine impression of Bobby Orr, went end to end and tucked it behind Price. Less than a minute later, the Rangers added the insurance.

Random Notes:

Joel Armia was injured in the second period after being clipped knee on knee.

Habs outshot the Rangers 34-32.

The second period saw a parade to the penalty box for both teams, and at one point, while leading 3-1, the Canadiens weren’t able to take advantage of 5 on 3 power play, which would have made it 4-1 at that point. Instead, the Rangers began to mount their comeback.

Habs were 1/6 on the power play, while the Rangers went 0/6.

Paul Byron is still mending from a lower body injury and hopefully is back soon.

Next up – Thursday, when the Buffalo Sabres visit beautiful downtown Montreal. The Canadiens dropped a 4-3 decision to the Sabres back on October 25th.

 

 

 

 

Too Much Lightning

Except for a goal by Max Domi just 58 seconds into the game, the Canadiens weren’t able to solve Tampa goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, and the visitors hung a 4-1 beating on the bleu, blanc et rouge at the Bell Centre Saturday night.

Montreal had their chances, plenty of them, but it wasn’t to be.

The four unanswered goals by the Lightning began midway through the first period after Nicolas Deslaurier took a penalty for slamming Ryan McDonagh into the boards, which led to Steven Stamkos (his first of two on the night), scoring on the power play.

Deslaurier’s penalty was deemed boarding, but all I saw was a good, hard hit. The rule book says boarding is called when a player pushes, trips or body checks an opponent causing them to go dangerously or violently into the boards. I didn’t see that. I saw a guy playing a man’s game.

Fighting is almost gone from the game. Bodychecking seems to be on its way out. The NHL has become a vintage European league now.

Stamkos’ goal changed the momentum of the game. It had been all Habs up to that point, but Tampa Bay took over and Vasilevskiy shut the door when called upon. The Russian netminder showed the kind of goaltending we’d hoped Carey Price would display on an almost nightly basis. Sometimes we see it from our guy. Much too often we don’t.

It’s okay, you can’t win ’em all, and they can redeem themselves in New York when they play the Islanders on Monday and Rangers on Tuesday.

Random Notes:

Vasilevskiy stopped 34 pucks while Price handled 32.

In the last eight games we’ve seen the Canadiens win one, lose one, win one, lose one etc. etc.

Seeing kids on the ice during the HockeyFightsCancer pre-game ceremony was an emotional sight. Kids getting this dreaded disease has to be one of life’s most unfair things.

 

 

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