I feel quite safe in saying that when hockey fans everywhere heard the news that the plane carrying Yaroslavl Lokomitiv had gone down, there were immediate thoughts about their own teams. Losing the Montreal Canadiens for example…. I have no words.
Shockingly, there was a moment in time when we almost did lose the Montreal Canadiens, but it wasn’t from a plane crash. Instead, it was from a train almost plunging into an icy river. And we’re talking the Rocket and Doug and Butch and Elmer and some mighty fine teammates.
The Canadiens had fallen to the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-1 in Toronto on December 20, 1950, and hours later were heading back to Montreal. Just 35 miles from the city, in the morning, the train began to cross the Dorion bridge high above the St. Lawrence River, but a cracked wheel bearing caused the baggage car to hop the rails. Quickly the next four cars also left the track, and I remember reading once that members of the Canadiens moved to one side of their car to try and keep it from tipping.
Finally, after a few harrowing moments, the rest of the train, with the Canadiens on it, managed to hug the ties and make it across. Barely.
Several passengers were injured although all of the Canadiens players were fine, and everyone was brought back to Montreal by another train and some buses.
But it was as close as can be to losing the entire Montreal Canadiens when their train came within a whisker of hurtling into the cold St. Lawrence below.
Is this a gruesome story or what?