All posts by Dennis Kane

In a Good Old Newspaper

The things you find in a January 6, 1940 Toronto Daily Star.

There’s an ad for a game at 8.30 between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs at Maple Leaf Gardens, with good tickets available at 75 cents, $1.50, $2.00, and $2.50.

There’s a nice photo of star left winger for the Canadiens, Toe Blake, and in the accompanying article, it says, “Last time Canadiens and Leafs met in Montreal it was a delirious donnybrook. If the boys resume where they left off it will be a show no fight fan can afford to miss.”

And last but not least – ‘The Letter Box’, which features some interesting letters, including this from Harry Donnelly in Toronto.

“If you would make a survey of hockey fans here in Toronto or anywhere else in the NHL you will find it 12 to one in favour of a more open game, meaning bigger score and less whistle blowing. After all, it’s the fans who keep the NHL in existence and it seems it is high time they were taken into consideration. Even if it is only to the extent of finding out if they want less whistle blowing and a more open game with more scoring. After all you must remember the sports writer’s opinions and the fan who pays are often of opposite views.
“I don’t say go back to the old seven man hockey but before the blue line was brought into effect there was some wonderful hockey played. Not all whistle blowing. Did you ever hear of a fan leaving a game that finished in a scoreless tie that felt he got his money’s worth?
Yours for whatever it’s worth.
Harry Donnelly

And then there’s this, from R.O.L.

“Well, here we are at the end of another sports year. Living as I do in “Hogtown” I glance back through the months to count the renowned trophies that are now being displayed in Hogtown. But I seem to have lost track of some of them, “or sumpin”!
“Can you help me out? Where is the Mann Cup, the Minto Cup, the Grey Cup, the Stanley Cup, the Allan Cup, the Memorial Cup, the Connaught cup, the Little League World Series trophy.
“Where, oh, where can they be?”

Well R.O.L., they just won the Grey Cup, that should be enough!

That LeBois

Today I’d like to present another star from days gone by, Gaston LeBois.

Looking back now, Gaston LeBois admits it was his father who was mostly responsible for his hockey career.

The senior LeBois would flood the backyard for hours on end, alone and in the dark, and it was unfortunate that he chose July and August to do this. Young Gaston would play and play on this homemade rink, but after coming close to drowning, eventually abandoned it for an arena in winter.

His dad never forgave him, but Gaston found that he enjoyed frozen water over unfrozen water.

In 1962 Gaston was finally called up to the big team and never looked back. He became one of the finest mediocre benchwarmers in the history of the game, and it’s something he’s proud of, even to this day. “It was just nice to be dry after playing on my dad’s rink,” he admitted in a recent interview.

But he wasn’t always a bench warmer. During the 1972 series against the Bulgarians and with the team desperately needing a goal, LeBois jumped over the boards when coach Sinders wasn’t looking, called for a pass but missed, but carried on. Big Bill Esponosa grabbed the puck and threw it out to LeBois, and with just 34 seconds left in the game and a nation holding its collective breath, LeBois fanned on it, punched out the referee, and because his team lost, a riot ensued outside Rue Ste. Carla as thousands of angry fans wanted to find Gaston and kick him in the balls.

They say no one was better inside the blueline and I agree. I’ve been to the Blueline Tavern and to this day, oldtimers gather round and drink and spit and tell stories about how Gaston could chug-a-lug and womanize for days on end and still be a mediocre bench warmer when called upon.

LeBois also scored six times in one game. Their names were Lola, Brigitte, Gloria, Xaviera, Penelope, and Sophia. Gaston has always said that this feat ranks up there as one of the biggest moments in his career.

Yes, he was a beauty, all right. Part of a dying breed. He’d kick and punch and take on all comers to get what he was after. Of course, the team wished he had this much spirit and drive playing hockey as he did with bartenders.

Gaston’s retired now and living a simple life on the west coast. But many fans and teammates still remember him, and they all agree on one thing…… that he was such an asshole back then.

 

 

Maroon Money Matters

That other Montreal hockey team, the Maroons, which folded in 1938, was as colourful a team as any, and it really is a shame they’re no longer with us. But in the 1930s, the city of Montreal could only support one team, and so the Maroons bowed out.

They had some good stories, though, while they were in business, (although I don’t remember where I got these stories).

Maroon defenceman Dunc Munro was given the largest three-year contract ever offered a player at that time, and in his contract, Munro demanded that he have the rights to print and distribute all the programs for Forum events. He later told Frank Selke that he netted $50,000 profit on the programs per season.

$50,000 in the 1930s works out to more than $400,000 in today’s money.

The Canadiens and Maroons had such an intense rivalry that after one night when the Maroons beat the Canadiens, one of the team directors was so happy he gave Maroons’ star Hooley Smith (in the photo) a fully-equipped farm in Quebec.

Maroons players were big on playing the stock market, and they did really well with the help of fans who gave them tips. The stock market became so important to the players that at one practice, only two showed up because the rest were downtown counting their riches from a rising market.

These guys lived high and mighty with their new wealth until one day in 1929, the stock market crashed and everyone lost their shirts. But it turned out to be a good thing because after the shock had subsided, they settled down and became a fine and dangerous team after they began concentrating on sticks, not stocks.

Stars of the World’s Fastest Game

In the picture below, four Orillia minor hockey players smile for the camera. And the father of one of these young players played 27 games in the NHL, scoring one goal and collecting 31 penalty minutes.

The father was Jack Dyte, one of my coaches when I was a smallish yet shifty right winger for the Byers Bulldozers juveniles. Jack played those 27 games with the Chicago Black Hawks during the 1943-44 campaign.

Jack was a quiet, no-nonsense, tobacco-chewing coach and I think he wasn’t crazy about my lack of focus and my humming of Beatles songs as I skated around the ice. But I guess he liked me enough to drive Ron Clarke and I to Barrie one day to see an exhibition game between the AHL Buffalo Bisons and Rochester Americans, who had a defenceman on the team named Don Cherry.

Ron and I watched the game from the Bisons bench as sort of unofficial stick boys, and we were given autographed sticks afterward.

I’m guessing Jack stayed and partied with his old hockey buddies because Ron and I had to take the bus back to Orillia. And I had forgotten that Jack had driven us there until Ron reminded me a couple of years ago.

The newspaper article also mentions John French, who would eventually play pro in the WHA, and Dennis Cain – me, mispelled, scoring for the Imperials in the squirt division.

Here’s Jack!

And here’s the lineups for the Bisons-Americans game that Ron and I were at.

16 And On The Strip

In the summer of 1967, when I was 16, I told my mother that I was going to Los Angeles. Great things were happening on the Sunset Strip at the time, I wanted to be part of it all, and for some reason she said fine.

I’ve wondered about this last part quite a bit over the years, but I think she knew I’d go anyway. My dad kept out of it.

So with almost no money and a bag of sandwiches, I sat in a seat on a train from Orillia to Vancouver and then caught a bus to the border where the customs guy accused me of running away.

I told him to phone collect to my mother in Orillia and she would confirm that I was simply on my way to LA and not running away, which he did, and shortly after I was on the side of the highway in northern Washington with my thumb stuck out, heading south.

All it took to get to LA was a handful of nights sleeping in ditches, and a bunch of rides, including a long and sleepy one with a farmer bringing potatoes from Idaho to either Watsonville or Salinas. We hardly talked the whole time, which was good. I was tired, and I wasn’t all that interested in potatoes.

Not far from LA I got on a bus and sat beside a nice female college student who felt sorry for me, and at some point when the bus stopped at a restaurant, she called her folks in the city to see if I could stay there for a few days. They said no.

From the downtown L.A. bus station I went directly to the Strip in West Hollywood which was the scene of not only young people everywhere milling about, but also bands like the Doors, the Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield playing at Pandora’s Box, the Whisky, and all the other cool clubs.

There was that night I went to Whisky A Go Go (it’s still going strong), and I saw not only the greatYoungbloods but also the Paupers, a tight and talented Toronto band who would play at the Pav dance hall in my hometown Orillia from time to time.

I also thought that maybe I’d meet a nice California girl at one of these places and possibly get laid.

I was on the Strip for about a week, staying in various dumps far from the good parts of West Hollywood, and being careful not to be out and about after 10 pm because Sunset was under curfew to those under 18 after huge riots had taken place months before. They made some sort of movie about this riot, called, aptly enough, ‘Riots on Sunset Strip’.

But one night, I think after the Youngbloods/Paupers show, I got sloppy, and while walking down the street around midnight, a cop pulled up and asked for ID. He saw that I was only 16, and the next thing I knew, I was in handcuffs that I remember being way too tight, and hauled off to the cop shop.

At the station I asked the cops if they would phone Orillia, just like at the border, and have my folks take care of business. One of them phoned my mother, collect of course, and he told her that I was arrested for breaking curfew and would be sent to a juvenile hall the following morning.

At juvenile hall, with big and impressive penitentiary-style walls, I turned over my clothes and wallet, which was all I had, and put on my new prison clothes. Then I was taken to a dormitory, given a bed and blankets, told the rules, and settled in.

It all kind of sucked of course, mainly because I didn’t know how long I’d be there. It was me and a bunch of guys who were there for better reasons than breaking curfew, playing cards and baseball, and I even had to take classes in a school room where I learned almost nothing about American history.

Then one morning, after about seven days, I was eating breakfast in the big hall when I heard my name called, and an official told me my parents had sent a plane ticket and I was leaving right away. So I left breakfast, got my clothes and wallet back, and was escorted to not only the airport, but right to my seat on the plane. They took curfew breakers seriously back then.

I got to Toronto, grabbed a bus to Orillia, and the first thing my mother said to me was that they weren’t mad, although they probably weren’t thrilled about having to buy a plane ticket because I think they were pretty broke.

I told a friend of mine who’s an LA cop about this a few years ago and he said that nowadays there’s no way they’d put a kid in juvenile for such a minor thing as curfew breaking. There’s way too many real criminals, and I’d just be taking up space.

Which is what I kinda thought at the time.

July 14 1967 – Whisky A Go Go, West Hollywood with The Youngbloods and Paupers. The night I was there.

PaupersLATimesWhiskyaGoGoJuly1967

sunset 1

sunset 2

sunset 3

 

 

 

In The Magazine – Mistakes and All

If you have number six of Les Canadiens magazine from the 1991-92 season, then you have a small story about me, complete with a couple of errors.

I was in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1991, at the time the Soviet Union was falling apart, a mind-blowing and historic time to be sure, and I was visiting a bunch of serious Habs fans who had their own Montreal Canadiens Fan Club. We were at the president of the fan club’s apartment and we sat around drinking tea and talking hockey.

The fellow in the black San Jose Sharks shirt was my translater, and he was a Russian scout for the San Jose Sharks and later the Anaheim Ducks.

That’s me in the middle, clean-shaven, with a serious sunburn. And unfortunately, the magazine made a few mistakes. The picture of the fellow in the Habs jacket holding the puck isn’t me, although it says it is in the caption below it. (It’s Anatoli Brel, who I went with to the meeting).

The story that accompanies the pictures says that “Dennis Kane is the only foreign member of the Canadiens Fan Club in St. Petersburg. As a boy, Dennis was always writing letters to his heros, Doug Harvey, Bernard Geoffrion and Maurice Richard; he still has their lovingly replies. (Second error – I don’t have any replies except for Rocket’s Christmas card and a couple of autographed pictures. The author took some liberties here.)

And then, one day, he came across a newspaper article about Anatoli Brel, a Russian fellow looking for a Canadiens fan with whom to correspond.

After six years of exchanging letters, Dennis decided to go visit his hockey pen pal and meet the fan club people who met once a month to talk about the Habs and bring their statistics up to date. “It was really weird,” he recalls. “There I was, thousands of miles from Canada, on a street in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), and there was this huge Canadiens logo in the window.”

Following that memorable meeting, Dennis received a letter officially confirming his membership in the Canadiens Fan Club…St. Petersburg Chapter! What more could you ask?

Boxed Patrick

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I bought this 12-inch ‘Patrick Roy’ McFarlane figurine a decade or so ago at Wal-Mart, not because I’m a great Patrick Roy fan, but because this thing is incredibly beautiful. The problem with most figurines is that it’s impossible to re-create the face properly, but with this one, there was no such problem because he’s wearing his mask. And the rest of it is dead-on.

I paid roughly 30 bucks for it, and on ebay now they’re selling for about $200. And the only way for something like this to ever grow in value is to never take it out of the box, which is the case here.

That’s the key, making sure it’s never removed from the box. So you have to make the decision – do you take it out of the box and enjoy it, or leave it in and enjoy it not quite so much?

It’s the same principle, sort of, as never removing the dust jacket from a book. Dust jackets make all the difference in the world of book collecting. Collectors will scramble to find that first edition Ernest Hemingway complete with jacket, and pay the big bucks. But they won’t bother near as much if the same Hemingway doesn’t have the dust jacket.

So always keep them on your books. Unless you just want to enjoy them. Kind of a silly decision isn’t it? If you’re a rebel you’ll just enjoy them with or without, which is why they were written in the first place. Or you could not even read them, just collect them because they have dust jackets.

Rocket book with dust jacket
Rocket book with dust jacket
Rocket book with no dust jacket
Rocket book with no dust jacket

Smoke Those Consols

The first time I went to the Montreal Forum I was about 13 or so, and what really stood out for me, aside from the logos at centre ice and the magical red colour of the players’ sweaters, was the scoreboard that had British Consols cigarettes ads around it.

I’m pretty sure that at some point after I got back to Orillia I got my hands on some British Consols and smoked them. Maybe it was a few years later. But anyway.

If British Consols were good enough for the Montreal Forum, they were good enough for me.

I was already smoking at my CYO dances by then, and sometimes smoked cigars behind my coaches’s backs on my baseball road trips when I was 12.

But I haven’t smoked in years. Maybe because there’s no ads on scoreboards anymore to sway me.

I saw this great photo recently of the Montreal Maroons from the early-’30s and quickly noticed that British Consols went way back with the Forum and hockey in Montreal.