All posts by Dennis Kane

Chewing The Fat (Uh, Spaghetti) With Red Storey And Frank Mahovlich

The Canadiens played the Ottawa Senators last night and will play them again tonight and I noticed that nowhere in the Ottawa lineup did I see Frank Mahovlich.

 What’s that? Frank Mahovlich is a senator in Ottawa, not an Ottawa Senator?  Ohhhhhh.

 Never mind.

 But speaking of Frank Mahovlich…..

 In the late 1990’s, I owned a sports bar in Powell River called Kane’s Sports Bistro. It was a good little place and I was able to have my stuff all over the walls. Too much work, though. Way too much work. We sold it and the new owners kept the name.

 During this time, the NHL Oldtimers came to town to play one of their many charity games and dazzle us with their playmaking, the skill that never seems to leave retired players.

 On the day of the game, in the early afternoon, my partner and I were the only ones in the place when Red Storey and Frank Mahovlich walked in. They strolled around, looked at all the stuff on the walls, and then sat down.

 Naturally we were very polite, offered them a nice spaghetti dinner (on the house), and started asking questions about hockey which they both seemed more than happy to chat about. We talked about the 1972 Canada-Russia series, modern-day hockey, and Red told me how hard it was to handle the Rocket sometimes when he (Red) was refereeing.

 And of course, we had a big talk about the Habs.

 From that conversation, the thing that most stands out is how Mahovlich went on about what a class outfit the Canadiens are. He said it was by far the best team in the league to play for. He said he didn’t get along with Punch Imlach in Toronto and wasn’t happy there, and when he was playing in Detroit and heard the news that he was traded to Montreal, he knew it was perfect for him.

 He said the Canadiens treated the players first-class, and he considered himself an ex-Hab, not a Leaf or Red Wing.

 That night at the game, Red Storey carried a microphone with him as he refereed, and told the sold-out crowd of about 2000 that everyone should go to Kane’s because the spaghetti was so good.  

 

                                                               

My Evil Thoughts About Detroit, Which I Feel Bad About…Plus…What It’s Going To Take For The Habs To Do It.

Pittsburgh doesn’t worry me. Either does Boston, or Buffalo, or Tampa Bay, or the Rangers. Calgary doesn’t worry me, or Dallas, Anaheim, Vancouver, and Colorado.

 

In fact, no team worries me about getting in the way of Montreal’s big season. Except Detroit. They worry me. Not a lot, mind you. Montreal will take out any team. This is the year.

 

But Detroit is a concern.

 

It isn’t even so much that the Wings landed Marion Hossa. And I’m not at all concerned about Kris Draper and Tomas Holmstrom or most of this team for that matter, including Johan Franzen, who is probably just a one-hit wonder like Iron Butterfly was with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vita.

 

 It’s three other guys in the Motor City I’m not crazy about.

 

I’m hoping Nick Lidstrom pulls a hamstring. Maybe a couple of times. And maybe Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg could break a finger or two. Nothing serious, just a finger. Even a pinky finger. They can still make whoopee with their wives. They just can’t shoot the puck.

 

But regardless.

 

This is the Year of the Habs. And all that needs to happen is this:

 

Carey Price, with a year under his belt, can’t be tired at the end of the regular season, and his confidence can’t take a nap at any stage in the year.

 

The defence, led by Mike Komisarek and Andrei Markov, has to play mean and ugly and dangerous. And this also means Ryan O’Byrne. He in particular has to play with an edge that scares the bejeesus out of opposing players. 

 

Up front, Saku Koivu needs to have one of his best years ever. Alex Kovalev has to take his magic into the playoffs. And Tomas Plekanec needs to become a household name throughout the league.

 

Alex Tanguay has to play like he’s been a Hab for years.

 

It’s time for Chris Higgins to become a real star this year. A big star. A huge star.

 

The Kostitsyn boys have to continue to blossom, as they’re expected to do.

 

Robert Lang has to make us all forget what Mats Sundin might have done in Montreal and be the final piece of the puzzle that’s been missing.

 

Guillaume Latendresse has to finally become a player. It’s time. We’ve been waiting patiently. 

 

Tom Kostopoulos, Steve Begin, Josh Gorges, Francis Bouillon and the rest just need to keep doing what they did last year because they were great.

 

Georges Laraque has to become the new John Ferguson.

 

The team needs to have a very fine power play again, like last year. And they have to score a lot of goals, like last year.

 

And they have to be stingy with goals against.

 

Youppi has to relive past glory and become the mascot he was with the Expos.

 

The Ole song must only be sung when the team’s about to win, not when it’s close.

 

And everyone, please stay healthy. (I’ve noticed that Koivu and Laraque are already nursing minor injuries.)

 

And that’s it. It’s simple!

 

Pre-season update:

The boys lose big to Boston 8-3, but take out Buffalo in Roberval, 3-2.

And with those cameras so low at the Roberval arena, it felt like we were there, in about the fourth row. It reminded me of the outdoor game in Edmonton a few years back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Book, The 1958 Team, The Gift, And Toe Blake Helping Out My Dad

When I was seven or eight years old, my father and mother bought me a book for Christmas called “Let’s Play Hockey” by Lynn Patrick. Normally this wouldn’t be news. Normally it would’ve been just another hockey book.

But my father got the bright idea to send it to the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal, asking if any of the players would sign it so he could give me something special at Christmas.

The book came back signed by the entire 1958-59 team, and I suppose when I opened it, my eyes must’ve bugged out.

They were all there – Toe Blake, Maurice and Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Bernie Geoffrion, Jacques Plante, Ralph Backstrom, Bert Olmstead, Marcel Bonin, Tom Johnson, Phil Goyette, Claude Provost, Andre Pronovost, Ian Cushenan, Bob Turner, Jean Guy Talbot, Dollard St. Laurent, Ab McDonald, and Don Marshall.

But darn it, Doug Harvey wasn’t. He must’ve been injured or something when the book was passed around.

But that didn’t stop my father. Later that year he took me to Toronto to see the Habs play the Leafs, and he brought the book with us. And sometime before game time, he took the book down to the corridor outside Montreal’s dressing room, and believe it or not, saw Toe Blake standing there, went up to him and asked him if he would take the book into the room and get Harvey’s autograph for him.

Blake did just that, and that’s Harvey’s signature down at the bottom corner of the opposite page of the other players. Imagine.

Those brown marks are from scotch tape. For awhile, after I got it, I taped a plastic sheet over top to protect them. Because even then I realized the magnitude of this book.

Cheer Up, Canucks’ Fans. Someday, Maybe. Probably Not, But Stranger Things Have Happened

Although it’s sad for Vancouver Canucks’ fans that their team has never won a Stanley Cup, they just have to remind themselves that someday, somehow, it could happen. Meanwhile, I’ll try to cheer them up by telling them about the time the Canucks’ great-grandfathers, the Vancouver Millionaires, did hoist the big old mug.

 

In 1915, the Millionaires, led by flashy forward Cyclone Taylor who had come out to Vancouver, liked it and stayed, clobbered the Portland Rosebuds 11-3 to clinch the Pacific Coast League title. Back east, the Ottawa Senators were doing the same thing to the Montreal Wanderers, beating them 4-1 to win the National Hockey Association championship.

 

So it was Ottawa against Vancouver, in Vancouver, for the first Stanley Cup series ever staged in Western Canada.

 

As the Senators made their way across the country by train, the Millionaires went to Portland to play a couple of games to keep them sharp for the big series. While there, captain Si Griffis twisted his ankle. And the guy the team hired for five bucks to sit in the dressing room and watch their valuables made off with all their money, Griffis’ gold watch, and goalie Hugh Lehman’s diamond stickpin. (I once had Hugh Lehman’s autograph on a small scrap of paper and sold it for 500 bucks on ebay.)

 

The big Stanley Cup series was a five-game series, and it was decided that each member of the winning team would receive $300. Big sell-outs were predicted at the old Denman Arena, which would eventually burn to the ground 21 years later. And in an unbelievable outpouring of generosity, each member of the Ottawa team was presented with a free streetcar pass by BC Electric.

 

The three big games were, somewhat surprising, less than sold out, but the Millionaires, all seven of them, clobbered those eastern lads in three straight games by a whopping 28-6 margin. And back then, players played the entire games without substitution.

 

The Millionaires collected their $300 and probably bought new fedoras, and maybe Easter bonnets for the little ladies. It’s not known if the Ottawa players ever got to use their free streetcar passes.

 

The Millionaires came close in other years but never saw the team’s name on the Stanley Cup again. However, in 1925 the Victoria Cougars won an east-west series with the Montreal Maroons to join the Millionaires as western Canada Stanley Cup champions. It’s possible that Millionaires’ fans did a slow, jealous burn about this.

 

Anyway, that was then, but this is now. The Canucks are now starting their 38th year and still no Cup in sight. The modern day Canucks may be millionaires, but they’re no Millionaires.

 

Not until they finally get the big job done.

The 2027 Montreal Canadiens First Rounder, His Two Wingers, And The Crusty Old Coach

This is the very first group shot of upcoming star (in two decades) Cameron and his linemates. The highly touted Calgarian weighs in at nine pounds and is an impressive 22 inches long. He’s a power forward/defenceman who shoots left (maybe right), and when not playing, likes to eat, sleep, and poop.

 

Playing left wing is Jasmyne, at 55 pounds and a lanky four feet tall. The Russians have said that Jasmyne just might be the best all-round player they’ve seen. And at right wing is Delaney, who also shoots left, but just like the Rocket, shoots left but plays on the right side. From the blueline in, nobody’s more dangerous than Delaney.

 

The crusty old coach is me. The grandpa. These three players love me, unlike many players who don’t love their coach. And of course I love them, unlike many coaches who don’t love their players.

 

Jacques Plante Thought It Would Be Nice To Have A Face

All you have to do is sit behind the net to fully understand why goaltenders wear masks. It’s not hard to figure out. They wear masks because they want to have a reasonably normal face to look at in the mirror. They also want to remain alive.

 That little black rubber puck hurts. When you sit behind the net, you see that the thing explodes off sticks, ricochets like bullets off steel and often is virtually impossible to see. It’s like batting against Nolan Ryan, and every pitch is at your head. Yes, there’s no doubt about it. A puck can do serious damage to a goalie’s movie star good looks.

 So imagine the time when goaltenders didn’t wear masks. It was a time when teeth were lost, cheekbones and noses flattened, and they lived in fear. It was rarely a problem when they could see the puck–they could handle that. It was the time when they couldn’t see it, when it was deflected or hard to find, that it became scary. Then, they knew the infirmary was only down the corridor.

 But in 1959, one goalie, against his coach’s wishes, finally put the mask on, because he was sick of looking in the mirror and seeing blood and bandages. His name was Jacques Plante, and every goaltender of every age, in every rink in every town, should say a quiet thank you to the man.

 Plante was a different kind of a guy, as goaltenders can be sometimes. He wasn’t particularly close to most of his teammates, and many wondered about his hobby. When Harvey and the Rocket and Boom Boom were playing poker and having beers, Plante was knitting scarves and sweaters. They would wonder about that. But they never had to wonder about him on the ice, because he happened to be one of the greatest of all time and he helped his team win. So they let him be with his knitting.

 But coach Toe Blake was another matter. Blake didn’t like Plante or his individual streak. He hated when the goalie would roam almost to the blueline with the puck. He didn’t understand the knitting. And there was no way in the world this coach was going to let his crazy goalie put on a mask. No way. Too cowardly.

 But Plante had been toying for awhile with different ideas and styles of facewear and would sometimes try one out in practice, probably when Blake wasn’t around. But during games, it would remain in the dressing room. It just wasn’t time.

 Everything changed in 1959 when Plante and his team were in New York. The Rangers at the time had a sharpshooter named Andy Bathgate, who had perfected one of the first slapshots, and his was like a cannon, hard and heavy. In the game, Bathgate wound up and his shot smashed into Plante’s face. The goalie was helped off the ice, spent 20 minutes in the clinic, was stitched up, and then announced he was ready to go back out. Only this time, with his sweater caked in blood, he was wearing his mask. Blake let him be, and in the games following the one in New York –with his mask on– Plante was still a star, and the mask stayed.

 Jacques Plante wasn’t the first to try the mask. Clint Benedict had put one on in 1930, but found it uncomfortable and quickly took it off. But Plante was the first to wear one on a permanent basis. He showed guts to defy his coach.

 But pucks hurt, and this was a goalie who was tired of that.

Bert Olmstead Probably Blames Me. And Patrick Roy’s Son May Not Make It To The Celebration.

Oh, I had the guts all right. Big guts. Big honkin steel-plated guts. Phoning Bert Olmstead in Calgary again was going to be a cinch. “Hello Mr. Olmstead,” I was going to say. “Can we talk hockey?”  And if he grumbled and hung up on me again, it wasn’t going to bother me.

 

So I got out the phone book, just like I’d done before, and I found a Kevin Olmstead, and a Pat, and a Marie, and several others. But no Bert. He was there before. But not now.

 

I know what happened. He probably got an unlisted number after I bothered him the last time. It’s my fault. I single-handidly made him paranoid of strangers calling. 

 

Sorry Bert. I didn’t mean anything by it. I just wanted to talk hockey.

 

IN OTHER NEWS:

 

Patrick Roy’s son Jonathan has pleaded not guilty of assault stemming from him skating the length of the ice to pummel the other goalie during a Quebec junior game.

 

I’m not sure how this might be not guilty, but anyhow, if found guilty, the young fellow could face up to six months in jail. Which means that when his father’s sweater is hung from the rafters at the Bell Centre. Jonathan could be watching it in the prison viewing room along with a couple of dozen of his newest and closest friends.

 

He could even kill two birds with one stone by watching his dad at centre ice while getting a nice homemade tattoo at the same time.