Category Archives: Bernard Geoffrion

The Old Scrapbook Choo Choo Train Chugs Along

A few things to mention as we continue down the old scrapbook trail. Included in this post is an old letter I’d written asking if a crest I saw on one of the Rocket’s sports jackets was available to the public but Frank Selke Jr. wrote back and said it wasn’t.

The huge face of the Rocket you see is from an old Vitalis sign that was in the barbershop window in Orillia that the barber gave to me. It’s made of thick cardboard and because of its thickness, it was the beginning of the pages starting to come apart.

Also in this edition is a picture of Jacques Plante and it appears to be autographed, which I didn’t know about until now. I researched this picture and could only find the same thing minus the signature. I suppose it’s possible that when the Canadiens sent me these pictures, they included the signed Plante, which I never noticed.

The Hills Are Alive….With The Sound Of Scrapbook

Just when you least expect it, I hit you with more scrapbook. And once again, I’ll just mention that all of my previous scrapbook posts can be found over in “Categories” under “The Old Scrapbook.” I’ll also mention again, although you probably know this, that the pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

It’s Not Over Till The Fat Scrapbook Sings

I sincerely hope you’re not getting bored with the continuing saga of “The Scrapbook.” I know the players are of long ago, but as many of you already know, it’s a very important thing for me.

The player taking the shot from well out is Bobby Rousseau scoring on a penalty shot. It’s one of my favourite pictures, because Rousseau had the balls to take this long shot and he pulled it off.

At the bottom is a newspaper item I glued in years later because I had an open spot on a page for some reason. It’s a gathering of the clan, retired Canadiens players from the 50’s who had enjoyed five straight Stanley Cups, telling the team of the 80’s to put a stop to the madness in Long Island, where the Islanders were winning 4 Stanley Cups. 

And as I always like to say, you can see previous scrapbook pages by simply going over to “Categories” on the right side and clicking on “The Old Scrapbook.”

 

I Was Cold (And Mildly-Warm Other Things)

Yes, I know there are wars and strife and you have your own many problems, but I just want to say that I dealt with really uncomfortable air-conditioning today and you just might start thinking that your own lives aren’t so bad after all.

The ferry was freezing, the doctor’s office was freezing, the Telus office was freezing, the restaurant was freezing, and the ride back on the ferry was freezing.

You tell me. Are your problems so bad now?

But this is a Habs blog, at least until the NHL shuts down for a year, so here’s the important Habs stuff for today:

I’m reading Net Worth which I think every hockey fan should read if you haven’t already as it deals with the corruption and greed of owners and others over the years, with Alan Eagleson getting his share of ink of course, and in a memo from Frank Selke to his Montreal owners, he described Jacques Plante as “almost a mental case in his exalted ego and we must give serious thought to a replacement as he is not very amenable to discipline.” Another star’s “I.Q” is so low that we must not let ourselves count too highly on him.” Bernie Geoffrion “can’t even check his suitcase.” Dickie Moore was a “disappointing worker at training camp and as you know I had quite a session with him at contract-signing time.”

What a nasty memo. The book also details the viciousness of Detroit GM Jack Adams and naturally, good old Conn Smythe in Toronto. These people, and others, acted like children, were ruthless, cheap bastards who manipulated every person who came into their lives. They stole, lied, cheated, and connived, all for the almighty buck. 

I don’t know whether Gary Bettman looks good or bad compared to them.  

James Norris Sr, a man who virtually controlled hockey at one time, although he’s barely remembered, had a great-grandfather who injured his leg in a logging accident and amputated it himself.

I got this picture to go with my Billy Reay stick. This is the 1948-49 Montreal Canadiens – Butch Bouchard is the captain on the left just beside Bill Durnan, and that’s coach Dick Irvin over on the other side. (Give it a click, it’ll get bigger). My stick is signed by pretty well everybody in the picture. Billy Reay is three over from Irvin. I wonder if that’s my stick.

I think there should be this kind of team picture nowadays. Even if just from time to time. Players standing like that. Something different.

As The Scrapbook Turns – Part Three

Part three of the old scrapbook deals with newspaper clippings about the Rocket, plus Bernie Geoffrion and wife Marlene, and all the usual suspects – Toe Blake, Charlie Hodge, Pocket Rocket, Jean Beliveau, Tom Johnson, Habs in baseball uniforms, Rocket and son Normand, (who I’ve been eternally envious of), the Rocket meeting the Queen, him in a convertible in Czechoslovakia, and all the other little things that you can enlarge by double-clicking on the photos.

Parts 1 and 2 can be found by either scrolling down or going over to “Categories” on the right side and finding “The Old Scrapbook.”

 

Continuing Down The Old Scrapbook Trail

More of the old scrapbook, including Habs playing baseball, Maurice Richard appearing on Front Page Challenge, Beehives, Backstrom, Blake, and players with their kids.

Bill Hicke, between the two Bee Hives, walks down the corridor of the old Forum, a place where I stood once and watched the trainers wheel carts of equipment out of.

Just a lot of stuff that would keep me, and often my friends too, entertained for hours when I should have been outside getting fresh air instead.

The photos can be enlarged by double-clicking on them. I only just recently found this out. And part one of the scrapbook can be found right here.

Being In “Les Canadiens” Magazine

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

I was in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1991, right 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 first, the Sharks, and later the Anaheim Ducks.

That’s me in the middle, clean-shaven, with a serious sunburn. And unfortunately, the magazine made one little mistake. 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’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.

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?

Boomer Would’ve Been Proud

A real nice piece from Puck Daddy about Blake Geoffrion, grandson of the Boomer. You can have a look right here – Blake Geoffrion
Blake is a Hobey Baker Award finalist and his team, Wisconsin Badgers, are involved in the NCAA Frozen Four, being held in Detroit this weekend.

The Boomer is sitting up there right now smiling – when he’s not singing.

There He Was Again – Ralph Backstrom

He had all the things I knew were good in life – a big talent and one who could skate like the wind, a great brush-cut, a lovely wife, was a heralded phenom when he was a kid, and he wore the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens. What could be better than all that?

He was Ralph Backstrom, and I wanted to be Ralph Backstrom. I knew I wasn’t going to be another Rocket or Beliveau or Geoffrion, so I thought I’d be Backstrom instead. I started by getting a brush-cut and posing on the ice like I’d seen Backstrom do in pictures, even when I was supposed to be concentrating on playing. My coaches must have wondered what the heck I was doing.

He had come out of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, a little town in northern Ontario that seemed to churn out hockey players the way General Motors churns out cars, having produced Ted Lindsay, Mike Walton, Dick Duff, Barclay, Bob and Bill Plager, the Hillman brothers, Mickey Redmond and others, and especially Backstrom. He was a star in minor hockey, as most pros once were, and was captain and the best of the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens junior squad before he joined the big club.

I loved the way Ralph Backstrom played, the way he skated like a blur and was so solid both as a scorer and a checker. And because he was such a fast skater, he and Henri Richard would race around the Forum ice from time to time for the fun of it because they were the team speed demons.

I hadn’t seen an image of Backstrom for years, and suddenly, during the 100th birthday celebrations at the Bell Centre, there he was, smiling and walking out to centre ice with the others. It made me happy to see him. But he doesn’t have his brush cut anymore, and that made me sad.

003

001

002


Retired New Brunswick Columnist Shares Some Great Habs Stories

Eddie St. Pierre, retired columnist for the Moncton Times and Transcript, started writing sports in 1950 and over the years had many connections with the Montreal Canadiens. He shares some great stories here;

“During my long reporting career with this newspaper (I’ve just begun my 60th year of affiliation with the paper, having joined on Dec. 4, 1950) I had the honour of interviewing or meeting many of the team’s top stars who played on one or more of the team’s 24 Stanley Cups, including the “big three” of Maurice (Rocket) Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur, as well as Henri (Pocket Rocket) Richard, Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, Bobby Rousseau, Danny Grant, John Ferguson, Yvan Cournoyer, 91-year-old Elmer Lach, Doug Harvey, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden and others along with coaches Hector (Toe) Blake, Scotty Bowman, Jean Perron, Jacques Demers, Guy Carbonneau and current coach Jacques Martin plus front-office personnel such as Sam Pollock, Floyd Curry and others.

* The Rocket, who passed away May 27, 2000 in his 79th year, made the biggest impact on me. I saw him play for the first time at Canadiens’ intrasquad games at the old Stadium in 1954. (Note: Some Montreal players complained to police that they were overcharged by a cab driver. A story in the Moncton Times said that bruising defenceman Emile (Butch) Bouchard told police that he, along with four teammates, took a cab from the Brunswick Hotel to the Stadium and the taxi driver demanded $2.50. Before game time, a policeman was summoned to the Canadiens’ dressing room where Ken Mosdell told the same story. Both players said they told the cab driver to collect his fare from club officials.)

During the Canadiens’ stay here, former senior hockey player Charlie Poirier was working as the stickboy when someone broke a window in the dressing room at the Stadium during a game. The thief or thieves reached in from the outside and stole Jean Beliveau’s street pants and belongings.

Meanwhile, The Rocket and I crossed paths on many occasions afterwards, especially at charity hockey and softball games in the city. What an extraordinary individual. When he died, former NHLer Danny Grant — who, like The Rocket, had a 50-goal season (he turned the trick with the Detroit Red Wings in 1974-75) — pointed to the other, seldom-seen side of The Rocket.

“What stood out is the fact that he was such a nice person,” said Grant, who was a member of the Montreal organization at the time. “He was just a wonderful person. He was very quiet, very reserved and I don’t think he said ‘I did this’ once in his whole life. He was more interested in other people than promoting himself.”

During his career, the Hockey Hall of Famer and member of the Order of Canada set many records. Several have been broken, but many remain. In March 1944, The Rocket scored all five Montreal goals in a 5-1 playoff win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The three stars, chosen by veteran sportswriter/columnist Elmer Ferguson, who once worked for the Moncton Transcript, were announced as “Maurice Richard, Maurice Richard and Maurice Richard.” This was the one and only time that one player has been named all three stars.

He ended his career with 544 goals (82 in the playoffs) and won the Stanley Cup eight times.

Richard, whose top salary was $25,000 (equivalent to $200,000 in 2008), was suspended for the balance of the season (only three or four games remained) and the playoffs in 1955 after striking linesman Cliff Thompson during a stick battle with the Bruins’ Hal Laycoe in a game at Boston. The decision by league president Clarence Campbell led to a riot. The game was forfeited to the Detroit Red Wings. The riot outside caused $500,000 in damage.

* Hall of Famer Gordie Drillon of Moncton scored 28 goals and added 22 assists (50 points) during the 1942-43 season. He was 4-2–6 in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the late defenceman, Charlie Phillips, played 17 games early in the season after being called up from the American Hockey League’s Washington Lions. Both Drillon and Phillips are deceased.

* Bill Durnan, one of the Canadiens’ top goaltenders who passed away Oct. 31, 1972 at age 56, was in town for a function several years back. A fellow co-worker, the late Paul Arsenault, was the city’s No. 1 Montreal and Rocket fan. He was in an alcohol rehab facility in the city at the time and Durnham was only too happy to pay him a visit. When Arsenault saw who I was with, emotions got the best of him. He started to cry with joy.

I’ll never forget the time the Canadiens lost to the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the winning goal was scored by Tony Leswick, a pesky forward who usually shadowed the Rocket. While driving him home early one morning, we stopped at a restaurant in Parkton. A Don Messer tune was playing on the jukebox. Sitting down on the floor, Paul banged his fist on the wood. “Anybody but that little (Lewsick),” he repeated over and over.

* The Canadiens always took care of their former players. For years, Harvey (he died on Dec. 26, 1989 at 65) battled alcoholism while suffering from bipolar disorder. The Hockey Hall of Famer who was ranked No. 6 on The Hockey News list of 100 Greatest Hockey Players in 1998, ended up homeless, sleeping in a old railway car.

When his plight became public knowledge, in 1985 he was offered a job with the Canadiens as a scout. I got a call one afternoon from then-Gazette columnist Tim Burke asking me to call him if I saw Harvey around the city. Team president Ronald Corey was very concerned. Coincidentally, I meet Bill Lee later at the Beausejour Club. He had run into Harvey in Sussex. Doug was just on a visit to the Maritimes.

* Goaltender Lorne (Gump) Worsley, one of the last netminders to play without a mask, and I became good friends. (Note: Worsley, who helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup four times, died Jan. 16, 2007. He was 77).

Worsley was doing promotional work for Imperial Oil Ltd. and their Esso stations in the off-season during the 1960s. The two of us journeyed to Bathurst once. After returning to Moncton, we stopped at the “famous” Blue Circle around 2 a.m. and Gump got a real charge out of the rough characters, who had been drinking all night at the Union Club or Carpenter’s Club. He felt right at home, cracking jokes and spinning hockey stories for an hour.

In 1965, after a Moncton Minor Football Association dinner, I went fishing around Doaktown on the Miramichi with Gump and other sports personalities. A guide and a case of beer (although Gump preferred Johnny Walker Red) sat between us. The only thing we caught was a few salmon parr, which were tossed back in. CKCW’s Earle Ross slipped off the bank into the water and needed some help. “The biggest fish caught had to be Earle,” quipped Worsley.

On another occasion, I accompanied the Dieppe Bantam Voyageurs, coached by Ray (Toughie) Steeves, to an NHL game at the Montreal Forum. I was in the dressing room chatting with Gump, who was taking short, quick drags off a cigarette in a small area in the dressing room before the game. “Eddie”! Where the hell is Toe,” he asked, referring to Hector (Toe) Blake, the no-nonsense coach who was at the other end of the room. “Let me know if he comes this way. I don’t want to pay any more $100 fines.”

* Former colleague Howie Trainor recalls a fundraising Summer Classic hockey game — East All-Stars vs. West All-Stars — at the Levesque Arena in the 1960s. We would get college, senior, junior and professionals, mostly from the Moncton area, and attempt to secure the services of National Hockey League players who were instructing at hockey schools in the province.

One year, we approached rightwinger Bobby Rousseau, then with the Habs and who was at the Université de Moncton hockey school, to play in the fundraiser for the Lewisville Minor Hockey Association. He gently turned us down, citing the newly formed NHL Players Association, which, he said, barred players from exhibition games without compensation, but he did it with a small smile playing on his lips. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, we thought, and asked him how much he needed. “A package of gum and a Coke would do it,” he replied as the smile broadened.

Then we realized he had been pulling our leg all along. Needless to say, he played and his presence bolstered attendance greatly.

* A column on the historic Canadiens wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the late Danny Gallivan, the best play-by-play announcer the Montreal team ever had. He died in February 1993 at 81.

Danny was the voice of the Canadiens, with all the hucksterism than can imply, but he was also their severest critic when individual and team performances weren’t what he felt they should be. The Canadiens teams he covered from 1952 to 1984 were among the best hockey has known, but what he saw was what his audience got. There were no “free passes” for players taking a night off.

He was the best at what he did and he loved what he did — all the more so because his colourful language was devoted almost exclusively to hockey’s best team. It was Geoffrion who had “the cannonading shot.” It was Savard who mastered “the spinerama.” Other teams tried to hire him by offering considerably more money than he was earning in Montreal, but Danny was content to stay put. Danny and I became good friends. He always had time for his follow Maritimers and would go out of his way to obtain tickets for a game at the Forum.”