Category Archives: Bobby Orr

Mothers Throw Things Out. It’s Just What They Do. No One Knows Why… Plus… A Boston Bruin Behaving Badly.

Even in 1934 the Boston Bruins were a dastardly bunch. Of course, that’s not anything new. Every year they’re a dastardly bunch.

 

Why is that? Does it have something to do with the Babe Ruth curse, or trading Bobby Orr to Chicago?  I think it’s something only schooled professionals might be able to figure out.

 

For example, in 1934, Bruins defenceman Eddie Shore clubbed Toronto’s Ace Bailey over the head. In fact, he clubbed him so hard, he ended Bailey’s career by fracturing his skull.  But worse than that, he almost ended the poor guy’s life.

 

It was such a terrible situation that later that same year, a charity game between the Leafs and the league’s best players was held in Toronto to help the Bailey family, and $23,000 was raised.

 

And this was the beginning of the annual NHL all-star game. 

 

When Shore did this to Bailey, my father was 14 years old, and he felt bad about what had happened. So he wrote a little get-well letter to Bailey while the player lay between life and death in a Toronto hospital.

 

A while later, a letter arrived for my dad, and it was from Bailey’s wife, thanking him for his kind thoughts.

 

And what happened to the letter?

 

It disappeared when he went into the army, never to be seen again, he explained. Must have got thrown out by his mother, he added.

 

Why do mothers throw out their kids’ good stuff, like hockey cards, baseball gloves, favourite t-shirts that might only have a few holes in it, and letters from Ace Bailey’s wife?

 

Mothers might not be as dastardly as the Bruin Bruins, but they throw out good stuff.

Seeing George Chuvalo and Bobby Orr Do Their Thing, All In One Day

When I was young and not too bright, I hitchhiked across much of Canada three times. There was never any money for motels or hot meals in restaurants, only a few bucks for potato chips and cigarettes. These smelly, mosquito-bitten trips usually took about eight days or more each way.

 I was always a hitchhiker. At 14, while living with a family for a month in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec on a French-English exchange, my new buddy Normand Chaput and I stuck our thumbs out and toured a big part of the province, even camping out one night on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

 When Normand came to live with us for a month in Orillia that same summer, he and I hit the road again. And when we did, just a few hours later, only 30 miles up the road, we saw two different icons doing what they do best.

 We were let off at a gas station near Gravenhurst, where a small crowd had gathered around a makeshift boxing ring, and we had a look. We watched as a young George Chuvalo, then Canadian heavyweight boxing champ, sparred with a partner.

 There he was, the man who would twice take on Mohammed Ali, taking big-time shots to the face at a gas station parking lot.

 After the fight, Normand and I carried on to Bracebridge, to the big exhibition charity game between the Orillia Pepsi’s senior club, and the newly assembled Muskoka All-Stars. And because the Muskoka All-Stars were a bit of a stacked team with several pros on it, a young, slight, blond-haired kid was loaned to Orillia to help make the teams more equal.

 But it wasn’t equal at all. The blond-haired kid, Bobby Orr, having just completed his first season with the Oshawa Generals, was, at 16 years old, dominating the game so much, so thoroughly, he had both the fans and the other players on the ice laughing and shaking their heads in admiration. He owned the puck, skated through the older, more experienced opponents, skated back hard and broke up oncoming rushes, and controlled and dazzled. It was a major eye-opener for me, Normand, and a lot of people in the Bracebridge Arena.

 Hitchhiking with Normand was just the beginning. It seemed like wherever I went, I hitchhiked. A few years later I thumbed my way to Los Angeles after taking the train to Vancouver, and after that, at 19, began my three trips across Canada.

I don’t pick up hitchhikers now, it’s too risky. And it was probably almost as dangerous then, but I didn’t realize it. Maybe I dodged a bullet. And it was hard work, dirty, and uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

 But I got to see George Chuvalo and Bobby Orr in action, and that made the dirt and car fumes all worthwhile.

It’s A Shame Bobby Orr Never Played For The Habs

Another old game was on the tube the other night, this time from April, 1971, and it involved the Toronto Maple Leafs hosting the Boston Bruins at Maple Leaf Gardens. But forget about the usual cast of characters. There was only one player to watch, and it was Bobby Orr, in his prime.

 The first thing you noticed about Orr is that even though he was a defenceman, he was the most beautiful skater on the ice, a notch above the rest. He would take the puck from behind the Bruins net, wind up, and in only a few strides, it seemed, he was entering Leaf territory, skating like the wind, skating like he was still on a frozen lake back home in Parry Sound, and outskating even the quickest of the quick like Dave Keon and Darryl Sittler.

 When Orr bumped into someone, the other went down because Orr was as solid as a rock. His shot was low and accurate. He played the power play, killed penalties, took his regular shifts, and mesmorized at every turn. The Toronto crowd booed him every time he touched the puck, but that’s what happens when you’re a player of his calibre.

 Time after time he would rush with the puck, and when the occasion was called for, he would turn sharply, retreat, and start over. The Russians in the 1960’s and ’70’s were known for this, but never did any of them do it at full speed the way Orr did. And for the Russians, it was a practised play. Orr did everything on instinct. He was Michelangelo, Pavarotti, Fred Astaire, and Northern Dancer. He was born to be better than everyone else.  

 Don Cherry has always maintained that Orr was the greatest ever, and I have no qualms with this statement. He was such a beautiful player who made everyone else look ordinary. What a shame his career was cut short with knee problems. What a shame he didn’t play in the 1972 Canada-Russia series.

 And what a shame he never played for Montreal. Imagine.

 

Sidney Crosby Takes The Bull By The Horns And Wakes His Penguins Up

The good news for the Pittsburgh Penguins is their three big guys, Crosby, Malkin, and Hossa, played well. The even better news for the Penguins is that they won game three, and are now pretty well back in the series. But not quite.

Sidney Crosby did what all great stars throughout the years have done. Stepped forward and scored huge goals in big games. Like Orr did, And Richard, Howe, Messier, Lemieux, Gretzky, and all the great ones over the years did.

Tonight, he netted the first two of the game, which broke the team goal drought, and which got the Penguins going.

That’s why he’s a star. He acts like one.

The Penguins barely won game three, though, hanging on for dear life through the third period. And all they have to do is win the next three out of four games.

So I’m not going to predict anything. I’m not Kreskin. It’s sort of possible that Pittsburgh could come all the way back and win this series. I doubt it, but it’s possible.

And like Toe Blake said, “predictions are for gypsys.”

One thing I feel though. Penguins defenceman Hal Gill should be read the riot act. What guys like Gill are known for are silly physical penalties that happen because the skill level isn’t quite up there. He can cost his team the game, which almost happened tonight.

One other note regarding tonight’s game on CBC. Pittsburgh cameras are placed alnost as high up as they are in Tampa. These cameras should be down at least fifteen feet. Detroit’s are. Lots of teams are. Although lots aren’t. I don’t know why. 

In Montreal news.

Guy Lafleur has apparently said that when Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev become free agents in 2009, the Habs should concentrate more on signing Kovalev. He said Koivu is too serious and business-like in the dressing room, too demanding of his teammates.

What the hell is wrong with that? That just tells me that Koivu is about winning, is about making sure he and his teammates give their all. This is the way Mark Messier was, and Ted Lindsay years ago, and so many other great leaders. These guys have all summer to relax, joke around, have a good time. During the season, they’d better perform, better take it seriously. They’re being paid enough money.

If Koivu’s teammates, and there’s probably only a couple if any, don’t like his hard-core expectations, they should take up ballet instead.

Of course, this could be just one more case of Lafleur saying things that maybe he shouldn’t be saying. He’s been doing this for more than thirty years.

I say the team should concentrate on signing both. They’re equally important in the scheme of things in Montreal.

But I honestly do like the tough approach from the captain.

Pittsburgh and Detroit Go For The Cup. This Is Good, I Suppose.

Two real good teams are going to tangle for the Stanley Cup. I’ve got no complaints about this. It’s not like it’s the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricane, or Tampa Bay Lightening. Or even, dare I say, the Anaheim Ducks.

No, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings are a solid matchup and two good hockey towns to boot. Pittsburgh had an NHL team in 1925, the Pirates, which lasted until 1930, and the city’s had the Penguins since league expansion in 1967.

Detroit’s been in the league since 1926 when they took over the Victoria BC franchise. The city and team like to call itself Hockeytown, which is a little off. If Detroit’s Hockeytown, then Montreal and Toronto must be Hockeycities.

And if the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit doesn’t start getting more fans in the seats, the nickname might have to be changed to ‘Used to Be Hockeytown.’

This leads me to my second complaint. It’s fine that Gordie Howe is called Mr. Hockey, but isn’t that for others to label the man? My personal opinion is, he shouldn’t be signing autographs as “Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey.” Doesn’t that make him just a little bit full of himself?

Gordie Howe is considered by not all, but many, as the greatest ever. Greater than Gretzky, Orr, Richard, and Lemieux. It’s a judgement call. Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall told me Howe was the best there was.

He doesn’t need to blow his own horn. Let others do that for him. Let others call him Mr. Hockey.

And I say this with the utmost respect for Mr. Howe.

Am I wrong for thinking this? I’m pretty sure Mario never signed as Mario “The Magnificent One” Lemieux, or Orr as Bobby “The World’s Greatest Defenceman” Orr, or Maurice “Hero of a Province” Richard.

This year’s final is a sexy affair because of so many stars involved. Crosby, Malkin, Hossa, Staal, Malone, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen, Lidstrom, Draper. And the guy who played on the original 1926 Wings, Chris Chelios.

It’ll be good. I may even watch some of it.

The thing begins Saturday in Detroit.

Would Dave Nonis Really Like Cabbagetown?

Dave Nonis might want to think twice about accepting the General Manager position from the Toronto Maple Leafs Leafs. And the Toronto Maple Leafs might want to think twice about offering the General Manager position to Dave Nonis.

Nonis has had about three interviews now with Leafs brass, so all concerned is definitely interested. But if one were curious, one would ask, “why would Dave Nonis be an upgrade from John Ferguson Jr?”

Dave Nonis is fine, intelligent man. I was at a talk he gave a few years back in Powell River, and he came across as a genuine, smart, young up-and-comer in the hockey world. He even gave away a bunch of primo Canucks luxury box tickets to lucky people. I wasn’t one of them.

But Dave Nonis’ downfall in Vancouver was that he believed the team there was basically a contender, with only a few minor moves needed to complete the package. And because he believed that in Vancouver, he’ll lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to nowhere fast.

Nonis couldn’t see at all that the Sedin twins are not fabulous stars, but only good, solid, non-stars who will probably never become anything more than that. Guys like Luc Bourdon and Nolan Baumgartner haven’t panned out for him and became more Manitoba Moose than Vancouver Canucks.

 He was a guy who seemed almost shy to make any kind of move at trade deadline. His biggest feat, landing Roberto Luongo, happened only because Mike Keenan in Florida didn’t like the all-star goalie and gambled on Todd Bertuzzi becoming a force with the Panthers, which he didn’t do, and Alex Ault doing a fine job between the pipes in place of Luongo, which he didn’t do either.

Nonis came out smelling like a rose for this trade, but indeed, he has never been the second coming of Sam Pollock. Now Sam Pollock! There’s a guy the Leafs could’ve used at some point over the years.

Nonis may have believed the Canucks were a contender, but newly-hired GM Mike Gillis doesn’t. And therein lies the difference between Nonis and the new guy.

So why would the Leafs want Nonis? After firing Ferguson, this would be a lateral move, not an upgrade.

TSN bigshot experts figure it’s a way to lure Brian Burke out of Anaheim. But for Chairman of the Board Larry Tanenbaum and President and CEO Richard Peddie, it could be better to get a less-than-crusty guy like Nonis or Ferguson, as it would be less a headache for them. Brian Burke or Scotty Bowman wouldn’t stand for the shit that would be hurled their way. 

And anyway, are the Leafs about winning, or just about making large wheelbarrows full of money for all concerned, especially the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, the majority owners of the Leafs?

Nonis is a smart guy, so he probably already knows all this. But he wants to stay in hockey, and he’s out of work right now.

But if he was the top guy, he’d be fed to the lions in Toronto, which basically means his bosses, who like to play a hands-on role in Toronto.

 He, like Ferguson before him, is too nice a guy for this job.

Note:

Canucks fans might cry foul at the criticism of their Canucks here, and I know what they’re going to say. Injuries, they’ll explain. The Canucks were decimated with injuries. Otherwise, they would’ve been a contender this year.

BC has always grown really good pot.

 

 

Ted Lindsay Means Well, But Vlad Konstantinov Was No Bobby Orr Or Doug Harvey

I’m sorry, but Ted Lindsay’s 82 years old now, and so some of his reality must have packed it in. Vladimir Konstantinov was a better defenceman than Bobby Orr?
Sorry, Ted. No one was better than Bobby Orr.
And he says Doug Harvey was the greatest ever before Konstantinov but didn’t have the bodychecking ability Konstantinov had?
Sorry again, Ted.
Harvey could not only bodycheck with the best of them in an era when bodychecking was much more prevalent than in the modern game, but players from the other original five teams knew they’d better not mess with Harvey because he was big, strong, mean, and an amateur boxer.
Good for Ted Lindsay for testifing during the accident lawsuit. He means well. But Konstantinov was no Bobby Orr, and no Doug Harvey. These two controlled the game. Everyone else comes in second.
The following are excerpts from Lindsay’s testimony, published in the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. 

Lindsay delivers emotional testimony at Konstantinov/Mnatsakanov lawsuit

Posted by George James Malik May 12, 2008 17:33PM

The Detroit News’s Paul Egan says that Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay testified that Vladimir Konstantinov was perhaps the best defenceman in hockey when he was injured in a limousine crash that’s resulted in a federal lawsuit by Konstantinov’s family and the family of Sergei Mnatsakanov against Findlay Ford Lincoln Mercury, which the Konstantinov/Mnatsakanov suit alleges had defective seat belts:

May 12, Detroit News: “He was the greatest machine in the world,” Lindsay told the jury of five men and three women. Today, “I see this vegetable and to me it just kind of makes me sick (compared) to what was the greatest hockey player in the world. It’s a shame.”Lindsay said he continued to work out in the Red Wings weight room following his hockey career and became good friends with Konstantinov and other team members.

He described Konstantinov as “a gifted person,” a skilled bodychecker who was a magnificent skater and had the ability to go up ice and act as a fourth forward and still get back across his own blue line in time to defend.

Lindsay said Doug Harvey of the Montreal Canadiens was the greatest defenseman he ever saw before Konstantinov, but “Doug didn’t have the gift of Vladi with the bodychecking.” The only other defenseman he compared Konstantinov to was Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins, whom Lindsay said was a great skater who again was not as physical as Konstantinov.

Lindsay said he understood the chauffeur had been unable to keep the limousine on the road. “People like that, they should be shot,” he said.

 

The Detroit Free Press’s Bob Swickard confirms:

May 12, Detroit Free Press: Hockey Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay testified today that the Red Wings easily could have won at least two — and perhaps five – more Stanley Cups if Vladimir Konstantinov hadn’t been disabled by 1997 limousine crash.”That’s how good he was,” Lindsay, 82, told a federal jury in Detroit considering a claim against Findlay Ford, the Ohio dealership that sold the limo to a metro Detroit company.

“There was none better,” he said, adding that Konstantinov topped even the legendary Bobby Orr as a physical body-checking defenseman.

“He was best in the world. No doubt about it”,” Lindsay said

Fascinating Facts Are Back! Will Your Heart Handle It?

Fascinating Fact #1  I saw Bobby Orr twice in my home town of Orillia. Once, when I was sitting in the park down by the lake, he and his wife strolled by. He had a hockey school with Mike Walton in Orillia at this time.  The other was out at one of the local beverage rooms, and he and a bunch of people I knew a lttle, sat near us. There’s a strong chance my table drank more beer than their table.

Fascinating Fact #2  Gary Lupul, a great ex-Canuck and a good friend of mine who passed away last year, introduced me once to goaltender Richard Brodeur. Gary told Brodeur I was a Habs fan, and Brodeur said “Oh, I don’t want to talk to you.”

Fascinating Fact #3  I was once introduced to the Hanson Brothers’ manager. I held out my hand and he asked “Do you wash your hands when you take a crap?” I said of course, and it was only then that he shook my hand.

Fascinating Fact #4  A kid I played minor hockey with for four or five years, John French, ended up getting drafted by the Montreal Canadiens and played a couple of years with the club’s farm team, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. But it was the early 1970’s and to crack the Habs line up, you pretty well had to be a Guy Lafleur, so French decided to sign with the New England Whalers of the newly-formed World Hockey Association instead. He played with Gordie Howe and another good Orillia boy, his old friend Rick Ley, who had played for the Leafs before jumping to the WHA.

Fascinating Fact #5  Rick Ley lived around the corner from me growing up. We sometimes skated on the big outdoor rink near us, before school. Ley also pitched a ball to me one summer which the batter fouled off into my mouth and knocked my front tooth out. 

Fascinating Fact #6  The best seat I ever had at a game was in the first row at the Montreal Forum, behind the net, just to the right of the goal judge. This was in the late 1970’s.

The worst seat I ever had was at Edmonton’s Northland Coliseum for a game between the Habs and Oilers, and we were in the very first row behind the Oilers bench. John Muckler and his two assistant coaches stood right in front of us, so the only time we could see was when the play was down at one end. 

Most games I’ve gone to, however, were usually way, way up. 

Fascinating Fact #7  Canada’s greatest pool player, Cliff Thorburn, is a long-time Habs fan.

Fascinating Fact #8  Gary Lupul told me once that the guy he made sure he didn’t piss off on the ice because the guy was simply too big and scary,  was Clark Gillies of the Islanders.

 

 

Howe, Orr, Gretzky, and Lemieux. Which One Goes?

You’re the unbelievably lucky GM of your team because you have Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, and Mario Lemieux on it. But because of your tight budget, you must trade one of them. All are 26 years old, and all are completely healthy. Who will you choose?

GORDIE HOWE, Mr. Hockey, was 6’1″, 205 lbs, and played right wing. In his career, he won 4 Cups, 6 MVP’s, was scoring champ (Art Ross trophy) 6 times, played in 23 All Star games, and holds 9 NHL records. In 1767 games, the big guy scored 801 goals, 1049 assists, for 1850 points.

Howe was also tough as nails, strong as an ox, and if you tried to rough him up in the corner, chances are you came out with your nose broken. He is Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall’s choice as greatest ever.

BOBBY ORR was like a forward playing defense. He could skate like the wind, make end to end rushes and get back quickly enough to break up the attack. and for all the beautiful things he could do with his skills, he was also undeniably strong and could hold his own in fights with pretty well anyone in the league. He was 6′!”, 200 lbs, and is the only defenseman in history to win the Art Ross trophy as scoring champion. He won two Stanley Cups, and in 657 games, notched 270 goals, 645 assists, for 915 points. He holds the record for most points by a defenseman in one season with 139. He would be Don Cherry’s choice.

WAYNE GRETZKY, The Great One, can only be measured by the magical numbers he put up because he wasn’t strong, couldn’t fight, and looked like he should be playing beach volleyball instead. But what numbers! In 1487 games, he scored 894 goals, 1963 assists, for 2857 points. He was a machine. He holds 40 regular season records, 15 playoff records, and 6 All Star records. He won 4 Stanley Cups, was MVP 9 times, and had over 200 points 4 times. And when you think about think about the fact that a 50 goal season is an incredible accomplishment that only a few of the elite can reach, remember that Gretzky had a 92 goal year, and an 87 goal year. He was a machine.

MARIO LEMIEUX was big – 6’4″, 230 lbs, and if he hadn’t had problems with his health that included Hodgkins Lymphoma, his numbers just may have been up around Gretzky’s. Gretzky played 572 more games than Mario.

 In 915 games, he scored 690 goals, 1033 assists, for 1723 points. He holds 12 NHL records and 11 Pittsburgh Penguins records. He also won 2 Stanley Cups and was MVP of the league 3 times. He had a big reach, soft hands, and could score carrying players on his back, much like the Rocket did.

BUT AS GM, YOU HAVE TO GET RID OF ONE OF THESE GUYS.

I suppose there’s two choices. Bite the bullet and choose one, or just retire early so you don’t have to make this decision.

But I’m making mine. And I choose……..Mario.

Mario was huge but didn’t really care for the rough going. (An aside: His very first fight was against my good friend, the much smaller, and tragically, recently deceased Gary Lupul). Howe was tougher than anyone in the league, Orr was tougher than the majority, and Gretzky had Dave Semenko. Mario also wasn’t all that hard a worker when he didn’t have the puck.

Other than these, the only reason I can come up with is I just can’t see myself saying goodbye to Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, or Wayne Gretzky.