Category Archives: Chicago Blackhawks

They Wanted To Meet Rocket

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When the Soviet all-stars, selected from various Moscow clubs, made their historic visit to Canada in November of 1957, their main requests were to see an NHL game and meet Maurice Richard.

They took in a game between Chicago and the Leafs at Maple Leaf Gardens, and hoped that the Rocket would visit them in Ottawa on November 6 when the Soviets would play the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, “if the Rocket is fit to travel” they added.

I don’t know why the Rocket wouldn’t be fit to travel on November 6th. He hadn’t been injured and I think he’d played all 14 games to that point. But he sure wasn’t fit just seven days later when he severed his Achilles tendon in a game against Toronto and was gone for three months.

He’d only see action in 28 games that season, mostly because of this serious injury, and  that, along with the fact that he was now 36-years old, combined to make for a dismal season. Two years later he would hang ‘em up for good.

And as far as I know, the meeting with the Russians in Ottawa didn’t happen, which of course hurt the already delicate Cold War situation (just joking). :-)

Here’s a photo from my scrapbook, showing the Rocket just seconds from having his Achilles tendon sliced.

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Lots To Read (If You Want)

I once phoned Hall of Famer and ex-Hab Bert Olmstead in Calgary (he was in the phone book), hoping to get him to talk about the old days with the Rocket and Stanley Cups etc. He hung up on me.

When I had my sports bar in Powell River, Frank Mahovlich and Red Storey came in while on an oldtimers tour. Frank told me the Montreal organization was so much better than the Leaf organization. We fed them a spaghetti dinner. That night, referee Storey, with a microphone, told the crowd that the spaghetti at Kane’s was the best.

I spoke to the Habs’ Jim Roberts after a game at the old Forum when I was about 13 , several years before it was renovated in 1968. He was nice to me and I decided to start a Jim Roberts fan club. I didn’t because I figured it was too much work and he wasn’t a good enough player.

I met the Rocket when he was refereeing an oldtimers game in Calgary. I told him he’d sent me a Christmas card when I was about 8 years old and he said he used to send out lots of cards but didn’t remember much at all about the old days. My sister took a picture of him, then the Rocket said he wanted me to take a picture of him with my sister.

My dad took me to a Montreal-Toronto game back in the 1950s. Somehow he corralled coach Toe Blake in the lobby and asked him to take my hockey book into the dressing room and get Doug Harvey to sign it. Blake did.

My peewee coach in Orillia, Jack Dyte, played 27 games for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1943-44 season. He had one goal and 31 penalty minutes.  He played alongside Punch Imlach for the Quebec Aces in the old Quebec Senior League and against the Rocket before Richard joined the Habs.

When I lived in Ottawa, it was well known that a somewhat down-and-out Doug Harvey was living in a railway car (which was once used by Canadian PM John Diefenbaker) at the race track across the river in Hull. And what did I do? Nothing. Didn’t go there. Didn’t bring him any smokes or a bottle. Didn’t invite him home for a turkey dinner. Nothing. It’s a big regret.

I had breakfast with HOF goalie Glenn Hall when he came to Powell River for the Allan Cup back in the late-1990s. After breakfast I drove him around the area in my Hyundai Excel.

Butch Bouchard didn’t own a pair of skates until he was 16, and just four years later he’d made the NHL.

I grew up just down the street from Rick Ley, who was a solid defenceman for the Leafs in the late 1960’s and into the ’70s. He also played for the New England Whalers in the WHA and has his sweater retired in Hartford. He then went on to a coaching career in Vancouver and Toronto. He and I would sometimes skate on an outdoor rink before school, and in the summer, during a pickup baseball game, with him pitching and me catching without a mask, the batter tipped one of Ley’s pitches and the ball knocked my front tooth out. I’ve had plastic in my mouth ever since.

In the late 1960s, Rick Ley’s older brother Ron and his buddies threatened to take me behind the pool hall and cut my long hair.

Bep Guidolin played his first NHL game in 1942 with Boston. He’s the youngest player ever to play in the league, at 16 years old.

Floyd Curry attended his first Montreal Canadiens training camp in 1940 at just 15. He didn’t make the team but it’s still quite a feat.

Bobby Orr played for the Jr. A Oshawa Generals when he was just 14.

Hall Of Fame goalie Johnny Bower didn’t play his first NHL game until he was 30 when he was called up from the minors to the NY Rangers. He played one season, then three more in the minors. After that he was traded to Toronto when he was 34 years old (maybe older). Amazingly enough, Bower played goal all those years with poor eyesight and rheumatoid arthritis.

Claire Alexander, who played defence for the Leafs in the mid 1970s, came into the league when he was 29. Before that, he was a milkman in Orillia, Ontario (my hometown).

In the early 1960s, when I was about 12, my parish priest, Monsignor Lee, was somehow connected to the Toronto Maple Leafs. I think it had to do with St. Michael’s College. At one point he took my buddy Ron Clarke and I to Peterborough to see an exhibition game between the Leafs and Chicago, and the afternoon before the game, we had dinner at the hotel with the Leafs’ brass. The players were in an adjoining room. Ron and I had dinner with the Monsignor, King Clancy, and Jim Gregory, who is now in the builder’s category of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In the 1950s, New York tough guy Lou Fontinato (who later was traded to Montreal), got into a scrap with Rocket Richard. Fontinato got Richard’s sweater off and proceeded to rip it to shreds with his skates. A few weeks later, Fontinato received a bill from the Canadiens for $38.50.

I was a milkman in Calgary for awhile and Doug Risebrough was one of my customers. His wife, who looked after the milk situation, gave me a small tip at Christmas. Risebrough played 13 years in the NHL, with both Montreal and Calgary. When he was eating his Cheerios with the milk I had faithfully delivered, he was coaching the Flames. I remember years before, in Ottawa, when the Habs played a pre-season exhibition game at the old Civic Centre, the buzz in the papers was the new promising rookie who would be playing that night in his first NHL game. That player was Doug Risebrough.

I played on the same Midget team as Dan Maloney for one game in Barrie after our Orillia team got eliminated and three of us were loaned to Barrie. I remember he was big, and a real leader even then. We were about 16. I also spent an afternoon with him hanging out and playing pool. Dan Maloney played for four teams (Chicago, LA, Detroit, and Toronto) over 11 seasons, and eventually went on to coach. He was truly a great guy and a tough bastard.

Toe Blake’s real first name was Hector. He got the name ‘Toe’ from his younger sister who pronounced the last part of Hector as toe, as in “Hectoe.”

Turk Broda, who was the Toronto Maple Leaf goalie from 1936 to 1952, had the nickname “Turk” because as a child, his neck would turn red like a turkey when he got angry. His real name is Walter.

During the time I owned my restaurant in Powell River, the Hanson Brothers (from Slapshot) came to town for a promotional thing at the arena. Afterwards, two of them, the Carlson brothers, came into my pub and at midnight, I locked the doors and drank beer and talked hockey with them until about 5AM.

When I was 12, my peewee baseball team played in a tournament in St. Catherines, Ontario. For one game, goalie great Gerry Cheevers, in his early-20s at the time, was the umpire.

When I was about 11 and at the opening of the Hockey Hall of Fame at the CNE in Toronto with my dad and sister, I asked Foster Hewitt for his autograph. He signed for me, but because he was in a deep discussion with someone, he kept my pen. I was too shy to ask him for it so my sister had to get it for me.

Howie Morenz was Toe Blake’s hero when Blake was a boy. He said he even called himself Howie. Years later, in 1937, Blake played for the Habs alongside his boyhood hero Morenz. This was the same year Morenz died from complications from a broken leg.

Toe Blake used such terrible profanity, he was barred from the Forum Billiard Hall.

In the early ’60s when I was about 13 or so, my previously mentioned buddy Ron Clarke and I went to Barrie, Ont. for an exhibition game between the AHL’s Buffalo Bisons and the Rochester Americans. We were there early and somehow got talking to the Buffalo trainer, and he let us be stickboys for the game. The team gave Ron and I sticks, although I broke mine later playing road hockey. And Don Cherry played that night for Rochester, although I only know this from the lineup sheet I still have.

Toe Blake said “Hockey has been my life. I never had the opportunity of getting one of those million dollar contracts, but hockey was worth more than a million to me in plenty of ways.”

1950s Habs grinder Marcel Bonin would at times eat glass (probably after several pops), and also wrestled a bear or two. And once, while at training camp in Victoria, BC, Bonin broke his thumb during some horseplay off the ice. He kept it a secret from Toe Blake, then during the next practice, pretended to hurt his hand on the ice and kept himself from getting into hot water with Blake. It worked.

Two NHL players who were notorious for treating rookies on their own teams badly were Steve Shutt and Dave Keon. Shutt’s reasoning was, “Hey, it happened to me so it’s gonna happen to them too.”

Jim Pappin, who won a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, lost his Cup ring years ago. But it was found several years ago in the Gulf of Mexico when a diver using an underwater metal detector came up with it.

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 little, sat near us. There’s a strong chance my table drank more beer than their table.

Gary Lupul, a great ex-Canuck and a good friend of mine who passed away several years ago, introduced me to goaltender Richard Brodeur, who was in town on an oldtimers tour. Gary told Brodeur I was a Habs fan, and Brodeur said “Oh. I don’t want to talk to you.” (He was joking. I think.)

I was also introduced to the Hanson Brothers’ manager when the Hansons came to town. 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.

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 1970s and extremely difficult to crack the Habs line up, so French signed 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.

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

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 either end.

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

The first two artificial rinks built in Canada were in Victoria and Vancouver.

From a documentary I learned that Russian Czar Peter the Great would often go incognito to Europe, with a shaved mustache and old hat, and from a painting of him shown in the doc wearing these,  he looks a dead ringer for deceased Russian hockey star Valeri Kharlamov.

When the Rocket was playing for the Verdun juniors in 1939, he took boxing lessons in the off-season. He became so good at it that he was entered into a Golden Gloves competition, but a damaging punch in the nose by his coach prevented him from participating.

Leaf star Darryl Sittler and his wife Wendy were staying at Paul Henderson’s house and looking after their three daughters when Henderson scored those big goals during the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series.

Team Canada had a six-hour stopover in Paris on the way to Stockholm. Goalie Ed Johnston said this about Paris: “What’s wrong is the same thing you find with all these European cities. Too many old buildings.”

While in Stockholm, a Swedish fellow at the press conference mentioned that maybe Bobby Orr, who was injured and didn’t play in the series, wasn’t as good as Russian Valeri Kharlamov. “He’s good in the NHL,” said the guy, “but in Europe he’d be only average.” A Canadian who overheard this said, “Put this down. Bobby Orr-healthy-would eat any Czech or Russian alive. And he’d spit out any Swede.”

In Moscow, the Canadians were seen coming back to their hotel at all hours of the night. While some of the boys were sitting around the lobby of the Grand Hotel, someone mentioned hearing that the Russians had put street crews with jackhammers outside the Canadian team’s windows in the early morning. “No problem,” said one player. “We won’t be in anyway.”

Coach Harry Sinden celebrated his 40th birthday while overseas. “Ten days ago I was 29,” he said.

Some Canadian fans who arrived in Moscow found out there were no tickets available for them. These included Maurice Richard, Punch Imlach, former referee-in-chief Carl Voss, and legendary wrestler Whipper Billy Watson. Those left out were given three options: they could take an all-expenses paid 10-day tour of Copenhagen; they could fly home and be refunded; or they could stay and take their chances on finding tickets. Most chose the third option.

Dennis Hull, after a tour of Moscow, gushed, “I really like the place. It reminds me of Buffalo.”

 

 

 

Hockey And Other Great Coins

These complete sets of 1961-62 and 62-63 hockey coins weren’t rounded up through eBay or the likes. They were lovingly collected by me, back in the day, by buying lots of Shirriff potato chips and wheeling and dealing in the schoolyard.

That and my mom chipping in by stocking up the cupboards with serious amounts of Jello.

The 1961-62 NHL coins are plastic and the shields could be ordered at the time, while the 1962-63 metal coins never had shields.

But hockey coins weren’t all I went after. Around this time, car coins also made an appearance, and although I don’t have the complete set, I have many of them. These coins display cars from the beginning, the late 1800s, and make their way up to the early and flashy 1960s, and were great fun to collect.

The car coins, below, came out in 1961, and were collected after eating dozens and dozens of bags of Hostess (not Sherriff) potato chips, and again, piles of Jello and wheeling and dealing in the schoolyard. They also had a neat poker chip-type holder one could order.

Plenty of other coins were to be had back then too – baseball and football players, airplanes, flags of the world and more, plus the first NHL set from 1960-61. I used to have bunches of these, but alas, not any more.

Habs Hear The Boos

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They were doing so well too. A whack of wins in October. Then…….

First Period:

In spite of the fact the Canadiens looked swell and outshot the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 11-5, they of course fell behind 1-0 because that’s what they do. Fall behind. Or at least in 11 of the 13 games they’ve been in.

They had some fine chances too. Parenteau. DD. I’m sure there were others too. It’s all too hazy. But no one scored because that’s what they do. They wait for the other team to score first.

I like what they’re doing. They’re so good they’ve decided to spot other teams a goal, just like we did when we were kids and we had a ringer on our team.

Neat play of the period? Carey Price lunging by the crossbar to push a floating puck away.

Second Period:

Unlike the first period, the Canadiens were a bit of a mess as Chicago outshot the boys 17-8.

2-0 Hawks on a weird bounce. My dedicated Habs fan wife is now reading Facebook.

Neat play of the period – Price sticking his paddle out to stop a Marian Hossa shot.

Not-so-neat play of the period – P.K. Subban nullifying (screwing) his team’s power play by taking a dumb holding penalty.

Not-so-neat play of the period, part two – Tom Gilbert letting his stick fly around into a Hawk player’s face and getting a double minor with just under 4 minutes left in the period.

That sinking feeling is giving me indigestion.

Third Period:

P.K. Subban covered his man in front of the net the way Tomas Kaberle would and presto, his man, Brad Richards, made it 3-0 visitors.

4-0.

Neat play of the period – boos from the crowd.

5-0.

Random Notes:

Tonight (Wednesday) in Buffalo. The Sabres are way down in the basement. Which doesn’t mean a thing of course.

Will the Canadiens score first? Will they score on the power play? Will they score? The answers, my friends, are blowing in the wind.

Humbled At Home

Saying the Canadiens were lousy is pretty well all that needs to be said about the 6-2 loss to the Calgary Flames at the Bell Centre.

The Flames were excellent, the Habs weren’t. Montreal was outworked, outskated, outsmarted, gave up plenty of giveaways, and it was all capped off by the Flames fifth goal coming after P.K. fell down.

An embarrassing night for the CH, and this business of the other team usually scoring first is more than tiresome. The madness has to stop. Come-from-behind wins eventually slow down to a crawl. Like now.

Don’t look now but the team has lost their last three of four, so if it’s not a full-fledged slump, it could be very soon. It’s time for some soul-searching. I know it’s early but slumps are slumps and when the team is about to enter one, it’s depressing whether it’s early or later on.

They didn’t play well in Western Canada and it continues in their first game back at home. They need to play much better than this and it certainly can’t be hard. They just need to look at tapes of this game and do the opposite.

Random Notes:

Calgary outshot Montreal 19-4 in the first period, which is unacceptable to say the least. The great October run must have given the boys swelled heads.

Overall shots on goal – Calgary 36, Montreal 20.

Rene Bourque finally scored, which puts him on track for a 7-goal season. Max got the other. (Late-breaking correction – Bourque’s goal was given to Lars Eller later on, so forget the 7 goal thing).

Next up – the Hawks are in town on Tuesday. Time to stop the nonsense.

 

Bobby Hull Showed Up

I’m probably not that interesting to guys like Bobby Hull. I’m shy and feel slightly uneasy. I don’t have much to say.

Although when he first came in to our offices on Thursday, I said to him, “There’s the guy who blew slapshots past Habs goalies.” And he replied, “And it was fun too.”

Bobby was an amazing player. A wonderful skater with a great shot. A guy with flair and Hollywood good looks. The ladies loved him. Hawks fans loved him. The rest of us admired him. Opposing goalies lived in fear.

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The Morning After

It’s a little odd attempting a game recap the morning after. My brain’s taking a while. It feels like a bowl of steel cut oats. Sort of a glue-based, chewy mush.

But the United Center clash ended late last night, and I couldn’t wait until later on today. You might think I was a slacker.

It was Toews and Kane, Keith and Seabrook, Sharp, Richards, Versteeg, and on down the line. All the usual suspects. A strong, solid lineup, playing at home against Dumont and De La Rose. Andrighetti, Dowell and Bowman and just a sprinkling of household names like Bourque, Weise and Eller.

That’s not fair.

Except the underdogs had Carey Price in nets, and as the night progressed, the red, blue, and white legs found jump, the chances began, and in the end, the little engine that could skated off with a surprising and impressive 3-1 win, even though they were handily outshot. But not outworked.

It was 0-0 through two periods with Mr. Price coming up big a bunch of times, including getting his mitt on a clear-cut Duncan Keith blast from about twelve feet out. A sensational stop from Price, and it was the Canadiens who would finally break the ice in the third, not Kane or Toews or Sharp, when Rene Bourque, after almost scoring, came up with a nice second effort and banked one off Hawks goalkeeper Antti Raanta.

And when Nathan Beaulieu converted a swell Drayson Bowman pass to make it 2-0, it truly did start to feel like good things might happen on this night for what was technically a bolstered Hamilton Bulldogs squad.

A slight hiccup when Greg Pateryn, looking to impress and win himself a job, whiffed on the puck at the blueline which sent Andrew Shaw in alone, and suddenly it was 2-1 and the Hawks thought they had a life.

But they didn’t, because five minutes later Michael Bournival hit the empty net, and the Canadiens are now four wins and a loss in preseason, and looking mighty fine.

Random Notes:

Shots on goal – Chicago 32, Montreal 19.

Alexei Emelin thumped on several occasions, which is always a beautiful thing. I love the thumps, whether it’s Emelin or anyone else wearing the CH doing it. It keeps other teams from getting too high and mighty.

Next up, Friday night in Ottawa and then the Sens visit the Bell on Saturday.

 

Let Some Hitting Begin

Getting closer and closer to the real thing with seven exhibition games ready to go, beginning with the Bruins on Tuesday, the team that got their keisters kicked last spring in the playoffs by mere mortals who weren’t supposed to poke the almighty bear.

The bear got poked and it skedaddled right out of the rink and onto the nearest golf course.

How sweet that series was. A seven game battle royale that saw the Habs taking the opener 4-3 in Boston when P.K. scored in overtime, and game two had Montreal holding a 3-1 lead with nine minutes left, only to allow three goals in just over five minutes by Boston, plus an empty netter.

What a start, and what a series that would unfold. Electric. Nail biting. Ulcer-inducing. Ultimately crappy for the Bruins and their fans that made my heart soar like a flock of seagulls.

Ginette Reno warbling in Montreal. Shawn Thornton acting like a six-year old with his water bottle hijinks. Bruins anthem singer Rene Rancourt looking like he was peaking on acid.

Games going back and forth, keeping us all on the edge of our seat, chomping at the bit for the next game and then the next.

The Canadiens grabbed the series lead in game three with a 4-2 win. Remember that?

That was the night P.K. charged out of the penalty box, took a nice Lars Eller pass, and waltzed in along on Tuukka Rask, beating the goalie with a cool little move to the right that caught the goaltender flat-footed.

Boston would take game four with a tighter-than-tight 1-0 overtime win, and then grabbed game five by winning 4-2. It was excruciating to say the least.

I remember the odd Hab fan beginning to fold up the tent. Prematurely of course.

Montreal was dominant in game six, blanking the Bs 4-0 with Thomas Vanek awakening and notching a pair, and the series went to seven games, as it should, ending with the Canadiens posting a lovely and glorious 3-1 win that set Habs fans whoopin’ and hollerin’ throughout a dozen or so  time zones.

It seemed like only yesterday when it all went down, and which concluded with Milan Capone proving during the handshake that when his hockey career is finished, he’ll do just fine in the Cosa Nostra.

Frustrated Bruins players. Depressed Bruins fans. A suicidal Jack Edwards. And the Canadiens moved on to the Eastern Conference Final.

It was almost orgasmic.

It’s Boston at the Bell on Tuesday,  Colorado visits on Thursday, then on Friday the Habs and Avs clash again, only in Quebec City.

On Sunday the Caps pay a visit to Montreal, Wednesday the boys are in Chicago and Friday in Ottawa, and our Habs’ preseason ends on Saturday Oct. 4th when the Sens come to town for part two of being spanked.

After that it’s a few days to get ready for game one of the 2014-15 season when the Canadiens travel to Toronto to face the Worst Sports Franchise in North America.

How great is that? The Worst Pro Franchise in North America! That’s what ESPN decided about the Leafs organization and at this time I’d like to thank the TV channel for their fine assessment.

 

Cal And Company

This Orillia Terriers were household names, almost like NHL players for young Orillia kids like me. All larger than life big shots in my eyes and with other little hockey fans.

I wonder if they realized that.

The team was packed with great players playing in a great Ontario Senior League in a time when clubs weren’t far off from pro calibre. Almost a minor pro team except no money was involved.

I was just a kid, and they were grown men, really old guys who shaved. They drove trucks and worked in local factories and delivered milk and some dated older sisters of girls I knew. And when they played they burned up the ice surface.

It was fast, rough, tough hockey, and sometimes retired NHLers would show up in various lineups, including Harry Lumley between the pipes in Collingwood, and rugged forward Cal Gardner in Orillia. (top left corner in photo).

I remember watching Gardner play like it was yesterday. I can even visualize now where I was sitting during one game when he was on the ice, which is weird because I’ve often forgotten why I’ve walked from the living room to the kitchen.

But it’s vivid, and it was fun to see a guy in the flesh who had actually played in the NHL against the Rocket and Howe and others but was now an Orillia Terrier, only a few feet away, and who used the same dressing room as I did when I would lace up my little blades.

Gardner played for the Rangers, Toronto, Chicago and Boston before retiring in 1957, was twice an all-star, and joined Orillia after being with the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League. His two sons, Dave and Paul both became NHLers too.

He also also had a couple of big connections with the Habs in different ways.

Gardner was on the ice for Toronto when Bill Barilko scored his legendary goal to win the Cup for the Leafs in 1951, and had set up Howie Meeker who missed the net, just before Barilko didn’t miss the net.

And he and Montreal’s Ken Reardon enjoyed a bitter and dangerous feud that lasted years. It began when Gardner was with New York and got his stick up after a shot from the point and clipped Reardon on the lip. Gardner said his stick was up a little. Reardon said it was a blatant cross check to the face.

Whatever it was, it started a bench-clearing brawl and Reardon promised revenge on Gardner, pretty well every time the two met after that.

In 1949, when Gardner was a Leaf, Reardon finally got that revenge at the Forum, when he “accidentally” ran into Gardner and broke his jaw on both sides, causing league prez Clarence Campbell to force Reardon to post a $1000 good behaviour bond. But they continued to rough each other up even after that and the ill-will apparently continued long after both had retired.

Too bad Reardon didn’t latch on to an Ontario Senior team and they could have kept it going, maybe at the good old Orillia Community Centre, with me there to see it. I never minded seeing a little blood and intestines splattered on the ice, as long as it wasn’t mine.