Category Archives: Detroit Red Wings

R.I.P. Gordie

Howe and Rocket

When I was a kid in the schoolyard, the conversation with my buddies would go something like this:

Rocket’s better.
Nope, Howe’s better.
No way. Rocket’s better.
Howe’s better.
Take off, hoser.
No you take off.
Shut up and your mother wears army boots. (Or words to that effect).

That’s what it was. Always the same thing. Rocket and Howe. Two completely different players, but Howe was the enemy and Rocket was my hero, so I won. And I’ve  known now for years that Howe was the better all-round player, but I didn’t then and I wouldn’t have admitted it even if I did.

In the 1990s I had breakfast with the legendary goalie Glenn Hall, who was in Powell River for the Allan Cup. Glenn was a teammate of Gordie’s in the 1950s with Detroit, and played against him while with Chicago and St. Louis.

Glenn had also faced the Rocket and Orr during his Hall of Fame career, and because he lived near Edmonton and still involved in hockey in various ways, was as familiar with Wayne Gretzky as practically anyone.

I asked who he thought was the greatest ever and he didn’t hesitate. Howe, he answered, because he could do it all, and the others couldn’t.

I didn’t tell Glenn his mother wore army boots.

But Howe could do it all. His wrist shot was something to behold, his passes pinpoint, his deft scoring touch like few others, his unequaled on-ice intelligence, the unparalleled respect he rightfully earned from other players.

And tough? You want tough?

My friend and former co-worker Gilles Gratton was a backup goalie during the 1974 WHA Canada-Russia Summit Series, and he told me about the time Gordie’s son Mark was leveled by a Soviet defenceman in dastardly fashion, so much so that an unsteady Mark initially skated to the wrong bench and had to be steered to the right one by Soviet players.

Not long after, Gordie just happened to skate by the player who nailed Mark, and the guy just happened to end up with a broken arm and was gone for the series.

You didn’t mess with Gordie or his kin.

Players in the NHL, WHA, or Russia didn’t go in the corners with Gordie. They timidly poked their sticks at the puck and then got the hell out of there before one of those famous elbows crushed their faces.

He did it all, legally or not. There was absolutely no one like him.

Several years ago Howe came to Powell River for an autograph signing and the prices charged for his signature were incredibly outlandish. Way higher than normal, maybe because Powell River is fairly isolated.

I was astonished at these abnormal prices and I wrote a column about it for the local newspaper in which I wasn’t very nice, coming down hard on him and the grocery store where the signing was held.

I regret that I did that. Extraordinary prices or not (and they were), this was a fine and friendly fellow, a legendary man, possibly the greatest hockey player to ever play the game,  and he was there trying to make a buck. What an asshole I can be sometimes.

Now he’s gone and it’s a sad day for me and you and millions of others. I can almost hear angels in heaven’s schoolyard: “Rocket’s better”. “No, Howe’s better.” “Take off, hoser”.

Gordie & Rocket

I Think It’s Good Anyway

Once again, for your possible reading enjoyment, some drawings from my grade two exercise book done at West Ward Public School in Orillia, and which I’ve managed to hold on to all these years.

Yes, some of you have seen some of this before, but I’ve added more this time, so that’s good right?

And as another added bonus, I include a photo of West Ward school in the process of burning to the ground in 1968.

But first things first, my art from grade two, lots of it, and which includes some Habs, a portrait of my teacher Mrs. Williams, along with Elvis Presley, which I spelled ‘Elive Prisie’.

If all this isn’t enticing, I don’t know what is.





















West Ward



Habs Lose Another

triple Crown

The Canadiens fired a season-high 45 shots at Kings’ goaltender Jonathan Quick, and not one of the little rubber bastards found the back of the net.

L.A. blanked the boys 3-0 at the Bell Centre, home of the first period Olé Olé song, which used to be sung near the end of things, when the team had the game under control

Now it’s sung near the start of things, when the guys hadn’t even scored a goal yet.

Why can’t a new song be found. What about Roy Orbison’s ‘It’s Over’? Or Nancy Sinatra’s (and Cher’s) ‘Bang Bang (you shot me down)’, with the lyrics changed to “we shot you down”.

Anything, actually. Anything but the tired old Olé.

Forty-five shots usually means a red light or two, but the Canadiens, now losers of seven of the last nine games, just couldn’t solve a tremendously quick Quick, although, without taking anything away from this fine Kings’ netminder, the Habs haven’t solved many goalies lately.

Eleven goals scored in seven games. Even the Canadian Armed Forces has more firepower.

Random Notes:

Maybe Steven Stamkos or Ryan Johansen will come riding in on a big white horse.

The boys now embark on a big honkin’ eight-game road trip that spans almost three weeks, although interrupted for Christmas in the middle of it.

This seriously difficult stretch against some mighty fine teams begins in Dallas on Saturday and Nashville Monday. I just don’t have the heart to list them all.

Aside from Thursday 45 shots, other big shot nights included 42 against Ottawa last Saturday, along with 40 against Colorado in November and 41 when Detroit visited back in October.

Also in October, Toronto peppered 52 at Carey Price, but the Habs beat the Buds 5-3 anyway.



Slump Continues


Canadiens lose 3-2 in Detroit.

Alexei Emelin’s ill-timed high-sticking penalty in the third period didn’t help, with the Wings tying things up while he sat.

Greg Pateryn turning the puck over just outside the crease, which led to the winner, didn’t help either.

And P.K. Subban’s delay-of-game penalty, with just 1:44 left, ended all hope.

Montreal’s losing streak now reaches four games.

Dustin Tokarski, in only his second outing of the season (he replaced Mike Condon in the third period of their 6-1 loss to the Avalanche on November 14th), played well and showed he probably wouldn’t mind winning his old job back.

Toker stoned the Wings often at the Joe joint, and gave us all a nice buzz. Imagine his high if they would’ve held on.

Stunned By Boston


Three goals in the third period by the Boston Bruins sank the ship, with the visitors skating away with a depressing 3-1 win at the Bell Centre. Now the Canadiens find themselves on a three-game skid, with some tough sledding ahead.

Of course there’s some fine excuses. Inexperienced call-ups from the minors because of injuries to regulars, and a backup goalie who is holding his own but might be getting tired, equals a team unable to fire on all cylinders at the moment. Good, solid excuses. Fine excuses.

In this Wednesday night tussle, Montreal handily outplayed the visitors for two periods but Tuukka Rask was hot, which is unusual against the Habs, and because the tying goal was reasonably bizarre, I feel somewhat at peace.

Like finally making it through two full days and a dozen showers after using fibreglass insulation for toilet paper.

The three-game slump sucks, and the boys play some tough teams coming up, beginning with Detroit in a few hours and Ottawa on Saturday.  It’s slightly worrisome. Imagine four or five or six losses in row? In Habsland it could get downright ugly.

But players on those upcoming teams are saying they have to meet a hungry, angry, and tough Habs, so it works both ways. The hell with getting upset. There are other things to worry about – like what I’m going to get Lucy for Christmas.

Boston’s tying goal in the third period was a killer indeed, an hour or so after Paul Byron had given Montreal a 1-0 lead back in the first.

The horrifying sequence unfolded as such: Dale Weise had burst in and was promptly tripped up by a sliding Dennis Seidenberg, and although a penalty shot entered some of our heads, it was strictly a two-minute deal instead. That was fine. Just score on the friggin’ power play.

The team was setting up  nicely in Boston’s end, quarterbacked by Andrei Markov, with slick passing back and forth between Markov, Max, Subban, Plekanec, and with the Bruins scrambling.

Then the second wave – Eller, DD, Weise, Petry, PK. The puck was in deep and it was only a matter of time. A tidy 2-0 lead coming up. Another loss by Rask and company at the hands of the team that’s owned them.

Suddenly…….at the blueline, Petry to P.K., who was off balance when he sent the knee-high through the middle, and which was batted out of the air by big Chara and directly to a surprised Loui Eriksson, who raced in from centre ice and beat Mike Condon.

Then like a dagger, Landon Ferraro bulged the twine just 42 seconds later, and that was that. Except for a third goal that had me checking soon after to see if Donald Trump had opened his mouth lately.

Random Notes:

The Canadiens, mostly on the strength of their solid first and second periods, outshot Boston 33-23.

They also went 0/3 on the power play, which was going good until recently. Much like their scoring in general.

The team misses Gallagher, Price, Mitchell, and Smith-Pelly for sure. But sometime down the road, like a beautiful rainbow appearing, the team will once again be the one we were bragging to our friends about.

Tonight (Thursday), the Canadiens are in Motor City.



Habs Senatized


I downloaded a free app called Fresh Paint and the picture above is my first stab at it after being confused for several days.

I painted the cross, not the Sens logo of course, plus that little red blob over on the right which was an accident.

I feel the red blob somehow represents Mark Stone, on the outside looking in, currently sitting out a two-game suspension for a hit to the head of Detroit’s Landon Ferraro, and who is probably still recovering from his near-death experience when the evil PK Subban tapped him on the wrist last year.

A trooper, that’s what he is.

I’ll bet Landon’s pop Ray Ferraro  wouldn’t mind tapping this trooper.

Canadiens fell 2-1 in overtime to the visiting Ottawa Senators, although they carried most of the play and outshot the obnoxious pricks 37-27.

But it wasn’t to be as Max and Tomas Plekanec were caught during the newly installed three on three overtime, leaving Jeff Petry to fend off three oncoming Sens, and that was that. Bam. Kyle Turris ended it just 34 seconds in.

This loss is just the Canadiens third of the season, Michael Condon’s first in his five starts, and the first game to go beyond regulation time for the boys. It’s a loss but not something to lose sleep over. They played well, but Craig Anderson, between the pipes for the Sens, did too.

Now it’s time to focus on the N.Y. Islanders, who check into the Bell on Thursday.

In my world, a loss isn’t a disaster, but another after that is getting there, and another after that sucks to kingdom come.

So we need a win on Thursday to avoid all that.

Random Notes:

Dale Weise, with his seventh of the year, scored Montreal’s lone goal. Weise is now tied with Max for goals scored.

Montreal’s power play went 1/3. They also gave up a shorthanded goal to J-G Pageau in the second frame which opened the scoring.

Lars Eller, I felt, played a fine game.

A Habs goal was called back in the first period when referee (and Habs nemesis) Chris Lee ruled that Brendan Gallagher interfered with Anderson in the crease. It was looked at, and the call stood.

I, however, disagree.

Six Appeal!


The Canadiens are serving early and serious notice that they’re a team to be reckoned with as they downed the visiting Detroit Red Wings 4-1 at the Bell Centre, thus extending their unbeaten streak to six, and doing so in fine style.

They even went a respectable 2/5 on the power play and outshot the Wings by a formidable 20-5 in the third period. Beauty eh?

It was Detroit who opened the scoring on this night, after the Canadiens had done just that in their five previous games, when 19-year old Dylan Larkin fired the puck off Carey Price and into the net in the second period.

I admire 19-year old pros. In almost every way, the complete opposite of me when I was 19. It’s just not normal for a teenager to be earning hundreds of thousands of dollars and being hit on by groupies in big league cities. He should be chugging tequila and smoking reefers and puking in the basement like everybody else.

Soon after the young fellow got things going, Brendan Gallagher would take the puck with him while sliding into the net, and after the officials went upstairs, it was ruled a good goal and things were tied.

When I first saw the goal I thought of Henri Richard, who scored the clincher in the 1966 Cup Finals when he slid into Detroit’s Roger Crozier and over the line, taking the puck with him.  But the puck was under Henri’s arm, unlike Gally’s puck which was forced in with his skate.

Truly sad is the recent news that the Pocket Rocket is in declining health due to Alzheimer’s. We’re with you, Henri, that’s for sure.

In the third fame, the Habs broke things open when Jeff Petry scored with the man advantage, Tomas Plekanec lit the lamp a dozen or so minutes later, and Brian Flynn found the empty net with less than a second remaining.

And the world rejoiced!

Random Notes:

Montreal outshot Detroit in impressive fashion, 41-22.

Plekanec’s goal, his fifth of the season, gives him the team lead (Max has four). Gallagher, Petry, and Flynn all scored their first of the year.

Next, the St. Louis Blues pay a visit on Tuesday. And of course we need seven.

Excellent night for the boys as they roll along. All four lines once again contributed, David Desharnais enjoyed a big night, the penalty kill was solid, Alexei Emelin thumped, Tomas Fleischmann was good, Alex Galchenyuk had some nice chances, especially when he danced through four Wings during a first period power play, and of course, Price was Price, although he wasn’t exactly overworked.

Price also fed a long pass to Plekanec in the second period, who rang the  puck off the bar. Our goalie even tried once again to send the puck down the ice and into the empty net. It’s gonna happen yet!

As far as Alex Semin goes, we keep hearing about his blistering wrist shot, but we never see him unload it.

The Leafs lost to Pittsburgh.





Habs Win Battle Of Brick Walls


The great Habs teams of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s couldn’t do it, but the 2015-16 team just did. Five straight wins to open the season, never done in 106 years of Les Glorieux action until now.

My heart is soaring like a flock of pterodactyls.

Thursday night saw the gang shut out the visiting New York Rangers 3-0, with Carey Price standing on his head when needed and Henrik Lundqvist at the other end doing the same.

But Price was better. He got the shutout, not Lundqvist.

The Canadiens, in this history-making game, were aided by a second period goal by Tomas Fleischmann, a Dale Weise marker in the third frame, and an empty netter from Tomas Plekanec as the clock wore down.

Five straight wins, but now I need six of course, which means they have to take out the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday at the Bell. But they just handled a good Rangers team, so there’s no reason why they can’t do the same to the Wings.

I’m a tad concerned about the Wings. They don’t have the Babcockian One barking his arrogant orders at them anymore, so they’re probably looser than they’ve been in years. But we’ve got four solid lines, three excellent defence pairings, and Carey Price, so of course Detroit doesn’t stand a chance.

Not only did the boys win their fifth, but once again they scored the game’s first goal, something they’ve done every game so far. And equally important, they didn’t sit back in the third while nursing a slim lead. Also surprising? Michel Therrien hasn’t juggled lines yet.

Did God, who’s a solid Habs fan, put the hammer down on the coach?

Four lines contributing, with the best goalie in the world coming up big, and it makes for a team that’s already raising eyebrows in this young campaign.

An absolutely great start to the season, aside from a power play that shoots blanks. But they’ve won five, so what am I bitching about? Really though, the Canadiens with the man advantage have been brutal so far and went 0 for 5 tonight.

Random Notes:

Montreal outshot New York 32-25, and both goalies were unreal. Lundqvist’s glove hand shot out like lightning numerous times, and Price dazzled throughout, including a series of mind-boggling saves after his team had killed a 5 on 3 Rangers power play in the second frame.

Opening ceremonies saw  Guy Carbonneau, who captained the team from ’89-90 to ’93-94, hand the torch to new captain Max, with the torch then passed from player to player. The Habs’ last captain before Max was Brian Gionta, who I was never thrilled about wearing the C, but I’ve moved on.

Andrei Markov was a hoot when he came out and circled PK Subban before accepting the torch. Good for a hearty chuckle.

David Desharnais and Tomas Fleischmann both collected a pair of assists.

I’m hoping the parade route includes Marine Ave. in Powell River.


The Big Sports Dinner

Roger Crozier was there, and so was Andy Bathgate and hurler Sal Maglie and a host of others, including my peewee baseball team that rolled over unsuspecting teams from around Ontario.

It was the 3rd annual Sports Celebrity Dinner in Orillia, from June 1964, organized by local radio personality Ken McDonald, later known as Jiggs McDonald.

Only a few years after this fancy affair, Jiggs would find himself broadcasting NHL games in Los Angeles when the league first expanded, and then in Atlanta and Long Island (along with stints in Toronto and Florida). Jiggs ultimately wound up in the Hall of Fame as a recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award.

This is my program from that big night at Club Pavalon, a place where, on normal nights, gave us some of the best live rock bands from the province and beyond.






Former NHLer Cal Gardner is in the Terriers lineup.


My peewee team. They spelled my name wrong.





Jr. C

Below, Rick Ley, who would go on to NHL and WHA stardom, is in the front row of the midget team.



The Old Phone Book, With Orr And….

My old Orillia and area phone book that I grabbed years ago, just before my old man threw it out.

Paging through the Orillia section, I see the GM Lightfoot household at 283 Harvey St., where young Gordon grew up. The singer would’ve been about 20 when this phone book came out, and had moved out of the house just the year before.

My good buddies Kerry Baker and Robin Metcalfe also lived on Harvey St, and my dad worked for awhile at a dry cleaners in Orillia with Gordon’s father.

You see the Lightfoot listing halfway down, and further up is former NHLer Rick Ley’s dad Norman at 47 Wyandotte.

The book also features the area surrounding Orillia, including Parry Sound, and I found Bobby Orr’s family home, listed as Douglas Orr, (his dad) at 21 Great North Road. And Bobby’s grandfather, Robert Orr, is at 67 River. Bobby was about 11 at the time of the phone book.

Searching further, I went into the Sundridge pages and found Bucko McDonald on Main St. Bucko had not only been a star in the NHL in the 1930’s and 40’s with Detroit, New York, and Toronto, but had also coached Bobby Orr in squirt and peewee in Parry Sound. Bucko decided to make the young fellow a defenceman even though Bobby was small and had great skills up front. When dad Doug questioned Bucko about this odd decision, Bucko told him “Bobby is born to play defence.”

Sundridge is also where my mother came from.

Also listed in the pages of this old phone book is the Roger Crozier household in Bracebridge, writer Paul Rimstead’s dad’s farm outside of Bracebridge, the family home of respected Canadian writer Roy MacGregor in Huntsville, (who played minor hockey against Orr and the Parry Sound team), and John MacWilliams’ home in Huntsville.

And finally, the old homestead at 5 Elmer Ave.