Category Archives: Dick Irvin

Fiery Reardon – Player and Exec

Two short stories about Ken Reardon – one good, one bad.

Ken Reardon was  a rough, tough, and often fiery defenceman for the Canadiens in the 1940s, who, after retirement, became a high- level executive for the Habs.

From the time Reardon joined Montreal in 1940, his life could be told in three chapters. His rugged, all-star play on the ice; his enlisting in the Canadian Army during World War 11 after only two years with the Habs, and being a main cog on the army hockey team; and his tenure as executive with the Habs, where he worked as assistant to Frank Selke. All in all, he’d been a teammate, friend, and ultimately the boss of Maurice Richard and Toe Blake.

A story I like about Reardon occurred when Reardon was still a young player with Montreal, and he had this thing about looking good. One day he was getting a haircut prior to a practice, and was late getting to the Forum. He told the barber to be quick so the barber charged him only thirty-five cents instead of the regular fifty cents because it was a quick job. At the Forum, the door to the dressing room was locked so he had to knock, and coach Dick Irvin answered.  The young defenceman knew he was busted so he tried to make light of it. “I just got a haircut for thirty-five cents,” said Reardon. “No you didn’t,” replied Irvin. “You just got a haircut for twenty-five dollars and thirty-five cents.”

A story I don’t like involves Reardon and Ralph Backstrom.

The following was told by Backstrom to Susan Foster, and was included in her fascinating book, The Power of Two. Here, I’m paraphrasing.

 

When Ralph was a 17-year old hockey phenom in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, the Canadiens sent Reardon to the Backstrom home in Northern Ontario in the hopes of signing the kid. At the Backstrom kitchen table, Reardon sat with Ralph and Ralph’s parents and he placed five $100 bills on the table which would be the Backstrom’s to keep if Ralph signed on the dotted line.

Ralph told Susan that at that time, neither he or his parents had never seen even one $100 bill, let alone five, and Ralph signed the paper, making him part of the Canadiens family.

As Reardon was leaving, he reached into his pocket and pulled out another five $100 bills, waved them in Ralph’s face, and told him he’d been authorized to pay twice as much for Ralph’s signature if need be. Then he put the 500 bucks back in his pocket.

Habs Vs Hawks – Close But No Cigar

Dick Irvin Sr, who played for the Hawks in the late-’20s before his coaching career, which included Montreal, began. Dick would be 124 if he was still around (125 in July).

The Canadiens couldn’t quite get it done, falling 4-2 to the visiting Chicago Blackhawks, and if you like your glass half-full you could say Montreal sits at 8-3 in their last 11 games.

But if you’re a half-empty type of person, you might say they’ve lost two of their last three.

And the kind of person I am? Mostly a half-full kind of guy except when I’m not. And as I’ve said many times, the regular season will be long forgotten when pucks are dropped to begin the postseason.

Tuesday night in snowy Montreal, the home team fell behind 3-0 in the third frame, but red-hot Paul Byron banged home a rebound to ruin Corey Crawford’s shutout, and soon after, Shea Weber blasted one from the blueline to narrow it to 3-2.

A great comeback by the Habs. Exciting. Tense. Stressful. Stirring. And then Jonathan Toews found the empty net to salt it away for Chicago and ruin all that’s pure and good.

It was an ‘almost’ type of thing. Corey Crawford stood on his head throughout, as the Canadiens outshot the Hawks 39-24, but try as they may, Montreal skaters as a whole are snakebitten. They have a tough time scoring. But again, the playoffs are a different ball of wax completely. The scoring will probably start then!

There’s the half-full thing again.

I’d say that the boys miss the net way too much but they probably know that.  But the fierce rally late in the game that would sadly fall short for Montreal made my heart soar like a clown or a duck or something, flying around with an umbrella.

Random Notes:

A couple of big games coming up the Habs, as they meet the Sens in Ottawa on Saturday and then host those same Ottawans on Sunday. Yes, as much as the regular season will be forgotten come playoff time, these are huge games for both teams. Time to kick some sand in the faces of Sens players and their fans.

And one last thing. I’m guessing that Alexei Emelin will be an easy target now, considering how he was out of position on a couple of Chicago’s goals.

But I’m sticking up for him because I think the pros outweigh the cons for Mr. Emelin. He lets loose thunderous hits, he’s a bone-crunching bummer for players racing down the side with him waiting, and he has a good shot from the point. I like his old-time hockey style and I appreciate anyone on the Canadiens, including him, who plays a rugged game.

He reminds me of Gilles Marotte, who dished out Emelin-like checks for Boston, Chicago, L.A., New York, and St. Louis in the 1960s and ’70s,

The problem is, quite often the lights are on but nobody’s home for the Russian rearguard.

 

Hey Ghosts, Break’s Over

Sent over by Mike McKim, this article in Grantland.com – Battling the Ghosts by Sean McIndoe, talks about the Habs/ Lightning series, the old Forum and it’s replacement the Bell Centre, along with the distance between the two barns in different ways.

McIndoe also notes the apparent absence of Forum ghosts who were suppose to pack up and move over when the old cathedral closed its doors, but seem to be taking their time. If they came at all.

Contrary to what many think, I believe the Forum ghosts did make their way over to the Bell Centre in 1996, but they’ve had so much fun reminiscing, with the hangovers never ending and good times just rolling along, and they simply haven’t gotten around to modern day Habs teams yet, except for some fine times against Boston.

And they were on the job in the 2010 playoffs, at least for a few magical rounds. But all in all, they’ve really slacked off.

I can’t blame the ghosts. They welcome old buddies almost non-stop, so they party hard and tell tall tales, and lately, with Jean and Gilles and Elmer and Dollard and coach Ruel moving upstairs, there’s way too much to do in just a short amount of time.

Guys have to come from all corners of heaven to meet at the rebuilt Toe Blake’s Tavern. Fedora’s have to be dusted off. Someone has to be in charge of cigars at the corner tobacco store. It’s been tradition to have music greet the new guys, so Benny Goodman or Sinatra or Elvis have to be rounded up and sent to Toe’s.

So much to do, and we expect them to do more? Yes we do, because we believe in a serious work ethic from our ghosts,

It’s time to get off your behinds, ghosts. The boys down below need some guidance. Morenz only took 7 years after passing before lending a helping hand. What’s going on, Rocket? What’s the holdup?

And surely Toe and Dick Sr. can get the power play in sync, although it appears they might already be working on it.

All of you. Coffee break’s over. Up and at ’em.

Toe's

 

 

 

Dick And Danny Do The Game

It’s the magical combination of Danny Gallivan and Dick Irvin as the Habs and Flyers battle on May 16, 1976. Montreal would win 5-3 on this night, sweeping the Flyers to win their 19th Stanley Cup.

Period one (30 min.) and period three (42 min) are included here, and we see the Cup awarded. Just wonderful, and thanks to my old buddy Rugger for sending it along.

Period One:

Period Three:

Big Canadian Day, Eh!

For those of you in other countries, today, Sunday, is a big day in Canada. Grey Cup Day. The 100th Grey Cup. When Canadians from coast to coast gather to eat meatballs, dips and chili. They also drink a lot of beer on this day, which is never a good idea because most have to work the next day, and if they haven’t learned in 100 years, they probably never will. But Canadians are Canadians. Just a wild and crazy bunch.

This Grey Cup will feature the Toronto Argonauts hosting the Calgary Stampeders, and I don’t really have a favourite. Maybe the team with the best-looking cheerleaders. Maybe I’ll root for the Argos because Torontonians have the Leafs and I feel sorry for them.

This was a trophy donated by Earl Grey in 1909. He originally had wanted to give away silverware that represented the best amateur hockey team in the country, but that rascal Sir Montagu Allan beat him to it, so Earl had to make it football because all the good hockey trophies had already been taken. I’ll bet he was pissed when he found out Monty got there first.

Habs great Doug Harvey was a huge fan, and once played against the Argos as a member of the Quebec Rugby Football Union, which in the 1940s was part of the CFL. He said that if he had to choose between hockey and football, he’d choose football. The Canadiens would often find themselves playing in Toronto on Grey Cup night, and coach Dick Irvin warned the guys not to go to the big game in the afternoon because he didn’t want any of them getting colds and sore throats and all that. The fine was $500, and every year Doug would go to the game and then pay the fine.

Cure for the hangover? Okay.

This is a sure thing, and it’s taken most of my life to figure it out. Put your coat on and walk about nine kilometers (5.5 miles), or more. I don’t know why this works. Maybe it’s something about getting the blood flowing. Or crisp air getting into your lungs. But it’s the best hangover cure I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried a lot.

Random Note:

If your math doesn’t add up, that this is the 100th Grey Cup even though the trophy was donated in 1909, it’s because the game wasn’t played during the First World War years. At least I think that’s how it works.

 

 

 

 

Dick And Gomez

Long before he was a legendary coach of the Canadiens, Leafs, and Blackhawks, and long before he got frisky with the missus and made little Dick Jr., Dick Irvin Sr. was one of the world’s greatest players, which you can read all about right here – Dick’s Biography, and which also includes how he became coach of the Habs.

But enough about that. I want to mention one particular event.

While playing for Regina in the Western Canada Hockey League, Dick was deliberately hooked under his chin by a fellow with the great name of Spunk Sparrow. (In my next life, I want to be called Spunk Sparrow). And because Dick had a habit of playing with his tongue between his teeth, Sparrow’s stick caused Dick to bite right through this crucial part of the mouth which helped him eat, talk, and whistle.

Dick refused to have doctors look after him, stayed on the ice, won the faceoff, skated past the penalty box where Sparrow was serving his time, and belted Sparrow so hard that Sparrow needed sixteen stitches to fix the wound. It was only after that that Dick would let doctors sew up his tongue, which was hanging out of his mouth.

You see, this is what we need from Scott Gomez. If he’s not going to help his team by getting points, at least he can smack a guy sitting in the penalty box, or whack a guy over the head with his stick from time to time. If only to show he means business.

Is it too much to ask? We’d just really appreciate the intensity.

One small footnote about Dick’s biography link above. It fails to mention that Dick had a falling out with Montreal GM Frank Selke about the way he was handling Maurice Richard. Selke felt that Dick was encouraging the Rocket to display, far too often, his sometimes over-the-top fiery bad temper, and Selke replaced Dick with Toe Blake. (Rocket punched out and whacked a few people over the head with his stick too).

 

 

 

Lots In The Lineups

You can look at the Nov. 25, 1950 program lineups for the Habs and Leafs and see a few cool things.

This was Montreal’s 20th game of the season, and they would lose 4-1 to the Leafs in Toronto on this night. (Okay, that wasn’t so cool).

Gerry McNeil is in goal for Montreal in his rookie year after Bill Durnan retired after the previous season.

Number 5 for Toronto is Bill Barilko, who would score the legendary Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal for the Leafs in game 5, against these same Habs, to cap off the season. Barilko would be killed that summer when his plane crashed in Northern Ontario.

Hal Laycoe, number 12 for the Habs, would be traded to Boston later this season and was a major player in the 1955 Richard Riot.

Rocket Richard has ten goals at this point, more than anybody else on the team.

Habs #14 Billy Reay would eventually coach for 16 NHL seasons, two with Toronto and 14 in Chicago. I have a game-used stick of his from two years prior to this, signed by the entire Habs team.

Elmer Lach, number 16, is still playing and would play three more years after this.

Golly gee willikers, that’s Howie Meeker, number 11 for the Torontonians.

And Turk Broda, who was at the opening ceremonies for the brand new Orillia Arena that year, has one more shutout than McNeil at this point.

 

 

 

Roger Leger Was All Choked Up

Another little ditty from my Bee Hive collection as we wait for the Habs to destroy Chicago on Tuesday.

Roger Leger was not only in the running to replace Dick Irvin as coach of the Canadiens, a job Toe Blake was eventually given, but also managed to get his bridgework stuck in his throat one night against Detroit in 1948 which caused the team to lose the game.

The Canadiens were winning by one goal late in the game and as the puck came back to Leger on the blueline from a faceoff, Ted Lindsay rammed his elbow into Leger’s mouth, forcing the guy’s bridgework down his throat. Leger left the puck sitting there as he choked and panicked and skated for the bench and a Detroit player grabbed the puck and tied the score. Soon after, the Wings popped the winner.

However, in Leger’s defence, I would’ve done the same thing. The hell with the puck.