Category Archives: Elmer Lach

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

 

 

 

A Train Carrying The Habs Nearly……

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There was a moment in time, just a month after I was born, when, according to a story I’d read somewhere a few years back, we almost lost the Montreal Canadiens after a train carrying the boys almost plunged into an icy river. We’re talking the Rocket and Doug and Butch and Elmer and the whole gang.

The Canadiens had fallen to the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-1 in Toronto (which was bad enough) on December 20, 1950 , and hours later were heading back to Montreal.

Just 35 miles or so from the city, the train began to cross the Dorion bridge high above the St. Lawrence River, but a cracked wheel bearing caused the baggage car to hop the rails. Quickly the next four cars also left the track, and members of the Canadiens apparently moved to one side of their car to try and keep it from tipping.

Finally, after a few harrowing moments, the train managed to hug the rails and make it across. Barely.

Several passengers were injured although all of the Canadiens players were fine, and everyone was brought back to Montreal by another train and some buses.

But it was as close as can be to losing the entire Montreal Canadiens when their train came within a whisker of hurtling into the cold St. Lawrence below.

Imagine.

 

 

 

 

R.I.P. Elmer

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Elmer Lach has died at age 97, and like the old names slowly being removed from the Stanley Cup to make room for new, Elmer’s passing is another chapter closed.

He was a junior star in Saskatchewan, invited to Toronto so the Leafs could see what he was made of, and following a practice that Conn Smythe in particular wasn’t impressed with, Elmer hopped on a train and headed back to Moose Jaw to play senior hockey.

The Leafs weren’t thrilled about Elmer bailing out, and promptly traded his rights to the New York Rangers, who wrote Elmer and told him to bring his skates and make sure they were sharpened.

But Elmer didn’t go, he became a free agent instead, and signed with Montreal, the only team he would play with (from 1940 to 1953), and where he made his mark as part of the legendary Punch Line with the Rocket and Toe Blake.

The Punch Line. Crafty elder statesman Toe Blake. Scoring machine overdosing with desire, Maurice Richard. And hard-working, never give up, aggressive, sometimes dirty, always talented playmaker Elmer Lach, who scored the Stanley Cup winner against Boston in 1953, causing a jubilant Rocket to jump into his arms and break his nose. The hardest check I ever received, said Elmer.

Elmer was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966 and his (and Henri Richard’s) number 16 hangs from the rafters at the Bell Centre. Well deserved honours for this legendary Hab.

So long, Elmer. You’re gonna have a great time meeting up with the old gang again.

 

The Rocket Photo Lives On

Shown often on Facebook, other websites, and on TV before and during game one of the Habs-Bruins series was the iconic photo  of Rocket Richard and Sugar Jim Henry shaking hands after one of the greatest playoff goals ever scored.

It even hangs on the wall of the TD Garden in Boston.

I have some slight connections regarding that famous photo that was taken by La Presse photographer Roger St. Jean, but first, a brief look back at the story behind it.

It was the second period of the seventh game of the 1952 Cup semi-finals between Montreal and Boston, on April 8th at the Forum, when the Rocket collided with rugged Bruins d-man Leo Labine, followed by a headfirst plunge into Bill Quackenbush’s knee.

Richard lay motionless on the ice, folks in the building thought his neck may have been broken, and blood flowed from his forehead.

Richard was taken to the infirmary in the Forum where he was applied stitches and probably smelling salts. Slowly he came around, and in the third period he got up from the table against the doctors’ wishes and made his way back to the bench.

On the bench, Elmer Lach told him the score was tied 1-1 with four minutes to go, Rocket told coach Dick Irvin that he was okay, and Irvin sent him out.

Rocket then proceeded to take the puck in his own end, ducked by the first forechecker, eluded the two other Bruins’ forwards, held off Quackenbush with his left arm as he swooped in, fooled the other defenceman Bob Armstrong, and came in on Sugar Jim Henry, who himself had suffered a broken nose and two black eyes earlier in the game.

Henry dove, Rocket pulled the puck aside and blasted it home, which won the series for the Canadiens.

It was just after, when players were shaking hands, that the photo was taken.

Back in the dressing room, Rocket sat unsmiling and quiet, and suddenly broke down. The doctor put a needle in his arm, and it was two hours before he was in shape to get up and finally leave.

Rocket had scored that series-winning goal while being semi-conscious.

I decided, when I was 13, that I needed an 8 x 10 glossy of the Rocket and Sugar Jim Henry so I went right to the top. I wrote a letter to La Presse and it ended up on the desk of editor-in chief Gerard Pelletier.

And who is Gerard Pelletier, you might ask? Well, aside from being editor at the Montreal French-language daily, and according to Wikipedia, he, his buddy Pierre Trudeau, and Jean Marchand were recruited by Prime Minister Lester Pearson to help derail the rising Quebec separatist movement.

Later on, Pelletier would become a cabinet minister in the Trudeau government, and would eventually take the role of ambassador to France, and then ambassador to the United Nations. He was also awarded the Order of Canada.

So as you can see, he was quite a big shot.

I think it was mighty nice of him to write to me, considering his paper had been on strike. And yes, he did pass my letter on to the sports department, because at some point, my 8 x 10 glossy showed up at my house.

Indirectly related to the goal –

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One of my 75 Group two, 1944-64 Montreal Canadiens Bee Hives, Paul Masnick, who played a part, sort of, in that picture.

Paul Masnick was a journeyman centre who was with the Canadiens from 1950 to 1954 before going to Chicago and then Toronto.

In total, he played 161 games with Montreal. And it was because of him, indirectly, that there is the famous photograph.

In game six of the 1952 semi finals, it was Masnick who scored the winner on Sugar Jim Henry off a Doug Harvey rebound. This led to game seven, when the Rocket, coming back on the ice after being bloodied and knocked unconscious, scored the big goal which eliminated Boston and got Montreal into the finals against Detroit.

And it was after this Boston series that Masnick helped win, that the famous photo was taken.

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And today –

Have a look at that huge framed picture behind Rocket and a couple of fellows at his appliances shop, the one of Rocket and Sugar Jim Henry.

Rock

That very picture, which measures 34″ x 44″, now hangs on a wall in my office!

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Friday’s Washington Game

Couldn’t see all of the Friday night Habs-Washington tilt, I’m in Ottawa at a family reunion,, and all I know from glancing back and forth from time to time was that Alex Galchenyuk looked good playing on the right side with Morenz at centre and Joliat on left wing.

I also thought the pairing of P.K. Subban and Doug Harvey on the blueline was a good fit, especially on the power play when Harvey outsmarted three Capitals, sent it over, and PK blasted one home.

Max Pacioretty, playing on a line with Jean Beliveau and Maurice Richard, dinged more than one biscuit off the post and apparently enjoyed a fine night all round. Playing with Le Gros Bill and Rocket seems to really agree with Patches, and I hope Toe Therrien keeps them together.

I also hope Toe sticks with the Lach, Bournival, and Lafleur line as well. I see good chemistry there. And anytime now I’m expecting the Steve Shutt, Lars Eller, and Brendan Gallagher triumvirate to finally break out of the doldrums.

The problem is, neither Peter Budaj in the first two periods and Jacques Plante, who replaced Budaj in the third, could handle Alex Ovechkin, who had the two netminders’ numbers in a big way. And it certainly didn’t help when John Ferguson was sent to the box for goalie mugging and shortly after, Brandon Prust for tripping, and it was left to Claude Provost and Tomas Plekanec to kill unnecessary and ill-timed penalties.

Although I must admit, I enjoyed seeing Sprague Cleghorn coldcock the obnoxious Mikhail Grabovski, even though it put us behind the eight-ball once again.

The team really has to get it together. Bobby Orr and the big, bad Bruins are well ahead in first place, and Tampa Bay continues to play well. And if Phil Kessel and Dave Keon continue their torrid goal scoring pace, Toronto’s going to be tough.

Habs get it done/not done in Washington Friday night. And they’ll have their hands full when the Penguins come to town on Saturday.

It’ll be nice when Cournoyer finally gets back.

Pre-Punch

Tony

That’s Tony Demers on the left, circa 1942, with a couple of youngsters named Elmer Lach and rookie Maurice Richard.

Kind of a pre-Punch Line.

But it wouldn’t become the Punch Line because (a) Toe Blake filled that role nicely, and (b), Tony Demers ended up in the penitentiary.

You can see Tony’s situation right here – Eight Years in the Big House

Tony was born and raised in Chambly, not far from where I’m living right now. He died in 1997, and if he was still alive, he’d be 96.

HOF Post Game Comments

The Hockey Hall of Fame Induction ceremony went off swimmingly, except for the time maybe when Mats Sundin pronounced Elmer Lach’s name “Latch,” and Patrick Roy took a swipe at the Canadiens, saying they decided to trade him, which only sort of happened after Roy told Ronald Corey he’d never play another game with the team. Maybe he’s upset he wasn’t hired as coach or GM.

The speeches went smoothly, although Bill Hay’s seemed long and drawn out, but I thought Pavel Bure’s was excellent, as were the others..

And to cap off a fine night, Gary Bettman looked tired, hollow, concerned, pale, and not a happy camper whatsoever, and the women looked lovely.

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.