Category Archives: Gary Lupul

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.”

 

 

 

We Lost Gary Lupul A Year Ago

  

A year ago today, July 17, 2007, Gary Lupul passed away. He was 48 years old.

Gary Lupul was an ex-Vancouver Canuck, a proud Powell Riverite, a friend to people from all walks of live, and a great friend of mine. He was a scout for the Canucks when he died, and his beat was Ontario and the northern US, and he would phone me from Kitchener or Ottawa or even while driving through my old birthplace, Orillia, just to check in, to ask how I’m doing, and to say all was well with him.

Gary had lived several lives. Along with being a great athlete, he also had personal demons which ended his career prematurely. He told me once that there were times when he’d get a couple of hours sleep after a big party at his house in Vancouver, get up, walk over a bunch of people sleeping on the floor, and go to his Canucks practices.

He was such a colourful character, and it seems like he was just here a few days ago, and now he’s gone forever.

When I heard the news that Gary had died, for a minute or so I thought it had to be another Gary Lupul. It was shocking. It’s still hard to sort out.

He was the friendliness guy I think I’ve ever met. He only wanted to talk about you, never himself. And he was always genuinely interested. And he could be best friends to the most down and out folks, all the way up to the movers and shakers. Everyone loved him, and he loved everyone.

I would just like you to know that Gary was a real hockey player, not just a fringe player. Drugs and alcohol hurt his career and he never really had a chance to show what he could do.

Here’s some examples;

He was a crowd favourite, and the Pacific Coliseum faithful used to chant ‘Loop, Loop, Loop’ thoughout the game. They loved him.

He was a star from the beginning. In minor all-star, he once notched 70 points in 16 games. At 16 he was rookie of the year with the BC Hockey League Nanaimo Clippers. And he racked up 300 points in three years with the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League.

He was a force to be reckoned with in the 1981-82 Stanley Cup finals against the Islanders.

He played a total of 300 games, with 70 goals and 75 assists. All while he did too much partying.

Mario Lemieux’s first fight in the NHL was against Gary.

Gary played for Canada in the 1979 World Juniors in Sweden.

Twice he was picked as a three star selection in an NHL game. And twice he was interviewed on Hockey Night in Canada.

In a game against the Montreal Canadiens during his first season, he scored twice against Bunny Larocque.

And he scored on his first shot in the NHL against Rogie Vachon.

Gary is missed by many people. He was a friend to all.

 

 

 

 

The Tour Continues With The Burning Question: What’s In Powell River’s Water?

 Yes, that’s right. That’s Gaston down there in the rocks.

 

 

You need to know this. Powell River is a machine. A maker of champions. A little hamlet that churns out athletes the way Toyota churns out automobiles.

Some of the country’s best come from here. Soccer’s Drew Ferguson, who captained Canada’s national team, kicked balls in the professional ranks in Canada, the United States and England, and played alongside legendary players such as Pele and George Best. Connie Polman Tuin, one of Canada’s best runners, entered the world stage in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Roy Gerela was raised in Powell River and down the road became a star with the National Football League’s Pittsburgh Steelers where he became a three-time Super Bowl champion. Brad Bombardir rose through Powell River’s minor hockey ranks and became a classy rearguard for the New Jersey Devils, where he won a Stanley Cup, and played for the Minnesota Wild.

And fans throughout BC, especially in his hometown of Powell River, fans cheered Gary Lupul as he and his Vancouver Canucks battled the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup final of 1982. Lupul later worked with the team as the Canucks’ scout in Ontario and the northern United States college circuit, was a close friend a mine, and sadly and shockingly, died of a heart attack just last year.

Former NHLers Micah Aivazoff and Dan Lucas are Powell Riverites, as is baseball’s Bobby Cripps, who came close to playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, and Brian Clark, who was within a rotator cuff of pitching for the New York Yankees. But Brian did get to sit beside Joe Dimaggio at the Yankees spring training camp.

 

Powell River’s Ted Gerela was a star with the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions, and now our eyes are on winger Cam Cunning, who is hoping to crack the Calgary Flames line-up.

 

And of course there’s the Powell River Regals, three-time Allan Cup champs, a powerhouse in Canadian senior hockey, who have become a modern day Canadian juggernaut, with the majority of it team members being Powell River natives. When they won the Allan Cup in 1997, there were 17 players born and raised in Powell River, whereas one of their competitors, Truro, NS had just two.

 

Gaston, although not from Powell River, was once called “the best all-round hockey player in the world” by the Russians. (Or was that Bob Gainey?)

Draft Day in the NHL. The Biggest Day Of The Year For Scouts: Montreal Grabs Alex Tanguay. Is Sundin Next?

It’s draft day in the NHL, in about three hours from now, and this post will carry on right through the day. I feel there’s no sense trying to predict who will go where because it’s always just a big guess. Lots of first rounders over the years have proved mediocre at best, and others, like Henrik Zetterberg, end up getting picked up in the hundreds.

 

So I’m just going to wait and see how it plays out. Gary Lupul told me once when he was scouting for the Canucks that this is the one day of the year when scouts get a chance to be stars.

 

The best thing about the draft is the general managers come relaxed, the stress on most of their faces is gone, and it’s always possible a really good swap could occur. I’m a bit mystified at this rumour of Pittsburgh moving Evgeny Malkin. Because unless the guy’s a major prick in the dressing room, why would the Penguins do this?

He turned it up last season when Sidney Crosby was out for a lengthy time injured. The team and the media have been raving about him all season. He just signed, or is about to sign, a contract worth more than Crosby’s.

It’s a mystery to me. All I can think of is that Malkin stunk in the playoffs. Or that it’s a completely false rumour.

 

It would be great if the Habs grabbed some kind of major star, even Marion Hossa. It showed in the playoffs that Montreal was missing a couple of final pieces of the puzzle, and maybe Bob Gainey can pull something off. If they would’ve made it to the Stanley Cup finals, there wasn’t a chance in hell that they would’ve beat Detroit. A top-notch power forward would be nice.

 

JUST ANNOUNCED

Montreal has been given permission by the Toronto Maple Leafs to speak to Mats Sundin. I don’t mind this at all. Sundin’s a tad old but he’d help the Habs.

This is something else that we’ll wait and see about.

 

ALSO ANNOUNCED:

Ottawa goalie Ray Emery cut loose. It’s going to be tough for him to land a job elsewhere, so he might want to think about applying at Scott Paper across the river in Gatineau. It pays a little over 20 bucks an hour.

 

ALSO ANNOUNCED:

A Russian team in the Continental League may or may not have offered Evgeny Malkin 12.5 million a year tax free to come and play. You see how oil can make some people over there very rich and can afford to make offers like this? If only these tycoons would throw some money to the old pensioners in Russia who are making about $50 a month and often sleeping in the streets, many of them old widows whose husbands died in the war. And over here, we’re paying a buck and a half a litre to help make people very rich.

That’s twice the money Malkin would make here. What will he do? 

 

AN HOUR TO DRAFT TIME:

 

DRAFT TIME!

Sarnia’s Steven Stamkos goes first to the Tampa Bay Lightening.

AND!   Montreal trades their 25th pick and a 2009 second round pick to Calgary for 28 year old Quebec boy Alex Tanguay. Tanguay’s a left winger, is 6’1, and also spent five years with the Colorado Avalanche before his two years in Calgary.

He’s a good, solid big leaguer (177 goals, 362 assists), and should be a big plus for the Habs. This is exciting. And Sundin’s a possibility too but may take a few days before we know.

Tanguay coming to Montreal has been a rumour for awhile now, long before the playoffs started, and now it’s happened.

 

The top ten picks went like this:

1. Tampa Bay – Steven Stamkos – forward

2. LA – Drew Daughty – Defence

3. Atlanta – Zach Bogosian – Defence

4. St. Louis – Alex Pieterangelo – Defence

5. Toronto – Luke Schenn – Defence

6. Columbus – Nikita Filatov – Forward

7. Nashville – Colin Wilson – Forward

8. Phoenix – Mikkel Boedker – Forward

9. Islanders – Josh Bailey – Forward

10. Vancouver – Cody Hodgson – Forward

And Chicago, with the eleventh pick, chose forward Kyle Beach who may or may not be a great pick. This guy has the potential to be an impact player, but has a history of being a major pain in the ass, especially off the ice. Will he be the next Sean Avery?

 

SIDENOTE:

Wayne Gretzky got a nice standing ovasion from the Ottawa crowd when he got up to announce the Coyotes’ pick. (Mikkel Boedker)

 

Now it’s time to wait out the Mats Sundin, Montreal rumour. I’m hoping this happens.

 

 

 

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. 

My Friend, Gary Lupul

Several Months ago, my friend Gary Lupul passed away. He was an ex-Vancouver Canuck, a proud Powell Riverite, and a guy I was close to. The following is my column about Gary published in the Powell River Peak, July 26, 2007.


The last time I saw Gary was about a month ago, and he promised to come over to my house for a barbeque after he got back from seeing his daughter in Vancouver.

Now he won’t be coming. He’s gone, and there’ll be no more stories, no more happy visits, no more of a lot of things from this fantastic, down-to-earth, happy-go-lucky guy. A big hole has entered my life and it’s not going to go away.

Some athletes carry a distant persona long after they’ve retired from the spotlight. Some are almost unapproachable. Many have large egos, stroked from their years in front of cameras. But not Gary. This ex-Canuck connected with everyone, from every walk of life. He’d had his own hard knocks, and you could see in his eyes and voice that he had special feelings, a sort of kinship, for those who’d been through tough times. You could also see he was equally at home at the other end of the spectrum, and so he was everyman.

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When you were with Gary, you saw what his larger-than-life character could do. People couldn’t help but smile when he was around. They laughed because he was a really funny guy. He wanted to know how everyone was doing, from the kids to the job, to all of the family. He was interested in everyone, and it was genuine because he had such a huge heart. He was a hard one to go to a hockey game with because he couldn’t sit still. He was always up and about, saying hello to people, mixing with the crowd, and being his friendly self. I used to just give up wondering where he’d gone and watch the game, knowing he’d come back to his seat eventually.

When Gary was scouting in Ontario, he’d phone me from his car from time to time, telling me where he was, filling me in on some of the young guns he’d seen play, or that he was just passing through my hometown, Orillia, and how nice it was. And he always asked about my health and my life, because he cared and I truly felt this.

I watched him weave his magic around children. I saw all the time how much he loved Powell River. And he was puzzled that my team was the Habs and not the Canucks, who he never stopped loving and who were certainly part of his heart and soul.

Years ago, when I was having my own problems, before I remarried and got things back on track, and Gary had yet to get his scouting job with the Canucks, we would spend nights until dawn sharing our thoughts. They were marathon chats, just letting things out, and it was at these times when we really bonded. It wasn’t long ago, on one of those times when he phoned from Ontario, that we talked about how important those all-night talks were, and how grateful we both were for them.

Gary loved people so much, and he worried that because his personal troubles had cut his career short, he hadn’t lived up to everyone’s expectations. But in my eyes, and in all his friends’ eyes, he met every expectation. He was one of the greatest guys I’ve ever known. I’m really going to miss him.

 
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