Category Archives: Gordie Howe

Cream Of The Crop

003

Howe

Gretzky

The best ever? It’s been written and talked about forever.

I don’t care. I want to talk about it too. It’s cold and I don’t want to go out.

There’s no real definitive answer I think, but it can be broken down in stages.

Howie Morenz in the 20s and 30s. Maurice Richard’s name was added in the 40s. Gordie Howe and the Rocket in the 50s.

It was all Howe in the 1960s, although Bobby Hull’s name was tossed around by some, and Bobby Orr showed up in the latter part of the 1960s and into the 70s.

Then Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky came along and ruled the 80s and 90s.

Gretzky’s name comes up much more than Mario’s, but Mario, before he got sick, would take a back seat to no one and ended with 1723 points in 915 regular season games, including an 85-goal season in ’88-89.

Maybe Mario is underrated when it comes time to talk about the best ever. He was big and smart with hands of gold.

Sidney Crosby is great of course, but he’s not in this stratosphere. Not yet at least. I wonder if some would disagree about that.

Usually, it boils down to three guys when this topic comes up – Howe, Orr, and Gretzky.

My choice is Bobby Orr.

Although I would see Gordie Howe play a number of times over the years on television (once live at Maple Leaf Gardens in the mid-’60s), he never seemed to completely control the flow of the game the way Orr did, although I know Howe was in a league of his own in almost every department.

Orr’s two years older than me and comes from the same area of Ontario. We were worlds apart as players of course, but at least I can say I  played in many of the same barns as him, maybe against some of the same guys he played against in town like Midland and Huntsville and Gravenhurst. I feel some sort of Central/Northern Ontario connection in a way.

Bobby Orr was a minor league phenom and we were talking about him with envy when we were kids. We knew about him. We heard about his exploits. Parry Sound kids my age came down to Orillia to play and I think our teams played there too. And we watched his brother Ron when his Junior C Parry Sound team played in Orillia.

I saw Orr a few times in Orillia over the years, including a night at the Atherley Arms Hotel when he was at a table with friends and a guy with a few too many drinks in his belly came up to Bobby and was rude and vulgar, which wasn’t cool.

I also by chance walked by him and his wife Peggy in the Orillia park one day and said hi, and they both smiled and said hi back.

I saw him play when he was 16 in an exhibition game in Bracebridge. He was with the Oshawa Generals at the time, but on this night he suited up with the Orillia Terriors senior team against a Muskoka all-star senior team. Orr had the puck all night, and we could see other players – talented, grown men – laughing and shaking their heads at how good this teenager was.

Orr skated like no other defenceman, he had different bursts of speed, he charged the net and racked up points like no other defenceman, and he controlled the play like no other player on the ice. He was also strong and smart, and when it came time to drop the gloves, he could be nasty.

That’s a complete player to me. He did it all and cruelly it didn’t last long because of his bad knees (10 seasons in Boston and a short stint in Chicago). But what a player he was before his knees did him in.

Orr himself says Gordie Howe was the best ever. He played against Howe and watched Gretzky throughout 99′s career. But it’s Howe he chooses, as do many.

Howe wasn’t flashy like the Rocket, Orr and Gretzky, but every pass from him was on the tape, his shot was as hard or harder than any player in the league, he was as good or better a goal scorer as there was, and he was a mean hombre, the toughest player in the league. Punches that crushed noses.

No one dared fight him. He struck fear into the hearts of others, but they respected him. To go into the corners with him was never a good thing. His elbows were legendary.

And of course Wayne Gretzky. You need a fancy calculator and about an hour to tally his records. There’s a legion of players and fans who insist he’s the greatest ever. It’s been said often that in the heat of battle, he thought two or three plays ahead. It was ridiculous how he could rack up the points.

But I go with Bobby Orr. Orr had it figured out ahead of time like Gretzky did. It’s some sort of miraculous instinct. He was a better skater than Gretzky, there’s no comparison in toughness, and he collected reams of points even though he was a defenceman.

He also comes from my neck of the woods and from the same era, which is important to me.

The only Boston Bruin I was ever a fan of.

 

 

Stars Of The World’s Fastest Game

Maybe if newspapers started doing this again, they might sell more papers.

Peter Hab mentioned the other day about old Star Weekly hockey pictures the newspaper would publish back in the 1960s, great photos usually shot by renown hockey photographer Harold Barkley.

The first four photos below are Star Weekly examples.

The Star, and all the other papers under the same publishing umbrella, weren’t the only ones who showed hockey players. At the same time, the Toronto Telegram, the Montreal Star, and other related papers published different style pictures, like Henri Richard you see below. These pictures were an inch or two longer than the Star’s and always extremely beautiful.

Heck, they were all extremely beautiful.

They weren’t the first either.

Long before these papers were doing it, a five-year period from 1927-28 to 1931-32 saw La Presse in Montreal publish a run of 71 NHL player pictures, mostly of Habs and Maroons, with a sprinkling of Leafs, Bruins etc thrown in. They’re at the bottom.

four

nine

seven

011

five

HM

GV

AJ

GH

PL

 

 

1974 Team Cyrillic

The picture below was sent to me from a friend in Leningrad in the mid-1980s.

Team Canada 1974, stars from the rival WHA, taking on Kharlamov, Mikhailov, and Tretiak two years after the big one. (results at the bottom).

Rick Ley, second in the top row, was a boyhood friend growing up in Orillia, who knocked my front tooth out by accident when throwing a baseball. And he borrowed my hockey gloves and never gave them back.

Five players suited up at one time or another with the Habs – JC Tremblay, Rejean Houle, Ralph Backstrom, Marc Tardif, and Frank Mahovlich.

Three players on this Team Canada ’74 squad also played in the historic 1972 Summit Series before bolting to the WHA  – Paul Henderson, Mahovlich, and Pat Stapleton.

1974

Down the left side are coaches Billy Harris, Bobby Hull, and Pat Stapleton.

Top row left to right – Don McLeod, Rick Ley, J.C. Tremblay, Mike Walton, Rejean Houle

2nd row – Brad Selwood, Andre Lacroix, Tom Webster, Gordie Howe, Marty Howe

3rd row – Mark Howe, Ralph Backstrom, Tom Harrison, Rick Smith, Paul Shmyr

4th row – Paul Henderson, Serge Bernier, Bruce MacGregor, Marc Tardiff, John McKenzie

5th row – Al Hamilton, Frank Mahovlich, Gerry Cheevers

USSR Wins Series 4-1-3

Face-Off

I went to see Face-Off in downtown Toronto when it was brand new in the theatres. It was sort of interesting. Some great players had cameos in this Canadian story of a folk singer and a hockey player having problems because of the difference in lifestyles, but without the decent hockey footage, I think the story would suck.

Rick Ley, a kid from the neighborhood in Orillia playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs at the time, was in it and I even think he had a one-line speaking role.

In the U.S. the movie is called “Winter Comes Early”. I don’t know why. Maybe the studio was worried that too many people, particularly in the warmer areas, wouldn’t have a clue what the title meant.

I like the last paragraph in the clipping below about Jacques Plante.

002

The Original Six In Splendid Quality

I’m out of town for the day and thought I’d just re-post this because it’s so freakin’ unbelievable. Enjoy the Original Six, with Beliveau and the gang, in splendid quality.

I don’t know how often this has ever been in circulation, but it’s one of most greatest ten minutes of hockey clips you’ll ever see.

It’s from 1967, the quality is sensational, like it was filmed today, and we see Jean Beliveau, as smooth as smooth can be, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Jacques Laperriere, Terry Harper, Ralph Backstrom, Terry Sawchuk, and just about everybody else from that time, all from the old Montreal Forum with the pillars in the background.

It’s called Blades and Brass, is set to music of a Mexican brass band, and comes from the National Film Board of Canada. So just sit back and enjoy the Original Six at the old Montreal Forum, in perfect quality.

Mr. Goalie

He came to Powell River in 1997 when the Allan Cup was on, and I asked him if I could buy him breakfast the next day. He said sure, we did, we talked hockey, and then I gave him a tour of the area in my little Hyundai Excel.

A real nice fellow, this Western Canadian farmer dubbed “Mr. Goalie”. When I asked him who the greatest ever was, he didn’t even have to think about it. Gordie Howe could do everything better than anybody else, he said, including Gretzky, whom he never played against of course, and Bobby Orr.

Glenn Hall, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975, was the goalie in nets for the St. Louis Blues when Bobby Orr scored his famous “flying through the air” Stanley Cup winner in the spring of 1970.

Glenn Hall

Orr

More Long Weekend Hockey Coin Stuff

Ditto to yesterday’s post Long Weekend Hockey Coins, where the key words were “exhausted, 1961-62, Shirriff, and 140%.” And maybe “couch.”

Today, replace 1961-62 with 1962-62, and definitely include the words exhausted and 140%.

Hockey coins back then were a big success. I personally bought so many bags of Shirriff potato chips to get them, I probably paid for one of their new fancy potato slicing machines.

Below, my nice 60-coin 1962-63 metal set from Shirriff.

Burp.

The previous two years to this, coins were plastic.

The whole idea of hockey coins, along with with car coins, baseball coins, airplane coins etc, that came out during these years, was just fantastic. We had so much fun with these, at school and flipping against walls, and trying to get them all. Beautiful.

013

014

017

Long Weekend Hockey Coins

You’re partying, opening up the cottage, slacking off, laying on the couch, picking your toenails, practicing yoga, drinking beer, while I’m giving my usual 140% at work, making sure travelers get on the ferry boat in fine fashion.

Naturally I’m exhausted, and because of this, I’ll just take some pictures of my 1961-62 hockey coins which I had collected when I was a kid and am lucky enough to still have now. I don’t have the energy for anything else. 140% is a lot.

It took a lot of Shirriff potato chips and Salada jello and pudding, but I managed to get the entire set, then the shields to complete it.

You relax and enjoy the holiday weekend. I’ll just go to work.

Habs

Leafs

Hawks

Rangers

Wings

Bruins

Rick Earned His 6th Shutout

001

Rick Ley may have grown up to become a hardrock defenceman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New England Whalers, and Hartford Whalers, but he started out as a goalie, as you can see in the bottom paragraph on the left side, when he earned his sixth shutout as the first place Raiders turned back the struggling Argos in Squirt action..

Rick Ley was successful as a minor hockey goalie because he would lay across the ice when we got close and we couldn’t raise the puck over him. That’s why he had six shutouts in nine games.

If you go to the top of the right column, you’ll see that a smallish yet shifty right winger scored a big one as the Bulldozers edged the Smoke Rings 2-1.

And who is Gerald Stones, who tallied 4 goals for the Beehives? No idea. But he got four goals, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Maybe he’ll see this and say hello!

Below, Rick battling with Bobby Orr, and below that, Rick and Bruce Gamble try to stop Bobby Hull, along with Rick and Gordie Howe on a Whalers poster.

A good old Orillia boy.

Rick Ley

RickLeyBruceGamble

whalersposter890120hof

What About Claude?

Everyone’s going on and on about this being Gordie Howe’s birthday, and that’s fine. Happy birthday Gordie.

But what about Claude Bourque? What’s he, chopped liver?

Claude Bourque was born on this day, March 31, 1915, and if he wouldn’t have died in 1982, he would’ve been alive and really old now.

Bourque was the Habs goaltender for 61 games between 1938 and 1940 and he was also loaned to the Detroit Red Wings, Howe’s future team, for one game in 1940. (they lost). At that time, Howe was only 12, so Bourque would’ve stopped him almost every time in the warmup if Howe was playing. But nobody mentions Claude’s birthday.

There’s hardly any difference in these two players, but for whatever reason, Howe gets all the ink. So what that Bourque was a goalie and Howe a forward? They both enjoyed lengthy careers, with Gordie playing 1767 NHL games and Bourque 62. And they were born almost in the same neighborhood, – Howe in Saskatchewan and Bourque in Nova Scotia. Not only that, they were close in size, with Gordie at 6’0, 205 pounds, and Claude just a couple of inches shorter and slightly lighter at 5’6, 140.

It’s uncanny, the similarities. But it seems it’s all about Howe.

I for one am celebrating Claude Bourque’s birthday today, not Howe’s. Happy birthday, Claude.

C. Bourque