Category Archives: Gump Worsley

Too Busy For the Habs That Year

003 This is my passport photo taken when I was 17.

I was getting ready to go on a big trip, which ultimately would cause me to miss most of the  Montreal Canadiens’ 1968-69 season.

I’m unable to talk about watching Rogie Vachon and Gump Worsley in goal and rookie coach Claude Ruel winning the Stanley Cup in his rookie coaching season and most of the other details of that year, mainly because I wasn’t around.

When this passport picture was taken I was working in a factory, having quit school after grade ten, and was saving my money. I worked for a year in this old place, but on November 22, 1968, a month after I turned 18, my friend Robin and I took a train from Orillia to Montreal, boarded the Empress of England, and sailed for eight days and nights until we reached Liverpool, England.

My thoughts weren’t on the Habs at all. They were filled with swinging London, the Beatles, long-legged lovelies in mini-skirts, Carnaby Street, and of course the great British bands like the Stones, the Who and the Kinks. The sounds that had come out of there while I was stuck in Orillia, and all the photos which described to me a special place where kids were cooler than cool, drove me crazy until I knew I needed to go and see for myself.

From Liverpool we took a train to London because that was ground zero of all that was good and cool about England, and we took a room at the YMCA. (A few years later I also stayed at another YMCA in Sudbury, Ontario, and I don’t know about now, but I can tell you, YMCAs aren’t the Ritz).

I had no idea what was happening with my Habs and I’m ashamed to say it, but I suppose I didn’t really care at this time. We were in England and that was all that mattered. While Beliveau and the Pocket Rocket zigged and zagged and the team geared up for the playoff run, I ate fish and chips, rode double decker buses, and wondered if my hair had grown a bit more.

At one point we went to the Beatles’ office on Savile Row, knocked on the door, and asked a lovely young secretary lady if the boys were in. She said no, and to this day, I’ve wondered what I would’ve done if she’d said yes.

We traveled up through the Midlands in the dead of winter, into Derby and Nottingham, hitchhiking from the other side of the road of course, and I recall sleeping standing up in a phone booth one freezing night. We also got beds at a Salvation Army shelter for the down-and-out, and it was the two of us with heavy woolen blankets over top of us, listening all night to old, homeless men snoring and burping and farting and talking drunken gibberish.

We were in Swinging England! Robin bought a Victorian top hat at  the Portabello Road flea market which he wore when it wasn’t wet and windy. And we saw John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (with future Stone Mick Taylor on guitar) at a jam-packed Railway Tavern (Klooks Kleek), a place that also housed bands throughout the 1960s like the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Yardbirds, and more.

Back home, the Canadiens were rolling along to a first place finish, with big Jean Beliveau ending up second to Phil Esposito for the Hart trophy as league MVP. Yvan Cournoyer finished with 87 points, just five ahead of Beliveau, and Tony Esposito, who of course became a huge star in Chicago, was a Hab that year and replaced Gump Worsley in goal when Worsley had some sort of nervous breakdown.

And in the playoffs, the Canadiens first swept the Rangers, beat Boston in six games, and took out St. Louis in four games to win their 16th Stanley Cup.

There’s just not a lot I can tell you about this Habs season. I was busy.

Heroes and Dreams

001More than a hundred years of heroes and dreams. Of men donning the sweater and hitting the ice. The years of kids watching and reading about, dreaming and becoming. From the time Didier Pitre took a pass from Jack Laviolette and slid it over to Newsy Lalonde, little boys donned the sweater, the bleu, blanc, et rouge, and they became Pitre and Lalonde and all those who came later. kids-sweater1-150x150

From the days of Georges Vezina stopping pucks for Les Canadiens, little kids wanted to stop pucks too, on lakes and ponds and old rinks throughout, and when they wore the sweater, they made the saves with people cheering them, and for all those winter nights near their homes, they were Georges Vezina.

Like magic they became Howie Morenz and Aurele Joliat, Toe Blake and George Hainsworth. They wore the sweater on nights so cold it should’ve been illegal, slapping old rubber balls into snowbanks, stopping cow pies on slews, deking friends and sisters and little kids on the pond. wearing the red or white sweater with the simple and beautiful CH crest sewn on front.004

They became the Rocket, and Lach, Bouchard and Harvey, and they saw the game in their dreams. Behind the skaters they were Durnan and Plante crouched by the net, and when the time came, they were the Boomer and Big Jean scoring on the power play. It unfolded at the Forum and the Olympia and Conn Smythe’s old barn and the outdoor rink frozen in winter at the baseball field. And kids heard them on the radio and saw them in black and white and shuffled their bubblegum cards, wearing the sweater and becoming anyone they wanted to be, just when they wanted to be. 003

The wore the sweater when the Pocket Rocket wouldn’t give up the puck, when the Boomer boomed, and when the Gumper kicked out his pads. They opened boxes at Christmas and there was one to put on right away, and they were Ken Dryden and Lafleur and the Big Bird. And their kids and kid brothers wore the sweater when Patrick Roy and Carbo and then Kovalev and Koivu graced the ice. And now, new guard is in place, and kids are becoming them too.

the-rocket-150x150

They said goodbye to the Forum and to the Rocket and all those others who went when it was time and when it wasn’t time, and they wiped little drops of tears from their sweater. And they smiled and clapped and looked above as they watched the sweaters of their heroes raised triumphantly to the rafters.

005

Every night now, the Bell Centre is packed with young and old, still wearing the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens. It’s been a dream for more than a hundred years. We are Georges, Howie, the Rocket and Guy. We’re Patrick and Saku and Price and Gally.

We wear the sweater whether we have a sweater or not, and we continue to hope.002

006

007

008

009010


The Dismal Beat Goes On

Late-’80s Claude Julien.

The wild and crazy Montreal Canadiens were rusty and sloppy in Claude Julien’s 2017 coaching debut, and their 3-1 loss to the visiting Winnipeg Jets ruined what could have been a fun breakout party for the new Blind River bench boss.

Probably rusty because they had five days off. And sloppy, regardless of who’s behind the bench. Nothing new about their sloppiness. They’d probably be a mess if Toe Blake was behind them.

Was any part of this loss Julien’s fault?

If he was Kreskin, he might have plunked Nathan Beaulieu into the press box pre-game, before this mediocre defenceman could think he was Bobby Orr during a second period power play, and which quickly showed he’s no Bobby Orr.

Or Gaston Gingras for that matter.

Beaulieu decided to do some fancy stickhanding and was promptly stripped of the puck by Joel Armia, who walked in and tied it.

And because Julien didn’t have his skates on, he couldn’t be on the ice at 1:16 of the third when Emelin, Weber, Plekanec, Danault and Max decided to show their soft and tender side as Big Buff muscled his way in from the right side and found Mathieu Perreault, who notched the winner easy as pie.

Winnipeg’s third goal was an empty-netter, so I guess Julien can’t be blamed for that one either.

Wasn’t Carey Price’s fault either, as the big fellow snagged shots left and right, including lightning-quick glove hand robbery on rookie star Patrick Laine’s laser in the first period and then again in the third, plus coming up big a plethora of other times throughout.

Price was his old self, which is a good thing. So were his teammates, which is a bad thing.

Gump Worsley, manning the pipes for the New York Rangers in the late-’50s, was asked what team gave him the most trouble. Gump answered, “the Rangers”.

Price can say exactly the same thing about his teammates. Coverage means more than just car and house insurance, boys.

Random Notes:

Jets outshot the Habs 33-20.

Either the Sens or Leafs will win tonight, considering they play each other. Which means if the Sens win they’ll be within two points of Montreal, and if the Leafs pull it out, they’ll be just five back. Both teams also have games in hand on the Canadiens.

 

Good Old Bookstore

I’ve had this book about the Rocket since it showed up in stores in 2000 or 2001.

And now I have two, because Sunday morning I walked into a secondhand bookstore in Powell River and bought another for five bucks.

On the inside page, it’s been autographed by the late, great Gump Worsley!

Whoever Gord is, I wonder why he didn’t want it anymore. Or maybe someday he’ll ask, “Hey honey, have you seen my Rocket book signed by Gump Worsley?

Here’s another Gump signature if you want to compare.