Category Archives: Howie Morenz

Howie’s Obit Added

I came across the old Toronto Star obituary for Howie Morenz after he’s passed away in a Montreal hospital bed in 1937 and I’d like to add it to a post I did last summer after wandering around Montreal.

First, the truly beautiful obituary witten by Andy Lytle in the Toronto Star, (from Brian McFarlane’s book “True Hockey Stories: The Habs”), followed by my post done last summer.

“Like a tired child dropping softly to sleep, Howie Morenz died in a Montreal Hospital last night.

Morenz, the flashing meteor of the ice lanes, the little man who proved that “they do come back from the valley of regret and disillusion,” ate a light supper, smiled at his nurse and then turned his head wearily on the pillow as though to fall asleep.

The watching nurse, noting the strange pallor settling over his face, called a doctor. But before the medical man arrived the turbulent soul of one of the greatest figures that ever laced on skates had found eternal peace.

It was his heart that gave out, the experts said sorrowfully. To those who knew the strong vein of sentimentality that surged in the make-up of this remarkable athlete it was if the fibre of the man slowly disintegrated as he faced the uncertainty of a hockeyless future.

A crestfallen Morenz had come back to the Canadiens this season after a season on foreign ice with Chicago and then the Rangers.
In a few months he had re-scaled the heights. Was once more the flashing, dashing Morenz, the streak of Stratford, the beloved of the hockey gods who sit in silence or roar like maddened souls during the progress of the games in Montreal.

Then a quick twist, a fall on the ice and Morenz was carried away, his leg broken in two or three places.

As he recovered slowly, Morenz held court in his hospital ward. His friends were legion, his admirers more. They called to see him, to talk, to commiserate and to secure his autograph.

Howie again broke under the strain and the excitement of this renewed adoration. Last weekend the doctors belatedly clamped on the lid. No more visitors, no more chats. He was, the experts said, on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown. The strain was too great.

And then, a few days later, as his friends looked confidently forward to his complete recovery, with the unexpectedness of a bolt of lightning from a cloudless sky, the weary, exhausted figure heaved a tired sigh and turned his face to the wall.

A moment later, to a startled world and to his agonized people, the tragic words were spoken – “Howie Morenz is dead.” It was his brave heart that had given suddenly, tragically out, his doctors said.

Morenz is survived by Mrs. Morenz and three children. Howie Jr., 10, skating mascot of the Canadiens, Donald, 4, and Marlene, 3.”

Morenz

It was mostly driving around Montreal today instead of walking, and I have to say, the pavement sucks almost everywhere.

Bumpy streets. I’m hoping my shocks hold up.

I avoided joggers and bike riders at Mount Royal Cemetery, and visited Howie Morenz and his son Donald. As you can see, Donald died when he was only six. Howie and Donald are buried with Mary Morenz’s family members.

Howie

I don’t know what caused Donald’s death at six years old, and I’m not sure where Howie’s wife Mary is. She doesn’t seem to be there with the rest of the gang.

If my research is correct, it seems Mary remarried in 1939 (to Georges Pratte), just nine days after young Donald Morenz passed away.

And just for the record, Herbert McKay and Wilhelmina Stewart on the headstone are Mary Morenz’s mom and dad.

After that I drove to the Howie Morenz Arena, which wasn’t far away and I was killing time before Lester’s Deli opened. The arena’s only 35 years old for goodness sakes, with new renovations. I was hoping for something much older with more of a sweaty, tobacco/mildew smell.

But at least Howie has an arena named after him, and rightly so.

Howie arena 1

Howie arena 2

Then I went to Lester’s Deli, just as it was opening. Lester’s, a family-owned business since 1951, was fantastic, and the neighbourhood around it on Rue Bernard has this great Jewish feel to it. Some of the men walking around wore these big round hats which I’ve never seen before. Awesome hats. I want one.

Lester’s smoked meat sandwich is right up there with the best of them, that’s for sure. I was the only one there and it was fun to watch all the staff, who might be all related, go about getting ready and from time to time bitch at each other.

If I hadn’t have gone to Schwartz’s (which holds a special place in my heart) first, I would say Lester’s is the best. It’s not fancy and it’s not big, but it’s clean and nice, with a lot of funky stuff on the walls.

They didn’t ask me if I wanted lean, medium, or fatty, and I’d say it was medium that I scoffed down. And wow was it good! An awesome smoked meat. Messy as hell. I didn’t order fries because I’m worried about my complexion.

My one complaint was afterward, when I looked at the menu on the wall and I saw they have a regular sandwich for $7 bucks and a bigger one for ten, and they brought me the ten buck one automatically. But what’s three bucks, right? And I wasn’t going to say anything because I’m a Canadian.

A cool place on a cool street.

Lester's

Lester's 2

Lester's 1

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.

 

 

While Waiting

Just a great game the other night in Boston, and of course we need more of the same from the boys on Saturday afternoon when the Lightning come to town.

Meanwhile, cleaning more stuff off my desktop.

A snapshot of Jacques Plante and his wife in the late 1970s; a vintage sweater box I noticed on a shelf at work, a neat cartoon, and a Forum program that the cartoon was in, from a Montreal Maroons/Leafs game.

Hope you don’t mind. You’re at a slightly unconventional site.

And anyway, I could go on and on about how this year’s squad can never take a night off, how they have to skate and drive hard to the net and have the puck more than the other team and give 140% like I do at work.

But I won’t, because it’s Friday. Which means it’s beer time at St. Hubert’s Chicken.

Plante

box

cartoon

Forum cover

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

 

 

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.

The Morenz Memorial Program

Howie Morenz passed away on March 8, 1937, and that fall, on November 2, the NHL All-Stars featuring Eddie Shore, Charlie Conacher, Busher Jackson and the gang played a Montreal Canadiens/Maroons combination with Aurele Joliat, Johnny Gagnon, Toe Blake and Jimmy Ward and the rest to raise money for the Morenz family.

Howie Morenz Jr., who was about 10, skated in the pre-game warmup and took shots on both goalies.

This is the program from that night.

morenz

009

Bedridden Howie

Seeing a picture of Howie Morenz in the hospital almost automatically conjours up thoughts of him breaking his leg in 1937 and tragically dying not long after.

But below is Howie in a Chicago hospital in 1934, after he’d broken his thumb in the final game of the season when the Hawks eliminated the Canadiens. It was also his last game with the Habs for awhile, as he was dealt to Chicago soon after.

Howie would spend a season and a half in the Windy City, half a year in New York, and then back to Montreal, where he belonged, until tragedy struck.

That’s nurse Dorothy John with him.

002

Below is Howie in 1937, not long before he passed away. His injury, from which he never recovered, was also against the Hawks.

Morenz

Howie

Big Day At The Job

Today (Thursday) marks a big day for me. I came to Montreal three months ago to work at Classic Auctions as a copywriter, describing items for their auctions. I’m one of three writers who do this particular job.

And the Fall 2013 Historical Hockey Auction, which I helped work on for these past three months, kicked off today. My first auction. I’m very proud.

Samplings of the huge catalogue are below, but you can see the full 1480 items right here.

It’s hard to believe. I’ve been getting their catalogues for years and now I’m a part of things.

Below is the cover and some of the great stuff up for grabs. It closes a month from now.

cover

page 1

page 2

page 3

page 4

page 5

page 6

page 7

Hi To Howie, Lunch At Lester’s

It was mostly driving around Montreal today instead of walking, and I have to say, the pavement sucks almost everywhere.

Bumpy streets. I’m hoping my shocks hold up.

I avoided joggers and bike riders at Mount Royal Cemetery, and visited Howie Morenz and his son Donald. As you can see, Donald died when he was only six. Howie and Donald are buried with Mary Morenz’s family members.

Howie

I don’t know what caused Donald’s death at six years old, and I’m not sure where Howie’s wife Mary is. She doesn’t seem to be there with the rest of the gang.

If my research is correct, it seems Mary remarried in 1939 (to Georges Pratte), just nine days after young Donald Morenz passed away.

And just for the record, Herbert McKay and Wilhelmina Stewart on the headstone are Mary Morenz’s mom and dad. I’ve no idea who J.R. Stewart or the Boons are. Maybe someone can help me.

**************************************************

After that I drove to the Howie Morenz Arena, which wasn’t far away and I was killing time before Lester’s Deli opened. The arena’s only 35 years old for goodness sakes, with new renovations. I was hoping for something much older with more of a sweaty, tobacco/mildew smell.

But at least Howie has an arena named after him, and rightly so.

Howie arena 1

Howie arena 2

Then I went to Lester’s Deli, just as it was opening. Lester’s, a family-owned business since 1951, was fantastic, and the neighbourhood around it on Rue Bernard has this great Jewish feel to it. Some of the men walking around wore these big round hats which I’ve never seen before. Awesome hats. I want one.

Lester’s smoked meat sandwich is right up there with the best of them, that’s for sure.  I was the only one there and it was fun to watch all the staff, who might be all related, go about getting ready and from time to time bitch at each other.

If I hadn’t have gone to Schwartz’s (which holds a special place in my heart) first, I would say Lester’s is the best. It’s not fancy and it’s not big, but it’s clean and nice, with a lot of funky stuff on the walls.

They didn’t ask me if I wanted lean, medium, or fatty, and I’d say it was medium that I scoffed down. And wow was it good! An awesome smoked meat. Messy as hell. I didn’t order fries and such because I’m tired of that shit.

My one complaint was afterward, when I  looked at the menu on the wall and I saw they have a regular sandwich for $7 bucks and a bigger one for ten, and they brought me the ten buck one automatically. But what’s three bucks, right? And I wasn’t going to say anything because I’m a Canadian.

A cool place on a cool street. On my list to take Luci when she comes back in a month and a half.

Lester's

Lester's 2

Lester's 1