Category Archives: Jacques Plante

The Golden Age Of Hockey Is Never Now, Always Before

Isn’t it funny how no matter what decade we’re in, many retired players and older fans always insist that the game isn’t as good as it used to be, when they played or watched.

 It’s only natural that they feel this way. The present game, of any decade, just doesn’t have the romance it did for them. And hockey always changes, whether it’s the way players shoot, or pass, or even their size.

 Ken Dryden, when asked when he thought the golden age of hockey was, answered that it’s whenever we were young.  It is for me. The 1950’s and 1960’s were my golden hockey years. They were magic years, with road hockey, collecting cards, digging pucks out of snowbanks, outdoor rinks and frozen toes,  and a six team NHL. And I had the Rocket, Beliveau, Howe, Hull, Plante, and Sawchuk to watch.

 But for men who played in the 1930’s and ’40’s, those 1950’s and ’60’s sucked. And for the ones’s who played in the 1910’s and ’20’s, the next few decades after them simply didn’t cut it.

It’ll always be like this. Ken Dryden was right. It all depends on when you were born.

 Here’s some examples.

 Cyclone Taylor, one of hockey earliest stars, talking about the game in 1968:

“I don’t think I’d like to play the game now. I was used to going on at the start of the game and playing to the finish. I think any man between the ages of 18 and 35 who can’t play 60 minutes of hockey – well, he just doesn’t want to play, that’s all.”

 Newsy Lalonde, who signed with the Montreal Canadiens in 1910, talking hockey in 1970.

 “Never did I use the slapshot the way you see it used in the NHL now, with the curved sticks and all. With us there was no other shot to use but the wrist shot. When a man makes a slapshot today it’s more powerful than a wrist shot, but you can’t place it in the same way. The modern player just shoots the puck in the general direction of the net and that’s it. We knew where the puck was going and didn’t have to look twice.

And if you think hockey is a tough game nowadays, you have no idea what toughness is all about.”

 Bill Durnan, star goalie for the Habs from 1943 to 1950, talking about the NHL in 1969.

 “It’s a changed game, no doubt about it. Now it’s congested and half the time you don’t know how the puck went into the net. Thy just don’t have the plays we had; they simply shove the puck in the corner, then there’s a wild scramble, with three or four guys behind the bloody net. The puck comes out and somebody bangs it in. At that point, even the announcers who are supposed to know what happened start guessing.

And the players have changed, especially their attitudes, though at least until recently there were a few honest skaters left. John Ferguson, who played for the Canadiens, is an example. I was at a party with him a few years ago and somebody asked him why he was such a stinker on the ice and a nice guy off it. Ferguson replied. “When I’m on the ice, I’m at work!”

Now that’s the kind of answer we oldtimers would give.”

 Cooper Smeaton, NHL referee before and after World War 1, interviewed in the 1970’s.

 “Those were the golden days of hockey when you had fellows like Howie Morenz, Nels Stewart, and Georges Vezina. They talk about Bobby Hull’s speed, but Morenz would whip around his net like a flash and be up the ice before you could blink your eyes.

Take a goal scorer like Stewart. In today’s game he’d score 100 goals. And in the old days if a team was a man short it would stickhandle the puck until time expired. Now they just heave it down the ice. You don’t have to pay a guy $400,000 to do that.

We had a more appealing game game with lots of stickhandling and nice passing. Now it’s all speed.

But one thing remains the same though – the referees never seem to please the coaches or managers or owners. To this day, nobody is perfect.”

Another Brief Bee Hive Moment – Durnan’s Out, McNeil’s In

 For seven years, between 1943 and 1950, Bill Durnan was Montreal’s star goalie. He was such a great goalie, and also such a great team player, that by the end of the 1940’s he was even wearing the captain’s ‘C’, which, of course, is quite unusual. And he was also ambidextrous and wore a sort of combined catching glove and stick glove on both hands.

Durnan retired in 1950, claiming his nerves were shot, which opened the door for his backup goalie, Gerry McNeil. McNeil had been around since 1943 but never got a real chance until Durnan retired. McNeil was in goal the night Toronto’s Bll Barilko scored the Leafs’ famous Stanley Cup winning goal in 1951. (Barilko would die later that summer in a Northern Ontario plane crash.)

McNeil tended goal for Montreal until the mid-fifties, when his backup goalie, Jacques Plante, took over.

So Bill Durnan begat Gerry McNeil, who begat Jacques Plante, who begat Charlie Hodge, who begat Gump Worsley. And then Ken Dryden appeared like a gift from God, and Patrick Roy followed several years after that.

And now we’re at Carey Price. Ain’t life grand?

 

 

 

 

Another Brief Bee Hive Moment. We’re All Related To Jacques Plante.

Another Bee Hive from group 2 (1944 to 1964). I have 55 of these from group 2, all Habs. There’s 77 Montreal players in total from this group.

 

One of my sisters lives in Ottawa and works at Chapters book store downtown. In her letter the other day, she wrote, “I had a customer one day…his name is Jacques Plante. I asked him if he’s related to THE Jacques Plante. He smiled and said, “We’re ALL related to him.”

The Best Jobs In The World. Yes – Better Than Your Job.

1. Retired Famous Race Horse. You were Northern Dancer and Secretariat, and you were the toast of the town. You retired on top of the world and were given a fancy stable and told to get out into the field and make love to the finest fillies out there. Whenever you feel like it. Every day.

2. Guy Who Crashes Cymbals In A Symphony Orchestra. You’re in Carnegie Hall, and the horns and violins are working their way up to big crescendo. The crowd is enthralled, and then, at the precise moment, you crash your cymbals.
That’s it! And for this you get to wear an expensive tuxedo, make lots of money, and probably even sign a few programs!

3. Red Fisher. Play poker with the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, and Geoffrion on trains to Chicago, Boston, and the rest. Go for a cold one after the game with Lafleur, Savard, and Robinson, and talk shop. Cover the Montreal Canadiens and become just one of the boys for nearly fifty years. HE MAKES ME SICK.

4. George Martin. He’d put on his cardigan sweater, jump into a limo to take him to studios like Abbey Road, and help the Beatles weave their magic on their recordings. He was there almost from the start, and he also made zillions doing it.

5. Playboy photographer. Do I really need to explain this one?

6. Phil Pritchard. Phil’s job is to babysit the Stanley Cup, 12 months a year. He takes it all over North America and Europe so players from the winning team can show it off where they live. He brings it out onto the ice with his white gloves on when a team wins it in the final game. He’s practically married to it, and it never talks back.

Goldie And Kurt Were Almost In Hell. But They Got Out

It’s a shame what happened to Goldie Studlendgehawn. She caught up on her reading, she said, because there was just nothing to do while she was in Vancouver. Except maybe listen to the pitter-patter of raindrops on her roof.  It must have been horrible.

 

Goldie Studlendgehawn, who shortened her name to Hawn and became what she became, told Jay Leno on the Tonight Show a few years back that her and love-of-her-life Kurt Russell lived off and on in Vancouver because their son Wyatt Russell was honing his craft as a goaltender in the Junior ranks there.

 

But they were bored. They had to whittle their days away in their rented three million dollar, 7000 square foot, five bedroom, eleven fireplace igloo in some backwater part of “The City That Fun Forgot.”

 

Nothing to do in Vancouver? There’s more than 2000 restaurants and almost as many bars. And what about the traffic jams? Surely, Vancouver’s traffic jams are almost as good as Los Angeles’.

 

There must be lots to do in Los Angeles. Marvel at gangs as they fight over drug territory. Spend hours looking for the sun through the smog. Enjoy lovely beaches provided you don’t get shot at on the freeway on the way there.

 

And it’s fun to think if young Wyatt would have gotten traded to the the Powell River Kings. After all, the young fellow was stopping pucks for the Coquitlam Express, a junior stepping stone, just like, gulp, the Kings.

 

It’s something Kurt and Goldie probably didn’t want to think about. Although if it had happened, they may have thought about disowning their young Jacques Plante.

 

But the glamorous couple might have liked Powell River. They could’ve joined the Moose or Legion, made new friends, played darts, and quickly forgot about the nightmare they went through in Vancouver. They could’ve dined on those wicked fish and chips at the bowling alley, eaten prawns, lawn bowled, and danced the night away at the raunchy Westview Hotel.

 

It would’ve been great if Wyatt had been traded to the Powell River Kings. It would’ve been so much fun to hear a couple of Hollywood stars screaming at the top of their lungs all up and down the Sunshine Coast.

 

And Goldie Studlendgehawn could’ve sat in Powell River and watched reruns of herself on the Tonight Show, as rain pitter-pattered on her new Powell River roof.