Category Archives: Jean Beliveau

The Night We All Said Thank You To Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard

I feel just a small break from the stress of the Boston-Montreal series is needed right now.  Montreal fans were so optimistic going into round one, but the team hasn’t played well, and going into game seven Monday night, Boston carries all the momentum and good feelings.

So I feel we need a change of pace, go back to our roots, and check in with the maestro,  the hero of so many, the man who wore the CH not just on his sweater, but also on his heart, the great Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard.

On March 11, 1996, following a game between Dallas and Montreal, the Canadiens and fans said goodbye to the Montreal Forum. The lights were dimmed, and Montreal Canadien captains from over the years walked onto the Forum ice. Emile Bouchard, Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Yvon Cournoyer, Serge Savard, Bob Gainey, Guy Carbonneau, Pierre Turgeon, and of course, number nine, Maurice Richard.

A torch was lit and was passed to Butch Bouchard. Bouchard then passed it to the Rocket, and the emotional fans in the beautiful old building, the wondrous Forum, erupted in an explosion of cheers, tears, memories, and thank you’s to the greatest Hab ever. Fans weren’t only saying goodbye to the old building, but were also saying thank you to the Rocket, who had done so much to create the mystique that is the Montreal Canadiens, a man whose deeds, fire, passion, success, and humility continues to make all Montreal fans, young and old, proud of the team, and a man the emotional Quebec Habs fans embraced and clung to through rocky political and cultural times in the province. 

The Rocket was my boyhood hero, stayed that way long after he retired, and remains my hero even today. I met him once, but that’s a story for another day.

Here’s a small clip of that night in 1996, when Montreal Canadiens fans, in a 16 minute standing ovation that left most in tears, said thank you to The Rocket. And he wasn’t even sure why. Because he would always say, “I’m just a hockey player.”

Enjoy. 

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1FvJzhg2nE

Hold On To Your Hats. Habs Fans Are In For A Joyous Ride

Most of the hockey world has weighed in on the state of the Montreal Canadiens and how they’ll do in the playoffs. And frankly, most of them are wrong, most of them are overpaid, and most of their mothers wear army boots. And some TSN computer-generated program picked the Habs to go to the finals but lose to San Jose.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Milt Dunnell, Elmer Ferguson, and Jim Proudfoot rose from the ashes to offer their opinions too.

And the common consensus, the recurring theme is this – If you stay out of the penalty box so the Habs don’t get to unleash their fierce power play, and if Carey Price folds because of no playoff experience, then Montreal can be beaten.

Montreal is so much more than what people, other than Habs fans, are giving them credit for. It’s a young team, faster than lightening, with a system that allows for quick breakouts, and with a steady defence that includes the duo that some oppposing players have said recently is the best defence partnership in the league – Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek.

The team has depth, youth, speed, experience, leadership, closeness, passion, a spirited fourth line, a coach-of-the-year candidate, great fans, spiritual guru Jean Beliveau, and a city of hockey ghosts who have been waiting for years for something like this to happen. The team led the league in goals scored, had the best power play, and got stingier as the season wound down when shorthanded. And if something happened to Carey Price, the team can call on Jaroslav Halak, who was the American Hockey League’s top goaltender three years straight before being called up to the big club.

We’re going to take it one series at a time, beginning with Boston. And if Montreal can go all the way this year, I believe this would be the most special Habs team since the 1970’s. More magical than both 1986 and 1993.

Hold on. It’s going to be great!

In games played tonight, Wednesday night:

Pittsburgh shut out Ottawa 4-0, which is really no surprise since Ottawa’s been in a nosedive for awhile now.

The Rangers went to New Jersey and went away with a 4-1 win which is a bit of a surprise because the Devils are usually pretty stingy (and boring) at home. I’m hoping for the Devils. I don’t want to see Sean Avery any more.

Colorado and Minnesota are tied 2-2 late in the third, and Calgary’s beating San Jose 3-1 early in the third.

But I’ve got to get to bed. Sorry.

 

 

 

 

 

It Sure Wasn’t Hard Becoming A Habs Fan

I’m asked from time to time why I cheer for the Habs and not the Toronto Maple Leafs, seeing that I grew up only an hour north of Toronto, in Orillia. The answer’s easy. The Montreal Canadiens were a gift from my dad.

My dad’s 87 now, and of course, still watches hockey. He’s been a hockey fan all his life, followed the Leafs when he was young, and he once wrote a letter in the 1930’s to Ace Bailey who lay in a hospital after Boston’s Eddie Shore clubbed him over the head, ending his career, and nearly killing him.

Bailey’s wife wrote a thank-you note to my dad in return.

But slowly, my dad began to turn. The Toronto Star and Telegram both plastered their papers with Leafs stories and my dad began to wonder about the almost invisible other teams. It was always “Leafs, Leafs, Leafs” as he used to say. Foster Hewitt was the definitive homer, and this rubbed dad the wrong way. And dad, being the introverted type, cringed when he read or heard about the goings-on of brash, loud, and arrogant Leafs owner Conn Smythe.

In the fifties, with television entering households, it was only Leafs game shown, and when the Montreal Canadiens played in Toronto, my dad liked what he saw on his TV. There was the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, and Plante. Stanley Cups began to be won by the Habs on a regular basis beginning in 1955, and the Leafs just kept plodding along. The Canadiens had something the Leafs didn’t.

When I was a boy, my dad started a big Montreal Canadiens scrapbook for me. He helped me write fan letters to the the Rocket, and at one point, the Rocket sent me a Christmas card. He took me to Maple Leaf Gardens a couple of times, and once, when we were early and stood at the gate, the entire 1958 Montreal team walked right by us.

He bought me a hockey book which he mailed to Montreal asking for autographs in, and it was mailed back signed by the entire 1958-59 Habs – Richard, Plante, Toe Blake, Beliveau, Geoffrion etc, and the only one missing was Doug Harvey. When we went to a game at the Gardens, he brought the book with him, took it down the the Montreal dressing room corridor, saw Toe Blake standing there, and asked Blake if he would take the book into the dressing room and get Harvey to sign it.

Believe it not, Blake did just that. My son has the book now.

So of course I became a Habs fan. They’ve been magical for me, and the magic has never gone away. It’s been a lifelong love affair.

And it’s all because of my dad.

Patrick Roy Is No Jean Beliveau

Remember when Patrick Roy winked at LA player Tomas Sandstrom after making a nice stop on him? There was something about that that I didn’t like. Maybe it was because I wasn’t sure that Patrick had robbed him blind, and that it was sort of a lucky save that simply looked good. I leaned toward the lucky save. 

Then remember in 1995 when he let in nine goals against Detroit and because Habs coach Mario Tremblay didn’t yank him sooner, Roy went to Ronald Corey and told him it was the last game he’d play for Montreal? Remember? Of course you do.

How come he let in nine goals?   roy.jpg

So after this recent mess in Chicoutimi involving Roy and his son Jonathan, it rang in my ears the words TSN’s Bob McKenzie said the other day. He said Roy will someday coach in the NHL, and the natural choice would be the Montreal Canadiens. 

I say, “Please Lord, don’t let this happen.”

I don’t like Patrick Roy, but instead of me going on about it, I’ll just step aside and let Red Fisher, the man I’m waiting to retire so I can have his job, tell the story.  It’s called “Roy Lost the Honour of Having His No 33 Retired Long Ago”.  I think you’ll find it interesting. Take it away, Red.

Goaltender Patrick Roy gave the Montreal Canadiens many on-ice moments to cherish, but there were also a number of off-ice issues that people cannot forget or forgive.

Montreal — The 14 banners hang in the Bell Centre rafters carrying the names and retired numbers of legendary players who for so many years contributed so much to making the Montreal Canadiens a team with a mystique for winning.Great names. Great players. Great human beings.The game plan is to add one more next season when this one-of-a-kind franchise celebrates its centenary. The only name I have heard – Patrick Roy.Yeah, that Patrick Roy – the one who led the Canadiens to Stanley Cups in 1986 and 1993.The Patrick Roy who coached the Quebec Remparts to the Memorial Cup two years ago.

The Patrick Roy whose son, Jonathan, a backup goaltender with the team, was suspended by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for seven games on Tuesday after skating the length of the ice to administer an ugly, vicious beating on Chicoutimi goaltender Bobby Nadeau during last Saturday’s playoff game.

Roy the coach – and co-owner and general manager – denies the horror show took place at his urging. But he was suspended five games for “failing to control his players” and police have been asked to launch an investigation, which could lead to criminal charges.

If the Canadiens have decided to retire Roy’s number, they must re-visit the decision. Canadiens owner George N. Gillett Jr. and team president Pierre Boivin should know it is a bad decision – and has been from the start. What they must do is look long and hard and decide if retiring Roy’s No. 33 is good for the game and for the organization.

It is not.

Roy abdicated his rights to that honour with his capitulation to irrationalism on Dec. 2, 1995, when a stunned Forum crowd saw him allow nine goals on 26 shots in an 11-1 meltdown to the Detroit Red Wings. It was only then that he was taken out of the game by coach Mario Tremblay.

Anyone who was there or viewed the game on television can still see a furious Roy shouldering his way past Tremblay to Canadiens president Ronald Corey, sitting in the first row behind the players’ bench, leaning over and telling him he had played his last game with the team. That film clip has been shown over and over again following last Saturday’s hockey version of road rage – and for good reason. It was unprofessional and a gross disrespect for the sweater he wore.

Four days later, he was shipped to the Colorado Avalanche.

Roy was a man of many faces throughout his brilliant career. Pleasant one minute, a mean, arrogant and unforgiving SOB the next. The Patrick Roy who came to play and to win every night could be abrasive, controlling and vindictive, but that does not diminish his accomplishments. His NHL-high 551 wins speak for him, as does his four Stanley Cups (two with the Canadiens and two with Colorado), three Conn Smythe trophies and three Vezinas.

Can anyone forget the night in 1986, when Roy stopped the first 13 shots he faced in the overtime period of a Conference final game against the New York Rangers? There he was, a 20-year-old rookie, turning aside at least a half-dozen spectacular scoring opportunities by the Rangers – until Claude Lemieux scored the winner with the Canadiens’ first shot.

Fast forward to 1993. The Canadiens lost the first two games in Quebec, the first in overtime. They won the next four, two of them in overtime. More importantly, the Canadiens won eight more games en route to their last Stanley Cup to set playoff records for the most overtime wins in one season and the most consecutive overtime wins.

Those were on-ice moments to cherish, but there also have been off-ice issues that people cannot forget or forgive. Ugly moments. Controversial moments. Disgusting moments such as Saturday’s brawl during which Roy’s son continued punching a defenceless Nadeau after he had been wrestled to the ice.

In Colorado, Roy got into an altercation with a Colorado Springs man at a hotel where Avalanche players and their wives were having a team party. They began shoving each other over an interruption in the music at the in-house disco. The case was settled out of court.

Early in the 1998-99 season, a furious Roy smashed two television sets and a VCR in the visiting coaches’ office in Anaheim. The reason: he was not credited with a victory because he was pulled by first-year coach Bob Hartley. Even though he did not face one shot, backup Craig Billington got the win because he was in net when the winning goal was scored.

Roy lost it again when the Denver Post reported the incident and falsely accused Valeri Kamensky of leaking the story. That led to a lengthy meeting between Roy, Kamensky, the player’s agent and reporter Adrian Dater, who wrote the story.

The most publicized incident during Roy’s years in Colorado occurred during the 2000-01 season, when his wife called 911 after a domestic dispute. Dater reported at the time that Michele Roy told police her husband “ripped two doors off their hinges at their home” and that she was “afraid of what her husband might do when she dialed 911.” Roy was charged with misdemeanour criminal mischief, but a couple of days later his wife called the charges “ridiculous.” The case against Roy was dismissed. (The Roys are now divorced.)

And yet some of Roy’s best moments have come when his gentleness has moved people to tears.

Roy surely has forgotten it, but I still remember one morning after a Canadiens practice in Quebec City. There was a game to be played that night, but Roy remained on the ice waiting for a 10-year-old to join him.

The boy was born to pain, and lived with it bravely – he had this dream of going one-on-one with his idol, Roy. What could be greater than to score a goal on Patrick Roy?

So there they were at the Quebec Coliseum: Roy skating in little circles, sending up small shivers of ice pellets, rattling the blade of his stick on the ice before settling into a crouch in his crease, looking every inch like a guy in the moments before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. The boy’s mother looked on nervously watching her child who had not smiled or laughed nearly often enough in his young life.

“Okay … I’m ready,” Roy finally yelled at the boy. “Show me your best.”

It took a long time for the boy, skating on his matchstick legs, to close the 15 feet separating him from Roy’s crease. A wobbly shot, a desperate lunge from Roy and … a goal! Roy slammed his stick on the ice in mock anger.

“Try that again,” he muttered at the boy, who by now had a reason to smile. “I’ll bet you can’t do that again.”

Another wobbly shot. Another goal.

Ten minutes of goal after goal followed – and after each one the boy would raise his stick skyward, his face lighting up with smiles that eventually grew into a delighted laugh. His mother looked on from her Coliseum seat – and cried.

“That was a nice thing you did this morning,” I told Roy later that day. “It must have been hard.”

“It was easy,” said Roy.

Mike Has A Great Chair And Shorter Hair Than Before

They don’t get any better than Mike. We’ve been friends for 40 years, and have fought  the good wars together. Those crazy sixties wars. Those times when sex and drugs and rock and rock were as much a part of our lives as waking up. And it was a time when the team we loved took a back seat for a few years while we spent some serious time on the edge.

Mike was involved in the 1960’s movement as much as anyone. He wore his black hair long, crashed where he could, never shyed away from a good party, and ingested a few things he probably shouldn’t have. These were unsettling times, but he and I got through it, and later on he found himself a nice cool chick who he’s still with today. 

But even though we put the Habs on the backburner for a few years in the late ’60’s, it didn’t mean we gave up or forgot. Not me, and not Mike. He follows the Habs closely, has for more than fifty years, and he knows the game and his team and is pissed off when they lose. You’ll see this by his comments he throws in often.

No one is prouder to own a Montreal Forum chair than Mike. And it’s not just any chair. It’s the one he sat in in his only visit to the Forum, in the late 1970’s.

Here’s a photo of Mike’s chair, and the Bud hat signed by Le Gros Bill, Jean Beliveau. And yes, the spelling of Micheal on the chair is the way it’s spelled.

Mike may have been a mover and shaker during the hippie movement, but you can’t keep a good Habs fan down. And even though he lives in Toronto and has for decades, don’t even think about talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs with him. He can’t stand them, even though they’re just down the road. Are you listening, Ottawa fans-who-used-to-be-Habs-fans?

mikes_photos.jpg

Habs Make It Eleven In A Row Over Boston. So I Have A Gift For You

I’m having a good night tonight. I got home from work and my wife had a roast and a six pack of Heineken waiting for me. I start four days off. Then I watched the recording on my new TV of the Habs winning their eleventh straight win against the Boston Bruins (eight this year), and in doing so, stay on top of the heap in the eastern division.

So, because I’m in such a good mood, and it’s Easter, I’ve decided to give you a present. Just click the link below and enjoy a five and a half minute video of a 1971 Montreal-Boston bench-clearing brawl. Beliveau’s even in there, tugging and pulling. This is a huge brawl involving fans, police, Derek Sanderson, Phil Roberto, Gerry Cheevers, and a cast of thousands. Historically, Montreal and Boston like to rumble with each other. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBkvn4SsR5A&feature=related Watch it pick up momentum as it goes.  You don’t see this kind of thing any more.

I Was Only $28,500 Short Of Getting The Sweater

Johnny ‘Black Cat’ Gagnon played for the Montreal Canadiens, (and also the NY Americans and Boston Bruins) from 1930 to 1940. He wasn’t a big star (120 goals, 141 assists in 451 games) but enjoyed success playing alongside Howie Morenz and Aurele Joliat.

Just a few days ago, Classic Auctions in Montreal, which is the foremost hockey auction house on the planet, sold Gagnon’s Montreal sweater #14 for $28,551. I really wanted this sweater, and I thought I had a chance. But then it went past fifty bucks so I had to bow out.

Here’a few other Habs items that sold in the auction. It must be nice to be a collector who happens to be a rich bastard. Must be lawyers snapping these things up.

Here’s what I mean:

Carol Vadnais’ 1993 Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup Championship ring – $23,102.

Jean Beliveau’s 1969 Montreal Canadiens game-worn sweater – $22,013.

Beliveau’s 1972-73 Stanley Cup ring – $32,211.

Henri Richard’s ’73-74 jersey – $13,500

Original 1978-79 Stanley Cup banner which hung from the Forum – $6000.

Player’s sweater worn during the 1937 Howie Morenz Memorial game – $7,150

Guy Lafleur’s 1981-82 game-worn sweater – $11,000

None of Dennis Kane’s Byer’s Bulldozers Orillia Midget team items were available, but I’m sure they’re worth quite a bit. 

Classic Auctions is unbelievable. Two or three times a year they hold these amazing auctions that always include things like letters from Lord Stanley, important sticks that belonged to Morenz and the Rocket, for example, and just about anything else you can think of that is worth more than what you and I can afford.  Classic is the Sotheby’s or Christies of the hockey world. I wouldn’t mind getting a job there.

The Montreal Canadiens Might Be Calling Me Up!

To:

Bob Gainey – General Manager, Montreal Canadiens

Pierre Boivin – President

Dear Sirs,

The other day, the New York Yankees allowed comedian Billy Crystal to not only work out with the team in full uniform, but to also take a full at-bat during a spring training game against the Pirates. The Yankees are a world-class organization and know what they’re doing.

But the Montreal Canadiens are also a world-class organization, and therefore, I’m taking this opportunity to request the chance to dress for an exhibition game next fall.

Although I haven’t had skates on in ten years, and am almost as old as Billy Crystal, I haven’t smoked in quite some time, and I feel I could contribute on right wing, possibly in place of Michael Ryder. Or, if you need me on defence, I’m sure there will be a few openings in the fall (Patrice Brisebois, Mathieu Dandenault etc.) You could even schedule me for when you meet the Senators. I know I could stop Jason Spezza. No one seems to able to do this job now, so why don’t you let me try. I can’t be any worse.

I’m not asking for much, just an exhibition game. However, if I own the puck the way Henri Richard did in his initial season, you may feel free to keep me.

When I was about 13 years old, I wrote to Sam Pollock asking to be stick boy for a game at the Forum, and Mr. Pollock promptly wrote back saying that if he let me do it, he’d basically open up a can of worms, and I must be content to watch my favourite players from a distance.

I’ve stewed over this for decades, as I feel I would have been exceptionally fast in giving a new stick to Mr. Beliveau or Mr. Rousseau if they had broken one during the action.

I sort of feel I was cut from the team.

So now’s your chance to make good and clear my mental issues that came from rejection all those years ago.

If the Yankees can do it, so can you.

Oh, and if you don’t mind, can I please wear number 6 for the game? I’ve always felt I was a Ralph Backstrom-type player, smallish but speedy, and I’m sure Mr. Kostopoulos wouldn’t mind sitting out, as he does it quite often anyway.

Thanks a lot.

Dennis Kane.

Remembering Doug Harvey

The following is my column in the Powell River Peak, published March 3, 2008. doug.jpg                           

Unless you’re very young, or have never paid particular attention to hockey, you probably know who Doug Harvey is. You might know only that he was a hockey player a long time ago. But maybe you know he’s rated as the sixth greatest player of all time, and it’s between him and Bobby Orr as the game’s best defenceman ever.

He played for the Montreal Canadiens alongside Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau, and the rest of the cast of iconic 1950’s characters, and he was, with the Rocket, my boyhood hero. When I was a kid, my dad even corralled coach Toe Blake one night at Maple leaf Gardens in Toronto to go into the dressing room and get Harvey’s autograph for me.

Doug Harvey’s gone now, but I still think about him, so a few weeks ago, I did what I had to do. I phoned his son in the Maritimes.

Doug Harvey Jr. is 57 years old, is proud of his dad, and he was happy to talk about him. What was it like, I asked, being the son of such a star? “It was probably just like you and your dad,” he said. “We were just a family like everyone else. Kids at school didn’t treat me any different, and when I played hockey, there were no names on the sweaters, so no one gave me a hard time at the rink. “I guess one thing that might be different was that players would come over to the house quite often – Dickie Moore, Jean Beliveau, Jacques Plante, the Rocket a few times. When dad was building our house, most of the team helped him.”Even the kids of the Montreal Canadiens found a connection, probably because they had so much in common. “We lived near a lot of the players,” continued Doug Jr., “and I was a good buddy with Toe Blake’s son. And it’s funny too, my brother has been dating Dickie Moore’s daughter for a few years now, and dad and Dickie were best friends.”Doug Jr. remembers too how sometimes his dad’s job interfered with a family trying to have a normal life. “My mom would get upset with dad because we’d go to games on schools nights from time to time, and for an eight o’clock game, he’d be at the old Forum at 5:30 and stay for a couple of hours afterward signing autographs for people. We wouldn’t get home until after midnight and we had to get up in the morning for school.”

Doug Harvey was a genuine free spirit, a practical joker, a fun-loving guy, a kind-hearted person, and a supremely gifted hockey player. He dominated on the ice in the old ‘original six’ NHL, controlling the game, slowing it down or speeding it up, making precise passes, setting the pace, and was a leader among men.

He was a general on the ice, and won the Norris trophy for best defenceman a remarkable seven times.

Slowly though, over the years, his health began to fail, and then, in 1989, at 65 years of age, the great Doug Harvey passed away.

“I remember visiting him in the hospital and he was usually in good spirits,” said Doug Jr. “One time I was in the corridor and I heard laughter coming from his room. Inside, Bobby Orr and Don Cherry were there cheering up my dad.”

And I’m sure, after all I’ve read, and after talking to Doug Jr., the man with the big heart was cheering them up too.

Dramatic Win Against The Devils. Up Now, A West Coast Road Trip for the Habs.

palm-trees.jpgMontreal showed the hockey world tonight that they can play any style, against any team, and are a team to be reckoned with as playoff time draws closer.

A close, well-played 2-1 win against the tight-fisted Devils just may have finally woke up those on the TSN panel and elsewhere that Montreal needs to be included in the elite pack who could win the Stanley Cup. After all, Les Canadiens now are the proud holders of first place in all the east.

I was just as proud of my team tonight as I was the night they came back from 5-0 against New York to win 6-5.

After tonight’s game, the boys hop on a plane and fly to sunny California and Arizona for games Monday in San Jose, Thursday in Phoenix, Saturday in LA, and Sunday in Anaheim. Ryan O’Byrne will be in bed reading his Gideon’s bible by 10 PM every night during this road trip.

nabokov_playerimage.jpg      gretz.jpg    kings.jpg    rubber-duck.jpg    beer.jpgOf course every game’s a big game, and it’s great that the team can get out of Montreal where there’s been so much snow and deepfreeze, but these warm- climate trips can often be a problem. Montreal’s record in Florida over the years has been less than stellar, and the latest escapade in Tampa Bay with O’Byrne capped it. And California hasn’t always been kind to our guys either.

It’s pretty hard to concentrate on the task at hand when there’s pool-side sitting, bikini- watching, and golf-playing to be had. The home teams down in these areas are used to this less-than-hockey world lifestyle, but for the Habs coming down from the great white north, it’s like a kid in the candy store.

I hope it rains, a hurricane comes up, a tornado blows in, hail falls, sleet whips across, and the south-west experiences the coldest March in history. Just so they don’t lose focus.

Maybe Jean Beliveau will come along and babysit. But I don’t believe they’ll need it. Montreal’s on a mission. I haven’t seen them play this well in years.