Category Archives: Ken Dryden

Finally Lapointe

The news that Guy Lapointe’s number 5 will join Bernie Geoffrion’s in the rafters is terrific and overdue.

Guy Lapointe was one of the greatest defencemen to ever wear the CH. He was part of the “The Big Three” with Serge Savard and Larry Robinson in those 1970s glory years when no other team came close to having such a trio, combining skill and muscle to help win games and take no nonsense from the Broad St. Bullies or anyone else who might have tried.

Add the smart, great skating, hard shooting Lapointe to the mix of big farmboy Robinson, who could skate, dominate and was physically intimidating, and Savard, who swooped, swirled, and made the right play like poetry in motion, and you’ve got “The Big Three”, a threesome other teams knew they were in deep against.

Serge Savard was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986 and his number 18 was retired in 2006.

Larry Robinson was inducted into the Hall in 1995 and his number 19 sent to the rafters in 2007.

Guy Lapointe was inducted in 1993 and his sweater will soon join his fellow blueliners. So deserved.

0075The Globe and Mail called Ken Dryden’s The Game, “the sports book of the year, or maybe the decade, or maybe the century.” Dryden took us into the inner circle of the late 1970′s Montreal Canadiens, when they were the best team in hockey, poised to win their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup. It’s a great book, written with humility and intelligence, and I know many of you have already read it. I just wanted to share a few things that I really like.

I’m sure Ken Dryden had a little smile on his face as he wrote about Lapointe, affectionately know as “Pointu”, who Dryden says in the early to mid-1970′s, except for Bobby Orr, was the best defenceman in the NHL.

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Here’s some excerpts from “The Game” regarding Guy Lapointe”

“In the shower, (Yvon) Lambert is singing. Lapointe grabs a bucket and tiptoes to the bathroom sink like a cartoon spy. He fills the bucket with cold water, and peers around the corner of the shower. Lambert is still singing. Lapointe winds up; we hear a scream. Lapointe dashes back into the room and quickly out again, dropping his bucket. Lambert, still lathered up, races after him, screaming threats. Losing his trail, Lambert stops to pick up the bucket, fills it, and resumes his search. Finally he finds Lapointe hiding in a toilet stall; he backs him into the room. Naked, sobbing, pleading pathetically, Lapointe falls to his knees, his hands clutched in front of him. Lambert winds up to throw the water, then stops: in Lapointe’s hands are Lambert’s clothes.”

“The laces to my skates have been shredded into macaroni-size pieces too small for knots to hold together. I look up at a roomful of blank faces. Before I can say his name, Lapointe, who cuts my laces twenty or twenty-five times a year, though I have never seen him do it, gives me an injured look. “Hey, get the right guy,” he shouts.”

“Hey Reggie (Houle),” he shouts, “That was a helluva play ya made last night.” Houle goes silent; we begin to laugh. “Yup,” Robinson continues slowly, drawing out each word, “not often ya see a guy on a breakaway put it in the crowd.” Lapointe snaps down his newspaper. “Don’t let it bother ya, Reggie,” he says sympathetically. “No harm done.” Surprised, we all look up. “The goalie just woulda stopped ya anyway,” he says, and we all laugh harder.

“Ah, I’m full,” Lapointe announces, wiping his face with napkin. “Anybody want my ice cream?” Shaking their heads, murmuring, everyone says no. Finally, after looking around, certain that no one else wants it, “Um, yeah sure,” I say tentatively, ya sure ya don’t want it?” Lapointe shakes his head, and hands it to me. I take a bite. Before I can taste what I’ve eaten, the room explodes with laughter – sour cream with chocolate sauce.

“Calisse, now I done it,” he groans. “Kenny, who’s a good lawyer? I need some help.” He looks genuinely worried this time.
“Call a guy named Ackerman,” I tell him earnestly.
“What?” he says. “Ackerman,” I repeat louder, and suddenly I know what’s coming next. “I’m not deaf,” he says indignantly, and walks away laughing.

Hoping It’s An Omen

On Sunday I stopped at a garage sale in St. Hubert and bought this 1970s Sher-Wood goalie stick for five dollars.

A stick with “K. Dryden 29″ stamped on the upper shaft.

It’s not a Dryden game-used stick, no marks are scattered about and it’s never been taped (those are fibreglass strips you see on the blade), but it’s from his era, exactly what he would have used in the first part of the 1970s, and definitely, five bucks is pretty darn good.

And with the Habs’ goalie situation now, I’m also treating it as a good omen for the boys.

Let the magic of the five buck Dryden stick begin.

Dryden 1

Dryden 2

Dryden

Gilles Does It His Way

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Ex-WHA and NHL goalie Gilles Gratton in a mock arm wrestling pose with Bobby Hull.

They did it as a joke because Gilles has always been a slight fellow and Hull is Hull.

I work with Gilles and he’s a great guy who seems to enjoy talking with me about games the night before and ones coming up. The feeling is mutual. I like hearing his thoughts on things.

Gilles was considered one of the best backstoppers in the WHA and was a backup during the WHA 1974 Canada-Russia series. He didn’t play and didn’t mind at all.

Gilles gained a reputation of being somewhat of a flake when he played, sometimes making noises at opposing players, rambling on about reincarnation to teammates and coaches, and he once refused to suit up with his Toronto Toros because the moon was in the wrong part of the sky and not lined up with Jupiter, which was his way of disagreeing with his coach being fired.

Ken Dryden says in his book “The Game” that Gilles once streaked during a practice with whatever team he was on at the time, and I asked him about it. He said that was wrong. It was during a ball hockey game and the coach promised him five new sticks if he did it.

He told us this story recently. When he first arrived in St. Louis to play for the Blues, he was in an elevator and a man riding up with him asked him if he was happy to be joining his new team.

Gilles answered, “I don’t give a f*&%k about the St. Louis Blues”.

When the elevator stopped, they got out and were met by others. It turned out the man in the elevator was his new coach Gary Young.

Gilles lasted 6 games in St. Louis before he walked out. The next year he was with the New York Rangers, then a season in the minors, and that was that.

After he retired he worked as a wire service photographer at a couple of World Championships in Europe, and eventually ended up in India for several years where he learned to meditate.

Gilles’ a Montreal boy, and I once asked him if ever would have liked to play for the Canadiens.

He said he didn’t know, he’d never thought about it.

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.

THN Rates ’76-’77 Habs The Best

For the last eight Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup wins, from 1971 to 1993, I managed to save the front pages and laminate them. (Although one, from 1977, is an inner page), and I did a little write up about each of those years.

And seeing how The Hockey News has chosen the Habs 1976-77 team as the greatest team ever, I thought I’d re-post that part of my series.

(THN’s other top five in order are the ’83-’84 Oilers, ’82-’82 Islanders, ’55-’56 Habs, and ’51-’52 Red Wings).

In the spring of 1977, as I was on the verge of getting married for the first time, Jacques Lemaire scored the overtime goal to give his team their second straight Stanley Cup in this late 1970′s run, and it was done with a lovely four-game sweep against Don Cherry and his Boston Bruins.

Is this one of the reasons you’re not crazy about the Habs, Don?

It had been quite a year for this dominating bunch. Montreal only lost eight times in 80 games and racked up a record 132 points. Nobody was going to beat them in the playoffs. You didn’t have to be Kreskin to figure it out. In fact, the team swept the Blues, took out the Islanders 4 games to 2, and then swept the Bruins. Fourteen games in total, and very similar to the 13 it had taken them the year before.

Guy Lafleur won the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP and managed nine goals and 17 assists throughout. But he had this to say: “It’s my third Cup and it’s always nice, but it’s not the same excitement. I don’t think I’m the best player. It’s just that everything went well for me.”

Jacques Lemaire was the quiet hero on this ride. His teammates had told him to shoot more, and on this night, he delivered with the overtime marker. “Why shouldn’t I be happy,” said Lemaire. “I’m on a holiday. I’m on a holiday starting now. It’s about time. It still is Lafleur and Shutt, except tonight. Tonight was a mistake. They said, shoot the puck, you look good.”

Coach Scotty Bowman talked about Lafleur and Shutt. “They play more like Europeans. I’m not knocking the NHL style of play, but the Europeans make more plays on the move. That’s what Lafleur and Shutt do.”

And last word to Don Cherry. “It’s hard to believe we kept outshooting them and still can’t win a game. I still say the whole thing boiled down to those three defensemen.”

Another Sanderson Moment

Recently I talked about reading Derek Sanderson’s recent book Crossing the Line and how he went on about Ken Dryden being overrated.

I forgot to mention something else.

Sanderson wrote that when he was a kid the Montreal Canadiens walked by him at a rink and when he approached Jean Beliveau for an autograph, Jean told him he was sorry but he had to hurry to catch the bus.

Sanderson said he never forgot that and the first time he played against the Habs as a rookie, he skated over to Beliveau the first chance he got and punched him in the mouth.

He then said he had to get the hell out of there because John Ferguson saw exactly what had happened.

I don’t know what to say. Why Sanderson would want to include that in his book is hard to say. Surely he had other things to write about instead of bragging about popping Le Gros Bill, who certainly has several more layers of class than Turk Sanderson.

Geez I wish Fergy would have………..

Jean 1

Jean 2

 

 

The Habs Let Orr Slip Away

Larry Robinson, Serge Savard, and Guy Lapointe were the Canadiens’ Big Three defencemen in the 1970s. Three of the best, all on one team.

Then imagine having Bobby Orr in the mix. The Big Four.

With those four taking care of the blueline, with Ken Dryden in goal, and with Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey, Yvan Cournoyer and the gang up front, it just wouldn’t have been fair.

Orr as part of the powerhouse Habs of the ’70s. It boggles the mind. And it could have happened.

Stephen Brunt, in his 2006 book “Searching for Bobby Orr” writes about that historic first sighting of Orr, when Wren Blair and other Bruins brain trust went to a bantam tournament in Gananoque, Ontario in 1961 to have a look at a couple of players, and soon forgot about the two they’d come to see because a little 12-year old blond-haired kid from Parry Sound was skating rings around everybody.

It’s magical hockey lore, one of the game’s great stories, forever to be told. Until global warming melts the rinks permanently.

But Blair and his gang weren’t the only NHL people in the Gananoque rink that day. Scotty Bowman, the Montreal Canadiens young head scout for eastern North America, was sent by Sam Pollock to Gananoque to have a look at not only the two players everyone else was watching, Doug Higgins and Rick Eaton, but to also check out a kid named Orr that the Canadiens had gotten wind of through an old friend of Frank J. Selke.

Bowman watched the little kid, wearing number 2 for Parry Sound, and was impressed. “He was dominating,” Bowman says in Brunt’s book. “But he was very small – much smaller than all of the other guys. He could really skate and fly around. I’d never seen a guy that good at that young age.”

Soon after, Bowman visited the Orr home in Parry Sound, but it was mostly just a social call. The Habs had nothing to offer, they weren’t in the practice of handing out signing bonuses then, and they wouldn’t commit to a kid still in grade school. And as soon as Scotty learned that Doug and Arva Orr had no intentions of Bobby leaving home, Scotty left it at that.

When Bobby got a little older and was more prepared to join the Junior Canadiens in Montreal, then maybe they could continue their chat. Just not at that time. He was too young.

Wren Blair of the Bruins didn’t give up, though. He diligently courted the Orr’s and finally got the papers signed. Orr joined the Oshawa Generals and not the Junior Canadiens, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Just think how it might have turned out. He might not have damaged his knees. Put him in a Canadiens uniform, and Montreal certainly wouldn’t have missed the playoffs in ’69-’70, which they did because although they were tied with New York for the fourth and final playoff spot, they had scored two less goals.

With Orr wearing the CH they would’ve been off to the races and might not have stopped until the 1980s were in full swing. But he wouldn’t have worn number 4. A big fellow named Beliveau owned it when Orr was breaking in.

Is it crazy to think that maybe it could’ve been ten straight Stanley Cups for the Habs in the 1970s with a healthy Bobby Orr in the lineup? Maybe it’s not so farfetched. But instead, those bastard Bruins got him and that was that. And anyway, the last thing I want to do is sound greedy.

But if only Scotty Bowman had made more trips to Parry Sound. Like Wren Blair did.

And thanks to Don in Texas for sending me Stephen Brunt’s book as a gift. It was a great read for sure.

Bobby Orr

 

 

 

 

Guy And Tim

Busy day coming up, maybe, so now’s as good a time as any to simply throw in a caricature of Guy Lafleur that I took a picture of in Old Montreal. The guy doing the drawing and selling didn’t seem all that thrilled that I took a picture instead of buying it and I don’t blame him.

It’s not a masterpiece, but I like it anyway. The Flower might not but I do. At least I think I do.

Maybe I don’t.

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I read earlier that Tim Thomas has asked his agent to see if any teams might be interested in him. Thomas took last year off, just a couple of years after telling the hockey world at the NHL Awards how unbelievable it was that he’d spent so many years in the minors and had finally made it to the bigs and how fantastic it was.

The novelty wore off somewhere along the line, he refused to go to the White House with his teammates to meet Barack Obama after the Bruins’ Cup win in 2011, but now I guess he’s got it out of his system and wants to come back. But I guess I can’t say much. Ken Dryden got away from the game for awhile too.

But who cares about Tim Thomas. I’m going with the Guy Lafleur picture.

Lafleur

Lineups Announced

The rosters for Saturday’s Habs-Leafs tilt have been announced, and as you can see, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle is suiting up. It can’t hurt.

What a team the Habs had, eh?

This is from the 1977-78 season, a season that saw the Canadiens finish with 129 points, take home the Prince of Wales for finishing first, and end with their third straight Stanley Cup.

The Vezina went to Ken Dryden and Michel Larocque; the Hart, the Art Ross, and the Lester B. Pearson trophies were collected by Guy Lafleur; the Conn Smythe was awarded to Larry Robinson; and Bob Gainey won the Selke.

Peter Mahovlich would be sent to Pittsburgh after 17 games, in exchange for Pierre Larouche.

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Jim Ralph Found Another Way

I remember Jim Ralph when he was a goalie for the Ottawa 67′s in the 1970′s. He was never a great backstopper, and his career didn’t amount to much, just bouncing around the minors for a decade after junior, and he never made it to the bigs.

But there’s one thing about Jim Ralph – he’s a funny guy, which has led to many, many television gigs and speaking engagements around North America. Ralph settled in nicely, doing what he does best, after his playing days were finished.

Here’s a sampling, with Ken Dryden, Wayne Gretzky, Gary Bettman and others chuckling away and having a grand old time listening to him.