Category Archives: Larry Robinson

Joe And Big Bird Ball

I’ve learned to not get too excited about rumours until they edge closer to fact, but I sure like the idea of Larry Robinson coming back to Montreal as coach or assistant coach. Apparently he’s just waiting to be asked. So Mr. Bergevin, ask him please.

I also like the “Evander Kane coming to Montreal” rumour, not only because he was a 30-goal scorer this year in Winnipeg, but also because I could finally see “Kane” on the back of a Habs’ sweater.

And speaking of Robinson:

In Ottawa in the 1970’s, there was a tremendous fastball team called Turpin Pontiac who were one of the best ball teams in Canada. I used to love going to games involving Turpin and other teams from the great Ottawa Valley Fastball League. It was really fine ball, played by guys who executed like poetry in motion.

Turpin had a glasses-wearing pitcher named Joe Belisle who looked like Dennis the Menace’s father. He seemed to weigh about 140 pounds, with his pitching arm much bigger than his other arm. This was a guy who threw mostly 1 or 2 hitters, with many no-hitters added for good measure. And the other teams such as Hull Volant were certainly no slouches so Joe always had his work cut out for him, and more often than not got the job done in classic fashion..

Joe was well-known in the Ottawa area, but not quite as well-known as one of his teammates. There was an outfielder, a big, strapping long-ball hitting red-headed farm boy named Larry Robinson, who, after ball season had ended and the air grew chilly, played defence for the Montreal Canadiens.

Into The Drink


Darth sent this picture quite awhile ago but I couldn’t bring myself to put it up. Until now that is. I hope there’s enough lifeboats.

A 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. What, the Habs didn’t win? Seriously?

Question: Who would you consider the better defenceman – Tomas Kaberle or Bobby Orr?

Isn’t Kaberle fantastic! Except for that time in the first period when he was so mesmerized by a slow-moving puck that he forgot to reach his stick out to clear the little black thing, and presto, into the net it went. And his long shots are the kind goalies prefer in practice. The ones they can see and stop and not get hurt by. But otherwise, him or Orr?

Wait a minute, that’s ridiculous. You can’t compare Kaberle to Orr. Orr was the best ever. I don’t know what I was thinking.

What about Kaberle and Larry Robinson?

I’m re-reading Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, and there’s a passage in there where Kerouac and Neal Cassady are in a bar and a guy named Gomez is wandering around trying to pick up chicks. I don’t know how their Gomez made out, but I sure hope he scored more than our Gomez.

The Canadiens played with blood, sweat and tears. Okay, there was no blood. And so what that it only looked like sweat and tears and their faces were wet because they’d poured water on them. And exciting! Whew! I’m only now just recovering.

Hey, I’ve only got so many decades left and if I die before they become a great team again, I’m going to be pissed.

Rene Bourque notched a shorthanded goal, which was the Canadiens’ first goal against Washington in 260 minutes, or about the length of time it takes Brad Marchand to read a comic book.

Random Notes;

Those shots of Dale Hunter behind the Caps bench gave me a queasy feeling in my gut. The Habs and Quebec Nordiques enjoyed the most vicious rivalry in hockey, and Hunter was front and centre of it all. He was a nasty piece of business. Actually, a dirty, miserable prick.

Sunday, the boys are in Sunrise, Florida to take on the Panthers. Are you excited?

 

 

Darth Was At The Game

A huge thank you to Darth for sending along some pictures and his thoughts on the Habs-Detroit game that he was at last night. As you can see from the pics (at the bottom), he sat behind the net and up a ways, and I think this is a great view. For myself, I like sitting behind the net. It’s a chance to see oncoming rushes, the play going the other way, and all that goes with the breakout, the defence setting up, and goalies getting ready.

I would also like to say at this time that if any of you are at a Habs game and would like to send pics and a few words like Darth has, please do so. I would really appreciate it and would always post what you send. I love the whole idea of it.

Here’s Darth. He apologizes for the quality of his pictures but I’m absolutely happy with what he sent:

“There were a lot of Detroit fans there last night. Way more than Bruins fans when we have a Montreal/Boston game.

Erik Cole. Wow. This guy is fast. TV does not do him justice. If you think he’s fast on tv, well – you’ve seen nothing. This guy flies down the ice. He’d be right at home with the greats we’ve had. I could easily see him with the 50s-70s Habs. It’s almost like he has rockets in his skates. He’s strong too and along with Pacioretty you can see what a big difference size makes. Cole has been an excellent addition to the team. If the whole team had his drive, we’d be top in the league every year and serious Cup contenders every year.

Seeing Emelin score was awesome! Glad I was there to see a historic moment. They really teased him during the break about it (his fellow players). The crowd roared when he scored. People love him here.

Gomez: I can tell you that one problem he has is inconsistency. This guy does not play a full 60 minutes. No way at all. He does show moments of actual talent but most of the time he disappears. There will be long stretches where you don’t even “see” him on the ice. But every once in a while he’ll suddenly show up and doing something great…then he’s gone again.

I’m not sure how it looked on TV but I can say Detroit looked very half-assed for the first half of the game. They can certainly move though. They’ve got some serious puck skills but last night they weren’t clicking until it was about 6-0. Then they seemed to really come alive. We slacked off a bit though. We should not have let those 2 goals in. The reason they did was because they let the game get away from them – they backed off too much. Everyone in the crowd got nervous. A lot of people were expecting Detroit to actually tie it which I think could have happened considering how much we slacked off.

PK has got some amazing talent. Seeing him go up the ice is incredible Dennis. But does he ever need discipline. This is why Robinson would help. He is going to be a big superstar one day and I hope it’s in Montreal. If he can reign in his stupid moments we’ll see one of the most amazing d-men in hockey.”

One Last Extra, Extra – A Great Year -1978

I’ll bet you’re tired of this. Well, don’t fret, this is the final installment of “Extra, Extra, Read All About It.”

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).

This final chapter looks at the great Habs Cup win in 1978, which was a lovely time indeed if you were a fan of the bleu, blanc, et rouge.

Serge Savard, after his team had had sailed to their third straight championship in 1978, lit a big cigar and reflected. “It’s something pretty special to be a Montreal Canadien, you know. We want to keep that role and the good things that go with it. But we have to work to do it because of those kids.”

And what kids were Savard talking about? Kids who played a large role in the winning of this Cup, youngsters like Pierre Mondou, 22, who assisted on two big goals in the final game a 4-1 win over Boston. It would be Mario Tremblay, 21, who didn’t play in the final until the fourth game, and scored twice. And it would be other young fellows like Brian Engblom, Gilles Lupien, Rick Chartraw, Rod Schutt, Mike Polich, Pat Hughes, and Pierre Larouche. 

And seeing these young guys play their hearts out was the motivation for the team to not rest on their laurels, not stand still, and not pat themselves on the back. There was no complacency on this team.

Scotty Bowman spoke about it afterwards during the celebration. “Having the extra guys who could play for just about any NHL club really helps in the motivation department,” said the coach. “We only have one player (Larouche, obtained in a trade with Pittsburgh) who ever played for another team.”

“Our farm system produces kids who want to play for the big club – and the guys with the big-league jobs know it. The kids are hungry, they have their agents pushing them and it makes a healthy situation.”

Larry Robinson won the Conn Smythe in this 1978 playoff year, his second in three years, (the other being in 1976), and he was awarded a brand new Ford Thunderbird from Sport Magazine for his efforts. “It’s an honour, of course,” said Robinson, “but the key to this team’s success is that it’s a real team and what one guy does is no more important than the contribution of another player.”

Montreal in these playoffs first met the Detroit Red Wings, eliminating the Wings four games to one. The Habs then swept the Leafs four straight before taking out the Bruins in the final, four games to two.

They would win one more Cup the following year before things eventually began to unravel.

Some final few words about Larry Robinson winning the Conn Smythe goes to Don Cherry (coach of the Bruins). “He deserves it,” said Cherry. “There’s nothing he can’t do. There were many four skaters on four situations in this series and at those times there was no stopping him.” 

Thanks for reading this series. Now I can hardly wait to write about our next Stanley Cup, happening next spring.

 

September Was Canada Cup Time

 

It was always around this time, in early September, when those beautiful Canada Cups were held, when the Russians were still the enemy, when Sweden, Finland, and Czechoslovakia offered up National team excellence, and when the United States was becoming, slowly, a team to be reckoned with too.

It was when Alan Eagleson appeared to shine, demanding and getting his way about money, times, the choosing of officials, and maybe even deciding what kind of mustard and relish went on the hot dogs. He pounded desks and swore and bullied his way through five successful ventures, and as rotten a bastard as he was, he got the job done.

Sadly, it was discovered later, with the perseverence and fight of Carl Brewer and his partner Susan Foster, that these tournaments, along with the annual all-star games, were lining Eagleson’s pockets, making him a rich man beyond his wildest dreams. It was money belonging to the players, that should have been deposited into the NHL Players Association pension fund and wasn’t, and Eagleson would later be forced to set up shop in the crowbar hotel for his dastardly deeds. 

There were five Canada Cups, all in September, and each held special magic. These tournaments gave us supreme hockey, brilliant hockey, fast, back and forth, with drama and suspense, great goaltending and memorable goals, and if you were rooting for Canada, you celebrated four of the five times.

Canada won in 1976 thanks to the tournament-winning overtime goal by Darryl Sittler against Czechoslovakia. Myself and other E.B.Eddy workers in Hull, Quebec hid in the mechanic’s room where a television was stored, and we watched the final game with one eye on the TV and the other on the boss’s van that he’d drive around in. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch but we got to see much of it.

Many pick this team as possibly the best ever, and it’s easy to see why. Bobby Orr was the tournament MVP. Denis Potvin said out loud that he was as good or better than Orr in the series, and maybe he was. Larry Robinson, Bobby Hull, Bobby Clarke, Guy Lafleur and a barrel full of other stars were in the lineup. Future Hall of Famers from top to bottom. We were proud in Canada.

Russia came back with a vengeance in 1981, clobbering Canada 8-1 in the final game, and the KLM (Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov, and Sergei Makarov) dazzled and made NHL teams drool at the prospect of getting these guys signed to a contract. That would come later.

Russia also boasted the brilliant Vyacheslav Fetisov and his partner Alexei Kasatonov on the blueline. These two despised each other but played like brothers-in-arms on the ice. And regardless of how powerful this five-man unit was, the Soviets also had an ace up their sleeves – the great Vladislav Tretiak in goal, who once again gave the NHLers fits as he had in the past. Tretiak was named MVP in this 1981 series and all in all, we weren’t so proud this time.

Canada met Sweden in the finals of the 1984 edition of the Canada Cup, and won two games to nil over Mats Naslund, Hakan Loob, Kent Nilsson and company. Gretzky, Michel Goulet, Paul Coffey, Mike Bossy and the rest of the ususal suspects proved too much for the Swedes, and the Canadians redeemed themselves from the previous 1981 embarrassment.

!987 proved to be maybe the most exciting of all the tournaments, at least in my eyes, and one of the most dramatic and memorable goals ever scored happened in the final game. On September 11th, the Soviet Union beat Canada 6-5 in overtime. Two days later, in Hamilton, Canada returned the favour and beat the Soviets by the same score, 6-5, again in overtime. And in Hamilton two days after that, Wayne Gretzky charged up the ice, passed it back to an open Mario Lemieux, and again, it was a 6-5 game, only the winner came with 1:26 seconds remaining instead of going into overtime.

I was in Leningrad, Russia, (before it was changed back to St. Petersburg) when the 1991 Canada Cup was held, and it’s an odd feeling to be sitting in a Russian home watching this tournament. Out hosts often cheered wildly for Canada, but maybe they were just being nice. But it wasn’t the Russians that Canada faced in the final, it was the U.S., and although the Americans managed to go so deep for the first time, Canada swept them in two games to win it again.

I miss the days of the Canada Cup very much. It was us against them, like it was in 1972, only without the initial shock of finding out that great hockey was being played elsewhere, and it offered the added bonus of the other European powerhouses involved. The Olympics now may present the same countries going head to head, but back then, European players still weren’t household names in North America the way they are now. They were still a curiosity, a mystery, and gawddam we wanted to clobber them.

The Canada Cups were a terrific time for hockey fans around the globe. It’s just too bad Alan Eagleson walked away with most of the money.

Extra, Extra…..Part Six in ’86

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).

This is part six – 1986

David Desharnais was born in 1986. Time marches on.

Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey, both well past their prime, called the 1986 Stanley Cup win the sweetest of all their championships. It was a team without snipers, a team full of hard-working grinders, and a team oozing heart and soul. And with Robinson and Gainey’s leadership, grinders grinding, and Patrick Roy in goal, the Canadiens took out the Calgary Flames in five games and Cup number 23 was in the books.

Patrick Roy was named the Conn Smythe trophy winner, a feat he would repeat again in 1993, and talk in the dressing room afterward was about the stop Roy made with just 14 seconds left, a stop that ended a Flames rally in dramatic fashion. In fact, the Habs almost blew it and who knows what would have happened in the series if Calgary ended up winning a game that was in the bag for the home team.

Montreal was leading 4-1 midway throught the third period and they were beginning to lick their lips at the thought of drinking from the Cup. But the Flames had other ideas. They made it 4-2, then 4-3 with Mike Vernon pulled for an extra attacker. Smiles and backslapping stopped on the Montreal bench. The Forum grew nervous. And then the Roy stop happened.  

Here’s Roy explaining the play. “The Flames were all around the net, and I had made the first save on Mullen, but the rebound went to (Jamie) Macoun, who was right beside me. I made the split and got my pad on the shot and then covered the puck with my glove. I was really lucky on that play, but you make your own luck, right?”

“Roy” muttered Chris Chelios. “Patrick Roy. Whew!”

Young Claude Lemieux scored ten goals in these playoffs, including four game-winners. Ryan Walter played with a half-healed broken ankle. Rookie Brian Skrudland, who had his jaw broken early in the game by Calgary’s Nick Fotiu, never missed a shift, and scored Montreal’s second goal.

Skrudland also notched the game winner in game two in the shortest overtime ever…just nine seconds in.

Linemate Mike McPhee, who became a household name in these playoffs, said of Skrudland, “He showed me what I could do when I saw him, at 175 pounds, playing like a 205-pounder every shift.”

Guy Carbonneau, called “the defensive Gretzky,” continued on even with a serious knee injury. Craig Ludwig played with a back so bad he had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Claude Lemieux, a favourite target of the opposition, played like he was possessed. “I like it fine when everybody’s after me…I am an inspiration to every player in the AHL.”

Chris Nilan couldn’t suit up for the last two games because of a damaged ankle, was bittersweet in the room during the celebrations. “I wanted to be wearing the colours,” he told reporters. “I’m glad it gave (Steve) Rooney and (Serge) Boisvert the chance to get their names on the Cup. They deserved it because they worked like hell and never opened their mouths.”

Rick Green, a whipping boy to the public was he came over from Washington with Ryan Walter in the unpopular trade that sent Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin packing, was considered the best defenceman of all in the ’86 playoffs. And Gaston Gingras finally showed he was a bonafide NHLer by having a fine series and scoring three big goals.

Montreal had reached the final against Calgary by first taking out the Boston Bruins in three games  (a best of five), then Hartford in seven games, and finally the Rangers in five.

And the last word goes to Mats Naslund. “We needed a lot of things to go our way if we were going to win. We had a lot of problems during the regular season, and while we were having them those problems, anybody who said we’d win the Stanley Cup had to be out of his mind. But when things started to fall into place, we felt we had a chance. We had the feeling we could beat the teams we faced, and this,” he said with a wave of his hand at the celebrations around him, “is the payoff.”

Part Five of “Extra, Extra, Read All About It”

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).

This is part five  – 1979

Scotty Bowman felt he deserved the Canadiens general manager’s position in the late 1970’s and it never came – Irving Grundman, a bowling alley mogul, found himself in the job instead. So soon after the big night of May 21, 1979, when Bowman and his team took out the NY Rangers in five games to win it all, he would prepare to embark on a coaching path that would lead him out of Montreal and into Buffalo for seven years, then two in Pittsburgh and nine more in Detroit.

But for now, another championship in Montreal would be savoured.

The Canadiens won their fourth straight Stanley Cup in this 1979, and although it was the beginning of the end, it was still a formidable team. The same star players remained, the ones who had steamrolled over opponents the several year before – Lafleur, Shutt, Robinson, Lapointe, Savard, Dryden etc., but they were getting older, and the shine didn’t glisten quite as much as it had. But it was still enough to get it done, at least this once more before other teams like the Islanders and Oilers, waiting in the wings, would take over.

Winner of the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in 1979? None other than Bob Gainey. And coach Bowman had this to say about the quiet and unassuming key forward. “He just drives himself….past what you expect from any player. And he plays every game of the season like that, but people only notice in the playoffs. He has been given all the tough assignments…always. And still he has really improved his offence.”

Eddie MacCabe, in the Ottawa Citizen, wrote about Gainey and his play in this Cup run. “He scored last night with Anders Hedberg riding him like a bronco-buster. He scored in New York in the last game. He got six goals and 10 assists in the playoffs this spring and yet he was almost apologetic about being named MVP.”

Gainey said later about his Conn Smythe award, “It’s hard to believe that my name will be on that trophy with some of the names on there….like Bobby Orr and Guy Lafleur….Jean Beliveau.”

He also took home a whopping $1500 and a new car from Sports Illustrated for winning this Conn Smythe award.

This was Montreal’s sixth Cup in ten years, and everybody hated the Habs. Everybody except Habs fans, of course. And we didn’t mind that people felt this way. We were used to it. 

Montreal reached the pot of gold by sweeping the Leafs in four, edging the Bruins in seven, and then disposing of the Rangers. But Larry Robinson had noticed some cracks. The team had lost the final game of the season, a game they need to finish first, and Robinson felt the loss showed that they had failed under pressure, and he admitted he was worried. He also said his team had played mediocre hockey against Boston and could have easily lost that series.

Change was in the air. And it wasn’t just Bowman who would leave soon after. Because when all was said and done, Jacques Lemaire, Yvan Cournoyer, and Ken Dryden would retire, and the Habs wouldn’t win another Stanley Cup until 1986.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It (Parts Two And Three)

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).

Part one was just a few days ago. This is part two and three -1976 and 1977

It was their 17th Stanley Cup, a beautiful, delicious four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers. How sweet is that? Sweeping the Broad St. Bullies, the goons who had slashed and punched their way to the two previous championships. But this time, real hockey prevailed over thuggery.

All in all, it was the Canadiens plumbers who made things happen. At least for the most part. Bob Gainey, Jim Roberts, Doug Jarvis, and Doug Risebrough proved just how important blue-collar guys can be. The team had Lafleur and Shutt and the boys, but the lesser-lights shone. “Really, the plumbers did the job for us in this series,” said Steve Shutt. “But when we needed the goals, the two big guys (Lafleur and Perter Mahovlich) came through.”

Lafleur and Mahovlich weren’t having a sensational series up until the final game and the plumbers stepped up. But both Lafleur and Mahovlich scored goals in the third period to ice the thing and to prove that singer Kate Smith, the Flyers’ lucky charm, wasn’t such a lucky charm after all.

Kate was there in person that night to sing the anthem, usually it was a recording, but even her live and in colour wasn’t enought for the thugs from Philly. And in the dressing room, the Habs sung God Bless America in a good-natured jibe to the singer.

It had only taken Montreal 13 games from start to finish in these 1976 Stanley Cup playoffs, sweeping Chicago, taking out the Islanders in five games, and then the four-game dismissing of the Flyers.

Some Flyers fans thought it might have been different if their team had been healthy. Rick MacLeish didn’t suit up, and Bobby Clarke and Orest Kindrachuk played but weren’t 100%. And Wayne Stephenson was between the pipes instead of number one, Bernie Parent. But even coach Fred Shero admitted that his team, althought they might have prolonged it slightly, would have lost anyway. “If we’d had everybody healthy, I suppose we might have lasted longer, we might have made it close, at least.” said Shero. “But on the other hand, I imagine that if we had been able to play better, Canadiens might have played better too. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they could.”

And to make all Habs fans giddy, Shero also went on about how good the Habs actually were. “These are guys you can’t ride off the puck. They’re immune to normal forechecking. You put pressure on most defences and they fall apart. They cough up the puck or throw it away. These fellows never panic. They just won’t give up the puck. They’re always in control.”

And Shero wasn’t finished being nice. “And my God, they’re all like forwards besides. That’s what you’ve got to have on your defence in the NHL today. You can put Robinson, Savard or Lapointe up front and they don’t look out of place at all.”

The last word goes to Bobby Clarke. “We were beaten by one great hockey team, the best in many years.”

And now, 1977

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 hate 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 had this to say 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.”