Category Archives: Letters

Phyllis’ Lousy Date

Clarence Campbell sure was a lousy date. He takes his secretary/fiancee Phyllis King to a game at the Forum just after he suspends the Rocket for the remaining 15 games of the 1954-55 regular season plus the entire playoffs for slugging a linesman, and all hell breaks loose.

Folks in Montreal weren’t happy, and it certainly wasn’t a good time for Clarence to be impressing his squeeze. Phyllis ended up with eggs and tomatoes on her coat, tear gas smoke in her eyes and  nostrils, and a couple of rubber boots and programs bouncing off her head.

Bad romance call by Clarence.

But all’s well that ends well. Phyllis and Clarence were married in November of 1955, eight months after the infamous St. Patrick’s Day Richard Riot, so obviously she forgave him for his lack of judgement.

Not the Richard judgement, the going-out-on-a-date judgement.

The following, from my collection of letters, is a rare and original Phyllis King letter from the office of her boyfriend, four years before the lousy date.

Phyllis

Here they are on their romantic date.

coverofTHN

Elmer Ferguson’s Letter

Recently I added two original letters to my collection. I’ll put the other up later on because spacing things out is my new mental health strategy. Sometimes it’s good to be spaced out.

I’ve got a bunch of cool letters and I’m very happy about this one, a beauty from 1929 on Montreal Herald letterhead from the one and only Elmer Ferguson, who was a long time editor of the Herald, later a Gazette columnist, and a guy an important award is named after.

I love old letters. Nobody sends me any, so I’ve resorted to collecting other people’s. Of course, I don’t write letters either but that’s beside the point.

I’ve added a small story about Elmer below it

Elmer

Elmer Ferguson, born in 1885 and deceased in 1972, was the sports editor for the now-defunct Montreal Herald, a newspaper in existence from 1811 to 1957. That’s quite a run. 146 years.

Elmer also did color commentary on radio broadcasts, first with the Montreal Maroons between 1933 and 1938, and then the Habs from 1938 to 1967. He worked alongside the late, great Danny Gallivan in later years.

Mr. Ferguson, who has signed the letter using fountain pen, was inducted into the media section of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982, and the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award is given each year to a journalist “in recognition of distinguished members of the newspaper profession whose words have brought honour to journalists and to hockey“.

Those given this big time award are automatically placed in the Hall of Fame, and among the many honoured are the likes of Jacques Beauchamp, Red Burnett, Trent Frayne, Red Fisher, Andy O’Brien, Michael Farber, and Roy MacGregor, all writers I’ve admired greatly over the years.

The man mentioned in the letter, Cooper Smeaton, was a referee and the NHL’s first referee-in-chief when the league was formed in 1917. He was inducted into the referee/linesmen section of the Hall of Fame in 1961.

Marc Talks About Things

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin met with the press on Monday and didn’t say a lot  but mentioned the core players are maturing but the team in general isn’t mature yet like Chicago and Los Angeles are.

He said there will be more ups and downs, but the team is well on track.

Nice to hear. And we already knew all that. Ups and downs, on track, good core players.

He said Dale Weise was allowed to return and play after getting thumped by John Moore because all the tests looked to be normal, and it wasn’t until the next day that they realized he was concussed.

He looked pretty concussed to me on the TV screen. Wobbly and goofy, just like George Parros, Travis Moen, and Michael Bournival looked when they got clocked. PK had to give him a bear hug to hold him up.

If the test machines said he was fine, I’d be looking to buy new test machines. If the doctors and trainers said he was fine, I think Weise paid them off.

One of the guys Bergevin did single out as playing hard was Brian Gionta, which must be some sort of sneaky ploy. Make Gionta feel wanted and want to stay, and then cut the salary in half. Or something like that.

He played hard, he just didn’t make much of an impact. I’d rather have an impact guy. Put me in a uniform and I’d play hard too. Harder than anybody. I wouldn’t get anything done and I might fall down a lot, but I’d play hard.

For me though, it’s much different about Gionta. I think either Gionta should go, or if he stays it’s for a bargain rate and the captain’s ‘C’ comes off.

Why do I want the ‘C’ off? I don’t even know the guy. Maybe he’s a great captain. I don’t care about that. I don’t want a non-productive wee little guy leading my team.

If I’m going to have a small captain that I can be proud of, I want one like 5’7 Henri Richard or 5’7 Yvon Cournoyer. Guys who play with burning fire and also produce.

Otherwise, I want a bigger captain. Crazy eh?

Really though, at this stage of the game, I think the one big change I’d make sooner than later would be the announcing of the new assistant to the assistant to Head Equipment Manager Pierre Gervais.

Stick boy.

A Letter For Michel Lagace

002

Michel Lagace would report to the Quebec Aces training camp in 1962, as requested by Sam Pollock, and would suit up for five games, collecting one assist along the way.

Previously he had played seven playoff games for the Montreal Royals in ’59-’60 and managed 27 games with the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, both of the Eastern Professional Hockey League (EPHL).

That would be it for his pro hockey career.

Making it to the American Hockey League has always required serious talent, and even though it was only for five games, I say congratulations to Mr. Lagace for getting a lot further in hockey than most of us.

I would have loved getting a letter like this. I’d show all my friends, report to camp, work harder than everybody else, and eventually get called up to the Habs in a year or two. Then I play right wing with Jean Beliveau at centre and John Ferguson at left wing. I’d be on the cover of Hockey Pictorial, make the all-star team, make more money than my dad, and eventually end up in the Hall of Fame.

But first I needed one of those letters. Like Michel Lagace got.

 

 

Irving Grundman Said…

You’d have to think it’s quite odd for a GM to answer some punk’s question about getting tickets. Somehow I can’t see Pierre Gauthier or Brian Burke doing this, or any GM for that matter.

It’s one last letter from the bunch I’d lost years ago and then found recently, and surprisingly, it came from Irving Grundman, who was the Habs GM at the time.

But first, a few things about Mr. Grundman.

Irving Grundman replaced Sam Pollock as GM in 1978, and it was unexpected. Most thought Scotty Bowman would be named the new boss, but it was decided that Bowman would probably be too quick on the draw in trading players, and the bowling alley magnate Grundman was brought in, mostly because of his money-handling abilities.

By all accounts, Grundman wasn’t the greatest Habs GM there ever was, although the recent few might give him a run for his money. It was he who decided to choose Doug Wickenheiser instead of Quebec star Denis Savard in the 1980 draft, whereas Wickenheiser never became the player they thought he’d become and Savard would star in Chicago. Grundman and Jacques Lemaire disagreed on things and the star forward retired and moved to Switzerland. There were also problems finding a decent replacement for Ken Dryden in nets, and three coaches were hired and fired in Grundman’s short time at the helm.

Grundman also pulled the strings on the huge Rod Langway, Doug Jarvis, Craig Laughlin, and Brian Engblom trade to Washington for Ryan Walter and Rick Green and it was this move that is considered most responsible for the saving of the strugging Capitals franchise. Langway would win the Norris Trophy the first two years he was in Washington.

In his defence, Grundman also drafted Guy Carbonneau and Chris Chelios, which were good moves, but all in all, he was considered out of his league and should have concentrated on the bowling alley business.

After he was let go by the Canadiens, he would become a Montreal city councillor, found himself charged with corruption, and sentenced to 23 months of community service and fined $50,000.00.

Almost three months to the day after Mr. Grundman wrote this letter, he was fired by the Canadiens, and Serge Savard would take his place.

Thought I Needed A Lafleur Cap

On February 16, 1985, I watched on TV as the Montreal Canadiens honoured Guy Lafleur. But it wasn’t just the on-ice ceremony that my eyes were focused on. One couldn’t help but notice that fans in the building were wearing special Guy Lafleur caps, which were given out that night.

They were just cheap painters caps, but they were Habs colours with LAFLEUR printed across the front, and I decided that I’d like one too. If those lucky bastards got be there, and on top of everything else, they also got a cap, then I felt I should at least get a lousy cap.

So I wrote Claude Mouton and asked about the possibility. It wasn’t to be.

(All these old letters, which I thought were long gone but recently found, can be seen by clicking on “Letters” in Categories).

Here’s what it looked like, from Classic Auctions.

 

Another Letter. This Time – Ticket Prices

A slight difference in ticket prices from 1984 until now. As you can see, back then prices ranged from 8 bucks to 22. What is it now – $80 to $400?

Blame it on greedy owners, greedy players, greedy agents, lockouts, the union, Glen Sather, Scott Gomez, and the overall state of hockey as we know it. Owners, management, and players in the NHL enjoy riches beyond their wildest dreams by soaking the working stiff. Dads save to buy tickets to take their sons to see a big game, and someone like Gomez floats, does nothing, and then retreats later that night to his mansion to enjoy the fruits of his non-labour..

A Couple More Letters Before The Big Game

In honour of the big Habs-Leafs game Saturday night in Toronto, I’ve decided to dip once again into the cache of letters I found recently, and show a couple of replies from Maple Leaf  Gardens, turning me down for the ever-elusive great seats which I had made it my mission to someday achieve.

I was a just a regular guy with no connections and didn’t go to games a lot, but when I did, it was always up in the rafters, looking down at all those players coming to life from my hockey cards, and they were so far away. You could barely see their faces. I’d look down at the lucky people with great seats close to the ice, and I’d be jealous and tell myself that some day, I’m going to sit down there too.

Most of the time, I couldn’t even get seats, let alone nosebleeds, and whenever I gave it a shot, I’d get rejected. Here’s a couple of good examples.

 

 

Two Letters From Claude Mouton

As some of you know, I came across a pile of my old letters recently, a pile I thought was long gone, and lately I’ve shown those from Red Fisher, Gerard Pelletier, and Jean Beliveau. (If you click on “Letters” over in the Category list, they’re stored there).

Today it’s two from Claude Mouton.

I wrote a letter to Mouton, who was the Canadiens publicity director along with being the Forum PA announcer, (he also did a stint as Montreal Expos PA announcer), and I asked him about my chances of getting a Guy Lafleur game-used stick. Mouton wrote back that it was impossible for them to send sticks by mail, but of course this didn’t sway me. I wrote back and said I’d drive to Montreal from Ottawa and pick up the stick myself.

Claude must have been sick of me by that time, but being the good guy he was, he wrote again and said to give them some notice and they’d have a stick waiting for me. So I drove down after working a graveyard shift as a semi driver, went up to the Forum offices, and they gave me an unused Bob Gainey stick signed by the entire team.

As a side note, I was down at the bottom of the stairs wrapping this stick up in my jacket so I wouldn’t smudge the autographs, when Jean Beliveau opened the doors at the top and saw me fiddling with something, and he froze. I think he thought I had a rifle.

Anyway, here’s the two letters. The first is Mouton’s reply saying they didn’t mail sticks, and the second telling me to come down to Montreal and they’d give me one.