Category Archives: Maurice Richard

Ralph Backstrom Was The Guy

He was all the things I knew were good in life – he skated like the wind, had a great brush cut and a pretty wife, and he wore the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens.

What’s better than that?

This was Ralph Backstrom, and I wanted to be just like him. I knew I wasn’t going to be another Rocket or Beliveau or Geoffrion, but I thought maybe I could be like Backstrom. And I wasn’t even on drugs when I thought this.

It meant getting a brush cut and trying to look like him when I watched him on TV taking faceoffs and darting up the ice with the puck. I could do that and I did. I got the brush cut.

Ralph came out of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, a little town in northern Ontario that churned out NHL players in abnormal fashion, having produced him and Ted Lindsay, Mike Walton, Dick Duff, Mickey and Dick Redmond, Wayne and Larry Hillman, the Plagers, and many others.

About 30 in all. That’s a lot of players.

Ralph was a phenom in Kirkland Lake minor hockey, and became captain and the best of the powerhouse Hull-Ottawa Canadiens juniors before he joined the big club. He had it all, I thought. I gotta practice more, I thought.

I admired the way Ralph Backstrom played, the way he skated and was so solid both as a playmaker and a checker. And I loved the way he and rival Dave Keon of the enemy Leafs went head to head on glorious nights when the Habs and Leafs were what life was all about for Canadian kids from coast to coast.

This guy isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and when he played he sometimes got into coach Toe Blake’s bad books. But he was a great hockey player. Underrated maybe, but absolutely great.

And I wanted to be just like him and I was. I had the brush cut.

DK

001

002
>


John Scott A Hab?

john-scott-parros-201213

Above, a new Hab and an ex-Hab. Will the new one be as fantastic as the old one?

I come home and see this? Big John Scott traded to Montreal from Arizona for Jarred Tinordi, with a bunch of other names and Nashville involved, although these don’t matter.

Sam Pollock, looking down from above, sure must be impressed.

Finally, the team’s goal scoring problems have been addressed. Big John has notched 5 goals and 6 assists in his 285 games, which is awesome because we all know it’s hard to score in the NHL, and he did it 5 freakin’ times!

This is fantastic. Now we wait to see who will score first, John or Tomas Plekanec.

And 5 goals in 285 games is almost exactly what the Canadiens as a whole are doing.

Big John reminds me in many ways of Guy Lafleur, Rocket, and Jean Beliveau. He knows how to skate, sort of, and those three could skate too, albeit way better.

Beliveau was big, but John, standing 6’8″ and weighing 260 pounds, is bigger, so that’s good, right?

And he’s an all-star like them. Fan%$#&tastic! Forget about the difference between fans voting John in as a joke while Guy, Rocket, and Jean got there by merit. This is only a technicality. They all put on their all-star sweaters the same way.

I’m sure there are other similarities too. But right now, with the numbness in my brain, I can’t think of any.

Anyway, who needs a young, skilled, huge, rough d-man like Tinordi who was also a first round draft pick. When the opportunity to grab John Scott arises, you take it.

Beauty trade, Marc Bergevin.

I need a drink.

 

Letters On My Shelf

Many of these letters were written to me, while some I collected along the way. If you find these boring, please don’t tell me.

Beginning with –

Red Fisher (1965) (after I complained to him that Stan Mikita swore at me when I asked him for his autograph at a Hawks-Leafs exhibition game in Peterborough during the Leafs training camp).

Red

Phyllis King (1951) – Clarence Campbell’s secretary and future wife.

Phyllis

Here’s Clarence and Phyllis on their romantic date at the Forum, which helped spark the 1955 St. Patrick’s Day Richard Riot.

coverofTHN

Legendary sports editor Elmer Ferguson (1929). The Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award is presented to outstanding hockey journalists and includes the likes of Jacques Beauchamp, Red Burnett, Trent Frayne, Red Fisher, Andy O’Brien, Michael Farber, Roy MacGregor and others.

Elmer

Sam Pollock (1964). By far my favourite letter.

Claude Mouton (1985)

Irving Grundman (1983)

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

Forum secretary Manon Bruneau (1984)

Letter from Sam Pollock to Habs prospect Michel Lagace (1962). This is the kind of letter I would have liked to receive.

002

Looking for tickets at Maple Leaf Gardens (1965 & 1966)

Two replies from Claude Mouton (1983) about my request for a stick. He gave me a Bob Gainey stick, signed by the entire team, which I picked up at the Forum after driving from Ottawa after graveyard shift.

Jean Beliveau (1984)

I decided I needed an 8X10 glossy of the Rocket shaking hands with Sugar Jim Henry, so I went right to the top. I wrote a letter to La Presse and it ended up on the desk of editor-in chief Gerard Pelletier (1964)

Pelletier would later serve in the Pierre Trudeau government, and was eventually awarded the Order of Canada.

Frank Selke Jr. (1961)

Happy 2016

New Year

Wishing all of you a fantastic New Year, with great health and happiness throughout.

I know the year will be a beauty for me because when you add up each digit in 2016 it totals 9, which was of course the Rocket’s number, and which has always been my special number because of.

And because I’m feeling good about that and other things, I’ve decided to give you a gift:

THE hangover cure.

Drink a bottle of Gatorade before you get into the alcohol. After you’ve finished enjoying your alcohol, drink three more Gatorades and have a nice bowl of chicken soup.

If that doesn’t work, smoke eight joints, drink a case of beer, and go to bed for two days.

nine

The Finest Jacket And Crest

Rocket’s jacket –

010

Jean’s jacket –

Jean's jacket

My jacket –

Roy's jacket

My jacket belonged to a man I knew when I was a kid, Roy Faubert, who was a part time scout for the Canadiens. It came up in an auction in 2013 and I made sure I got it.

I knew it was Roy’s because I happened to be working at Classic Auctions in Montreal at the time, where it was put up for bids, and I saw his name and date on the inside pocket.

It was my job to write the description of the jacket for the auction catalogue, and when I saw Roy’s name, I couldn’t believe it.

(The fact that this jacket came back into my life after more than fifty years is weird, don’t you think?)

But before I even knew Roy, I was already after that unusual Habs crest, because the Rocket had one in the picture above which is in my scrapbook.

I was eleven when I wrote the Canadiens asking about the crest, and below is Frank Selke Jr’s reply.

Those Were The Days

What, you say I never played for the Habs?

Then who’s that in the middle of the back row?

59-60 Habs

Yes, I remember it well. Me and Rocket and Doug sticking lit firecrackers in Boom Boom’s pajamas as he slept. Stealing Toe’s fedora and blaming it on Hicke. Putting Ex-Lax in Plante’s hot chocolate. Finding Backstrom’s paycheque and giving it to the Conservative Party.

But for all the hilarious hi-jinks, we still won plenty of games and were on top of the world. And I like to think that as a smallish-yet-shifty right winger, I did my part.

Those were the days, my friends.

Thanks to a great guy, Ed Wolk in Ottawa, for sending me this big surprise – the only known photo of me with the Habs. (I tried to stay out of the limelight).

 

Rocket In Orillia

I recently posted the photos below on an Orillia Facebook page called “If You Grew Up In Orillia You Remember….”, and lots of Orillians did remember that big night in 1962 when the great Rocket Richard came to town.

It was a big night for me, that’s for sure. Number 9 was my hero, which is something that’s never changed over the years.

Somehow the local sports editor, Lynn Jones, heard about me having a Montreal Canadiens scrapbook with plenty of pictures of the Rocket in it, so he called and asked if he could borrow one for the program they were putting together. I was very proud.

The Rocket signed it, but the pen was beginning to run out of ink.

After these pictures went on the Orillia site, an old baseball and hockey friend of mine, Warren Howes, sent a team picture from that night, with his younger brother, the goalie, in the front row.

As you can see, the entire team is wearing Habs sweaters but it appears they might have been worn to make Maurice happy.  The kids had either their team sweaters underneath, or Leafs sweaters, which is what Warren thinks.

You can see the Rocket standing behind the boys. And in my pile of Habs stuff here in Powell River is a helmet identical to the one the kid in the front row, third from left, is wearing.

Rocket 3

Rocket 2

Orillia Var

Rocket in Orillia

Habs Blast Jets

biplane-crashv

Such a fine way to begin November, with a dominate 5-1 win over the visiting, and sometimes belligerent, Winnipeg Jets.

But Dustin Byfuglien and his pals can take solace in knowing they got hammered by the best team in the league, which should make them feel better when they’re out breaking curfew tonight.

Backup goalie Mike Condon, between the pipes for injured Carey Price, allowed just one goal, which means the big fellow has let in just six goals in his first four starts, all wins, which is impressive to say the least.

Also impressive is the Habs scoring a total of 21 goals during these four Condon games.

Adding to the impressiveness – the David Desharnais, Tomas Fleischmann, and Dale Weise line, which tallied seven points in all. This line was flying all game, Fleischmann was on fire, but the team as a whole had their legs moving in fine style.

It’s hard to imagine these guys in another 30 years when they’re fat and can hardly skate.

The Jets, meanwhile, sat quietly on the tarmac, not going anywhere.

And then there was Paul Byron, listed as 5’7″, 153 lbs, playing like the much bigger Henri Richard, listed as 5’7″, 160 lbs.

Byron opened the scoring in the first period when once again, as he had done in Calgary two nights prior, burst in on a shorthanded breakaway to light the lamp. A fine deja vu moment to be sure.

Two goals and an assist for Byron in his three games, while Alex Semin sits in the press box each night now, wondering, drinking coffee, eating hot dogs, and asking Marc Bergevin if he can get him anything.

The Canadiens opened the scoring in the first, which is always such a nice thing, when lefthanded shot David Desharnais burst down the right side the way the Rocket once did, and after being stopped, Tomas Fleischmann banged home his first of the night.

In the second period it would be Fleischmann doing the bursting down the right side, with his shot eluding Jets goaltender Michael Hutchison. The starting goalie would soon be replaced by Ondrej Pavelec after allowing a fourth goal, a DD marker when he barreled in with Fleischmann and Nathan Beaulieu on what was basically a 3 on 1.

Lars Eller would direct the puck off his skate on the power play to widen things to 5-1, and in the third, the lone goal past Condon came from Winnipeg’s Chris Thorburn, who looks like the Band’s Richard Manuel, who’s been dead for 29 years.

Random Notes:

The 7 points from the DD line included Fleischmann with 2 goals and 1 assist, DD a goal and 2 assists, and Weise 1 assist).

Canadiens outshot Winnipeg 26-19.

The team has now recorded 50 goals in 13 games, an average of 3.84 goals a game. Some serious fire wagon hockey going on with this league-leading team.

Next up – The dastardly Ottawa Senators pay a visit to the Bell on Tuesday.

 

Orr Town

I dislike the Boston Bruins as much as anyone. Can’t stand them. Hate the uniform. When I see someone on the street wearing a Bruins sweater or jacket I say to myself, yep, there’s the friggin’ enemy.

I’m a Habs fan, so these are natural feelings. I have no control over this.

But disliking the Bruins has never stopped me from feeling that Bobby Orr is the greatest to ever lace ’em up. Better than Gretzky. Better than Howe and Lemieux and Beliveau. And yes, better than my lifelong idol, the Rocket.

Any of this can be debated. I just don’t have the energy.

Orr was magnificent, the Norris Trophy was his for eight straight seasons, but his career lasted just nine full seasons because of those wretched knees. It’s one of the hockey’s true tragedies.

Below, some photos I took in Orr’s hometown Parry Sound while driving from Powell River to Montreal to start my job at Classic Auctions back in 2013. Parry Sound is about 60 miles northwest of Orillia, where I grew up.

Below:

-A sign on the highway, of course.
-The house Orr grew up in. The Seguin River, where he honed his skills, is just across the street.
-The name of his street, Great North Rd. (He lived just three houses around the corner from the main drag).
-Orr’s Deli, owned by his dad’s brother. A couple of his nieces work there.
-A big wooden sign in the deli. Too bad about the uniform.
-And outside the Orr Hall of Fame, which was closed.

Orr sign

Orr's house

Orr street

deli

Inside deli

Orr hall of fame

High Times for Max And P.K.

377488-pk-subban-max-pacioretty

For those who came here by mistake, don’t follow hockey, and are unsure of who’s who, Max is the one in the blue shirt.

Great news this week concerning P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty. One who gave and one who received.

First with the Subbanator, who only a few days ago donated a cool ten million bucks (over seven years), to Montreal’s Children’s Hospital.

What a gesture by the 2015-16 Norris Trophy winner and key  member of next spring’s Stanley Cup-winning team. A big-hearted man of the people, and a guy with lots of money.

Rocket Richard gave to charities, visited hospitals, and accepted invitations to countless banquets, not only because certain duties were required, but because he truly loved kids. But in his day, if he’d handed over even a grand to a hospital, his house might have gone into foreclosure.

Whatever. Rocket then, P.K. now – it’s about caring and helping and loving kids and beating the shit out of the Leafs and Bruins.

We now tap our fingers and wait for Erik Karlsson to do something almost as good as what P.K. did. Is it possible? Or is P.K. truly one of a kind?

Maybe Patrick Kane might want to think about doing something like this too.

Next:

P.K. and the boys cast their votes, and Max Pacioretty was chosen by his buddies as Montreal’s newest wearer of the iconic C. A great honour and Max deserves it. He’s a class act on and off the ice, a dangerous sharpshooter, and obviously popular with his teammates.

Maybe his French leaves much to be desired, but hopefully some media folk and fans don’t get their shorts in a knot and just suck it up and let it be.

Habs fans missed having a captain last year, and now the letter is back in place. Max will look terrific when he accepts the Stanley Cup from wee Bettman next June.

Last year I sat with Max, Brendan Gallagher, Brandon Prust, and Tomas Plekanec at a table while they signed autographs, and while Prust and Plekanec hardly said a word and left as soon as they could, Max and Gally were as friendly as can be to all concerned, and stayed afterward and met people connected with the event.

Max’s dad and I have exchanged emails over the past several years, and I might sound like Don Cherry or Glenn Healy here, but I told Mr. Pacioretty a couple of years back that I thought his son would make a fine captain.

And because I mentioned Rocket’s house a few paragraphs ago, here’s a photo of it, situated in the north end of Montreal (Ahuntsic), where he raised a family while scaring the bejesus out of opposing forwards, defencemen, and goalies.

It’s a beautiful house on a corner lot, with a park and river across the street, and the main difference now, compared to when Maurice and his gang lived there, is the upper part, which is completely different than the original dwelling. That and different windows.

I took Lucy to see it, and she seemed impressed that it was Rocket’s house. I stress the word “seemed.”

Peloquin

Here’s the original if you feel like comparing.

20010516-085414-g