Category Archives: Maurice Richard

I Needed The Photo

I decided when I was 13 that I needed an 8×10 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.

And who is Gerard Pelletier, you ask? Well, aside from being editor at the Montreal French-language daily, and according to Wikipedia, he, his buddy Pierre Trudeau, and Jean Marchand were recruited by Prime Minister Lester Pearson to help derail the rising Quebec separatist movement.

Later on, Pelletier would become a cabinet minister in the Trudeau government, and would eventually take the role of ambassador to France, and then ambassador to the United Nations. He was also awarded the Order of Canada.

So as you can see, he was quite a big shot.

I think it was mighty nice of him to write to me, considering his paper was on strike at the time. And yes, he did pass my letter on to the sports department, because at some point, my 8×10 glossy showed up at my house.

 

 

 

Iced Lightning

This brought me back once again to those days when my friend Ron Clarke and I would put on our itchy wool Habs sweaters, play road hockey until the evening got dark and we couldn’t see the ball, and our moms would call us in for supper.

It reminded me of Ron and I trudging up to the arena, duffel bags over our shoulders, ready to be the Rocket and Jean Beliveau and Ralph Backstrom once again.

Hope you enjoy this great 9 minute clip from the 1940s, showing kids, older kids, girls, pros, all playing the great sport of hockey.

Below the clip, some screenshots sent by my friend Ed Wolk.

Batter Up!

Baseball’s on its way and I’m happy about that.

Below, Jacques Plante at bat, sizing up the pitcher; Boom Boom Geoffrion pounds his glove; Andre Pronovost, Phil Goyette, and Claude Provost share an inside joke in the dugout; Dollard St. Laurent at bat, hoping for a nice juicy one down the middle; and Marcel Bonin, the Rocket, and catcher Jean-Guy Talbot plan some serious strategy, because with these boys, whether it’s hockey or baseball, winning is everything.

(from my scrapbook).

And an earlier photo of coach Dick Irvin and Butch Bouchard.

Too Close for Comfort

Shockingly, there was a moment in time when we almost lost the Montreal Canadiens when the train they were on came close to plunging into an icy river.

The Canadiens had fallen to the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-1 in Toronto on December 20, 1950, and hours later were heading back to Montreal. Just 35 miles from the city, in the morning, the train began to cross the Dorion bridge high above the St. Lawrence River, but a cracked wheel bearing caused the baggage car to hop the rails. Quickly the next four cars also left the track, and members of the Canadiens moved to one side of their car to try and keep it from tipping.

Finally, after a few harrowing moments, the rest of the train, with the Canadiens on it, managed to hug the ties and make it across. Barely.

Several passengers were injured although all of the Canadiens players were fine, and everyone was brought back to Montreal by another train and some buses.

But it was as close as can be to losing the entire Montreal Canadiens team.

Kids and Dads

Jacques and Michel Plante, Maurice and Andre Richard, Bernie and Bobby Geoffrion, and Toe and Bruce Blake at what I think is the 1957 Christmas party. A couple of wives and a young figure skater are over to the right.

Rocket appears to be wearing a slipper. In November of 1957, he severed a tendon on his right ankle and was on the mend.

In this photo, the Rocket still hadn’t gained that final ten pounds or so that he carried with him in his last few years. He retired after leading his team to a fifth straight Stanley Cup in the spring of 1960.

Don’t Mess With Rocket

Hall of Famer Tom Johnson, who toiled on the blueline for the Canadiens from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, told the Montreal Gazette back in 1996 about the time a group of Habs shaved Rocket Richard’s chest during a train trip. “He was a strong guy and it took eight of us to hold him down,” Johnson said. “But he got his revenge while we were sleeping the next night. He took one shoe from each of us and threw it off the train. We arrived in Montreal and it was snowing – and here we were walking through the station with one shoe each.”

They’re Humans!

The 1972 Summit Series wasn’t the first time the Russian National team set foot on North American soil. Fifteen years prior, in 1957, the Soviets played exhibition games in Canada, were guests of Maple Leaf Gardens for a Leafs-Hawks game, and made it known that one of their priorities was to see the great Rocket Richard in action (I don’t know if this happened or not).

They played to capacity crowds, said the big difference between NHL and Russian hockey was “the unnecessary roughness in the NHL”, and a Canadian teenager, seeing the foreigners in a hotel lobby exclaimed, “They’re humans, just like we are!”

R.I.P. Red Fisher

Red Fisher, the man we all knew had the best job on the planet, has died at age 91.

Red covered the Habs for the Montreal Star and Montreal Gazette, beginning in 1955 and ending in 2012, when he was 85-years old. He became one of the boys, part of the players’ and coaches’ inner circle, winning or losing money on card games while the trains took to the team to other big league cities.

His first hockey assignment was, amazingly enough, the night of the Richard Riot (March 17, 1955) at the Forum.

It had to have been an incredible time for Red, covering those Stanley Cup teams over the years and doing so in such fine and unique fashion, and at this time my thoughts go out to Red’s family and friends.

I can only add a bit of a personal story about Red.

In the early 1960s I was a kid at an exhibition game in Peterborough, Ontario between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks, and I approached Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who were standing by the boards, for autographs. Hull was more than happy to oblige, but Mikita was surly and miserable. I’ve always maintained that he told me to go to hell (or worse) but over the years I began to hope that he didn’t really get that harsh, that it was just me, because I was young, making too much of something.

I would like to say this… In no way is this to be taken that Stan Mikita was a bad person. In the beginning he was a little rough, but as the years went by, Mikita became a fine, friendly gentleman, a class act, and a legendary and deserving Hall of Famer.

After this incident in Peterborough, I wrote a letter to Red Fisher at the Montreal Star about it, and this is his reply back to me.

In The Magazine – Mistakes and All

If you have number six of Les Canadiens magazine from the 1991-92 season, then you have a small story about me, complete with a couple of errors.

I was in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1991, at the time the Soviet Union was falling apart, a mind-blowing and historic time to be sure, and I was visiting a bunch of serious Habs fans who had their own Montreal Canadiens Fan Club. We were at the president of the fan club’s apartment and we sat around drinking tea and talking hockey.

The fellow in the black San Jose Sharks shirt was my translater, and he was a Russian scout for the San Jose Sharks and later the Anaheim Ducks.

That’s me in the middle, clean-shaven, with a serious sunburn. And unfortunately, the magazine made a few mistakes. The picture of the fellow in the Habs jacket holding the puck isn’t me, although it says it is in the caption below it. (It’s Anatoli Brel, who I went with to the meeting).

The story that accompanies the pictures says that “Dennis Kane is the only foreign member of the Canadiens Fan Club in St. Petersburg. As a boy, Dennis was always writing letters to his heros, Doug Harvey, Bernard Geoffrion and Maurice Richard; he still has their lovingly replies. (Second error – I don’t have any replies except for Rocket’s Christmas card and a couple of autographed pictures. The author took some liberties here.)

And then, one day, he came across a newspaper article about Anatoli Brel, a Russian fellow looking for a Canadiens fan with whom to correspond.

After six years of exchanging letters, Dennis decided to go visit his hockey pen pal and meet the fan club people who met once a month to talk about the Habs and bring their statistics up to date. “It was really weird,” he recalls. “There I was, thousands of miles from Canada, on a street in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), and there was this huge Canadiens logo in the window.”

Following that memorable meeting, Dennis received a letter officially confirming his membership in the Canadiens Fan Club…St. Petersburg Chapter! What more could you ask?

Boxed Patrick

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I bought this 12-inch ‘Patrick Roy’ McFarlane figurine a decade or so ago at Wal-Mart, not because I’m a great Patrick Roy fan, but because this thing is incredibly beautiful. The problem with most figurines is that it’s impossible to re-create the face properly, but with this one, there was no such problem because he’s wearing his mask. And the rest of it is dead-on.

I paid roughly 30 bucks for it, and on ebay now they’re selling for about $200. And the only way for something like this to ever grow in value is to never take it out of the box, which is the case here.

That’s the key, making sure it’s never removed from the box. So you have to make the decision – do you take it out of the box and enjoy it, or leave it in and enjoy it not quite so much?

It’s the same principle, sort of, as never removing the dust jacket from a book. Dust jackets make all the difference in the world of book collecting. Collectors will scramble to find that first edition Ernest Hemingway complete with jacket, and pay the big bucks. But they won’t bother near as much if the same Hemingway doesn’t have the dust jacket.

So always keep them on your books. Unless you just want to enjoy them. Kind of a silly decision isn’t it? If you’re a rebel you’ll just enjoy them with or without, which is why they were written in the first place. Or you could not even read them, just collect them because they have dust jackets.

Rocket book with dust jacket
Rocket book with dust jacket
Rocket book with no dust jacket
Rocket book with no dust jacket