Category Archives: Maurice Richard

Ahoy Captain

It’s big stuff, this talk of the next Habs captain now that Brian Gionta has gone back to his home state.

The fact is, I don’t think anyone right now has what it takes for the role. Kind of sad, but in a few years, it’ll probably all become clear.

Of course, if someone is chosen this year, please forget that you ever saw this.

The names are tossed around. There’s Markov and Subban, and Plekanec and sometimes Max, and for some unknown reason, Brendan Gallagher keeps coming up. I don’t know why. But more about that later.

A captain’s not there just to make the fans happy that there is one. He has to have big time respect and admiration from teammates. They have to look up to him and learn from him. He has to lead by example. That’s why you never saw Howie Young or Sean Avery or Sergei Kostitsyn wear the C on any team.

A Canadiens captain needs to take Rene Bourque aside when Bourque is comatose and give him verbal smelling salts. He needs to tell P.K. to sometimes calm down, or chat now and again with Michel Therrien and politely mention that embarrassing P.K. in public might not be the coolest thing.

A leader of men. Classy, smart, and distinguished. The opposite of me.

The coaches rely on him to talk to teammates and guide and advise. He has to be great with the media and fans. He has to get along in fine fashion with the on-ice officials. Ask the zebras about the wife and kids. Explain politely that Brendan Prust’s fist into someone’s face was a natural reaction caused by the other player saying something uncalled for about the referee’s wife.

It would be great if the players voted on the wearer of the C but chances are it won’t be like that. Which could also lead to the delicate situation of the player being a bit of a brown noser, one of management’s pipelines. That sort of thing is for losers.

Of course that only happens with other teams, not the Habs. This is a team that rises above the nuttiness. There’s never nuttiness in Montreal, you know that.

Andrei Markov leads by example, that’s for sure, and the players, I think, truly respect him. He’s a hard worker, which a captain needs to be, and he’s been around since he paired with Sprague Cleghorn. But when it comes to the microphone or the PR stuff, it’s just doesn’t seem to be in him.

I know a bunch of his fellow countrymen, and most are cut from the same cloth. Reserved and not all great around anything remotely  resembling public attention. Except Lucy’s son Denis in St. Petersburg, who loves to ham it up when the camera’s out. But I think he’s an anomaly.

As much as I admire Markov, he’s not completely captain’s material. At least not in my book. But you might have a different book.

Same with Tomas Plekanec. Not great in front of the camera. Kind of a quiet guy I think. Not one to take a rookie aside and tell him to lay off the booze and broads. Or maybe he does, but surely not the way a Mark Messier or the Rocket would have handled it.

And if you say that’s old time, that this is now, so what? Because leaders are leaders, whether it’s 1914 or 2014.

As much as I like Pleks, and as much as Brad Marchand dislikes him, which is a definite bonus, he, like Markov, doesn’t have the makeup to be a true captain.

P.K. Subban will be a fine captain some day. He leads by example, he struts in public, and he’s fired up to win. He’s perfect in many ways. We don’t want a laid back captain. We just had one. But P.K. still has a bit of goofiness in him, probably what a captain shouldn’t have.

As much as P.K. is liked by his teammates, do they look up to him at this point the way young players in Chicago look up to Jonathan Toews, or in Anaheim to Ryan Getzlaf, or Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh?

Maybe after this season, after P.K. buys a few rounds, wins another Norris, and is voted Most Popular Guy on the Team by his teammates, then it’ll be time to put the C on him. He’s almost there. Just not quite.

The head scratcher for me is why Brendan Gallagher’s name comes up. As great a player he is, with a heart as big as can be, and a guy who would lead by example as a captain should, he’s still a kid. It’s obvious by the one minute interviews we see. He still talks like a kid. He was like a son to Josh Gorges and his wife when Gally rented a room at the Gorges resident.

Of course you could say Sidney Crosby roomed at Mario Lemieux’s house and was a captain at just 19, but these are two different personalities. I’m sure Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog, who was also 19 when given the C, is a man/boy too. There are guys like that. I once had a teammate when I was about 15 who had to shave every day and had this serious man strength. He looked older than the coaches.

Imagine if everyone had his same burning desire as Gallagher. But he’s not captain material because he’s a kid and I don’t understand why it keeps coming up.

Max Pacioretty might make a fine captain, but it seems he gets into areas when he has to re-screw his head back on from time to time. He’s kind of like me in this regard only I probably take longer to recover. It’s not a knock on Max for having his up and down moments. It’s about a captain not having those moments. One who could help Max along when he’s feeling out of sorts.

A captain has to be a big brother. Jean Beliveau was good like this. He knew how to handle all sorts of egos in the dressing room. Max doesn’t seem to have this in his genes, nor does Markov, Plekanec, Gallagher, and P.K., although at least it seems that way to a guy who only watches them on TV and has never been in the room except during the Bell Centre tour.

The captain situation sort of mirrors the team situation. Getting there, but just not quite. I think it’ll be Subban wearing the C in the 2015-16 campaign if he doesn’t screw it up in the meantime by making his teammates want to throttle him.

It’ll interesting to see how this captain thing unfolds. Just wish we had an obvious choice.

 

 

Happy St. Jean Baptiste Day

Yes, happy St. Jean Baptiste Day to all Quebecers. A big day. A provincial holiday. A time to party.

This is my second St. Jean Baptiste Day in Quebec, but the first doesn’t count because Lucy and I were only just arriving. It doesn’t feel any different. There’s still no party.

I’m still not exactly sure what it is. How come it’s a provincial holiday for John the Baptist? He never even came here. Although he’s a deserving fellow in many ways of course. I think more deserving than Queen Victoria, who has her big day in May.

According to Wikipedia, the first one was celebrated on the banks of the St. Lawrence way back in 1636. Close to the time the Leafs last won the Cup.

It honours the feast of John the Baptist. With all due respect to theologians, why do we say that? I had to look that up and I still don’t get it. I think June 24th is John’s birthday, which is also called the feast of.

No idea and I was an altar boy. Is the feast a celebration of John Baptist’s birth, or one of his big honkin barbecues?

Regardless, it should be August 4th. Maurice Richard Day. The Feast of Maurice Richard if you will.

Jean Baptiste’s buddy Jesus gets some big days like Christmas and Easter. Jean gets a good day at the beginning of summer.

It’s kinda like Jesus is Elton John and Jean Baptiste is Elton’s old friend and songwriter Bernie Taupin. Bernie is really important, but more in the background.

A great St. Jean Baptiste Day to all Quebecers. Even to the ones who want to separate. Peace and love from St. Hubert.

 

 

 

 

 

Flattened Rink

Orillia

The old Orillia rink, where I put on my first team sweater when I was about six years old, is suddenly an empty lot. So is my old high school but I’m not missing that.

I always looked for number 9 because it was the Rocket’s. Often in those first few years I’d get it. Survival of the quickest to the sweater heap. And maybe number 9 was more important to me than to the others.

A rink where Ricky Ley, who became a star defenceman in the NHL and WHA, started life as a goalie and was rarely scored upon because he simply laid down across the goal and no one could raise the puck over him.

Where much of  my childhood and adolescent was centered around, and where the old guy who pulled the barrel of water on wheels around to flood it always had a cigarette in his mouth.

When I was a kid having my dad tie my laces, the rink was actually quite new, the same age as me, but it seemed old, with smells I smell to this day. Great smells. Cigars, sweaty sweaters. Distinct smells. It had only been a handful of years but it wasn’t new, not by a long shot.

The demolition company charged $97,000 to level the old barn, which I thought was cheap. It had become unsafe, the roof was the problem, and I guess it’s never good to sit in an arena watching a game and hoping the roof doesn’t fall on your head.

Developers had stayed away from $649,000 asking price because of the added cost of demolishing. But it was smack dab in the heart of Orillia where $96,000 tacked onto the land price shouldn’t be all that outlandish. I don’t know. Is it?

They turned the Montreal Forum into a cinema, coffee shop, liquor store and bank mall. Now I lose my second rink and it only cost $97,000.

It’s where my winters were spent. Where I went public skating. Where I took a puck in the mouth which broke two teeth, when I was sitting in the stands.

Where I was a smallish yet shifty right winger for Byers Bulldozers bantam and midget all-star teams, and where it was a badge of honor to get lots of concussions, long before we knew what a bummer a concussion could actually be.

Hey! I’m going to blame all my teenage and adult poor decisions on my concussions suffered at the old rink when I was kid! This is the best excuse I’ve ever come up with!

Other Orillia and rink stories are in Categories under “Orillia” and include, among others – Psst, Wanna Buy An Arena? and Old Orillia Rink.

 

The Sunday Book

Happy Father’s Day to fathers. Hope your kids phone you today. Or at least email you. Anything really.

Also hope you don’t mind if I make this my Sunday post. More pages from my old scrapbook. I’m in Port Hope at the moment.

The huge face of the Rocket you see 5 pictures down is from an old Vitalis advertising sign in the barbershop window in Orillia which the barber gave to me. It’s made of thick cardboard and because of its thickness, it was the beginning of the pages starting to come apart.

More Of The Book

From time to time lately I’ve been showing pages from my old Habs scrapbook. Here’s more.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record MP3, just click on the photos to make ‘em bigger.

Guy Should Have A Blog

Guy Lafleur should have a blog. Imagine the insights we’d get!

Guy could tell us all about his troubles with Jacques Lemaire, about why the team hasn’t won the Cup since 1993, why Rejean Houle didn’t get enough in return for Patrick Roy, why Steve Shutt was hard on rookies, what he thinks Michel Therrien is doing wrong, why sometimes there’s not enough foam on the Bell Centre beer. All kinds of stuff.

Imagine the readership he’d get. We’d rush to open his blog to see what he says. It might be the most fascinating blog in the history of blogs.

“You can’t keep guys like Vanek and Pacioretty on the team,” Lafleur now says. “They should stay home if they’re not willing to pay the price. Your team won’t win with players like that who disappear under adversity.”

Guy would get a million hits for that story alone. Advertisers would flock to him. He’d be the king of bloggers.

Lafleur was basically talking about game six of the Rangers series that ended the Habs year. New York threw a blanket over the Canadiens and that was that.

The problem, I think, is that some of the true greats like Lafleur sometimes expect others to step it up in superstar fashion, and I guess lately he’s been stewing about the team, Max and Vanek in particular, not pulling out all the stops in that final game.

Max, however, had scored the winning goal in both the Tampa and Boston series which eliminated those teams, so it wasn’t like he was going through the motions. He’s enjoyed some fine moments. But Guy was focused mostly on game six of the Rangers series when all the boys, not just Max, were stuck in mud.

Vanek, I still don’t know. Guy might have a point there. The guy had helped kickstart the team into another level when he joined them, but was definitely a disappointment in the postseason, not just game six but throughout.

But he’s probably gone anyway so it doesn’t matter what Guy says about it.

Some guys think out loud like Guy, others don’t. Bobby Orr’s teammates in Boston said that if they weren’t playing well in big games, they’d look over at Orr in the dressing room and he’d be glaring at certain guys. No words, just two eyes. If Orr was glaring at you, it wasn’t good.

Lafleur’s very much like Maurice Richard in some ways. Rocket sometimes couldn’t contain himself either, and after too much criticism in his ghost-written newspaper column, sometimes about other players and teams but particularly about league prez Clarence Campbell, Rocket was told to forget the column or else.

But no one could tell Guy to forget his blog. He could carry about things and Gary Bettman or Geoff Molson couldn’t say a thing.

C’mon Guy, start your blog. Get it all out, right or wrong, and make some serious coin doing it.

 

 

It’s Big And Beautiful

My dad and I started the scrapbook together when I was little and he gradually bowed out and let me carry on.

It’s old now, many of the pages are loose, and it’s battered and beat up. But it’s my treasure. I used to invite friends from the old neighbourhood over – “Hey, you wanna come over and see my scrapbook?” and they would and then we’d play road hockey and pose like the players we had just seen in the book.

Here’s the first few pages. The cover was done by my dad, who was a sign painter.

The photos enlarge when clicked on.

A Christmas card Maurice Richard sent me when I was seven sits on the inside cover at the beginning.
Inside the Christmas card
The action photo at the top shows the Rocket just seconds before his Achilles tendon was sliced, which kept him out for months. And on the right, a nice family photo of the Richard clan. Also on this page, Rocket shows sons Normand and Andre his massive scrapbook.
An autographed picture sent to me from the Rocket, Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens ticket stubs, and a photo of Rocket looking at his goals tally are part of this page.

When I Grow Up

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When I grow up I’m going to be a high school dropout, do a lot of nasty drugs, turn my parents into nervous wrecks, drink too much, move all over the place, work a lot of different jobs, get married a couple of times, and wonder why my kids never call me.

I’m going to meet Toe Blake and the Rocket, see the Beatles at Maple Leaf Gardens, end up working to retirement on the West Coast, and instead of retiring, move to Montreal to do a job I’d really wanted to try for years.

And in the same year I move to Montreal, my Canadiens battle in the third round of the Stanley Cups playoffs against the Rangers after taking out the Lightning and Bruins.

But until then, I think I’ll just play a little hockey.

Expos-ing The Sleeve

This might not be the right time to throw in something not exactly 2014 playoffs-related considering the thumping the boys took yesterday, but what do want me to do, rehash the nightmare? I’ve already done that.

I just thought the following might be of interest, that’s all.

After the Rocket passed away in May of 2000, the Montreal Expos played the rest of the season with number 9 patches on their sleeves in tribute to the great hero, who, I might add, gave the New York Rangers plenty of trouble in his day.

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