Category Archives: Maurice Richard

Remembering Doug Harvey

The following is my column in the Powell River Peak, published March 3, 2008. doug.jpg                           

Unless you’re very young, or have never paid particular attention to hockey, you probably know who Doug Harvey is. You might know only that he was a hockey player a long time ago. But maybe you know he’s rated as the sixth greatest player of all time, and it’s between him and Bobby Orr as the game’s best defenceman ever.

He played for the Montreal Canadiens alongside Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau, and the rest of the cast of iconic 1950’s characters, and he was, with the Rocket, my boyhood hero. When I was a kid, my dad even corralled coach Toe Blake one night at Maple leaf Gardens in Toronto to go into the dressing room and get Harvey’s autograph for me.

Doug Harvey’s gone now, but I still think about him, so a few weeks ago, I did what I had to do. I phoned his son in the Maritimes.

Doug Harvey Jr. is 57 years old, is proud of his dad, and he was happy to talk about him. What was it like, I asked, being the son of such a star? “It was probably just like you and your dad,” he said. “We were just a family like everyone else. Kids at school didn’t treat me any different, and when I played hockey, there were no names on the sweaters, so no one gave me a hard time at the rink. “I guess one thing that might be different was that players would come over to the house quite often – Dickie Moore, Jean Beliveau, Jacques Plante, the Rocket a few times. When dad was building our house, most of the team helped him.”Even the kids of the Montreal Canadiens found a connection, probably because they had so much in common. “We lived near a lot of the players,” continued Doug Jr., “and I was a good buddy with Toe Blake’s son. And it’s funny too, my brother has been dating Dickie Moore’s daughter for a few years now, and dad and Dickie were best friends.”Doug Jr. remembers too how sometimes his dad’s job interfered with a family trying to have a normal life. “My mom would get upset with dad because we’d go to games on schools nights from time to time, and for an eight o’clock game, he’d be at the old Forum at 5:30 and stay for a couple of hours afterward signing autographs for people. We wouldn’t get home until after midnight and we had to get up in the morning for school.”

Doug Harvey was a genuine free spirit, a practical joker, a fun-loving guy, a kind-hearted person, and a supremely gifted hockey player. He dominated on the ice in the old ‘original six’ NHL, controlling the game, slowing it down or speeding it up, making precise passes, setting the pace, and was a leader among men.

He was a general on the ice, and won the Norris trophy for best defenceman a remarkable seven times.

Slowly though, over the years, his health began to fail, and then, in 1989, at 65 years of age, the great Doug Harvey passed away.

“I remember visiting him in the hospital and he was usually in good spirits,” said Doug Jr. “One time I was in the corridor and I heard laughter coming from his room. Inside, Bobby Orr and Don Cherry were there cheering up my dad.”

And I’m sure, after all I’ve read, and after talking to Doug Jr., the man with the big heart was cheering them up too.

A Good Rocket Richard Story As The Habs Prepare For The San Jose Sharks

the-rocket.jpg The big game in San Jose is still hours away, so in the meantime, here’s a little ditty to keep you amused. In my mind, at least, you can’t go wrong with a good Rocket Richard story.

After the Rocket had retired in 1960, he went on the banquet circuit. He was in Boston one night for a B’nai B’rith dinner, and when it was his turn to speak he got up and said, “I’m happy to be back in Boston. I came here regularly in my 18 years as a player. We beat the Bruins eight or nine times in the playoffs.  We always won. Guess that’s why I like it here so much.”

Then he sat down.

Pre-Game Rituals Before The Big Game in Buffalo. And Then The Big Win Happens

It’s 2:20 pm Pacific time and the boys are in Buffalo sharpening their skates, blow-torching sticks and drinking umpteen cups of coffee and a Red Bull or two, while ticket takers and ushers and hot dog vendors slowly drift in to ready themselves for when the Habs trounce the Sabres.slum.jpg         more-slum.jpg

                                            (Here’s a couple of pictures of some of the nicer parts of Buffalo.)

I’ve got my pre-game ritual in motion too. Head over to TC’s pub for some drafts, eat lasagna for energy, and today, as an extra little ritual, laugh my head off because rental Marian Hossa got injured in his first game with the Penguins and will be out a week or longer!

Pittsburgh gave up some crazy talent (Christensen, Armstrong, and Angelo Esposito, AND A FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK!) for Hossa, who may be gone again in a couple of months because unlike Toe Blake and the boys, it’s all about money. This deal might come back and bite Pittsburgh in the ass.

4:30 Pacific time  – Game time. If all reports are correct, not one Montreal player got mugged on his way to the Buffalo rink.

5:00 Pacific time – Montreal jumps out to 2-0 on goals by Pekanec and Streit. Not sure if Montreal fans who made the trek to Buffalo have started to sing the ‘olay’ song just yet. Many though, are having a riot and drinking lots of beer. 

5:07 Pacific time – Just thinking that Buffalo used to have some good teams in the days of the French Connection line with Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, and Rene Robert. You know, it’s sad that Perreault didn’t play for the Habs. With him and Lafleur together, it would have been historic. People would still be talking about them. It could have been Morenz, Richard, Beliveau, Harvey, Lafleur, and Perreault.

6:08 Pacific time – Tomas Plekanac just scored for the third time tonight as the good guys are beating the bad guys 4-1. The ‘experts’ say there’s too many small guys on Montreal for them to be dangerous. But Plekanek, who’s only 5’10, one of those small guys, looks pretty dangerous to me.

Do you know that TSN guy Pierre McGuire picked the Rangers and Minnesota as two of the five teams he thinks will win the Cup. Montreal didn’t even get a sneeze. But McGuire and his fellow ‘experts’ like Bob McKenzie and Dave Hodge all picked Montreal to finish 14th and so far out of the playoffs you’d need a telescope to see them.

7:01 Pacific time – Holy smokes. 6-2 Montreal over Buffalo. What a big win. It was 5-1 over Atlanta, and now 6-2 in Buffalo since the Habs made Carey Price their number one goalie. And this win catapults them over Ottawa for top spot in the north-east!

I’m sure the team flies back tonight, so guys, get home, have a midnight sandwich, relax, and get ready for another big game Saturday night against the Devils. But leave your wives alone. Eddie Shore, Victor Tikhonov, Punch Imlach and Toe Blake all believed there should be no sex the night before the game. So it’s good enough for them, it should be good enough for you.

A Blown Opportunity, And A Big Night Coming Up

It could’ve been a beautiful thing, a Hollywood sequel, where the good guy in the white hat wins, grabs the girl, and rides off in to the sunset.

But it wasn’t to be. Montreal battled back against Pittsburgh, down 3-1 to grab the lead 4-3. But late in the game, the bad guys, the men with black hats, the Pittsburgh Penguins, scored twice quickly and got two big points.

So I’ve got nothing to say about this, except that Pittsburgh star Evgeny Malkin had a goal and two assists, and Montreal’s Michael Ryder scored again to make it four goals in three games, and is now either a little safer in his job with the Habs, or is much better trade bait for the team if they want to try and get someone like Alex Tanguay.

So enough about this blown opportunity. It’s time now to focus on Saturday night when Columbus comes to town. Montreal must win this game or they’re only another loss or two away from another slump, which can’t happen at this stage of the game.

And also on this same night, prior to the game, Montreal GM Bob Gainey gets his old number 23 retired to the rafters.

Gainey will join a nice long list of players to receive such an honour in Montreal. And because I want to take my mind off the loss tonight, instead I’m going to focus on giving you a list of the Habs stars who have their numbers retired.

They are:morenz.jpg

1. Jacques Plante

2. Doug Harvey

4. Jean Beliveau

5. Bernie Geoffrion

7. Howie Morenz

9. Maurice Richard

10. Guy Lafleur

12. Dickie Moore and Yvon Cournoyer

16. Henri Richard

18. Serge Savard

19. Larry Robinson

29. Ken Dryden

And this Saturday Night. No 23. Bob Gaineygainey.jpg

To Ottawa Senators Fans, Do You Really Mean Those Boos?

That sound you hear tomorrow night in Ottawa is the sound of people cheering the Senators and booing the Habs? And that sound is the sound of long-time Montreal Canadiens fans who’ve become Senators fans.

I know, I know. The unwritten book of civic pride says you should always support your home team. But picture this. You grew up in east Ottawa making childhood scrapbooks of your team, Les Canadiens. You wrote fan letters to the Rocket and Beliveau, or Cournoyer and Lafleur. And you showed your son how to do the same with Patrick Roy and Vincent Damphousse.

From time to time you bought a bus/Forum ticket package and went down the 417 to see a game in your magical Forum. Then you took the bus back to Ottawa that same night, but still going to work the next morning.

You wore the Montreal sweater when the games were on TV. Pictures of Habs graced your rec room, to your wife’s dismay. You got into arguments with Leaf fans. Your eyes went moist when the Habs hoisted the Cup.

You were the staunchest, most die-hard, most loyal Montreal Canadiens fan you knew.

Then, in 1992, the Ottawa Senators started playing again after 60 years of being away. Suddenly you stopped going to games in Montreal. You bought a Sens jersey and put your Habs one in a trunk. You convinced your son of the magic of Heatley and Spezza instead of Kovalev and Koivu. Your pictures came down and the old scrapbooks somehow got misplaced. You still argued with Leaf fans, but for different reasons.

It’s all very sad. But I suppose it’s noble to back the home team. It’s good and proper community spirit. I just wonder if somewhere deep inside, deep in the crevices of your heart, sitting like cobwebs on your soul, lies a little bit of love for your old passion, your old team, the Montreal Canadiens.

Maybe it never completely went away.

Howe, Orr, Gretzky, and Lemieux. Which One Goes?

You’re the unbelievably lucky GM of your team because you have Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, and Mario Lemieux on it. But because of your tight budget, you must trade one of them. All are 26 years old, and all are completely healthy. Who will you choose?

GORDIE HOWE, Mr. Hockey, was 6’1″, 205 lbs, and played right wing. In his career, he won 4 Cups, 6 MVP’s, was scoring champ (Art Ross trophy) 6 times, played in 23 All Star games, and holds 9 NHL records. In 1767 games, the big guy scored 801 goals, 1049 assists, for 1850 points.

Howe was also tough as nails, strong as an ox, and if you tried to rough him up in the corner, chances are you came out with your nose broken. He is Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall’s choice as greatest ever.

BOBBY ORR was like a forward playing defense. He could skate like the wind, make end to end rushes and get back quickly enough to break up the attack. and for all the beautiful things he could do with his skills, he was also undeniably strong and could hold his own in fights with pretty well anyone in the league. He was 6′!”, 200 lbs, and is the only defenseman in history to win the Art Ross trophy as scoring champion. He won two Stanley Cups, and in 657 games, notched 270 goals, 645 assists, for 915 points. He holds the record for most points by a defenseman in one season with 139. He would be Don Cherry’s choice.

WAYNE GRETZKY, The Great One, can only be measured by the magical numbers he put up because he wasn’t strong, couldn’t fight, and looked like he should be playing beach volleyball instead. But what numbers! In 1487 games, he scored 894 goals, 1963 assists, for 2857 points. He was a machine. He holds 40 regular season records, 15 playoff records, and 6 All Star records. He won 4 Stanley Cups, was MVP 9 times, and had over 200 points 4 times. And when you think about think about the fact that a 50 goal season is an incredible accomplishment that only a few of the elite can reach, remember that Gretzky had a 92 goal year, and an 87 goal year. He was a machine.

MARIO LEMIEUX was big – 6’4″, 230 lbs, and if he hadn’t had problems with his health that included Hodgkins Lymphoma, his numbers just may have been up around Gretzky’s. Gretzky played 572 more games than Mario.

 In 915 games, he scored 690 goals, 1033 assists, for 1723 points. He holds 12 NHL records and 11 Pittsburgh Penguins records. He also won 2 Stanley Cups and was MVP of the league 3 times. He had a big reach, soft hands, and could score carrying players on his back, much like the Rocket did.

BUT AS GM, YOU HAVE TO GET RID OF ONE OF THESE GUYS.

I suppose there’s two choices. Bite the bullet and choose one, or just retire early so you don’t have to make this decision.

But I’m making mine. And I choose……..Mario.

Mario was huge but didn’t really care for the rough going. (An aside: His very first fight was against my good friend, the much smaller, and tragically, recently deceased Gary Lupul). Howe was tougher than anyone in the league, Orr was tougher than the majority, and Gretzky had Dave Semenko. Mario also wasn’t all that hard a worker when he didn’t have the puck.

Other than these, the only reason I can come up with is I just can’t see myself saying goodbye to Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, or Wayne Gretzky. 

I Wonder If George W. Bush Is A Habs Fan

Three big nights coming up for the surging Habs, beginning Thursday in Washington to complete the home and home series with the Capitals. I wonder if George W. Bush likes hockey. Do you think he’s heard of the Rocket, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr? Maybe Sean Avery?

I’m sure he must know something about Wayne Gretzky, and possibly Mario Lemieux. He’s probably aware of Alex Ovechkin, but only because they work in the same city. George is a baseball and football guy. But from time to time, he might check out page 7 or 8 of the Washington Post sports section, where hockey is buried, and notice something about the Capitals.

Why, he may have even noticed a story about the big 4-0 win by Montreal over his home team the other night. Cripes, I hope he doesn’t bomb Montreal.

I like the Caps, but only because of their new coach, Bruce Boudreau. Otherwise, they’re meaningless to me. Boudreau seems like the kind of guy you were pals with in school, the one who helped with your paper route, the one whose mom had the great cookies. He seems like just an ordinary Joe who happens to be fullfilling a dream right now. I hope he does well, just not on Thursday night.

Saturday afternoon, Montreal takes on the Islanders, then Sunday it’s down the freeway into Manhattan to tackle the New York Rangers, home of Mr. Congeniality, Sean Avery.

Note from Dennis:  It’s 1 am Saturday morning and I just realized the Islanders and Rangers are playing in Montreal. So about the last paragraph? Pretend you didn’t read it. Except the part about Mr. Congeniality. (It’s not my fault. I’m old.)

Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby: Who Would You Choose?

They’ve both been in the league since the 2005-06 season, and both, in their own distinct ways, have been fabulous. Any General Manager, if asked who he would pick from these two to build his team around, would have to think long and hard. Crosby is the successor to Gretzky and Lemieux’s mantle, and is The Next One. Ovechkin plays with abandon, and several of his many goals have been described as some of the prettiest ever. Both fill rinks wherever they play, both genuinely love the game, and both have the big numbers.

SO HOW DO THEY MEASURE UP? LET’S TAKE A LOOK.

Sidney Crosby is 20 years old, and Ovechkin is 22.

Crosby is a centreman. Ovechkin plays left wing.

Crosby is 5’11”, 200 lbs.  Ovechkin is 6’2″, 217 lbs.

Crosby, in 206 games, has 95 goals, 190 assists, for 285 points. (with 207 penalty minutes.)

Ovechkin, in 213 games, has 137 goals, 126 assists, for 263 points. (with 126 penalty minutes.)

THE QUESTIONS THAT REMAIN TO BE SEEN ARE:

Who will prove to be the bigger winner. Crosby’s on a better team and may wear a Stanley Cup ring soon. Ovechkin may never wear the ring. Winners create more of a legacy than non-winners.

Who will have more longevity. Both are good sizes, but both go kamikaze to the net. Crosby already is in the midst of a serious ankle injury. Ovechkin has dodged the bullet so far.

Crosby’s a Canadian, so his love of hockey is built in. For him, hockey’s as natural as eating and sleeping.

Ovechkin’s Russian. And you can tell by the smiles that he finds sheer joy in playing the game. It seems his love of hockey is built in too.

Crosby’s a better playmaker with all the hockey smarts. Ovechkin just plays with natural instinct and has a colourful knack when scoring. 

Crosby is the new Gordie Howe. Ovechkin is the new Maurice Richard.

What It Takes To Be A Good Montreal Canadiens Fan

A GOOD MONTREAL FAN:

Won’t have another favourite team also.

Will have a real dislike for Toronto and Boston, and probably Ottawa.

Won’t stop rooting for them if you live in, or close to, another NHL city.

Will feel lousy anytime the team loses.

Is proud to say you’re a Habs fan in any circle of people.

Will never admit that Howe was better than Richard.

Really, really wishes they’d win the Cup soon.

Will say that Harvey comes right after Orr for greatest defenceman, even if you’ve never even saw a film clip of him.

Really misses the Forum.

Really misses Claude Mouton.

Really misses Danny Gallivan and Rene Lecavalier.

Never bets against them in sport select-type lotteries.

Won’t sing that wretched song when the game is close.

The Rocket, the Montreal Canadiens, and Rich Man, Poor Man

This year, Montreal’s Andrei Markov will earn 5.7 million dollars patroling the blueline. Teammate Roman Hamrlik will be close, at 5.5 million. Captain Saku Koivu stands at 4.7 million.

In 1940, Montreal’s Ken Reardon was paid $4000 for the season. Junior Langlois in 1959 made $7500. Jean Beliveau, who the Canadiens practically got down on their hands and knees to sign in 1953, was paid an unheard of $25,000, but that was what he’d been making with the senior Quebec Aces and the Habs had to at least match it.  And Rocket Richard was paid $5000 for his first season, in 1942-43, and earned a total of $350, 000 over 18 star-studded seasons with the Habs, ending in 1960.

This year, Francis Lemieux, a centreman who has yet to crack the Habs lineup, earns $461, 667. That’s $111, 667 more than the Rocket made in his lifetime.