Category Archives: Maurice Richard

Lovely Habs Wives In The 1950’s (Part 1 of 5)

This is Maurice Richard, of course, just sitting around with his wife Lucille and the family. The kids are Maurice Jr., Hugette, Normand, Andre, and Suzanne. In the left photo, the Rocket shows his Rocket scrapbook to Normand and Andre. Most kids don’t have dads with a personal scrapbook. However, my dad was probably a much better sign painter than the Rocket.

Henri Richard and his lovely wife Lise, being happy and healthy at home in Montreal. We would see Lise often over the years in camera shots at games with the Pocket. She’s always looked great. Quite a handsome couple, don’t you think?

Henri was just a little kid when his older brother was becoming a star with the Canadiens.

Pittsburgh and Detroit Go For The Cup. This Is Good, I Suppose.

Two real good teams are going to tangle for the Stanley Cup. I’ve got no complaints about this. It’s not like it’s the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricane, or Tampa Bay Lightening. Or even, dare I say, the Anaheim Ducks.

No, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings are a solid matchup and two good hockey towns to boot. Pittsburgh had an NHL team in 1925, the Pirates, which lasted until 1930, and the city’s had the Penguins since league expansion in 1967.

Detroit’s been in the league since 1926 when they took over the Victoria BC franchise. The city and team like to call itself Hockeytown, which is a little off. If Detroit’s Hockeytown, then Montreal and Toronto must be Hockeycities.

And if the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit doesn’t start getting more fans in the seats, the nickname might have to be changed to ‘Used to Be Hockeytown.’

This leads me to my second complaint. It’s fine that Gordie Howe is called Mr. Hockey, but isn’t that for others to label the man? My personal opinion is, he shouldn’t be signing autographs as “Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey.” Doesn’t that make him just a little bit full of himself?

Gordie Howe is considered by not all, but many, as the greatest ever. Greater than Gretzky, Orr, Richard, and Lemieux. It’s a judgement call. Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall told me Howe was the best there was.

He doesn’t need to blow his own horn. Let others do that for him. Let others call him Mr. Hockey.

And I say this with the utmost respect for Mr. Howe.

Am I wrong for thinking this? I’m pretty sure Mario never signed as Mario “The Magnificent One” Lemieux, or Orr as Bobby “The World’s Greatest Defenceman” Orr, or Maurice “Hero of a Province” Richard.

This year’s final is a sexy affair because of so many stars involved. Crosby, Malkin, Hossa, Staal, Malone, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen, Lidstrom, Draper. And the guy who played on the original 1926 Wings, Chris Chelios.

It’ll be good. I may even watch some of it.

The thing begins Saturday in Detroit.

And All Along I Thought Winnipeggers Were Nice

Geez, I thought people in Winnipeg were nice people. But it turns out they’re no different than a couple of people in other cities. Surprisingly, some Winnipeggers don’t like the Habs.  I don’t understand it, but it’s the way of the world, I suppose. Who would’ve thought?

So I say to these Winnipeg Hab-haters, may one of your smaller mosquitos land on your head, pick you up by the hair, and drop you into a haystack with a pitchfork in it.

Here’s what I mean.

Recent letters to the Winnipeg Sun:

 

From GM Ross.

This message is directed to the most overrated, over-hyped and probably whiniest bunch of sore losers, along with their fans. To the Montreal Canadiens: Na, na, na, na, hey, hey, good riddance. And take your homer referees with you. Ole, ole.

 

From Jeff Morris:

Nigel Gauvreau needs to calm down and take a look outside the real world (Mail Bag, May 3). No one cares about Montreal winning the Cup, and all Habs fans have to show for during the past 15 years is that they nearly burned down the city when they beat Boston. Since the same thing happened back when Rocket Richard was suspended, that’s nothing new. Besides, at least the Leafs are looking for a GM who will turn them into a Stanley Cup contender.

 

From Chris Maher:

 

The best thing about the Montreal Canadiens being knocked out of the playoffs will be not having to listen any longer to the Chairman of the Carey Price fan club, CBC’s Greg Millen.

Don Cherry got ripped for pulling for the Leafs or Bruins, but at least if you’re annoyed with Grapes’ views, one has to hear him for only a few minutes at a time.

But Millen goes on for 60 minutes about the Canadiens goalie and his great positioning and rebound control and seems to be over the top with gushing compliments on simple wrist shots from the blue line.

Even without high-definition, one could see the No. 31 Habs sweater under his CBC blazer.

Don’t get me wrong, Price is a great young goalie with potentially a great future ahead of him, whom 29 other teams would covet. But Millen, having been only an average NHL goaltender himself, seemed to be living vicariously through the young Montreal netminder. And when Price began contributing more and more to the Canadiens’ losses and eventual elimination, Millen only then realized the real star of the series was the Flyers’ RJ Umberger, a fourth-line player who almost didn’t crack the playoff roster, and then began to sing his praise deservedly.

Someone help me out here?

Does Ole, ole, ole, when translated mean, “hey Mats Sundin! We see you didn’t come to Montreal and are there any good tee-off times left?”

 

(Note from Dennis: What the hell does the last two sentences mean?)

 

Mike Ribeiro Two-Hands Detroit Goalie. Maybe He Was Using Sidney’s Stick.

It’s an interesting study, this Mike Ribeiro.

Let’s first start in the here and now, and work our way backwards.

In game two against Detroit, Ribeiro, the Dallas Stars offensive threat, while skating past the Wings’ net, received a butt-end from Detroit goalie Chris Osgood. Ribeiro then turned around and gave Osgood a two-hander across the chest of Osgood. It was, for lack of better words, selfish and stupid on Ribeiro’s part.

Now let’s back up a little. Ribeiro was an underacheiving forward for the Montreal Canadiens, and was sent packing to the Dallas Stars for defenceman Janne Niiniman and 5th round draft pick, and he blossomed into a big point-getter and an important piece of the puzzle in Dallas.

Habs critics had a field day with this. Gainey was an idiot, they cried. How could he make such a bad decision to practically give Ribeiro away and now the guy’s a star in Dallas? What a mistake Gainey had made, they decided.

But Gainey traded him for a reason. There was talk that he was a person who helped separate the dressing room into cliques. He was a yapper on the ice who never backed up his tough talk.

And the instance that showed me he was no Montreal Canadien came when they did a close up of him one night in a game against Pittsburgh, and the the Habs were losing by a goal late in the game. And was Ribeiro all business and focused on the task of tying the game up? No. Instead, he skated over to Sidney Crosby and asked him if he could have one of his sticks.

To me, this is no Montreal Canadien. The Rocket and Doug Harvey would be rolling over in their graves about this Crosby stick thing.  Jean Beliveau, I’m sure, never asked Gordie Howe for his stick in a closely-fought battle. Toe Blake would’ve benched him for a month if he did.

I was glad when Ribeiro was traded. And I could care less how many goals he went on to score with Dallas. He was never going to be a Montreal Canadien, plain and simple.

Sure There’s Interest In The NHL Playoffs. You just Have To Go Looking.

The NHL conference finals begin tonight when Dallas clashes with Detroit, and tomorrow, when Pittsburgh and Philadelphia get at it. I’m sure there are still a few fans left who care.

Folks on the Canada’s west coast stopped watching hockey more than a month ago, when their Vancouver Canucks imploded and missed the post season.

Folks in Alberta got a few games of excitement in before the Flames bowed out to San Jose, but Edmonton fans could’ve cared less about that anyway.

Folks in Ontario started checking out cricket and full-contact knitting a long time ago, when the Leafs and Senators did what they do best, and that is look feeble when spring rolls around.

And Habs fans in Quebec and elsewhere are still recovering from the disappointment of not seeing their team march on toward the big prize. (me, for example).

A few people in Nova Scotia will continue to watch because local boy Sidney Crosby is still at it.

Fans in Russia will have to work hard to see their boys Evgeny Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk perform because if you’ve ever been to Russia, you’ll know what I’m talking about when it comes to getting games on TV.

Fans in Sweden will see Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterburg, but only if they set their alarm clocks for the middle of the night.

Probably, though, hockey fans in Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Finland are more excited about the World Championships than they are about round three of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

And people in the US don’t like hockey, or at least that’s what I keep hearing. You know, on the popularity lists we hear about from time time based on TV ratings, hockey is just after badmonton, bowling, ping pong, tiddly winks, and marbles in most states.

However, Philadelphia has their big-time fans. I know this because I heard from most of them during the Montreal series. Pittsburgh fans will also like what they’re seeing, as do folks in Detroit and Dallas.

Detroit is a big-time hockey city, and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have a long and healthy history of the game.

Dallas is a curious one, though. This is football and basketball country. And barrel racing. But somehow, a couple of hundred thousand Texans embraced the game of hockey.

Of course, hockey’s been around for years in Texas, mostly in the form of minor league teams like the Dallas Blackhawks and Austin Ice Bats, or the Houston Aeros of the long-defunct World Hockey Association. So love of the game is there, but how much?

I suppose, when you think about it, when you have a state with a population of 22 million, you’re bound to find a couple of hundred thousand hockey fans, many of whom go to actual games.

Even when the rodeo’s on.

FOOTNOTE:

I know exactly that’s there’s rabid fans in New York state. Faithful reader (which I appreciate so much)Danielleia in Buffalo, for example, loves her Sabres. And years ago, I mentioned the Rangers on a subway in New York City, and some guy who thought I was saying bad things about his team wanted to punch me out.

( I wasn’t saying bad things about the Rangers. I only said I wouldn’t mind going to a game. You have to be careful on New York subways.) 

 

Normand Richard Is The Friend I Never Met

 The young fellow posing with the Rocket is Normand Richard, Rocket’s second oldest son (behind Maurice Jr.). Normand is my age within a few months, and I thought he was the luckiest kid in the world. Imagine being the son of the great Maurice Richard!

I used to daydream about what it would be like being the Rocket’s son. About how Normand would go to  games at the old Forum and sit in special seats reserved for his family and watch his dad, the hero of so many, scoring the big goal with thousands of people cheering his name.

I used to wonder what it would be like at home, having dinner and listening to stories about life in the NHL and games in the other five cities. I thought about the fishing trips Normand would go on with his dad. And I thought about my dad, a sign painter, an ordinary man with very little money, and how our tiny little house surely wouldn’t measure up to the house Normand and his dad lived in.

These were daydreams an eight or nine year old boy dreamed.

When the great Rocket passed away in 2000, I watched the funeral on TV, and I saw glimpses of Normand. He was fifty then, on crutches from a broken leg, and his face held indescribable grief. I’d heard many times over the years how close he had been to his dad, and it was very sad to see him saying goodbye. 

For a lot of reasons, I’ve felt a bond with Normand, and I really love this picture at the top of this page.

The Night We All Said Thank You To Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard

I feel just a small break from the stress of the Boston-Montreal series is needed right now.  Montreal fans were so optimistic going into round one, but the team hasn’t played well, and going into game seven Monday night, Boston carries all the momentum and good feelings.

So I feel we need a change of pace, go back to our roots, and check in with the maestro,  the hero of so many, the man who wore the CH not just on his sweater, but also on his heart, the great Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard.

On March 11, 1996, following a game between Dallas and Montreal, the Canadiens and fans said goodbye to the Montreal Forum. The lights were dimmed, and Montreal Canadien captains from over the years walked onto the Forum ice. Emile Bouchard, Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Yvon Cournoyer, Serge Savard, Bob Gainey, Guy Carbonneau, Pierre Turgeon, and of course, number nine, Maurice Richard.

A torch was lit and was passed to Butch Bouchard. Bouchard then passed it to the Rocket, and the emotional fans in the beautiful old building, the wondrous Forum, erupted in an explosion of cheers, tears, memories, and thank you’s to the greatest Hab ever. Fans weren’t only saying goodbye to the old building, but were also saying thank you to the Rocket, who had done so much to create the mystique that is the Montreal Canadiens, a man whose deeds, fire, passion, success, and humility continues to make all Montreal fans, young and old, proud of the team, and a man the emotional Quebec Habs fans embraced and clung to through rocky political and cultural times in the province. 

The Rocket was my boyhood hero, stayed that way long after he retired, and remains my hero even today. I met him once, but that’s a story for another day.

Here’s a small clip of that night in 1996, when Montreal Canadiens fans, in a 16 minute standing ovation that left most in tears, said thank you to The Rocket. And he wasn’t even sure why. Because he would always say, “I’m just a hockey player.”

Enjoy. 

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1FvJzhg2nE

It Sure Wasn’t Hard Becoming A Habs Fan

I’m asked from time to time why I cheer for the Habs and not the Toronto Maple Leafs, seeing that I grew up only an hour north of Toronto, in Orillia. The answer’s easy. The Montreal Canadiens were a gift from my dad.

My dad’s 87 now, and of course, still watches hockey. He’s been a hockey fan all his life, followed the Leafs when he was young, and he once wrote a letter in the 1930’s to Ace Bailey who lay in a hospital after Boston’s Eddie Shore clubbed him over the head, ending his career, and nearly killing him.

Bailey’s wife wrote a thank-you note to my dad in return.

But slowly, my dad began to turn. The Toronto Star and Telegram both plastered their papers with Leafs stories and my dad began to wonder about the almost invisible other teams. It was always “Leafs, Leafs, Leafs” as he used to say. Foster Hewitt was the definitive homer, and this rubbed dad the wrong way. And dad, being the introverted type, cringed when he read or heard about the goings-on of brash, loud, and arrogant Leafs owner Conn Smythe.

In the fifties, with television entering households, it was only Leafs game shown, and when the Montreal Canadiens played in Toronto, my dad liked what he saw on his TV. There was the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, and Plante. Stanley Cups began to be won by the Habs on a regular basis beginning in 1955, and the Leafs just kept plodding along. The Canadiens had something the Leafs didn’t.

When I was a boy, my dad started a big Montreal Canadiens scrapbook for me. He helped me write fan letters to the the Rocket, and at one point, the Rocket sent me a Christmas card. He took me to Maple Leaf Gardens a couple of times, and once, when we were early and stood at the gate, the entire 1958 Montreal team walked right by us.

He bought me a hockey book which he mailed to Montreal asking for autographs in, and it was mailed back signed by the entire 1958-59 Habs – Richard, Plante, Toe Blake, Beliveau, Geoffrion etc, and the only one missing was Doug Harvey. When we went to a game at the Gardens, he brought the book with him, took it down the the Montreal dressing room corridor, saw Toe Blake standing there, and asked Blake if he would take the book into the dressing room and get Harvey to sign it.

Believe it not, Blake did just that. My son has the book now.

So of course I became a Habs fan. They’ve been magical for me, and the magic has never gone away. It’s been a lifelong love affair.

And it’s all because of my dad.

Holy Smokes! More Fascinating Facts! What A Blog!

Fascinating Fact #1.  It’s just what I always suspected. Patrick Roy is a moron.

Fascinating Fact #2.  In the early 1940’s the Montreal Canadiens were bringing in less fans than the senior league Montreal Royals. The Habs were averaging only about 1500 people in those days.

Fascinating Fact #3.  Guess what changed in Montreal? What caused fans to go from 1500 to 12,000 in only a few years?  Two words – The Rocket.

Fascinating Fact #4.  And guess what completed the growth of fan attendance, from 12,000 in the late 1940’s to regular sellouts at the beginning of the 1950’s. It was the signing of Quebec senior hockey hero, Jean Beliveau.  

Fascinating Fact #5.  Mickey Redmond, who played right wing for the Habs from 1967 to 1971, has been battling lung cancer since 2003. He says he’s feeling fine, thank God. Redmond was also a member of Team Canada during the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series.

Fascinating Fact #6.  Redmond was involved in a major deal halfway through the 1970-71 season when the Habs traded him to Detroit for Frank Mahovlich. Montreal also sent Guy Charron and Bill Collins, along with Redmond, to Detroit.

Fascinating Fact #7.   1950’s Habs grinder Marcel Bonin used to eat glass, and also wrestled bears. And once, while at raining camp in Victoria, BC, Bonin broke his thumb during some horseplay off the ice. He kept it a secret from Toe Blake, then during the next practice, pretended to hurt his hand on the ice and kept himself from getting into hot water with Blake. It worked.

Fascinating Fact #8.   Two NHL players who were notorious for treating rookies on their own teams badly were Steve Shutt and Dave Keon. Shutt’s reasoning was, “hey, it happened to me so it’s gonna happen to them too.” 

Fascinating Fact #9.   Jim Pappin, who won a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, lost his Cup ring years ago.  It was found last year in the Gulf of Mexico when a diver using an underwater metal detector came up with it.

Fascinating Fact #10.  This is the seventh installment of Fascinating Facts. 

Fascinating Fact #11.  Did I mention that Patrick Roy is a moron?

Tony Demers Didn’t Exactly Ride The Glory Train

While myself, Mike, der Habinator, and all the good people of the world who cheer for the Habs and are stewing this very minute because of the lack of effort and coordination shown last night, I thought I’d get away from the day-to-day roller coaster ride the team takes us on and tell you about a Montreal Canadien player who didn’t exactly make the uniform proud. It’s interesting, and very, very sad.

It’s the story of a player for the Montreal Canadiens in the late 1930’s and into the ’40’s, and his name was Tony Demers. In a room in my house, I have a really nice photo of the Rocket, Elmer Lach, and Tony Demers posing as a line. 

So the guy was on his way up, I suppose.

                                                                                                                       tonydemers1_g.jpg

Demers was a guy who only played parts of five seasons in Montreal, as he bounced up and down from the minors. He scored only 20 goals total, so he was no star, not by a long shot. His short career ended in 1942, when he played one game with the New York Rangers, and that was that. Sort of. Because what came next wasn’t exactly what he probably had in mind.

In 1945, Demers was fined for an assault on a hotelkeeper. Then, the next year while playing senior hockey in Sherbrooke, he got involved in a gambling situation and was given a ten game suspension. But the suspension became the least of his problems.

In 1949, Demers was hauled in to the police station regarding the death of a woman who was later revealed to be Demer’s girlfriend. The story issued was that the two had been drinking heavily, they got into an argument, and that he had hit her. Hospital officials, though, claimed it was more than a simple hit, it was a thorough beating. Demers claimed she had gotten all her bruises from jumping from his moving car. And he didn’t take the unconscious woman to the hospital until the following day.

 The court didn’t buy it.

Tony Demers was found guilty of manslaughter and was given 15 years in the maximum security St. Vincent de Paul penitentiary in Montreal. He seved eight of the fifteen before being released.

In the late 1980’s, while I was living in Ottawa, it was announced that this notorious St. Vincent de Paul was finally closing its doors after about 100 years, and the public was invited to tour the closed prison for a dollar. So I took my then-wife and our two kids to Montreal for the day to have a look.

The penitentiary was a horrendous place. They had left the cells the way they were, so clothes, writings on the walls, etc. were there as they had been. It was dirty and dark and my kids got scared. In Roger Caron’s book ‘Go Boy’, he described St. Vincent’s as the meanest and most dangerous prison in Canada, and he knew because he had served most of his adult life in different institutions all across the country.

So while the Rocket, Blake, and Lach, thrilled the Forum faithful with big goals and Stanley Cups, an old teammate, one who shared the dressing room, the train rides, the restaurants, and hotels, sat in a dark cell, maybe listening from time to time on the radio as his old friends carried on. It’s all very sad, but the guy, I’m sure, deserved it.

Demers went into obscurity after his release and had nothing to do with the hockey world after that. He died in 1997.