Category Archives: Maurice Richard

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.

  

I Think I’m Going To Have A Green Beer And Toast The Richard Riot

I know I don’t have to go into detail about what happened on this day, March 17, in 1955. (53 years ago). On second thought, maybe a little detail. Because it was, after all, a really big deal.  rocket.jpg

It was, of course, the Rocket Richard riot in Montreal, and many feel feel it was the beginning of the French-Canadian voice being heard louder, and the germ of Quebec separation ideas.

It began during a game previously, in Boston, and the Rocket, while skating past the Bruins’ Hal Laycoe, who had previously played for the Habs and had considered himself a friend of Richard’s, clipped the Rocket on the head with his stick. Richard became quite upset and whacked Laycoe with two different sticks, breaking the second over Laycoe’s back. He even found a third stick and hit the Bruin again.

Then the biggest problem of all occurred. Richard punched the linesman who was trying to control this mightly pissed-off number nine.

League president Clarence Campbell, who was basically a puppet to the owners, and a man the French considered an arrogant English asshole, (L’asshole anglais), then pulled the shocker. He suspended the Rocket for the remainder of the regular season and all of the upcoming playoffs.

This, of course, didn’t sit well with almost everyone except the other teams and their owners. In fact, the owners had thought for awhile that the Rocket was getting too big and needed to be reigned in. He sure was reigned in.  But the angry mobs weren’t

On St. Patrick’s night, with Detroit in town, Campbell sat down with his future wife to enjoy the game. Instead, he got slapped in the face by someone, then others started pelting him with tomatoes, and then someone let off a smoke bomb.

The game, naturally, was cancelled, with the win given to Detroit, and outside, all hell broke loose. Store windows were smashed, looters looted, and in general, it wasn’t Woodstock by any stretch of the imagination.

So to wrap this up, a few different things came out of this that I find interesting. It was Montreal sports writer Red Fisher’s very first day on the job covering the Habs. Bernie Geoffrion overtook Richard to win the scoring title. The Red Wings took out Montreal in the playoffs. The Rocket went on the radio to plead for peace on Ste Catherines Street. And the smoke bomb was later found out to be police-issue. You can read what you want into that one.

Personally, I’d love to know who the culprits were who slapped Campbell, threw the tomatoes, and let off the smoke bomb. They set history in motion.

I Was Only $28,500 Short Of Getting The Sweater

Johnny ‘Black Cat’ Gagnon played for the Montreal Canadiens, (and also the NY Americans and Boston Bruins) from 1930 to 1940. He wasn’t a big star (120 goals, 141 assists in 451 games) but enjoyed success playing alongside Howie Morenz and Aurele Joliat.

Just a few days ago, Classic Auctions in Montreal, which is the foremost hockey auction house on the planet, sold Gagnon’s Montreal sweater #14 for $28,551. I really wanted this sweater, and I thought I had a chance. But then it went past fifty bucks so I had to bow out.

Here’a few other Habs items that sold in the auction. It must be nice to be a collector who happens to be a rich bastard. Must be lawyers snapping these things up.

Here’s what I mean:

Carol Vadnais’ 1993 Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup Championship ring – $23,102.

Jean Beliveau’s 1969 Montreal Canadiens game-worn sweater – $22,013.

Beliveau’s 1972-73 Stanley Cup ring – $32,211.

Henri Richard’s ’73-74 jersey – $13,500

Original 1978-79 Stanley Cup banner which hung from the Forum – $6000.

Player’s sweater worn during the 1937 Howie Morenz Memorial game – $7,150

Guy Lafleur’s 1981-82 game-worn sweater – $11,000

None of Dennis Kane’s Byer’s Bulldozers Orillia Midget team items were available, but I’m sure they’re worth quite a bit. 

Classic Auctions is unbelievable. Two or three times a year they hold these amazing auctions that always include things like letters from Lord Stanley, important sticks that belonged to Morenz and the Rocket, for example, and just about anything else you can think of that is worth more than what you and I can afford.  Classic is the Sotheby’s or Christies of the hockey world. I wouldn’t mind getting a job there.

Goodbye Ken Reardon. Plus, Halak Shuts out The Islanders

Ken Reardon was a rough, tough, hard-rock customer for the Montreal Canadiens in the 1940’s, a rugged, aggressive and often fiery defenceman who after retirement became a high level executive for the Habs.

Ken Reardon died this morning, March 15, at 86 years old, and once again, another great Montreal Canadien from the past leaves us.  reardon.jpg

From the time Reardon joined Montreal in 1940, his life could be told in three chapters. His rugged, all-star play on the ice; his enlisting in the Canadian Army during World War 11 after only two years with the Habs, and being a main cog on the army hockey team; and his tenure as executive with the Habs, where he worked as assistant to Frank Selke and others, and was both a teammate, friend, and ultimately the boss of Maurice Richard and Toe Blake.

A story I like about Reardon occurred when Reardon was still a young player with Montreal, and he had this thing about looking good. One day he was getting a haircut prior to a practice, and was late getting to the Forum. He told the barber to be quick so the barber charged him only thirty-five cents instead of the regular fifty cents because it was a quick job. At the Forum, the door to the dressing room was locked so he had to knock, and coach Dick Irvin answered.  The young defenceman knew he was busted so he tried to make light of it. “I just got a haircut for thirty-five cents,” said Reardon. “No you didn’t,” replied Irvin. “You just got a haircut for twenty-five dollars and thirty-five cents.”

Tonight, Montreal, in another big game, (for about 15 teams, every game’s a big game), shut out the Islanders 3-0, with Jaroslav Halak in goal. In a week, the Habs have gone from first place to second to fifth, and now back to second again.

Big game.

Next up, the St. Louis Blues come to town, then Montreal goes to Boston on Thursday. Both are big games. Naturally.

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.