Category Archives: Montreal Canadiens

Jim and Red

As we make our way through this endless and pathetic Habs season, I thought I’d tell you my Red Fisher/Jim Roberts story.

I was a kid at the Montreal Forum to see the Canadiens play the Rangers, and when the siren sounded to end the game, my friend and I wandered down to rinkside to look at the big CHs at centre ice.

This is what I wanted to do as much as see the game. Get close to the ice and see the CHs that I had only seen on grainy television. It was magical to me, and I can still feel that exact moment to this day. Funny what a couple of painted logos on the ice can do.

We also saw trainers wheel out the players’ equipment from the corridor near the dressing room, stacked in bags on carts, bags belonging to all the guys from my hockey cards. I can still feel this moment too.

Nearby I spotted Jim Roberts, the all-important defensive forward who sometimes played defence, talking to some guy in a suit, so I sauntered up and asked him to sign my program, which he did and which you can barely see in the picture above, just below Jean Beliveau and Jim Neilson.

Best of all, Roberts was extremely nice to me and asked me where I was from and such, and he had no idea how much this impressed me.

He impressed me so much that I decided to start a Jim Roberts Fan Club. It would be almost like being on the team for goodness sake. What a fantastic idea this was.

The next step was writing Red Fisher, and I informed him of my plan to start a Jim Roberts Fan Club. Red wrote back (I had this letter for a few years I think, but don’t anymore), and he told me that he would mention this to Roberts the first chance he got.

I never heard any more. Maybe Jim Roberts waited all season for his fan club to begin. Maybe Red forgot to tell him. Regardless, it probably wasn’t more than a day or two later that I realized I didn’t want to start a Jim Roberts Fan club. It would be way too much work, and I had school to worry about, hockey to play, Beatles to listen to, girls to think about, public skating to go to on Sunday afternoon,  Ed Sullivan and Bonanza to watch on Sunday evening.

I didn’t have time for this. My weeks were full.

On top of all that, where was I going to get stuff to send to members? How could I afford stamps? What would I write about, other than the fact that Jim Roberts was a good player and was nice to me when I asked for his autograph?

I don’t know what I would’ve done if Jim had contacted me and told me he was excited to have a fan club.  I’d be stuck.

What the heck was I thinking?

So if Red Fisher forgot to mention it to him, I’m very grateful.

 

 

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.

Habs Bee Hives

This is most of my Bee Hive collection from the 1944-64 series (Group 2). Not all but most. I’ve added several more since this picture was taken.

I have 75 of 78 Habs Bee Hives, missing only the extremely rare Tod Campeau and the light background J.C. and Gilles Tremblay (I have the more common dark backgrounds.)

Beehives were part of my youth and I would nag my mom to buy lots of Bee Hive corn syrup so I could remove the collars at the top and send them to the St. Lawrence Starch Company and get my free pictures.

The photos are much bigger than hockey cards, measuring 5.5 x 8 inches, and some of them are extremely difficult to find. The valuable ones are the non-stars, the guys who only played a handful of games in most cases.

Kids wanted the stars, so there are plenty of Rocket and Beliveau etc. out there. No one was clamouring for guys like George Robertson (31 games with the Habs), or Tod Campeau (42 games), or John Hanna (6 games), and there were less printed of these journeymen.

 

 

 

In a Box

011

I pulled this out of a box in the closet the other day.

There’s a “Nixon For President” button, which is funny I suppose because I never liked the dirty rotten scoundrel. Did anybody?

A button/ribbon for the journey to the moon in July of 1969 with Neil Armstrong and the boys.

A plastic spoon I saved from the ship, Empress of England, that I took from Montreal to Liverpool in 1969.

A gum cigar that says “Win with Dick.” Nixon again, sorry about that.

A Russian Habs pinback that looks like an ordinary pinback except that’s it’s Russian and it’s old.

A Habs Stanley Cup pinback from 1986.

A pinback showing Pierre Trudeau giving the finger.

A nice metal Forum pin.

A 1987 playoff ticket stub from the Forum, a game I was at involving, I think, the Quebec Nordiques.

A Che Guevara pinback made from leather.

A WHA ticket featuring the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Nationals sometime around 1974.

A couple of Forum matchbooks.

A Habs/Oilers pin when they played an exhibition game in the 1980’s for charity in Ottawa.

A couple of 1988 Calgary Olympics pins.

And a beautiful handmade silver Habs pin my ex-brother-n-law had made for me for Christmas many years ago. I miss my ex-brother-in-laws.

Marlene Geoffrion

Marlene Geoffrion, wife of the late, great Bernie ‘Boom Boom’ Geoffrion, is the daughter of Howie Morenz, and she was just three when her famous father died. But after Morenz passed away in hospital from something related to a broken leg or broken heart, his wife Mary, Marlene’s mom, quickly blew through the insurance money she received and eventually the Canadiens had to hold a benefit night for her at the Forum just so she could buy groceries and pay the rent.

Marlene, still a very young girl, was placed in an orphanage with her brothers Howie Jr and Donald, for three long years.

Eventually, Mary married a millionaire, George Pratte (or Pratt), just nine days after six-year old Donald died of pleurisy, and Marlene and Howie Jr came home. But Mary died at forty-one of alcoholism as she continued to suffer from the death of her beloved Howie.

Morenz

I avoided joggers and bike riders along the trails at Mount Royal Cemetery, and visited the grave of Howie Morenz and his son Donald a few years back when I was living in Montreal.

It took a while, but I found the site.

Howie and little Donald are buried with Mary Morenz’s mom and dad, Herbert McKay and Wilhelmina Stewart.

Howie

I’m not sure where Howie’s wife Mary is buried. She doesn’t seem to be there with the rest of the gang.

 

Mighty Fine Tattoos

John Perry, Saint John NB

John Kircoff, Chateauguay, Quebec

Alison Sandor, Dollar-Des-Ormeaux, Quebec

Josh Logan, Cambridge, Ontario

Mitch Grisham, Seattle, Washington

Bryce Fontaine, Brockville, Ontario

Matt Lynch, Chateauguay, Quebec

Brian Singleton, St. John’s, Newfoundland

Craig Smith, Nanaimo, BC

Eddie Evans, Sault. Ste. Marie, Ontario

Mathieu Roy, St. Raomi (?), Quebec

Paul Dube

Mathew Johnson, Vancouver, BC

Jean-Guy Ducharme, Ottawa, Ontario

Alexandra, St. Lin, Quebec

Tanya Griffin, Ardoch Algonquin First Nation

Peter St. Maurice, Toronto, Ontario

Mike Pelkonen

Dustin Gustafson

Paul Dube

Valley Hab Girl

Dan Bigras

Bruce

And my little one that I got done in Los Angeles.

“Oops” He Probably Said

Craig Conroy, now the assistant GM of the Calgary Flames, played 1009 games in the NHL with Montreal, St. Louis, Calgary, and L.A. (13 total games with the Habs).

He broke into the league with the Canadiens in 1994, and during his first practice with the team he drilled a shot that smashed into Patrick Roy’s mask.

Several Habs jumped him and Patrick Roy punched him in the face.

Oops.

In a Good Old Newspaper

The things you find in a January 6, 1940 Toronto Daily Star.

There’s an ad for a game at 8.30 between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs at Maple Leaf Gardens, with good tickets available at 75 cents, $1.50, $2.00, and $2.50.

There’s a nice photo of star left winger for the Canadiens, Toe Blake, and in the accompanying article, it says, “Last time Canadiens and Leafs met in Montreal it was a delirious donnybrook. If the boys resume where they left off it will be a show no fight fan can afford to miss.”

And last but not least – ‘The Letter Box’, which features some interesting letters, including this from Harry Donnelly in Toronto.

“If you would make a survey of hockey fans here in Toronto or anywhere else in the NHL you will find it 12 to one in favour of a more open game, meaning bigger score and less whistle blowing. After all, it’s the fans who keep the NHL in existence and it seems it is high time they were taken into consideration. Even if it is only to the extent of finding out if they want less whistle blowing and a more open game with more scoring. After all you must remember the sports writer’s opinions and the fan who pays are often of opposite views.
“I don’t say go back to the old seven man hockey but before the blue line was brought into effect there was some wonderful hockey played. Not all whistle blowing. Did you ever hear of a fan leaving a game that finished in a scoreless tie that felt he got his money’s worth?
Yours for whatever it’s worth.
Harry Donnelly

And then there’s this, from R.O.L.

“Well, here we are at the end of another sports year. Living as I do in “Hogtown” I glance back through the months to count the renowned trophies that are now being displayed in Hogtown. But I seem to have lost track of some of them, “or sumpin”!
“Can you help me out? Where is the Mann Cup, the Minto Cup, the Grey Cup, the Stanley Cup, the Allan Cup, the Memorial Cup, the Connaught cup, the Little League World Series trophy.
“Where, oh, where can they be?”

Well R.O.L., they just won the Grey Cup, that should be enough!

That LeBois

Today I’d like to present another star from days gone by, Gaston LeBois.

Looking back now, Gaston LeBois admits it was his father who was mostly responsible for his hockey career.

The senior LeBois would flood the backyard for hours on end, alone and in the dark, and it was unfortunate that he chose July and August to do this. Young Gaston would play and play on this homemade rink, but after coming close to drowning, eventually abandoned it for an arena in winter.

His dad never forgave him, but Gaston found that he enjoyed frozen water over unfrozen water.

In 1962 Gaston was finally called up to the big team and never looked back. He became one of the finest mediocre benchwarmers in the history of the game, and it’s something he’s proud of, even to this day. “It was just nice to be dry after playing on my dad’s rink,” he admitted in a recent interview.

But he wasn’t always a bench warmer. During the 1972 series against the Bulgarians and with the team desperately needing a goal, LeBois jumped over the boards when coach Sinders wasn’t looking, called for a pass but missed, but carried on. Big Bill Esponosa grabbed the puck and threw it out to LeBois, and with just 34 seconds left in the game and a nation holding its collective breath, LeBois fanned on it, punched out the referee, and because his team lost, a riot ensued outside Rue Ste. Carla as thousands of angry fans wanted to find Gaston and kick him in the balls.

They say no one was better inside the blueline and I agree. I’ve been to the Blueline Tavern and to this day, oldtimers gather round and drink and spit and tell stories about how Gaston could chug-a-lug and womanize for days on end and still be a mediocre bench warmer when called upon.

LeBois also scored six times in one game. Their names were Lola, Brigitte, Gloria, Xaviera, Penelope, and Sophia. Gaston has always said that this feat ranks up there as one of the biggest moments in his career.

Yes, he was a beauty, all right. Part of a dying breed. He’d kick and punch and take on all comers to get what he was after. Of course, the team wished he had this much spirit and drive playing hockey as he did with bartenders.

Gaston’s retired now and living a simple life on the west coast. But many fans and teammates still remember him, and they all agree on one thing…… that he was such an asshole back then.