Category Archives: Montreal Canadiens

Canadiens Smelled Like……..

A comatosed and confused Canadiens squad were bombed 6-2 by the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night at the Bell Centre, and once again the season unravels for our lovable unlikable ones.

All that fine and dandy good work shown recently, down the drain like an old man’s hoark in the kitchen sink.

All that clawing back from a deadly early season slump to win five straight, look great, and suddenly find themselves in a playoff spot – down the drain.

Carey Price going from mediocre to terrible to finally being the real Carey Price again – down the drain, because he’s back to mediocre again.

Now it’s three straight losses and they smelled worse than the broccoli and fish salad I bought at the deli today. They were every bit as bad as any night during this pathetic season. Worse than most.

Could it be that all 22 players are going through a divorce which is affecting their play?

Mistakes, like Charles Hudon failing to get the puck over the blueline, it was quickly turned over, and ex-Hab Mike Cammalleri scored his first goal in 37 games to open the scoring.

Our man Price stopped the puck behind the net and nonchalantly shot it around, only to have the puck knocked out of the air and yes, into the net it ended up, and it became 2-0. Price did this before when the team was in the pits of hell and now he’s done it again.

Shea Weber, who truly smelled like my broccoli and fish salad, was slow to cover his man, and it was 3-0. Then it was 4-0 (two goals within the first 2 1/2 minutes of the second period), and Price was out and Antti Niemi was in.

And to make a long story short, it became 4-1, then 5-1 (Karl Alzner kicked it into his own net), 6-1, and 6-2.

This game was worse than Patrick Kane’s Stanley Cup popcorn maker commercial. Yes, it was that bad.

A few good things were done by the Habs on Saturday night. They all apparently managed to drive to the rink without hitting a lamppost. And they……okay, it’s just the lamppost thing. Everything else sucked.

This is good though……

 

 

 

Full Concentration

Of the countless Habs photos in this crazy, mixed-up world of ours, this one for me ranks right up there near the top. The close-up action, the fans watching intently (I see one woman), Jacques Plante still almost two years away from putting the mask on.

It’s Dec. 18, 1957, Madison Square Gardens in New York, and Plante and Tom Johnson are working on thwarting a Rangers attack.

The Rangers in front of Johnson are Camille (the eel) Henry and Leapin’ Lou Fontinato wearing number 8. Fontinato would be dealt to the Habs in 1961 for Doug Harvey, who had fallen out of favour with the Canadiens mostly because of his player/union work.

This great photo, slightly adjusted, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated on Feb. 17, 1958, and here, a Habs player wearing #27 is included. But I don’t have a clue who this guy might be because my records show that no one did before Frank Mahovlich, who wore it from 1971 to ’74.

However, one could suggest that it could actually be #22, and if that’s the case, Don Marshall wore this number. But Don had way less hair than this guy and a different shaped head.

Here’s an even wider frame that includes a sprawling Claude Provost in front of Fontinato, plus a couple more women in the crowd.

 

Rocket Signing The Orillia Book

The Rocket came to Orillia in 1962 to say hello and drop some pucks at the annual Variceties event at the arena, but something behind the scenes happened. The local sports reporter from the Packet and Times, who knew that I had a Habs scrapbook, asked if he could use one of my Richard pictures for the local program they were putting out.

I let him of course, and in return the reporter gave me this original photo he’d taken of the Rocket signing the Orillia registry.

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Maurice Richard coming to Orillia was a big thing for me, that’s for sure. He was my hero, which is something that’s never changed over the years.

Here’s the program, with my picture of Rocket I lent to the newspaper.

The Rocket signed it, but the pen was beginning to run out of ink.

Rocket 3

Rocket 2

Orillia Var

A hockey friend of mine, Warren Howes, sent a team picture (below) from that night, with his younger brother, the goalie, in the front row.

As you can see, the entire team is wearing Habs sweaters but it appears they might have been worn to make Maurice happy. The kids had either their team sweaters underneath, or Leafs sweaters, which is what Warren thinks.

You can see the Rocket standing behind the boys. And in my pile of Habs stuff here in Powell River is a helmet identical to the one the kid in the front row, third from left, is wearing

Rocket in Orillia

 

Hi Bert

HOFer Bert Olmstead played for the Habs from 1950 to 1958, and hoisted four Stanley Cups along the way. He’d also pick up another in 1962 when he was with the Leafs.

Bert was a solid, feisty, and smart player with definite leadership qualities. He was also a cantankerous, no-nonsense type of fellow off the ice, and probably not exactly a barrel of laughs at team Christmas parties. No lampshades on his head. The Boomer maybe, but not Bert.

About 15 years ago I was visiting my sister in Calgary and decided to phone him, because I knew he lived there and he was in the phone book.

It went like this:

Ring. Ring.

A lady, his wife I guess, answered the phone. “Hello?” she said.

“Hi” I answered. “Would Bert be there please?”

“Yes, one moment,” said the lady.

“HELLO” growled the voice, and I kind of got the feeling this might be a mistake.

“Hi Bert” I said. I’m old hockey fan, a Habs fan, and I just wondered if you might spend a couple of minutes telling me about those days when you played.”

Click.

He hung up on me.

 

 

Hockey’s Golden Age Is When?

Isn’t it funny that no matter what decade we’re in, many retired players and older fans always insist that the game isn’t as good as it used to be, when they played or watched.

It’s only natural that they feel this way. The present game, of any decade, just doesn’t have the romance it did for them. And hockey always changes, whether it’s the way players shoot, or pass, or even their size.

Ken Dryden, when asked when he thought the golden age of hockey was, answered that it’s whenever we were young.  It is for me. The 1950s and 1960s were my golden hockey years. They were magical years, with road hockey, collecting cards, digging pucks out of snowbanks, outdoor rinks and frozen toes,  and a six-team NHL. And I had the Rocket, Beliveau, Howe, Hull, Plante, and Sawchuk to watch.

But for men who played in the 1930s and ’40s, those 1950s and ’60s years sucked. And for those who played in the 1910s and ’20s, the next few decades after them simply didn’t cut it.

It’ll always be like this. Ken Dryden was right. It all depends on when you were born.

Here’s some examples.

Cyclone Taylor, one of hockey earliest stars, talking about the game in 1968:

“I don’t think I’d like to play the game now. I was used to going on at the start of the game and playing to the finish. I think any man between the ages of 18 and 35 who can’t play 60 minutes of hockey – well, he just doesn’t want to play, that’s all.”

Newsy Lalonde, who signed with the Montreal Canadiens in 1910, talking hockey in 1970.

“Never did I use the slapshot the way you see it used in the NHL now, with the curved sticks and all. With us there was no other shot to use but the wrist shot. When a man makes a slapshot today it’s more powerful than a wrist shot, but you can’t place it in the same way. The modern player just shoots the puck in the general direction of the net and that’s it. We knew where the puck was going and didn’t have to look twice.

And if you think hockey is a tough game nowadays, you have no idea what toughness is all about.”

Bill Durnan, star goalie for the Habs from 1943 to 1950, talking about the NHL in 1969.

“It’s a changed game, no doubt about it. Now it’s congested and half the time you don’t know how the puck went into the net. Thy just don’t have the plays we had; they simply shove the puck in the corner, then there’s a wild scramble, with three or four guys behind the bloody net. The puck comes out and somebody bangs it in. At that point, even the announcers who are supposed to know what happened start guessing.

And the players have changed, especially their attitudes, though at least until recently there were a few honest skaters left. John Ferguson, who played for the Canadiens, is an example. I was at a party with him a few years ago and somebody asked him why he was such a stinker on the ice and a nice guy off it. Ferguson replied. “When I’m on the ice, I’m at work!”

Now that’s the kind of answer we oldtimers would give.”

Cooper Smeaton, NHL referee before and after World War 1, interviewed in the 1970’s.

“Those were the golden days of hockey when you had fellows like Howie Morenz, Nels Stewart, and Georges Vezina. They talk about Bobby Hull’s speed, but Morenz would whip around his net like a flash and be up the ice before you could blink your eyes.

Take a goal scorer like Stewart. In today’s game he’d score 100 goals. And in the old days if a team was a man short it would stickhandle the puck until time expired. Now they just heave it down the ice. You don’t have to pay a guy $400,000 to do that.

We had a more appealing game game with lots of stickhandling and nice passing. Now it’s all speed. But one thing remains the same though – the referees never seem to please the coaches or managers or owners. To this day, nobody is perfect.”

Blues At The Bell

The Canadiens got the Blues on Tuesday night, and the bastards ended the boys’ nice and tidy five-game win streak.

But nobody expects Les Glorieux to be glorious every night. The streak had to end, and it might as well be against one of the league’s best teams – the  big, fine skating, hard-hitting, well-balanced pride of St. Louis.

Besides, 4-3 is a respectable losing score. It wasn’t a 6-1 drubbing like they took against Washington in early October. Or 6-0 against Toronto in November when Carey Price was on the shelf and the world as we knew it was coming to an end.

One loss is nothing. All the Habs have to do now is win against the Flames on Thursday night and there will be no reason to think they’re falling off the rails again. Don’t be silly about that.

Three losses however, and Twitter will be all about the Subban trade again.

Jordie Benn’s blast from the blueline would tie things at one apiece in the first, but in the middle frame St. Louis opened it up to 3-1 with two goals just seven seconds apart.

Seven seconds apart. A real killer. And yet, the Canadiens didn’t die. This is the new Montreal Canadiens don’t forget.

Shea Weber fired a long-distance curveball to close the gap, and in the third, Weber again from the blueline tied things and injected some life into a a fairly quiet Bell Centre crowd.

Unfortunately, that was it. Braydon Schenn notched his third of the night to give his team the lead and the visitors skated off with a 4-3 win over the hometown Habs.

All three Montreal goals (Benn’s and Weber’s two), came from far out. In fact, if you were back in the late-1960s and living in say, Yorkville or Haight-Ashbury, you would probably say the goals were “far out.” They’d be far out, far out goals.

To The Forum, Bus Driver

Twice I saw games at the old Forum when a buddy and I took a bus charter from Orillia. This was the Forum before the renovations in 1968, when there were pillars throughout that caused obstructed views, and I remember thinking that I was glad I wasn’t sitting behind one.

The first time I went I was 13 when the Habs hosted Chicago (Feb. 22, 1964) but I remember almost nothing about this trip, including who I went with. I only know the date and my age because of my ticket stub I show here.

But the second time, with the game on February 26, 1966 against the Rangers as you can see in the other ticket stub and on the Forum marquee, was when I was 15 and I went with my friend Bernie Rivard.

I took all these pictures that also include Toe Blake’s Tavern on Ste. Catherine, which is now long gone (the tavern, not the street), McNeice’s Sporting Goods, which was located on Atwater St, at the Forum, and my two ticket stubs from both trips which are pasted in my scrapbook.

On the bus ride back to Orillia, older guys were passing booze around and when my dad picked me up at the bus station in the middle of the night, I was completely drunk. But he didn’t say one word about it.

Banquet Boys

Artwork by the great Canadian artist Franklin Arbuckle that appeared on cover of the March 28,1959 issue of Maclean’s magazine.

A bunch of kids at a Catholic hockey banquet bombarding guest Maurice Richard for autographs as the priests and dads stay in the background looking slightly bored.

It makes me smile and it used to make my mom smile too. I have both the trimmed photo, which rests peacefully in my scrapbook now, and the full magazine, which also includes a Trent Frayne article on Chicago Black Hawks coach Rudy Pilous.