Category Archives: Montreal Canadiens

The Big House For Tony

In almost all ways, Tony Demers, who played for the Montreal Canadiens from 1937 to 1943, was just another in a long line of players who came and went and are mostly forgotten now because they were never a Richard or Beliveau or Lafleur.

But unlike others who at one point in the lives had that cup of coffee in the bigs, Demers’ story carried a slight twist, one that is rarely discussed, and it’s a story with details that remain sketchy even today.

The beginning is about hockey.

In my house, I have a really nice photo of Demers posing with the Rocket and Elmer Lach on a line, so they gave him a shot with the big boys, I suppose. He looked like a guy poised to replace Toe Blake at some point on the Punch Line.

But Demers played parts of just five seasons in Montreal as he bounced up and down from the minors. He scored only 20 goals in total and was no star, not by a long shot. His short career ended during the 1943-44 season when he played one game with the New York Rangers, and that was that.

Sort of.

In 1945, Demers was fined for an assault on a hotel keeper. Then, the next year while playing senior hockey in Sherbrooke, he became involved in a gambling situation and was given a ten-game suspension. Things were bad up to this point, but they were about to get worse.

In 1949, Demers was hauled in to the police station regarding the death of a woman who was later revealed to be Demers’ girlfriend. The story issued was that the two had been drinking heavily, they had gotten into an argument, and that he had hit her.

Hospital officials said 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 which was far too late, and tragically, the lady passed away.

The court didn’t buy the ‘jumping from the car’ story and Tony Demers was found guilty of manslaughter, given 15 years in the maximum security St. Vincent de Paul penitentiary in Montreal, and he served eight years of the fifteen before being released.

In the late 1980s, 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 family 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, and graffiti on the walls were there as they had been. It was dirty and dark and my kids were nervous. I think it might have set them on the straight and narrow from that day on.

In Roger Caron’s book Go Boy, he described St. Vincent’s as the meanest and most dangerous prison in Canada, and he knew what he was writing about because he had served most of his adult life in different institutions across the country. It was a prison that served its purpose in the most brutal of fashion..

It sure didn’t seem a fitting place for a hockey hero. While the Rocket, Blake, and Lach thrilled the Forum faithful with big goals and Stanley Cups, an old teammate, one who had once shared the dressing room, train rides, restaurants, and hotels, sat in a dark cell inside Canada’s worst prison, maybe listening from time to time on the radio as his old friends carried on.

Demers went mostly into obscurity after his release eight years later, did some youth coaching from time to time, and eventually died in 1997. It has to be one of the sadder stories in the 100-plus years of the Montreal Canadiens.

Below, Demers, Lach, and Richard.

16 Left

KerryAbove, the Canadiens at their hotel in Winnipeg.

If there’s one thing we can say about the four-game road trip the Canadiens just completed, it’s that it was a four-game road trip they just completed.

Games in San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and finally Winnipeg.

They lost all four, of course.

But they looked good in their Montreal Canadiens uniforms, with that big CH on the front.

The same uniform, in fact, that good Montreal teams used to wear. The big difference is, it used to be six months of cheering. Now it’s two months of cheering and a four-month prostate examination given by Andre the Giant.

Nothing unusual about the final game of the trip against the Jets in Winnipeg, as they scored two, like they did in the other three games of the trip, and PK Subban only turned the puck over once that led to a goal.

And to add to the merriment, Brendan Gallagher suffered a lower body injury and didn’t return.

There’s only 16 games left. Can they make us proud and win one?

Random Notes:

I saw an interesting Fats Domino documentary on PBS the other day.

Alex Galchenyuk scored both Habs goals.

Next up – Tuesday, when the Dallas Stars visit Montreal. In this game, the Canadiens will try to win, and PK will try not to give the puck up.

Both tasks will be tough.

 

19 Left

me typing

Regardless of how the Canadiens do in Anaheim tonight, I won’t be writing about it. And I won’t be writing about the other remaining 18 games either.

I’m shutting down my recaps for the year, as this most pathetic of all seasons winds down.

I’ll still post on here from time to time, but I’ve had it with the recaps.

Habs Throttled By Sharks

SanJose

The Habs in San Jose may be late for those back east as the puck drops at 10:30 and the thing ends around 1 am, but it’s late for me in Powell River too, where it starts at 7:30 and finishes around 10:00.

That’s late. Because I’m a big suck.

So this recap is gonna be short and mediocre because I need to get to bed so I can get up in the morning and give my usual 165% at my part-time job.

And on Wednesday they’re in Anaheim at 10:00 ET, and Los Angeles on Thursday at 10:30 ET, so those recaps will probably stink too.

First period:

The Sharks opened the scoring when Joe Thornton, left so long at the side of the net that he had time to pick ticks and small mice from his beard, lit the lamp.

Brendan Gallagher would even things when his harmless shot from the side got caught up in Sharks netminder Martin Jones’ skates and in it went.

But the Sharks would take the lead once again when Joe Pavelski blasted one home.

Shots on goal this period were Sharks 13, Habs 7.

Second period:

Brent Burns, who takes a back seat to no one when it comes to beards, made it 3-1 after converting a pass from Thornton. The two of them look like they should be in ZZ Top.

The Canadiens would close the gap when Torrey Mitchell batted home Paul Byron’s short Texas leaguer, and came close to tying it with 30 seconds left when Tomas Plekanec was stoned by Jones point blank.

Canadiens outshot the Sharks 10-9 in this period.

Third period:

4-2. Then 5-2. Then 6-2.

Habs were lousy. Outshot 14-6 in the third period and 36-23 overall.

Mike Condon has seen better days.

Thus ends February, with the team giving us six wins and seven losses.

Next up – Wednesday in Anaheim.

 

 

Habs Wax Leafs

iron 1

Two huge goals in the third period by the captain, and great work throughout by the new guy and the big young guy, and the Canadiens top the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1.

This gives the boys two straight wins, or three of their last four, and although their season still sucks, they’ve played better lately. It kind of makes my heart soar like a kite with holes in it.

And no, the team’s not tanking, it’s not the proud or right way of doing things. It’s management who would do the tanking anyway, not the players, and the Montreal Canadiens aren’t the 1919 Chicago White Sox.

The first period saw the Leafs strike first, but a great wrist shot from Alex Galchenyuk would even things, while the second period featured a couple of noteworthy events:

Brendan Gallagher batted the puck in, but it was decided his stick was too high, although maybe by just a whisker. Personally, I thought it was legal but I’m biased.

The goal that did count soon after was one that began with 6’6″ Michael McCarron ramming an enemy body into the end boards, with the puck nicely kept in for Devante Smith-Pelly to get his stick on.

This would mark big McCarron’s first point in his three games with the club, and with his size, if the veterans try to make this rookie buy the dinners, all he has to do is look down at them and say no.

In the third frame, when the score was tense at 2-1, Max Pacioretty finally came alive, scoring his 22nd of the year after taking a great cross-ice pass from Andrei Markov, and then notching his 23rd from a rebound off the back boards.

Maybe this will light a fire under Max’s arse. There’s 20 games left, and the team is clinging to life. If Max hasn’t exactly been great leadership material in the past, maybe as the season winds down he can show us some. A slew of goals would help.

Michael McCarron needs to win a regular spot in a big way. Imagine people calling the Habs a big team instead of what we’ve heard for years now?

A hulking forward like him, crashing the net, having his way with smaller opponents, contributing on the scoresheet, maybe winning most of his fights. Damn.

Twenty-three year old Quebecer Phillip Danault, over from Chicago in the Weise-Fleischmann trade, looked completely at home, winning his share of faceoffs, in on several scoring chances, and doing some bumping.

He might not a big point-getter, at least not yet, but Danault was impressive. And set to become UFAs anyway, Weise had come back to earth after his early season Dutch Gretzky act, and Fleischmann may have started the year in fine style, but sure wasn’t ending it like that.

Random Notes:

Habs outshot the Leafs 36-32.

Mike Condon, in his fourth straight start, once again played well.

That’s twelve games played in February, with one remaining, and the team has won 6 of these 12. Not fantastic, but better.

Next up – Canadiens begin their three-game series in California, beginning with the Sharks in San Jose on Monday night. (10:30 ET).

 

 

 

 

Hi Normand, You Don’t Know Me But…

JIM WITHERS: FOR USE WITH STUBBS COLUMN IN EDITIONS OF MONDAY, MARCH 15, 2010: Canadiens legend Maurice (Rocket) Richard tapes a stick in the Canadiens dressing room during the 1959-60 season, the final season for the Habs great, watched by sons Normand (centre) and Maurice Jr. A new bilingual, two-DVD set featuring the Rocket is being released now, shortly before the 10th anniversary of his death, and Maurice Jr. says he's amazed at the enduring popularity of his late father. CREDIT: DAVID BIER STUDIOS, GAZETTE FILES

The Rocket tapes his stick during the 1959-60 season, while sons Normand and Maurice Jr. watch carefully.

Normand is the same age as me, and when I was living in Montreal a couple of years ago, I phoned him. Twice.

The first time I called, I opened with “Hi Normand, your dad was my hero!”, or something like that. The second time was more along the lines of, “Hi, it’s that guy again who called that other time.”

Normand was very nice and seemed just fine with the fact that some stranger was calling. I appreciated that.

Both times I called we talked for about 20 minutes or so, and during the second chat he agreed to meet me for coffee, although he said he was driving a friend’s car to Florida the next day and we’d have to wait until he got back.

I was very excited. I wanted to tell him that when I was a kid, I often wondered what it would be like to be the Rocket’s son. And I wondered if we’d need menus.

I wanted to be Normand’s friend back then, and I wanted to be his friend now.

But it wasn’t to be. Mainly because when he got back from Florida, I was back in Powell River.

Habs Win In Washington

rocky

Alex Galchenyuk’s two goals and Mike Condon’s often great and sometimes lucky netminding helped the Canadiens edge the uppity Washington Capitals 4-3 in D.C. Wednesday night.

Although they barely held on in the final few minutes after blowing a 4-1 lead in the third.

But it was mostly an impressive outing by the boys, and as Dale Weise said between periods, before they almost blew it, “This is the kind of hockey we knew we could play.”

Sportsnet announcer Dave Randorf babbled on early about how great the Caps were and how they were too much for the struggling Canadiens. But he’d soon do an about-face.

Galchenyuk banged in a rebound to open the scoring, Brendan Gallagher fired home an Andrei Markov rebound, and the score was a shocking 2-0 Canadiens to end the first period. And Randorf quit the gushing and began to give the Habs their due.

The Canadiens deserved praise too. They skated well, looked sharp, scored a power play goal (Gally), and Ovechkin and company for the most part didn’t know what hit them.

To add to the first period shock, Tomas Fleischmann would make it 3-0 just two minutes into the second frame, which chased hotshot goaltender Braden Holtby, and after Jason Chimera solved Condon to make it 3-1, Galchenyuk would notch his second of the night and it was a magnificent 4-1 lead.

Maybe you saw Chimera in the series Road to the Winter Classic, when he was chirping PK Subban and saying, “You guys won nine straight but that’s it. Who do you think you are?”

The excellent second period also saw Brendan Gallagher on a penalty shot and Lars Eller on a clear-cut breakaway, with neither scoring. But they could have, and 5-1 or 6-1  would have been mighty fine.

But that’s not the way the Montreal Canadiens do things.

In the third period, after Jacob de la Rose was foiled on a breakaway, the Caps suddenly came to life, scored two and stormed the Montreal net, and almost came all the way back to win the friggin’ thing.

But the boys hung on and skated away with a fine 4-3 win.

They beat the penthouse dwellers. That’s good, right?

Random Notes:

Washington outshot Montreal 35-34.

Great stop by Condon on Mike Richards with his back turned.

Next up – Leafs at the Bell Centre on Saturday.

 

Tight Loss To Preds

sign

It was tight and it could’ve been. But in the end it wasn’t.

Canadiens lose 2-1 to the Nashville Predators, with the game going to a shootout before being decided, and although the Habs grab a point, it’s just another big nail in the Molson wallet.

Nashville scored 3:16 into the first, while Brendan Gallagher replied late in the same frame, at 18:43, and that was it until the shootout.

Tighter than my great-grandmother’s corset. Tighter than a camel’s arse in a sandstorm, as the lamps remained unlit until Nashville’s Craig Smith did his job in the shootout after Montreal’s Sven Andrighetto, Alex Galchenyuk, and Max Pacioretty didn’t.

And thus, the win streak stops at one game. And it’s only the number one team in the league, the Washington Capitals, sitting high and mighty with 92 points, (11 ahead of 2nd place Chicago), on deck Wednesday.

Canadiens have 61 points, so you see the problem.

Random Notes:

Canadiens were outshot 30-29 by the Preds, but midway through the first they were down 6-1 in shots, so they did manage to regroup and make a game of it. Which is better than being comatose throughout.

Dale Weise, who might be changing his address soon, was listed as having the flu.

Mike Condon was in nets again, after backstopping his team to a win on Friday against Philly.

After Wednesday in Washington, the team then plays host to those nutty Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Two big games. Sort of.

 

 

 

Habs Do It!

kiss

The Canadiens came through in the shootout to edge the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 at the Bell Centre, and after the way things ended in Colorado on Wednesday, this two-pointer should have fans kissing strangers in the streets.

It’s always a fine thing when the Habs win a game of course, although it’s too late. But after what we’ve been through, we deserve a win.

It’s like the hockey gods got together and said “They deserve a win.”

And the heart-stopping overtime kind of made up for some of the Dead Men Skating we’ve seen too much of lately. Frantic three-on-three, and those who paid scalpers’ prices at least got a  nice five-minute return on their money.

PK turned the puck over a couple of times, but because of the sensitivity carried over from Wednesday, I don’t dare mention it.

I’d also like to apologize for not talking about Max Pacioretty’s role in my recap after the Wednesday debacle.

I was so blinded by PK losing the puck and the Avs scoring the go-ahead goal with two minutes left, that I didn’t notice how dazed and confused Max was at the other end when he went one way and the player he was covering went the other.

I was also writing the recap, with the TV turned off, when Michel Therrien threw PK under the bus.

Sorry for missing these key events. You can throw me under the bus if you want.

Tonight, Friday, everything’s good. It’s Good Friday! And I have no idea what the coach or players are saying, because my two fingers are tapping away as I bathe in the glory of this big win.

Which is too late. Unless the hockey gods say we deserve the playoffs.

Random Notes:

PK collected two assists.

Dale Weise opened the scoring when he banked the puck off a Flyers rearguard. Unfortunately,  just ten seconds later the Flyers tied it up when a long shot flew past Mike Condon, who must’ve been eyeing female ushers in the corridor at the time.

A Tomas Plekanec turnover in the third period gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead, and although I don’t know for sure, I’m thinking that Michel Therrien will probably tread lightly when asked about this.

Max would tie the game on the power play after letting go a great wrist shot from the right side, and in the shootout, Max, along with Paul Byron, would get it done to the cheers of the faithful.

On this night, kudos to Max. Folks have been hard on him, and he’s deserved much of the criticism, mainly because he’s been quite shitty.

But tonight Max came through and helped the cause in a big way.

The Flyers outshot Montreal 37-31.

Next up – Monday, when the Nashville Predators creep into town.