Category Archives: Montreal Canadiens

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.

A Good Old-Fashioned Slaughter

Twenty-two years to the day after Patrick Roy quit the Habs after allowing 9 goals in an 11-1 bombing by the Detroit Red Wings at the Forum on Dec. 2, 1995, and now this happens.

On Dec. 2, 2017, the Canadiens slaughter the Detroit Red Wings 10-1 at the Bell Centre.

It has to be the Habs ghosts in the rafters. That’s just too weird.

But it’s good though. The boys seem back in business, and on this night, Paul Byron led the pack with three goals, but a plethora of guys also found themselves on the scoresheet:

Galchenyuk 4 assists
Deslauriers 1 goal and 2 assists
de la Rose 1 goal and 2 assists
Carr 1 goal and 2 assists
Hudon 1 goal and 1 assist
Froese 2 assists
Gallagher 1 goal
Shaw 1 goal
Benn 1 goal
Plekanec 1 assist
Danault 1 assist
Weber 1 assist
Mete 1 assist

That’s a lot of contributing from a lot of guys. It’s also five straight wins, with Carey Price in nets for all five.

Patrick Roy pissed me off 22 years ago and I never really forgave him, although Mario Tremblay could’ve handled it differently and taken him out after 4 or 5 goals. But he left him in for 9 goals, which wasn’t right. It was humiliation for one and stubborn nastiness by the other.

Let’s face it, both Roy and Tremblay lost their minds that night.

Tonight, though, my heart soars like the Avro Arrow.

 

Kid Stuff


Practicing my quick draw in Orillia.

American author Bill Bryson wrote a tender and funny book about growing up in the 1950s called The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, I read it, and I was amazed by this guy’s talent (I’ve since read several more of his books).

I also saw how he and I have a couple of things in common.

We’re almost the same age (I’m a year older), we both lived in towns with great main streets, we wore Davy Crockett coonskin hats, we practiced our quick draw like Roy Rogers, we delivered newspapers, and occasionally we came across naughty skin magazines.

Both our dads were creative, his being a sports writer and mine a sign painter, although his dad got to go to baseball games in New York and Chicago, while my dad stayed in Orillia and painted letters on store windows.

Bill almost saw a naked girl once when he was about eight years old while playing doctor, but she backed out because she had a crush on him. I made sure I didn’t miss my chance because all I had to do was stand on my bike outside the window of the women’s change room at Couchiching beach and look in the window. I was doing great too, until one of my classmates from school, Carol Montgomery, saw me and gave me shit. But I’m pretty sure I rode away on my bike with eyes wide open.

Bill’s big job back then was his paper route, and it was mine too. I won a red transistor radio once for getting the most new customers, and sometimes on winter nights I’d pick up Habs games from Chicago where the homer announcer called the Hawks players by their first names as they moved about the ice.

I would tie my radio to my bike’s handlebars and listen to rock and roll as I made my paper route rounds, and it became the beginning of the end of my world as I knew it, because as soon as I heard Elvis and Roy Orbison and the rest, I began to grow up a little. Music was sure better than just about everything except maybe hockey and baseball, it was way better than school, and through it I began to learn more about girls.

Like Bill, I used to go to movie matinees and whip popcorn boxes like deadly frisbees at the screen and around the room. It was one of life’s great pleasures for me. If you’ve ever fired off a popcorn box missile and clunked some guy in the head who was making out with his girlfriend, you know what I mean.

Life then seemed to have only a small wrinkles, like hoping my classmate  Carol didn’t squeal on me about looking at naked women in the change room. Or trying to decide whether to spend money at the new Dairy Queen which had just opened around the corner, or pinball at the The Hub nearby, or maybe a new fishing rod or Hespeler Green Flash hockey stick at the tiny Canadian Tire next door to the movie theatre.

Back then the Antarctica wasn’t melting, the NHL only had six teams, Mickey Mantle was reaching the upper decks, and doctors recommended smoking for fun and relaxation.

It was great to be young. That’s for sure.

Joliat and Dryden Signed The Books

I drank a beer or two with Aurele Joliat at the old Prescott Hotel in Ottawa, sometime in the mid-1980s, and drove him home afterwards. I knew he’d be there because he showed up each week with his bowling team. We got along splendidly, even though he insisted that the Rocket couldn’t tie Morenz’s skate laces.

I brought my book, ‘The Montreal Canadiens’ by Claude Mouton, and Aurele was more than happy to sign it and mention my broken arm (although it was only a small cast on my wrist).

Ken Dryden signed his book ‘The Game’ for me by writing “I’ve had a lot of fans in my life, and you’re one of them. Happy Birthday, Dennis”.

My sister got him to write that. It was a bit of an inside joke she and I had going at the time. She said he chuckled as he wrote it.

Front Page Challenge Presents…….

After scoring his 500th goal in 1957, Maurice Richard appeared on the long-running CBC show Front Page Challenge to answer the panels’ questions from behind their backs as they tried to guess who he was.

After the question and answer part, Rocket came out front and chatted for about ten minutes with the group who, on this night, included cranky old skinflint Gordon Sinclair, lovely Toby Robins, author and joint roller Pierre Berton, and guest Margaret Higgins.

I’ve no idea if Rocket fooled them or not.

Front Page Challenge ran from 1957 to 1995 and was as Canadian as you can get. Fred Davis was the slick moderator, and Gordon Sinclair and Pierre Berton were usually joined by Betty Kennedy, but on the night of the Rocket, Toby Robins was doing the duties instead of Betty. The show focused on world news headlines and the special secret guests all had some sort of connection to said events.

I thought it was a great show. A family show. One you would watch with ma and pa. Gordon Sinclair never failed to ask guests how much money they made (we’d laugh when he did and say, oh, there he goes again!), Berton was well-informed and talkative, and Betty Kennedy was smart and classy, and I thought she was quite hot actually.

Fred Davis was as smooth as smooth can be. He always said the right thing, was always incredibly polite with a smile on his face, he had that Mr. Nice guy aura about him, and kept the show moving in tasteful and professional manner. Surely he wasn’t that perfect at home. Or maybe he was!

When I looked up the dates and saw that it ran until 1995, I couldn’t believe it. Front Page Challenge was a long time ago.  But 1995? That was only, like, yesterday.

The picture you see at the top, with the Rocket, is from my old scrapbook.

Below – Pierre, Fred, Betty, and Gordon.

Leo Loves His Team

This photo is like a real life version of Roch Carrier’s classic book ‘The Sweater’. I wonder if they all have number 9 on their backs.

The boy in the middle, in his street clothes, is Leo Brosseau. Leo grew up in Quebec in the 1930s and ’40s before moving west to Powell River to work in the mill and marry a local girl. He’s been here ever since.

He wasn’t able to play with his team for a while because of a broken arm so he became assistant coach to the coach/priest. That’s the priest in the back.

Leo is 84 now and long retired, he beat cancer after telling his doctors to shove their chemo, and for years has flown back to Montreal to see a game, sometimes more than once. And next February he’s off to Las Vegas to see his Habs clash with the Golden Knights!

Leo’s loved his team for almost 80 years. Another Stanley Cup would be nice.

 

More Lovely Habs Wives

Photos from my old scrapbook, which I still open from time time.

Bernie ‘Boom Boom’ Geoffrion with his wife Marlene and kids. That little gaffer is Danny, who went on to play for the Habs in the late ’70s, early ’80s. Marlene is the daughter of Howie Morenz, so she’s a hockey gal through and through. She looks beautiful, especially in that white blouse.

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Big Jean Beliveau doing the dishes with wife Elise. Elise said she had to do most of the driving when they were dating because Jean was a lousy driver.

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Jacques Plante, with wife Jacqueline and boys Michel and Richard, singing and forgetting about flying pucks that hurt when they hit the face. Plante also liked to knit, and made his own socks and toques.

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Dickie Moore and his lovely wife playing with their little baby. Such a fine looking couple. One of Moore’s daughters, and it could be the one in this photo, eventually dated one of Doug Harvey’s son. (I never heard how that worked out).

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Bert Olmstead showing his beautiful family his scrapbook. Scrapbooks were all the rage back then, and probably very cool when the scrapbook was about yourself. Years ago I looked up Olmstead in the Calgary phone book, phoned him and asked him if he’d mind talking about the old days with the Habs. He hung up on me.

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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 top 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.

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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, and she always looked great, that’s for sure.

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

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One of the most important players on the Habs in the early 1960s, and a third and fourth line grinder at that – Dave Balon and his beautiful wife of whose name I don’t know. I wish I did.

Sadly, Balon passed away in 2007 from MS, and of course it was way too early because he was only 68.

Balon was one of those guys who was never a star, but was a hard worker, a checker, and he shone in playoff situations, scoring key goals, and was put out often in key situations against the other teams’ stars. For every Jean Beliveau, a team needs a Dave Balon. He wore number 20, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s never gotten enough credit for what he did for the Montreal Canadiens.

Look how happy they look, especially his wife.

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Ralph Backstrom and his wife Frances and kids.

After Backstrom’s playing days were over, he ended up coaching the University of Denver team, founded a roller hockey league in the late ’90s, and in 2003, the Colorado Eagles of the Central Hockey League.

Backstrom was always one of my favourite players. I even got a brush cut like his once. The guy personified the Montreal Canadien teams he played on – speedy, classy, and a beautiful skater. Like me except for most of that.

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Canadiens goaltender Charlie Hodge and lovely wife Sheila. Charlie had the unfortunate luck of being on the same team as Jacques Plante, so he was often a backup goalie with the Habs early on. But he would win the Vezina outright in 1963-64 and shared the Vezina with Gump Worsley in ’65-66. He eventually went to Oakland when expansion came into being in 1967, as each team had to surrender a goalie for the new upstarts (the original six teams were allowed to protect only 11 skaters and one goalie).

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John Ferguson with wife Jean and daughter in this really nice family photo. As much as Fergie was a bruiser on the ice, he was known as a gentle pushover at home.

Fergie and family would go back to Nanaimo BC in the off-season where he played professional lacrosse, and he also had a long-time love affair with harness racing.

 

John Lennon Stuff Made Me Some Cash

In the late 1970s or early-80s I bought, through an auction house in New York, one of John Lennon’s bank cards. It was from Barkleys bank, and it basically said that Lennon was free to use it as long as it was under $200, but more than that must be agreed upon by his two lawyers. I paid $120 for it.

Seriously. $200.

The little card was signed by Lennon and these two lawyers.

I held onto this card for a few years, and then I thought I should sell it, so I put an ad in the Ottawa Citizen, but no one called.

Except one day someone did call. He told me his name, said he used to play in a band in NYC, and was a big Beatles collector. And amazingly enough, he even described over the phone the card I had.

He said he didn’t have much money, but would I be willing to trade, and I said I didn’t mind having a look at what he might offer. So I went to his apartment.

His apartment was jammed full of Beatles memorabilia. It was amazing. And he looked at my card and said yes, that’s the one he thought.

He then pulled out a binder of sheets of original John Lennon lyrics written in pencil from one particular album ‘Sometime in New York City’, one of Lennon’s lesser known releases, and asked me if I would like to choose one of the lyrics sheets and trade.

So I did. I chose the track ‘New York City’ from the album, it was original indeed, in beautiful condition, and at the bottom was one of Lennon’s hand-drawn cartoons of him and Yoko.

I kept this piece of paper for several years. But then my first wife and I began thinking about how nice it would be to turn our dark, musty old basement into a beautiful rec room, and we started getting quotes, and each quote that came in made us more depressed. We didn’t have the thousands of dollars to get this done right.

So I decided to put my John Lennon lyrics in another New York auction, at Sotheby’s, and it sold for $7000. We finished the basement, bought brand new furniture for it, and added a lovely big television. It was here I watched my Habs, Canada Cups, and Expos.

 

The Stockholm Prison/Hotel Stop

In early September of 1991, my first wife and I and our two kids stopped in Stockholm for a few days on our way to Leningrad, Russia. (St. Petersburg).

If my math is correct, it was 26 years ago. Time flies, as they say.

We stayed in a nice little hotel in Stockholm which was a converted old prison, so our rooms were prison cells.

The 1991 Canada Cup was underway back home, and I was in the lobby of this unique hotel and saw a Swedish newspaper with a picture of Mats Sundin and a big headline that mentioned “Canada”. So I asked the girl at the counter if she would please tell me what the headlines said.

She looked kind of embarrassed and told me that Mats Sundin says Sweden will have no trouble at all with Canada.

Canada ended up clobbering Sweden in this semi-final game 4-0 and maybe Sundin learned then that you don’t make predictions like this.

The game was Sept. 12, 1991. I know this and the score because I googled it.

This is the prison in Stockholm that became a hotel and those are my kids up there. My son’s a Habs fan and my daughter hates hockey. The other person is my ex-wife who stopped liking me and we split up in 1993.

The Soviet Union at this time was in the throngs of collapse, a truly historic time, and there were warnings by government officials to stay away. I also remember being told by a Swedish fellow at the hotel that Russia was way too volatile to visit. But we went in anyway, stayed with a Russian family, which was almost unheard of in those days, and had an incredibly fascinating time. But that’s another story.

Those Wild And Crazy Early Years

It’s listed as being 1929  and the Chicago Black Hawks on YouTube but I think it’s off by a year or two and it’s more likely 1930 or ’31. And it’s not the Chicago Black Hawks.

Howie Morenz, Eddie Shore, Ace Bailey, Aurele Joliat, Dit Clapper, Lester Patrick, and so many other all-time greats of the game roamed the ice back then, and 1930 was only a year after Wall Street crashed and women now being considered “Persons” under new Canadian law.

The Habs would win the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1930 after taking out the Boston Bruins in two games, with Howie Morenz netting the winner.

The NHL was a ten-team league at this time – Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, the Montreal Maroons, and the NY Americans in the Canadian Division, and Boston, the Rangers, the Detroit Cougars, Chicago, and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the American Division.

This minute and a half home video  features the AHA Chicago Shamrocks and possibly the St. Louis Flyers (or Duluth Hornets) and is a fascinating look at the boys back then.

And the ice cleaners at the end of the clip are something to behold.