Category Archives: Montreal Canadiens

You Didn’t Ask For It (But You Got It) – Fascinating Facts Again!

Facinating fact #1.  In Ottawa in the 1970’s, there was a tremendous fastball team called Turpin Pontiac (maybe they still exist), who were one of the best ball teams in Canada. They had a horn-rimmed glasses-wearing pitcher named Joe Belisle who looked like Dennis the Menace’s father. He probably weighed about 140 pounds and skinny as a rake. However, his pitching arm was twice as big as his other arm, and this was a guy who pitched mostly 1 or 2 hitters, with many, many no-hitters also. The ball was only a blur when he let it go. And one of the guys who played outfield for Turpin Pontiac was a big, strapping long-ball hitting red-head named Larry Robinson, who happened to play defence for the Montreal Canadiens in the off-season.

Faxcinating fact #2. When I was about 12, my grandmother told me the daughter of a friend of hers was getting married in Orillia on a Saturday, to the trainer of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bobby Haggart. So I scrambled on up to the church, and the entire Leafs team was standing outside the church. Bobby Baun, Frank Mahovlich, Tim Horton, Johnny Bower, Dave Keon, everybody. I got autographs, and the next day at Mass, me and my mom and dad sat right behind Dave Keon and his wife.

Fascinating fact #3. Several years ago, my sister Carla and I used to do this silly little thing like say, “You know Carla, I’ve known a lot of people in my life —and you’re one of them. Or “You know Dennis, I’ve seen a lot of men in my life — and you’re one of them.” You get the picture. Just silly stuff. So one day, somewhere, maybe Calgary, Ken Dryden was signing his book at a bookstore and Carla bought one for me and had Ken sign it this way- “Dennis, I’ve had a lot of fans in my life, —and you’re one of them. Ken Dryden.”

Facinating fact #4.  Rocket Richard was never really associated with being a practical joker, but he had that streak in him. One time on the train the team was travelling on, his coach Dick Irvin Sr. had brought along a bunch of caged prize pigeons that Irvin had shown at some agriculture fair somewhere. The Rocket tried to let the pigeons out of their cages but other guys on the team stopped him.

Fascinating fact #5. Emile ‘Bouch’ Bouchard was a big strapping defenceman for the Canadiens in the 1940’s and ’50’s. He was their captain for a period of time. The fascinating part of this story is that he didn’t own a pair of skates until he was 16, and four years later he’d made the NHL.

Fascinating fact #6.  Terry Sawchuk died after having a serious and drunken wrestling match on the front lawn of his house with teammate Ron Stewart. He was 40 years old.

Fascinating fact #7.  I grew up just down the street from Rick Ley, who was a solid defenceman for the Leafs in the late 1960’s and into the ’70’s. He also played for the New England Whalers in the WHA and has his sweater retired in Hartford. He then went on to a coaching career in Vancouver and Toronto. But the big news is that when we were kids, him and I would skate on an outdoor rink before school, and in the summer, during a pickup baseball game, with him pitching and me catching without a mask, the batter tipped one of Ley’s pitches and the ball knocked my front tooth out. I’ve worn dentures ever since.

Fascinating fact #8  In the late 1960’s, Rick Ley’s older brother Ron and his redneck buddies threatened to take me behind the pool hall and cut my long hair.

Reasons Why the Team Didn’t Win Last Night

It almost makes me sick when I think about this.

The overall scenario is this. The Habs had been in a deep funk for a month, couldn’t win at home, and the guys who are expected to be in the forefront were instead sucking exhaust. Guys like Saku Koivu, who had fallen off the star cliff and had held on to his respect soley by his great leadership and personal good deeds around the city. I mean, everyone everywhere loves Saku Koivu. I do too, although not as much as my wife and Sophia Loren. Anyway, it’s great that everyone loves Saku, but the problem is, he’s forgotten how to score goals. But three games ago, the team played great and won in Philadelphia. Then on Saturday night, the team won again, and sacre bleu! (I don’t know the Finnish equivalent), Saku got two big goals.

Now the team is flying, but before you can sing that incessant Bell Centre sorry excuse for a song, this no name bunch of scalliwags, the Florida Panthers, come in to Montreal, and wouldn’t you know it,  scurry out of town with a 3-2 win. In the process, Montreal played with no enthusiasm, were booed throughout the night, and now they’re back to square one. (can’t win at home, back in a slump, Koivu not producing, etc. etc.)

So there has to be a reason. And this is it.

The Christmas party. During the big snowstorm a few days back, the team was lucky enough to be in Montreal with several days off before they played Florida. And they had a Christmas party.

And down the drain went the focus. Maybe a few wives don’t like each other and this caused complications. Maybe some players had too much to drink. Maybe cliques raised their ugly heads. Maybe getting more tail than usual back at the ranch wore them out. Maybe someone said something to the boss (Carbonneau). Who knows? Overall, they probably weren’t thinking as much as they should about the upcoming game.

Last but not least – the turkey at the Christmas party. Too much turkey causes listlessness, cramps, and an overwhelming desire to nap.

I say cancel Christmas parties for the team and reschedule them in July.

My Friend, Gary Lupul

Several Months ago, my friend Gary Lupul passed away. He was an ex-Vancouver Canuck, a proud Powell Riverite, and a guy I was close to. The following is my column about Gary published in the Powell River Peak, July 26, 2007.


The last time I saw Gary was about a month ago, and he promised to come over to my house for a barbeque after he got back from seeing his daughter in Vancouver.

Now he won’t be coming. He’s gone, and there’ll be no more stories, no more happy visits, no more of a lot of things from this fantastic, down-to-earth, happy-go-lucky guy. A big hole has entered my life and it’s not going to go away.

Some athletes carry a distant persona long after they’ve retired from the spotlight. Some are almost unapproachable. Many have large egos, stroked from their years in front of cameras. But not Gary. This ex-Canuck connected with everyone, from every walk of life. He’d had his own hard knocks, and you could see in his eyes and voice that he had special feelings, a sort of kinship, for those who’d been through tough times. You could also see he was equally at home at the other end of the spectrum, and so he was everyman.

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When you were with Gary, you saw what his larger-than-life character could do. People couldn’t help but smile when he was around. They laughed because he was a really funny guy. He wanted to know how everyone was doing, from the kids to the job, to all of the family. He was interested in everyone, and it was genuine because he had such a huge heart. He was a hard one to go to a hockey game with because he couldn’t sit still. He was always up and about, saying hello to people, mixing with the crowd, and being his friendly self. I used to just give up wondering where he’d gone and watch the game, knowing he’d come back to his seat eventually.

When Gary was scouting in Ontario, he’d phone me from his car from time to time, telling me where he was, filling me in on some of the young guns he’d seen play, or that he was just passing through my hometown, Orillia, and how nice it was. And he always asked about my health and my life, because he cared and I truly felt this.

I watched him weave his magic around children. I saw all the time how much he loved Powell River. And he was puzzled that my team was the Habs and not the Canucks, who he never stopped loving and who were certainly part of his heart and soul.

Years ago, when I was having my own problems, before I remarried and got things back on track, and Gary had yet to get his scouting job with the Canucks, we would spend nights until dawn sharing our thoughts. They were marathon chats, just letting things out, and it was at these times when we really bonded. It wasn’t long ago, on one of those times when he phoned from Ontario, that we talked about how important those all-night talks were, and how grateful we both were for them.

Gary loved people so much, and he worried that because his personal troubles had cut his career short, he hadn’t lived up to everyone’s expectations. But in my eyes, and in all his friends’ eyes, he met every expectation. He was one of the greatest guys I’ve ever known. I’m really going to miss him.

 
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The Boys Win Big On Hockey Night In Canada

Sometimes the blog has to be serious, like now, because the team, led by Saku Koivu, pummelled the Leafs on a classic Saturday night tilt, and this win was big, really big, in so many ways. Koivu has been a target of trade rumours lately because of mediocre play, and he scored the first two goals. The team’s been in a horrific slump. Carey Price almost had his first NHL shutout except for a weak goal scored with four minutes left. (Of course, Toronto scored only because those singing fools at the Bell Centre decided to sing that ridiculous song with ten minutes left.) And the Russian brothers, Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn played with great energy, racked up three points, and were a force to be reckoned with. This game made me very proud.

Speaking of the Kostitsyn brothers, some very creative guy wrote this on the official Habs forum, which I wish I would’ve thought of. “If the Kostitsyn brothers were put on a line with Mathieu Dandenault, they could call the line “a Dandy pair of Tits!”

One last thing before I eat some spaghetti and get ready to work a graveyard. My father, who has lived just north of Toronto for 87 years, phoned before the game and said he hoped Montreal would clobber the Leafs. The other day, my friend Mike, in Toronto, said “&$@% the Leafs,” and during tonight’s game, Tony B. in Powell River phoned and said what a great game and if the Habs blew it, he’d stop watching hockey. So my point is this: Just because you live near an NHL team, like my dad north of Toronto, and Mike in Toronto, and Tony near Vancouver, doesn’t mean you gotta cheer for the Leafs or the Canucks. How many times do I have repeat this, CANUCKS FANS?

What, They Won? Get outta Here!

The team won last night! Weird. Yep, they beat Philadelphia 4-1, and they beat them good, real good. Michael Ryder was a healthy scratch, and deservingly so because unless he’s shows me otherwise, he’s a bum who probably thinks he’s a star and has gotten lazy, thinking his really good wrist shot is gonna get him by without having to do anything else. It’s too bad because he’s a good Canadian newfie but he needs to be traded. And if he continues this shitty play for another couple of years, even with another team, he’ll be out of the league for good. Geez I should be helping Bob Gainey make the decisions. I also should be replacing Red Fisher as resident team writer. I also should have an apartment at the Bell Centre like Conn Smythe had at Maple Leaf Gardens. Why am I being punished like this?

The team plays Toronto on Saturday night. Will they win? Will Michael Ryder play? Will Marie Osmond faint? Stay tuned. This is big stuff.

Conn Smythe Was Only Sort-Of-A-Nice-Man

Conn Smythe, after building Maple Leaf Gardens and a successful franchise, the Leafs, was offered the presidency of the entire league so the other owners would finally have him out of the way. But Smythe said no way was he becoming a yes-man to the owners. So they hired Clarence Campbell, a name you know, who was the definitive yes-man and a guy the owners, especially Smythe, could manipulate like a puppet. Years later, someone asked Stafford Smythe, Conn’s son who succeeded dad as Maple Leaf president, why they didn’t get rid of Campbell who would, from time to time, piss owners off. Stafford replied, “Where would we find another Rhodes scholar, graduate lawyer, decorated war hero, and former prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, who will do what he’s told?” So now think about the St. Patrick’s Day riot in 1955 in Montreal, when Campbell suspended Rocket Richard for the remainder of the season, plus all of the playoffs. Owners, especially Smythe, had been fed up with the Rocket causing havoc throughout the league and wanted him curbed. So you can bet your bippy that they had their puppet, Campbell, do their dirty work for them with that gigantic suspension.

When you see a single house being built that takes maybe a year to finish, think about this. Maple Leaf Gardens was built during the depression in five months. FIVE MONTHS! Smythe recruited several rich buddies to invest, and when the money fell short by several hundred thousand dollars, Smythe convinced the workers to trade twenty percent of their wages for shares in the Gardens. The thing got built and the workers’ shares, that were bought for a dollar a piece, quickly increased by a hundred-fold.

Smythe had a beautiful apartment built in the innards of the Gardens where he practically lived most of the time and where he called many Gardens employees to so he could fire them. I would have liked an office like this but I would have preferred the Forum. He also had his mansion, and a ranch where he raised prize racing horses.

Conn Smythe was instrumental in not giving in to the ideas of the players to form a players association (union) and managed to prolong it for ten years, mostly by convincing all the teams to trade the main instigators, like Ted Lindsay and Doug Harvey, to other teams. He was very proud of this accomplishment. He also lobbied for years to stop Harvey Busher Jackson, one of his players throughout the 1940’s in Toronto, from being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame because he disapproved of Jackson’s drinking and womanizing. Smythe eventually quit hockey completely when Jackson was finally inducted in 1971. He also didn’t like Roman Catholics and was mortified when son Stafford fell in love with and married one.

Conn Smythe was a piece of work, but raised countless dollars for crippled children. So he was sort-of-a-nice-man. I’m sure Lawrence will say he was a nice man and there’s two sides to every story. And one last thing for Lawrence. In the 1920’s Smythe’s amateur football and hockey teams played big games up in Orillia, my home town, and always got pummeled.

The Continuing Saga of: FASCINATING FACTS!!

Interesting fact: My pee wee coach in Orillia played 27 games for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1943-44 season. He had one goal and 31 penalty minutes. AND NOT ONLY THAT:  He played alongside Punch Imlach for the Quebec Aces in the old Quebec Senior League and played against the Rocket before Richard joined the Habs. Does it get any more interesting than this?

Interesting fact:  I went to the Forum in the early 1980’s to pick up an autographed stick they had waiting for me because I had phoned and asked for one. (no shit.) Afterwards, I was down at the bottom of the stairs somewhere in the Forum, wrapping my new stick in my coat, when Jean Beliveau appeared on the stairs above me. He saw me and jumped. I think he thought I had a gun.

Interesting fact: When I lived in Ottawa, it was a known fact that Doug Harvey, the greatest defenceman of all time after Bobby Orr, lived in some kind of railway car at the race track in Hull, completely down and out, with a drinking problem. So what did I do? Nothing. Nothing at all. Didn’t go there. Didn’t bring him any smokes or a bottle. Didn’t invite him home for a turkey dinner. Nothing. Geez, this would have made an interesting story.

Interesting fact: Conn Smythe let the Habs have Dick Irvin as their coach, even though Irvin was a good and successful coach in Toronto, because Smythe wanted his man Hap Day, a good, religious company man and supreme ass kisser, to coach. Irvin went on to coach Montreal for 15 years where he won 3 Stanley Cups and let his son, broadcaster Dick Irvin Jr., sit on the players bench from time to time when junior was a kid. Hap Day, in Toronto, won 5 Cups, but I don’t want to talk about that except that maybe it was good for Toronto to have a coach who liked to kiss his boss’s ass.

The Biggest Question In The History Of The World

The question is this: Why do so many people, through so many generations, hate the Habs? It seems like more than any other team, probably even Toronto, Montreal is despised by way too many hockey fans from coast to coast. Except, of course, if you love them. And there’s lots of those. So I’ve been thinking about it.

The most common thing, Habs-haters whine, is the smugness of their fans. That look on Montreal fans’ faces really gets to people. I’ve been hearing this argument all my life, and frankly, I don’t get it. Has anyone ever paid attention to the smugness surrounding Canucks’ fans? Or Senators’ fans? I’ll bet the smugness enveloped all of Edmonton in the 1980’s. Calgary fans get really sickenly smug when their team’s winning. The bottom line is this. If we were smug in the ’50’s, ’60’s, and ’70’s, it’s because our team was better than yours. And anyway, I always made a real effort to be anti-smug around others. Also, why would we be smug nowadays? We’re not. We’re mad and disappointed that our team isn’t doing better. So get over it and grow up.

The generation of Habs haters today probably got it from their fathers. And their fathers got it from their fathers. All because our team beat their team on a regular basis. So today’s haters aren’t even unique. They’re just mindless robots programmed to think like their daddies. There’s lots of New York Yankees and Manchester United haters too. Could it be that people resent success? It’s very sad indeed.

The English-French thing. Everyone likes to talk about how shameful it is in the southern US when it comes to African-Americans, but get talking about “frogs” and they’re off and running for three hours. People associate the Montreal Canadiens with politics, separation, and maybe even the melting of the icecaps. You say they had the pick of the litter in Quebec for so many years and that’s why they had strong teams. So what? The Habs had Quebec sewn up for awhile, but the other teams had the rest of North America to choose from, and even a few french guys left over. Toronto basically had the same thing going in Ontario, with St. Michael’s College and Kirkland Lake, for example. So if you can’t draft properly from Ontario, the Maritimes, the prairies, the west coast, and the northern parts of the US, then you don’t deserve to win! What a sorry excuse for losing.

The Rocket won scoring titles because all the good players were overseas and he stayed? First, the Rocket wanted badly to join the army but was refused because of health reasons like broken bones etc. This is a known fact. Secondly, why didn’t others who played in the war years score like he did? Thirdly, he played 18 years in the league, starting in 1942 when the war was half over, and his first two years were write-offs because of injuries. He was a star among stars in the years afterwards, when everyone was playing.

Some of the finest battalions in the Canadian army were from Quebec, like the famous Van Doos. These people fought for us and I’m sure were great people. Maurice Richard loved Canada, all of Canada. Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur are staunch nationalists. and feel the same way as the Rocket did. Heck, I hear that the lotteries are rigged because so many from Quebec win. You need to grow up about this one.  You’ve never had a problem with Mario Lemieux, Vincent Lecavalier, Marcel Dionne, Gilbert Perreault, and all those other Quebecers who don’t or didn’t play for Montreal. So you’ve got selective thinking. Grow up and repeat after me – “I’m gonna quit being jealous. I’m gonna quit being jealous.”

The Thing Growing From My Deck

Some kind of other-worldly park bench is growing from my deck. Dogs and cats run away shrieking. It’s making me nervous. It just sits there, quiet, not moving, almost like it’s ready to strike at any moment. It has a number 9 on the back. What could that mean? Why is it here? What does it want? Will it hurt those dogs and cats? Stay tuned.