Category Archives: Montreal

Remembering Jim Roberts

Forum program

I’d just turned 15 and was at the Montreal Forum for a game between the Habs and New York Rangers. My first visit to the shrine a handful of years before it was renovated, after seeing so many games from my living room and on those old Molson films we’d see at banquets or at the Hall of Fame down at the CNE.

I’ve mentioned before about this trip, about how I was a bit drunk when my dad picked me up at the bus station when I came back to Orillia. But the bus was full of older guys, all with bottles, and I had no choice.

When the siren sounded to end this game in Montreal, my friend and I wandered down to rinkside to look at the big CHs at centre ice. This is what I’d wanted to do as much as see the game. Go down to ice level and be close to the logos that I had only seen on grainy television.

We also saw trainers wheel out the players’ equipment bags on carts from the corridor near the dressing room. I can picture this like it was yesterday, and at the time it was very cool. A couple of trainers and a bunch of duffle bags lives on in my memory.

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

Roberts was extremely nice and chatted with me, asking where I was from and such. He had no idea how much this impressed me. So much so that I decided to start a Jim Roberts Fan Club. It would be almost like being on the team for goodness sakes. Inside the Habs inner circle. What a fantastic idea this was.

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

I never heard back. Maybe Jim Roberts was waiting for me. Maybe he waited all season for his fan club to begin. Maybe Red forgot to tell him. Regardless, soon enough I realized I couldn’t start a Jim Roberts Fan club. I had school and hockey and the British Invasion bands were invading. I didn’t have time for this.

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?

Jim Roberts passed away on Friday from cancer at age 75. He was a key member of five Stanley Cup teams in Montreal – 1965, ’66, ”73, ’76, and ’77, and a smart and hard worker whose true value came from shutting down big guns on other teams, much like Bob Gainey and Doug Jarvis, two guys who probably learned plenty from playing alongside Jim in the 1970s, would.

He was never a huge star. But his star shone brightly for me, not only for what he did while wearing the CH, but because he was so nice to me when I was young. I’m very much saddened by his passing.

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The Montreal Barns

In 2013, while you were at the beach getting high and ogling the opposite sex in their skimpy bathing suits, I was getting stuck in Montreal traffic, working my way around an inner city marathon involving thousands of runners, all of whom seemed in slightly better shape than me.

I did this because I wanted to see where the old Habs barns once stood or still stand. And I’m almost sure that not one runner got squished by my tires.

First, the 3,200-seat Jubilee Arena in east-end Montreal, at the corner of St. Catherine and Malborough (now Rue Alphonse – D. Roy.)

The Canadiens played there during their first ever season, 1909-10, and again from 1917 until it burned down in 1919.

What the Jubilee looked like, inside and out –

Jubilee Arena

Jub.

And what it looks like now. Nice, if you like warehouses.

Jubilee 1

Jubilee 2

From 1910 to 1918, the Canadiens played at the Montreal Arena (or Westmount Arena as it was also called), at the corner of St. Catherine and Wood, one block west of what would become the Forum.

The place held 4,000 people seated and another 6,000 standees, and burned down in 1918, forcing the Canadiens to move back to the Jubilee for a very short period.

The Montreal Wanderers played there also, and I kind of feel for this long-gone team. After being a powerhouse in the old ECAHA and NHA, they joined the NHL in 1918 and played just four games before their barn burned down. So they called it quits permanently.

What the Montreal Arena looked like then –

Westmount Arena

And what it looks like now –

Westmount 1

Westmount 2

Next, the 6,000-seat Mount Royal Arena near the corner of Mount Royal and St. Urbain, where the Canadiens, after the Jubilee burned down, played from 1920 to 1926 . After that they would take residence (with the Maroons) in the Forum, which was built two years prior in 1924.

The Mount Royal Arena burned down in 2000.

What it looked like then –

Mount Royal Arena

And what it looks like now. A Provigo supermarket –

Mount Royal 1

The classic Montreal Forum, built and opened in 1924 –

Forum_Montreal

Forum 1

Renovations in 1968 made it look like this –

New Forum

Forum inside

And then, after the team had moved to the Molson (Bell) Centre, the beautiful Forum became this –

Forum 8

Forum 1

Forum 2

Forum corridor

Forum hall

Forum 4

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And finally, the Bell Centre, originally named the Molson Centre, which opened in 1996.

Bell

pressbox

seats

The Canadiens’ dressing room, which the tour guy said is the smallest dressing room in the league, partly because they wanted to keep it as similar as possible to the Forum dressing room. and something about moving from the Forum after the season had already started.

dressing room

High Times for Max And P.K.

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For those who came here by mistake, don’t follow hockey, and are unsure of who’s who, Max is the one in the blue shirt.

Great news this week concerning P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty. One who gave and one who received.

First with the Subbanator, who only a few days ago donated a cool ten million bucks (over seven years), to Montreal’s Children’s Hospital.

What a gesture by the 2015-16 Norris Trophy winner and key  member of next spring’s Stanley Cup-winning team. A big-hearted man of the people, and a guy with lots of money.

Rocket Richard gave to charities, visited hospitals, and accepted invitations to countless banquets, not only because certain duties were required, but because he truly loved kids. But in his day, if he’d handed over even a grand to a hospital, his house might have gone into foreclosure.

Whatever. Rocket then, P.K. now – it’s about caring and helping and loving kids and beating the shit out of the Leafs and Bruins.

We now tap our fingers and wait for Erik Karlsson to do something almost as good as what P.K. did. Is it possible? Or is P.K. truly one of a kind?

Maybe Patrick Kane might want to think about doing something like this too.

Next:

P.K. and the boys cast their votes, and Max Pacioretty was chosen by his buddies as Montreal’s newest wearer of the iconic C. A great honour and Max deserves it. He’s a class act on and off the ice, a dangerous sharpshooter, and obviously popular with his teammates.

Maybe his French leaves much to be desired, but hopefully some media folk and fans don’t get their shorts in a knot and just suck it up and let it be.

Habs fans missed having a captain last year, and now the letter is back in place. Max will look terrific when he accepts the Stanley Cup from wee Bettman next June.

Last year I sat with Max, Brendan Gallagher, Brandon Prust, and Tomas Plekanec at a table while they signed autographs, and while Prust and Plekanec hardly said a word and left as soon as they could, Max and Gally were as friendly as can be to all concerned, and stayed afterward and met people connected with the event.

Max’s dad and I have exchanged emails over the past several years, and I might sound like Don Cherry or Glenn Healy here, but I told Mr. Pacioretty a couple of years back that I thought his son would make a fine captain.

And because I mentioned Rocket’s house a few paragraphs ago, here’s a photo of it, situated in the north end of Montreal (Ahuntsic), where he raised a family while scaring the bejesus out of opposing forwards, defencemen, and goalies.

It’s a beautiful house on a corner lot, with a park and river across the street, and the main difference now, compared to when Maurice and his gang lived there, is the upper part, which is completely different than the original dwelling. That and different windows.

I took Lucy to see it, and she seemed impressed that it was Rocket’s house. I stress the word “seemed.”

Peloquin

Here’s the original if you feel like comparing.

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A Beautiful Brick

Classic Auctions founder and president Marc Juteau gave me a going away gift before I left, and it now sits in my living room, reminding me of my special time there.

I remain tremendously proud of having worked at Classic, and I’ll never forget the job and the people I worked with. What a great bunch – Marc, Frank, Sean, Gilles, Dan, Josee, Debbie, Andre, Maude, Scott, Mathieu, and Greg. They became my friends, and they’re awesome.

Marc’s gift was a brick from the original Montreal Forum, before the building was renovated in 1968, placed into a special case, and with a plaque and Certificate of Authenticity from the Montreal Canadiens. I love it so much.

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Below, photos I took of the old Forum circa 1965, when I was 14 or 15. My buddy and I had taken a bus charter from Orillia to Montreal to see the Canadiens play the Rangers, and I still remember the magical feelings I had of the city.

And of course I remember the old Forum with the pillars on each side, and where, when the game was over, we made our way down and stared at the ice until we were told to leave.

The Forum would eventually be renovated and enlarged in 1968, but this is the old barn. Maybe one of the bricks you see in these photos is the one I have now.

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And a cool whimsical illustration of inside, from my old scrapbook.

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Habs Top Of The Heap

The Pittsburgh Penguins may have had their way with the Canadiens back on November 18th when they blanked the boys 4-0, but Saturday night in Pittsburgh was a different story.

4-1 Habs. A well-deserved win.

Montreal punched the clock and played a solid, hardworking, hard checking, all round fine game as they bottled up the Pens in impressive fashion, found themselves with meaningful scoring chances sprinkled throughout, and now sit in the Eastern Conference penthouse with 54 points, one ahead of both the Pens and Islanders, and two in front of Tampa Bay, the team they face on Tuesday evening in Montreal.

Max would slam one home in the first period to open the scoring, then a Desharnais slapshot made it 2-0, Tom Gilbert was wide open in the second frame and it was 3-1, and Alexei Emelin blasted a laser through a crowd in the third to put the thing out of reach.

A nice little run Les Glorieux have going now, winning 6 straight and 9 of their last 10. No wonder they’re king of the hill.

I’m back watching and typing in our little house in Powell River, after a year and a half of living in Montreal. It feels unusual, with the game coming on a 4 pm instead of 7, and in a completely different place than the one I was in just over a week ago.

I also hadn’t seen the team play the previous three games because we were in the process of driving across the country.

It’s great to be back, but I also loved Montreal. It was a grand adventure, and now returning to PR is strange and also fresh and  comfortable. The old couch, the  bigger TV, the kitchen table where I am now. The fence in the back yard that blew over during a recent storm.

And the Canadiens ruling the roost. All they gotta do now is take out the Lightning at the Bell on Tuesday. Widen the gap a touch.

Random Notes:

Canadiens outshot Pittsburgh 33-31.

They also went 0-4 on the power play,  which puts them in 27th place in the man-advantage category. But they’re on a serious run so now’s not the time to complain.

Carey Price was in the nets for back to back games, only the second time this year that Toker didn’t play in one of them. Price was between the pipes on Dec. 5th against the Hawks and the 6th against the Stars, losing both. But that was then, this is now.

 

The Perfect Bridge Name

To have a bridge named after Maurice Richard would be such a tremendous way of honoring the great man who died in 2000, and I sure hope it happens. What a thing it would be for his family.

I’d be proud to drive over the Maurice Richard Bridge.

This, from CTV News:

“Meanwhile there is no guarantee that the new bridge will keep the Champlain name.

“Federal Transportation Minister Denis Lebel said that in conversations the name that keeps coming up is Maurice Richard, the famous Montreal Canadiens’ hockey player, however Lebel would not commit to any name.”

Four Guys And A Pen Provider

Friday night with Tomas, Brandon, Max, and Gally. My job was to provide pens and pictures for Plekanec and I feel I was excellent at this. In my mind, one of best pen and picture providers you’ll ever see.

Tomas was friendly and soft spoken. All four were, and they were kind and patient while being swamped with autograph and photo requests.

Lots of people at Montreal’s Pierre Charbonneau Centre out by the Big O. And near the end of the evening, several girls screamed and one shed tears as Brendan Gallagher walked by.

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Bring On The Fall Classic

jock

Often I hear folks say they hate baseball and that’s fine. I couldn’t care less about NFL football, including the Super Bowl.

Since I was a kid I’ve loved baseball. Loved to play it, loved to watch it, loved to read about it. I was a big Dodgers fan during the Sandy Koufax, Don Drydale, Maury Wills days. Later on it became the Expos, and now it’s no team in particular.

Of course, loving baseball means loving World Series time, which is now. I can remember in grade 5 when my teacher let me bring my transistor radio to school when the Series was played during the day, and my job was to sit at the back of the class, quietly listen to the game, and as the score changed throughout, write it on the blackboard.

I’m cheering for the Giants over the Royals, even though the Giants were the enemy when I was a Dodgers fan. Kansas City might be a fine place, but San Francisco is my kind of town.

(25 years ago, 63 people died during a massive San Francisco earthquake, and it’s assumed a great deal more would have perished had it not been for Candlestick Park being full of baseball fans for game 3 of the ’89 World Series).

Have a look at  Mr. Ed (the talking horse) give hitting pointers to those L.A. Dodgers from my youth. Quite a horse, that Ed.

Barn Burners

Are you feeling romantic and appreciative and looking to do something nice for your spouse?

You could do what I did. I took my wife to see the places where the Canadiens played before they made the Forum their home. It goes without saying that she was overcome with joy and appreciation.

Three rinks. And all three burned down.

First, the 3,200-seat Jubilee Arena in east-end Montreal, at the corner of St. Catherine and Malborough (now Rue Alphonse – D. Roy.)

The Canadiens played there during their first ever season, 1909-10, and again from 1917 until it burned down in 1919.

What the Jubilee looked like, inside and out –

Jubilee Arena

Jub.

And what it looks like now, from two angles –

Jubilee 1

Jubilee 2

From 1910 to 1918, the Canadiens played at the Montreal Arena (or Westmount Arena as it was also called), at the corner of St. Catherine and Wood, one block west of what would become the Forum.

The place held 4,000 people seated and another 6,000 standees, and burned down in 1918, forcing the Canadiens to move back to the Jubilee for a very short period.

The Montreal Wanderers played there also, and I kind of feel for this long-gone team. After being a powerhouse in the old ECAHA and NHA, they joined the NHL in 1918 and played just four games before their barn burned down. So they called it quits permanently.

What the Montreal Arena looked like then –

Westmount Arena

And what it looks like now –

Westmount 1

Westmount 2

And finally, the 6,000-seat Mount Royal Arena near the corner of Mount Royal and St. Urbain, where the Canadiens, after the Jubilee burned down, played from 1920 to 1926 . After that they would take residence (with the Maroons) in the Forum, which was built two years prior in 1924.

The Mount Royal Arena burned down in 2000.

What it looked like then –

Mount Royal Arena

And what it looks like now. A Provigo –

Mount Royal 1