Category Archives: Montreal

Iced Lightning

This brought me back once again to those days when my friend Ron Clarke and I would put on our itchy wool Habs sweaters, play road hockey until the evening got dark and we couldn’t see the ball, and our moms would call us in for supper.

It reminded me of Ron and I trudging up to the arena, duffel bags over our shoulders, ready to be the Rocket and Jean Beliveau and Ralph Backstrom once again.

Hope you enjoy this great 9 minute clip from the 1940s, showing kids, older kids, girls, pros, all playing the great sport of hockey.

Below the clip, some screenshots sent by my friend Ed Wolk.

Ed Meets James Brown at the Shrine

I consider Ed Wolk a good friend of mine for sure. A great guy Ed is, we’re about the same age, and we have similar interests, including the Habs (Ed grew up a Habs fan in Montreal), he’s a long time  Beatles fan like me, and he knew John and Yoko, which I’ll talk about at a later time.

Ed has sent me a great letter from the time the great James Brown came to the Montreal Forum, and he’s also included some cool photos from the Bell Centre,

Here’s Ed’s letter from that time at the Forum in 1971 when he covered the James Brown concert.

Take it away, Ed…

“In the off season the Montreal Forum was the venue for many rock concerts and other events.

Even the Montreal Symphony had a series called “Dollar Concerts”…yes the price of admission was one dollar!…unfortunately the acoustics sucked….sorry, I digress.

Back in 1971 the Forum hosted the ‘Godfather of Soul’…James Brown!

At that time I was working at a radio station and was invited to a pre-concert press conference at the Forum…which was held at, of all places, the Montreal Canadiens dressing room.

How many times at a Habs game had I looked at the CH logo on the door of the dressing room…and there was no way that I would gain access within, until that day in ‘71.

There was probably a dozen or so media people in the room, we sat on the players benches and James Brown sat on a chair, and I  couldn’t believe it. Here I was, sitting in the inner sanctum of my favourite hockey team. My eyes did a tour of the room…the photos of Morenz, the Rocket, Toe Blake etc….

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be sitting in the ultimate Canadiens hockey shrine reading that famous quote of John McCrae..”To you from failing hands we throw the torch be yours to hold it high”…I got goosebumps!

I somehow managed to return to reality and the charismatic presence of Jame Brown “in the house”.
Near the end of the press conference..Brown, who was sitting about eight feet away from me..looked me straight in the eyes and said..”Anything you want to ask me, brother?”

Stunned..my reply was very simple…”No, Mr Brown…I’m just happy to be here!”
Imagine…I’m in the Canadiens dressing room with James Brown…doesn’t get any better!”

Oh, and the concert?

“The concert was great…It was a James Brown Review ..his backup band”The Flames” opened the show with an instrumental…James would come out sing a couple of songs..then he would showcase a singer…let her  do a solo…he’d be back to do a duet with the singer…another couple of tunes….showcase another singer…Flames would be featured in another instrumental…and so on…a great show!
Saw him again a few years later at Place des Arts…a great showman!…always willing to share the spotlight on stage with others.”

Cheers
Ed

And Ed’s photos are in the inner sanctum of the Bell Centre, including the one above of him in the dressing room.

“Michael Whalen invited me to tag along while he covered the Habs practice in Brossard (for TSN),” says Ed. “It was the first time I got to see Carey Price.”

“After the practice the players were bused back to the Bell Centre to shower etc…then there was the media scrum. I asked Michael to take my photo in the dressing room, and you’ll notice it predates the ‘No Excuses’ sign!”

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

A Dow Wouldn’t Go Good Now

Actually, after a 6-0 loss to the Leafs,  maybe a Dow laced with cobalt sulfate might go good now.

The Rocket wasn’t just a hockey player, as he once said of himself. He was also a beer rep, doing public relations work for Dow Breweries, which was owned by Carling-O’Keefe when Rocket was involved. I wonder how Molson felt about that.

Dow would eventually become owned by Molson in the mid-sixties, but closed shop after several dozen people who had been drinking at least 24 Dows a day suddenly died from heart failure. It was found that Dow contained cobalt sulfate, which apparently isn’t good for your health.

You’d think that anyone who drinks 24 beers a day, regardless of the brand, might suffer heart failure at some point. But I’m no doctor so I can’t be sure.

 

Rangers Grab Game 1

The crowd was primed, Ginette Reno belted out O Canada in stirring fashion, and the Canadiens in the first 20 minutes belted bodies and pelted 15 shots at the Rangers net while allowing just 5.

It looked like it was gonna be a rip-roaring, rootin’ tootin’ affair at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night, with the happy crowd filling Peel and Crescent St. later to celebrate the return of joyous hockey in Montreal.

But a fine and somewhat flukey backhand shot by Tanner Glass in the first, and an empty-netter as the clock wore down, and the Rangers take the always-important first game 2-0. Now fans filling the pubs in downtown Montreal must debate their team’s lack of scoring instead of high-fiving and toasting friends and strangers alike.

The Canadiens were flying in the first, energized by the building, the anthem, the atmosphere in hockey’s greatest city, and the wondrous anticipation leading up to the puck drop, but were ultimately foiled by Henrik Lundqvist and a tight and disciplined Rangers squad.

Montreal’s wings were trimmed in the second and third as the visitors stood tall in the neutral zone, were stingy in their end, and with Lundqvist on his game, they made life way too difficult for the good guys.

Yes, it was a bummer to lose the opener. Adjustments need to be made. Nikita Nesterov, awkward on defence, needs to sit. Scorers need to score. Shooters need to hit the net. Centremen need to win important faceoffs. The team has to be better in their own end.

In fact, nothing really changed from the regular season when scorers weren’t scoring, pucks missed nets, faceoffs were lost, and confusion reigned often in their own end.

Friday has to be different. Imagine going down two games before hitting Broadway. Not gonna happen is my prediction.

Random Notes:

Shots were 31 apiece.

Alexei Emelin, still healing, didn’t play, and I for one wouldn’t mind seeing the big fellow in the lineup sooner than soon. The team has to smash these bastards like they did in the first period of the opener. But for 60 minutes next time.

Last year, THE SEASON FROM HELL, saw the Canadiens score 221 times over 82 games. This season they managed 226, five more.

Last year the team allowed 236 goals, while this year it was just 200, which shows what happens when Carey Price is healthy. And last season they finished with 82 points while this season was 103 points.

A different team, a new lease on life. Expected to make a big dent in the postseason. But they’re not scoring. Not yet anyway.

 

 

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.

Jimmyroberts

 

 

 

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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