Category Archives: New York Rangers

The Dismal Beat Goes On

Late-’80s Claude Julien.

The wild and crazy Montreal Canadiens were rusty and sloppy in Claude Julien’s 2017 coaching debut, and their 3-1 loss to the visiting Winnipeg Jets ruined what could have been a fun breakout party for the new Blind River bench boss.

Probably rusty because they had five days off. And sloppy, regardless of who’s behind the bench. Nothing new about their sloppiness. They’d probably be a mess if Toe Blake was behind them.

Was any part of this loss Julien’s fault?

If he was Kreskin, he might have plunked Nathan Beaulieu into the press box pre-game, before this mediocre defenceman could think he was Bobby Orr during a second period power play, and which quickly showed he’s no Bobby Orr.

Or Gaston Gingras for that matter.

Beaulieu decided to do some fancy stickhanding and was promptly stripped of the puck by Joel Armia, who walked in and tied it.

And because Julien didn’t have his skates on, he couldn’t be on the ice at 1:16 of the third when Emelin, Weber, Plekanec, Danault and Max decided to show their soft and tender side as Big Buff muscled his way in from the right side and found Mathieu Perreault, who notched the winner easy as pie.

Winnipeg’s third goal was an empty-netter, so I guess Julien can’t be blamed for that one either.

Wasn’t Carey Price’s fault either, as the big fellow snagged shots left and right, including lightning-quick glove hand robbery on rookie star Patrick Laine’s laser in the first period and then again in the third, plus coming up big a plethora of other times throughout.

Price was his old self, which is a good thing. So were his teammates, which is a bad thing.

Gump Worsley, manning the pipes for the New York Rangers in the late-’50s, was asked what team gave him the most trouble. Gump answered, “the Rangers”.

Price can say exactly the same thing about his teammates. Coverage means more than just car and house insurance, boys.

Random Notes:

Jets outshot the Habs 33-20.

Either the Sens or Leafs will win tonight, considering they play each other. Which means if the Sens win they’ll be within two points of Montreal, and if the Leafs pull it out, they’ll be just five back. Both teams also have games in hand on the Canadiens.

 

Habs Rock Rangers

The Canadiens rebound from a 7-1 trouncing on Thursday in Minnesota to edge the visiting New York Rangers 5-4 at the Bell on Saturday night, and church bells ring throughout the land.

So if you hear church bells on Saturday night or Sunday morning, it’s because the Habs won. What else could it be?

Not only did they win but they did it by scoring three unanswered goals in the third period to do it. It’s almost religious.

The first period saw Andrew Shaw, returning from concussion, interfere in the crease which caused Phillip Danault’s goal to be called back,  the team was scored upon with Shaw in the box, and to cap off the night for the returning not-so-bright forward, he blindsided Jesper Fast and received a five minute major and game misconduct.

Too much energy and adrenaline for Shaw, and not enough brain cells turned on. But whatever. The team won. And regardless of the lack of brain cells, at least Shaw plays with an edge.

I’ve been whining that the Canadiens have been too full of peace and love for a decade. Time to be mean assholes. But probably a bit smarter than Shaw on this night.

Alex Galchenyuk, back from sick bay after more than a month, tied the game with a deflection, but quickly the visitors went ahead after Alexei Emelin took the man but forgot the puck, and Rick Nash banged it home.

But….I don’t understand.

Kevin Hayes barged in, wrapped his skate behind Carey Price’s pad, and dragged the poor bastard out of the crease, thereby giving Nash the open net. The play was reviewed and the goal stood.

How come? Please tell me. Maybe Kerry Fraser can explain. I’ll watch for it.

Things were heating up, and the Bell Centre patrons sat up. Brian Flynn would shove it home to tie the game at 2-2, but tragically, our man Chucky would lose the puck along the boards, reliable old Shea Weber was beaten cleanly, it was 3-2 Rangers, and life wasn’t worth living.

Until it was.

The third frame saw Alexei Emelin fire a wrist shot home from the blueline to put things at 3-3, then Max would outrace two d-men to put the boys ahead 4-3, and Paul Byron would give them a beauty of two goal, 5-3 lead.

The Rangers would make it 5-4 with 5:07 left, but that was the best the Broadway Blueshirts could do.

Habs win 5-4. And please don’t fret about Carey Price’s mediocre play lately, or cracks in defence, or this or that. This is the regular season, where we only have to be concerned about them making the playoffs, which they will.

The regular season is only a rehearsal, a fine-tuning, a time to get the gang ready for opening night – the playoffs. I’m sure Marlon Brando was an asshole sometimes before the cameras rolled, and then rallied to give the performance of his life.

That’s the Habs. Ups, downs, fine tuning, readying for the curtain to rise.

Random Notes:

The Rangers outshot Montreal 33-32. Price came up big a bunch of times.

Next up – two tough games on the horizon. Detroit on Monday, and at home to greet Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

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.

I Think It’s Good Anyway

Once again, for your possible reading enjoyment, some drawings from my grade two exercise book done at West Ward Public School in Orillia, and which I’ve managed to hold on to all these years.

Yes, some of you have seen some of this before, but I’ve added more this time, so that’s good right?

And as another added bonus, I include a photo of West Ward school in the process of burning to the ground in 1968.

But first things first, my art from grade two, lots of it, and which includes some Habs, a portrait of my teacher Mrs. Williams, along with Elvis Presley, which I spelled ‘Elive Prisie’.

If all this isn’t enticing, I don’t know what is.

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West Ward

 

 

Canadiens Crush Rangers

crush

No problem for the Habs in New York as they made mincemeat of the home town Rangers with a fine 5-1 win that sent Henrik Lundqvist packing, and which hurdles the good guys over the Blueshirts for best in the east.

A fine win, although Carey Price left after two periods and replaced by Mike Condon, and now we wait and see if it’s minor or major damage to our number one guy.

I’m not even sure what happened. It was vague. And Chris Kreider might have had nothing to do with it, he probably wasn’t even on the ice, but I’m blaming him anyway.

That’s all we need – a nagging injury to Price that has him play only here and there throughout the remainder of the season. But Mike Condon, who replaced him at the start of the third period, didn’t allow a goal and had won five of his previous nine starts, so I’m going with positives instead of getting all in a dither.

Otherwise, I might start smoking again after 15 years.

Although asking Condon to start another nine probably isn’t a good thing.

Gallagher out, Mitchell, maybe Price again. But the boys are gonna suck it up, roll along, and make our hearts soar like a flock of Great Speckled Birds.

Canadiens got the lone goal of the first period, a backhand by Sven Andrighetto, while in the second, Devante Smith-Pelly notched his first of two on the night after banging home a Max Pacioretty pass.

New York would close the gap in the second with Alex Galchenyuk in the box, but the third period saw Smith-Pelly, Galchenyuk, and Max light the lamp, which ended Lundqvist’s night, and the boys get ‘er done in fine fashion.

Random Notes:

Multi-point getters include Smith-Pelly with a pair, Plekanec with two assists, and Max and Chucky with a goal and an assist each.

Shots on goal – Rangers 34, Habs 25. But the Canadiens were the more dangerous team regardless.

Montreal’s power play – 1/4.

Next up – Canadiens head over to Newark for a Friday meeting with the Devils, and the following night, it’s those Devils again, only at the Bell Centre. Hopefully our man Price is between the pipes.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Habs Win Battle Of Brick Walls

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The great Habs teams of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s couldn’t do it, but the 2015-16 team just did. Five straight wins to open the season, never done in 106 years of Les Glorieux action until now.

My heart is soaring like a flock of pterodactyls.

Thursday night saw the gang shut out the visiting New York Rangers 3-0, with Carey Price standing on his head when needed and Henrik Lundqvist at the other end doing the same.

But Price was better. He got the shutout, not Lundqvist.

The Canadiens, in this history-making game, were aided by a second period goal by Tomas Fleischmann, a Dale Weise marker in the third frame, and an empty netter from Tomas Plekanec as the clock wore down.

Five straight wins, but now I need six of course, which means they have to take out the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday at the Bell. But they just handled a good Rangers team, so there’s no reason why they can’t do the same to the Wings.

I’m a tad concerned about the Wings. They don’t have the Babcockian One barking his arrogant orders at them anymore, so they’re probably looser than they’ve been in years. But we’ve got four solid lines, three excellent defence pairings, and Carey Price, so of course Detroit doesn’t stand a chance.

Not only did the boys win their fifth, but once again they scored the game’s first goal, something they’ve done every game so far. And equally important, they didn’t sit back in the third while nursing a slim lead. Also surprising? Michel Therrien hasn’t juggled lines yet.

Did God, who’s a solid Habs fan, put the hammer down on the coach?

Four lines contributing, with the best goalie in the world coming up big, and it makes for a team that’s already raising eyebrows in this young campaign.

An absolutely great start to the season, aside from a power play that shoots blanks. But they’ve won five, so what am I bitching about? Really though, the Canadiens with the man advantage have been brutal so far and went 0 for 5 tonight.

Random Notes:

Montreal outshot New York 32-25, and both goalies were unreal. Lundqvist’s glove hand shot out like lightning numerous times, and Price dazzled throughout, including a series of mind-boggling saves after his team had killed a 5 on 3 Rangers power play in the second frame.

Opening ceremonies saw  Guy Carbonneau, who captained the team from ’89-90 to ’93-94, hand the torch to new captain Max, with the torch then passed from player to player. The Habs’ last captain before Max was Brian Gionta, who I was never thrilled about wearing the C, but I’ve moved on.

Andrei Markov was a hoot when he came out and circled PK Subban before accepting the torch. Good for a hearty chuckle.

David Desharnais and Tomas Fleischmann both collected a pair of assists.

I’m hoping the parade route includes Marine Ave. in Powell River.

 

Streak Reaches Four!

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Now that’s some kind of season-opening road trip.

Four games, four wins. Success in Toronto, Boston, Ottawa, and a tidy 3-2 win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Road bonding. Kanata nightlife. Four goals during the stretch for new captain Max.

Now it’s the friendly confines of the Bell Centre on Thursday where this 2015-16 edition of the Canadiens will be introduced before tackling the visiting Blueshirts, who at this moment are considering calling in sick.

Zack Kassian, presumably watching this unfold, must be feeling lousy. He’s missing all this good stuff, and we could’ve used him to smash Chris Kreider’s ribs into bone dust.

And the game in Pittsburgh? Two goals by captain Max, beginning with the opener in the first frame after some nice work by Brendan Gallagher to get the puck over, and with Tomas Plekanec causing fine havoc in front.

The Pens would even things in the second after Nathan Beaulieu was caught at the enemy blueline, allowing Beau Bennett to skate in. (I hadn’t realized that parents named their kids ‘Beau’ nowadays, but apparently they do. They don’t seem to call them ‘Dennis’ though.)

But then it happened (in the game, not the kids’ names). Not only did Max’s second goal put his team ahead again, it was also on the power play of all things. A power play that was nicely quarterbacked by Jeff Petry. A power play that went 1/2 on the night and now stands at 2 for 16. Maybe Petry is the key to untangling this mess.

That’s one small step for the power play, one giant leap for mankind. Or something like that.

Later in the second, a bit of a deflection from far out fooled Carey Price, and the game was tied once again. It’s weird to type that – “from far out fooled Carey Price.” 

But we forgive him. And we’ll probably forgive him two or three more times this season.

The Canadiens won it in the third period after a broken play saw Dale Weise miss David Desharnais with a long stretch pass, but wee DD hustled to the corner, grabbed the elusive biscuit, and sent it to newcomer Tomas Fleischmann who made no mistake. And which kept the beauty of a streak alive and well..

A fine win, capped off by Price robbing Sidney Crosby with just 2:17 left in the game.

What a start to the season, and they have a chance to extend it to five in front of a rip roaring Bell Centre crowd on Thursday.

Again, Zack can’t be feeling great about this. It must be like being locked in a room while your buddies are splashing in the pool with Playboy bunnies.

Random Notes:

Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 33-30.

Everyone on the team has at least a point, except for Tom Gilbert, Alexei Emelin, and Devante Smith-Pelly. Max leads the team with 6, while Markov, P.K., and Galchenyuk sit at 4.

This, from Mike McKim on Facebook –

Knock, knock,
Who’s there?
Foreign.
Foreign who?
FOUR and OH!

 

 

 

The Old Phone Book, With Orr And….

My old Orillia and area phone book that I grabbed years ago, just before my old man threw it out.

Paging through the Orillia section, I see the GM Lightfoot household at 283 Harvey St., where young Gordon grew up. The singer would’ve been about 20 when this phone book came out, and had moved out of the house just the year before.

My good buddies Kerry Baker and Robin Metcalfe also lived on Harvey St, and my dad worked for awhile at a dry cleaners in Orillia with Gordon’s father.

You see the Lightfoot listing halfway down, and further up is former NHLer Rick Ley’s dad Norman at 47 Wyandotte.

The book also features the area surrounding Orillia, including Parry Sound, and I found Bobby Orr’s family home, listed as Douglas Orr, (his dad) at 21 Great North Road. And Bobby’s grandfather, Robert Orr, is at 67 River. Bobby was about 11 at the time of the phone book.

Searching further, I went into the Sundridge pages and found Bucko McDonald on Main St. Bucko had not only been a star in the NHL in the 1930’s and 40’s with Detroit, New York, and Toronto, but had also coached Bobby Orr in squirt and peewee in Parry Sound. Bucko decided to make the young fellow a defenceman even though Bobby was small and had great skills up front. When dad Doug questioned Bucko about this odd decision, Bucko told him “Bobby is born to play defence.”

Sundridge is also where my mother came from.

Also listed in the pages of this old phone book is the Roger Crozier household in Bracebridge, writer Paul Rimstead’s dad’s farm outside of Bracebridge, the family home of respected Canadian writer Roy MacGregor in Huntsville, (who played minor hockey against Orr and the Parry Sound team), and John MacWilliams’ home in Huntsville.

And finally, the old homestead at 5 Elmer Ave.

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Live, From The Edmonton Gardens

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Neat old 4-page program I came across years ago, featuring the visiting New York Rangers playing the minor pro WHL Edmonton Flyers in an exhibition game prior to the 1955-56 season.

It’s actually a yellow program, but my camera gives it a bluish tint.

The Rangers lineup is packed with familiar names, including future HOFers Gump Worsley, Harry Howell, Bill Gadsby, and Andy Bathgate.

But the Edmonton Flyers has its share of names too, with Al Arbour, Jerry Melnyk, Bill Dea and a handful of others, plus #17 Aggie Kukulowicz, who, along with playing four games with the Rangers between 1952 and ’54, acted as a translator for Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series.

The Flyers, which existed from 1940 to 1963, were a Detroit Red Wings farm club, and also shows Johnny McCormack, who played for the Canadiens from 1951 to ’54, in the lineup.

Players on the Rangers who would don the Canadiens sweater at one time or another include the Gumper from 1963-64 to 1969-70; Ivan Irvin, who skated with the Habs for 4 games in the 1952-53 season; Lou Fontinato, with117 Habs games under his belt in 1961-62 and ’62-63; Jean-Guy Gendron, who was a Canadien for 43 games in 1960-61; and Bronco Horvath, who wore the CH for one game in1956-57;

And coach Phil Watson, who laced ’em up with the Habs for 44 games during the 1943-44 campaign.

I hope I haven’t missed anybody.  If I have, feel free to mention it.

The Edmonton Gardens, where this game took place, was built in 1913 and demolished in 1982, although years before the demolition, in 1974, the WHA Oilers moved over to the new Northlands Coliseum.