Category Archives: Ralph Backstrom

Ralph Signed

We’re going back to Montreal today after a tremendous handful of days in Ottawa with my brother and his family.

In the meantime, something from before because I need to load up the car, get to the gas station, slip in a CD, and head on down the highway.

Before NHL players had any sort of union or any kind of say in their matters, owners and management did pretty well whatever they damn well felt like doing. Management had all the power, and many players came from impoverished families with hockey as their only way out. They didn’t want to work in mines or mills or farms like their fathers, and the men in suits upstairs knew it.

Back then, especially as the 1950′s unfolded, it was common practice for owners to give management a certain amount of money and tell them to sign players for as little as they could and keep what was left over.

So of course management were cheap bastards.

The following story was told by Ralph Backstrom to Susan Foster, and was included in her fascinating book, The Power of Two. In this, I’m paraphrasing.

When Ralph was a 17 year old hockey phenom in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, the Canadiens sent Ken Reardon, a man who had graduated to Montreal management once his playing days were over, to the Backstrom home in Northern Ontario in the hopes of signing the kid. At the Backstrom kitchen table, Reardon sat with Ralph and Ralph’s parents and he placed five $100 bills on the table which would be the Backstroms to keep if Ralph signed on the dotted line.

Ralph told Susan that at that time, neither he or his parents had ever seen even one $100 bill, let alone five, and Ralph signed the paper, making him part of the Canadiens family.

As Reardon was leaving, he reached into his pocket and pulled out another five $100 bills, waved them in Ralph’s face, and told him he’d been authorized to pay twice as much for Ralph’s signature if need be. Then he put the 500 bucks back in his pocket.

1974 Team Cyrillic

The picture below was sent to me from a friend in Leningrad in the mid-1980s.

Team Canada 1974, stars from the rival WHA, taking on Kharlamov, Mikhailov, and Tretiak two years after the big one. (results at the bottom).

Rick Ley, second in the top row, was a boyhood friend growing up in Orillia, who knocked my front tooth out by accident when throwing a baseball. And he borrowed my hockey gloves and never gave them back.

Five players suited up at one time or another with the Habs – JC Tremblay, Rejean Houle, Ralph Backstrom, Marc Tardif, and Frank Mahovlich.

Three players on this Team Canada ’74 squad also played in the historic 1972 Summit Series before bolting to the WHA  – Paul Henderson, Mahovlich, and Pat Stapleton.

1974

Down the left side are coaches Billy Harris, Bobby Hull, and Pat Stapleton.

Top row left to right – Don McLeod, Rick Ley, J.C. Tremblay, Mike Walton, Rejean Houle

2nd row – Brad Selwood, Andre Lacroix, Tom Webster, Gordie Howe, Marty Howe

3rd row – Mark Howe, Ralph Backstrom, Tom Harrison, Rick Smith, Paul Shmyr

4th row – Paul Henderson, Serge Bernier, Bruce MacGregor, Marc Tardiff, John McKenzie

5th row – Al Hamilton, Frank Mahovlich, Gerry Cheevers

USSR Wins Series 4-1-3

New Old Sports Illustrated

My brother gave me some old Sports Illustrated that he says are mine and who am I to argue?

Here’s a sampling of them, a little thing I like to call Maurice Richard Bob Hope JFK Volvo Casey Stengel Ralph Backstrom Dodge Dart Black Hawks Plaid Suit Marlboro Man.

(Only 28 more days. Habs-Leafs)

cover

Rocket in SI

bob hope

012

casey

backstrom

013

hawks

plaid

marlboro

The Original Six In Splendid Quality

I’m out of town for the day and thought I’d just re-post this because it’s so freakin’ unbelievable. Enjoy the Original Six, with Beliveau and the gang, in splendid quality.

I don’t know how often this has ever been in circulation, but it’s one of most greatest ten minutes of hockey clips you’ll ever see.

It’s from 1967, the quality is sensational, like it was filmed today, and we see Jean Beliveau, as smooth as smooth can be, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Jacques Laperriere, Terry Harper, Ralph Backstrom, Terry Sawchuk, and just about everybody else from that time, all from the old Montreal Forum with the pillars in the background.

It’s called Blades and Brass, is set to music of a Mexican brass band, and comes from the National Film Board of Canada. So just sit back and enjoy the Original Six at the old Montreal Forum, in perfect quality.

Denis S. On The Ceiling

When I was at the Montreal Canadiens Hall of Fame at the Bell Centre the other day, I had a good look at all the honored members’ images on the ceiling in the lobby. They’re all in circles, so it’s kind of dizzying.

It took me a couple of days to figure out why Denis Savard is part of this. And make no mistake, I though Savard was a great player, a stickhandling demon. A guy with all kinds of slick moves. He’s a Hall of Famer because he was a great player with 17 years under his belt.

But he only played three years in Montreal, one where he scored just 16 goals. His glory years were in Chicago. It was unusual to see him lumped in with Vezina, Morenz, Richard, Harvey, Beliveau, Lafleur and the boys up there on the ceiling.

Ralph Backstrom, on the other hand, played 13 seasons in Montreal and won six Stanley Cups. But he’s not up there.

But after a couple of days, I figured it out. The Canadiens are honoring those who wore the CH and are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. So that was that.

Tony Esposito seems to be the only HOFer not on the ceiling. But he only played 13 games for the Canadiens and it’s not enough I guess. Whatever the minimum number is.

 

Scouring The Countryside

004

Joe Delguidice was a Montreal Canadiens scout in Northern Ontario from the early 1950s until the mid-sixties.

I wonder if he had anything to do with Kirkland Lake’s Ralph Backstrom joining the Canadiens organization.

$250 wasn’t much, but most of these guys had normal jobs and scoured the area only in the evenings or on weekends. Their honorariums would cover gas, coffee and hot dogs, and yes, they were expected to drive to see hotshots like Backstrom regardless of winter storms and such.

Of course the odd perk would come along, like a free team jacket, or tickets to the Forum, but all in all, I think it was done mostly out of love of hockey.

My friend Gary Lupul was a full-time scout for the Vancouver Canucks, up until his passing almost six years ago, and he would drive from town to town throughout much of Ontario, living on junk food and spending most of his days either on the road or in arenas. He loved it but it wasn’t something he wanted to do for a long time.

It’s not a glamorous job, but an important one. They’re the ones who keep the league stocked.

I can remember when I played bantam and midget hockey, and from time to time we’d hear rumours that scouts were in the stands. Of course this is when I’d play like a bum and could barely stand up.

More Long Weekend Hockey Coin Stuff

Ditto to yesterday’s post Long Weekend Hockey Coins, where the key words were “exhausted, 1961-62, Shirriff, and 140%.” And maybe “couch.”

Today, replace 1961-62 with 1962-62, and definitely include the words exhausted and 140%.

Hockey coins back then were a big success. I personally bought so many bags of Shirriff potato chips to get them, I probably paid for one of their new fancy potato slicing machines.

Below, my nice 60-coin 1962-63 metal set from Shirriff.

Burp.

The previous two years to this, coins were plastic.

The whole idea of hockey coins, along with with car coins, baseball coins, airplane coins etc, that came out during these years, was just fantastic. We had so much fun with these, at school and flipping against walls, and trying to get them all. Beautiful.

013

014

017

Long Weekend Hockey Coins

You’re partying, opening up the cottage, slacking off, laying on the couch, picking your toenails, practicing yoga, drinking beer, while I’m giving my usual 140% at work, making sure travelers get on the ferry boat in fine fashion.

Naturally I’m exhausted, and because of this, I’ll just take some pictures of my 1961-62 hockey coins which I had collected when I was a kid and am lucky enough to still have now. I don’t have the energy for anything else. 140% is a lot.

It took a lot of Shirriff potato chips and Salada jello and pudding, but I managed to get the entire set, then the shields to complete it.

You relax and enjoy the holiday weekend. I’ll just go to work.

Habs

Leafs

Hawks

Rangers

Wings

Bruins

An Old Molson Photo Shows Up

It’s the beauty of the internet.

I think about a year ago, Don, a fellow I knew back in Orillia when I was young, found me through my blog and we’ve had some nice chats. He lives in Houston, Texas now, and over the past several weeks has sent me several hockey books, including a couple about Bobby Orr, and two dealing with Alan Eagleson.

Today the mail arrived, and along with the normal bills was an envelope from Don which had one of those great old Molson team pictures in it.

The Canadiens used to send these 7 x 10 photos out to fans who wrote, and I have two in my scrapbook, from the 1961-62 season and 1959-60. Don’s, as you can see, is from the ’62-’63 campaign, and you can see how the back looked, which is impossible with the ones in my scrapbook because they’re glued in.

These are nice things to have. Big and beautiful glossy team pictures from Molson. Nowadays, the team sends out photos about half this size. The more money they make, the smaller things get. Like programs. And team pictures.

Thanks a lot, Don. It’s coming to a loving home.

002

003

These are the two I have in my scrapbook.

005

008

 

The Other Scrapbook

Over the years I’ve shown my old Montreal Canadiens scrapbook many times, and can be found under “The Old Scrapbook” in the “Categories’ section. But I haven’t mentioned often that there is another scrapbook, an older one, that my dad and I made just before we started the big one.

And like the bigger scrapbook, the cover was painted by my father who was a sign painter.

It’s falling apart, most of the pictures in it are loose, but here it is, with a few samplings of what was in it.

The first two are of Claude Richard, the Rocket and Henri’s brother who is a year younger than Henri and born sixteen years after Maurice. Claude, also known back then as Vest-Pocket, never made it to the NHL, but he came close, and joined his two brothers in training camp on the same line for a short time.

From the Hockey Hall of Fame website: “In 1958, a third Richard brother came close to cracking the lineup with the Montreal Canadiens. Claude Richard had been a terrific goal scorer with the junior Ottawa-Hull Canadiens team that featured future Canadiens Bobby Rousseau, Ralph Backstrom, Gilles Tremblay and J.C. Tremblay. “Claude had pretty well everything you need to play in the NHL except he wasn’t a good skater. He had a good shot. Then, there were only six teams. If it had been the seventies, he might have made the NHL,” shrugs Henri.

013

001

010

Rock

003

004

005

006

008

009

015

016

017

012