Category Archives: Sam Pollock

Phoning Terry Harper

Unlike the time Bert Olmstead hung up on me, Terry Harper, the lanky, stay-at-home defenceman for the Montreal Canadiens from 1963 to 1971, was more than happy to chat, which happened almost a decade ago.

He’s was a nice, friendly fellow (I’m sure he still is) who at the time of the call was living in northern California with his wife Gladys (the two have been together since high school in Regina). We talked about days gone by and even hockey today, and he even showed interest in my life, asking about places I’ve lived and live now. And he felt bad for me when I told him Sam Pollock turned me down when I asked to be stickboy way back then. “I understand Sam’s reasoning,” he laughed. “Imagine how something like that could get out of control?”

“You caught me at a good time,” he said. And he added, “If someone is still interested in what I have to say after 40 years, then I’m completely fine with it.”

Gordie Howe was the best he’s ever seen, he says. “Howe just dominated the game in every aspect, and he did so for so long. He did everything right.” But what about Bobby Orr? I asked. “Orr was fantastic but he didn’t play long enough,” he explained. “He played a transition game with his skating, which was fantastic, but for me he wasn’t even the best defenceman. Doug Harvey is the best ever. For pure defence, it’s Harvey. No one’s been better.”

Jean Beliveau? “He’s a good friend, a super person. He’s one of those who stayed with the team even today, and is a wonderful man and great for hockey.”

Toe Blake? “I really liked and admired Toe. A really thoughtful man, a deep-thinker. And I think the best coach ever.”

Sam Pollock? “Sam liked me. I was his captain for the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens and we got along well. He was a great hockey mind.”

And the game today compared to then? “Players are certainly bigger now. When I played, Jacques Laperriere, Ted Harris and myself were considered huge because players back then weren’t overly big like most are now. Even my first defence partner, Jean-Guy Talbot wasn’t big. We were a new breed.”

“Guys now don’t have harder shots than many back then. A puck can only go so fast. Bobby Hull could get up to about 105 mph, and I don’t think there’s too many who can shoot harder than that. I also don’t think players are faster now either. It’s pretty hard to imagine anyone quicker than Ralph Backstrom or Dave Keon, for example. And don’t forget, equipment now must be 15 pounds lighter at least. Same with the goalies. More pads and lighter overall.”

“Because it was only a six-team league, everyone knew everyone completely. There were no surprises. It was so tight-checking, teams weren’t allowed to make a mistake or a goal would be scored. It was more like a chess match back then. And I think players now probably have the wrong attitude. It’s mostly just about money but where would they be without the fans? It’s the fans who make them. Like you. There’s seems to be no interaction anymore between fans and players.”

Do you still have any of your old Habs sweaters, Terry? “We weren’t allowed to keep those,” he said. “The trainers were strict about that. We always had to hand them in.” (He was surprised when I told him his old number 19 would fetch several thousand at auction now.)

And one last thing. Does he follow the Habs at all now. “I don’t know the team, but I look at the standings in the paper. We don’t get a lot of hockey news here, especially about the Canadiens. We go down to San Jose from time to time to see the Sharks, and we used to make a point of going when Montreal was in town, but the way it is now, there’s years when they don’t even come. So we just go, usually around February when it’s getting important, and it could be any team visiting.”

After Harper’s days in Montreal came to an end, he joined the LA Kings and also did stints in Detroit, St. Louis, and the Colorado Rockies before calling it quits in 1981. He played a total of 19 seasons in the NHL, which is a big-time career, and at the time of this phone call, was a 69-year old, stay-at-home defenceman in his local beer league.

Terry is 77 now.

Terry, winning another of his five Stanley Cups in Montreal
Terry, winning another of his five Stanley Cups in Montreal
Harper and Jacques Laperriere take to the ice for a scrimmage at the Forum.
Harper and Jacques Laperriere take to the ice for a scrimmage at the Forum.

A Few Good Jobs

1. Retired Famous Race Horse. You were Northern Dancer and Secretariat, and the toast of the town. You retired on top of the world and were given a fancy stable and told to get out into the field and make love to the finest fillies out there. Whenever you felt like it. Every day.

2. Guy Who Crashes Cymbals in a Symphony Orchestra. You’re in Carnegie Hall, and the horns and violins are working their way up to big crescendo. The crowd is enthralled, and then, at the precise moment, you crash your cymbals.
That’s it I think. Your timing has to be on. And for this you get to wear an expensive tuxedo, make lots of money, and probably even sign a few programs! Or maybe there’s more to it than I know.

3. Red Fisher. Play poker with the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, and Geoffrion on trains to Chicago, Boston, and the rest. Go for a cold one after the game with Lafleur, Savard, and Robinson, and talk shop. Cover the Montreal Canadiens and become just one of the boys for nearly fifty years.

4. George Martin. He’d put on his cardigan sweater, jump into a limo to take him to studios like Abbey Road, and help the Beatles weave their magic. He was there almost from the start, and he also made zillions doing it.

5. Playboy photographer.

6. Phil Pritchard. Phil’s job is to babysit the Stanley Cup, 12 months a year. He takes it all over North America and Europe so players from the winning team can show it off where they live. He brings it out on to the ice with his white gloves on when a team wins it in the final game. He’s practically married to it, and it never talks back.

7. Habs stick boy (maybe not now but whatever).

Don Liked His Beer

Don Cherry was almost a Montreal Canadien.

Don suited up with Montreal’s minor league affiliate Hull-Ottawa Canadiens of the EPHL (Eastern Professional Hockey League) before the start of the 1962-63 season, with the program here showing him in the lineup for an exhibition game against the Boston Bruins.

His tryout with Hull-Ottawa didn’t last more than a few games. Sam Pollock took him aside one day and asked him to lay off the beer. Cherry said he wouldn’t, and was promptly shipped out.

Maybe it’s why he’s never been much of a Habs fan.

 

John Scott A Hab?

john-scott-parros-201213

Above, a new Hab and an ex-Hab. Will the new one be as fantastic as the old one?

I come home and see this? Big John Scott traded to Montreal from Arizona for Jarred Tinordi, with a bunch of other names and Nashville involved, although these don’t matter.

Sam Pollock, looking down from above, sure must be impressed.

Finally, the team’s goal scoring problems have been addressed. Big John has notched 5 goals and 6 assists in his 285 games, which is awesome because we all know it’s hard to score in the NHL, and he did it 5 freakin’ times!

This is fantastic. Now we wait to see who will score first, John or Tomas Plekanec.

And 5 goals in 285 games is almost exactly what the Canadiens as a whole are doing.

Big John reminds me in many ways of Guy Lafleur, Rocket, and Jean Beliveau. He knows how to skate, sort of, and those three could skate too, albeit way better.

Beliveau was big, but John, standing 6’8″ and weighing 260 pounds, is bigger, so that’s good, right?

And he’s an all-star like them. Fan%$#&tastic! Forget about the difference between fans voting John in as a joke while Guy, Rocket, and Jean got there by merit. This is only a technicality. They all put on their all-star sweaters the same way.

I’m sure there are other similarities too. But right now, with the numbness in my brain, I can’t think of any.

Anyway, who needs a young, skilled, huge, rough d-man like Tinordi who was also a first round draft pick. When the opportunity to grab John Scott arises, you take it.

Beauty trade, Marc Bergevin.

I need a drink.

 

Power Struggles

On Tuesday, July 21, much of Powell River will be experiencing a scheduled BC Hydro power outage from 8 a.m to 6 p.m.

This is the notice we all got, and which has sent ripples of fear throughout.

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An apocalypse. Total darkness, except that it’ll be during the day. Warm beer kegs, closed bars, thawed TV dinners, dripping ice cube trays, melted popsicles. No internet or television. For ten full hours we won’t even know what Donald Trump has said next.

But don’t worry about me. Unless you want to, of course.

Because of this power outage, I’d like to direct this to the Montreal Canadiens front office. If you try to email me about the stick boy job during these blacked-out hours on the 21st, I won’t get it because I’ll be cut off from the rest of civilization. The way pioneers were back in the 1980s, except they had TV then.

The best thing to do is phone. Or email me the next day. Or write me a letter like Sam did (except for the saying no part).

Training Camp For Them And Us

So far it’s been two days at rookie camp and three at the big one with more to come. And then there were those several days last year doing the same after just moving here.

If you’re a Habs fan and a Montrealer, you may have been to many of these things over the years. I’m sure you still appreciate it greatly. You’re not a jaded bastard, are you?

It’s the kind of thing I’d never done before but had always wanted too. Now here I am checking it out on most days and getting emotional just talking about it.

Plenty of Habs fans elsewhere would also like to be in Brossard right now. I can say that with complete confidence. And those who live in the Montreal area can do it every year if they’re able to call in sick on work and school days, or aren’t forced to go to Walmart on Saturday or Sunday morning.

Is there a better way to spend a morning and early afternoon?  Drills, intrasquad games. Watching the way they fly full-tilt around the ice, reminding me that it is indeed the world’s fastest game. Sixty-four guys all wearing the CH, with the number slowly getting whittled down.

For the players it’s all business, that’s for sure. And for those who don’t ever make the big club, who end up riding buses in the minors or junior and never get to hear the roar of the crowd or be threatened by Milan Lucic, it must be an unforgettable experience anyway.

Something to be proud of and talk about forever. That time they took part in a Montreal Canadiens training camp.

Yes, I remember it well.

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Marc Talks About Things

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin met with the press on Monday and didn’t say a lot  but mentioned the core players are maturing but the team in general isn’t mature yet like Chicago and Los Angeles are.

He said there will be more ups and downs, but the team is well on track.

Nice to hear. And we already knew all that. Ups and downs, on track, good core players.

He said Dale Weise was allowed to return and play after getting thumped by John Moore because all the tests looked to be normal, and it wasn’t until the next day that they realized he was concussed.

He looked pretty concussed to me on the TV screen. Wobbly and goofy, just like George Parros, Travis Moen, and Michael Bournival looked when they got clocked. PK had to give him a bear hug to hold him up.

If the test machines said he was fine, I’d be looking to buy new test machines. If the doctors and trainers said he was fine, I think Weise paid them off.

One of the guys Bergevin did single out as playing hard was Brian Gionta, which must be some sort of sneaky ploy. Make Gionta feel wanted and want to stay, and then cut the salary in half. Or something like that.

He played hard, he just didn’t make much of an impact. I’d rather have an impact guy. Put me in a uniform and I’d play hard too. Harder than anybody. I wouldn’t get anything done and I might fall down a lot, but I’d play hard.

For me though, it’s much different about Gionta. I think either Gionta should go, or if he stays it’s for a bargain rate and the captain’s ‘C’ comes off.

Why do I want the ‘C’ off? I don’t even know the guy. Maybe he’s a great captain. I don’t care about that. I don’t want a non-productive wee little guy leading my team.

If I’m going to have a small captain that I can be proud of, I want one like 5’7 Henri Richard or 5’7 Yvon Cournoyer. Guys who play with burning fire and also produce.

Otherwise, I want a bigger captain. Crazy eh?

Really though, at this stage of the game, I think the one big change I’d make sooner than later would be the announcing of the new assistant to the assistant to Head Equipment Manager Pierre Gervais.

Stick boy.

The Habs Let Orr Slip Away

Larry Robinson, Serge Savard, and Guy Lapointe were the Canadiens’ Big Three defencemen in the 1970s. Three of the best, all on one team.

Then imagine having Bobby Orr in the mix. The Big Four.

With those four taking care of the blueline, with Ken Dryden in goal, and with Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey, Yvan Cournoyer and the gang up front, it just wouldn’t have been fair.

Orr as part of the powerhouse Habs of the ’70s. It boggles the mind. And it could have happened.

Stephen Brunt, in his 2006 book “Searching for Bobby Orr” writes about that historic first sighting of Orr, when Wren Blair and other Bruins brain trust went to a bantam tournament in Gananoque, Ontario in 1961 to have a look at a couple of players, and soon forgot about the two they’d come to see because a little 12-year old blond-haired kid from Parry Sound was skating rings around everybody.

It’s magical hockey lore, one of the game’s great stories, forever to be told. Until global warming melts the rinks permanently.

But Blair and his gang weren’t the only NHL people in the Gananoque rink that day. Scotty Bowman, the Montreal Canadiens young head scout for eastern North America, was sent by Sam Pollock to Gananoque to have a look at not only the two players everyone else was watching, Doug Higgins and Rick Eaton, but to also check out a kid named Orr that the Canadiens had gotten wind of through an old friend of Frank J. Selke.

Bowman watched the little kid, wearing number 2 for Parry Sound, and was impressed. “He was dominating,” Bowman says in Brunt’s book. “But he was very small – much smaller than all of the other guys. He could really skate and fly around. I’d never seen a guy that good at that young age.”

Soon after, Bowman visited the Orr home in Parry Sound, but it was mostly just a social call. The Habs had nothing to offer, they weren’t in the practice of handing out signing bonuses then, and they wouldn’t commit to a kid still in grade school. And as soon as Scotty learned that Doug and Arva Orr had no intentions of Bobby leaving home, Scotty left it at that.

When Bobby got a little older and was more prepared to join the Junior Canadiens in Montreal, then maybe they could continue their chat. Just not at that time. He was too young.

Wren Blair of the Bruins didn’t give up, though. He diligently courted the Orr’s and finally got the papers signed. Orr joined the Oshawa Generals and not the Junior Canadiens, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Just think how it might have turned out. He might not have damaged his knees. Put him in a Canadiens uniform, and Montreal certainly wouldn’t have missed the playoffs in ’69-’70, which they did because although they were tied with New York for the fourth and final playoff spot, they had scored two less goals.

With Orr wearing the CH they would’ve been off to the races and might not have stopped until the 1980s were in full swing. But he wouldn’t have worn number 4. A big fellow named Beliveau owned it when Orr was breaking in.

Is it crazy to think that maybe it could’ve been ten straight Stanley Cups for the Habs in the 1970s with a healthy Bobby Orr in the lineup? Maybe it’s not so farfetched. But instead, those bastard Bruins got him and that was that. And anyway, the last thing I want to do is sound greedy.

But if only Scotty Bowman had made more trips to Parry Sound. Like Wren Blair did.

And thanks to Don in Texas for sending me Stephen Brunt’s book as a gift. It was a great read for sure.

Bobby Orr

 

 

 

 

Briere A Hab

5’10”, 181 pound free agent Daniel Briere has signed a two-year deal with the Habs and I suppose it’s possible this could be fine as he’s been a bit of thorn in the Habs’ side over the years. Scored the odd big goal against my team. Made me curse at my T.V. screen several times.

Now he’s on our side. I hope I won’t be cursing him for completely different reasons.

He had a chance to become a Canadien a few years back but wasn’t interested, even though he’s a good Quebec boy. And since he was recently unemployed and hoping a team would have him, now he’s happy to be coming to Montreal. It kinds of burns my ass slightly.

Does he have much of a downside? Not really, other than he’s a shrimp and the team needs to get bigger, not smaller. And he’s almost 36 years old. And he’s not the player he once was.

But other than these few things, it’s all upside.

Prime Time Sports talk show host Bob McCown wrote in his book “100 Greatest Hockey Arguments” that hockey is probably the only sport where three fans can watch the same game at the same time and all three can disagree with what they saw. And the same holds true for speculation involving players coming to teams.

You can disagree with me completely on this, but I don’t like this signing. The same as I wasn’t crazy about the prospect of Vincent Lecavalier coming to Montreal. I don’t want guys on their way out, even if they did burn the Habs in a big way over the years. Because much of their former burning has been snuffed out with a wet blanket owned by Mother Nature’s old man, Father Time.

Of course I hope I’m wrong and you call me on it seven or eight months from now when Briere shows he’s the perfect fit and Marc Bergevin once again looks like Sam Pollock. But for now, I feel the Canadiens already have their quota of small forwards, and adding another, who happens to be almost 36 years old, isn’t going to make me run down the streets of St. Hubert whooping and hollering.

A Letter For Michel Lagace

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Michel Lagace would report to the Quebec Aces training camp in 1962, as requested by Sam Pollock, and would suit up for five games, collecting one assist along the way.

Previously he had played seven playoff games for the Montreal Royals in ’59-’60 and managed 27 games with the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, both of the Eastern Professional Hockey League (EPHL).

That would be it for his pro hockey career.

Making it to the American Hockey League has always required serious talent, and even though it was only for five games, I say congratulations to Mr. Lagace for getting a lot further in hockey than most of us.

I would have loved getting a letter like this. I’d show all my friends, report to camp, work harder than everybody else, and eventually get called up to the Habs in a year or two. Then I play right wing with Jean Beliveau at centre and John Ferguson at left wing. I’d be on the cover of Hockey Pictorial, make the all-star team, make more money than my dad, and eventually end up in the Hall of Fame.

But first I needed one of those letters. Like Michel Lagace got.