Rocket Richard sent me this Christmas card when I was seven years old. I brought it to school several times and to friends’ houses. I showed everyone I could.
I was as proud as can be.
It’s the cornerstone of my Montreal Canadiens scrapbook.
Recently on Hockey Night in Canada, host Ron Maclean told viewers a little story about how Maurice Richard asked to change his number from 15 to 9 during the 1942-43 season in honour of his new baby girl Hugette, who weighed in at 9 pounds.
Wikipedia also says the same thing. Along with everywhere else you look.
But the number 9 must have already held a soft spot in Rocket’s heart, because as you can see in the lineup below, he was wearing it when he was playing senior hockey, a year before he joined the big club.
Is it possible that the traditional claim from Maclean, books, and the Internet, about choosing 9 because of his baby’s weight at birth, is strictly something that took on a life of its own over the years?
Not that I want to throw cold water on the time-honoured story.
Here’s my program from the 1941-42 season in the Quebec Senior Hockey League, featuring a game between the Montreal Senior Canadiens and the Montreal Royals. Further down, the Rocket in the lineup for the Senior Canadiens, a year before he joined the Habs, and with his number 9.
Maybe he simply liked the number, and along with his 9-pound baby, convinced himself that he wouldn’t mind having it again.
Also playing on this particular night for the Montreal Royals was Bill Durnan, who of course became a legendary goalie for the Canadiens shortly after, from 1943 to 1950, and Glen Harmon, number 12 for the senior Canadiens, who joined the Habs the following season and played for them from 1942-51.
Below, from my scrapbook, the Richard family circa 1958.
From left to right, Maurice Jr, Hugette, Lucille, dad and Suzanne, Norman (who’s my age, and whom I spoken to on the phone a couple of times), and Andre. Two others, Paul and Jean, had yet to arrive.
Happy Father’s Day to fathers. Hope your kids phone you today. Or at least email you. Anything really.
Also hope you don’t mind if I make this my Sunday post. More pages from my old scrapbook. I’m in Port Hope at the moment.
The huge face of the Rocket you see 5 pictures down is from an old Vitalis advertising sign in the barbershop window in Orillia which the barber gave to me. It’s made of thick cardboard and because of its thickness, it was the beginning of the pages starting to come apart.
My dad and I started the scrapbook together when I was little and he gradually bowed out and let me carry on.
It’s old now, many of the pages are loose, and it’s battered and beat up. But it’s my treasure. I used to invite friends from the old neighbourhood over – “Hey, you wanna come over and see my scrapbook?” and they would and then we’d play road hockey and pose like the players we had just seen in the book.
Here’s the first few pages. The cover was done by my dad, who was a sign painter.
The photos enlarge when clicked on.
This old photo, which is in my scrapbook, shows the Rocket in the late-1940s breaking the plexiglass at Maple Leaf Gardens as Vic Lynn looks on in disbelief.
A couple of neat stories that go with this photo that I learned from reading Brian McFarlane’s book “True Hockey Stories: The Habs”.
The photo has been credited to Nat Turofsky, one of two brothers, both of whom shot reams of legendary pictures in Toronto, (You can see their Alexandra Studios name on the left of the photo).
But this one was taken by a kid apprenticing for the Turofskys, who was lucky enough to have been sent to the other end of the ice from where Nat was, and where the glass-breaking happened.
Best of all, sitting just behind the glass when it broke and having pieces of it falling on them were the two salesmen who had sold the plexiglass to the Gardens in the first place, and who had claimed that it couldn’t be broken!
Here’s the picture in my scrapbook.
Photo from my scrapbook of a peach-fuzzed rookie Yvan Cournoyer during the 1964-65 campaign, with Dickie Moore (as a Leaf), Jean Beliveau, Jean Guy Talbot, Bob Pulford, Ted Harris, Ron Stewart, and Charlie Hodge.
And below, although I never scrambled for a foul ball or flying puck, I did manage (very quietly) to get a Cournoyer goal puck through a trade, a goal he scored on Oct. 26, 1972, only a month after the ’72 Summit Series in which Roadrunner played a major role.
Yvan would retire at 35 after 15 seasons, all with the Habs, and 10 Stanley Cups.
“Cournoyer has it on that wing. Here’s a shot! Henderson makes a wild stab at it and falls. Here’s another shot. Right in front. They score! Henderson has scored for Canada!”
And then there was that time he played on a line with Gaston.
Before I do the binder bunch, I want to mention that Darth and his terrific lady Lydie came to visit last night. Our first visitors in Montreal, and we were so happy to have them.
I was also proud to show them my old Canadiens scrapbook, something I’ve been doing with friends since I was seven years old.
Darth, as you might know, checks in here with his comments and fab artwork. Great people, these two, and it was a pleasure.
Now, more from the binders on a hot summer day, which includes – Charlie Hodge, Lloyd Gilmour, Harry Neale and Steve Armitage, old Forum passes, Pete Mahovlich, Rangers, Reggie Jackson, Sam Pollock, Sparky Anderson, and old Forum ticket stubs and envelope.
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.
I’ve always liked this picture, which is in my old scrapbook, even though it’s a little worse for wear. Two fine Habs fans showing off their favourite players the best way they knew how. Good thing their favourite player wasn’t named George Stroumboulopoulos or Ronaldo Konabopopolopolis. It would have to carry on down their legs.
Harvey captured the Norris Trophy seven times between 1954 and 1962, with Johnson winning it for the 1958-59 season. With these guys on the blueline, along with the usual suspects like the Richards, Beliveau, Moore, Geoffrion, Plante etc, it’s no wonder the Canadiens won five straight in the late fifties.