Category Archives: Toe Blake

The Book, The 1958 Team, The Gift, And Toe Blake Helping Out My Dad

When I was seven or eight years old, my father and mother bought me a book for Christmas called “Let’s Play Hockey” by Lynn Patrick. Normally this wouldn’t be news. Normally it would’ve been just another hockey book.

But my father got the bright idea to send it to the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal, asking if any of the players would sign it so he could give me something special at Christmas.

The book came back signed by the entire 1958-59 team, and I suppose when I opened it, my eyes must’ve bugged out.

They were all there – Toe Blake, Maurice and Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Bernie Geoffrion, Jacques Plante, Ralph Backstrom, Bert Olmstead, Marcel Bonin, Tom Johnson, Phil Goyette, Claude Provost, Andre Pronovost, Ian Cushenan, Bob Turner, Jean Guy Talbot, Dollard St. Laurent, Ab McDonald, and Don Marshall.

But darn it, Doug Harvey wasn’t. He must’ve been injured or something when the book was passed around.

But that didn’t stop my father. Later that year he took me to Toronto to see the Habs play the Leafs, and he brought the book with us. And sometime before game time, he took the book down to the corridor outside Montreal’s dressing room, and believe it or not, saw Toe Blake standing there, went up to him and asked him if he would take the book into the room and get Harvey’s autograph for him.

Blake did just that, and that’s Harvey’s signature down at the bottom corner of the opposite page of the other players. Imagine.

Those brown marks are from scotch tape. For awhile, after I got it, I taped a plastic sheet over top to protect them. Because even then I realized the magnitude of this book.

Jacques Plante Thought It Would Be Nice To Have A Face

All you have to do is sit behind the net to fully understand why goaltenders wear masks. It’s not hard to figure out. They wear masks because they want to have a reasonably normal face to look at in the mirror. They also want to remain alive.

 That little black rubber puck hurts. When you sit behind the net, you see that the thing explodes off sticks, ricochets like bullets off steel and often is virtually impossible to see. It’s like batting against Nolan Ryan, and every pitch is at your head. Yes, there’s no doubt about it. A puck can do serious damage to a goalie’s movie star good looks.

 So imagine the time when goaltenders didn’t wear masks. It was a time when teeth were lost, cheekbones and noses flattened, and they lived in fear. It was rarely a problem when they could see the puck–they could handle that. It was the time when they couldn’t see it, when it was deflected or hard to find, that it became scary. Then, they knew the infirmary was only down the corridor.

 But in 1959, one goalie, against his coach’s wishes, finally put the mask on, because he was sick of looking in the mirror and seeing blood and bandages. His name was Jacques Plante, and every goaltender of every age, in every rink in every town, should say a quiet thank you to the man.

 Plante was a different kind of a guy, as goaltenders can be sometimes. He wasn’t particularly close to most of his teammates, and many wondered about his hobby. When Harvey and the Rocket and Boom Boom were playing poker and having beers, Plante was knitting scarves and sweaters. They would wonder about that. But they never had to wonder about him on the ice, because he happened to be one of the greatest of all time and he helped his team win. So they let him be with his knitting.

 But coach Toe Blake was another matter. Blake didn’t like Plante or his individual streak. He hated when the goalie would roam almost to the blueline with the puck. He didn’t understand the knitting. And there was no way in the world this coach was going to let his crazy goalie put on a mask. No way. Too cowardly.

 But Plante had been toying for awhile with different ideas and styles of facewear and would sometimes try one out in practice, probably when Blake wasn’t around. But during games, it would remain in the dressing room. It just wasn’t time.

 Everything changed in 1959 when Plante and his team were in New York. The Rangers at the time had a sharpshooter named Andy Bathgate, who had perfected one of the first slapshots, and his was like a cannon, hard and heavy. In the game, Bathgate wound up and his shot smashed into Plante’s face. The goalie was helped off the ice, spent 20 minutes in the clinic, was stitched up, and then announced he was ready to go back out. Only this time, with his sweater caked in blood, he was wearing his mask. Blake let him be, and in the games following the one in New York –with his mask on– Plante was still a star, and the mask stayed.

 Jacques Plante wasn’t the first to try the mask. Clint Benedict had put one on in 1930, but found it uncomfortable and quickly took it off. But Plante was the first to wear one on a permanent basis. He showed guts to defy his coach.

 But pucks hurt, and this was a goalie who was tired of that.

The Best Jobs In The World. Yes – Better Than Your Job.

1. Retired Famous Race Horse. You were Northern Dancer and Secretariat, and you were 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 feel 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! And for this you get to wear an expensive tuxedo, make lots of money, and probably even sign a few programs!

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. HE MAKES ME SICK.

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 on their recordings. He was there almost from the start, and he also made zillions doing it.

5. Playboy photographer. Do I really need to explain this one?

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 onto 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.

Like A Good Boomerang, Fascinating Facts Keeps Coming Back!

Fascinating Fact #1.  I asked my wife who the most handsome player in the NHL is, and she said it’s a tie between Jose Theodore and Sheldon Souray. She also said, however, that Max from Dancing With The Stars beats everybody. Everybody but me, I think she said.

 Fascinating Fact #2.   Babe Ruth transcends all sports, so he gets in Fascinating Facts.  Ruth was notorous for not paying attention to the fringe players on his team, the Yankees. One day Tony Lazzeri introduced, for fun, a relief pitcher to Ruth who had been with the team for four years already, only Lazzeri said this was a new player just out of Princeton. Ruth was impressed about the Princeton part and welcomed the “new” player with open arms.

 Fascinating Fact #3.    In the early 1910’s, Lester and Frank Patrick pioneered professional hockey on Canada’s west coast, and the first two artificial rinks built in Canada were in Victoria and Vancouver.

 Fascinating Fact #4.     Defenceman Noel Price, an important member of the early and mid-1960’s Montreal Canadiens, now lives in Ottawa. He was one shy of playing 500 games, and is also a member of the American Hockey League Hall of Fame. Price won a Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1966.

 Fascinating Fact #5.    Toe Blake, a man of great words, once said, “if my son ever decides to become a goalie, I’m going to hit him over the head with a goalie stick.”

 Fascinating Fact # 6.    My midget coach was a man named Jack Dyte. In 1943 he played 27 games with the Chicago Blackhawks, and that was it for his NHL career. He managed one goal and no assists during this stint. But the thing was, he chewed tobacco at our practices and spit the juice on the ice. So the surface had dozens of brown spots all over it. I always wondered how he got away with that.

My Dad Came From The Days When Hockey On The Radio Was Just As Good Seeing It On High Definition

My dad was born in 1920. He’ll be 88 in a couple of months.

 

He told me yesterday he really misses hockey from days gone by. About Foster Hewitt on the radio on Saturday night, telling him how Turk Broda was making a sprawling save, about Blake and Richard, Bill Barilko and Busher Jackson and all the grand old players from way back when.

 

Saturday night was a big night, he said. And when television came along, the only problem was the game started at the beginning of the second period.

 

After that he said he didn’t understand all the money players are making now.

 

Then we changed the subject and went on about chasing Nazi war criminals in South America.

Game Four Puts The Penguins On The Brink. Maybe They Shouldn’t Have Made The Trade.

By beating Pittsburgh 2-1 Saturday night, the Detroit Red Wings are only one game away from (1) winning the Stanley Cup, and (2), making me look really smart because I predicted Detroit in five games.

Detroit just seems too deep in the lineup for the Penguins. It’s a team of much more than simply Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Nick Lidstrom. There’s all kinds of contributors spread throughout this lineup. Kind of makes you wonder how they went something like one win and eight losses during a bad stretch in the regular season.

And they’re doing this job with seven Swedes in their lineup. What would Harold Ballard think?

Pittsburgh on the other hand is Sidney Crosby, Gary Roberts, who makes up with heart what he’s lost in skill, (he is, after all, about 80 years old), and sometimes Marian Hossa and Evgeny Malkin.

Malkin looks like he’s in school, learning with great surprise that it takes a whole different game in the playoffs than it does in the regular season. Maybe he’s learning for future years, maybe not. All I know is that if I’m choosing a Russian for my team, I’d pick Pavel Datsyuk over Malkin. Datsyuk has this wonderful feistiness that I didn’t realize he had, and it goes along perfectly with his great skill.

Marian Hossa is good, not great, and I think Pittsburgh may have been more successful if they would’ve kept Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen, instead of trading these young studs to Atlanta for the hired gun, Hossa. And don’t forget, Pittsburgh also gave away future star Angelo Esposito and a first round draft pick in this Hossa deal.

Not to mention the fact that Hossa could be gone from Pittsburgh after this season.

Announcer Bob Cole has been doing a fairly good job in this series. Maybe he’s only a wanker when he does Habs games.

Further to the last post regarding arenas and how most are named after banks and other corporations. It occurred to me today that maybe Vancouver Canucks fans might want to hope that BC Ferries doesn’t buy General Motors Place. There’s something about BC Ferries Place that doesn’t sound right. Don’t you think?

 

 

Sidney Crosby Takes The Bull By The Horns And Wakes His Penguins Up

The good news for the Pittsburgh Penguins is their three big guys, Crosby, Malkin, and Hossa, played well. The even better news for the Penguins is that they won game three, and are now pretty well back in the series. But not quite.

Sidney Crosby did what all great stars throughout the years have done. Stepped forward and scored huge goals in big games. Like Orr did, And Richard, Howe, Messier, Lemieux, Gretzky, and all the great ones over the years did.

Tonight, he netted the first two of the game, which broke the team goal drought, and which got the Penguins going.

That’s why he’s a star. He acts like one.

The Penguins barely won game three, though, hanging on for dear life through the third period. And all they have to do is win the next three out of four games.

So I’m not going to predict anything. I’m not Kreskin. It’s sort of possible that Pittsburgh could come all the way back and win this series. I doubt it, but it’s possible.

And like Toe Blake said, “predictions are for gypsys.”

One thing I feel though. Penguins defenceman Hal Gill should be read the riot act. What guys like Gill are known for are silly physical penalties that happen because the skill level isn’t quite up there. He can cost his team the game, which almost happened tonight.

One other note regarding tonight’s game on CBC. Pittsburgh cameras are placed alnost as high up as they are in Tampa. These cameras should be down at least fifteen feet. Detroit’s are. Lots of teams are. Although lots aren’t. I don’t know why. 

In Montreal news.

Guy Lafleur has apparently said that when Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev become free agents in 2009, the Habs should concentrate more on signing Kovalev. He said Koivu is too serious and business-like in the dressing room, too demanding of his teammates.

What the hell is wrong with that? That just tells me that Koivu is about winning, is about making sure he and his teammates give their all. This is the way Mark Messier was, and Ted Lindsay years ago, and so many other great leaders. These guys have all summer to relax, joke around, have a good time. During the season, they’d better perform, better take it seriously. They’re being paid enough money.

If Koivu’s teammates, and there’s probably only a couple if any, don’t like his hard-core expectations, they should take up ballet instead.

Of course, this could be just one more case of Lafleur saying things that maybe he shouldn’t be saying. He’s been doing this for more than thirty years.

I say the team should concentrate on signing both. They’re equally important in the scheme of things in Montreal.

But I honestly do like the tough approach from the captain.

Andrei Kostitsyn Will Stay, A Scary Habs Story, And A New Site That Looks Like The Old One (Almost)

Several things to talk about on this sunny west coast day. And don’t worry, It won’t take long. I know you have a lawn to cut.

(Please note – I’m on a new site now  dennis-kane.com, so please add this new address to your favourites. More about his down below. Thanks.)

Reports say that Andrei Kostitsyn has said his plans are to stay with the Montreal Canadiens and not accept any offers from certain Russian teams with fat wallets. He likes Montreal, he likes the team, and he likes playing with his brother Sergei. Andrei was a free agent and could’ve bolted on us, but isn’t going to now. He’s a star in the making, and we need him for the Quest for the Cup next year. So hip hip hooray to Andrei Kostitsyn!

We like Andrei. He’s a good Hab.

Now a shocker of a tidbit. Are you ready for this?

Sometime around 1950, the Habs were returning from Toronto by train when their car suddenly derailed while crossing a bridge over ice waters of the Ottawa River. Had the car been flung to the right instead of to the left, which threw several players from their berths, the entire team would have plunged into the river.

I didn’t know this before but have just read it in a Terry Sawchuck biography. Imagine. We could’ve lost the entire Montreal Canadiens in one fell swoop. This is all quite unnerving.

Now, the news I’ve been waiting to tell you. You might see a few changes in the look of this blog. With the help of computer whiz Robin Murray, my old site was transferred lock, stock, and barrel over to a new one (although it looks the same) and I have a new domain address. It’s dennis-kane.com.

You have been automatically switched over to the new one through the wonders of technology, and this will always happen but you might, at some point, want to remember the new address, dennis-kane.com.

I moved it to this new one so I can have more freedom. I’ve included tasteful ads, and a world map showing where people live who have gone on my site. There’s CBC daily sports news updates, a whole bunch of Habs videos you can watch, and other cool things.

This blog is very important to me and I want it to grow, and it is. It was stressful doing these changes because I basically didn’t have a clue, but Robin took on the challenge, and with great patience and know how, came through for me. He never got angry at me with all my questions and obvious stress showing all over my face and voice, and he just carried on with a smile, tweaking and suggesting, and getting it done.

I grew up with typewriters, and so Robin became more important than you can imagine. If you have any questions for this great guru, he’s at greatoutdoorstoday@gmail.com. He’s a friendly sort.

Mike Bossy Does It Well, Alex Ovechkin Doesn’t

Watching Henrik Lundqvist get yanked in Sweden’s 5-4 loss to Canada in the World Hockey Championship reminded me of something. Lundqvist speaks English with no accent whatsoever. At least that’s what my ears have heard in the couple of interviews I’ve seen of the Ranger goalie on TV.

Speaking perfect English is an amazing thing when it’s not your mother tongue. It’s very admirable. Some European NHL players have mastered it. For most, of course, it’s impossible.

Detroit’s Swedish star Nick Lidstrom speaks English almost perfectly, but you can detect that Swedish tongue in there just slightly. And it’s a little more so with Mats Sundin and Daniel Alfredsson. You can definitely here the Swedish way of talking in their speech, although their English is excellent.

But not at all with Lundqvist. In those two interviews I heard, he could’ve been the guy in the pool hall, Or the Canadian goalie in the beer league. I need to hear more from Lundqvist. I’m curious about this.

The NHL Russian guys’ English is basically all the same, ranging from pretty good to lousy.  Alex Kovalev speaks English pretty well, with the obvious Russian accent,  but Alex Ovechkin is still a work in progress, and Evgeny Malkin is only beginning. Igor Larionov, on the other hand, spoke excellent English back in the days when Soviet players couldn’t play over here, and so had very little exposure to English. Somehow, though, he got great at it.

Larionov even snuck away from the Russian camp to Wayne Gretzky’s parent’s house in Brantford during the 1987 Canada Cup and partied with all the Canadian guys.

Remember the 1972 Summit Series? We got the odd interview with some of the Russian players including Valeri Kharlamov, and they were interviews using an interpreter. But at the end, the few Russian players managed a meek “thank you” in English, and it was both surprising and wonderful.

The Finnish players pick it up pretty well, like Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, but you can hear the Finnish accent in there, even though their words and grammar are perfect.

The Czechs, it seems, have a little bit of a harder time of it. Jaromir Jagr’s English is terrrible, after all these years in North America. Tomas Plekanec, however, looks promising as a speaker of English. But the Czechs, like the Russians, use their throats and tongues differently, so there’s many English words they’ll never master properly.

Some of the English guys speak French really well. I can’t learn French, but they speak it with almost no accent. Mike Bossy wins by a landslide on this front.

Henri Richard was so quiet in the early days of his career, that when Toe Blake was once asked if Henri could speak English, Blake replied, “I don’t even know if he can speak French.”

French guys like Daniel Briere, Martin Biron, Vincent Lecavalier, Mario Lemieux, and Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault speak English with only a trace of an accent. It’s very impressive.

It’s just a good thing there’s no heavy-duty Scotsmen in the NHL. Their accent can be thicker than lumpy gravy. I worked with a Scottish guy in Calgary who had been in Canada for years, but he could talk to me for fifteen minutes and I wouldn’t have a clue what he was saying.

Compared to this guy, Alex Ovechkin sounds perfect.

 

Malkin Blasts Away For Pittsburgh. He Must Have Heard About Bobby Rousseau.

When Pittsburgh star Evgeny Malkin skated in alone and surprised everyone by blasting his slapshot by Flyers’ goalie Martin Biron from only about ten feet out, I knew it was time to pull out my old scrapbook.

It was circa 1965, and Montreal speedster Bobby Rousseau, a slapshot specialist and off-season golf pro in Ste. Hyacinthe, Quebec, was awarded a penalty shot one night in a game against Boston.

Rousseau grabbed the puck at centre ice, took it just inside the blueline, and to the surprise of everyone, including his coach Toe Blake and Boston goalie, Bruce Gamble,  wound up, fired, and scored.

Has a penalty shot or shootout goal ever been scored from so far out? I doubt it.

So when you see breakaways next year, or all the shootouts and penalty shots, ask yourself why the players don’t just tee up and blast away every so often. The goalie is not in the least expecting it.

Like Malkin did the other night. And like Bobby Rousseau did those many years ago.