Category Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

P.K. And Canadiens Kiss

I never attempted to weigh in here or anywhere else regarding the P.K. Subban and his team’s on and off romance and money game, mainly because it was pure guesswork and speculation from the start and I hate guessing and speculating.

I don’t find it fun, it doesn’t help my ulcers, and I’m usually wrong. I’ve also been on this terrific hiatus where not once have I wanted to throw my computer out the window.

I’m not finished with my hiatus either, but the P.K. story has been quite a thing for all concerned, and I felt drawn in.

Everywhere I looked (and I was paying strict attention all along), Marc Bergevin was apparently a misguided bastard. P.K. and his agent Don Meehan were asking too much. The Canadiens didn’t respect P.K. They should pay him whatever he wants. Don’t pay him whatever he wants. Five million. 8.5 million. Long term, Short term. Arbitration. P.K.’s a hot dog. P.K. makes mistakes on the ice. P.K.’s the best thing to happen since Guy Lafleur. P.K this, P.K. that. Even him going to the Leafs was discussed.

It’s all been said and figured out, and yet, when he finally did sign on the dotted line, the figure and term, $9 million for eight years, surprised everyone, even though every angle was completely covered up until then by Habs experts in all four corners of the earth.

It’s quite a sport. Not hockey, the art of getting wound up into a frenzy. The art of thinking the answers are there when they’re not. The art of being smarter than the GM who seems to have done a nice job so far.

Even now some are finding fault with the deal, although if it had fallen flat, they’d be screaming blue murder.

When the papers were signed and the news announced, fans, including me, breathed a sigh of relief, and almost like it never really had anyone’s shorts in a knot at any time, it now becomes quickly forgotten and we move on to the next paramount Habs-related issue.

Whatever it is. (Please don’t change the look of the sweater).

I wasn’t upset at Marc Bergevin and his gang for letting this thing go the distance, only confused. And when it got done, I wasn’t surprised, except for the fact it’s very much a generous offer from the team that supposedly still has issues with parts of P.K.’s game.

I stayed out of it because I’m no contract/cap/term expert. I’m just a longtime fan, waiting impatiently for another Stanley Cup, and for a bonafide superstar to don the CH once again.

And when I say bonafide superstar, I mean bonafide. Not a darn good star. Not a big star – a huge star. One that rarely comes along. The Canadiens were once upon a time blessed with so many, but not anymore. Maybe P.K. can be this kind of player. He’s shown us that it’s a possibility, but he’s not there yet.

I want my team to be king of the hill, top of the heap, as all Habs fans do. And I think the team will be. My faith never waivers. Even when they suck. Even when Scott Gomez moved the puck up the ice and then lost it.

Okay, maybe then.

I also carried a strong belief in Marc Bergevin’s methods during this P.K. process, although I didn’t understand a great deal and scratched my head more than once. But that might only be head lice.

Now we move on. How about a bit more toughness up front?

 

Update On John Lennon’s Habs Sweater

A year ago exactly I posted these great shots of John and Yoko with a Habs sweater John and Yoko on the Power Play, and what appeared to be number 5, and which I’d also assumed had taken place at the 1969 Bed-In for Peace at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.

Easy to assume. But it wasn’t number 5 and it wasn’t during the Bed-In for Peace.

Yesterday I received a comment that you can see below the pictures.

Boom Boom Lennon

John Lennon and Yoko Ono Receiving Gift

Here’s the new comment, from a fellow who calls himself Ed.

“Glad to see these photos on your blog.. a bit of a clarification.
1. picture was taken in Dec 1969 months after the bed-in in June.
2. The number on the jersey is actually 15.. Bobby Rousseau.
How do I know?.. I bought that game worn jersey at McNiece’s Sports for $15.00 (that’s what they sold for – new jerseys were $22.)…and presented to John as well as the toques that they are both wearing.

John and Yoko had just spent a week in Toronto…and I figured that it would really piss off Leaf fans if he showed up with a Habs jersey.. The photo made the front page of the Sports section in The Gazette or Mtl. Star the following day.

Mission accomplished… I wonder where that jersey is now?”

Pat’s Time

I worked in Hull, Quebec at the E.B. Eddy paper mill in the mid to late-1970s when Pat Burns was a local cop there.

I never met him. I just thought it was a good opening paragraph.

I’ll bet as a cop, Burns was a beauty. Tough as nails. No nonsense.  We saw how ferocious he was as a coach. Smart-ass punks would have stood no chance.

The ex-cop has now been chosen as part of the 2014 Hall of Fame gang, along with Dominik Hasek, Mike Modano, Rob Blake, Peter Forsberg, and referee Bill McCreary.

Who knows why Burns wasn’t picked five or ten years ago? Maybe he’d ruffled some feathers before he passed away in 2010 from cancer.

This was a tough hombre who wouldn’t have stood for any guff from legends in their own minds who run various branches of hockey, including members of the HOF selection committee.

The bottom line is, he was a strong and successful coach who deserved to be placed in the Hall. There are plenty in there who are debatable choices, but not Pat Burns.

It was Wayne Gretzky, who owned the Hull Olympiques from 1985 to 1992, who convinced Pat to quit the beat and coach the Quebec Junior team full time. It worked out beautifully.

Of course it did. Because everything Gretzky touched back then seemed to turn to gold.

As a coach, when Pat Burns wasn’t raging, he seemed as likeable as can be in interviews, and by many accounts was popular and personable to everyone he wasn’t collaring or coaching or happened to be near when he was in a foul mood.

He admitted it was tough in Montreal with the pressure from media and fans, he didn’t always handle things in a cool and calm manner, and I’m sure at times, reporters would tread lightly after a tough loss. Would you want a pissed off Pat Burns glaring at you?

He was behind the Habs bench for just four years, his learning years as an NHL coach from 1988 to 1992, and was awarded the Jack Adams Award in 1989 for top coach in the league after taking the boys to the Cup finals before falling to the Terry Crisp-coached Calgary Flames.

(I wrote a letter to my sister in Calgary before that ’89 series had started, giving my prediction along with a little made-up series review which I titled “Pat Burns Terry to a Crisp”)

Next stop was Toronto, where he led the Buds from 1992 to ’96, and where he’d win the Adams in 1993. And from there it was four years with the Bruins (1997 to 2001),  where he’d earn a third Jack Adams Award, this one in 1998.

It sucked to see Pat Burns running the bench in Toronto and Boston. It always sucks to see a beloved Hab in those enemy uniforms.

Following Boston it was the New Jersey Devils in 2002-03 for Burns where he’d win the Stanley Cup, and then one final year after that with the Devils before being diagnosed with colon cancer.

A great career, successful almost everywhere he coached. And on Monday, November 17, 2014, eleven years after his final line change, we’ll see Pat inducted.

Late, but better late than never.

 

Don’s Premature Obituary

Recently I wrote about John “Chick” Webster, who played 14 games for the Rangers in ’49-50 and which can be seen here – Chick Webster.

Today it’s about his brother Don.

Don Webster, although a minor leaguer for most of his career, suited up for 27 regular season and 5 playoff games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1943-44, and as far as I know, he came out unscathed.

It was the following year, while with the Hershey Bears, when he almost died after being checked by the Buffalo Bisons’ Roger Leger, whose stick fractured and went up into Don’s abdomen. (Leger played for the Habs from 1946 to 1950).

As doctors worked on Don, reporters scrambled and wrote two stories – one if he lived and one if he died. Thankfully he lived, although sixteen pieces of stick were removed from his innards.

After Don recovered, he was given a copy of his obituary, which must have been a strange sensation to say the least.

Doctors got all but one piece, which was eventually found and taken out more than twenty years later in California where Don had retired to, and where he would eventually pass away in 1978.

Thanks to Don’s nephew Rob Webster for the pics and info.

Below, Don second from left.

Don Webster

dons injury 005

dons injury 007

Brothers John and Don in 1975

dons injury 002

Mid-June Hockey

I don’t care what you think, hockey should be over before the heat kicks in. Although there’s probably people who disagree.

However, if you disagree and your favourite team isn’t the Habs, your team sucks.

It’s a fine mantra if you don’t mind me saying so. “If your favourite team isn’t the Habs, it sucks”. A song title, a t-shirt slogan, a tattoo, something to come up with in a drunken argument.

Anyway.

It’s nearing the middle of June. It’s nice and warm out. We should be doing summer things like sitting in dark, air conditioned bars drinking pints.

Of course if the Habs were still going I wouldn’t be complaining about this.

It used to be over in mid-April, back when there were less teams and people decided hockey was strictly a winter sport. But that isn’t the case anymore. Too many teams, so much money for owners to light cigars with.

If the playoffs end in mid-April it means it would have to start sometime in February, and we’d miss part of the annual Leafs collapse that takes place then.

That would suck if we couldn’t see that.

Below is an excerpt from my mother’s 1942 diary when she was 17, typed out by my sister. As you can see, the Cup was won on April 18th. Disregard the team.

mom

 

Cal And Company

This Orillia Terriers were household names, almost like NHL players for young Orillia kids like me. All larger than life big shots in my eyes and with other little hockey fans.

I wonder if they realized that.

The team was packed with great players playing in a great Ontario Senior League in a time when clubs weren’t far off from pro calibre. Almost a minor pro team except no money was involved.

I was just a kid, and they were grown men, really old guys who shaved. They drove trucks and worked in local factories and delivered milk and some dated older sisters of girls I knew. And when they played they burned up the ice surface.

It was fast, rough, tough hockey, and sometimes retired NHLers would show up in various lineups, including Harry Lumley between the pipes in Collingwood, and rugged forward Cal Gardner in Orillia. (top left corner in photo).

I remember watching Gardner play like it was yesterday. I can even visualize now where I was sitting during one game when he was on the ice, which is weird because I’ve often forgotten why I’ve walked from the living room to the kitchen.

But it’s vivid, and it was fun to see a guy in the flesh who had actually played in the NHL against the Rocket and Howe and others but was now an Orillia Terrier, only a few feet away, and who used the same dressing room as I did when I would lace up my little blades.

Gardner played for the Rangers, Toronto, Chicago and Boston before retiring in 1957, was twice an all-star, and joined Orillia after being with the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League. His two sons, Dave and Paul both became NHLers too.

He also also had a couple of big connections with the Habs in different ways.

Gardner was on the ice for Toronto when Bill Barilko scored his legendary goal to win the Cup for the Leafs in 1951, and had set up Howie Meeker who missed the net, just before Barilko didn’t miss the net.

And he and Montreal’s Ken Reardon enjoyed a bitter and dangerous feud that lasted years. It began when Gardner was with New York and got his stick up after a shot from the point and clipped Reardon on the lip. Gardner said his stick was up a little. Reardon said it was a blatant cross check to the face.

Whatever it was, it started a bench-clearing brawl and Reardon promised revenge on Gardner, pretty well every time the two met after that.

In 1949, when Gardner was a Leaf, Reardon finally got that revenge at the Forum, when he “accidentally” ran into Gardner and broke his jaw on both sides, causing league prez Clarence Campbell to force Reardon to post a $1000 good behaviour bond. But they continued to rough each other up even after that and the ill-will apparently continued long after both had retired.

Too bad Reardon didn’t latch on to an Ontario Senior team and they could have kept it going, maybe at the good old Orillia Community Centre, with me there to see it. I never minded seeing a little blood and intestines splattered on the ice, as long as it wasn’t mine.

It’s Big And Beautiful

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.

A Christmas card Maurice Richard sent me when I was seven sits on the inside cover at the beginning.
Inside the Christmas card
The action photo at the top shows the Rocket just seconds before his Achilles tendon was sliced, which kept him out for months. And on the right, a nice family photo of the Richard clan. Also on this page, Rocket shows sons Normand and Andre his massive scrapbook.
An autographed picture sent to me from the Rocket, Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens ticket stubs, and a photo of Rocket looking at his goals tally are part of this page.

Habs Haters In Full Force

Driving home today I listened to TSN 690′s Tony Marinaro talk about how the Canadiens are THE story of the 2014 NHL playoffs but yet……

A team fighting for a place in the Stanley Cup Final, with a third-string goalie in nets, terrific young kids, P.K. Subban showing he’s captain material, the surprising Rene Bourque, the Bruins now watching from a distance.

But, Marinaro says, people everywhere continue to find fault and show no absolutely no respect for a team that’s doing what most feel couldn’t do. It’s a team everyone wants to lose.

I agree. No respect from anyone except the sensational, salt of the earth, good lookin’ Habs fans The rest are idiots.

A fine rant from Mr. Marinaro which also included the fact that Twitter folks have jumped on the “Habs embellishing” angle, embraced it, and have given it a life of its own.

Many of these folks live in Massachusetts of course.

A  Boston newspaper wrote a full-page story about the Habs embellishing, and now Puck Daddy and others are on about it too after Tomas Plekanec yanked his head back too violently the other night when he didn’t really have to.

A newspaper from the city of Boston. Where the saintly Bruins play their home games.

Not Tomas’ finest moment, but he needs some slack cut. He comes from soccer country. And he was trying to help his team win the game, which means he was trying to make us feel good.

I don’t know about you but I’m saying thanks for the effort, even though it was slightly poor judgement on his part.

The Habs won the game of course, but that’s not important it seems. If Toronto for example had come out of nowhere and won game five of the Eastern Conference, it would’ve been a frenzy of orgasmic euphoria that caused people to slobber and light up smokes.

Instead, the talk is about the cheating Habs and Tomas Plekanec snapping his head back. Lots of attention. The team actually winning the game is back on page 37 somewhere near the obituaries.

Forget about a third-string goalie, or the resilience of the team, or the sensational play of so many, or a team doing what no one expected. Instead it’s about Plekanec and others being naughty.

We know true respect will never come, even if they win it all. But it makes us stronger, Habs haters. You should know that. Keep it coming. Find others things wrong too.

What, you think we’re going to change teams?

 

 

Chick Webster

Yes, yes, he’s wearing a Rangers uniform. Please don’t hold that against him.

Chick

Over the past few months I’ve chatted and exchanged emails with 93-year old John “Chick” Webster and his son Rob, both of whom live up in the North Bay area. Serious hockey country. Cold winters.

Chick played just 14 games in the NHL, all with the Rangers during the 1949-50 season, but was a solid minor leaguer in the EHL, AHL, PCHL, and WHL.

An example of a fine player who couldn’t crack the bigs because in those days, only 120 could.

Real nice fellow, who says he’s not like so many others of his generation who insist the game was better way back when. It’s great now and he enjoys watching, he says. But if he and others shot the puck in the way they do now, they’d be benched. “We had to carry it in, there was none of that”.

A guy who played hockey when the pay was low and you didn’t shoot it in.

Chick was playing for Baltimore in the Eastern Hockey League in 1940-41 and decided to enlist. “I figured the war would go on for a few months, maybe a year, and then I’d come right back and carry on.

Five years later he finally got back to Baltimore.

Chick also played for the notorious Eddie Shore while with Syracuse, and says he was a terrible boss, which is also what anyone who ever played for Shore says. “Shore said we should never take time off, and if there was no ice available, we were supposed to practice on the streets. I ended up quitting.”

He would soon have a cup of coffee with the Vancouver Canucks of the old Western Hockey League, and ended up playing senior hockey with Sault Ste. Marie of the Northern Ontario Hockey league.

It’s also a family affair. Chick’s brother Don played for the Leafs in 1943-44. Rob’s nephew Jason Lafreniere was a Nordiques, a Ranger, and a Tampa Bay Lightning. And Jason’s dad helped win the Memorial Cup for the Hamilton Red Wings back in 1962.

Good people, these Websters. I should ask Chick who he’s cheering for in the Habs-Rangers series.

 

Habs And Rangers Back A Bit

Mike Wyman posted the clip below on his Facebook page yesterday, which is a minute from a 1932 playoff game between the Canadiens and Rangers.

The title reads – The Lightning Game – Canada beats America in Play-Offs for Stanley Trophy. And in the spring of 1932, both Aurele Joliat and Pit Lepine were injured and didn’t play. So we beat the bastards that night even with key injuries.

At about the 41 second mark, you can see Howie Morenz (number 7) making one of his spirited dashes up ice. A quick sampling of the man’s talent, and so great to see. We need some of that flair on Thursday.

George Hainsworth is in goal for the Canadiens, John Roach is the Rangers netminder, and  Ching Johnson is the big, balding Rangers defenceman rushing near centre ice. Ching trips, like a Ranger should.

Roach’s nickname was “The Port Perry Cucumber”. For Henrik Lundqvist, I like “The Swedish Squash”.

Number 12 for the Habs that you see a couple of times is probably Dunc Munro, who was playing his lone season with the Canadiens, but teammate Georges Mantha, who usually wore number 6, also wore 12 at times during this era.

Toronto won the Cup that year but that’s certainly not interesting.