Category Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

Mike Has A Great Chair And Shorter Hair Than Before

They don’t get any better than Mike. We’ve been friends for 40 years, and have fought  the good wars together. Those crazy sixties wars. Those times when sex and drugs and rock and rock were as much a part of our lives as waking up. And it was a time when the team we loved took a back seat for a few years while we spent some serious time on the edge.

Mike was involved in the 1960’s movement as much as anyone. He wore his black hair long, crashed where he could, never shyed away from a good party, and ingested a few things he probably shouldn’t have. These were unsettling times, but he and I got through it, and later on he found himself a nice cool chick who he’s still with today. 

But even though we put the Habs on the backburner for a few years in the late ’60’s, it didn’t mean we gave up or forgot. Not me, and not Mike. He follows the Habs closely, has for more than fifty years, and he knows the game and his team and is pissed off when they lose. You’ll see this by his comments he throws in often.

No one is prouder to own a Montreal Forum chair than Mike. And it’s not just any chair. It’s the one he sat in in his only visit to the Forum, in the late 1970’s.

Here’s a photo of Mike’s chair, and the Bud hat signed by Le Gros Bill, Jean Beliveau. And yes, the spelling of Micheal on the chair is the way it’s spelled.

Mike may have been a mover and shaker during the hippie movement, but you can’t keep a good Habs fan down. And even though he lives in Toronto and has for decades, don’t even think about talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs with him. He can’t stand them, even though they’re just down the road. Are you listening, Ottawa fans-who-used-to-be-Habs-fans?

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Montreal Scores 7 Goals In Their Win Over Ottawa, But It Was A Stressful 7 Goal Win

They can’t come much uglier than this. For two periods, life was good as Montreal built up a 7-1 lead against the visiting Ottawa Senators, who previously had humbled the Montreal 6-1 in February and 3-0 March 13. It was a time to dance in the street, sing, hug the neighbour, sing the Olay song. During the second intermission, I was thinking in double digits for the end of the massacre. It was going to be beautiful. habs-logo.jpg

But someone must have slipped horse tranquilizers into the Montreal player’ Gatorade between periods, because in the third, along with giving up fourteen shots to two, also gave up four goals to make it a scary, stressfull 7-5 game that I don’t mind saying made me quite pissed off. And on top of everything else, Montreal took two penalties and had to kill off a two-man advantage for the Senators late in this ridiculously ugly third period. But they killed it and I don’t even want to think about what could have happened if Ottawa would’ve scored during this power play.

I was as stressed as if it was a 2-1 game.

So it was a good-bad kind of thing. Pittsburgh lost 4-1 to the Islanders, so the Habs’ win, (and it was a win, all things considered), increased their hold on first place in the east by three points.  sens1.jpg

The bad, of course, was that they almost blew a 7-1 game and lost.

Imagine if they would have lost. They might have had to line up the same shrinks the Boston Bruins have lined up. It’d be a mind fuck for the rest of the season. The kind of game players, and probably fans too, lose sleep over all summer. The kind of game that can make or break the rest of the season.

And I’d have to listen to all my old friends in Ottawa who once upon a time were good, hearty Habs fans, and changed, believe it not, when their town got a team in the early 90’s. If Ottawa would have come all the way back to win tonight, these friends would have been insufferable.

But Montreal scratched it out and got the two points. That’s the main thing. It’s just good that the game was only sixty minutes and not seventy. And it’s good that Montreal scored seven goals, and not five, which you’d think would be plenty enough.

Let’s just hope there’s not too much mind damage.

 The team now has a rest until their short jaunt into Buffalo Friday, and then a little swing over to Toronto on Saturday. Both Buffalo and Toronto are in panic mode to win every game and possibly make the playoffs.

So both Buffalo and Toronto are going to play their hearts out when the Habs come to town.

So boys, have fun with your wives now for a couple of days, then get down to business. Keep it going. Stay on top. Go over 100 points. (they’ve got 96 now with five games left). Hopefully they’ll meet Boston in the first round.

And don’t worry about the Senators. They’ll be gone soon enough after the playoffs begin anyway.

Kovalev Should Take His Show To Vegas. And The Bruins Probably Prefer The Dentist To The Bell Centre Saturday Night

I’m still trying to wrap my head around Alex Kovalev’s tricks with a stick and puck he does on his new dvd. Honestly, I’ve never seen this before, where someone can fire pucks from a good distance away, with good velocity, into little pockets set up on the top corners of the net, one after another, with only one hand.

And then he moved out to centre ice, got down on one knee, and his first shot landed on top of the net, and his second, lordy, lordy, went right into the pocket he was aiming for.

Speaking as a smallish yet speedy right winger for Byers Bulldozers circa 1965, I can honestly say this is practically impossible what the shifty Russian did. But I saw it, along with many others, so he did it. It was there in living colour. Holy Mackinaw!

I remember hearing years ago that Gordie Howe could stand at his own goal line and shoot a wrist shot over the glass at the other end. Until now, this has been the big feat for me. But Kovalev has taken showcase skill to a new level.

Or am I wrong? Is it possible that many pros can shoot from far out with accuracy with one hand, or shoot from centre ice on one knee with accuracy? Or is it just Kovalev. I’m really interested in finding out.

Saturday night the Bruins come to Montreal, hoping to put an end to the misery they’ve experienced against the Habs, beginning with last year. If Boston loses on Saturday, they’d better start seeing some serious shrinks. And if Boston finds out they’ll meet Montreal in the playoffs, someone better watch the players and coaches carefully that they don’t do anything drastic.

I’m also pretty sure the Bruins better not watch Kovalev’s dvd.

In a quick recap of Friday’s games, several little delicious surprises happened, some benefitting Montreal. New Jersey lost 3-1 to the Islanders, which is a surprise. Toronto beat Buffalo 4-1, which is also a surprise. And Philadelphia beat the surging Rangers, which concludes the surprises.

This keeps the Devils off Montreal’s back, and slows down the Rangers, who are quickly nipping at Montreal’s heels. So this was a good night. 

Vancouver also plays tonight but nobody cares about that.

We’re Not All Part Of Leaf Nation: Especially Habs Fans

Since I started this blog, the following topic has been bugging me, especially since I don’t have any specialty channels to see the Habs more often. It alway seems like the Leafs are the priority.  William Houston of the Globe and Mail does a nice job saying just what I was thinking. Here’s his fine column.  

  We don’t all live in Leaf Nation you know

From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail

With a month remaining in the NHL’s regular season, Hockey Night in Canada should be moving to increase its coverage of the Canadian teams outside the centre of the hockey universe.Leading up to last Saturday, the two leading NHL stories in this country were the dismissal of John Paddock as coach of the Ottawa Senators and the surprising success of the Montreal Canadiens, who gave the starting goaltending job to rookie Carey Price, who won his first two games.Despite the cheery optimism of Mats Sundin & Co., the Toronto Maple Leafs are unlikely to make the playoffs.Still, the conversation on the most recent Hockey Night focused almost entirely on the Leafs, 12th in the Eastern Conference.

The first intermission Coach’s Corner: Not a word about a Canadian team outside Toronto. Heavy discussion about Leafs rookie Jeremy Williams and Sundin’s decision to stay in Toronto.

Second intermission Hotstove panel: More talk about the Leafs — speculation about Sundin and the next Leafs general manager. Nothing about Ottawa, Montreal or the other NHL teams in Canada, except Vancouver, which was mentioned in passing as perhaps a destination for unsigned Swedish star Fabian Brunnstrom.

To be fair, Hockey Night aired a feature on the Canadiens during its afternoon Pittsburgh Penguins-Senators telecast. And the pregame show carried reports on Ottawa and Montreal.

However, in the important slot of 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (ET), when one million-plus viewers tune into the CBC, the Leafs dominated the conversation.

This seems self-defeating, because when the playoffs start, Hockey Night will be hoping that one million or more viewers become interested in, and watch, the Senators and the Canadiens, as well as the Calgary Flames and the Canucks, assuming they make the playoffs.

Don Cherry controls the subject matter of Coach’s Corner, but Hockey Night has the ability to increase the relevancy of the Hotstove outside Toronto.

Montreal-based P.J. Stock makes the occasional appearance, but on most Saturdays the three commentators are from Toronto. The programming mandate for Hotstove is originality and that is accomplished by the Toronto panel some of the time, but a good amount of the content also consists of speculation or information that has been touched on elsewhere.

Hockey Night made the right move last week when it increased the distribution of the New Jersey Devils-Canadiens game to include Manitoba-West as well as Quebec. But a bolder statement would have been to place the Habs in Atlantic Canada as well, limiting Leafs-Washington Capitals to Ontario.

The CBC will decide later this week on the distribution of the two 7 p.m. games for this Saturday, Devils-Leafs and Phoenix Coyotes-Senators.

If Toronto picks up two wins this week, perhaps placing Devils-Leafs in most of the country makes sense. If not, Coyotes-Senators would be the better choice.

Again, When You Least Expect It, More Fascinating Facts!

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Fascinating Fact # 1   I owned a sports bar for awhile in Powell River, and during this time the infamous Hanson Brothers came to town for a promotional thing at the arena. Afterwards, they came into my pub and at midnight, I locked the doors and drank beer and talked hockey with them until about 5AM.

Fascinating Fact #2  A small scrap of paper signed by Bill Barilko, who scored the Cup-winning goal for Toronto against Montreal in 1951 and died later that year in a plane crash in northern Ontario, recently sold on ebay for $750.

Fascinating Fact #3   Frank Mahovlich came into my pub after an NHL Oldtimer’s game with his niece, who lives in Powell River. I had to tell customers who clamoured all over him to cool it so the guy could eat his meal.

Fascinating Fact #4   When I was 12, my pee wee baseball team played in a tournament in St. Catherines, Ontario. For one game, goalie great Gerry Cheevers was the umpire.

Facsinating Fact # 5   Years ago, when I was about 11, I asked Foster Hewitt for his autograph. He signed for me, then, because he was in a deep discussion with some other guy, he kept my pen. I was too shy to ask him for it so my older sister had to get it for me.

Fascinating Fact #6   Howie Morenz was Toe Blake’s hero when Blake was a boy. He said he even called himself Howie. Years later, in 1937, Blake played for the Habs alongside his boyhood hero Morenz. This was the same year Morenz died from complications from a broken leg.

Fascinating Fact # 7   Toe Blake used such terrible profanity, he was barred from the Forum Billiard Hall.

Facinating Fact # 8    I collect old Montreal Canadiens kid’s wool sweaters. Not like some of the old ones in the photos above as these are extremely early Habs sweaters,  but like the one in my photo at the top right, and other’s similar to that. They’re all from the 1940’s, ’50’s, and ’60’s but I’m still looking for ones from the ’30’s and ’20’s. I saw some in old Eaton’s catalogues recently, so I know they were around at that time. But are they around now?

Fascinating Fact #9  In the early ’60’s when I was about 13 or so, my buddy and I went to Barrie, Ont. for an exhibition game between the AHL’s Buffalo Bisons and the Rochester Americans. We were there early and somehow got talking to the Buffalo trainer, and he let us be stickboys for the game. The team gave us both sticks, although I broke mine later playing road hockey. And Don Cherry played that night for Rochester.

The final Fascinating Fact goes to Toe Blake, who said this: “Hockey has been my life. I never had the opportunity of getting one of those million dollar contracts, but hockey was worth more than a million to me in plenty of ways.”

(For more delicious and delightful facts, just click on ‘Fascinating Facts’ over in the category section and get a whole bunch of stuff.)

To Ottawa Senators Fans, Do You Really Mean Those Boos?

That sound you hear tomorrow night in Ottawa is the sound of people cheering the Senators and booing the Habs? And that sound is the sound of long-time Montreal Canadiens fans who’ve become Senators fans.

I know, I know. The unwritten book of civic pride says you should always support your home team. But picture this. You grew up in east Ottawa making childhood scrapbooks of your team, Les Canadiens. You wrote fan letters to the Rocket and Beliveau, or Cournoyer and Lafleur. And you showed your son how to do the same with Patrick Roy and Vincent Damphousse.

From time to time you bought a bus/Forum ticket package and went down the 417 to see a game in your magical Forum. Then you took the bus back to Ottawa that same night, but still going to work the next morning.

You wore the Montreal sweater when the games were on TV. Pictures of Habs graced your rec room, to your wife’s dismay. You got into arguments with Leaf fans. Your eyes went moist when the Habs hoisted the Cup.

You were the staunchest, most die-hard, most loyal Montreal Canadiens fan you knew.

Then, in 1992, the Ottawa Senators started playing again after 60 years of being away. Suddenly you stopped going to games in Montreal. You bought a Sens jersey and put your Habs one in a trunk. You convinced your son of the magic of Heatley and Spezza instead of Kovalev and Koivu. Your pictures came down and the old scrapbooks somehow got misplaced. You still argued with Leaf fans, but for different reasons.

It’s all very sad. But I suppose it’s noble to back the home team. It’s good and proper community spirit. I just wonder if somewhere deep inside, deep in the crevices of your heart, sitting like cobwebs on your soul, lies a little bit of love for your old passion, your old team, the Montreal Canadiens.

Maybe it never completely went away.

Toronto Beats The Habs. I Hate Hockey

Things were going so well for me lately. I’ve had a few days off where I’ve just kind of lounged around. Twice in the last two days my wife has suggested we go out for some beers, and how good is that? My problem stepdaughter has found a nice apartment over on the island.

So things have been good.

But I knew it. I knew my good times were winding down when Toronto lost 8-0 to Florida the other night. I knew they were playing Montreal next, and I just knew these Leafs, who normally stink, were going to play like the 1972 Russian National Team against the Habs.

Bad news for me, and bad news for Montreal. Toronto wins 4-2. I’m gonna take up cricket. GO PAKISTAN!

It would’ve been better probably if the game was played in Toronto instead of Montreal. The Leafs would’ve felt crazy pressure at home, more than in Montreal. Instead, they got to get out of Dodge and play some pond hockey.

Frankly, Montreal hasn’t looked great in their last three games. They blew a three goal lead to the Rangers and lost 5-3. They barely hung on to win 4-3 against Ottawa after leading 4-1. And tonight, against Toronto, a team with about five NHL’ers and about 15 American Hockey Leaguers, they lost 4-2.

Kovalev was great again for the Habs. Carey Price, just called up from Hamilton, was good. A few others were pretty good.

The rest suffered from a bout of narcolepsy.

The Circus Is In Town: Montreal Takes On The Leafs

This might not be good for the Montreal Canadiens. They play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night, and because the Leafs just got pasted 8-0 by the Florida Panthers, of all teams, they won’t be feeling good right now. This is a team in turmoil, has been all year, all decade, all several decades, and we’ve seen this scenario before. A team gets embarrassed, humiliated, laughed at, and dismissed, and comes out next game and plays like gangbusters.

The Leafs usually play well against the Habs anyway, so when I think about it, this game could smell. 

But it shouldn’t. The Habs are hotter than Angelina Jolie in heat, and are 16 points better than the Leafs, who are as cold as cold can be.

If I had a say in this, I’d want another 8-0 loss for the Leafs. I always have great evenings when Montreal scores a lot.

The Leafs in turmoil is part of being a Leaf. Even in the ’30’s, ’40’s, and ’50’s, Owner Conn Smythe was hiring and firing and mouthing off to the press about players like Busher Jackson and coaches like Dick Irvin and Billy Reay. There were the fights between Punch Imlach and various players such as Frank Mahovlich in the 1960’s. And Harold Ballard took turmoil to new heights in the 1970’s and ’80’s when he fought with Darryl Sittler and had his ‘C’ removed from his sweater, and when he ordered coach Roger Neilson to wear a paper bag over his head. (Neilson refused, thankfully.) Or Ballard going on about hating European players and how he wouldn’t let the Russians ever play at Maple Leaf Gardens. (He did anyway.)

Then there was the boardroom backstabbing, with Ballard trying to make his girlfriend Yolanda, who knew nothing about running a hockey team, a principle shareholder.

Frankly, I’ve never understood why King Clancy remained so faithful to the miserable old coot all those years.

Now, this year, GM John Ferguson Jr. has been fired, (probably rightfully so), and Cliff Fletcher has been brought in to restore some sanity to the asylum. Coach Paul Maurice’s job is hanging by a thread, and the Leafs’ best player, Mats Sundin, is the only one in the free world who thinks he’s staying put and not traded.

It’s all wonderful stuff.  And it’ll be even more wonderful if the Habs clobber them Thursday night.

The Boys Are Playing Large: Like The ’67 Leafs

On Tuesday night, Montreal beat the Islanders 3-1. There’s only one thing to say about this. The Habs are playing really, really well. As we speak, they’re one of the top teams in the east.

Last year at this time, after 45 games, Montreal had 55 points. This year, after the same amount of games, the team has 54 points. BUT! Last year, they won only 4 of their next 16 games. That won’t happen this year. Kovalev’s at the top of his game, so’s Plekanec and Huet, and the Kostitsyn’s are here this year.

The general consensus is that a team like Detroit, or Anaheim and Ottawa, or maybe New Jersey or Pittsburgh, are the ones that have so much going for them, they’re the odds-on favourites to win the Cup. Any of them.

But n 1967, Toronto won the Cup and they weren’t supposed to. They were a team of really old guys like Johnny Bower, Terry Sawchuk, Allan Stanley, Bob Baun, Tim Horton, Red Kelly etc. and they defied the odds, and the general consensus. They were far from the favourites. (Please note: I’m no Leaf fan.)

Without getting carried away here, maybe Montreal can surprise people and go deep into the playoffs. Just like the ’67 Leafs. It’s that power of positive thinking again.

As an aside –

When Toronto won in 1967, they played and beat Montreal in the final, 4 games to two. The kicker is that Montreal had won the past two years before that, and won the next two years after that. So if Toronto hadn’t pulled off that big upset, Montreal would have won five straight Cups, like they did from 1955 to ’60.