Category Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

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.