Category Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

Other Habs May Be Resting In The Off-Season, But I Can’t. Also, Sean Avery Gets A Little More Light-Headed.

  Although the players will be saying their goodbyes and heading back to the cottages in Sainte Leonard and Sault Ste. Marie, or the dachas in Novopolotsk and Togliatti, I, however, will be continuing my workouts and strict discipline in preparation for when I’m called up as flag guy next season at the Bell Centre.

One thing I don’t need is an injury, so I’ve decided to sit when I’m drinking beer, and also to do as little as possible at work. Can you imagine when they call me to be flag guy and I have to tell them I pulled a muscle while dancing at the Moose Hall, or I’m too exhausted from doing too much for the Man at work?

Also, the photo above isn’t really me. But it kind of gives you an idea of what I’ll look like in my Habs uniform on flag night. In real life, I have legs and a neck.

IN OTHER NEWS:

Sean Avery spent his last playoff chances of the year in the hospital, and missed his team’s (New York Rangers) elimination.

There’s no truth to the rumour that the reason he was hospitalized was for the removal of his ego, which was growing at a dangerous rate.  There might be, however, some truth to the rumour that Avery was the least popular patient in the New York hospital.

TEAMS I HATE THE MOST IN THE NHL:

That would be the Flyers, Bruins, Devils, Leafs, Senators, Panthers, Hurricane, Lightening, Islanders, Rangers, Avalanche, Canucks, Wild, Stars, Sharks, Kings, Blues, Blue Jackets, Red Wings, Blackhawks, Oilers, Thrashers, Capitals, Penguins, Flames, Ducks, Predators, and Coyotes.

I like the rest, though.

WHO WILL WIN THE STANLEY CUP?

Oh, is hockey still going on?

 

 

 

Fascinating Facts Are Back! Will Your Heart Handle It?

Fascinating Fact #1  I saw Bobby Orr twice in my home town of Orillia. Once, when I was sitting in the park down by the lake, he and his wife strolled by. He had a hockey school with Mike Walton in Orillia at this time.  The other was out at one of the local beverage rooms, and he and a bunch of people I knew a lttle, sat near us. There’s a strong chance my table drank more beer than their table.

Fascinating Fact #2  Gary Lupul, a great ex-Canuck and a good friend of mine who passed away last year, introduced me once to goaltender Richard Brodeur. Gary told Brodeur I was a Habs fan, and Brodeur said “Oh, I don’t want to talk to you.”

Fascinating Fact #3  I was once introduced to the Hanson Brothers’ manager. I held out my hand and he asked “Do you wash your hands when you take a crap?” I said of course, and it was only then that he shook my hand.

Fascinating Fact #4  A kid I played minor hockey with for four or five years, John French, ended up getting drafted by the Montreal Canadiens and played a couple of years with the club’s farm team, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. But it was the early 1970’s and to crack the Habs line up, you pretty well had to be a Guy Lafleur, so French decided to sign with the New England Whalers of the newly-formed World Hockey Association instead. He played with Gordie Howe and another good Orillia boy, his old friend Rick Ley, who had played for the Leafs before jumping to the WHA.

Fascinating Fact #5  Rick Ley lived around the corner from me growing up. We sometimes skated on the big outdoor rink near us, before school. Ley also pitched a ball to me one summer which the batter fouled off into my mouth and knocked my front tooth out. 

Fascinating Fact #6  The best seat I ever had at a game was in the first row at the Montreal Forum, behind the net, just to the right of the goal judge. This was in the late 1970’s.

The worst seat I ever had was at Edmonton’s Northland Coliseum for a game between the Habs and Oilers, and we were in the very first row behind the Oilers bench. John Muckler and his two assistant coaches stood right in front of us, so the only time we could see was when the play was down at one end. 

Most games I’ve gone to, however, were usually way, way up. 

Fascinating Fact #7  Canada’s greatest pool player, Cliff Thorburn, is a long-time Habs fan.

Fascinating Fact #8  Gary Lupul told me once that the guy he made sure he didn’t piss off on the ice because the guy was simply too big and scary,  was Clark Gillies of the Islanders.

 

 

Rick The Trucker Is Back, With More News From His 18 Wheeler

Sorry about the small print. I don’t have a clue why this happened. Please read anyway, because Rick the Trucker is back. Just get closer to the screen, that’s all.

 

Rick the Trucker, who spends are a large portion of his life truckin Highway 417 between Ottawa and Montreal, is back with more on the what’s happening on the front. Rick’s been on these pages before, he’s like my roving reporter, and he’s always got this great perpective because while he’s truckin, he’s got the late night sports talk radio blasting in his 18 wheeler.

Rick’s a Senators fan, but he’s still a great guy anyway.

Here’s more from life on Highway 417:

“So I’m driving back from Montreal tonite and get into Ottawa radio range just at the end of the second,,tie game, announcer says Ottawa held their own, killed off some penalties blah blah blah,,so I got the hammer down to try and get home and maybe catch some OT on the tube or something and then BAM, game over in the first 90 seconds of the third, back off the pedal, cruise home while listening to the remainder and dream about watching cricket with my Habs friends by the end of the week,,JUST KIDDING bout the habs fans.I,unlike some other people,do not pick on people for the teams they cheer for,unless it’s the blue team of course,,jab jab!!!

Anyways,heard some good stuff on Montreal radio 2day,,,Lot’s of calls from people who made the trek to Boston for game 3,,some rough stuff in the stands but sad to say,tickets were very easy to obtain, it wasn’t a sellout. It’s sad to see the glorious Bruins tradition slowly sliding down, it wasn’t a sellout and a good percentage were Habs fans. Funny thing,when the Habs fans sang oley oley, Bruins fans sang back “your gay, your gay.”

Chris ‘knuckles’ Nilan has been on the radio everynite in Montreal during this series,always a good chat,was real happy to see fans from his old team showing a presence in his home town,,,forgot to tell you,,that ignorant prick on that 110% show who made that Kostfuckupolis comment was fired after that comment last month.

Don’t know if you get Vancouver radio where you are or even if you do, are the Van.fans as commited to hockey as much as Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal fans?  I’ll tell you, spending all my time between here and Montreal is hockey overload. Same stories,same predictions,same excuses, just different cities but it’s still a blast,,,,,,I’m ordering tickets for cricket matches,,when are you available??????

ENJOY the ride!!!”

It’s Game One, And I’m Growing My Playoff Beard

  Opening round GAME 1

The idea is to get rid of Boston as quickly as possible. Smash them, dazzle them, and confuse them. Overpower them, upset them, anger them, and frustrate them. Kick them, bite them, gouge them, and stick your fingers in their eyes. (just make sure the ref’s not watching.)

Take them out in four games. Stay healthy, and get Koivu back.  Mike Komisarek, an extremely important piece of the pie, is ready to go. Not sure about Ryder and Bouillin. But these are Montreal Canadiens players, not Buffalo Sabres or Pittsburgh Penguins or Toronto Maple Leafs players. These are Habs. They wear the CH. They’ll be back, stronger than ever.

It’s three hours until game time. I’ve been growing my playoff whiskers since last night, and I won’t be shaving until….sometime tomorrow!

LIKE SOME SORT OF TIME-TRAVEL MACHINE, IT’S NOW 3 HOURS LATER, AND THE GAME HAS BEGUN. Another in a long line of Boston-Montreal matchups. Boston has the freak of nature, the behemoth Zdeno Chara. I say grab a chain saw and cut him down to a more normal size.

The dramatic beginning of the telecast, when the teams were waiting in the corridor to go out on the ice, was spine-tingling.

You don’t need me to go over the game. You saw it, or watched Sportscentre or something. The Habs got it done. They dominated.

Montreal 4, Boston, 1. Only fifteen more wins to hoist the Cup.

 Game notes: 

Bob Cole needs to be placed in an old folks home. 

 

Montreal Ends It Off In Style. Now Bring On The Playoffs And Prove The Experts Wrong

Don Cherry thinks the Ottawa Senators will do well in the playoffs but the Habs won’t. Broadcaster Bob Cole threw water on the fire every time sidekick Greg Millen started to say great things about the Habs. “Watch their power play,” Millen would say. “Watch how they never stop moving, how unpredictable they are, how hard they are to stop.”

And Bob Cole would chime in, “yeah, but they haven’t scored yet.” And throughout the game, you could feel him cheering for the Leafs. Cole needs to retire. We’ll keep Cherry around for a chuckle here and there. But he loves the Leafs too.

It’s been like this all year. The so-called elite of the hockey media, Cole, Cherry, McKenzie, McGuire, Hodge et al, just can’t bring themselves to concede that maybe, just maybe, Montreal is a serious contender.

It’s the junior members like Millen and Glen Healy who are the ones who don’t mind offering up superlatives. The old guard won’t do it.

I guess, if the television screen’s right, Montreal meets Boston in the first round after taking out Toronto tonight (April 5) 3-1 in yet another impressive performance by all concerned, including a young buck in his first game, Gregory Stewart, who nearly scored a couple of times, and got the edge in a fight with Brian McCabe at the final siren.

Stewart skated off the ice to the cheers of the faithful and the pats from his new teammates, with this amazingly proud look on his face.

But back to Cherry and Cole and the like. I suppose by the third round, these guys might concede that the Habs look good. But you can be sure that they’ll say Montreal doesn’t stand a chance against the contender from the west.

It’s going to take a Stanley Cup to shut these guys up. Bring on Boston.

It Sure Wasn’t Hard Becoming A Habs Fan

I’m asked from time to time why I cheer for the Habs and not the Toronto Maple Leafs, seeing that I grew up only an hour north of Toronto, in Orillia. The answer’s easy. The Montreal Canadiens were a gift from my dad.

My dad’s 87 now, and of course, still watches hockey. He’s been a hockey fan all his life, followed the Leafs when he was young, and he once wrote a letter in the 1930’s to Ace Bailey who lay in a hospital after Boston’s Eddie Shore clubbed him over the head, ending his career, and nearly killing him.

Bailey’s wife wrote a thank-you note to my dad in return.

But slowly, my dad began to turn. The Toronto Star and Telegram both plastered their papers with Leafs stories and my dad began to wonder about the almost invisible other teams. It was always “Leafs, Leafs, Leafs” as he used to say. Foster Hewitt was the definitive homer, and this rubbed dad the wrong way. And dad, being the introverted type, cringed when he read or heard about the goings-on of brash, loud, and arrogant Leafs owner Conn Smythe.

In the fifties, with television entering households, it was only Leafs game shown, and when the Montreal Canadiens played in Toronto, my dad liked what he saw on his TV. There was the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, and Plante. Stanley Cups began to be won by the Habs on a regular basis beginning in 1955, and the Leafs just kept plodding along. The Canadiens had something the Leafs didn’t.

When I was a boy, my dad started a big Montreal Canadiens scrapbook for me. He helped me write fan letters to the the Rocket, and at one point, the Rocket sent me a Christmas card. He took me to Maple Leaf Gardens a couple of times, and once, when we were early and stood at the gate, the entire 1958 Montreal team walked right by us.

He bought me a hockey book which he mailed to Montreal asking for autographs in, and it was mailed back signed by the entire 1958-59 Habs – Richard, Plante, Toe Blake, Beliveau, Geoffrion etc, and the only one missing was Doug Harvey. When we went to a game at the Gardens, he brought the book with him, took it down the the Montreal dressing room corridor, saw Toe Blake standing there, and asked Blake if he would take the book into the dressing room and get Harvey to sign it.

Believe it not, Blake did just that. My son has the book now.

So of course I became a Habs fan. They’ve been magical for me, and the magic has never gone away. It’s been a lifelong love affair.

And it’s all because of my dad.

How Sweet It Is! Except, Of Course, If You’re A Sabres Fan

It’s times like this when I wish I still lived back east. I can feel old-time hockey atmosphere, too thick to cut, drifting out of Montreal and parts beyond, and filtering right out here to the coast.

The Habs aren’t being stopped, eliminating the Buffalo Sabres tonight in a completely convincing, except for some brief moments in the third period, 3-1 win. And they won it in style, even with injuries, even with the northeast sewn up, because, like Alex Kovalev says, “a team starts the playoffs the way they end the season.” 

And the way they’re ending it is flabbergasting. Without Koivu, Komisarek, and Bouillon, the team’s plumbers have risen to the occasion, and are not only shutting down other teams in general, but they’re shutting down other teams’ powerplays as well. And elder plumber Brian Smolinski gets a pair of big goals and once again, proves with the others that Pierre McGuire and Bob McKenzie and the rest can eat their words, and in the process, should finally give some big-time credit to the Canadiens, which they’ve yet to do.

And Alex Kovalev, at 35 and playing like 25, creates magic like no one. He could have scored about four beauties tonight, he worked like crazy, he set up others, he joined frays to help teammates, and has picked up an important role with Koivu out, showing that he’s a natural leader. My respect for Kovalev continues to grow.

This is a special time for Habs fans, so let’s savour it. In other years, when they made the playoffs, they made it by the skin of their teeth. Not this year though. Somewhere along the line, this team became a powerhouse, and are still threatening to win the east overall.

And they aren’t sneaking in the back door this time. They’re smashing in the front door and storming in.

I’m still a little numb about what’s transpiring. I expect the Canadiens to do well every single year of course, but this year I had no idea the Kostitsyn brothers would become such a force, or Kovalev would prove he’s one of the top five players in the league in my opinion, or that Carey Price would carry the torch, or that Guy Carbonneau would mature so nicely as a coach, or that the Kostopoulos’ and the Smolinski’s and the Begins’ would do the job like they’ve never done before.

Oh, to be in Montreal at this time. To be at the Bell Centre on one of the many triumphant nights, which, dare I say it, might even rival some of the big nights at the old Forum.

Keep it going, boys. Smash the Leafs on Saturday. Don’t get hurt. Head into the playoffs full steam ahead. We’re all behind you. And we’re all proud of you.

Game Day Routine. Getting Ready For The Sabres

GAME DAY and I need to be sure I don’t stray from my regular routine that involves strict discipline as far as getting a good nap in before I eat some high carb concoction like a fettuccine dish with a baked potato. I don’t know about your habits and routines on game day, but I’m sure your way is excellent, albeit slightly different than mine.

Because the game’s on early here on the west coast, at 4:30 pm, I know I need to get my nap in early too. So I’ll head to bed about 11am and sleep until 1:00. This gives me time to have my carbs and several coffees for a quick boost and not feel too bloated by the time the puck drops.

I like to arrive at the couch early, say about 3:30, so I can fiddle with things on the coffee table, give the TV a good warm up, go over game notes such as what good shows I can flick to during commercials, and plan my strategy about how I’m going to get all the household things discussed early with my wife so she won’t be talking too much during the big game. I learned this early in my career with previous females -(mother, first-wife, daughter, sisters, etc.)

All of this takes some serious concentration and is a good example of why I’m such a good team player, and why experience is invaluable.

FINALLY, GAME TIME. It’s what I’ve been preparing myself for all day, as you can see from the routine. Montreal needs this. It’s all about first over-all and the chance to play the eighth place team, which could be Boston, Ottawa, Washington, Philadelphia, and even Buffalo, who the Habs are playing tonight.

This is why it’s a big game. This is an example of why every game for the last two months has been big. And this is why it’s necessary to have a proper pre-game routine.

Me and the boys will take care of business tonight against the Sabres, the ones with the George Jetson/Los Angeles Rams uniforms, then a couple more days and we’ll be going through the same old routines once again as we prepare for the Leafs.

It’s all part of the strict discipline and commitment that goes into being a professional Habs watcher. 

Whew! Thank Goodness There’s A Way To Tell When Spring Has Sprung

With the big game in Ottawa coming up shortly, with first place overall still not decided, and with injuries mounting, it can be tremendously stressful for Habs fans. But we’re not the only ones with problems. People in general can be stressed. You just got your lay-off notice at the factory. The mortgage is due. Your daughter has a new tattoo on her forehead. The mother-in-law’s coming. The beer fridge is empty.

But when the sun shines in spring, things have a way of looking up. A young man’s (and woman’s) fancy turns to love. And the playoffs.

And things could be worse. We could be Leafs fans.  

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Almost Good News On The Habs Hurting Front. And Tom Kostopoulos Knows What It Takes

Now that the dust has settled on just how healthy the Montreal Canadiens are, it seems  possible that only Saku Koivu might be out for awhile. But even that’s unclear.

What’s clear is that five Habs are hobbling and grimacing. Guillaume Latendresse has neck spasms and although he didn’t play in Toronto, he should play in Ottawa.

Mark Streit took a puck off the foot in Buffalo, didn’t play in Toronto, and although the team’s a bit vague, it seems he won’t be out long either.

Francis Bouillon didn’t play in Toronto either and is suffering from a right ankle injury. He’ll be back quickly though, because he’s a tough little bugger.

Mike Komisarek injured his hip (lower body injury!) in Boston but has started skating again, so this is good.

Which leaves us to Saku Koivu. He took a puck on the foot in Buffalo (like Streit), didn’t play in Toronto, and left Toronto on crutches. His foot is swollen and they’re not sure if it’s fractured or just badly bruised.  If it’s broken, he could be out until sometime in the second round of the playoffs.

When Koivu got the stick in the eye a couple of years ago against Carolina, the team went poof, like air going out of a balloon. But Montreal’s much better now, much deeper, more talented, and much more-rounded, and so although it would hurt to lose him, the boys can still get the job done. But let’s just hope it’s just badly bruised.

I also want to mention something about Tom Kostopoulos. This is guy who was a healthy scratch many times this year. He usually plays only on the fourth line, and he doesn’t get a lot of ink in the papers. But here’s the kind of guy he is:  Mike Komisarek said that when he was being treated in Boston for his hip injury, Kostopoulos was brought in after a fight in which half his face was blackened and his one eye was closed shut. But all Kostopoulos kept saying was to get him an ice pack and hurry because he needed to get back on the ice.

Now I have new-found respect for Tom Kostopoulos. This is old school, old time hockey. This is what separates men from boys. This is a guy who wanted to help his team and his teammates. He’s bounced around the minors, never really winning a job. This is the kind of guy who’d play for free. And players like him don’t disappear in the playoffs.