Category Archives: Wayne Gretzky

Up For Grabs

The new catalogue is out, and our Winter 2014 auction at Classic Auctions goes online Tuesday, January 27.

Below is a small sampling of the nearly 1400 pieces up for bids, including game-worn jerseys from Butch Bouchard, Bert Olmstead, Henri Richard, Terry Sawchuk, Vladislav Tretiak, the Hanson brothers, and Sidney Crosby.

This is the kind of stuff I handle and write about every day.

Classic 1

Classic 2

classic 3

classic 11

classic 13

Classic 18

classic 4

classic 5

Classic 20

Classic 19

classic 6

classic 8

classic 9

Classic 21

Classic 12

classic 10

Classic 22

Classic 23

classic 14

classic 15

Good Read In The Star

Interesting piece in the Toronto Star that my boss sent me, regarding the costs of playing midget hockey in Toronto, the small percentage of kids who go anywhere, concussions suffered, the effect of global warming on rinks, and a whole whack of stuff.

Here’s the link – Is minor hockey worth it?

And here’s an excerpt:

The annual cost for a (midget) AAA player is between $10,000 and $15,000, not much less than the tuition for the University of Toronto medical school ($19,546).

The parents of Patrick Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks star, estimated their investment in his minor-league career, which he spent in the U.S., to be $250,000. Given his current salary of $6.3 million per year, it was a good investment. But the cost is high for all elite minor league players, while the odds of playing four seasons in the NHL are roughly 1 in 6,000.

Here’s another:

It is the lament of one Triple-A coach — the players are all skilled, he says, but they lacked creativity. Unlike Guy Lafleur or Wayne Gretzky, they hadn’t logged thousands of hours playing shinny. Instead they log thousands of hours in minivans; a game can be a three-hour commitment when factoring in commute times and dressing time, but it only yields 10-17 minutes of ice time for the player.

In 1972 we accused the Soviets of being skilled but mechanical. The Canadians, by contrast, had flair, we had heart. Now we are in danger of losing both.

Brandy’s Newest

My friend Brandy Saturley, a world class artist living in Victoria, has sent me her new Gretzky piece, along with info on her upcoming show in Edmonton.

So if you’re in the Edmonton area on Dec. 5th, stop in and see her incredible work. Lots of hockey images. Lots of Canadiana. She’s awesome.

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Canuck Days

Desaturated Cherry

Goalie’s Mask: Red, White, and Dryden. This piece is displayed, along side one of Ken Dryden’s masks, in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, with prints available at Goalie’s Mask. Proceeds go to The Hall.

Death of a Rookie (Rise of a Hero)

Saint Kanata

Keep On Dreamin’ In The Free World

Poppies For Louise

Plante Rises

The Number 9ine

The “EH” Team

Canada Is Sweet And Salty

New Canadian Rodeo

When Warhol Came To Canada

Mr. Goalie

He came to Powell River in 1997 when the Allan Cup was on, and I asked him if I could buy him breakfast the next day. He said sure, we did, we talked hockey, and then I gave him a tour of the area in my little Hyundai Excel.

A real nice fellow, this Western Canadian farmer dubbed “Mr. Goalie”. When I asked him who the greatest ever was, he didn’t even have to think about it. Gordie Howe could do everything better than anybody else, he said, including Gretzky, whom he never played against of course, and Bobby Orr.

Glenn Hall, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975, was the goalie in nets for the St. Louis Blues when Bobby Orr scored his famous “flying through the air” Stanley Cup winner in the spring of 1970.

Glenn Hall

Orr

50 Or More; And That Curved Stick

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Up until this December 1964 Hockey Pictorial question was posed, just three players had ever scored 50 goals in a season – Maurice Richard in 1944-45, Bernie Geoffrion in 1960-61, and Bobby Hull during the 1961-62 season.

Who would finally score more than 50 in a season?

As you can see, five of the six players polled thought it would be Bobby Hull, while Jacques Laperriere figured Jean Beliveau would be the man.

The answer would come the following year, when yes indeed, it was Bobby Hull, who scored 54 in 65 games.

Hull would also bulge the twine 52 times in ’66-’67 and 58 in ”68-’69.

And how did the Golden Jet explain his talent for scoring? He mostly credited the introduction of the curved stick, which allowed him to blast howitzers at panic-stricken goaltenders. And although that’s a very credible explanation, it doesn’t do Hull complete justice. He was a beautiful skater, strong as an ox, and one of the greatest ever. The curved stick only added another huge element to Hull’s game.

Not long after Hull’s feats, the numbers would get out of hand. Phil Esposito would light the lamp 76 times in 1970-71, and during the 1980-81 campaign, eight players would score 50 or more, including Mike Bossy with 68 markers.

But it would be the 1981-82 season when goal scoring really blossomed, led by Wayne Gretzky, of course. Ten players cracked the 50-goal mark that year, with Gretzky notching an amazing 92 goals.

And back to the curved stick –

Andy Bathgate says it was he who was the first to use it, but it was Hull’s teammate Stan Mikita who is generally regarded as the inventor, although it came accidentally.

As explained in Bruce Dowbiggin’s book “The Stick,” Mikita’s stick cracked during practice, and he tried to break it and throw it away, but it wouldn’t snap completely. Mikita then jammed the stick into the door at the bench and it ended up looking like a boomerang.

While he waited for his trainer to get him another stick in the dressing room, which was several minutes away down the steps at the old Chicago Stadium, Mikita, out of anger, slapped a puck with the broken stick and the puck took off. He slapped another and it was the same thing. He was amazed, even at the new sound the puck made hitting the boards.

Back in the dressing room, Mikita started bending all his sticks, but they were breaking, until someone suggested making them wet first, which he did. He then left his new, curved sticks overnight, and the next day at practice he started shooting. The first shot was like a knuckler in baseball. It dropped and veered, and the next shot did all sorts of weird things too.

Bobby Hull was watching all this, and began bending his too.

Coach Billy Reay wasn’t impressed. He figured they wouldn’t be able to control their shots, and he was right. In Hull’s first game using this new banana blade, his first shot went right over the glass. In another game, Hull hit Ranger goalie Gump Worsley in the head, and when asked if he feared the curved blade, Worsley replied that he thought fans behind him were in more danger than him.

And about Andy Bathgate saying he was the first.

Bobby Hull said he always remembered Bathgate as having a bit of a curve to his sticks, even in the late ’50s, but it was Mikita who pioneered the whole idea of it. Bathgate has said that when Chicago was playing his Rangers one night, his trainer had lent Mikita one of Bathgate’s sticks (which is unusual to say the least), after the Hawk had run out of his own, and Mikita had liked the curved stick.

Mikita disagrees and talked to Bathgate about this, and in Dowbiggin’s book is quoted as saying, “I told Andy to his face that he’s – well, let’s say I talked to him about it. I might have borrowed some sticks, but I sure don’t remember any curve.”

And one final note: It was a Bathgate shot that smashed into Jacques Plante’s face, causing Plante to come back out wearing his mask for the first time during a game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Night At A Fan Club

In going through some papers last night in the basement, I found something I’d written in 1992. I’m not sure why I’d written it, but anyway…

The first page talks about how I grew up to be a Montreal Canadiens fan living in Orillia, a city thick with Leafs fans, but I won’t bother with that part here.

After that I went into being in Russia in 1991 and spending an evening with members of the Russian Montreal Canadiens Fan Club, where no one spoke English except for one guy, Konstantin Krylov, who presently is a scout for the Anaheim Ducks.

At that time it was during the fall of the Soviet Union, and up until then, Russians had had very little contact with foreigners from the west. It was almost unheard of that westerners would spend any time at all in a Russian’s home, so it was all new, for both sides.

But I was lucky. I lived with a Russian family in St. Petersburg several times over the years, for short periods, and I still feel very fortunate for the experience.

I’m beginning halfway through my piece, when I went to a meeting at the apartment of the president of the fan club, Alexander Varnovsky

“Anatoly brought me by streetcar to Alexander’s apartment building in the heart of Leningrad. As we approached the old six-story building nestled beside a children’s playground off a main downtown street, Anatoly pointed upwards to the president’s place. There, in the window, thousands of miles from home, in such a mysterious country, was a giant Montreal Canadiens crest. And beside it, Alexander and several of his friends waved and smiled and motioned to us to come up.

Hockey Night in Leningrad, without the television.

That evening at the Fan Club was without doubt one of the most enjoyable and interesting few hours I’ve ever spent. I could sense a feeling that I was truly welcome, and they seemed happy that they were able to get some Canadian impressions of the NHL, and of course their beloved Montreal Canadiens.

Alexander’s apartment looked like many hockey fans’ apartments, although it was very small. The walls were alive with Habs’ team photos from different years, and photos of Lafleur and Cournoyer and Beliveau and Carbonneau, among others, smiled down. Sasha had written many times to Habs public relations director Claude Mouton, and Mr. Mouton had graciously answered many of his letters and sent hats and pennants etc. All of Mouton’s letters were proudly displayed.

Even as I was taking off my coat, the questions started rolling off their tongues. The big one, the one brought up the most, was how I felt about the ’91-’92 team, and did I think they had the talent to go all the way. Of course they did, I answered. I’ve been answering that question the very same way all my life. So in Russia, it was no different.

As tea and pastry were served, I tried to explain why I thought the team would be successful. And I was grilled constantly about all aspects of the Habs, and the N.H.L. in general. What really stood out, what truly impressed me, was the amount of knowledge and insights my new friends had about North American hockey. They had only seen international competition for the most part – Canada Cups, World Championships, Olympics and such. Until then, a Montreal-Boston clash, for example, rarely or never graced the screens of Russian T.Vs.

But they were all hockey scholars in the truest sense. They all had their own ideas on who should win the Hart Trophy, or who the best goalie was, or what GM was the craftiest, or what skater was the most innovative.

They appreciated the aggressiveness of Shane Corson and Mike Keane, and loved the style and grace of Denis Savard. They expressed concern over the youthful defence of the Habs, and were all in agreement when Wayne Gretzky’s name came up as the greatest in the game today.

Throughout the evening we talked about league president John Ziegler, Serge Savard, Russian and Canadian fans, Hall of Famers, and famous games. They said that the classic Super Series ’76 featuring the Canadiens and Red Army 3-3 game was the turning point for them all, when they saw for the first time the beauty of Montreal’s game. They had heard many stories before that, but this was their first look, and it left a lasting impression.

The evening went by far too quickly, and after several hours it was time to go back to Anatoly’s. The entire fan club walked us the few blocks to the streetcar.

I made some great friends that night. We all share a deep love for the Montreal Canadiens, and I feel so fortunate to have met and spent such a memorable evening with them.

Several months later, back in Calgary, I received a letter from Leningrad, which had now become St. Petersburg once again after the system had collapsed and they were starting anew. There was one page in Russian and another translated into English, and it stated that I had been unanimously voted into the St. Petersburg Montreal Canadiens Fan Club.

I was the first and only member of the club from outside Russia, and I am very proud.

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Stuff From Gary

Gary's gifts

Every ten years or so, my friend Gary in Ottawa sends me a box of gifts. Just out of the blue, and always quite fascinating.

One came the other day, and included:

A plastic alarm clock that looks like sticks of dynamite and which needs a battery.

A cassette that’s seen better days and might have Genesis on it.

A paragraph from a newspaper about how an underwater mountain in BC was destroyed in one of the largest non-nuclear controlled explosions.

A newspaper story from Jan. 16, 2012, after the Habs had just picked up Rene Bourque, and their recent success against the New York Rangers.

A clipping about the Habs drafting Dalton Thrower.

Two Montreal Canadiens 2011-12 pocket schedules.

A postcard of the old Ottawa tavern, the Elmdale House, along with a flyer listing the band lineup for July.

A 2012-13 Gatineau Olympiques pocket schedule.

Two beer receipts from a grocery store in Alymer, Que.

Four golf tees from Mountain Ridge golf course.

A hardcover book called Death of a Dissent, about the KGB, and which is quite interesting.

A pocket reading light.

A clipping about Wayne Gretzky’s daughter Paulina, who was seen leaving a restaurant in West Hollywood dressed in a skimpy outfit.

A brochure about exotic spices.

A 2010 Journal de Montreal.

A tiny plastic Devils goalie stick from cereal.

A full page newspaper story about Paulina Gretzky sunbathing in a tropical location.

A 1997 Memorial Cup pocket schedule.

A Scotiabank hockey magazine.

An All-Star Weekend Ottawa Sun insert.

A 2005-06 Ottawa Senators Sun insert.

Beer prices advertisement from a grocery store.

Sidney Crosby Dempster’s Bakery card.

A Senators ad.

a Shania Twain photo of her  in her Habs outfit.

A Star Trek expired video card.

 

 

 

 

Slight Tweaking Of 20 Years Ago

“CUP COMES HOME” blared the headline in 1993 and little did we know that the Cup just a year later was going to run away from home and stay away. Stanley come home. We miss you.

Enough’s enough. I think I’ll change it.

It was Montreal’s 24th 25th championship in 1993 2013 and it was done on the shoulders of Patrick Roy Carey Price, who would be named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the most valuable player in the playoffs. Patrick Carey gave us 16 wins and just four losses along the way, and to think if he hadn’t become upset with Mario Tremblay had players like Scott Gomez in front of him in previous years, he might had already won.

But all was peace and love in 1993 2013 like it was when Roy was in the nets for the 1993 Cup win. Michael Farber Dave Stubbs, in The Gazette coverage, wrote, “You can sum up the Stanley Cup in almost any two words you choose: Patrick Roy Carey Price. The best. The Canadiens.”

Montreal won that this year by beating the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 and claiming the title in just five games. L.A.’s Wayne Gretzky Mike Richards was disappointed. “I said before the playoffs began that I want to go out on a  get high. I think I played as well as I can. The next few days I’ll talk to my wife Jeff Carter. I’m not leaning toward retirement but I’ve fulfilled my obligation to Los Angeles.”

Kings owner Bruce McNall Philip Anschutz put a blank piece of paper in front of Gretzky Richards and told him to fill it in. The Great Kenora One would remain an LA King for another three seasons before heading to St. Louis and then the Rangers). quit anyway.

But back to the more important stuff – the Habs winning. Montreal’s Lyle Odelein Travis Moen emotionally stated, “You try to take the moment and just hold on to it. You think about what you’re doing and you try to make sure you remember it. I’m from Saskatchewan and I doubt there’s a kid out there tonight who wouldn’t want to do what I did – skate with the Stanley Cup. I was so pumped up I could have lifted the Cup to the sky.”

Stephan Lebeau Drew Drewiske recalled seeing the Cup in the garage at the Forum Staples Center before Calgary L.A. won it in 1989 2012, but he didn’t touch it. “You don’t touch what isn’t yours. I didn’t want to touch it until we won it.”

To reach the finals, the Canadiens had taken out the Nordiques Senators 4 games to 2, Buffalo Boston 4 straight, and  New York Islanders Pittsburgh 4 games to one. Hab haters claimed that Montreal had an easy time of it because stronger teams had somehow been eliminated, but don’t believe these naysayers. They’re a bunch of wankers.

Of course there was rioting a peaceful love-in in the streets of Montreal. Thousands smashed looked through windows, overturned drove around in cars, looted sang, and in general, behaved like morons angels.

Leafs And Pigs Fly

If I was a better man, I’d feel sorry for Leafs fans. Unfortunately, I’m a terrible person.

This email came today. The Leafs win the Cup every year. Their fans must be so spoiled.

Hi Dennis,

As you’re probably (joyfully) aware, Leafs fans have had to endure years of heartbreak. While the Habs made the playoffs four out of the last five seasons, those poor bastards over in Toronto have suffered 45 seasons of dashed hopes, drowned in beer. It’s a serious problem. On the heels of a frustrating lockout, with a new GM and a new coach, the Leafs might finally be ready to turn a (very sharp) corner – should they start planning the parade?

Being the devoted Habs fan that you are, we thought you might appreciate this cheeky open letter to the Leafs that ran in Wednesday’s Toronto Star:

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Mark Zwolinski at the Star has shared a great twitpic of Leafs Assistant GM Dave Poulin accepting the delivery from Gare Joyce on behalf of the team.

Dave has promised to pass the eReaders along to the players and coaches. We’ll be following up with them on twitter during Saturday’s game, using the hashtag #TMLtalk in hopes that some of them will appreciate the joke and give us a book review.

If you have an eReader and a soft spot in your heart for the pipe dreams of others, the NHL of a bygone era, or some highly amusing speculative fiction, you should check this one out. Please let me know if you’d like to receive a copy.

Best,

Kelsey Marshall

Marketing & Publicity Intern

Penguin Canada

Jim Ralph Found Another Way

I remember Jim Ralph when he was a goalie for the Ottawa 67’s in the 1970’s. He was never a great backstopper, and his career didn’t amount to much, just bouncing around the minors for a decade after junior, and he never made it to the bigs.

But there’s one thing about Jim Ralph – he’s a funny guy, which has led to many, many television gigs and speaking engagements around North America. Ralph settled in nicely, doing what he does best, after his playing days were finished.

Here’s a sampling, with Ken Dryden, Wayne Gretzky, Gary Bettman and others chuckling away and having a grand old time listening to him.