Category Archives: Yvan Cournoyer

Budaj Blanks Blueshirts

Inconsequential cleavage shot.

Budaj

Canadiens helped open the newly-refurbished Madison Square Garden by shutting out the home team 2-0 in a game that at times was so boring it made Perry Como look like Little Richard.

I’m willing to bet that many in the seats wished they would have saved their two or three hundred bucks and watched game five of the World Series on TV instead.

It was two big points for the good guys, with Peter Budaj doing a solid job in nets without ever really having to stand on his head. I’ll probably never be able to relax completely when I see Budaj between the pipes, and I thank him for his job tonight.

Thank you Peter.

Of course it’s the Rangers but still.

Tomas Plekanec notched his sixth goal of the season on the power play, with Michael Bournival getting yet another point – his sixth, with Brian Gionta in on it too, and the kids finally came through late in the third when a puck banked in off Alex Galchenyuk’s skate, with both Lars Eller and Brendan Gallagher helping out.

Just when I though the kids were becoming mired in a slump they came through.

A fine two points, even though it wasn’t a classic. My eyes are still glazed over.

Random Notes:

Shots on goal – 27 apiece.

Yvan Cournoyer and Rod Gilbert were there for the ceremonial faceoff. Two great players, looking healthy and not tremendously fat like so many long-retired guys.

PK wasn’t brilliant and a tad on the quiet side, and I suppose anytime now Rene Bourque might look like a power forward. We see a couple of seconds of it almost every game.

I understand that having Douglas Murray is probably good for depth, but other than that, why exactly was he was signed? Maybe he’s only a shell of himself in his first game as a Hab and very soon will explode into the second coming of Scott Stevens!

Maybe not.

Next game – Tuesday at the Bell when the Dallas Stars are in town.

THN Rates ’76-’77 Habs The Best

For the last eight Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup wins, from 1971 to 1993, I managed to save the front pages and laminate them. (Although one, from 1977, is an inner page), and I did a little write up about each of those years.

And seeing how The Hockey News has chosen the Habs 1976-77 team as the greatest team ever, I thought I’d re-post that part of my series.

(THN’s other top five in order are the ’83-’84 Oilers, ’82-’82 Islanders, ’55-’56 Habs, and ’51-’52 Red Wings).

In the spring of 1977, as I was on the verge of getting married for the first time, Jacques Lemaire scored the overtime goal to give his team their second straight Stanley Cup in this late 1970’s run, and it was done with a lovely four-game sweep against Don Cherry and his Boston Bruins.

Is this one of the reasons you’re not crazy about the Habs, Don?

It had been quite a year for this dominating bunch. Montreal only lost eight times in 80 games and racked up a record 132 points. Nobody was going to beat them in the playoffs. You didn’t have to be Kreskin to figure it out. In fact, the team swept the Blues, took out the Islanders 4 games to 2, and then swept the Bruins. Fourteen games in total, and very similar to the 13 it had taken them the year before.

Guy Lafleur won the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP and managed nine goals and 17 assists throughout. But he had this to say: “It’s my third Cup and it’s always nice, but it’s not the same excitement. I don’t think I’m the best player. It’s just that everything went well for me.”

Jacques Lemaire was the quiet hero on this ride. His teammates had told him to shoot more, and on this night, he delivered with the overtime marker. “Why shouldn’t I be happy,” said Lemaire. “I’m on a holiday. I’m on a holiday starting now. It’s about time. It still is Lafleur and Shutt, except tonight. Tonight was a mistake. They said, shoot the puck, you look good.”

Coach Scotty Bowman talked about Lafleur and Shutt. “They play more like Europeans. I’m not knocking the NHL style of play, but the Europeans make more plays on the move. That’s what Lafleur and Shutt do.”

And last word to Don Cherry. “It’s hard to believe we kept outshooting them and still can’t win a game. I still say the whole thing boiled down to those three defensemen.”

A Wild Stab At It

41 years ago today.

“Cournoyer has it on that wing. Here’s a shot! Henderson makes a wild stab at it and falls. Here’s another shot. Right in front. They score! Henderson has scored for Canada!”

Foster Hewitt described it. And I’ll never stop remembering and paying tribute to the wonderful series in ’72.

Unless I get Alzheimer’s.

The Original Six In Splendid Quality

I’m out of town for the day and thought I’d just re-post this because it’s so freakin’ unbelievable. Enjoy the Original Six, with Beliveau and the gang, in splendid quality.

I don’t know how often this has ever been in circulation, but it’s one of most greatest ten minutes of hockey clips you’ll ever see.

It’s from 1967, the quality is sensational, like it was filmed today, and we see Jean Beliveau, as smooth as smooth can be, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Jacques Laperriere, Terry Harper, Ralph Backstrom, Terry Sawchuk, and just about everybody else from that time, all from the old Montreal Forum with the pillars in the background.

It’s called Blades and Brass, is set to music of a Mexican brass band, and comes from the National Film Board of Canada. So just sit back and enjoy the Original Six at the old Montreal Forum, in perfect quality.

The Habs Let Orr Slip Away

Larry Robinson, Serge Savard, and Guy Lapointe were the Canadiens’ Big Three defencemen in the 1970s. Three of the best, all on one team.

Then imagine having Bobby Orr in the mix. The Big Four.

With those four taking care of the blueline, with Ken Dryden in goal, and with Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey, Yvan Cournoyer and the gang up front, it just wouldn’t have been fair.

Orr as part of the powerhouse Habs of the ’70s. It boggles the mind. And it could have happened.

Stephen Brunt, in his 2006 book “Searching for Bobby Orr” writes about that historic first sighting of Orr, when Wren Blair and other Bruins brain trust went to a bantam tournament in Gananoque, Ontario in 1961 to have a look at a couple of players, and soon forgot about the two they’d come to see because a little 12-year old blond-haired kid from Parry Sound was skating rings around everybody.

It’s magical hockey lore, one of the game’s great stories, forever to be told. Until global warming melts the rinks permanently.

But Blair and his gang weren’t the only NHL people in the Gananoque rink that day. Scotty Bowman, the Montreal Canadiens young head scout for eastern North America, was sent by Sam Pollock to Gananoque to have a look at not only the two players everyone else was watching, Doug Higgins and Rick Eaton, but to also check out a kid named Orr that the Canadiens had gotten wind of through an old friend of Frank J. Selke.

Bowman watched the little kid, wearing number 2 for Parry Sound, and was impressed. “He was dominating,” Bowman says in Brunt’s book. “But he was very small – much smaller than all of the other guys. He could really skate and fly around. I’d never seen a guy that good at that young age.”

Soon after, Bowman visited the Orr home in Parry Sound, but it was mostly just a social call. The Habs had nothing to offer, they weren’t in the practice of handing out signing bonuses then, and they wouldn’t commit to a kid still in grade school. And as soon as Scotty learned that Doug and Arva Orr had no intentions of Bobby leaving home, Scotty left it at that.

When Bobby got a little older and was more prepared to join the Junior Canadiens in Montreal, then maybe they could continue their chat. Just not at that time. He was too young.

Wren Blair of the Bruins didn’t give up, though. He diligently courted the Orr’s and finally got the papers signed. Orr joined the Oshawa Generals and not the Junior Canadiens, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Just think how it might have turned out. He might not have damaged his knees. Put him in a Canadiens uniform, and Montreal certainly wouldn’t have missed the playoffs in ’69-’70, which they did because although they were tied with New York for the fourth and final playoff spot, they had scored two less goals.

With Orr wearing the CH they would’ve been off to the races and might not have stopped until the 1980s were in full swing. But he wouldn’t have worn number 4. A big fellow named Beliveau owned it when Orr was breaking in.

Is it crazy to think that maybe it could’ve been ten straight Stanley Cups for the Habs in the 1970s with a healthy Bobby Orr in the lineup? Maybe it’s not so farfetched. But instead, those bastard Bruins got him and that was that. And anyway, the last thing I want to do is sound greedy.

But if only Scotty Bowman had made more trips to Parry Sound. Like Wren Blair did.

And thanks to Don in Texas for sending me Stephen Brunt’s book as a gift. It was a great read for sure.

Bobby Orr

 

 

 

 

Visiting What’s Left Of The Forum

I finally saw what they did to our beautiful Forum. They reduced it to a cinema complex with a scattering of fast food places and Forum seats.

I spoke to a janitor there and he told me he recently saw Yvan Cournoyer sitting in one of the fast food places, pounding his cell phone on the table, trying to get it to work.

The guy sitting beside me isn’t real, if you’re wondering. He’s fake. Lacking soul. Kind of like the rest of the place.

Forum 8

Forum 1

Forum 2

Forum corridor

Forum hall

Forum 4

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Forum 5

 

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A Beautiful Area And An Old Habs Draft Pick

We’re sitting in our friends’ amazing house built on fifty acres of bushland near Peterborough, and after working our way through the Toronto area, this is about as serene as it gets.

I read a few years ago that Hwy 401 from Oakville to Whitby is the busiest stretch of highway in North America and I believe it. And this from someone who was stuck in traffic on L.A. freeways.

Central Ontario gets a bad rap from those who’ve never been or once rushed through. It can be stunningly beautiful. Turning off the main highway and making our way along country roads was a sensational experience. I’d almost forgotten how nice central Ontario is after spending so many years near mountains and beside the ocean.

Although I’ve never been to Ireland, I think it probably looks like this. Nice rolling hills, full of green fields and old barns. A few leprechauns now and again.

Maybe I don’t have to go to Ireland now. I’ll just visit the Peterborough area from time to time and bring some Guinness.

I think every part of Canada has its own big-time beauty, and around here is definitely no exception.

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My friend Mike Mohun, who grew up in Orillia the same time as me, sent me a great article from the Orillia Packet and Times about John French, a guy I played hockey and baseball with when I was a kid, and someone I’ve mentioned several times here.

I often played on the same line as John, he was way better than me and everybody else, and he was our catcher when our peewee baseball team rolled over all challengers.

John was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens and in training camp played on the same line as Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer. He also roomed with Ken Dryden.

A really interesting piece, and can be seen here – Little Guy Made It To The Bigs

I just don’t remember him as being little.

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Luci doesn’t know it yet but in awhile, she’s going for her first Harley ride. I can’t wait to see this. My Luci, on the back of a Harley, roaring down the road. Biker chick.

 

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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Lineups Announced

The rosters for Saturday’s Habs-Leafs tilt have been announced, and as you can see, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle is suiting up. It can’t hurt.

What a team the Habs had, eh?

This is from the 1977-78 season, a season that saw the Canadiens finish with 129 points, take home the Prince of Wales for finishing first, and end with their third straight Stanley Cup.

The Vezina went to Ken Dryden and Michel Larocque; the Hart, the Art Ross, and the Lester B. Pearson trophies were collected by Guy Lafleur; the Conn Smythe was awarded to Larry Robinson; and Bob Gainey won the Selke.

Peter Mahovlich would be sent to Pittsburgh after 17 games, in exchange for Pierre Larouche.

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Habs And Leafs

Just like the old days. Habs and Leafs on a Wednesday night. I grew up with this type of thing. But back then, the Leafs were almost good.

Toronto’s in 7th place in the East with 24 points, which is ridiculous. It’s almost March and they’re sort of still in it. Must have something to do with the short season.

Starting tonight, the Leafs begin their annual spring collapse. It’s the way of the world.

Random Notes;

Michael Ryder’s number will be 73, which means Brendan Gallagher, because he’s a snot-nosed rookie, forfeits it and takes on number 11. Previous Habs number 11 guys include, of course, the legendary Scott Gomez, along with Saku Koivu, Kirk Muller, Ryan Walter, Yvon Lambert, Marc Tardif, Rejean Houle and so on, all the way down to Clayton Frechette during the 1912-13 season.

Approximately 73 Habs in all have owned number 11, which is more than any other.

Number 11’s a nice low number and I feel Gally’s lucky to have it. Same with Brandon Prust with number 8. Considering numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, and 12 are all hanging from the rafters.