Category Archives: Yvan Cournoyer

So Long, Bob. I Don’t Blame You

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It was easy to be a fan of Bob Gainey when he played because he seemed to do everything right, in a blue-collar kind of way. He wasn’t flashy like teammates Guy Lafleur or Yvan Cournoyer, but he was an all-important piece of the puzzle on the world’s greatest team in the latter part of the 1970’s.

So when Gainey was brought to Montreal to run the circus, to settle things down and get the job done in fine and patient fashion the way he had done as a player, I was pleased. Every move he made as a general manager I believed in, because I believed in this guy. I knew he wouldn’t do anything without long and serious thought, and so his decision was the right decision. I believed this.

But the team Gainey built after coming from Dallas is a mess. It was a mess last year and the year before. He tried players, they didn’t get it done, and so he tried some more. He fired coach Claude Julien and stepped in to do the job himself, he fired Guy Carbonneau and stepped in again. His coaching resume consisted of losing in round one every year, except when he took the Minnesota North Stars to the final in 1991. And as Habs GM, he never got better than making it to the second round of the playoffs in 2007-08.

As much as I’ve always believed in Gainey, there are questions. Taking on an $8 million dollar contract for Scott Gomez is one. Bringing in so many small players must be questioned. There’s no doubt the skill is there, but so many? Gionta, Cammalleri, Gomez? Every single hockey expert on the planet will tell you that a team of small guys will not go far in the NHL playoffs. It’s just too tough to win battles against the big strong behemoths who play in the league now.

Biggest of all is the goalie situation. PJ Stock brought up a great point last night on Hockey Night in Canada when he said the Canadiens dropped the ball with Carey Price. They should have had him living with a mature veteran and family, seeing how a guy who’s been around the league for a long time lives his life in the fishbowl. Sidney Crosby still lives at Mario Lemieux’s house. John Tavares lives with Doug Weight and family. Instead, like Stock said, they bring in a young guy from the west, give him a million bucks, tell him to take an apartment in downtown Montreal, and let him fend for himself in a classic party city. In Montreal, restaurants and clubs practically kill to have Habs players in their joints where booze flows and gorgeous women looking for rich, famous, handsome young studs, are everywhere. And Price soaked it all in.

Yes, Gainey and the organization did drop the ball with Price.

I was happy when Gainey overhauled the club this year. They needed to be blown up after bowing out in four dismal games to the Bruins in last year’s opening round of the playoffs. I’m just not happy witht the size factor. And whether or not Gainey made the right moves or not, he couldn’t control the abnormal amount of injuries the club has suffered through so far. It’s just plain bad luck for the organization when you replace most of the team in the off-season, and then the majority of the new players take their turns in hospital beds.

Can Pierre Gauthier, Gainey’s replacement, make a difference? Maybe if there are no more injuries, and maybe if he can convince Carey Price that the youngster is the future, but for now, Jaroslav Halak will play on most nights. If Gauthier can convince Price without ruining him, he’ll have done a big job.

The task at hand is simple for Gauthier. Tweak the team until you like what you see. Keep both goalies. Make the team a little bigger up front, (Dustin Penner?), decide whether you think Jacques Martin is the guy to run the bench, put the C on someone’s jersey.

For Bob Gainey, maybe he’ll bow out of hockey altogether and spend quality years with family and friends back in Peterborough. With the sadness he’s experienced, losing his wife and daughter, he needs to remove himself from a league that eats its young. He seems like the kind of guy who would enjoy sitting by a stream with a fishing rod, or diving into a good book.

All the best to Bob Gainey, a man I’ve always respected.


The Year I Paid Absolutely No Attention To My Team

003 This is my passport photo taken when I was 17. If you look closely you can see pimples.

I was getting ready to go on a big trip, which ultimately would cause me to miss almost the entire Montreal Canadiens 1968-69 season including playoffs. I’m unable to talk about Rogie Vachon and Gump Worsley in goal and rookie coach Claude Ruel winning the Stanley Cup in his rookie coaching season and most of the other details in that year, mainly because I wasn’t around.

When this picture was taken I was working in a factory, having quit school, and was saving my money. I worked for a year in this dirty, stinking old place, but on November 22, 1968, a month after I turned 18, myself and a friend took a train to Montreal, boarded the Empress of England, and sailed for seven days and seven nights until we reached Liverpool, England. My thoughts weren’t on the Habs at all. They were filled with swinging London, the Beatles, long-legged lovelies in mini-skirts, Carnaby Street, and of course the great British bands like the Stones, the Who and the Kinks. The sounds that had come out of there while I was stuck in Orillia, and all the photos which described to me a special place where kids were cooler than cool, drove me crazy until I knew I needed to go and see for myself.

From Liverpool we took a train to London because that was ground zero of all that was good and cool about England, and we took a room at the YMCA. (A few years later I also stayed at another YMCA in Sudbury,Ontario, and I don’t know about now, but I can tell you, YMCA’s aren’t the Ritz.)

I had no idea what was happening with my Habs and I’m ashamed to say it, but I suppose I didn’t really care at this time. We were in England and that was all that mattered. While Beliveau and the Pocket Rocket zigged and zagged and the team geared up for the playoff run, I ate fish and chips, looked at double decker buses, and wondered how my hair looked. And at one point we went to the Beatles’ office on Saville Row, knocked on the door, and asked a lovely young secretary lady if the boys were in. She said no, and to this day, I’ve wondered what I would’ve done if she’d said yes.

We traveled up through the Midlands in the dead of winter, into Derby and Nottingham, hitchhiking from the other side of the road of course, and I recall sleeping standing up in a phone booth one freezing night. We also got beds at a Salvation Army shelter for the down-and-out, and it was the two of us with heavy woolen blankets over top of us, listening all night to old, homeless men snoring and burping and farting and talking drunken gibberish. But the thought of these wine-soaked, tobacco-stained creatures quickly vanished from my mind when we went to a movie house somewhere to see a young Brigitte Bardot in “And God Created Women.”

We were in Swinging England! My friend bought a Victorian top hat at a flea market which he wore around when it wasn’t wet and windy. And we saw John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers at a jam-packed Railway Tavern, a place that only months later would become the nightly home of a new-formed band named Led Zeppelin.  

STC1969Back home, I didn’t know it at the time but the Canadiens were rolling along to a first place finish, with big Jean Beliveau ending up second to Phil Esposito for the Hart trophy as league MVP. Yvan Cournoyer finished with 87 points, just five ahead of Beliveau, and Tony Esposito, who of course became a huge star in Chicago, was a Hab this year and replaced Gump Worsley in goal when Worsley had some sort of nervous breakdown. At least, this is what I’ve read. I don’t know because I was over there, doing my best to be cool.

And in the playoffs, the Canadiens first swept the Rangers, beat Boston in six games, and took out St. Louis in four games to win their 16th Stanley Cup.

There’s just not a lot I can tell you about this season. I was busy.

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Retired New Brunswick Columnist Shares Some Great Habs Stories

Eddie St. Pierre, retired columnist for the Moncton Times and Transcript, started writing sports in 1950 and over the years had many connections with the Montreal Canadiens. He shares some great stories here;

“During my long reporting career with this newspaper (I’ve just begun my 60th year of affiliation with the paper, having joined on Dec. 4, 1950) I had the honour of interviewing or meeting many of the team’s top stars who played on one or more of the team’s 24 Stanley Cups, including the “big three” of Maurice (Rocket) Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur, as well as Henri (Pocket Rocket) Richard, Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, Bobby Rousseau, Danny Grant, John Ferguson, Yvan Cournoyer, 91-year-old Elmer Lach, Doug Harvey, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden and others along with coaches Hector (Toe) Blake, Scotty Bowman, Jean Perron, Jacques Demers, Guy Carbonneau and current coach Jacques Martin plus front-office personnel such as Sam Pollock, Floyd Curry and others.

* The Rocket, who passed away May 27, 2000 in his 79th year, made the biggest impact on me. I saw him play for the first time at Canadiens’ intrasquad games at the old Stadium in 1954. (Note: Some Montreal players complained to police that they were overcharged by a cab driver. A story in the Moncton Times said that bruising defenceman Emile (Butch) Bouchard told police that he, along with four teammates, took a cab from the Brunswick Hotel to the Stadium and the taxi driver demanded $2.50. Before game time, a policeman was summoned to the Canadiens’ dressing room where Ken Mosdell told the same story. Both players said they told the cab driver to collect his fare from club officials.)

During the Canadiens’ stay here, former senior hockey player Charlie Poirier was working as the stickboy when someone broke a window in the dressing room at the Stadium during a game. The thief or thieves reached in from the outside and stole Jean Beliveau’s street pants and belongings.

Meanwhile, The Rocket and I crossed paths on many occasions afterwards, especially at charity hockey and softball games in the city. What an extraordinary individual. When he died, former NHLer Danny Grant — who, like The Rocket, had a 50-goal season (he turned the trick with the Detroit Red Wings in 1974-75) — pointed to the other, seldom-seen side of The Rocket.

“What stood out is the fact that he was such a nice person,” said Grant, who was a member of the Montreal organization at the time. “He was just a wonderful person. He was very quiet, very reserved and I don’t think he said ‘I did this’ once in his whole life. He was more interested in other people than promoting himself.”

During his career, the Hockey Hall of Famer and member of the Order of Canada set many records. Several have been broken, but many remain. In March 1944, The Rocket scored all five Montreal goals in a 5-1 playoff win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The three stars, chosen by veteran sportswriter/columnist Elmer Ferguson, who once worked for the Moncton Transcript, were announced as “Maurice Richard, Maurice Richard and Maurice Richard.” This was the one and only time that one player has been named all three stars.

He ended his career with 544 goals (82 in the playoffs) and won the Stanley Cup eight times.

Richard, whose top salary was $25,000 (equivalent to $200,000 in 2008), was suspended for the balance of the season (only three or four games remained) and the playoffs in 1955 after striking linesman Cliff Thompson during a stick battle with the Bruins’ Hal Laycoe in a game at Boston. The decision by league president Clarence Campbell led to a riot. The game was forfeited to the Detroit Red Wings. The riot outside caused $500,000 in damage.

* Hall of Famer Gordie Drillon of Moncton scored 28 goals and added 22 assists (50 points) during the 1942-43 season. He was 4-2–6 in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the late defenceman, Charlie Phillips, played 17 games early in the season after being called up from the American Hockey League’s Washington Lions. Both Drillon and Phillips are deceased.

* Bill Durnan, one of the Canadiens’ top goaltenders who passed away Oct. 31, 1972 at age 56, was in town for a function several years back. A fellow co-worker, the late Paul Arsenault, was the city’s No. 1 Montreal and Rocket fan. He was in an alcohol rehab facility in the city at the time and Durnham was only too happy to pay him a visit. When Arsenault saw who I was with, emotions got the best of him. He started to cry with joy.

I’ll never forget the time the Canadiens lost to the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the winning goal was scored by Tony Leswick, a pesky forward who usually shadowed the Rocket. While driving him home early one morning, we stopped at a restaurant in Parkton. A Don Messer tune was playing on the jukebox. Sitting down on the floor, Paul banged his fist on the wood. “Anybody but that little (Lewsick),” he repeated over and over.

* The Canadiens always took care of their former players. For years, Harvey (he died on Dec. 26, 1989 at 65) battled alcoholism while suffering from bipolar disorder. The Hockey Hall of Famer who was ranked No. 6 on The Hockey News list of 100 Greatest Hockey Players in 1998, ended up homeless, sleeping in a old railway car.

When his plight became public knowledge, in 1985 he was offered a job with the Canadiens as a scout. I got a call one afternoon from then-Gazette columnist Tim Burke asking me to call him if I saw Harvey around the city. Team president Ronald Corey was very concerned. Coincidentally, I meet Bill Lee later at the Beausejour Club. He had run into Harvey in Sussex. Doug was just on a visit to the Maritimes.

* Goaltender Lorne (Gump) Worsley, one of the last netminders to play without a mask, and I became good friends. (Note: Worsley, who helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup four times, died Jan. 16, 2007. He was 77).

Worsley was doing promotional work for Imperial Oil Ltd. and their Esso stations in the off-season during the 1960s. The two of us journeyed to Bathurst once. After returning to Moncton, we stopped at the “famous” Blue Circle around 2 a.m. and Gump got a real charge out of the rough characters, who had been drinking all night at the Union Club or Carpenter’s Club. He felt right at home, cracking jokes and spinning hockey stories for an hour.

In 1965, after a Moncton Minor Football Association dinner, I went fishing around Doaktown on the Miramichi with Gump and other sports personalities. A guide and a case of beer (although Gump preferred Johnny Walker Red) sat between us. The only thing we caught was a few salmon parr, which were tossed back in. CKCW’s Earle Ross slipped off the bank into the water and needed some help. “The biggest fish caught had to be Earle,” quipped Worsley.

On another occasion, I accompanied the Dieppe Bantam Voyageurs, coached by Ray (Toughie) Steeves, to an NHL game at the Montreal Forum. I was in the dressing room chatting with Gump, who was taking short, quick drags off a cigarette in a small area in the dressing room before the game. “Eddie”! Where the hell is Toe,” he asked, referring to Hector (Toe) Blake, the no-nonsense coach who was at the other end of the room. “Let me know if he comes this way. I don’t want to pay any more $100 fines.”

* Former colleague Howie Trainor recalls a fundraising Summer Classic hockey game — East All-Stars vs. West All-Stars — at the Levesque Arena in the 1960s. We would get college, senior, junior and professionals, mostly from the Moncton area, and attempt to secure the services of National Hockey League players who were instructing at hockey schools in the province.

One year, we approached rightwinger Bobby Rousseau, then with the Habs and who was at the Université de Moncton hockey school, to play in the fundraiser for the Lewisville Minor Hockey Association. He gently turned us down, citing the newly formed NHL Players Association, which, he said, barred players from exhibition games without compensation, but he did it with a small smile playing on his lips. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, we thought, and asked him how much he needed. “A package of gum and a Coke would do it,” he replied as the smile broadened.

Then we realized he had been pulling our leg all along. Needless to say, he played and his presence bolstered attendance greatly.

* A column on the historic Canadiens wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the late Danny Gallivan, the best play-by-play announcer the Montreal team ever had. He died in February 1993 at 81.

Danny was the voice of the Canadiens, with all the hucksterism than can imply, but he was also their severest critic when individual and team performances weren’t what he felt they should be. The Canadiens teams he covered from 1952 to 1984 were among the best hockey has known, but what he saw was what his audience got. There were no “free passes” for players taking a night off.

He was the best at what he did and he loved what he did — all the more so because his colourful language was devoted almost exclusively to hockey’s best team. It was Geoffrion who had “the cannonading shot.” It was Savard who mastered “the spinerama.” Other teams tried to hire him by offering considerably more money than he was earning in Montreal, but Danny was content to stay put. Danny and I became good friends. He always had time for his follow Maritimers and would go out of his way to obtain tickets for a game at the Forum.”


Carbo Answers Questions

Guy Carbonneau has a new gig answering email questions for the CBC. There are five questions here from readers, and at the end I’ll ask a few of my own.

Five questions: Olympic overkill, centennial hangover?

December 10, 2009 01:14 PM | Posted by   Guy Carbonneau

Here’s how it works. You submit a question and Guy will provide the answer to five of them every week. It’s that simple. That means your question may not make the final list, but there is nothing stopping you from submitting more than one!

Here are today’s questions:

1. Hi Guy. I like this column, thanks for doing it. Will it be a relief for the Canadiens now that the 100th anniversary celebrations are over? – Wilson

I had the chance to be part of these wonderful events since last year, and it’s been fun to be there with all the Montreal Canadiens of the past to celebrate those glory years. But now that’s over, I’m sure the players would like to move forward and start to create their own memories and special times. Being a kid from Quebec and growing up watching Jean Beliveau, Yvan Cournoyer and Guy Lafleur was a treat, but you can’t live in the past all the time and the players of this year and the years to come have to start looking ahead to make sure that the next 100 years are their story.

2. This past week, everyone is talking about Ovechkin and his suspension. As a coach I’m sure you would rather have him playing than sitting out games. How would you deal with a great, but sometimes overly aggressive player? – Max

It’s a tough situation, but a good one to have. When you have a player like Ovechkin, who plays with so much passion and emotion, you have to be careful when you deliver your message to him. There is a small difference between being too aggressive and not giving enough and I would rather have to slow him down then have to push him every night. But that doesn’t mean he’s doing the right thing.

3. As we get closer to the Olympics players are getting asked about it almost every night. The media seems like that’s the only thing they know. What advice would you give to these players who could be going to the Olympics? – Tyler

My advice would be really simple. There are a couple of reasons why a player would be on that list. One is because of that player’s work ethic and the other would be the way that particular player plays within a system. All I would tell him would be to keep doing the same things he has been doing for years and to make sure he’s ready to play every night and give all he has, so if he’s not picked, there are no regrets. At the end some great players are not going to be there, there can only be 25 or 26 players selected. For those guys who are not selected life will go on. They will need to regroup quickly to finish the season strong and show why they should have been on that list.

4. I used to live in Brantford, Ont., and got to know Doug Jarvis a bit. I was shocked when he got let go from the Canadiens. What is he doing now? – Aarick

I saw Doug Jarvis this weekend in Montreal and it was good to see him again. I talk to Doug about twice a month trying to stay in contact and talk about different things. I’m sure he would rather be behind a bench right now but I think he enjoys a bit of free time. Since he stopped playing it’s always been about coaching and preparing for next year. I think he’s taking time to go see his kids more often and doing things he hasn’t had time to do for a while. I’m sure he will find something soon. He has all the qualities required.

5. I love Tim Thomas, but with his style of play I’ve always wondered how long he is going to last. He seems to rely on reflexes and they can disappear overnight. Do you think he’s about done? – Wayne

Well, I’m not an expert on goaltending, but having great reflexes when you’re a goaltender is a good thing. I coached against him and it’s true that at times he looks awkward, but his style is not a fluke. This guy has worked extremely hard for a long period of time to become the player he is now. He paid his dues in the minors; he went to play in Europe when nobody wanted him here. So I hope he stays for a while because it’s a great story and a good example for the young players. To make it in any sport, it’s not always about talent, sometimes it’s about the work and the perseverance.

Have a question for Guy? Send an email to: CBCHockeyOnline@cbc.ca

And now, questions from Dennis:

Hi Guy,

Who on the Montreal Canadiens has the best looking wife?

Hi Guy,

When you were coaching in Montreal, did you and your assistants ever consider any of the strategy advice I offered on my blog?

Hi Guy,

Why was I never offered the stickboy job?


Why A Former Canadiens Fan Turned His Back On The Sport

The article below was written by an Ottawa freelance writer named Buzz Bourdon and appeared in the Ottawa Citizen in 2004. Someone had sent the clipping to me and I’d put it in a book and saved it because for some reason I felt it was worth holding on to. It’s the story of how Bourdon lost his love for hockey, and although I can relate to the six teams, woollen sweaters and playing for hours outdoors, I can’t relate to him dropping hockey so easily because there’s too many teams now and overpaid players. In my mind, Bourdon didn’t really love the Habs and hockey as much as he thought he did. If he had a real love, he wouldn’t have abandoned it decades ago, never to come back again.

He calls it “The Death of Hockey – Why A Former Canadiens Fan Turned His Back On The Sport.” 

We didn’t sport snarling beasts baring their dripping fangs on our chests, we wore thick woollen sweaters, either in the colours of the Montreal Canadiens or the Toronto Maple Leafs. Deciding who to cheer for was a decision that lasted a lifetime. You usually made it by age six or seven. Naturally, as the son of two French-Canadians, I chose the Habs.

Clutching our wooden sticks, we couldn’t wait to jump on the ice. Every boy fought to wear the famous Number 9, immortalized by Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard and Bobby Hull. They were the biggest stars of the National Hockey League’s glorious six-team era, which lasted an all-too-short 25 years, from 1942-67.

Four decades ago, just about every Canadian boy had a passion for hockey. Do the kids of today still live hockey like we did? Do they ignore the biting cold and skate like the wind for hours on an outdoor rink or frozen field? You could pretend to be any player you wanted, even if you always got chosen last for the pickup games. The games went on forever, even when we went home for supper. We bolted down our meals and went right back out again. The ice was waiting.

I learned to love hockey during the 1960’s when my father was in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Life was very different then. No one took weapons to school. Pop stars didn’t sing misanthropic, misogynistic lyrics. There were no drugs in Air Vice Marshall Morfee School at RCAF Staion Greenwood, N.S. We were just nine years old. We looked up to and obeyed our parents, coaches and teachers.

Then as now, Air Force fathers and sons played the game in the Greenwood Gardens. There was no advertising under the ice or on the wooden rink boards. Our parents didn’t curse the referees or assault the coach if their sons didn’t get enough ice time. We were there to have fun.

Hockey was something I could share with my father when he was home. I relished spending time with him because he was away a lot flying as a para-rescue jumper with 103 Rescue Unit. His job was to jump from his aircraft and rescue people lost in the bush. I was proud of my father.

Since I couldn’t skate well or shoot, my father the coach put me at defence where I could do the least damage. We whacked away at the puck and fell down a lot. Staying vertical was a victory and passing the puck successfully brought applause. Goals were scored, even though I don’t think many of us could actually lift the puck off the ice while shooting it.

Despite my singular lack of ability, I had fun, even though I can’t remember scoring a goal or even getting an assist. It didn’t matter since losses were usually forgotten by suppertime. I worshipped Henri Richard, Gump Worsley, Yvan Cournoyer, John Ferguson et al, then in the process of ruling the NHL by winning four Stanley Cups in five years from 1965-69.

My season ended with the annual fathers’ and sons’ banquet. Sisters and mothers weren’t invited, just males of various ages, with an interest in hockey, either as a coach, player or father. Women’s liberation hadn’t arrived in Greenwood yet. I watched enviously as the stars got their trophies. I got a crest.

My love affair with hockey continued after my father retired from the Air Force in 1971. He bought some sewing machines and started repairing hockey equipment in the basement of our house near Montreal. Soon he was asked to start repairing the Canadiens gear. He also manufactured goalie pads for Ken Dryden, Jacques Plante and Bernie Parent, among others.

The ritual was always the same on the three Saturdays each month the Canadiens played at the Forum. While my father talked pads with the goalies, I took it all in. Imagine being 15 years old and a regular visitor to the dressing room of the Montreal Canadiens. Afterward, my father and I finished our Saturday ritual by eating smoked meat sandwiches and fries at the Forum Restaurant.

My father rarely asked for favours from the Canadiens but in the spring of 1973 he got us seats in the Forum press box for the final game of the season. It wasn’t exactly in the press box because we sat in the catwalk leading to the press box, but still…Frank Mahovlich scored a very pretty goal for the Canadiens and I went home starry-eyed.

Things changed a few years later. I lost interest in hockey and joined the army reserve. My father moved out and I didn’t see him very often. There were no more trips to the Forum. You grow up and the things you loved when you were a kid lose their importance.

I haven’t paid attention to the NHL for 25 years. I detest the vulgar team names, garish uniforms and obnoxious rock music. It’s a spectacle now, not a game. Most of the players are unshaven, grossly-overpaid louts. There are at least 10 too many teams. Who cares about all those American teams? I can’t remember the last time I was on skates. I don’t even own a pair.

I’ll never forgive the Canadiens for deserting the Forum in 1996. Hockey’s shrine was later gutted and turned into a cineplex, the “Pepsi Forum.” Killing time before your movie, you can stand at centre ice, where immortals like Toe Blake, the Rocket, Jean Beliveau and hundreds of others created magic over 72 years. I think it’s the saddest place in Montreal.

From Montreal Mystique; A Fireside Chat With Rejean Houle

Montreal Mystique brings us a fascinating and lively audio interview with ex-Hab Rejean Houle. Houle talks about his first coach in the WHA – Jacques Plante, the WHA in general, Marc Tardif (“the best player in the league next to Bobby Hull”), the great Habs teams of the 1970’s, Patrick Roy, today’s team, and lots of other delicious little morsels.

You can listen to this delightful piece right here.