Drinking Beer With Aurele Joliat

Ottawa’s Prescott Hotel in the mid-1980s was still a classic old beverage room with a Ladies and Escorts door and a regular entrance. It was like a lot of bars back then, smelling of stale beer and cigarette smoke, and the trays of beer were served by middle-aged guys in white shirts.

It was also the Wednesday night bowling team’s bar, where the members, a bunch of young guys and one really old guy, got together after a big night out at the lanes.

I had just read in the paper about the bowling team and the really old guy, and when the next Wednesday rolled around, I grabbed my brother-in-law and we went down to the Prescott with one thing on my mind. It’s not every day that you get a chance to drink beer with Aurele Joliat, star player of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1920s and ’30s, and good buddy of Howie Morenz.

In the Prescott, I spotted Mr. Joliat right away, mainly because he was about 50 years older than the rest of the bowling team, and I went over and asked him if I could buy him a beer. He grumbled something and he might have cursed a bit, but he joined us.

For the first fifteen minutes or so, our man was fairly miserable. When I asked what he thought of the Rocket, he said the guy couldn’t lace Morenz’s skates. He complained about today’s players, saying they would would never had cut it in the old days (as most oldtimers say). He scowled and dropped a bunch of F-bombs, but truthfully, I don’t think he minded the attention.

Soon after, Joliat started to change, maybe because he could feel that I was genuinely interested in him and the hockey of his day. He became soft-spoken, and I think he came close to tearing up when talking about Morenz.

He happily signed a couple of things I had brought along, including Claude Mouton’s book “The Montreal Canadiens”, and when I was fumbling about with a cast on my wrist and trying to find the page with his picture, he grabbed the book from me, went right to it, and signed “To Dennis and his broken arm, Aurele Joliat”.

The evening had begun with a testy old man, and ended with a nice, friendly old fellow.

We drove him home (which was cool in itself), and he thanked us and said goodbye, and when I think about it, I wish he would’ve asked us in for a cup of tea. I would have liked to have met his wife (I think she was still alive), looked at some of his old photos, and maybe, if he still had it, touched that little cap he wore when he starred for the Montreal Canadiens, all those years ago.

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8 thoughts on “Drinking Beer With Aurele Joliat”

  1. I remember that place , my grandpa drank there often and I actually went and had a beer with him a few times . Would have been a neat experience to talk to him for sure . Thanks for another great story . You should think about writing a book !

  2. Great story….i met Aurele Joliet at a screeing of Bob McKeown’s doc on the Habs back in the 80’s…the press screening was at the Mise Au Jeu restaurant at the old Montreal Forum….alot of of older habs alumni were there…
    including Aurele Joliat and his wife…i spoke mostly with his wife…it was great to meet both of them. one thing i remember vividly…i could hear the older vets talk about hockey and the game…and when the current habs showed up after practice all the talk was about houses and cars….i was quite disappointed. Wish i had asked Aurele for his autograph.

  3. Great post DK, a feel good meeting but you should also post with a different feel the sorry plight of one of the best, Doug Harvey. :(

  4. Dennis, I noticed that some ayers rarely get big hits like Pleky and DD for example. Why is that? Is there some sort of code between players as in these guys you hit and these you don’t? Does this make sense?

  5. Wonderful story as the old time guys are often more friendly than the kids of today but not always. I have had a few occasions to play golf with Dollard St.Laurent and he told many great stories but his favorite was the curse he put on the Habs for trading him to Chicago that they wouldn’t win another cup til he retired. Always in jest but a great story none the less. I have also played golf with retired official Wally Harris and in addition to having a great golf game he tells many great stories of his career from a ref’s perspective. He is the best and will always be one of my favorites.

  6. I think there is some sort of code, Marjo, but only if it’s a seriously big guy against a small guy. Players smaller can hit Pleks or DD all they want, only they might have to drop the gloves after. I think it boils down to the fact that all these guys realize it’s the players’ livelihood at stake and you can’t mess with that by hurting someone much smaller. Unless he’s an obnoxious rat-like bastard who might deserve everything he gets.

  7. Good stuff, Dra. I’d love to hear stories from a guy like Wally Harris. It would be fascinating, and yes, Wally was a respected guy and one of the best for sure.

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