Gentlemen, Start Your Skates

Carey Price is under the weather and may not play in the season opener Thursday night in Toronto. C’mon Carey, shape up. Up and at ’em. Eat six raw eggs and drink a half pint of cod liver oil.

Or if all else fails, smoke a doobie. But not too close to game time.

Finally, after all these months, hockey returns for real. And the schedule maker may have other issues, but having the Habs and Leafs go at it in game one is very good. 

It goes without saying that Habs and Leaf fans love when these two play each other. The rivalry between teams is an old one, a great one, and for those who don’t know, many years ago, many, many years ago, the Leafs were a force to be reckoned with.

I know. I read it somewhere in the Old Testament.

I have my mom’s diary beside me that she wrote when she was a teenager, and the entry for April 18th, 1942 is: “The Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup tonight for the first time in years.” She was right. It had been ten years since they’d won it before that, in 1932. Overall though, the team in blue has captured the hardware 13 times, which is better than anyone else except our guys, of course. (Detroit has won it 11 times, the Bruins five).

And imagine the Stanley Cup playoffs ending on April 18th.

My mom knew the Leafs’ Bucko McDonald when she was growing up in Sundridge, Ontario, where he’s from, and it’s entirely possible she liked the Torontonians as a young girl. Maybe all those times she helped me type letters to the Montreal Canadiens at the kitchen table, she was secretly a Leaf fan and never mentioned it. (Bucko is known for another reason too: he coached Bobby Orr in nearby Parry Sound when Orr was a wee lad and McDonald can certainly claim some responsibility for helping Orr grow as a player in his formative years).

As a hockey fan, I have great respect for much of the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Conn Smythe and Frank Selke building the team in the early days; Turk Broda, Syl Apps, Hap Day, the Kid Line, Bill Barilko. Later, Tim Horton, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Johnny Bower.

The Eddie Shack – John Ferguson battles that usually led to bench-clearing brawls. Backstrom and Keon lining up for a faceoff. Punch Imlach with his fedora and arrogant smirk. Harold Ballard saying and doing the outrageous, often distastefully and lacking a certain amount of grace and decorum. But he was a fixture and mover and shaker at the Gardens for decades.

All those many nights when the Canadiens and Leafs went toe to toe at the Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens and fans got their money’s worth in spades.

The story of hockey in many ways is the story of Montreal and those dastardly Toronto Maple Leafs.

But I’m a Habs fan, and so I do what I always do – hope for a Montreal slaughter, a gigantic take-down of the boys in blue. I want a demolishing, a trouncing, a slaughtering, a one-sided embarrassment. It’s not too much to ask.

Bring ’em on. Bring on Komisarek with the bad passes and bad penalties, bring on the unlikable duo of Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel. In fact, on the subject of Grabovski, here’s a lovely little read in case you missed it; Couple sues Maple Leaf.

Random Notes:

Roman Hamrlik is still nursing his sore knee but seems almost ready. Andre Markov says it’s a secret when he’ll return, and Mike Cammalleri stays in civvies for one night only for getting down and dirty against the Islanders in pre-season. Hey, you don’t mess with Cammy.


13 thoughts on “Gentlemen, Start Your Skates”

  1. I’m also really looking forward to a Leafs Habs confrontation to start the season Dennis. It’ll bring back so many cool memories. I’ve already got my TV jersey and cap ready to go. Last year, I watched the games with Stevie Ray blasting out “House Is A Rockin” but this year it’s George Thorogood’s turn with “Move It On Over”. With every goal from our guys, my neighbours will be hearing the line,”Move over lil’ dog ’cause the big ol’ dog’s movin’ in.” GO HABS GO!!!!!!
    Cheers everybody

  2. Dennis I agree with everything except for Ballard. As the Leafs owner he never deserved any respect. I only paid attention for a few minutes when he was threatening to move the team to Hamilton. I did however appreciate him as owner of the Tiger Cats.

    old favourites
    It’s fall and the Leafs are falling.
    Q: How do you know it’s fall? A: When the Leafs start falling.

  3. Christopher, I wasn’t romanticing Ballard, just saying he was a big part of the big picture in his time. The shots of him and King Clancy sitting in their bunker at the Gardens come to mind. I hated when he threw out the Gondola. He was a crook and did time and had a big mouth. I added him as part of Leafs lore.

  4. Quite frankly, I’m excited. Nothing like a local sort out to get the season off to a good start.

    Can one of you enlighten me on the “one way”, “two way contract” terminology please?

    Over here the big sports story is John Henry of the Red Sox probably taking over Liverpool FC, one of the most storied football teams in England, against the wishes of Hicks and Gillette. The fans are very unhappy with Hicks and Gillette who as far as I can tell got over leveraged buying the club at the wrong time and apart from one big win in Europe things have generally gone downhill and money hasn’t been spent on the team or a new ground which is needed.

    What was the general view of Gillette when he owned the Canadiens?

    Obviously any owner is only makeshift until the Kane family rightly assume control.

  5. Sorry Blue Bayou if you’re referring to my earlier comments. A two way contract is when a player signs a deal where what he makes depends on where he plays. If he plays in the NHL he makes the big bucks (NHL minimum is $500K). But if he is sent down to the AHL he makes relatively small change (usually under $100K). For Subban and Eller the difference is between $875K and $65K. For a player on a one way contract although he can be sent down, he is still guaranteed to make his full NHL salary. To free up cap space the Rangers recently sent Wade Redden to the minors where he’ll make $6.5M (probably more than the entire team budget). All initial entry level contracts must be two-way. Most players with experience sign one-way contracts.

    I think Gillette is viewed favourably. He got in at a good time as there was little interest from anyone else. The Canadian dollar was very low and the team was struggling financially. He was treated like a saviour after the initial shock of it being owned by an American and the fears that he would move the team south wore out. As owner he didn’t interfere with the team’s management and simply let the experts run it. The team improved financially as the US dollar fell. He also made out financially buying the team and arena in 2001 for $185M, selling them 8 years later for over $500M.

  6. Christopher, you explained everything really well. One thing I might add about Gillette is that he seemed to be an owner for the fans in a way. He sat down with the fans and seemed to interact with them as just a regular guy. At least that’s my impression. Maybe I’m completely wrong. Maybe he’s a rotten bastard and it was all show. But he seemed very nice.

  7. Lucky sweaters and hats?


    Syrup tins and tattoos?


    Game-day rituals, snacks and supplies?


    (silent prayer to hockey gods)

    Now drop the damned puck.

    Me Like Hockey!

  8. Chris

    Thanks for the explanation. The fog of confusion has lifted.

    What you both say about Gillette is interesting in that it confirms my impression of his time with the Habs. The expectation at Liverpool was that he would be good for the club, although some saw the Middle East bidders (Abu Dhabi or Dubai) as having deeper pockets.

    There’s been trouble in the boardroom and I believe he fell out with Hicks. Anyway, they are now in a bit of a hole as their debt is causing problems and no-one is going to pay the asking price they want. The bank is ready to close on them (and then sell to Henry) so they’re in a bit of a bind.

    It’s all been a bit of a disaster from a PR point of view.

    With the Glazers alienating fans at Manchester United, England’s biggest club from a fanbase point of view, it’s not been a good time for US owners
    (although Lerner has done ok with Aston Villa.)

    The problem has really come down to heavily leveraged buys coming just before the major financial crisis, leaving problems with debt servicing, rather than US ownership style itself.

    But this is mere detail when compared to tonight’s events.

  9. Dennis, here’s to a banner year for our team!! Nothing like a legendary rivarly to start the season.

    Big shout out to Habs fans near and far.

  10. DK, if you saved the video I sent you urge all your readers to turn up the volume to “Raise # 25 to the sky!!”
    Les Canadiens Sont La!!!!

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