Please excuse the glue stains on the picture but it’s the only one I have that shows what I’m about to go on about.
As great as Doug Harvey was, and most agree it’s him and Bobby Orr as the best-ever on the blueline, he had one slightly daring habit that drove first coach Dick Irvin, and then Toe Blake, crazy. And I understand them. It would drive me crazy too.
Harvey had the breath-stopping habit of taking the puck directly in front of Bill Durnan or Jacques Plante or whoever else was in goal, on his way out of his end. Sometimes even through his own crease. Defencemen are taught from an early age never to do this. When it happens, the crowd gasps and the coach shakes his head. It’s a dangerous play and chances are, the player might ride the pine for a few shifts after that. Not to mention the other team could end up scoring in several different ways.
But Harvey, because he was so great, did it often and got away with it. But it didn’t mean his coaches had to be thrilled by it.
Dickie Moore, in Dick Irvin Jr’s wonderful book “The Habs”, tells this story:
“When Dick was coaching he was always after Doug about the way he would handle the puck around our goal crease. One night in Detroit, Dick went after him pretty good on the bench. The next shift he gets out and cuts in front of the net and nearly lost the puck to one of their guys, but he didn’t. He kept carrying it along by the boards, passed by where Dick was, and said, “See, coach, he missed me.” And this is right in the middle of a game against Detroit. We all started to laugh and so did Dick. How many guys would do that?