Hi Bert

HOFer Bert Olmstead played for the Habs from 1950 to 1958, and hoisted four Stanley Cups along the way. He’d also pick up another in 1962 when he was with the Leafs.

Bert was a solid, feisty, and smart player with definite leadership qualities. He was also a cantankerous, no-nonsense type of fellow off the ice, and probably not exactly a barrel of laughs at team Christmas parties. No lampshades on his head. The Boomer maybe, but not Bert.

About 15 years ago I was visiting my sister in Calgary and decided to phone him, because I knew he lived there and he was in the phone book.

It went like this:

Ring. Ring.

A lady, his wife I guess, answered the phone. “Hello?” she said.

“Hi” I answered. “Would Bert be there please?”

“Yes, one moment,” said the lady.

“HELLO” growled the voice, and I kind of got the feeling this might be a mistake.

“Hi Bert” I said. I’m old hockey fan, a Habs fan, and I just wondered if you might spend a couple of minutes telling me about those days when you played.”

Click.

He hung up on me.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Hi Bert”

  1. Its kinda funny, these old nhlers.

    I used to bump into Frank Mahovlich all of the time when I lived in the Avenue Road and Wilson Avenue area of Toronto, where after retirement Frank ran a very popular travel agency. I used to see him on the sidewalk and he’d smile sweetly back as I nodded while walking past. As a kid, I might have been about 12 years old, I remember my dad taking me to a Leaf game on a Saturday night at the Gardens and after the game we waited outside of the building for the Leafs as they exited and boarded a team bus for wherever they had to be for their Sunday night road game. All of the players that left just walked by as we stood there in silence save for Johnny Bower (still is the sweetest man in the world!) and Frank, who both stopped and spoke to me for a couple of minutes before boarding the bus with the rest of the players.

    Fast forward to about a year ago.

    I was in my local BNS bank branch and when I looked to my right, there was this guy, a very tall big man, standing at the teller right next to me. I immediately knew it was Frank so after a couple of minutes, when I saw he had a break in his activities, I turned again to him and asked if he was Frank Mahovlich. He grunted to the affirmative and then just turned and left.

    Incredibly unfriendly and out of character for the Frank I had experienced before, unless he was having a very bad day! I mean he’s an old guy and I’m no doe-eyed youngster any more at the age of 65.

    On the other hand, about 25 or more years ago I was in a post office in the same neighbourhood and noticed Billy Harris standing right in front of me. You couldn’t miss him as he still had that great head of hair, albeit all grey at that point. I asked him if he was Billy Harris and he beamed. He was so grateful that here he was, so many years after his playing days, being recognized by a fan.

    Just goes to show you, Dennis!

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