Big Years, Yes They Were

For the last eight Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup wins, from 1971 to 1993, I managed to save the front pages and laminate them. (Although one, from 1977, is an inner page).

Using info from the papers, here’s a couple of my recaps, first from 1976, and then 1977.

It was their 17th Stanley Cup, a beautiful, delicious four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers. How sweet is that? Sweeping the Broad St. Bullies, the goons who had slashed and punched their way to the two previous championships. But this time, real hockey prevailed over thuggery.

All in all, it was the Canadiens plumbers who helped made things happen in a big way. Bob Gainey, Jim Roberts, Doug Jarvis, and Doug Risebrough proved just how important blue-collar guys can be. The team had Lafleur and Shutt and the boys, but the lesser-lights shone. “Really, the plumbers did the job for us in this series,” said Steve Shutt. “But when we needed the goals, the two big guys (Lafleur and Perter Mahovlich) came through.”

Lafleur and Mahovlich weren’t having a sensational series up until the final game and the plumbers stepped up. But both Lafleur and Mahovlich scored goals in the third period to ice the thing and to prove that singer Kate Smith, the Flyers’ lucky charm, wasn’t such a lucky charm after all.

Kate was there in person that night to sing the anthem, usually it was a recording, but even her live and in colour wasn’t enought for the thugs from Philly. And in the dressing room, the Habs sung God Bless America in a good-natured jibe to the singer.

It had only taken Montreal 13 games from start to finish in these 1976 Stanley Cup playoffs, sweeping Chicago, taking out the Islanders in five games, and then the four-game dismissing of the Flyers.

Some Flyers fans thought it might have been different if their team had been healthy. Rick MacLeish didn’t suit up, and Bobby Clarke and Orest Kindrachuk played but weren’t 100%. And Wayne Stephenson was between the pipes instead of number one, Bernie Parent. But even coach Fred Shero admitted that his team, although they might have prolonged it slightly, would have lost anyway. “If we’d had everybody healthy, I suppose we might have lasted longer, we might have made it close, at least.” said Shero. “But on the other hand, I imagine that if we had been able to play better, Canadiens might have played better too. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they could.”

And to make all Habs fans giddy, Shero also went on about how good the Habs actually were. “These are guys you can’t ride off the puck. They’re immune to normal forechecking. You put pressure on most defences and they fall apart. They cough up the puck or throw it away. These fellows never panic. They just won’t give up the puck. They’re always in control.”

And Shero wasn’t finished being nice. “And my God, they’re all like forwards besides. That’s what you’ve got to have on your defence in the NHL today. You can put Robinson, Savard or Lapointe up front and they don’t look out of place at all.”

The last word goes to Bobby Clarke. “We were beaten by one great hockey team, the best in many years.”

And now, 1977

In the spring of 1977, as I was on the verge of getting married for the first time, Jacques Lemaire scored the overtime goal to give his team their second straight Stanley Cup in this late 1970’s run, and it was done with a lovely four-game sweep against Don Cherry and his Boston Bruins. Is this one of the reasons you hate the Habs, Don?

It had been quite a year for this dominating bunch. Montreal only lost eight times in 80 games and racked up a record 132 points. Nobody was going to beat them in the playoffs. You didn’t have to be Kreskin to figure it out. In fact, the team swept the Blues, took out the Islanders 4 games to 2, and then swept the Bruins. Fourteen games in total, and very similar to the 13 it had taken them the year before.

Guy Lafleur won the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP and managed nine goals and 17 assists throughout. But he had this to say: “It’s my third Cup and it’s always nice, but it’s not the same excitement. I don’t think I’m the best player. It’s just that everything went well for me.”

Jacques Lemaire was the quiet hero on this ride. His teammates had told him to shoot more, and on this night, he delivered with the overtime marker. “Why shouldn’t I be happy,” said Lemaire. “I’m on a holiday. I’m on a holiday starting now. It’s about time. It still is Lafleur and Shutt, except tonight. Tonight was a mistake. They said, shoot the puck, you look good.”

Coach Scotty Bowman had this to say about Lafleur and Shutt. “They play more like Europeans. I’m not knocking the NHL style of play, but the Europeans make more plays on the move. That’s what Lafleur and Shutt do.”

And last word to Don Cherry. “It’s hard to believe we kept outshooting them and still can’t win a game. I still say the whole thing boiled down to those three defensemen.”

Bobblehead Blues

They came in a couple of different sizes, with the one I have (below) being about five inches high while a rarer version stands more than six inches.

As you can see by the ad, they could be ordered, but I think many kids also had their dads buy them at big league rinks. At least that’s what I did, at Maple Leaf Gardens all those years ago. A nice Habs one which I ended up breaking because, after all, I was a kid.

It was a bummer that I broke it and I made sure I got another one, although it took about 50 years.

And yes, they’re worth slightly more than a $1 now.

Orr Camp and Donkey Riding

As some of you already know, I’m from Orillia, Ont, and years ago my friends and I would sometimes see Bobby Orr and his pals enjoying cold ones at the Atherley Arms Hotel (aka The First) as we also enjoyed our own cold ones.

Apparently Orr wasn’t exactly hands-on with his hockey camp which was near Orillia. I know a guy who went there and he said the only time Orr showed up in the entire week was for a photo session (The guy showed me his photo of him and Bobby).

At one point, Orr and Mike Walton and the gang got together and held a baseball game and donkey race outside the Orillia arena, and my brother, who was about ten at the time, took these photos.

Tough Night For Roger

Roger Leger, who was in the running to replace Dick Irvin as coach of the Canadiens, a job Toe Blake was eventually given, also managed to get his bridgework stuck in his throat one night against Detroit in 1948 which caused the team to lose the game.

The Canadiens were winning by one goal late in the game and as the puck came back to Leger on the blueline from a faceoff, Ted Lindsay rammed his elbow into Leger’s mouth, forcing the guy’s bridgework down his throat. Leger left the puck sitting there as he choked and panicked and skated for the bench and a Detroit player grabbed the puck and tied the score.

Soon after, the Wings popped the winner.

 

Toe’s Place

I took this photo years ago:

You were served your cold quarts of beer by middle-aged men in white shirts, at plain tables with ashtrays and cigarette burns, with nice, big artwork of different Canadiens’ players lining the walls. A thick haze of smoke filled the air, and people huddled at tables, talking Habs and solving world problems.

Except for the pictures on the walls, it could’ve been just another plain and slightly rundown beer parlor in any town or city, filled mostly with men who took their drinking and hockey seriously.

But of course it wasn’t just any old tavern. It was Toe Blake Tavern on Ste Catherine St. in Montreal, where many went before the short walk to the Forum to see the big game.

Sometimes Toe himself would be there, although I never saw him. My buddy Ed Wolk did, though. And the pictures on the wall? Apparently they’re safe and sound at Toe’s son Bruce’s place.

Toe Blake Tavern opened in 1952 and closed in 1983.

Don’t Mess With Rocket

Hall of Famer Tom Johnson, who toiled on the blueline for the Canadiens from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, told the Montreal Gazette back in 1996 about the time a group of Habs shaved Rocket Richard’s chest during a train trip. “He was a strong guy and it took eight of us to hold him down,” Johnson said. “But he got his revenge while we were sleeping the next night. He took one shoe from each of us and threw it off the train. We arrived in Montreal and it was snowing – and here we were walking through the station with one shoe each.”

Doing the Magazine Shuffle

I used to work for BC Ferries and every so often a tractor-trailer driver, on his way on or off the ferry, would slow down and hand me his copy of Canadiens magazine.

This trucker and I kind of bonded back then, not only because we were both Habs fans, but also because for 20 years while living in Ottawa and Calgary, I too had driven semis for a living.

From one of the magazines my friend had handed me, certain Habs, including Carey Price, Max Pacioretty, and Tomas Plekanec, who were with the team in 2011 of course,  were asked who (girlfriends and wives excluded) would they want as their arm candy on a red carpet kind of evening.

It’s also kind of fun to see the other names.

So who would they want as their dates?

Jaroslav Spacek said Britney Spears.

Mike Cammalleri said either Eva Mendes or Shakira.

Max Pacioretty, Tom Pyatt, Carey Price, and PK Subban said Megan Fox.

Yannick Weber said Charlize Theron.

Tomas Plekanec said Jennifer Aniston.

David Desharnais said Halle Berry.

And Benoit Pouliot, Hal Gill, Alexandre Picard, and Alex Auld said Mom.

When I look at these, I’m on the same page with Weber (Charlize Theron), and Desharnais (Halle Berry). Although I like the mom choice too.

Below- my choices – Charlize and Halle. When I own the team they’ll be invited to my private box so I can teach them about bodychecking.

Muzz’s Thoughts

When Jacques Plante decided to wear a mask so he’d still have his nose, teeth, and eyesight like other people, hockey’s movers and shakers at the time weren’t thrilled with the idea.

Coach Toe Blake grudgingly went along with it as long as Plante continued to play well, which Plante did, but others voiced strong opposition to this new development.

For instance, Muzz Patrick, then general manager of the New York Rangers, spoke up:

“Our game has as greater percentage of woman fans than any team sport I know. I’m talking about real fans – ones who give you the scoring averages and the All-Star lineups. Those woman fans want to see men, not masks. They want to see the blonds, the redheads – and the bald spots. That’s why I’m against helmets and masks. They rob the player of their individuality.
We start out with goalies wearing masks. Every club has a defenceman or two who goes down to smother shots. Soon they’ll want masks. All the forwards will wear helmets. The team will become faceless, headless robots, all of whom look alike to the spectators. We can’t afford to take that fan appeal away from hockey.”

Below, Muzz Patrick posing for his Beehive photo during his playing days. He had a fine head of hair, kept nice because of no helmet of course.

Oh Well, Habs

On January 7, after the Canadiens had won two straight, the numbers came out in various places that said the team would need to go 26-11-3 for the remainder of the season to hit 95 points, which could possibly give them a playoff berth.

Since then, they’ve won two and lost six (2-4-2).

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