Harold Ballard Will Be Rolling Over In His Grave

Few things are better for a Canadian hockey fan than the World Junior Championships. It’s a great tournament that is huge in our country, and Canadians are proud that their young players representing us are so good and so successful. After all, before today, Canada had won 20 straight games, and things were becoming almost, boring? But, as they say, all good things must come to an end, because those Swedes, in their yellow jerseys, beat our boys 4-3. Harold Ballard would hate this.

Of course, Harold Ballard, who was the bombastic owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1970’s and 80’s, hated a lot of things, but maybe most of all, he had no use whatsoever for European hockey players. He even disliked two of his own Leafs, Swedes Borje Salming, and Inge Hammarstrom. Ballard even came up with the famous quote about how a Swede could go into a corner with a bunch of eggs and come out with none broken. Because of Harold, Swedes were labelled as “Chicken Swedes” throughout the league. And now these Swedes beat Canada. Sometimes life can be so unfair.

However, on a more pleasant note, the master plan continues on track with the Habs clobbering Florida 5-1 last night. A real big test will be tomorrow night in New York against the Rangers. Those damn “Chicken Rangers.” They could go into a corner with a bunch of eggs and come out with none of them broken.

The Master Plan Is Starting To Come Together

Phase one of the master plan has been successfully completed. The team won last night. It’s good, it’s terrific, but it’s only the beginning. This is the entire master plan set out by the mad and handsome genius, me.

Phase two:  Win tonight.

Phase three. Win on Sunday.

Phase four: Overtake the Canucks in total points and stay in front so Sandy will lose the bet and owe me.

Phase five: Win almost every game, (or every game, why not?) and make the playoffs.

Phase six:  Be successful in breaking bones and tearing ligaments of Alfredsson, Heatley, Spezza, Crosby, and several others who will try to destroy the master plan.

Phase seven:  Bring home the Stanley Cup. (where it belongs.)

Need a Good Laugh? – I’ve Got One For You

Although I have some doubts myself about the job Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau are doing, I’m basically ready to forgive and forget as soon as the team starts winning. But you should see what others think. 

Over on the right hand side of my blog is a link called “Habs Blog.” It’s the official blog sponsored by the team, and it’s a forum for mostly diehard Habs fans to offer their opinions about how they want to hang Gainey and Carbonneau by the balls, maybe ship Alexei Kovalev back to Russia dead or alive, and all the other reasons why their team needs to be blown up and re-done. It’s quite fascinating. It’s better than Mad magazine. Better than Saturday Night Live. It’s comedy at its finest.

The thing is though, most of these people who write in are simply full of it. They know their stats, that’s for sure, but their minds are made up that they’re right and Bob Gainey is wrong. But what jumps out for me is this: These same people almost had a heart attack when Gainey drafted goalie Carey Price in 2005 instead of Gilbert Brule, who they thought was going to be the next Guy Lafleur. Of course, they were all wrong and Gainey ended up being right. But it doesn’t stop these extremely opinionated folks from giving their hard-assed thoughts on why they want Gainey’s head on a platter, and why every one of them would make a better General Manager than him.

Have a look at this link. It’s great reading. Even offer an opinion. You might as well do it there because you’re not doing it here.

Christmas is over and Being Too Nice Has Sucked

It’s time the team made Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch look like Mother Teresa. It’s time to pull out the stops, kick the slump in the ass, and start playing every game with energy and enthusiasm. Games tomorrow against Tampa Bay, Friday against the Panthers, and Sunday in New York against the Rangers mark the time when it should be decided whether coach Guy Carbonneau should be given his walking papers or not. Giving 100% and losing can be excused, but giving 60% and losing is inexcusable. For me, not giving their all means the coach needs to be replaced.

And just think, I was a big fan of Carbonneau’s when he was a player. However, if the team starts winning, I’ll be a big fan of his as a coach too. But it doesn’t look great right now. I’m also starting to wonder about GM Bob Gainey, but first things first. Follow along with me even if you hate the Habs. Check the scores and see how they do in the next three games. The coach should be gone if they lose all three, or even two out of three. Follow along and treat it like it’s some kind of Deal or No Deal or something.

Merry Christmas to All Human Beings and Also Vancouver Canucks Fans

Merry Christmas to Lawrence and Sarah and Rob and Patti and Sandy and Jack Kerouac. Merry Christmas to the Rocket, Jean Beliveau, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, dead and alive, to Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot, Cate Blanchette, Humphrey Bogart, the female professionals on Dancing With the Stars, the gang at the Ferries, and Ashley Judd. Merry Christmas to Saku and Comrades Alexei, Sergei, and Andrei. Merry Christmas to Red Fisher, Frank, Mike the Head and Diana, Danny, Bruce, Jasmyne, Delaney, Wendy, and Kerry, Bob, two lovely Kathy’s, Susan, and Pam Anderson. Merry Christmas to the guy who stuck his head in the horn speaker at Atlantic City, to the guys who invented foreplay and the printing press, and to DB Cooper who jumped out of a jetliner with thousands of stolen dollars and was never caught. Merry Christmas to Ed Sullivan, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Gary and Diane, Carey Price, Rick and Marge, Aurel Joliet, and Pit Lepine. Merry Christmas to the staff at Zapravka in St. Petersburg and TC’s in Powell River. Merry Christmas to the nice lady at Wilf’s, Bill Bryson, Guy Lafleur, Mikhail Gorbachev, my kids, my wife Luciena, the cat, to all humans, and also to Canucks fans. Merry Christmas to everyone who likes my column in the Peak and everyone who reads this blog. Merry Christmas to the Montreal Canadiens, who have warmed my heart and also made me want to commit violent acts. Merry Christmas to everyone who likes me, because I like you.

Sorting Through the Numbers and Not Missing Mike Ribeiro

Montreal has 7 less points than last year at this time, but what happened next isn’t going to happen this year. Beginning Dec 29th of last year, the team won only 9 out their next 35 games. But they had Huet and David Aebischer in goal last year and not Huet and Carey Price. There’s no way they’re going to be as pathetic this year.

Big game tonight in Dallas, the last before the short Christmas break.  And in the BIG overall picture, I need to win my yearly bet with Sandy, the one about who will finish with the most points, Montreal or those ridiculous Canucks. If there really is a Santa, he will come through for me. I need this bet. If you’ve heard Sandy, you know what I mean.

And one last thing about Dallas. Now that ex-Hab Mike Ribeiro is playing well with Dallas, people all over are saying what a mistake it was for Montreal to let him go. NO WAY. Ribeiro in Montreal was a selfish prima donna who only cared about if he played well, then his next contract would be better. It was all about money, not the team, for this immature player. I also saw with my own eyes the night with Pittsburgh in town and Montreal losing by a goal in a hard fought and important game, with a stoppage in play, Ribeiro skated over to Sidney Crosby and asked him if he could have his stick. Right then and there, I wanted Rebeiro out of Montreal. Ribeiro was never the kind of player I wanted on the Habs and I don’t care if he scores 50 goals this year with Dallas, I wouldn’t want him back.

Ovechkin Joins Habs Rumour

This article caught me off guard. I hadn’t heard this before today, and Todd makes some good points. Ovechkin is also best friends with the Habs’ rearguard Andrei Markov.  I can’t imagine what this would do for the team, both on and off the ice. If the team can’t land a French Canadian superstar like Vincent Lecavalier, then Ovechkin would be the next best thing. Talk about fire-wagon hockey. Here’s Jack Todd’s article, dated Dec. 21, 2007.

JACK TODD, The Gazette

Published: 13 hours ago

If you were watching the Canadiens’ 5-2 win over Washington last night, chances are your attention was about evenly divided between the Habs and the kid wearing No. 8 for the Capitals: the incomparable Alexander Ovechkin.

And chances are, more than a few of you closed your eyes and dreamed the dream:

Ovechkin wearing the CH.

True, Ovechkin showed only flashes of the form that makes him the most exciting player in the game – but there are dreams and there are dreams. All over the hockey world, there’s a rumour a minute and most of them last about that long. This is one dream that might have legs.

First of all, you can stop drooling over Vincent Lecavalier. It isn’t going to happen. Lecavalier does not want to play here, period. Has he said so? Not in so many words. Instead, he quietly re-upped in Tampa Bay, signing a long-term contract at a time when he could have opted for a one-year deal, free agency and a glorious return to Montreal.

Why? Lecavalier plays within 20 minutes of a beach. In the sunshine. Low taxes, few potholes, no need to deal with three dozen reporters at every morning skate wanting to know if it’s true that he’s dating Mitsou.

So if you’re going to dream in Technicolor, settle on a player who at least wants to play in this city. Better still, there’s a plausible scenario that could bring him to Montreal.

Ovechkin will be a restricted free agent after this season. This year, he’s earning a mere $1.3 million and the Capitals thought they could sign him for something similar to Sidney Crosby’s contract, which works out to $8.7 million a year for five years. But Ovechkin fired Don Meehan and turned his affairs over to a lawyer, with everything guided by his mother, Tatiana. Tatiana is apparently thinking something more in the $9-million to $10-million range.

Ovechkin and Russian teammate Alexander Semin will be restricted free agents and Washington will be hard put to satisfy both, and for the NHL to have a player like Ovechkin in a market like Washington is a crime. Night after night, Ovechkin plays to thousands of empty seats and in D.C., he always will. In Montreal, a so-so team without a marquee star in Ovechkin’s league can draw 21,273 for exhibitions.

Does Ovechkin like Montreal? Very much. He has never hesitated to say so. His best hockey buddy is Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov; last time the Habs were in Washington, reporters wanting to talk with Ovechkin had to wait half an hour while Ovechkin and Markov chatted on the ice.

But chitchat and sellouts are not going to bring Ovechkin to Montreal. A contract will – a big contract. If the Islanders can throw 15 years at Rick DiPietro and the Flyers are willing to give Mike Richards a dozen, why not a 15-year deal for Ovechkin? Is there a player in the league, apart from Crosby, as likely to make such a deal pay?

The Canadiens already know they may have to commit for at least a decade to keep Carey Price in the fold because Gary Bettman failed to foresee the potential impact of the decision to 1) offer restricted free agency early in a player’s career and 2) to sign a basic agreement without a cap on the length of contract.

You Didn’t Ask For It (But You Got It) – Fascinating Facts Again!

Facinating fact #1.  In Ottawa in the 1970’s, there was a tremendous fastball team called Turpin Pontiac (maybe they still exist), who were one of the best ball teams in Canada. They had a horn-rimmed glasses-wearing pitcher named Joe Belisle who looked like Dennis the Menace’s father. He probably weighed about 140 pounds and skinny as a rake. However, his pitching arm was twice as big as his other arm, and this was a guy who pitched mostly 1 or 2 hitters, with many, many no-hitters also. The ball was only a blur when he let it go. And one of the guys who played outfield for Turpin Pontiac was a big, strapping long-ball hitting red-head named Larry Robinson, who happened to play defence for the Montreal Canadiens in the off-season.

Faxcinating fact #2. When I was about 12, my grandmother told me the daughter of a friend of hers was getting married in Orillia on a Saturday, to the trainer of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bobby Haggart. So I scrambled on up to the church, and the entire Leafs team was standing outside the church. Bobby Baun, Frank Mahovlich, Tim Horton, Johnny Bower, Dave Keon, everybody. I got autographs, and the next day at Mass, me and my mom and dad sat right behind Dave Keon and his wife.

Fascinating fact #3. Several years ago, my sister Carla and I used to do this silly little thing like say, “You know Carla, I’ve known a lot of people in my life —and you’re one of them. Or “You know Dennis, I’ve seen a lot of men in my life — and you’re one of them.” You get the picture. Just silly stuff. So one day, somewhere, maybe Calgary, Ken Dryden was signing his book at a bookstore and Carla bought one for me and had Ken sign it this way- “Dennis, I’ve had a lot of fans in my life, —and you’re one of them. Ken Dryden.”

Facinating fact #4.  Rocket Richard was never really associated with being a practical joker, but he had that streak in him. One time on the train the team was travelling on, his coach Dick Irvin Sr. had brought along a bunch of caged prize pigeons that Irvin had shown at some agriculture fair somewhere. The Rocket tried to let the pigeons out of their cages but other guys on the team stopped him.

Fascinating fact #5. Emile ‘Bouch’ Bouchard was a big strapping defenceman for the Canadiens in the 1940’s and ’50’s. He was their captain for a period of time. The fascinating part of this story is that he didn’t own a pair of skates until he was 16, and four years later he’d made the NHL.

Fascinating fact #6.  Terry Sawchuk died after having a serious and drunken wrestling match on the front lawn of his house with teammate Ron Stewart. He was 40 years old.

Fascinating fact #7.  I grew up just down the street from Rick Ley, who was a solid defenceman for the Leafs in the late 1960’s and into the ’70’s. He also played for the New England Whalers in the WHA and has his sweater retired in Hartford. He then went on to a coaching career in Vancouver and Toronto. But the big news is that when we were kids, him and I would skate on an outdoor rink before school, and in the summer, during a pickup baseball game, with him pitching and me catching without a mask, the batter tipped one of Ley’s pitches and the ball knocked my front tooth out. I’ve worn dentures ever since.

Fascinating fact #8  In the late 1960’s, Rick Ley’s older brother Ron and his redneck buddies threatened to take me behind the pool hall and cut my long hair.

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