I’ve Got Nose Hairs Older Than These Kids

When Guillaume Latendresse scored the winner last night against Chicago, it created several important things. It allowed the team to keep pace in the east. It allowed them to avoid another slump. It allowed them a rare home game win. And it allowed me to forget my aches and pains from my nightmarish first aid course.

Bob Gainey says he’s happy with the team’s first half performance (except for losing important faceoffs), and so am I. This is a good young team. And when I say young, I mean young. This is a team that has to stand outside the liquor store and ask strangers to buy a bottle for them. These are guys who still peak down the stairs late at night when their parents are having parties. And when the club honours former greats like Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, and even Guy Lafleur, these kids wonder why vets from the first World War are dropping pucks at centre ice.

Here’s some of the kids from Romper Room.

Maxim Lapierre – 22, Guillaume Latendresse – 20, Sergei Kostitsyn – 20, Andrei Kostitisyn – 22, Jaroslav Halak – 22, Corey Locke – 23, Kyle Chipchura (just sent down to Hamilton, but he’ll be back) – 21 years old, and Carey Price (also sent down to Hamilton but he’ll be back because he’s gonna be a star) – 20.

 In all, Montreal has 19 players under 30, with most from their early to mid 20’s. This is a young team. The elder statesman is Patrice Brisebois, who’s 36. I hope these youngsters are polite to Patrice and don’t laugh when he talks about the old, pioneer days, way back in the ’90’s.

Fergie Was One of the Best. A Real Montreal Canadien

John Ferguson was a lot of things.

He was one of the most popular players to ever wear the Montreal sweater, according to one who would know, Dick Irvin. He was a serious lacrosse player, mostly in Nanaimo, BC. He was assistant coach on Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series. He was deeply involved in horse racing. He was coach and GM of the New York Rangers, and GM of the Winnipeg Jets. But most of all, he was a great fighter for the Habs in the 1960’s, who could also score goals. Twelve seconds into his very first NHL game with the Habs, Fergie got into a fight with Boston tough guy Ted Green, and won. He was a coach’s dream.

Fergie was one those guys who would cross the street if members of the opposing team were walking his way. He avoided playing in golf tournaments if players from other teams were participating.  And he would only be involved in hockey schools if all the other instructors were Montreal players.

“We played for the sweater,” John Ferguson once said, and because he said that, he’s one of my all-time favourite Montreal Canadiens. I even saw him and Eddie Shack go at it once when I was at a game at Maple Leaf Gardens, and it brought down the house. It was one of those great, delicious bench-clearing brawls, and Shack and Fergie were the headliners, two rival gladiators with a glorious dislike for each other. They went punch for punch, Leaf fans screamed for his blood, and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, right up there with Brigitte Bardot standing by the fence in “And God Created Women.”

John Ferguson Sr. was one of the best. He died on July 14, 2007, at only 68. His son is the GM now for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If only Kane played for Montreal. And there’s a pair who’d better not.

I’m late getting this posted today because I was at a first aid course where I almost ate a vegetarian sandwich instead of the good stuff but fellow student Karen saved me, thank goodness. I thought the cream cheese was chicken.

But this isn’t important. What is, is Montreal plays Chicago tomorrow night and must win, otherwise another slump could be starting and I’m tired of this roller coaster ride and having to think about whether the coach and GM should be fired or not. Chicago’s in their own slump which needs to continue of course. They only have one player I feel is worth mentioning, Patrick Kane, and that’s only because he has such a fantastic name. Otherwise, I hope he gets mononucleosis.

In other news, the dastardly Steve Downie, who just returned from his lengthy suspension for blindsiding Ottawa’s Dean McAmmon, should simply be booted out of the league after cold-cocking Toronto’s Jason Blake in the face the other night. Some players play tough, others play rough, but it looks like Downie is just one of these nightmares that come along every so often. If he doesn’t watch it, he’ll become as hated as Sean Avery. So far, though, he hasn’t perfected Avery’s shitty smile. But he’s trying and that’s not good.

If either Downey or Avery ever get traded to Montreal, I’m gonna take up cricket. GO PAKISTAN!

One other thing. There’ll be one more day of first aid where we’ll be practising transporting victims all strapped down with neck braces and all that jazz. It could come in handy some time if I’m at a Philadelphia game and Downey hurts someone else. I’ll be able to help take the player off the ice. I’ll be the one waving to the crowd.

The Rocket, the Montreal Canadiens, and Rich Man, Poor Man

This year, Montreal’s Andrei Markov will earn 5.7 million dollars patroling the blueline. Teammate Roman Hamrlik will be close, at 5.5 million. Captain Saku Koivu stands at 4.7 million.

In 1940, Montreal’s Ken Reardon was paid $4000 for the season. Junior Langlois in 1959 made $7500. Jean Beliveau, who the Canadiens practically got down on their hands and knees to sign in 1953, was paid an unheard of $25,000, but that was what he’d been making with the senior Quebec Aces and the Habs had to at least match it.  And Rocket Richard was paid $5000 for his first season, in 1942-43, and earned a total of $350, 000 over 18 star-studded seasons with the Habs, ending in 1960.

This year, Francis Lemieux, a centreman who has yet to crack the Habs lineup, earns $461, 667. That’s $111, 667 more than the Rocket made in his lifetime.

There’s nothing wrong with a little mononucleosis

To think it was just recently that I was wondering when Guy Carbonneau and Bob Gainey would walk the plank after very mediocre play had infiltrated the Montreal Canadiens. Now though, the team’s flying, so I take back those terrible thoughts and will try to bring this up at confession if I ever go.

So now, it’s not the teams in front of Montreal to worry about, as there are is only one, Ottawa, in the ridiculously tight eastern conference. It’s those teams just behind that need to be looked after. Montreal is tied with New Jersey, but just one or two points behind are Pittsburgh, the Rangers, Boston, and Carolina, and other teams like the Islanders, Flyers, and Sabres are just behind them. Whew!

So being the gentleman I am, I am hoping for only minor injuries, some sicknesses, and just a little bad luck for these said teams. Mononucleosis is a good disease for some of the better players. A broken finger or two isn’t asking a lot. Contract disputes that make players unhappy is a good one. Fear of flying, ripped tendons, nervous breakdowns, itchy rashes, blisters, slapshot to the nuts, problems with the little lady.  And flu bugs are beauties because they can take a whole team out!

It’s all for the good of the Montreal Canadiens. Winning is everything. And after all, none of these things are life threatening.

Thoughts from the magnificent 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series

THE SERIES TOUCHED ME 

From time to time I pull out my videos of games and behind-the-scenes footage from the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series. It’s a time and place that is part of my life, and I’ve studied this eight game series with love and fascination. It has touched me, and I feel I could write a book about it. I was a 21 year old bartender in Sudbury, Ont. at this time, and before the series had started, I was more than eager to see our indestructible boys destroy those lesser talents from the evil empire. Wow, did I have my eyes opened.

YOU KNOW THE OBVIOUS

I don’t need to explain any of the obvious about this event. You know, or have probably heard, about the society comparisons, about the Henderson and Esposito heroics, about Canada winning with 34 seconds to go in the 8th game. But there’s more than the obvious about this series that has entered my life, and I’m very proud of it.

THE SERIES HELPED ME FIND THE WOMAN OF MY DREAMS 

Through a series of bazaar happenings which are too complex to mention here, I ended up marrying a Russian woman who had only known what little she knew of Canada because of this series. Luciena had indeed watched the big series from her side of the world, and she was not only proud of her hockey stars, but was also amazed by ours. She liked that Canadian players were without helmets. She loved the look of a young Bobby Clarke with his front teeth missing. Phil Esposito seemed bigger than life to her, and she laughed when he slipped on a flower petal while being introduced. She found it incredulous that 2700 Canadian fans packed Luchnicki Stadium in Moscow and made so much noise, because her fellow Russians weren’t permitted to show extreme emotion in the building. It just wasn’t part of Soviet upbringing.

GETTING TO KNOW SOME OF THE RUSSIAN PLAYERS 

Years later, Luciena took me to a St. Petersburg Ska, a Russian Elite League team, practice, where the great ’72 star and captain Boris Mikhailov was coaching. She called him over and introduced us, telling him I was Canadian. Not surprisingly, the always intense Mikhailov didn’t seem all that interested, and looked right through me.  I went to various games in Russia during my six times there, and met other ’72 stars like Evgeny Zimin and Victor Kuzkin, who were usually there scouting. I was introduced to the great Valeri Kharlamov’s son, Alexander, who was playing for Red Army at the time. And some of my Russian friends over the years have collected autographs for me from  ’72 players like Alexander Ragulin, Vladimir Petrov, and others.

MIKHAILOV’S DOING BETTER THAN YOU AND ME 

The last time I was in St. Petersburg, in May of 2007, we stayed with an elderly woman whose son-in-law had played for Ska under Boris Mikhailov, and the apartment we lived in had been arranged for by Mikhailov, who of course had serious pull in such matters.  Zena, the old woman, told us that Mikhailov had an apartment in the expensive Nevsky Prospekt downtown area, and had an indoor swimming pool. So it was obvious the feisty captain the 1972 Russian National team had done well for himself.

VIKULOV ISN’T

I find it interesting as well that during the 8th and final game of that series, the Russian players who weren’t dressed for the game that final night weren’t even allowed in the building. Imagine. And many of the Russian players haven’t ended up successful like Mikhailov, Tretiak, Anisin, and Yakushev have. Some are dirt poor with meagre government pensions, and one player, Vladimir Vikulov has become such a down-and-out alcoholic that even his old teammates don’t want to discuss him now.

More of the Insanely Fascinating “Fascinating Facts!”

Fascinating fact #1. Bep Guidolin played his first NHL game in 1942 with Boston. He’s the youngest player ever to play in the league, at 16 years old.

Fascinating fact #2. Floyd Curry attended his first Montreal Canadiens training camp in 1940 at just 15. He didn’t make the team but it’s still quite a feat.

Fascinating Fact #3.  Bobby Orr played for the Oshawa Generals, a farm team of the Boston Bruins, when he was just 14.

Fascinating fact #4.  Hall Of Fame goalie Johnny Bower didn’t play his first NHL game until he was 30 when he was called up from the minors to the NY Rangers. He played one season, then three more in the minors. After that he was traded to Toronto when he was 34 years old. Amazingly enough, and this is why this thing is called “Fascinating Facts”, Bower played goal all those years with poor eyesight and rheumatoid arthritis.

Fascinating fact #5  Claire Alexander, who played defence for the Leafs in the mid 1970’s, came into the league when he was 29. Before that, he was a milkman in Orillia, Ontario. (my hometown).

Fascinating Fact #6  In the early 1960’s, when I was about 12, my parish priest, Monsignor Lee, was somehow connected to the Toronto Maple Leafs. I think it had to do with St. Michael’s College. One day, he took my buddy Ron Clarke and I to Peterborough to see an exhibition game between the Leafs and Chicago. The afternoon before the game, we had dinner at the hotel with the Leafs’ brass. The players were in an adjoining room. So Ron and I had dinner with the Monsignor, King Clancy, and Jim Gregory, who has just been recently inducted into the builder’s catagory of the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

Fascinating Fact #7   In the 1950’s, New York tough guy Lou Fontinato (who later was traded to Montreal), got into a real scrap with Rocket Richard. Fontinato got Richard’s sweater off and proceeded to rip it to shreds with his skates. A few weeks later, Fontinato received a bill from the Canadiens for $38.50.

Happiness is a lot of Montreal sweaters and a popcorn box

My wife doesn’t understand it. She doesn’t understand one bit that I need this popcorn box from the 1930’s that I saw on ebay. But who wouldn’t want a 1930’s popcorn box? Especially one in mint condition with a very young Gloria Swanson on it.

But she’s been good about the eight childs’ Montreal Canadiens wool sweaters from the 1940’s and 50’s I’ve managed to find on ebay over the last couple of years. I haven’t told her yet that I’m keeping my eye open for sweaters from the 20’s and 30’s, but I may never find these. So what she may never see won’t hurt her, right?

I guess I’m a compulsive collector. I take after my grandmother. And I haven’t just bought. I’ve sold many, many things over the last couple of years and used the money to buy a fridge, stove, flooring, gifts, a laptop, camera, a couple of trips, including one to Russia, and a whole bunch of other things, all from things I’ve collected over the years. I’m trying to condense things now because I’m at a stage in my life where I don’t need a lot anymore. This makes her happy. But she doesn’t understand the popcorn box.

I think it’s something about reliving my youth but I’m not sure. And even though I wasn’t born in the 1930’s, the popcorn box is like the ones I remember from a few decades later,  the ones we used to fire around the theatre and off people’s heads. So it’s important. Right?

Sean Avery has horns and a pitchfork

I suppose getting eight out of twelve points on the big Habs road trip is good, but that loss last night to the Rangers hurt. After all, Montreal had come from behind, had the lead, played really well, and yet once again a goal was scored against them late in the game and then they lost in overtime. It’s like one of those nightmares where you’re driving your brand new Cadillac off the dealer’s lot and you get slammed and your new set of wheels is completely totalled. Or that beautiful chick you’ve been dating turns out to be a guy when you finally get her into bed.

It would’ve been so nice to win, especially against a team that has Sean Avery on it. Avery was voted most despised player in the league by his peers, and I really wish someone would jam a stick, several pucks, and a couple of jock straps down that grinning mouth of his.

Anyway, the Habs have 45 points after 39 games, which isn’t bad, but last year at this stage, they already had 51 points. And last year they didn’t make the playoffs. But last year they had David Aebisher playing goal from time to time.

Now I’ve got big faith in the boys, especially the way the Kostitsyn brothers, and the goalies, are playing. And I know I sound like a broken record but if fans at the Bell Centre don’t shut up with that horrible “Olay, Olay” song, the team won’t make the playoffs again. It pisses the other teams off because it sounds so smug. And it never works. This song must have been concocted by the devil, or possibly Sean Avery.

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