Again, When You Least Expect It, More Fascinating Facts!

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Fascinating Fact # 1   I owned a sports bar for awhile in Powell River, and during this time the infamous Hanson Brothers came to town for a promotional thing at the arena. Afterwards, they came into my pub and at midnight, I locked the doors and drank beer and talked hockey with them until about 5AM.

Fascinating Fact #2  A small scrap of paper signed by Bill Barilko, who scored the Cup-winning goal for Toronto against Montreal in 1951 and died later that year in a plane crash in northern Ontario, recently sold on ebay for $750.

Fascinating Fact #3   Frank Mahovlich came into my pub after an NHL Oldtimer’s game with his niece, who lives in Powell River. I had to tell customers who clamoured all over him to cool it so the guy could eat his meal.

Fascinating Fact #4   When I was 12, my pee wee baseball team played in a tournament in St. Catherines, Ontario. For one game, goalie great Gerry Cheevers was the umpire.

Facsinating Fact # 5   Years ago, when I was about 11, I asked Foster Hewitt for his autograph. He signed for me, then, because he was in a deep discussion with some other guy, he kept my pen. I was too shy to ask him for it so my older sister had to get it for me.

Fascinating Fact #6   Howie Morenz was Toe Blake’s hero when Blake was a boy. He said he even called himself Howie. Years later, in 1937, Blake played for the Habs alongside his boyhood hero Morenz. This was the same year Morenz died from complications from a broken leg.

Fascinating Fact # 7   Toe Blake used such terrible profanity, he was barred from the Forum Billiard Hall.

Facinating Fact # 8    I collect old Montreal Canadiens kid’s wool sweaters. Not like some of the old ones in the photos above as these are extremely early Habs sweaters,  but like the one in my photo at the top right, and other’s similar to that. They’re all from the 1940’s, ’50’s, and ’60’s but I’m still looking for ones from the ’30’s and ’20’s. I saw some in old Eaton’s catalogues recently, so I know they were around at that time. But are they around now?

Fascinating Fact #9  In the early ’60’s when I was about 13 or so, my buddy and I went to Barrie, Ont. for an exhibition game between the AHL’s Buffalo Bisons and the Rochester Americans. We were there early and somehow got talking to the Buffalo trainer, and he let us be stickboys for the game. The team gave us both sticks, although I broke mine later playing road hockey. And Don Cherry played that night for Rochester.

The final Fascinating Fact goes to Toe Blake, who said this: “Hockey has been my life. I never had the opportunity of getting one of those million dollar contracts, but hockey was worth more than a million to me in plenty of ways.”

(For more delicious and delightful facts, just click on ‘Fascinating Facts’ over in the category section and get a whole bunch of stuff.)

Carey Price, Cow Testicles, And The Big Hollywood Blockbuster

price.jpgplante.jpgcow.jpgBob Gainey must have balls like a cow for dealing the more experienced Christobal Huet and deciding on young, 20 year old Carey Price as his starting netminder heading into the playoffs.

But in Price’s very first start as the uncontested number 1 goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, he allowed only one goal as the team trounced Atlanta 5-1. This is the way the script should be written. This will be a chapter in the book that will come out someday about young Price, the Habs 21th century version of Jacques Plante, with the theme, “Young Goalie Given Top Job. And Comes Through In Dramatic Fashion.” 

Imagine if the score was reversed. Price has already this year dealt with shaky confidence, and a big, lop-sided loss might have sent him to the asylum. And Montreal fans, including me, might have tarred and feathered Bob Gainey.

Montreal has let in far too many goals lately, so tonight, allowing only one, is reason to feel good. And along with the book, if a movie is someday made about the dramatic events of this day revolving around the Gainey, Price, and Christobal Huet saga, I’m hoping to play Red Fisher.

Good start, but it’s only just begun. Next up – in Buffalo Friday night, and then back home Saturday for a huge clash with New Jersey. Hey, what am I saying? They’re all huge clashes.

And one last thing. Ottawa lost 5-0 the other night to Toronto, and 4-0 tonight to Boston. What’s up with that? Could it be that Montreal had too many goalies, and Ottawa has none?

Trade Deadline in Montreal. Please Carey Price, Don’t Lose Your Confidence Again

Montreal traded Christobal Huet to Washington for a 2009 second round pick?

 And that’s it?

That’s the extent of movement in Montreal as the team’s in a playoff race and maybe just a small piece of the puzzle is needed to complete the picture? 

There’s no Marian Hossa. No Brad Richards. No Alex Tanguay. There’s no one. Only a 2nd round Washington draft choice.  So I’m sitting here trying to figure this out and all I can think is that Bob Gainey is trying to save money and Huet has been quite mediocre lately. Maybe Gainey likes the chemistry with the team and didn’t want to play with fire. It’s all very strange. And I’m very confused.  

Christobal Huet becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so he may have gone elsewhere, or may have asked for a great big raise from the Habs. But Montreal has extra dollars in their piggybank, and it’s not like the organization’s in trouble as they sell out 21000 plus seats every single night. So they could have afforded Huet next year if they wanted to.

The answer must be that the brass has lost faith in Huet’s ability. He’s been pretty soft lately, that’s for sure.

And then there’s Carey Price. He was sent down to Hamilton recently to get his confidence back, which he seemed to do, and has played pretty well since returning to the big club. But what if he loses his confidence again? Is Jaroslav Halak, the new backup, good enough to pick up the slack?

It’s all a lot of unanswered questions. Maybe Price, now realizing he’s the big guy, will play like Jacques Plante from here on in. Maybe Gainey knows something about Huet that we don’t. Maybe Michel Ryder, on the trade bubble for weeks now, will relax and fill the net. Maybe everyone will relax, get down to business, and go on a tear.

All I know is, I’m confused. And Pittsburgh, with Marian Hossa now in the lineup beside Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin, scares me. 

Trade Day On Tuesday: What Will The Habs Do?

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When You Wish Upon A StarNaturally, trade rumours are only just that, rumours, but we can dream, can’t we?

We can dream that the talk in the air about who might be going to Montreal is quite true, thank you very much, and that boss Bob Gainey has pulled the switch that makes Montreal the big-time favourite to go all the way.

This is the latest scuttlebutt in the air about just who might be going to Montreal, although in reality, it’s far-fetched and over the top. But anyway, I’m just the messenger.

Here’s the three names tossed about who could soon wear a Habs jersey. Just keep in mind that the media types who throw these names around are the same ones who predicted Montreal to finish in 14th place this year, well out of the playoffs. So it’s usually just dead air that comes out of their mouths. This time, though, I hope they’re right

Marian Hossa

A real proven sharp-shooter. Holy Smokes, he’d look great in the red, white, and blue. It’d be like having another Kovalev on the team.

Alex Tanguay

A real good French-Canadian guy who wants out of Calgary. (Apparently he’s asked twice this year to be traded).

Brad Richards

This is the one I like best of all. A Canadian boy from PEI who knows how to fill the net and play fire wagon hockey. And who knows, being from PEI, it’s possible he grew up cheering for the Habs. It just seems too good to be true, so I guess I’d better calm down about this one.

But these are just crazy rumours, and who know’s what will happen. There’s a lot of players who don’t want the pressure of playing in Montreal (like Daniel Briere), and so, if they have a no-trade contract, want no part of playing for the best organization in hockey. (I don’t understand it but that’s just me.) 

But just who would Montreal keep as untouchables, and who wouldn’t they mind letting go?

I don’t know. But I can guess.

Michael Ryder is the one most say is gone. But he’s been playing well of late, except for the Columbus game, when he and the rest of the team kept looking at Bob Gainey’s number up in the rafters and forgot about the game down below.

Ryan O’Byrne still has charges pending against him after his big night out in Tampa Bay. I can see him being moved. If there’d be any takers.

Saku Koivu, as great a leader as he is, is now more uneffective than he is effective. His wonderful puck-handling days are a thing of the past.

Patrice Brisebois is probably finished, and would only be a throw-in as part of a large deal.

There’s others of course: Dandenault, Latendresse, Lapierre, Begin, and probably anybody else on the team if the deal suited. But if Montreal let go too many Quebecer’s, the French media would have a field day.

But most intriguing is this: What if a team is willing to part with a Sundin or a Hossa, or even a Brad Richards, but wants either Christobal Huet or Carey Price. What would you do?

Oh yeah, and about Habs untouchables. Kovalev and Markov, with honourable mention going to Mark Streit, Tomas Plekanec, the Kostitsyns, Mike Komisarek, and Chris Higgins. And very likely, Carey Price.

 

Montreal Loses To Columbus. Gainey’s Number Isn’t The Only Thing That Should Be Hung By The Rafters

On a very emotional night, Bob Gainey and his lovely kids watched as his old number 23 was raised to the rafters. Then, right after that, Bob’s team sucked fumes.

Why is that? Why couldn’t Montreal, in a big-time playoff race, on a night honouring their boss who is liked and respected by all, come out flying on all cylinders and trounce a supposedly inferior team such as the Columbus Blue Jackets? Instead, they play uninspired, lacklustre hockey at a time when they should be playing full-speed ahead, fire wagon hockey and grabbing those all-important two points.

Bullshit.

Now they’ve lost to Pittsburgh and shut out 3-0 by Columbus. They’re letting in too many goals a game, and in a playoff run, you’re suppose to tighten up in this area. It’s a real concern.

Next up is the visiting Atlanta Thrashers, a team who strikes fear into no one. Which Montreal team will show up for this one?

If the team comes up flat again, I think I’ll take up cricket. And if you want to join me, I looked up the top five cricket teams in the world. They are: Sri Lanka with 35 points. England with 30, West Indies – 20, India – 13, and Bangladesh with 12.sri-lanka.jpg

Not sure who my favourite team will be. Sri Lanka seems to be having a fine year, but England is close behind. Not sure who I’ll choose. Maybe I’ll go with the nicest uniforms, but then again, aren’t they all white?

Sobering Thoughts on Bob Gainey Night. Making The Playoffs Isn’t a Given Just Yet

Without raining on Bob Gainey’s parade as he’s honoured tonight for his great years as a player,  I should give some sobering thoughts to fellow Habs fans who confidently sing the Olay song at the Bell Centre, to those who confidently bellow out the “I Believe” slogan, and to those who confidently feel we have a playoff spot comfortably in the bag.thumbnail.jpgjersey.jpg

The fact is: We don’t have a playoff spot comfortably in the bag. It’s not time to be confident yet.

The team’s playing great, that’s for sure, with 75 points before tonight’s clash with Columbus. Montreal hasn’t had 75 points at this stage of the game since the 1992-93 season when they won the cup.

But the standings in the east are so tight now, all it’ll take is an injury or two to some key players like Kovalev and Markov, a tiny little losing streak, plus tiny little winning streaks by the Bruins, Buffalo, and the Rangers, plus a surge by the Islanders and Philadelphia, the two teams who now sit out of a playoff spot, and things could turn ugly. (And don’t forget about a flu bug like the one last year which ravished the team.)

I say this even though I’m a believer too. Because although the team has for the most part played really well, slumps for them have crept in from time to time throughout this season. Anything can happen, and so I’m wary until they actually clinch. And being the greedy person I am, I want them to not only make the playoffs of course, but to finish high up the playoff pole.

Have a look at how tight the east is. This is before tonight’s games (Saturday, Feb. 23rd), so it’s interesting how it might change in a few hours from now.

Ottawa 76, New Jersey 75, Carolina 67, Pittsburgh 75, Montreal 75, Boston 68, Buffalo 68, Rangers 68. And the two now out of a playoff spot – Islanders with 67, and Philadelphia with 66, are breathing down everyone’s necks.

Of course, if the Habs take about seven of the next ten, please disregard this post. They’ll be in, baby.

A Blown Opportunity, And A Big Night Coming Up

It could’ve been a beautiful thing, a Hollywood sequel, where the good guy in the white hat wins, grabs the girl, and rides off in to the sunset.

But it wasn’t to be. Montreal battled back against Pittsburgh, down 3-1 to grab the lead 4-3. But late in the game, the bad guys, the men with black hats, the Pittsburgh Penguins, scored twice quickly and got two big points.

So I’ve got nothing to say about this, except that Pittsburgh star Evgeny Malkin had a goal and two assists, and Montreal’s Michael Ryder scored again to make it four goals in three games, and is now either a little safer in his job with the Habs, or is much better trade bait for the team if they want to try and get someone like Alex Tanguay.

So enough about this blown opportunity. It’s time now to focus on Saturday night when Columbus comes to town. Montreal must win this game or they’re only another loss or two away from another slump, which can’t happen at this stage of the game.

And also on this same night, prior to the game, Montreal GM Bob Gainey gets his old number 23 retired to the rafters.

Gainey will join a nice long list of players to receive such an honour in Montreal. And because I want to take my mind off the loss tonight, instead I’m going to focus on giving you a list of the Habs stars who have their numbers retired.

They are:morenz.jpg

1. Jacques Plante

2. Doug Harvey

4. Jean Beliveau

5. Bernie Geoffrion

7. Howie Morenz

9. Maurice Richard

10. Guy Lafleur

12. Dickie Moore and Yvon Cournoyer

16. Henri Richard

18. Serge Savard

19. Larry Robinson

29. Ken Dryden

And this Saturday Night. No 23. Bob Gaineygainey.jpg

Big Game For The Habs — Malkin and The Penguins Come Calling

You don’t have to be Einstein to know that Montreal really needs this game against Pittsburgh Thursday night. The Habs have been on fire ever since the O’Byrne fiasco in Tampa Bay, and this game against the Penguins will re-affirm to the hockey world that Les Canadiens are for real, and are a serious contender.

It’s important to keep it going, and a win will put Habs fans over the top with glee.

Pittsburgh, in the Atlantic Division, sits at 34-21-5 for 73 points. Montreal, in the Northeast, are proud owners of a 33-19-9 record, for 75 points. Montreal needs this game to keep up with Ottawa.

The other thing is this. Evgeny Malkin, the good young Russian Penguin, is now being touted as league MVP for the season. The bugger’s got 34 goals, 45 assists, for 79 points. These are good numbers.

But Montreal’s Alex Kovalev, albeit older, is the engine that runs his team, and is not only deadly with 29 goals, 32 assists, for 61 points, but has also emerged as the Habs leader in many ways. He’s often unstoppable on the power play, and is the unofficial godfather to the Kostitsyn twins.

kovalev-penguins.jpgMaybe Kovalev deserved boos from time to time in years past, but not this year, not by a country mile. He’s exciting, crafty, maybe the best puckhandler in the league, has great vision, and is astonishingly creative. If Malkin wins MVP, at least Kovalev should be given honourable mention. 

Also, I don’t know what Malkin’s girlfriend looks like, but have a look at Kovalev’s. I’m pretty sure he’s got Malkin beat.kovalev-and-girlfriend.jpg

We Must Be Nice To The Rangers And Sean Avery

It’s very important, on this day after the stupendous, super-duper come-from-behind win over the Rangers, that we don’t gloat. We don’t want to be labelled as obnoxious Habs fans and gloaters. No way. Certainly we are proud today after the big win, but the job’s not finished. There’s Pittsburgh Thursday, and the playoffs not far off.

So I for one am gonna take the bull by the horns and be kind to the New York Rangers, and even back off about Sean Avery. Maybe the young man is simply misunderstood. He’s probably a kind, caring man, and that poll from other players about him being the most despised player in the league surely must have made him and his family feel bad. Sean may very well be just a great guy, and we need to acknowledge that.

Sean Avery Doing His Pre-Game gorilla2.jpgTouching His Toes Exercises

Magic In Montreal Against The Rangers: Plus Bonus Coverage Of Jim Wills, A Cheez Whiz Jar, And A Road Trip

cheez-whiz.jpgI can’t say enough about how important it was that Montreal looked good against the dastardly and unsavoury New York Rangers on Tuesday night. These Rangers, or the Hell’s Kitchenettes as I like to call them, were down 3-0 to Montreal a couple of weeks ago and stormed back to win 5-3, which was right after Ovechkin and the Capitals had made the team look bad, and this was the beginning of the nightmare which included Toronto beating the Habs, then Ottawa clobbered them 6-1, then Ryan O’Byrne almost got thrown into Sing Sing, then the guys lost to Tampa Bay because everyone had a hangover.

It was a bad stretch, needless to say.

So tonight, I came home and the Rangers were leading 5-0 in the second period. I was already having a bad day, so this was the capper. Carey Price had been pulled after the first three goals. I thought about going to bed, even though it was 4PM Pacific time.

It was a nightmare.

But then, it started.  Michael Ryder, in a season long slump, scored a couple. Then Kovalev. Then Streit. And then Kovalev again, late in the game,  scored to tie it 5-5. The crowd was in a frenzy. Montreal, in their long and tremendous history, had never, ever, come back from a 5-0 deficit to gain a point. It was drama. Goosebumps. Shock.

The game went into overtime with the crowd singing their Ole song.  History was happening. A standing ovation was given to the boys from the Bell Centre fans. I hugged my wife.

Holy Smokes!

Overtime ended and it became a shootout. Nope, nope, nope, nope, Koivu – yep, Jagr – nope.

MONTREAL WON!   They came back even better than New York had come back two weeks ago.  What a sport! What a game! What a team! I hugged my wife again.

This sure helped my bad day.

And about that Cheez Whiz jar? It involves a roadtrip to Hartford, Washington, and New Jersey in 1988 but I can’t tell you anything else. It’s too immature.

And Jim Wills, who was my hockey buddy back then, and who recently commented on the blog about becoming a Senators fan after a lifetime of being a Habs fan, was the guy who did all the driving while the rest of us relaxed.

He knows about the Cheez Whiz jar.

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