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).
This is part five – 1979
Scotty Bowman felt he deserved the Canadiens general manager’s position in the late 1970’s and it never came – Irving Grundman, a bowling alley mogul, found himself in the job instead. So soon after the big night of May 21, 1979, when Bowman and his team took out the NY Rangers in five games to win it all, he would prepare to embark on a coaching path that would lead him out of Montreal and into Buffalo for seven years, then two in Pittsburgh and nine more in Detroit.
But for now, another championship in Montreal would be savoured.
The Canadiens won their fourth straight Stanley Cup in this 1979, and although it was the beginning of the end, it was still a formidable team. The same star players remained, the ones who had steamrolled over opponents the several year before – Lafleur, Shutt, Robinson, Lapointe, Savard, Dryden etc., but they were getting older, and the shine didn’t glisten quite as much as it had. But it was still enough to get it done, at least this once more before other teams like the Islanders and Oilers, waiting in the wings, would take over.
Winner of the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in 1979? None other than Bob Gainey. And coach Bowman had this to say about the quiet and unassuming key forward. “He just drives himself….past what you expect from any player. And he plays every game of the season like that, but people only notice in the playoffs. He has been given all the tough assignments…always. And still he has really improved his offence.”
Eddie MacCabe, in the Ottawa Citizen, wrote about Gainey and his play in this Cup run. “He scored last night with Anders Hedberg riding him like a bronco-buster. He scored in New York in the last game. He got six goals and 10 assists in the playoffs this spring and yet he was almost apologetic about being named MVP.”
Gainey said later about his Conn Smythe award, “It’s hard to believe that my name will be on that trophy with some of the names on there….like Bobby Orr and Guy Lafleur….Jean Beliveau.”
He also took home a whopping $1500 and a new car from Sports Illustrated for winning this Conn Smythe award.
This was Montreal’s sixth Cup in ten years, and everybody hated the Habs. Everybody except Habs fans, of course. And we didn’t mind that people felt this way. We were used to it.
Montreal reached the pot of gold by sweeping the Leafs in four, edging the Bruins in seven, and then disposing of the Rangers. But Larry Robinson had noticed some cracks. The team had lost the final game of the season, a game they need to finish first, and Robinson felt the loss showed that they had failed under pressure, and he admitted he was worried. He also said his team had played mediocre hockey against Boston and could have easily lost that series.
Change was in the air. And it wasn’t just Bowman who would leave soon after. Because when all was said and done, Jacques Lemaire, Yvan Cournoyer, and Ken Dryden would retire, and the Habs wouldn’t win another Stanley Cup until 1986.