Remembering Doug Harvey

The following is my column in the Powell River Peak, published March 3, 2008. doug.jpg                           

Unless you’re very young, or have never paid particular attention to hockey, you probably know who Doug Harvey is. You might know only that he was a hockey player a long time ago. But maybe you know he’s rated as the sixth greatest player of all time, and it’s between him and Bobby Orr as the game’s best defenceman ever.

He played for the Montreal Canadiens alongside Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau, and the rest of the cast of iconic 1950’s characters, and he was, with the Rocket, my boyhood hero. When I was a kid, my dad even corralled coach Toe Blake one night at Maple leaf Gardens in Toronto to go into the dressing room and get Harvey’s autograph for me.

Doug Harvey’s gone now, but I still think about him, so a few weeks ago, I did what I had to do. I phoned his son in the Maritimes.

Doug Harvey Jr. is 57 years old, is proud of his dad, and he was happy to talk about him. What was it like, I asked, being the son of such a star? “It was probably just like you and your dad,” he said. “We were just a family like everyone else. Kids at school didn’t treat me any different, and when I played hockey, there were no names on the sweaters, so no one gave me a hard time at the rink. “I guess one thing that might be different was that players would come over to the house quite often – Dickie Moore, Jean Beliveau, Jacques Plante, the Rocket a few times. When dad was building our house, most of the team helped him.”Even the kids of the Montreal Canadiens found a connection, probably because they had so much in common. “We lived near a lot of the players,” continued Doug Jr., “and I was a good buddy with Toe Blake’s son. And it’s funny too, my brother has been dating Dickie Moore’s daughter for a few years now, and dad and Dickie were best friends.”Doug Jr. remembers too how sometimes his dad’s job interfered with a family trying to have a normal life. “My mom would get upset with dad because we’d go to games on schools nights from time to time, and for an eight o’clock game, he’d be at the old Forum at 5:30 and stay for a couple of hours afterward signing autographs for people. We wouldn’t get home until after midnight and we had to get up in the morning for school.”

Doug Harvey was a genuine free spirit, a practical joker, a fun-loving guy, a kind-hearted person, and a supremely gifted hockey player. He dominated on the ice in the old ‘original six’ NHL, controlling the game, slowing it down or speeding it up, making precise passes, setting the pace, and was a leader among men.

He was a general on the ice, and won the Norris trophy for best defenceman a remarkable seven times.

Slowly though, over the years, his health began to fail, and then, in 1989, at 65 years of age, the great Doug Harvey passed away.

“I remember visiting him in the hospital and he was usually in good spirits,” said Doug Jr. “One time I was in the corridor and I heard laughter coming from his room. Inside, Bobby Orr and Don Cherry were there cheering up my dad.”

And I’m sure, after all I’ve read, and after talking to Doug Jr., the man with the big heart was cheering them up too.

5 thoughts on “Remembering Doug Harvey”

  1. Dennis correct me if I`m wrong,but Lawerences earlier post brags about the Canucks cup appearance. Was`nt it their way of cheering on their team by a mass waving of White towels,was this a form of mass surrender?????
    In Montreal only the Red White & Blue would be waved proudly !!!
    Les Canadien Toujours

  2. LES CANADIENS L.EMPORTE

    HI Dennis….
    must of been a good game…… very good insignt of DOUG HARVEY …. kovalev kovalev kovalev that guy does his homework,, fine hands, good skater and those passes,….man he read the ice and the game so good,i enjoy watching him play,and what about PRICE 37 saves wow it sur help building confidence and thats good , i missed that game i was working but i check the stats as soon as i got home,now with pitsburg losing(what happen malkin slowing down ? ) you got to make those remainning games count if you want the first place in the east LES CANADIENS L,EMPORTE good day ….
    dan.g.

  3. I lived at 4650 St. Ignatius Avenue, two doors down from Mr. Harvey and Dougie Junior was my best friend. Along with Johnnie Beatty, another boy on our dead-end street located between Somerled Avenue and the Loyola camnpus, we terrorized the neighbourhood. It was typical boy-kid mischief stuff like ringing doorbells and running away, throwing snowballs at city buses and lighting firecrackers off in the local church (OOPS – I wasn’t supposed to give that one away!). I will never forget Mr. Harvey’s generosity with his time – he was quite often the guest speaker at our Coronation Park hockey league’s year-end banquet and I would burst with pride being able to tell my friends that I knew him personally! Dougie Jr. and I were always in trouble for some mischief or other – finally, when I was 11, in 1961, my family moved away from St. Ignatius and out to Pointe Claire – this slowed down the amount of time that Dougie and I spent together and we finally drifted away from each other.

    It was good to hear him quoted in this article after all these years… one thing that I do remember about Dougie was that he really did seem oblivious about his Dad being a star – he never used it to be better than anyone else and he couldn’t really understand why we though it was such a big thing!

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