Tag Archives: Andy Bathgate

The Team

baseball

I was the second baseman and sometimes shortstop, depending on whether Sparky Roe or Lorne Wingrove was pitching, and this little small-town team beat city teams all over central and southern Ontario. We were a force, and after winning a provincial championship, the Orillia fire truck picked us up outside of town and carried us in with siren wailing.

Orillia gave us a parade, with us riding in convertibles, just like a Stanley Cup parade. And we had a meeting with the mayor where she gave us pen sets. There was also a banquet we were invited to, with Andy Bathgate, Roger Crozier, football star Garney Henley, boxer Carmen Basilio. and baseball great Sal Maglie there as speakers. Ken  McDonald, who would someday become NHL play-by-play man Jiggs McDonald, was the master of ceremonies.

Each of us had to get up and thank our coaches and parents, and I got up, froze, and nothing came out, so they let me sit down to the laughter of the room.

My picture was in the paper eating ice cream. And when my dad died recently, the funeral director was John Mundell, the kid on the left in the front row, who was a fine outfielder. And of course he wasn’t a funeral director back then. But his dad was.

I was twelve. It was the summer I smoked my first cigar. And I still had my paper route.

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50 Or More; And That Curved Stick

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Up until this December 1964 Hockey Pictorial question was posed, just three players had ever scored 50 goals in a season – Maurice Richard in 1944-45, Bernie Geoffrion in 1960-61, and Bobby Hull during the 1961-62 season.

Who would finally score more than 50 in a season?

As you can see, five of the six players polled thought it would be Bobby Hull, while Jacques Laperriere figured Jean Beliveau would be the man.

The answer would come the following year, when yes indeed, it was Bobby Hull, who scored 54 in 65 games.

Hull would also bulge the twine 52 times in ’66-’67 and 58 in ”68-’69.

And how did the Golden Jet explain his talent for scoring? He mostly credited the introduction of the curved stick, which allowed him to blast howitzers at panic-stricken goaltenders. And although that’s a very credible explanation, it doesn’t do Hull complete justice. He was a beautiful skater, strong as an ox, and one of the greatest ever. The curved stick only added another huge element to Hull’s game.

Not long after Hull’s feats, the numbers would get out of hand. Phil Esposito would light the lamp 76 times in 1970-71, and during the 1980-81 campaign, eight players would score 50 or more, including Mike Bossy with 68 markers.

But it would be the 1981-82 season when goal scoring really blossomed, led by Wayne Gretzky, of course. Ten players cracked the 50-goal mark that year, with Gretzky notching an amazing 92 goals.

And back to the curved stick –

Andy Bathgate says it was he who was the first to use it, but it was Hull’s teammate Stan Mikita who is generally regarded as the inventor, although it came accidentally.

As explained in Bruce Dowbiggin’s book “The Stick,” Mikita’s stick cracked during practice, and he tried to break it and throw it away, but it wouldn’t snap completely. Mikita then jammed the stick into the door at the bench and it ended up looking like a boomerang.

While he waited for his trainer to get him another stick in the dressing room, which was several minutes away down the steps at the old Chicago Stadium, Mikita, out of anger, slapped a puck with the broken stick and the puck took off. He slapped another and it was the same thing. He was amazed, even at the new sound the puck made hitting the boards.

Back in the dressing room, Mikita started bending all his sticks, but they were breaking, until someone suggested making them wet first, which he did. He then left his new, curved sticks overnight, and the next day at practice he started shooting. The first shot was like a knuckler in baseball. It dropped and veered, and the next shot did all sorts of weird things too.

Bobby Hull was watching all this, and began bending his too.

Coach Billy Reay wasn’t impressed. He figured they wouldn’t be able to control their shots, and he was right. In Hull’s first game using this new banana blade, his first shot went right over the glass. In another game, Hull hit Ranger goalie Gump Worsley in the head, and when asked if he feared the curved blade, Worsley replied that he thought fans behind him were in more danger than him.

And about Andy Bathgate saying he was the first.

Bobby Hull said he always remembered Bathgate as having a bit of a curve to his sticks, even in the late ’50s, but it was Mikita who pioneered the whole idea of it. Bathgate has said that when Chicago was playing his Rangers one night, his trainer had lent Mikita one of Bathgate’s sticks (which is unusual to say the least), after the Hawk had run out of his own, and Mikita had liked the curved stick.

Mikita disagrees and talked to Bathgate about this, and in Dowbiggin’s book is quoted as saying, “I told Andy to his face that he’s – well, let’s say I talked to him about it. I might have borrowed some sticks, but I sure don’t remember any curve.”

And one final note: It was a Bathgate shot that smashed into Jacques Plante’s face, causing Plante to come back out wearing his mask for the first time during a game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rangers Tonight

Rangers

The Canadiens hit Broadway tonight for a meeting with the Rangers, and to keep their win streak alive, they know they’ll have to contain the big five – Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Andy Bathgate, and little Camille Henry. They also know they must be aware of the Ranger’s tight defence, with stalwarts such as Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, Harry Howell, and Bill Gadsby patrolling the back end.

The Rangers sit eight in the east with 17 points, four points behind the second-place Habs, and at this point, N.Y. coach John Tortorella hasn’t announced whether he’s starting Henrik Lundqvist or Gump Worsley in goal.

A big game for the Habs, as they look to blast those Blueshirts and keep us happy.

The Big Dinner

My peewee baseball team (I was a smallish-yet-reliable infielder) was invited to the big Sports Celebrities Dinner in Orillia, a dinner organized by Ken McDonald, who became Jiggs McDonald, the Los Angeles Kings’ very first play-by-play announcer. I was 13.

The lineup of guests was impressive, and I got them all to sign my little book

Price’s Pose Made Me Chuckle

Opposing teams used to hate it when Jacques Plante would raise his arms high in the air at the end of a game after a sweet victory. Andy Bathgate, whose shot smashed Plante’s face and which led to the goalie insisting on wearing his mask, said he just couldn’t stand it when he would see Plante do the arms thing.

Now it seems some folk aren’t liking Carey Price’s folded arms pose after stopping the Pens in a shootout Thursday night.

Frankly, I didn’t see anything wrong with what Plante did, and I see nothing wrong with Price’s pose.

Nothing Like A Good Mask To Stop Pucks

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Yes I know, you’ve probably seen this picture before. But I thought, hey, what the heck, I’m not going to get run over by a bus or have a curse inflicted upon me if I show it. So I’m showing it.

With all the talk about Jacques Plante and him finally putting the mask on after taking an Andy Bathgate puck in the face, there had already been a mask-wearing goalie in the NHL. His name was Clint Benedict, and he also taken a puck in the face, his from Howie Morenz in 1930. Benedict, who played for the Montreal Maroons, had his nose broken and he donned this leather beauty for five games, the last of which he also took a puck square on the mask that was suppose to protect him, and his NHL career was ended.

If these two goalies, Plante and Benedict, would’ve been hit in the face by a shot from me, they probably wouldn’t have felt it and probably would never have bothered with any kind of face protection.

I Hope I Didn’t Get Any Corn Stuck In My Teeth

0012 When I was twelve our Orillia peewee baseball team beat all comers, from little towns to big cities, and we won the all-Ontario championship. The following year, Orillia put on a Sports Celebrity dinner and our team and some successful minor hockey teams were invited and we accepted trophies and such from the celebrities –  like baseball legend Sal Maglie, hockey star Andy Bathgate, goalie great Roger Crozier, all-star fooball player Garney Henley, and champion boxer Carmen Basilio.

I’m in the bottom row, third from the right in the baseball picture, and Ricky Ley, who eventually played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New England Whalers, and Team Canada ’74, is in the hockey photo, bottom row, third from left with the “A” on his sweater. The Whalers actually retired Rick Ley’s sweater in Hartford and it’s hanging from the rafters there.

Ken McDonald, who was the local radio guy, was the master of ceremonies, and he eventually changed his name to Jiggs McDonald and became an iconic play-by-play broadcaster for the inaugural Los Angeles Kings, and later the Atlanta Flames.

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Canadiens Take It to The Rangers And Play A Fine, Fine Game

 

I’d say there’s a lot of things to smile about tonight. This solid 6-2 win over the NY Rangers had to be the Canadiens’ best game of the season. Everyone contributed, and although Alex Kovalev has now gone 15 games without a goal, he was effective and creative, and at least managed an assist.

 

From the beginning, when Bobby Rousseau, Pocket Rocket, Guy Lafleur and others including old Rangers greats like Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell, were introduced, it was an outstanding night. This was the first time I’d seen Rousseau in about 35 years. Lafleur got the chant, and everyone was applauded heartily. And rightfully so, Pocket got a standing ovation. If I could’ve been there, I would have been proud to give this little big man a big thank you.

 

And the team, for a nice, delightful change, was smoking.

 

This is the Montreal Canadiens we’ve been waiting for. Andrei Kostitysn has come alive, coincidently since his brother Sergei was sat down a couple of games ago. The grinders, Maxim Lapierre and Steve Begin, continue to pick it up a notch and this is a huge turn of events. Newcomer Matt D’Agostini scored again for the second night, and added an assist. And Georges Laraque earned his first point of the season with an assist on Lapierre’s second period goal.

 

There were no dumb penalties, no serious turnovers, no blunders whatsoever. It looks like a team coming together, and D’Agostini has produced while underachievers Guillaume Latendresse, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Ryan O’Byrne sit in the press box and think that maybe they should have done a bit better job.

 

The team seems to have tightened up, turned a corner, stepped it up, and maybe, just maybe, are fed up with their lacklustre start to the season and have decided to do something about it.

 

Let’s see a continuation of this Saturday when the New Jersey Devils are in town. I don’t even mind that I have to go to work tonight for a graveyard shift. This game has made my day.   

 

Game Notes:

 

The Canadiens wore the uniform of the 1915-1916 Habs, the team that won the first of 24 Stanley Cups. And Carey Price wore pads and gloves resembling the old leather ones, although these are state of the art, unlike the ones worn by Georges Vezina who was the goalie back then.

 

TSN’s Sportcentre listed their top ten Montreal Canadiens and I have no qualms with these choices.

 

1.  Maurice Richard

2. Jean Beliveau

3. Doug Harvey

4. Guy Lafleur

5. Howie Morenz

6. Jacques Plante

7. Patrick Roy

8. Larry Robinson

9. Henri Richard

10. Ken Dryden

 

 

 

Jacques Plante Thought It Would Be Nice To Have A Face

All you have to do is sit behind the net to fully understand why goaltenders wear masks. It’s not hard to figure out. They wear masks because they want to have a reasonably normal face to look at in the mirror. They also want to remain alive.

 That little black rubber puck hurts. When you sit behind the net, you see that the thing explodes off sticks, ricochets like bullets off steel and often is virtually impossible to see. It’s like batting against Nolan Ryan, and every pitch is at your head. Yes, there’s no doubt about it. A puck can do serious damage to a goalie’s movie star good looks.

 So imagine the time when goaltenders didn’t wear masks. It was a time when teeth were lost, cheekbones and noses flattened, and they lived in fear. It was rarely a problem when they could see the puck–they could handle that. It was the time when they couldn’t see it, when it was deflected or hard to find, that it became scary. Then, they knew the infirmary was only down the corridor.

 But in 1959, one goalie, against his coach’s wishes, finally put the mask on, because he was sick of looking in the mirror and seeing blood and bandages. His name was Jacques Plante, and every goaltender of every age, in every rink in every town, should say a quiet thank you to the man.

 Plante was a different kind of a guy, as goaltenders can be sometimes. He wasn’t particularly close to most of his teammates, and many wondered about his hobby. When Harvey and the Rocket and Boom Boom were playing poker and having beers, Plante was knitting scarves and sweaters. They would wonder about that. But they never had to wonder about him on the ice, because he happened to be one of the greatest of all time and he helped his team win. So they let him be with his knitting.

 But coach Toe Blake was another matter. Blake didn’t like Plante or his individual streak. He hated when the goalie would roam almost to the blueline with the puck. He didn’t understand the knitting. And there was no way in the world this coach was going to let his crazy goalie put on a mask. No way. Too cowardly.

 But Plante had been toying for awhile with different ideas and styles of facewear and would sometimes try one out in practice, probably when Blake wasn’t around. But during games, it would remain in the dressing room. It just wasn’t time.

 Everything changed in 1959 when Plante and his team were in New York. The Rangers at the time had a sharpshooter named Andy Bathgate, who had perfected one of the first slapshots, and his was like a cannon, hard and heavy. In the game, Bathgate wound up and his shot smashed into Plante’s face. The goalie was helped off the ice, spent 20 minutes in the clinic, was stitched up, and then announced he was ready to go back out. Only this time, with his sweater caked in blood, he was wearing his mask. Blake let him be, and in the games following the one in New York –with his mask on– Plante was still a star, and the mask stayed.

 Jacques Plante wasn’t the first to try the mask. Clint Benedict had put one on in 1930, but found it uncomfortable and quickly took it off. But Plante was the first to wear one on a permanent basis. He showed guts to defy his coach.

 But pucks hurt, and this was a goalie who was tired of that.