Tag Archives: Andy O’Brien

How The Habs Were Born

And how were the Habs born? Let’s go to Andy O’Brien’s 1967 book, ‘Fire-Wagon Hockey’, later to become ‘Les Canadiens’ (I have both), which has original Canadiens owner J. Ambrose O’Brien’s own recollections of what happened.

First, from the author Andy O’Brien – “On that chill November 25, 1909, J. Ambrose O’Brien was in Montreal buying supplies for a railway contract on the St. Maurice River. He also owned the Cobalt and Haileybury teams in the miners-supported, rip-snorting Temiskaming League. He received a phone call from the owners (George and Jim Barnett) of the Renfrew Millionaires, suggesting he apply for a franchise in the established league, renamed the Canadian Hockey Association.

And this is Ambrose O’Brien describing how it all went down.

“My application was laughed at in Room 135 of the Windsor Hotel where the new CHA was meeting. Out in the hall I ran into General Manager J. Gardner of the Wanderers who said: ‘Why don’t we form a new league – you own Cobalt and Haileybury and represent Renfrew, while I have the Wanderers?” So we held a meeting Room 129.”

At that meeting, Gardner had another idea. He said to O’Brien:

“Why don’t you get together a French team here in Montreal to balance off the Wanderers with a French-English rivalry?”

O’Brien, surprised, replied: “But I don’t know any French players here.”

“So what?” came back Gardiner. “I do. in fact, all you’d have to do is back Jack Laviolette financially and the team will be formed for you.”

So the National Hockey Association came into being in Room 129 – made up of the Wanderers, Renfrew, Cobalt, Haileybury, and a team to be known as Les Canadiens.

J. Ambrose told the author: “My total investment in forming the great Canadiens club was $5000. I paid nothing for the franchise; that amount was for expenses including guaranteeing of player salaries. The understanding was that the Canadiens’ franchise would be turned over to French sportsmen in Montreal as soon as practicable.” (The O’Brien interests withdrew from hockey two years later.)

The Canadiens played their first game on January 5, 1910. They won 7-6 over Cobalt.

It took the Canadiens six years to build from the NHA bottom to the Stanley Cup top.

The author also issues this footnote: “Confusion between J. Ambrose O’Brien and the author often enters because of an interesting coincidence. Both were born in Renfrew, Ont. When Ambrose took over the Millionaires, the author’s late father, Bill O’Brien, was the team trainer. Bill had started a thirty year career as a major league trainer extending through the NHL to baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers. But the two O’Brien families are not related.

McKenzie Earns An Elmer

Congratulations to the always excellent and insightful Bob McKenzie for winning this year’s Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award, his profession’s highest honour, and which puts him Hall of Fame bound.

McKenzie is an absolutely deserving recipient, a guy at the top of his game, and the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) thinks so too.

There’s no word yet on whether P.J. Stock will take home the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for Excellence in Sports Broadcasting.

Below, a letter I have from Mr. Ferguson to Emile Dion in Quebec City, dated 1929.

 

Elmer

Elmer Ferguson, born in 1885 and deceased in 1972, was the sports editor for the now-defunct Montreal Herald, a newspaper in existence from 1811 to 1957. That’s quite a run. 146 years.

Elmer also did color commentary on radio broadcasts, first with the Montreal Maroons between 1933 and 1938, and then the Habs from 1938 to 1967. He worked alongside the late, great Danny Gallivan in later years.

Mr. Ferguson, who has signed the letter using fountain pen, was inducted into the media section of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982, and the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award is given each year to a journalist “in recognition of distinguished members of the newspaper profession whose words have brought honour to journalists and to hockey“.

Among those honoured are the likes of Jacques Beauchamp, Red Burnett, Trent Frayne, Red Fisher, Andy O’Brien, Michael Farber, and Roy MacGregor, and now McKenzie joins the pack.

The man mentioned in the letter, Cooper Smeaton, was a referee and the NHL’s first referee-in-chief when the league was formed in 1917. He was inducted into the referee/linesmen section of the Hall of Fame in 1961.

Elmer Ferguson’s Letter

Recently I added two original letters to my collection. I’ll put the other up later on because spacing things out is my new mental health strategy. Sometimes it’s good to be spaced out.

I’ve got a bunch of cool letters and I’m very happy about this one, a beauty from 1929 on Montreal Herald letterhead from the one and only Elmer Ferguson, who was a long time editor of the Herald, later a Gazette columnist, and a guy an important award is named after.

I love old letters. Nobody sends me any, so I’ve resorted to collecting other people’s. Of course, I don’t write letters either but that’s beside the point.

I’ve added a small story about Elmer below it

Elmer

Elmer Ferguson, born in 1885 and deceased in 1972, was the sports editor for the now-defunct Montreal Herald, a newspaper in existence from 1811 to 1957. That’s quite a run. 146 years.

Elmer also did color commentary on radio broadcasts, first with the Montreal Maroons between 1933 and 1938, and then the Habs from 1938 to 1967. He worked alongside the late, great Danny Gallivan in later years.

Mr. Ferguson, who has signed the letter using fountain pen, was inducted into the media section of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982, and the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award is given each year to a journalist “in recognition of distinguished members of the newspaper profession whose words have brought honour to journalists and to hockey“.

Those given this big time award are automatically placed in the Hall of Fame, and among the many honoured are the likes of Jacques Beauchamp, Red Burnett, Trent Frayne, Red Fisher, Andy O’Brien, Michael Farber, and Roy MacGregor, all writers I’ve admired greatly over the years.

The man mentioned in the letter, Cooper Smeaton, was a referee and the NHL’s first referee-in-chief when the league was formed in 1917. He was inducted into the referee/linesmen section of the Hall of Fame in 1961.

Babbling On

In this week’s TSN Rookie Rankings, Brendan Gallagher is number one and Alex Galchenyuk number three. The last time I posted this type of thing, on February 20th, Galchenyuk was one and Gallagher two. What a dynamic duo!

Interesting enough, Nail Yakupov is currently way down at 26, and TSN describes the number one overall pick as “cold – one point in the last six games.”

Boston lost to Pittsburgh last night, which eats up one of the games-in-hand the Bruins have on the Canadiens. So the Bruins have now played just two games less than the Habs and hopefully they get smoked whenever they do make up these extra two.

For all you Scott Gomez fans, the San Jose Shark now has two goals and four assists. He’s also a minus five.

Darth told me he saw P.K. Subban and another guy walking down the street near the Bell Centre the morning after the team got back from Florida. Darth and P.K. said hello to each other, and Claude Julien, who happened to be across the street, yelled over that P.K. really embellished the hello. (I made up that last part).

When the NHL was first thinking about introducing the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP, they considered calling it the Bill Barilko Trophy in honour of the great Leafs defenceman who died in a plane crash in Northern Ontario just months after scoring the Cup winner against the Habs in 1951.

The next bunch of games for the Habs goes like this: The Senators visit tonight, on Saturday the Canadiens are in New Jersey, then it’s back home to greet the Sabres on Tuesday. So needless to say, three wins is the task at hand. We need Bourque, Diaz, and Prust to get fixed pronto. PAGING DR. RECCHI.

Yes, I know they don’t play a lot of minutes, but I think it’s okay to complain a little about Colby Armstrong with zero goals and three assists in 26 games played, and Ryan White with one goal and no assists after 18 games. All we ask is that they find themselves on the scoresheet just a tad more.

Montreal journalist Andy O’Brien (d. 1987), who was around when Howie Morenz played, once said that Morenz was like a compact version of Bobby Hull.

You can see Bobby Hull in this game below, a Leafs-Hawks tilt that took place almost exactly 52 years ago. There’s a big brawl here, and Bob Nevin ties it up for the Leafs with just over a minute left. Luci and I were at a neat luncheon in Toronto a couple of years ago and I was introduced to Nevin, who was standing at the bar.

 

 

 

 

 

I Helped With The Program

I was eleven and the greatest thing in the history of things was going to happen.

Rocket Richard was coming to Orillia to skate around and drop pucks on a big night at the arena.

Somehow, the Orillia Packet and Times sports writer found out about my scrapbook and phoned my house and asked my mom and me if he could use one of my Maurice Richard photos in the program. We said yes, of course, and that’s it on the back of the program, signed by Rocket, although his pen was running out of ink. (I also used the opportunity to have Rocket sign my book “Rocket Richard” by Andy O’Brien, that I had just got for Christmas.)

As a thank you for the use of my picture, the sports writer gave me the original photo of Rocket signing the guest book at Orillia City Hall.

 

J. Ambrose O’Brien And His $5000 Montreal Canadiens

There’s been some good blog talk lately regarding the origins of the Montreal Canadiens, and the fact that Andy O’Brien’s book, “Fire-Wagon Hockey” later to become “Les Canadiens”, has original Canadiens owner J. Ambrose O’Brien’s own recollections of what happened.

 

I have both books, and they both print Ambrose’s memories of how it happened.

 

“On that chill November 25, 1909, J. Ambrose O’Brien was in Montreal buying supplies for a railway contract on the St. Maurice River. He also owned the Cobalt and Haileybury teams in the miners-supported, rip-snorting Temiskaming League. He received a phone call from the owners (George and Jim Barnett) of the Renfrew Millionaires, suggesting he apply for a franchise in the established league, renamed the Canadian Hockey Association.

 

This is Ambrose O’Brien’s recollection of what happened when he did apply.

 

“My application was laughed at in Room 135 of the Windsor Hotel where the new CHA was meeting. Out in the hall I ran into General Manager J. Gardner of the Wanderers who said: ‘Why don’t we form a new league – you own Cobalt and Haileybury and represent Renfrew, while I have the Wanderers?” So we held a meeting Room 129.”

 

At that meeting, Gardner had another idea. He said to O’Brien:

“Why don’t you get together a French team here in Montreal to balance off the Wanderers with a French-English rivalry?”

 

O’Brien, surprised, replied: “But I don’t know any French players here.”

 

“So what?” came back Gardiner. “I do. in fact, all you’d have to do is back Jack Laviolette financially and the team will be formed for you.”

 

So the National Hockey Association came into being in Room 129 – made up of the Wanderers, Renfrew, Cobalt, Haileybury, and a team to be known as Les Canadiens.

 

J. Ambrose told the author: “My total investment in forming the great Canadiens club was $5000. I paid nothing for the franchise; that amount was for expenses including guaranteeing of player salaries. The understanding was that the Canadiens’ franchise would be turned over to French sportsmen in Montreal as soon as practicable.” (The O’Brien interests withdrew from hockey two years later.)

 

The Canadiens played their first game on January 5, 1910. They won 7-6 over Cobalt.

 

It took the Canadiens six years to build from the NHA bottom to the Stanley Cup top.

 

The author also issues this footnote: “Confusion between J. Ambrose O’Brien and the author often enters because of an interesting coincidence. Both were born in Renfrew, Ont. When Ambrose took over the Millionaires, the author’s late father, Bill O’Brien, was the team trainer. Bill had started a thirty year career as a major league trainer extending through the NHL to baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers. But the two O’Brien families are not related.