Tag Archives: Bernie Geoffrion

Heroes and Dreams

001More than a hundred years of heroes and dreams. Of men donning the sweater and hitting the ice. The years of kids watching and reading about, dreaming and becoming. From the time Didier Pitre took a pass from Jack Laviolette and slid it over to Newsy Lalonde, little boys donned the sweater, the bleu, blanc, et rouge, and they became Pitre and Lalonde and all those who came later. kids-sweater1-150x150

From the days of Georges Vezina stopping pucks for Les Canadiens, little kids wanted to stop pucks too, on lakes and ponds and old rinks throughout, and when they wore the sweater, they made the saves with people cheering them, and for all those winter nights near their homes, they were Georges Vezina.

Like magic they became Howie Morenz and Aurele Joliat, Toe Blake and George Hainsworth. They wore the sweater on nights so cold it should’ve been illegal, slapping old rubber balls into snowbanks, stopping cow pies on slews, deking friends and sisters and little kids on the pond. wearing the red or white sweater with the simple and beautiful CH crest sewn on front.004

They became the Rocket, and Lach, Bouchard and Harvey, and they saw the game in their dreams. Behind the skaters they were Durnan and Plante crouched by the net, and when the time came, they were the Boomer and Big Jean scoring on the power play. It unfolded at the Forum and the Olympia and Conn Smythe’s old barn and the outdoor rink frozen in winter at the baseball field. And kids heard them on the radio and saw them in black and white and shuffled their bubblegum cards, wearing the sweater and becoming anyone they wanted to be, just when they wanted to be. 003

The wore the sweater when the Pocket Rocket wouldn’t give up the puck, when the Boomer boomed, and when the Gumper kicked out his pads. They opened boxes at Christmas and there was one to put on right away, and they were Ken Dryden and Lafleur and the Big Bird. And their kids and kid brothers wore the sweater when Patrick Roy and Carbo and then Kovalev and Koivu graced the ice. And now, new guard is in place, and kids are becoming them too.

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They said goodbye to the Forum and to the Rocket and all those others who went when it was time and when it wasn’t time, and they wiped little drops of tears from their sweater. And they smiled and clapped and looked above as they watched the sweaters of their heroes raised triumphantly to the rafters.

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Every night now, the Bell Centre is packed with young and old, still wearing the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens. It’s been a dream for more than a hundred years. We are Georges, Howie, the Rocket and Guy. We’re Patrick and Saku and Price and Gally.

We wear the sweater whether we have a sweater or not, and we continue to hope.002

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More Lovely Habs Wives

Photos from my old scrapbook, which I still open from time time.

Bernie ‘Boom Boom’ Geoffrion with his wife Marlene and kids. That little gaffer is Danny, who went on to play for the Habs in the late ’70s, early ’80s. Marlene is the daughter of Howie Morenz, so she’s a hockey gal through and through. She looks beautiful, especially in that white blouse.

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Big Jean Beliveau doing the dishes with wife Elise. Elise said she had to do most of the driving when they were dating because Jean was a lousy driver.

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Jacques Plante, with wife Jacqueline and boys Michel and Richard, singing and forgetting about flying pucks that hurt when they hit the face. Plante also liked to knit, and made his own socks and toques.

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Dickie Moore and his lovely wife playing with their little baby. Such a fine looking couple. One of Moore’s daughters, and it could be the one in this photo, eventually dated one of Doug Harvey’s son. (I never heard how that worked out).

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Bert Olmstead showing his beautiful family his scrapbook. Scrapbooks were all the rage back then, and probably very cool when the scrapbook was about yourself. Years ago I looked up Olmstead in the Calgary phone book, phoned him and asked him if he’d mind talking about the old days with the Habs. He hung up on me.

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This is Maurice Richard, of course, just sitting around with his wife Lucille and the family. The kids are Maurice Jr., Hugette, Normand, Andre, and Suzanne. In the top photo, the Rocket shows his Rocket scrapbook to Normand and Andre. Most kids don’t have dads with a personal scrapbook. However, my dad was probably a much better sign painter than the Rocket.

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Henri Richard and his lovely wife Lise, being happy and healthy at home in Montreal. We would see Lise often over the years in camera shots at games with the Pocket, and she always looked great, that’s for sure.

Henri was just a little kid when his older brother was becoming a star with the Canadiens.

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One of the most important players on the Habs in the early 1960s, and a third and fourth line grinder at that – Dave Balon and his beautiful wife of whose name I don’t know. I wish I did.

Sadly, Balon passed away in 2007 from MS, and of course it was way too early because he was only 68.

Balon was one of those guys who was never a star, but was a hard worker, a checker, and he shone in playoff situations, scoring key goals, and was put out often in key situations against the other teams’ stars. For every Jean Beliveau, a team needs a Dave Balon. He wore number 20, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s never gotten enough credit for what he did for the Montreal Canadiens.

Look how happy they look, especially his wife.

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Ralph Backstrom and his wife Frances and kids.

After Backstrom’s playing days were over, he ended up coaching the University of Denver team, founded a roller hockey league in the late ’90s, and in 2003, the Colorado Eagles of the Central Hockey League.

Backstrom was always one of my favourite players. I even got a brush cut like his once. The guy personified the Montreal Canadien teams he played on – speedy, classy, and a beautiful skater. Like me except for most of that.

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Canadiens goaltender Charlie Hodge and lovely wife Sheila. Charlie had the unfortunate luck of being on the same team as Jacques Plante, so he was often a backup goalie with the Habs early on. But he would win the Vezina outright in 1963-64 and shared the Vezina with Gump Worsley in ’65-66. He eventually went to Oakland when expansion came into being in 1967, as each team had to surrender a goalie for the new upstarts (the original six teams were allowed to protect only 11 skaters and one goalie).

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John Ferguson with wife Jean and daughter in this really nice family photo. As much as Fergie was a bruiser on the ice, he was known as a gentle pushover at home.

Fergie and family would go back to Nanaimo BC in the off-season where he played professional lacrosse, and he also had a long-time love affair with harness racing.

 

Partying at Butch’s

Circa 1954 Canadiens players and their ladies get together at Butch Bouchard’s Cabaret in Montreal to enjoy some pops and chuckles.

I love this photo. It took some digging to find the names of some of the wives, and I’m not sure who some of the couples are.

Otherwise, around the table are Doug and Ursula Harvey in foreground, Bouchard (in glasses with wife Marie-Claire), Elmer Lach, Gerry and Theresa McNeil, Bernie and Marlene Geoffrion (being served by the waiter), Ken and Lorraine Mosdell across from the Geoffrions, and Maurice and Lucille Richard up by the Harveys.

A happy bunch letting off steam.

 

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Papa Got A Brand New Team

I’m a Habs fan, born and raised in Orillia, Ont, which is Leafs country I suppose, considering it’s only an hour and a half north of Toronto. I’m a fan and my old man had a lot to do with it.

My dad, who served in the Canadian army overseas in WWll, was a hockey fan most of his life, although his enthusiasm waned as he aged, which I understand more and more. He followed the Leafs when he was young, and once wrote a letter in the 1930s to Ace Bailey, who lay in a hospital after Boston’s Eddie Shore clubbed him over the head, ending his career, and nearly killing him.

Bailey’s wife wrote back and thanked him.

Later though, my dad began to change his mind about his team. The Toronto Star and Telegram both plastered their papers with Leafs stories and my dad would complain. It was always “Leafs, Leafs, Leafs” he used to say. Broadcaster Foster Hewitt was the definitive homer, and this rubbed dad the wrong way. And pops was a quiet fellow and wasn’t crazy about the brash, loud, and arrogant Leafs owner Conn Smythe.

In the 1950s, with television entering households, it was usually only Leafs game shown, and when the Montreal Canadiens played in Toronto, my dad liked what he saw on his TV. There was the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, and Plante. Magical names. Stanley Cups began to be won by the Habs on a regular basis, and the Leafs just kept plodding along. The Canadiens had something the Leafs didn’t.

When I was a boy he started a big Montreal Canadiens scrapbook for me. He helped me write fan letters to the Rocket, and at one point, Rocket sent me a Christmas card. He took me to Maple Leaf Gardens a couple of times, and once, when we were really early and stood at the gate, the Canadiens players walked right by us.

He bought me a hockey book for Christmas which he mailed to Montreal asking for autographs, and it was mailed back signed by the entire 1957-58 Habs – Richard, Plante, coach Toe Blake, Beliveau, Geoffrion etc, with Doug Harvey’s as the only signature missing. Later when we went to a game at the Gardens, he brought the book with him, took it down to the Montreal dressing room corridor, saw Toe Blake standing there, and asked Blake if he would take the book into the dressing room and get Harvey to sign it.

Believe it not, Blake did just that.

Thanks dad.

Ralph Backstrom Was The Guy

He was all the things I knew were good in life – he skated like the wind, had a great brush cut and a pretty wife, and he wore the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens.

What’s better than that?

This was Ralph Backstrom, and I wanted to be just like him. I knew I wasn’t going to be another Rocket or Beliveau or Geoffrion, but I thought maybe I could be like Backstrom. And I wasn’t even on drugs when I thought this.

It meant getting a brush cut and trying to look like him when I watched him on TV taking faceoffs and darting up the ice with the puck. I could do that and I did. I got the brush cut.

Ralph came out of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, a little town in northern Ontario that churned out NHL players in abnormal fashion, having produced him and Ted Lindsay, Mike Walton, Dick Duff, Mickey and Dick Redmond, Wayne and Larry Hillman, the Plagers, and many others.

About 30 in all. That’s a lot of players.

Ralph was a phenom in Kirkland Lake minor hockey, and became captain and the best of the powerhouse Hull-Ottawa Canadiens juniors before he joined the big club. He had it all, I thought. I gotta practice more, I thought.

I admired the way Ralph Backstrom played, the way he skated and was so solid both as a playmaker and a checker. And I loved the way he and rival Dave Keon of the enemy Leafs went head to head on glorious nights when the Habs and Leafs were what life was all about for Canadian kids from coast to coast.

This guy isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and when he played he sometimes got into coach Toe Blake’s bad books. But he was a great hockey player. Underrated maybe, but absolutely great.

And I wanted to be just like him and I was. I had the brush cut.

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Missed Habs/Sens Game

Couldn’t see the game, I’ve been incapacitated. I know that the Canadiens lost 4-3 in overtime but Lucy and I are in Kingston with my brother and his wife Kelly, painting the town red.

Maybe not painting the town red. But as red as you can get it when you’re an old bastard like me, dragging the other three down.

Also went to the OHL Major Junior A game between the hometown Frontenacs and visiting Belleville Bulls which saw Jordan Subban and the Bulls skate off with a convincing 4-2 win.

We sat right behind the Bulls bench, which was a fascinating experience for sure, and after Subban took a late-game penalty, his coach sent him to the dressing room like a kid to his room..

So I’ve been incapacitated. What a word. Sounds a bit like decapitated and constipated. Whatever way – incapacitated, decapitated, constipated – it’s tough to watch a game when you’re one of them.

In the meantime, because I’m incapacitated, here’s what I think is a cool photo.

It came up on eBay awhile back and I bid on it but didn’t win. Originally from the Richard family, it’s a picture of Maurice Richard at a Christmas party, looking like he’s having a fine time.

Boom Boom Geoffrion is on the far right, and although I don’t recognize the fellow in the middle, you can be assured that if he actually went through with the pouring of his drink on Rocket’s head, somebody in the house would be quickly calling for an ambulance.

Rocket and Boomer

 

More Of The Book

From time to time lately I’ve been showing pages from my old Habs scrapbook. Here’s more.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record MP3, just click on the photos to make ’em bigger.

Game Day

It’s game day, the Habs are in Tampa to meet the Lightning, and I guess I don’t really mind so much if they lose, but I at least want to see them play well while doing so. In fact, I’m praying they only blow a one-goal lead instead of the normal two.

So many nights this season, the team has been flat and soulless and uninspired, and now that it’s pretty well too late to worry about any playoffs, just seeing them give their all and battle like proud men would make it a worthwhile three hours of watching, which is time I could spend looking for my cat’s lost hedgehog toy.

But having said that, if they can win 19 straight, they’re back in the thick of things!

Also, if Scott (The Promise) Gomez can manage just 2.5263 goals per game from here on in, he’ll have 50, which would be the first time a Hab notched this many since Stephane Richer scored 51 during the 1989-90. But I’m not holding my breath. Not after buddy Andrei Kostitsyn was shipped out, which might slow down Gomez’ torrid pace somewhat. And like I said in an earlier post, The Promise will be promising big things for next year so we should just be content with that.

It seems Blake Geoffrion will be making his debut in a Canadiens uniform. I don’t mind saying that it’s going to tug at my heart strings to hear the name Geoffrion skating for the Montreal Canadiens again. Although it’ll be slightly different from “and it’s Geoffrion, over to Beliveau.”

 

When The All-Star Game Was A Serious Affair

The defending Stanley Cup champions used to line up against the best of the best of the league, and it was a serious event. The All-Stars were biting at the bit to beat the Cup champions, while it was a feather in the cap of the champs to best the all-stars.

This is much of the first two periods of 1963 All-Star game held in Toronto, and features Habs Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Henri Richard, and Claude Provost. Beliveau wears number 19, although it shows him standing at the blueline, prior to the opening faceoff, wearing number 4.

It’s quite something to see Beliveau, Gordie Howe, and Bobby Hull together as a line from time to time.

Foster’s Hewitt’s son Bill does the play-by-play.

A Tough Camp – Tougher Than Most

It’s training camp in the late 1950’s. Of course it was nearly impossible to crack a spot in a lineup like this, with Hall of Famers and Stanley Cups oozing out of the woodwork, but Bill Hicke became a regular in 1959 and Ralph Backstrom the season before. But when you have a team with the Rocket and Pocket, Beliveau, Moore, Geoffrion, Harvey, Plante, Johnson, etc, there just wasn’t much room left.

All in all, the roster was basically set before anyone even stepped on the ice at training camp, and many of these players in this photo would soon depart to the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, Montreal Royals, Quebec Aces, Cleveland Barons and others.