Tag Archives: Bernie Geoffrion

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.

Fathers And Sons – A Fine Photo

Jacques and Michel Plante, Maurice and Andre Richard, Bobby Geoffrion and dad Boomer, and Toe and Bruce Blake at what I think is the 1957 Christmas party. A couple of wives and a young figure skater are over to the right.

Rocket appears to be wearing a slipper. In November of 1957, he severed a tendon on his right ankle and was on the mend.

In this photo, the Rocket still hadn’t gained that final ten pounds or so that he carried with him in his last few years. He retired after leading his team to a fifth straight Stanley Cup in the spring of 1960.

A Fine-Looking Crew Paints The Town Red

Circa 1954 Canadiens’ players, wives and girlfriends get together at Butch Bouchard’s Cabaret to enjoy some pops and chuckles. Bouchard (in glasses), Maurice and Lucille Richard, Ken Mosdell, Doug Harvey, Elmer Lach and all the rest of this happy bunch let off some steam during those glorious days when the Habs were close to embarking on five straight Stanley Cups.

Just behind Bouchard and to the left of Elmer Lach is Gerry McNeil with wife Theresa. At the back, being served by the waiter, appears to be Bernie Geoffrion (with Marlene).

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