Tag Archives: Bill Durnan

The Rocket And The No. 9 Thing

Recently on Hockey Night in Canada, host Ron Maclean told viewers a little story about how Maurice Richard asked to change his number from 15 to 9 during the 1942-43 season in honour of his new baby girl Hugette, who weighed in at 9 pounds.

Wikipedia also says the same thing. Along with everywhere else you look.

But the number 9 must have already held a soft spot in Rocket’s heart, because as you can see in the lineup below, he was wearing it when he was playing senior hockey, a year before he joined the big club.

Is it possible that the traditional claim from Maclean, books, and the Internet, about choosing 9 because of his baby’s weight at birth, is strictly something that took on a life of its own over the years?

Not that I want to throw cold water on the time-honoured story.

Here’s my program from the 1941-42 season in the Quebec Senior Hockey League, featuring a game between the Montreal Senior Canadiens and the Montreal Royals. Further down, the Rocket in the lineup for the Senior Canadiens, a year before he joined the Habs, and with his number 9.

Maybe he simply liked the number, and along with his 9-pound baby, convinced himself that he wouldn’t mind having it again.

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Also playing on this particular night for the Montreal Royals was Bill Durnan, who of course became a legendary goalie for the Canadiens shortly after, from 1943 to 1950, and Glen Harmon, number 12 for the senior Canadiens, who joined the Habs the following season and played for them from 1942-51.

Below, from my scrapbook, the Richard family circa 1958.

From left to right, Maurice Jr, Hugette, Lucille, dad and Suzanne, Norman (who’s my age, and whom I spoken to on the phone a couple of times), and Andre. Two others, Paul and Jean, had yet to arrive.

Lots In The Lineups

You can look at the Nov. 25, 1950 program lineups for the Habs and Leafs and see a few cool things.

This was Montreal’s 20th game of the season, and they would lose 4-1 to the Leafs in Toronto on this night. (Okay, that wasn’t so cool).

Gerry McNeil is in goal for Montreal in his rookie year after Bill Durnan retired after the previous season.

Number 5 for Toronto is Bill Barilko, who would score the legendary Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal for the Leafs in game 5, against these same Habs, to cap off the season. Barilko would be killed that summer when his plane crashed in Northern Ontario.

Hal Laycoe, number 12 for the Habs, would be traded to Boston later this season and was a major player in the 1955 Richard Riot.

Rocket Richard has ten goals at this point, more than anybody else on the team.

Habs #14 Billy Reay would eventually coach for 16 NHL seasons, two with Toronto and 14 in Chicago. I have a game-used stick of his from two years prior to this, signed by the entire Habs team.

Elmer Lach, number 16, is still playing and would play three more years after this.

Golly gee willikers, that’s Howie Meeker, number 11 for the Torontonians.

And Turk Broda, who was at the opening ceremonies for the brand new Orillia Arena that year, has one more shutout than McNeil at this point.

 

 

 

If The Gloves Fit, It Must Be It

Derry has probably solved the question of who the little tin goalie is because of the identical gloves on each hand. Bill Durnan was ambidextrous and would at times switch hands.

I had compared Durnan’s photos to the tin man yesterday and decided it wasn’t him. But I was going by the face, not the gloves. The gloves were the key. I had actually decided, from my Bee Hives, that the tin man’s face resembled Emile Bouchard’s more than anyone in my Been Hive collection. Especially the hair.

Way to go, Derry. You %$#&*^.

Now I suppose I have to buy him a beer when he shows up in Powell River next year.

This is the Beehive that made me think it wasn’t Durnan.

And this is the Beehive that made me decide that maybe it was Butch. Although it might have been even closer if he wasn’t smiling.

 

A Glimpse Of Gerry McNeil

As we await the Habs’ obliteration of the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, I thought I would give a brief intermission look at a friendly, popular, and important member of the Montreal Canadiens from days gone by. 

The photo above shows early 1950’s Habs’ goaltender Gerry McNeil playing for his St. Fidele bantam team in Limolou, Quebec circa 1939. That’s him in the Canadiens sweater wearing the pads.

Gerry McNeil began his career in the late 1940’s as a backup goaltender behind the legendary Bill Durnan, but when Durnan retired due to nerves in 1950, McNeil became the number one goalie and stayed that way until Jacques Plante took over in 1954.

McNeil was in the nets when Bill Barilko scored his famous overtime goal for the Leafs in 1951, which you can see in the clip below, and is part of one of the most famous hockey photographs of all time, the Barilko goal. But I’m sure the Habs goalie, who passed away in 2004 at age 78, would have preferred his historic photo to be under different circumstances.

(Below the video is the famous Barilko photo which I know most of you have already seen but I feel I’d be remiss in not including it).

The Old Program Sits On A Shelf

The old program sits on a shelf in my spare room (a room I’ll show you very soon), and it’s quite a program if I do say so myself.

It’s from the 1941-42 season in the Quebec Senior Hockey League featuring a game between the Montreal Senior Canadiens and the Montreal Royals, and what’s especially unique is seeing Maurice Richard in the lineup for the Senior Canadiens, a year before he joined the Habs.

You may have heard that when the Rocket joined the Habs he was wearing number 15, but when his first child Huguette was born, weighing in at nine pounds, Rocket asked if he could change to number nine in honour of his baby girl.

But the number nine must have already had a soft spot in his heart, because as you can see, he was wearing it when he was playing senior hockey.

Also playing on this particular night for the Montreal Royals was Bill Durnan, who of course became a legendary goalie for the Canadiens shortly after, from 1943 to 1950, and Glen Harmon, number 12 for the senior Canadiens, who joined the Habs the following season and played for them from 1942-51.

I Was Cold (And Mildly-Warm Other Things)

Yes, I know there are wars and strife and you have your own many problems, but I just want to say that I dealt with really uncomfortable air-conditioning today and you just might start thinking that your own lives aren’t so bad after all.

The ferry was freezing, the doctor’s office was freezing, the Telus office was freezing, the restaurant was freezing, and the ride back on the ferry was freezing.

You tell me. Are your problems so bad now?

But this is a Habs blog, at least until the NHL shuts down for a year, so here’s the important Habs stuff for today:

I’m reading Net Worth which I think every hockey fan should read if you haven’t already as it deals with the corruption and greed of owners and others over the years, with Alan Eagleson getting his share of ink of course, and in a memo from Frank Selke to his Montreal owners, he described Jacques Plante as “almost a mental case in his exalted ego and we must give serious thought to a replacement as he is not very amenable to discipline.” Another star’s “I.Q” is so low that we must not let ourselves count too highly on him.” Bernie Geoffrion “can’t even check his suitcase.” Dickie Moore was a “disappointing worker at training camp and as you know I had quite a session with him at contract-signing time.”

What a nasty memo. The book also details the viciousness of Detroit GM Jack Adams and naturally, good old Conn Smythe in Toronto. These people, and others, acted like children, were ruthless, cheap bastards who manipulated every person who came into their lives. They stole, lied, cheated, and connived, all for the almighty buck. 

I don’t know whether Gary Bettman looks good or bad compared to them.  

James Norris Sr, a man who virtually controlled hockey at one time, although he’s barely remembered, had a great-grandfather who injured his leg in a logging accident and amputated it himself.

I got this picture to go with my Billy Reay stick. This is the 1948-49 Montreal Canadiens – Butch Bouchard is the captain on the left just beside Bill Durnan, and that’s coach Dick Irvin over on the other side. (Give it a click, it’ll get bigger). My stick is signed by pretty well everybody in the picture. Billy Reay is three over from Irvin. I wonder if that’s my stick.

I think there should be this kind of team picture nowadays. Even if just from time to time. Players standing like that. Something different.

This Is A Stick-Up

Yes indeed, this is the stick. The one I just bought at auction and which I’ve mentioned before. But here it is in one of my rooms which makes the story new, sort of.

Classic Auctions describes as having “great Hall of Fame pedigree” and that in itself makes me all teary-eyed and goofy. The stick alone is a fine specimen, but what really puts it over the top are the names on it. It’s been signed by 17 members of the 1948-49 team and they are, if you don’t mind and not bored already – Elmer Lach, Ed Dorohoy, Billy Reay, Joe Carveth, Rip Riopelle, Ken Mosdell, Bob Fillion, Doug Harvey, Jacques Locas, Bill Durnan, George Robertson, Dick Irvin, Hal Laycoe, Ken Reardon, Maurice Richard, Emile Bouchard, and Murph Chamberlain.

Lach’s signature is the only one really faded and hard to see. Doug Harvey signed with a fine-point pen but is there in all its glory but you have to look for it.

Some folks get excited when they buy a new lawn mower or a nice pair of cowboy boots. Habs ‘Hall of Fame pedigree’ things like my new old stick, yellowed and well-used, is what I prefer.

Maybe We Only Live Once, So I Splurged

The billionaire developer who bought the Paul Henderson jersey wasn’t the only one who got what he was after in the recent Classic Collectables Auction.

I bought something too! For $330. (plus the usual extra fees.)

You should know that I’m not a rich man by any stretch. Heck, my wife and I might have to live in a tent when we’re retired, or in Hobo’s spare room near Peterborough. But I was watching the auction carefully, I had my eyes on one thing in particular, and I told myself that if  the thing didn’t go crazy, I’d dearly love to get my hands on it.

With my wife’s blessing, I was going to go for it and work a little overtime here and there and not eat for a month so it wouldn’t hurt too much.

I splurged and bought a beauty.

I was the winning bidder of Billy Reay’s game-used stick from the time he played on the 1948-49 Montreal Canadiens, (he was leading point-getter for the Habs that year, ahead of the Rocket, 45 to 38), and it’s signed by most of the team including the very rare and valuable signatures of coach Dick Irvin and goalie Bill Durnan, along with Doug Harvey, Maurice Richard, Reay, Murph Chamberlain, Elmer Lach, Butch Bouchard, Ken Reardon, George Robertson, Ed Dorohoy, Joe Carveth, Howard Riopelle, Ken Mosdell, Bob Fillion, and Jacques Locas.

To me, it’s a Hall of Fame piece and I’m very proud.

And if you think I’m nuts, think again. Two years ago I paid $200 for a ticket stub from game eight of the 1972 Summit Series in Moscow and one similar to mine but not as nice just sold for $4000 in this recent auction. There’s been other times too where I’ve come out far ahead.

Magic In Montreal. Halak And Gang Provide Thrills And Spills

When was the last time you saw goaltending like that? And when was the last time you felt such energy, belief, and love for the team from the great fans at the Bell Centre?

The Canadiens made magic in this game six, beating the Capitals 4-1, evening the series, and creating a monstrous game seven. They won the game with heart, desire, and hard work. Jaroslav Halak put on a performance matching Bill Durnan and Jacques Plante to Gump Worsley, Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy. Simply put and understated, Halak put on one of the finest goaltending displays you will ever see.

Add Mike Cammalleri’s two first-period goals, another late by Max Lapierre, an empty-netter by Tomas Plekanec, combined with the penalty killers killing every Caps power play including a two-man advantage by Washington late in the first period, and you have all the ingredients of a greater-than-great win that not only ties the series but brings the whole thing together after all the trials and tribulations of a rocky and depressing regular season.

This was the most outstanding Habs game of the year, regardless of the onslaught by the Caps in the second period. And regardless of the shots on goal (54-22), Montreal didn’t just win because of out-of-this-world goaltending. The team played well – Maxim Lapierre was a demon, and young PK Subban won’t have to worry about paying a restaurant bill in Montreal for awhile. This is the new toast of the town. He was excellent, showing poise and confidence as he skated and rushed with the puck, and seemed to thrive in the Forum-like atmosphere that was thick like fog.

Random Notes:

Rarely do you see a diving call in a game. Montreal had three tonight, two by Lapierre and one by Brian Gionta, and all three were, in my humble estimation, silly, borderline calls.

Will Jose Theodore return to the Washington nets Wednesday?