Tag Archives: Bobby Clarke

Game 6 – They Needed To Win

Part 10

And win they did, 3-2, with absolutely no help from German officials Franz Baader and Josef Kompalla , who seemed to love the idea of sending a parade of Canadians to the sin bin and were living proof that when it came to refereeing hockey games, Germany made great cars.

No matter. Team Canada allowed a Soviet goal, then scored three in a minute and a half to take control in all aspects. Even Ken Dryden played well and finally beat his nemesis Soviets for the first time since facing them years before as an amateur.

This game had finally given us a glimmer of hope. The team played with poise and passion, they came together and played like they knew they could, and Paul Henderson, in the series of his life, scored the winner on a long slap shot that surprised everyone from Vladivostok to Victoria.

One particular incident on this night must be mentioned. It was time to stop Valeri Kharlamov, and John Ferguson provided an ugly-yet-brutally effective solution. “I think he needs a tap on the ankle,” Fergy told Bobby Clarke, and Clarke proceeded to chop and crack the Soviet star’s ankle, rendering the Soviet star useless and out of the series until game eight, where he looked absolutely non-Kharlamovian. Not one of Team Canada’s finest moments, but at this point, it was win-at-all-costs, which I understand. Although this tactic underlined what many at home and abroad had screamed loud and hard about – that the Canadians were thugs and weren’t playing the game the way it should be played.

Of course, no one mentioned the Swedes’ stick work and diving in Stockholm, or the Soviets’ exaggerated theatrics and their own particular brand of whining. And critics made no heed of the off-ice nonsense regarding Canada’s steaks and cokes going missing, and phone calls in the middle of the night to their hotel rooms with no one on the other end. Frank Mahovlich became so unnerved by the fact that his room might be bugged that he checked under the carpet and discovered what he thought was a KGB bug. The Big M then unscrewed it and promptly heard a loud crash as he realized he’d unscrewed a ceiling light from the room below.

The series had transformed into a bizarre, stressful, and unreal game of cat and mouse, but most importantly for Team Canada and the nation behind them, the Soviets were beginning to show some important cracks. Team Canada felt this thing was far from over, and Phil Esposito, as focused now as any man could be, was leading the charge like no other could. Years later, Espo would even say that he wasn’t a violent man but he would have killed to win if it had come down to that.

Below, Bobby Clarke, Bill White, and Tony Esposito see the sights of Moscow with their wives, while John Ferguson inspects some Red Army soldiers.

A Deep Hole Dug In Moscow Opener

Part 9

The cameras panned the Palace of Sports at Luzhniki in Moscow, where fans, the majority men and soldiers, stared hard at the ice and at the long-haired Canadian players swooping around. What were these fans thinking about these foreigners? They saw the long hair, they saw Esposito and others they recognized. They would scan the stadium, watching the Canadian fans whooping and hollering, and they must have wondered.

Of course they were curious, because in 1972, long before perestroika and glasnost (restructuring and openness), this was a novelty of the first degree. Westerners live and in colour, something not often seen in their closed country, and names they knew only slightly glided around the ice below. To have seen NHL games in their homes meant sporatic action on television, with announcers who droned on, in the middle of the night broken up periodically by agriculture commercials and speeches from Leonid Brezhnev and other stonefaced leaders from the Politburo. The Russians definitely didn’t have Hockey Night in Canada, Sportsnet, or TSN going for them back then.

Opening night, game five in Moscow meant serious business. At this point, three Canadian players had decided to go home. Vic Hadfield, told he probably wouldn’t see any action in Moscow, felt he should be preparing for the NHL season with his Ranger teammates. Jocelyn Guevremont’s wife, who had come along with her husband on the trip, fell ill and needed to enter a hospital back home. And Rick Martin said he felt pressure from Sabres boss Punch Imlach to return and be with his Buffalo teammates. Gilbert Perreault would do the same shortly after.

Canada had won just once in Canada, and to lose again meant having to win the final three, which seemed as remote a possibility as seeing Lenin scratch himself in his Tomb at Red Square. It would take a miracle, even if Canada could somehow pull it out on this night and narrow the gap.

During the opening festivities on this night, young Russian ladies skated out with flowers, and as one came near Phil Esposito, a petal fell off the stem and floated to the ice. When Espo was introduced, he stepped on the petal and fell flat on his rear end, to the smiles and laughter of the crowd and both teams. He did an exaggerated bow, seemed to be fine about the whole thing, and maybe we were more embarrassed than he was. Regardless, to show the high esteem the Soviet players held for our captain, Vladislav Tretiak would say years later that Espo did this on purpose to lighten things up for his tense teammates. It might have worked, but it certainly wasn’t on purpose. (see video below).

Maybe it was the 3000 Canadian fans cheering and blowing their horns and making such wonderful noise, but Team Canada came out with bounce, and late in the first period, J.P. Parise (father of Zach), converted on a Gilbert Perreault pass and Canada found themselves in the lead. At home we cheered, but we needed more. We’d seen in the past that leads can evaporate quickly against this Machine.

Early in the second period, Bobby Clarke shoved one past Tretiak, and the 3000 Canadians at Luzhnicki and 15 million back home cheered again. We liked what we were seeing, and we liked it even more when Paul Henderson made it a lovely 3-0 lead. Take that, you Russians.

It was heady times going into the third period. It would be such a beautiful win, a win for NHL and western hockey superiority, and a narrowing of the gap. Unsmiling Russian fans would be impressed by the NHLers. Soviet players might get nervous. It was perfect.

But Yuri Blinov scored and suddenly we weren’t so giddy. But although Henderson once again gave us a three-goal lead to allow us to breathe again, Ken Dryden mentioned later that, “We played stupidly. Instead of continuing the forechecking tactics that had worked so well in the first two periods, we stayed back and let the Russians take the puck to us.”

Anisin beat Tony Esposito to narrow the gap to 4-2, and then, just eight seconds later, Shadrin scored and it became 4-3. At this point, we needed a pill. Maybe some Anisin. And maybe we needed something much stronger than Anisin when Alexander Gusev’s shot was tipped by a Canadian player over the shoulder of Esposito, and the game was tied with still nine minutes remaining. The Soviets then won the damn thing when  Vladimir Vikulov scored the winner.

5-4 Russia. We were perfectly aware of what this meant. A miracle would be needed, and we weren’t so sure it would happen. But something extremely important had transpired during this game five loss. Canada seemed in better shape and showed more drive. They had outplayed the Soviets before things collapsed in the third period, and they seemed to have found a way to hogtie the enemy with furious forechecking. Team Canada knew, even in losing, that they weren’t out of it yet.

The Canadians were beginning to feel better about themselves, but they were in a deep hole.

Kouli Kountry

From the incredible eBay pages of Kouli the Greek, a fellow in Vancouver with a massive collection of photos listed to sell, we have –

Jesse Owens, George Hainsworth, Rocky Marciano and Archie Moore, Bobby Clarke, Eddie Shore, the 1936-37 Hawks, Joe Lewis and Abe Simon, Bert Gardiner, Jackie Robinson and ’53 Dodgers, Ted Williams and Bobby Hull, and Ted Williams and a kid.

Jesse Owens

hainsworth

Marciano Moore

clarke

Shore

36-37

$(KGrHqV,!ikFBIYpquTFBQ(kUGg3q!~~60_57

Bert Gardiner 1941

Robinson and '53 Dodgers

Williams Hull

Williams

Summit ’72 – Cournoyer

There was a strong contingent of Montreal Canadiens on Team Canada ’72 – Ken Dryden, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Frank and Pete Mahovlich, and Yvan Cournoyer, and all, in their own way, contributed mightily to the cause, including Dryden who struggled at times but showed enough to coaches Harry Sinden and John Ferguson to be called upon for game eight duty.

Serge Savard played in five games, never in a losing cause, and he went about his business with poise and steadiness, which must have rubbed off on his somewhat frazzled teammates in a big way. Pete Mahovlich killed penalties and scored a classic shorthanded beauty in game two in Toronto. Brother Frank only had one goal and one assist, but was a strong, experienced leader and great puck carrier with that long stride of his. Guy Lapointe played in seven games and did for Team Canada what he did for as a Hab – skate and carry the puck better than most, and equally important, was the definitive team guy who kept teammates loose. And being loose was crucial in a series like this, where stress was the order of the day.

But maybe it was Cournoyer who had the greatest impact of all.

Cournoyer played in all eight games of the series, one of only seven players who did, and managed three goals and two assists, which placed him behind only Phil Esposito, Paul Henderson, and Bobby Clarke in team points. And most importantly, it was he who provided plenty of fodder in the final game.

At 12:56 of the third period, Cournoyer tied the score at 5-5, but the red light didn’t go on. It was an obvious goal, everyone saw it, and eventually, after Alan Eagleson almost set the Cold War back ten years with his angry antics, the goal stood, and Canada had clawed their way back after being down 5-3 going into the third. So what a huge, historic goal it was from Yvan Cournoyer.

Then with the score tied and less than a minute to go, Cournoyer intercepted the puck at the far boards, near the Soviet blueline, and sent it across the ice to Henderson, who initially lost it until it came back out to him in front of the net from Phil Esposito. Henderson beat Tretiak with 34 seconds left on the clock, and the first into the arms of the jubilant Henderson was Yvan Cournoyer, with the two immortalized forever in an iconic photograph.

The most famous goal in Canadian hockey history, and our great Roadrunner was in on it in a big way.

Summit ’72 “Aftermath”

Immediately following their stunning game-eight victory, Team Canada had to hit the road to Prague to play the Czechoslovakian national team the next night. This should have been better thought out by Hockey Canada, with an escape clause written into the contract. The team was both emotionally and physically spent, and it was unfair to subject them to this. It was time to go home, not play a meaningless game. They also felt it might take some of the lustre off the Russian Series, and they had absolutely nothing to gain and much to lose.

But the Prague game had to go on whether the team wanted it to or not.

Czech-born Stan Mikita, who was sent to live with an aunt in Canada when he seven, was named captain of Team Canada on this night, which was a classy and loving touch from coach Harry Sinden and others. Mikita had played just two games during the Summit, but in Prague it was his night. He was king. His mom and brothers and sisters were at the game, and Stan was given a long standing ovation.

As far as the game went, Canada pulled another one out of that, as they had shown often recently, by tying the game at three with just four seconds remaining, when Serge Savard stuffed it home.

And then it was time to come home.

Fifteen years after the fact, Team Canada and the Soviets played two games in celebration of the Summit Series, in Ottawa and in Hamilton. I was at the Ottawa game, and I remember being disappointed that the Soviets didn’t wear the same type of sweater that they had worn originally. And although both teams had the majority of original players in their lineups, Canada added Bill Barber, Gordie Howe, Mike Walton, Reggie Leach, Jacques Lemaire, and Darryl Sittler to the squad.

Six players, three from each team, have passed away. Bill Goldsworthy in 1996, Gary Bergman in 2000, and Rick Martin in 2011. The Russian bear, Alexander “Rags” Ragulin passed in 2004, and fellow defenceman Valeri Vasiliev died recently, in April of 2012.

And of course the great Valeri Kharlamov, killed, along with his wife, in a car crash outside of Moscow in 1981.

The “Father of Russian Hockey” Anatoli Tarasov, who had to step aside for the Summit Series, passed away in 1995, and his successor Vsevolod Bobrov, who coached the ’72 squad, died in 1979. Bobrov’s bench assistant Boris Kulagin checked out in 1988.

Sadly, John Ferguson, who was a force to be reckoned with not only in 1972 but throughout his career on and off the ice, left us in 2007. Fergie stayed beside Harry Sinden throughout the pressure cooker, and was a true inspiration as assistant coach. Some folks, however, might not agree with that moment in time when he advised Bobby Clarke that maybe Kharlamov needed a tap on the ankle.

Foster Hewitt signed off permanently in 1985. Sure he butchered Yvan Cournoyer’s name in the beginning of the series, but he got it right as he went along, and he did a fine job of describing the games for us in his own Foster Hewittian-way. Foster was 69 years old, had come out of retirement to call this series, and what a way to cap off a 40-plus year career, one that included coming up with such iconic catch-phrases as “He shoots, he scores!” and “Henderson scores for Canada!”

Many of the Canadian and Russian players became friends over the years, although Boris Mikhailov still might not win any popularity contests.

And say what you want about Alan Eagleson, but without him, the Russians may have gotten their way way too often, and there might not have even been a series in the first place.. Eagleson took care of business, and was the guy who got it done off-ice. Unfortunately, Eagle was later discovered to have stolen from the players association and various clients, and ended up doing six months in prison for fraud and embezzlement. He was also kicked out of the Hockey Hall of Fame, which must have been a cruel blow for the disgraced lawyer and player agent.

But he was immeasurably important for the 1972 Summit Series.

Summit ’72 Game 6 – A Night To Win

And win they did, 3-2, with no help from German officials Franz Baader and Josef Kompalla , who seemed to love the idea of sending a parade of Canadians to the sin bin and were living proof that when it came to refereeing hockey games, Germany made great cars.

No matter. Team Canada allowed a Soviet goal, then scored three in a minute and a half to take control in all aspects. Even Ken Dryden played well and finally beat his nemesis Soviets for the first time since facing them years before as an amateur.

This game had finally given us a glimmer of hope. The team played with poise and passion, they came together and played like they knew they could, and Paul Henderson, in the series of his life, scored the winner on a long slap shot that surprised everyone from Vladivostok to Victoria.

One particular incident on this night must be mentioned. It was time to stop Valeri Kharlamov, and John Ferguson provided an ugly-yet-brutally effective solution. “I think he needs a tap on the ankle,” Fergy told Bobby Clarke, and Clarke proceeded to chop and crack the Soviet star’s ankle, rendering the Soviet star useless and out of the series until game eight, where he looked absolutely non-Kharlamovian. Not one of Team Canada’s finest moments, but at this point, it was win-at-all-costs, which I understand. Although this tactic underlined what many at home and abroad had screamed loud and hard about – that the Canadians were thugs and weren’t playing the game the way it should be played.

Of course, no one mentioned the Swedes’ stick work and diving in Stockholm, or the Soviets’ exaggerated theatrics and their own particular brand of whining. And critics made no heed of the off-ice nonsense regarding Canada’s steaks and cokes going missing, and phone calls in the middle of the night to their hotel rooms with no one on the other end. Frank Mahovlich became so unnerved by the fact that his room might be bugged that he checked under the carpet and discovered what he thought was a KGB bug. The Big M then unscrewed it and promptly heard a loud crash as he realized he’d unscrewed a ceiling light from the room below.

The series had transformed into a bizarre, stressful, and unreal game of cat and mouse, but most importantly for Team Canada and the nation behind them, the Soviets were beginning to show some important cracks. Team Canada felt this thing was far from over, and Phil Esposito, as focused now as any man could be, was leading the charge like no other could. Years later, Espo would even say that he wasn’t a violent man but he would have killed to win if it had come down to that.

Below, Bobby Clarke, Bill White, and Tony Esposito see the sights of Moscow with their wives, while John Ferguson inspects some Red Army soldiers.

Summit ’72 – Opening In Moscow – Game 5

The cameras panned the Palace of Sports at Luzhniki in Moscow, where fans, the majority men and soldiers, stared hard at the ice and at the long-haired Canadian players swooping around. What were these fans thinking about these foreigners? They saw the long hair, they saw Esposito and others they recognized. They would scan the stadium, watching the Canadian fans whooping and hollering, and they must have wondered.

Of course they were curious, because in 1972, long before perestroika and glasnost (restructuring and openness), this was a novelty of the first degree. Westerners live and in colour, something not often seen in their closed country, and names they knew only slightly glided around the ice below. To have seen NHL games in their homes meant sporatic action on television, with announcers who droned on, in the middle of the night broken up periodically by agriculture commercials and speeches from Leonid Brezhnev and other stonefaced leaders from the Politburo. The Russians definitely didn’t have Hockey Night in Canada or TSN going for them back then.

Opening night, game five in Moscow meant serious business. At this point, three Canadian players had decided to go home. Vic Hadfield, told he probably wouldn’t see any action in Moscow, felt he should be preparing for the NHL season with his Ranger teammates. Jocelyn Guevremont’s wife, who had come along with her husband on the trip, fell ill and needed to enter a hospital back home. And Rick Martin said he felt pressure from Sabres boss Punch Imlach to return and be with his Buffalo teammates. Gilbert Perreault would do the same shortly after.

Canada had won just once in Canada, and to lose again meant having to win the final three, which seemed as remote a possibility as seeing Lenin scratch himself in his Tomb at Red Square. It would take a miracle, even if Canada could somehow pull it out on this night and narrow the gap.

During the opening festivities on this night, young Russian ladies skated out with flowers, and as one came near Phil Esposito, a petal fell off the stem and floated to the ice. When Espo was introduced, he stepped on the petal and fell flat on his rear end, to the smiles and laughter of the crowd and both teams. He did an exaggerated bow, seemed to be fine about the whole thing, and maybe we were more embarrassed than he was. Regardless, to show the high esteem the Soviet players held for our captain, Vladislav Tretiak would say years later that Espo did this on purpose to lighten things up for his tense teammates. It might have worked, but it certainly wasn’t on purpose. (see video below).

Maybe it was the 3000 Canadian fans cheering and blowing their horns and making such wonderful noise, but Team Canada came out with bounce, and late in the first period, J.P. Parise (father of Zach), converted on a Gilbert Perreault pass and Canada found themselves in the lead. At home we cheered, but we needed more. We’d seen in the past that leads can evaporate quickly against this Machine.

Early in the second period, Bobby Clarke shoved one past Tretiak, and the 3000 Canadians at Luzhnicki and 15 million back home cheered again. We liked what we were seeing, and we liked it even more when Paul Henderson made it a lovely 3-0 lead. Take that, you Russians.

It was heady times going into the third period. It would be such a beautiful win, a win for NHL and western hockey superiority, and a narrowing of the gap. Unsmiling Russian fans would be impressed by the NHLers. Soviet players might get nervous. It was perfect.

But Yuri Blinov scored and suddenly we weren’t so giddy. But although Henderson once again gave us a three-goal lead to allow us to breathe again, Ken Dryden mentioned later that, “We played stupidly. Instead of continuing the forechecking tactics that had worked so well in the first two periods, we stayed back and let the Russians take the puck to us.”

Anisin beat Tony Esposito to narrow the gap to 4-2, and then, just eight seconds later, Shadrin scored and it became 4-3. At this point, we needed a pill. Maybe some Anisin. And maybe we needed something much stronger than Anisin when Alexander Gusev’s shot was tipped by a Canadian player over the shoulder of Esposito, and the game was tied with still nine minutes remaining. The Soviets then won the damn thing when  Vladimir Vikulov scored the winner.

5-4 Russia. We were perfectly aware of what this meant. A miracle would be needed, and we weren’t so sure it would happen. But something extremely important had transpired during this game five loss. Canada seemed in better shape and showed more drive. They had outplayed the Soviets before things collapsed in the third period, and they seemed to have found a way to hogtie the enemy with furious forechecking. Team Canada knew, even in losing, that they weren’t out of it yet.

The Canadians were beginning to feel better about themselves, but they were in a deep hole.

 

 

Shooting From The Lip

A fellow at work brought in a book for me to read called “Shooting From The Lip” (2004), which is a compilation of hockey quotes. Here’s a few of them…..

My brother Dash hit me on the head with five textbooks in a gym bag. Tie Domi, asked about the hardest hit he’s ever received

Man, is that guy ripped. I mean, I’ve got the washboard stomach, too. It’s just that mine has about two months of laundry on top of it. Shawn Burr on Eric Lindros

Every time I see you naked, I feel sorry for your wife. Jaromir Jagr to teammate Matthew Barnaby

They always try to play with our minds. But that won’t work with our club. We’ve got 20 guys without brains. Bobby Clarke in 1976 when Red Army played Philadelphia

I was young and stupid then. Now I’m not young anymore. Jyrki Lumme on his early years with Montreal

You can always get someone to do your thinking for you. Gordie Howe, during a 1970’s appearance on the Dick Cavett Show, on why hockey players always wear a protective cup but rarely a helmet

It’s about 40% technique and about 75% strength. 6’1″ Canadien Patrice Brisebois, on why he lost a fight to Theo Fleury

Everything was set for us to play a real good game. Then we left the dressing room and everything went to hell. Thrashers coach Curt Fraser

The kids just aren’t the same anymore. Canadien Doug Gilmour after asking a rookie to sneak a case of 24 beers onto the team bus and finding out he only got six cans

Only problem is I was going high on the glove side. Senator Lance Pitlick on scoring his first goal of the season with a low shot to the stick side

Guys, I don’t want to tell you half-truths unless they’re completely accurate. Canadiens coach Alain Vigneault after a loss in 1999

It’s not so much maturity as it is growing up. Bruin Jay Miller, asked if his improved play was due to maturity

Jason Arnott will be here as long as I’m here, for the time being. Oilers GM Glen Sather on Arnott trade rumours

He could rile up the Montreal fans in a hurry. God, sometimes I felt sorry for the man. He must have got a standing ovation when he went shopping. Gordie Howe on Maurice Richard

It’s always good to have the building filled, even if it’s with low-IQ Rangers fans. Islander GM Mike Milbury before a home game against the Rangers

I’m the luckiest man alive. I don’t even like the game and I’m successful at it. Brett Hull

I’d rather fight than score. Dave Schultz

Rocket had that mean look on, every game we played. He could hate with the best of them. Gordie Howe on Maurice Richard

Life is just a place where we spend time between games. Flyers coach Fred Shero

Hockey is like a religion in Montreal. You’re either a saint or a sinner., there’s no in-between. Patrick Roy

Hmmm, 600 games? What does it mean? It means I’m that much closer to getting fired. Jacques Lemaire after coaching his 600th game

Playing with Steve Guolla is like playing with myself. Shark Jeff Friesen on his teammate

What I’ve learned so far is that to win the Stanley Cup, you have to make the playoffs. Caps owner Ted Leonsis

Every time I get injured, my wife ends up getting pregnant. Blackhawk Doug Wilson

I don’t care if we lose every game for the next five years and the team goes broke and moves to Moose Jaw. I will not trade Pavel Bure. Canucks GM Brian Burke several weeks before trading Bure to to the Panthers

Brian Sutter said I looked liked Charles Manson. He called me Charlie, then it became Killer. Canadien Doug Gilmour on the source of his “Killer” nickname

 

It Would’ve Been A Big Day For Fergy

Inexcusably, I failed to mention the late, great John Ferguson during all the Winnipeg hoopla of the past few days, and I’m bad and I know it. Because John Ferguson, the ex-Hab, ex-ornery on-ice policeman, was extremely vital in the growth of the Winnipeg Jets, and for him to witness the return of his Jets in a game against his Montreal Canadiens would have made his heart soar, I’m sure.

You know who Fergy is. Called up to the Montreal Canadiens in 1963 to more or less make sure other teams left stars like Jean Beliveau alone, and 12 seconds into his very first NHL game, the new Hab beat up on Boston tough guy Ted Green, thus beginning his legend in record time. And although his legacy as a player is mostly of being a world-class enforcer, Fergy could also score goals, hovering around the 20-goal mark most of his 8 seasons when 20 goals then is comparable to 35 or even 40 now.

This is the kind of guy the Canadiens could use in this day and age. One who strikes fear in others, and scores as well.

Fergy was also assistant coach to Harry Sinden during the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series, which shows the respect he had after his playing days were over. I suppose the decision to tell Bobby Clarke to go out and tickle Valeri Kharlamov’a ankle with an axe chop might not have been the classiest move ever made, but it shows the intensity and passion for winning that Ferguson possessed, first as a player, and then as a guy in a sports jacket.

John Ferguson had been both coach and general manager in New York before coming over to the Winnipeg Jets, where he spent ten years as GM and then coach, and although he blundered by choosing tough guy Jimmy Mann as the Jets’ first pick in 1979, he was also responsible for bringing in young guns Thomas Steen, Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk and the great and future Hall member Teemu Selanne, thus creating what would become a very competitive and colourful team on the prairies over the years.

John passed away in 2007, and imagine how proud he would have been to see the Jets back in the fold again. And I know fighting is becoming less and less cool as the years go by, but have a look below at number 22, as he did his job in fine fashion for the Montreal Canadiens.

 

Extra, Extra, Read All About It (Parts Two And Three)

For the last eight Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup wins, from 1971 to 1993, I managed to save the front pages and laminate them. (Although one, from 1977, is an inner page).

Part one was just a few days ago. This is part two and three -1976 and 1977

It was their 17th Stanley Cup, a beautiful, delicious four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers. How sweet is that? Sweeping the Broad St. Bullies, the goons who had slashed and punched their way to the two previous championships. But this time, real hockey prevailed over thuggery.

All in all, it was the Canadiens plumbers who made things happen. At least for the most part. Bob Gainey, Jim Roberts, Doug Jarvis, and Doug Risebrough proved just how important blue-collar guys can be. The team had Lafleur and Shutt and the boys, but the lesser-lights shone. “Really, the plumbers did the job for us in this series,” said Steve Shutt. “But when we needed the goals, the two big guys (Lafleur and Perter Mahovlich) came through.”

Lafleur and Mahovlich weren’t having a sensational series up until the final game and the plumbers stepped up. But both Lafleur and Mahovlich scored goals in the third period to ice the thing and to prove that singer Kate Smith, the Flyers’ lucky charm, wasn’t such a lucky charm after all.

Kate was there in person that night to sing the anthem, usually it was a recording, but even her live and in colour wasn’t enought for the thugs from Philly. And in the dressing room, the Habs sung God Bless America in a good-natured jibe to the singer.

It had only taken Montreal 13 games from start to finish in these 1976 Stanley Cup playoffs, sweeping Chicago, taking out the Islanders in five games, and then the four-game dismissing of the Flyers.

Some Flyers fans thought it might have been different if their team had been healthy. Rick MacLeish didn’t suit up, and Bobby Clarke and Orest Kindrachuk played but weren’t 100%. And Wayne Stephenson was between the pipes instead of number one, Bernie Parent. But even coach Fred Shero admitted that his team, althought they might have prolonged it slightly, would have lost anyway. “If we’d had everybody healthy, I suppose we might have lasted longer, we might have made it close, at least.” said Shero. “But on the other hand, I imagine that if we had been able to play better, Canadiens might have played better too. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they could.”

And to make all Habs fans giddy, Shero also went on about how good the Habs actually were. “These are guys you can’t ride off the puck. They’re immune to normal forechecking. You put pressure on most defences and they fall apart. They cough up the puck or throw it away. These fellows never panic. They just won’t give up the puck. They’re always in control.”

And Shero wasn’t finished being nice. “And my God, they’re all like forwards besides. That’s what you’ve got to have on your defence in the NHL today. You can put Robinson, Savard or Lapointe up front and they don’t look out of place at all.”

The last word goes to Bobby Clarke. “We were beaten by one great hockey team, the best in many years.”

And now, 1977

In the spring of 1977, as I was on the verge of getting married for the first time, Jacques Lemaire scored the overtime goal to give his team their second straight Stanley Cup in this late 1970’s run, and it was done with a lovely four-game sweep against Don Cherry and his Boston Bruins. Is this one of the reasons you hate the Habs, Don?

It had been quite a year for this dominating bunch. Montreal only lost eight times in 80 games and racked up a record 132 points. Nobody was going to beat them in the playoffs. You didn’t have to be Kreskin to figure it out. In fact, the team swept the Blues, took out the Islanders 4 games to 2, and then swept the Bruins. Fourteen games in total, and very similar to the 13 it had taken them the year before.

Guy Lafleur won the Conn  Smythe trophy for playoff MVP and managed nine goals and 17 assists throughout. But he had this to say: “It’s my third Cup and it’s always nice, but it’s not the same excitement. I don’t think I’m the best player. It’s just that everything went well for me.”

Jacques Lemaire was the quiet hero on this ride. His teammates had told him to shoot more, and on this night, he delivered with the overtime marker. “Why shouldn’t I be happy,” said Lemaire. “I’m on a holiday. I’m on a holiday starting now. It’s about time. It still is Lafleur and Shutt, except tonight. Tonight was a mistake. They said, shoot the puck, you look good.”

Coach Scotty Bowman had this to say about Lafleur and Shutt. “They play more like Europeans. I’m not knocking the NHL style of play, but the Europeans make more plays on the move. That’s what Lafleur and Shutt do.”

And last word to Don Cherry. “It’s hard to believe we kept outshooting them and still can’t win a game. I still say the whole thing boiled down to those three defensemen.”