Tag Archives: Bobby Hull

R.I.P. Red Fisher

Red Fisher, the man we all knew had the best job on the planet, has died at age 91.

Red covered the Habs for the Montreal Star and Montreal Gazette, beginning in 1955 and ending in 2012, when he was 85-years old. He became one of the boys, part of the players’ and coaches’ inner circle, winning or losing money on card games while the trains took to the team to other big league cities.

His first hockey assignment was, amazingly enough, the night of the Richard Riot (March 17, 1955) at the Forum.

It had to have been an incredible time for Red, covering those Stanley Cup teams over the years and doing so in such fine and unique fashion, and at this time my thoughts go out to Red’s family and friends.

I can only add a bit of a personal story about Red.

In the early 1960s I was a kid at an exhibition game in Peterborough, Ontario between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks, and I approached Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who were standing by the boards, for autographs. Hull was more than happy to oblige, but Mikita was surly and miserable. I’ve always maintained that he told me to go to hell (or worse) but over the years I began to hope that he didn’t really get that harsh, that it was just me, because I was young, making too much of something.

I would like to say this… In no way is this to be taken that Stan Mikita was a bad person. In the beginning he was a little rough, but as the years went by, Mikita became a fine, friendly gentleman, a class act, and a legendary and deserving Hall of Famer.

After this incident in Peterborough, I wrote a letter to Red Fisher at the Montreal Star about it, and this is his reply back to me.

Far Away Habs Eatery

I wrote about this place not long ago, but I just found the photos.

The lovely ladies, who don’t look too thrilled about having their picture taken with me, are waitresses. But not just any waitresses. These ladies worked at the Montreal Canadiens Restaurant, deep in the heart of Russia.

It didn’t stay open long, this place. Maybe a year or so. And maybe because it was an independent business with no legal links to the Habs organization. It was also just too pricey for most Russians.

I’d heard about it in 1999 and found it on a dark street in the core of St. Petersburg, and we ate there and drank vodka and looked at the gigantic mural of the city of Montreal as singers and dancers sang and danced on the nearby stage. It wasn’t a sports bar by any stretch of the imagination. More like cabaret meets hockey pucks.

The walls were lined with players’ images, Frank Mahovlich smiles behind us, and you could buy a Habs puck and a couple of other Hab-related things in the cloakroom. The manager showed us a stick signed by a bunch of NHL oldtimers like Bobby Hull and Guy Lafleur when they had played in St. Petersburg and had enjoyed a closed party after the game in this restaurant, and he was extremely proud and held it like the Holy Grail.

But this eatery was really expensive and it might have taken off in 2010 but ten years prior there just wasn’t a lot of extra money for the majority of Russians.

But it was nice to know that so far away, the Montreal Canadiens have an impact on people, and this place paid excellent homage to the team and city. Even with the Russian folk songs. It’s just too bad it didn’t make it.

Habs in the USSR

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In September of 1990, the Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota North Stars travelled to the USSR as part of their training camp for the 90-91 season. It was a long way to go for a training camp, but there’s a lot of NHL fans over there, and in particular, Montreal Canadiens fans, and this was a once in a lifetime chance for folks there to see these players in living colour.

Minnesota won only one of four games, but Montreal beat Leningrad SKA 5-3, Dynamo Riga 4-2, and Moscow Central Army 4-1, and lost 4-1 to Dynamo Moscow.

In semi-related news, years later, in 2000, I was walking the back streets of St. Petersburg and came across a restaurant called ‘The Montreal Canadiens Club’. Imagine my surprise!

I went in and there was a dance floor with a giant mural of the Montreal skyline, and also a souvenir booth selling Habs pucks and pins and such. And the waitresses wore team jerseys. Eventually this place closed down because it was really expensive, way too many rubles for the average Russian citizen. But they managed to bring the entire Legends of Hockey team there for a big night and there were pictures of Frank Mahovlich, Bobby Hull, Guy Lafleur, and other NHL stars getting tipsy and eyeballing the waitresses.

A few weeks after discovering this place I brought my friends there for dinner and it was great fun. I drank too much vodka, and went well beyond my budget, but I needed to do this. After all, how often does one get to eat at a Montreal Canadiens restaurant in St. Petersburg, Russia?

Hockey’s Golden Age Is When?

Isn’t it funny that no matter what decade we’re in, many retired players and older fans always insist that the game isn’t as good as it used to be, when they played or watched.

It’s only natural that they feel this way. The present game, of any decade, just doesn’t have the romance it did for them. And hockey always changes, whether it’s the way players shoot, or pass, or even their size.

Ken Dryden, when asked when he thought the golden age of hockey was, answered that it’s whenever we were young.  It is for me. The 1950s and 1960s were my golden hockey years. They were magical years, with road hockey, collecting cards, digging pucks out of snowbanks, outdoor rinks and frozen toes,  and a six-team NHL. And I had the Rocket, Beliveau, Howe, Hull, Plante, and Sawchuk to watch.

But for men who played in the 1930s and ’40s, those 1950s and ’60s years sucked. And for those who played in the 1910s and ’20s, the next few decades after them simply didn’t cut it.

It’ll always be like this. Ken Dryden was right. It all depends on when you were born.

Here’s some examples.

Cyclone Taylor, one of hockey earliest stars, talking about the game in 1968:

“I don’t think I’d like to play the game now. I was used to going on at the start of the game and playing to the finish. I think any man between the ages of 18 and 35 who can’t play 60 minutes of hockey – well, he just doesn’t want to play, that’s all.”

Newsy Lalonde, who signed with the Montreal Canadiens in 1910, talking hockey in 1970.

“Never did I use the slapshot the way you see it used in the NHL now, with the curved sticks and all. With us there was no other shot to use but the wrist shot. When a man makes a slapshot today it’s more powerful than a wrist shot, but you can’t place it in the same way. The modern player just shoots the puck in the general direction of the net and that’s it. We knew where the puck was going and didn’t have to look twice.

And if you think hockey is a tough game nowadays, you have no idea what toughness is all about.”

Bill Durnan, star goalie for the Habs from 1943 to 1950, talking about the NHL in 1969.

“It’s a changed game, no doubt about it. Now it’s congested and half the time you don’t know how the puck went into the net. Thy just don’t have the plays we had; they simply shove the puck in the corner, then there’s a wild scramble, with three or four guys behind the bloody net. The puck comes out and somebody bangs it in. At that point, even the announcers who are supposed to know what happened start guessing.

And the players have changed, especially their attitudes, though at least until recently there were a few honest skaters left. John Ferguson, who played for the Canadiens, is an example. I was at a party with him a few years ago and somebody asked him why he was such a stinker on the ice and a nice guy off it. Ferguson replied. “When I’m on the ice, I’m at work!”

Now that’s the kind of answer we oldtimers would give.”

Cooper Smeaton, NHL referee before and after World War 1, interviewed in the 1970’s.

“Those were the golden days of hockey when you had fellows like Howie Morenz, Nels Stewart, and Georges Vezina. They talk about Bobby Hull’s speed, but Morenz would whip around his net like a flash and be up the ice before you could blink your eyes.

Take a goal scorer like Stewart. In today’s game he’d score 100 goals. And in the old days if a team was a man short it would stickhandle the puck until time expired. Now they just heave it down the ice. You don’t have to pay a guy $400,000 to do that.

We had a more appealing game game with lots of stickhandling and nice passing. Now it’s all speed. But one thing remains the same though – the referees never seem to please the coaches or managers or owners. To this day, nobody is perfect.”

Woes In Winnipeg ’72

Part 5

We had them. And then we didn’t.

There were such high hopes coming off the big game two win in Toronto, and more of the same was expected in Winnipeg, now that the boys had rid themselves of their cobwebs and decided to get down to business. But as depressing as can be, Team Canada just kept blowing leads like 3-1 and 4-2 and let a major win slip away, with the game ending in a 4-4 tie.

The Soviet Kid Line of Viacheslav Anisin, Alexander Bodunov, and Yuri Lebedev, in their first appearance in the series, accounted for five points, and Kharlamov was once again inserting daggers into all of Canada, with tonight a gorgeous shorthanded goal when he burst in alone on Tony Esposito, who was making his second straight start after playing so well in Toronto.

Added to the dismal atmosphere was the fact that Winnipeg wasn’t all that stirred up by the big show. Former Black Hawk superstar Bobby Hull, who had bolted to the WHA and was now playing for the Jets, wasn’t allowed to play for Team Canada because he was such a big, bad traitor, and many in Winnipeg felt the team should’ve been called Team NHL, not Team Canada. It also doesn’t take much to imagine how Hull would have helped.

Just not a great night overall, and it hurts that we blew these leads. Two victories and we’re rolling, but it not to be. We’re stuck with one measly win, a loss, and a tie so far, and the uphill climb is getting steeper.

Now it’s onward to Vancouver, where Phil Esposito gives us shit.

London Calling!

LondonA couple of months ago my brother called and asked if I had any plans from the 15th to the 24th of November. Then he left it like that for me to scratch my head and wonder.

A few days later he  told me what he was up to, which was an offer to buy me a plane ticket to London, England as a late birthday present. Now that’s a brother. And today’s the day we leave.

I’m gonna walk across Abbey Rd. Then there’s those great seats at the hit musical Sunny Afternoon, which is about one of my all-time favourite bands the Kinks. The massive flea market on Portobello Road is gonna be explored I hope.  And of course the pubs, because we’ll be thirsty from crossing streets and stuff.

And another thing while I’m on about London – I’ve always felt that the Queen’s chest size has been underrated for years.

I’m going to miss four Habs games though – Monday, when the Canucks visit and take a severe pounding; Thursday, when the Coyotes show up to be slaughtered; Friday, when the Canadiens clobber the Islanders in Brooklyn; and Sunday when those same Islanders come to the Bell for more punishment.

I’ll have my iPad and will see the scores and scorers, but I’ll be so busy there’s no time to talk about these four games. Lots to do in just a week.

Please feel free to mention anything about these games here if you so desire. And when I get back, I’ll show some photos of this short but sweet visit to Swinging London.

One last thing – my thoughts are with Paris. It’s difficult to understand such evil in our world, and although the timing of our trip could be better, I’m traveling without fear. No way are these sorts of threats keeping me from walking across Abbey Rd.

Bye for now. Back soon.

 

 

Bobby Hull Showed Up

I’m probably not that interesting to guys like Bobby Hull. I’m shy and feel slightly uneasy. I don’t have much to say.

Although when he first came in to our offices on Thursday, I said to him, “There’s the guy who blew slapshots past Habs goalies.” And he replied, “And it was fun too.”

Bobby was an amazing player. A wonderful skater with a great shot. A guy with flair and Hollywood good looks. The ladies loved him. Hawks fans loved him. The rest of us admired him. Opposing goalies lived in fear.

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Really Big Advice Show

Friday at the big collectables show at the Pierre Charbonneau Centre in east-end Montreal, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, and Brandon Prust will be signing autographs from 6:30 to 7:30 .

And because the signings are arranged by Classic Authentics, which is an arm of Classic Auctions, the company I work for, I’ve been asked to sit at the table and make sure these players have enough pens and photos.

Kind of like being a stick boy.

I’ll be more than just a pen and photo guy though. I’m ready to give them big time advice.

I’ll only have an hour but hopefully it’s enough time to offer Max tips on how to improve his skating and shooting. Prust might need fighting tips. I’ll probably be able to advise Plekanec on how to get his shot away quicker. And I’ll try and convince Gally to endorse a better hamburger.

I’ll give them female relationship advice too if they ask.

Boxers Antonin Decarie and Sciller Hyppolite will also be there, from 8 to 9, and if I’m still around, I’ll give them a few fighting tips like I give Prust.

The following evening, an old favourite of mine, Claude Larose, along with Bobby Hull, Rogie Vachon and former MLB pitcher Claude Raymond will be there but I probably won’t. I can only give out so much advice. And they don’t need it. They’re retired.

Sunday, it’s the Canadian Olympic ladies France St. Louis, Nancy Drolet, and Kim St. Pierre. Maybe, because Max, Tomas, Brandon and Brendan won’t be listening, the ladies could give ME shot, skating, and hitting tips.

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1974 Team Cyrillic

The picture below was sent to me from a friend in Leningrad in the mid-1980s.

Team Canada 1974, stars from the rival WHA, taking on Kharlamov, Mikhailov, and Tretiak two years after the big one. (results at the bottom).

Rick Ley, second in the top row, was a boyhood friend growing up in Orillia, who knocked my front tooth out by accident when throwing a baseball. And he borrowed my hockey gloves and never gave them back.

Five players suited up at one time or another with the Habs – JC Tremblay, Rejean Houle, Ralph Backstrom, Marc Tardif, and Frank Mahovlich.

Three players on this Team Canada ’74 squad also played in the historic 1972 Summit Series before bolting to the WHA  – Paul Henderson, Mahovlich, and Pat Stapleton.

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Down the left side are coaches Billy Harris, Bobby Hull, and Pat Stapleton.

Top row left to right – Don McLeod, Rick Ley, J.C. Tremblay, Mike Walton, Rejean Houle

2nd row – Brad Selwood, Andre Lacroix, Tom Webster, Gordie Howe, Marty Howe

3rd row – Mark Howe, Ralph Backstrom, Tom Harrison, Rick Smith, Paul Shmyr

4th row – Paul Henderson, Serge Bernier, Bruce MacGregor, Marc Tardiff, John McKenzie

5th row – Al Hamilton, Frank Mahovlich, Gerry Cheevers

USSR Wins Series 4-1-3