Tag Archives: Bobby Orr

Finally Lapointe

The news that Guy Lapointe’s number 5 will join Bernie Geoffrion’s in the rafters is terrific and overdue.

Guy Lapointe was one of the greatest defencemen to ever wear the CH. He was part of the “The Big Three” with Serge Savard and Larry Robinson in those 1970s glory years when no other team came close to having such a trio, combining skill and muscle to help win games and take no nonsense from the Broad St. Bullies or anyone else who might have tried.

Add the smart, great skating, hard shooting Lapointe to the mix of big farmboy Robinson, who could skate, dominate and was physically intimidating, and Savard, who swooped, swirled, and made the right play like poetry in motion, and you’ve got “The Big Three”, a threesome other teams knew they were in deep against.

Serge Savard was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986 and his number 18 was retired in 2006.

Larry Robinson was inducted into the Hall in 1995 and his number 19 sent to the rafters in 2007.

Guy Lapointe was inducted in 1993 and his sweater will soon join his fellow blueliners. So deserved.

0075The Globe and Mail called Ken Dryden’s The Game, “the sports book of the year, or maybe the decade, or maybe the century.” Dryden took us into the inner circle of the late 1970′s Montreal Canadiens, when they were the best team in hockey, poised to win their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup. It’s a great book, written with humility and intelligence, and I know many of you have already read it. I just wanted to share a few things that I really like.

I’m sure Ken Dryden had a little smile on his face as he wrote about Lapointe, affectionately know as “Pointu”, who Dryden says in the early to mid-1970′s, except for Bobby Orr, was the best defenceman in the NHL.

0014

Here’s some excerpts from “The Game” regarding Guy Lapointe”

“In the shower, (Yvon) Lambert is singing. Lapointe grabs a bucket and tiptoes to the bathroom sink like a cartoon spy. He fills the bucket with cold water, and peers around the corner of the shower. Lambert is still singing. Lapointe winds up; we hear a scream. Lapointe dashes back into the room and quickly out again, dropping his bucket. Lambert, still lathered up, races after him, screaming threats. Losing his trail, Lambert stops to pick up the bucket, fills it, and resumes his search. Finally he finds Lapointe hiding in a toilet stall; he backs him into the room. Naked, sobbing, pleading pathetically, Lapointe falls to his knees, his hands clutched in front of him. Lambert winds up to throw the water, then stops: in Lapointe’s hands are Lambert’s clothes.”

“The laces to my skates have been shredded into macaroni-size pieces too small for knots to hold together. I look up at a roomful of blank faces. Before I can say his name, Lapointe, who cuts my laces twenty or twenty-five times a year, though I have never seen him do it, gives me an injured look. “Hey, get the right guy,” he shouts.”

“Hey Reggie (Houle),” he shouts, “That was a helluva play ya made last night.” Houle goes silent; we begin to laugh. “Yup,” Robinson continues slowly, drawing out each word, “not often ya see a guy on a breakaway put it in the crowd.” Lapointe snaps down his newspaper. “Don’t let it bother ya, Reggie,” he says sympathetically. “No harm done.” Surprised, we all look up. “The goalie just woulda stopped ya anyway,” he says, and we all laugh harder.

“Ah, I’m full,” Lapointe announces, wiping his face with napkin. “Anybody want my ice cream?” Shaking their heads, murmuring, everyone says no. Finally, after looking around, certain that no one else wants it, “Um, yeah sure,” I say tentatively, ya sure ya don’t want it?” Lapointe shakes his head, and hands it to me. I take a bite. Before I can taste what I’ve eaten, the room explodes with laughter – sour cream with chocolate sauce.

“Calisse, now I done it,” he groans. “Kenny, who’s a good lawyer? I need some help.” He looks genuinely worried this time.
“Call a guy named Ackerman,” I tell him earnestly.
“What?” he says. “Ackerman,” I repeat louder, and suddenly I know what’s coming next. “I’m not deaf,” he says indignantly, and walks away laughing.

Guy Should Have A Blog

Guy Lafleur should have a blog. Imagine the insights we’d get!

Guy could tell us all about his troubles with Jacques Lemaire, about why the team hasn’t won the Cup since 1993, why Rejean Houle didn’t get enough in return for Patrick Roy, why Steve Shutt was hard on rookies, what he thinks Michel Therrien is doing wrong, why sometimes there’s not enough foam on the Bell Centre beer. All kinds of stuff.

Imagine the readership he’d get. We’d rush to open his blog to see what he says. It might be the most fascinating blog in the history of blogs.

“You can’t keep guys like Vanek and Pacioretty on the team,” Lafleur now says. “They should stay home if they’re not willing to pay the price. Your team won’t win with players like that who disappear under adversity.”

Guy would get a million hits for that story alone. Advertisers would flock to him. He’d be the king of bloggers.

Lafleur was basically talking about game six of the Rangers series that ended the Habs year. New York threw a blanket over the Canadiens and that was that.

The problem, I think, is that some of the true greats like Lafleur sometimes expect others to step it up in superstar fashion, and I guess lately he’s been stewing about the team, Max and Vanek in particular, not pulling out all the stops in that final game.

Max, however, had scored the winning goal in both the Tampa and Boston series which eliminated those teams, so it wasn’t like he was going through the motions. He’s enjoyed some fine moments. But Guy was focused mostly on game six of the Rangers series when all the boys, not just Max, were stuck in mud.

Vanek, I still don’t know. Guy might have a point there. The guy had helped kickstart the team into another level when he joined them, but was definitely a disappointment in the postseason, not just game six but throughout.

But he’s probably gone anyway so it doesn’t matter what Guy says about it.

Some guys think out loud like Guy, others don’t. Bobby Orr’s teammates in Boston said that if they weren’t playing well in big games, they’d look over at Orr in the dressing room and he’d be glaring at certain guys. No words, just two eyes. If Orr was glaring at you, it wasn’t good.

Lafleur’s very much like Maurice Richard in some ways. Rocket sometimes couldn’t contain himself either, and after too much criticism in his ghost-written newspaper column, sometimes about other players and teams but particularly about league prez Clarence Campbell, Rocket was told to forget the column or else.

But no one could tell Guy to forget his blog. He could carry about things and Gary Bettman or Geoff Molson couldn’t say a thing.

C’mon Guy, start your blog. Get it all out, right or wrong, and make some serious coin doing it.

 

 

Ticket To Orillia Please

I think it’s pretty darn important that you include Orillia in your future travel plans.

Why would you not? It was the home of Gordon Lightfoot, Stephen Leacock, and Dino’s pool hall for goodness sakes.

In Bobby Orr’s new book “Orr, My Story”, he says his hockey school with Mike Walton was in the Muskokas. It wasn’t. It was just outside Orillia, which is below the Muskokas.

In fact, the only time he mentioned Orillia was when he said his former agent and ex-friend Alan Eagleson had a cottage near there.

It took Gordon Lightfoot about twenty years into his fame to say he was from Orillia and not Toronto.

Stephen Leacock changed the name from Orillia to Mariposa in his book “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town”.

Dino’s pool hall burned down.

And my ongoing unofficial poll, which I’ve conducted for years, asks the question to old friends who now live in places not called Orillia. “Could you ever live in Orillia again?”, to which probably 98% say no.

I, on the other hand, could. And someday I think I might. I’ve dealt with my issues from when I was an older teen and into my 20s. I think.

See? It says on the pennant below that the Orr-Walton Camp was in Orillia, not Muskoka.

And about the Lightfoot thing, maybe it didn’t help that a guy I knew went in through an unlocked back door at a Lightfoot concert at Orillia’s Opera House and stole Gordon’s or one of the band member’s leather jacket.

Orr

Orillia pennant

orillia main 2

main 3

or

main 6

main 4

Orillia main

orillia 2

Cream Of The Crop

003

Howe

Gretzky

The best ever? It’s been written and talked about forever.

I don’t care. I want to talk about it too. It’s cold and I don’t want to go out.

There’s no real definitive answer I think, but it can be broken down in stages.

Howie Morenz in the 20s and 30s. Maurice Richard’s name was added in the 40s. Gordie Howe and the Rocket in the 50s.

It was all Howe in the 1960s, although Bobby Hull’s name was tossed around by some, and Bobby Orr showed up in the latter part of the 1960s and into the 70s.

Then Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky came along and ruled the 80s and 90s.

Gretzky’s name comes up much more than Mario’s, but Mario, before he got sick, would take a back seat to no one and ended with 1723 points in 915 regular season games, including an 85-goal season in ’88-89.

Maybe Mario is underrated when it comes time to talk about the best ever. He was big and smart with hands of gold.

Sidney Crosby is great of course, but he’s not in this stratosphere. Not yet at least. I wonder if some would disagree about that.

Usually, it boils down to three guys when this topic comes up – Howe, Orr, and Gretzky.

My choice is Bobby Orr.

Although I would see Gordie Howe play a number of times over the years on television (once live at Maple Leaf Gardens in the mid-’60s), he never seemed to completely control the flow of the game the way Orr did, although I know Howe was in a league of his own in almost every department.

Orr’s two years older than me and comes from the same area of Ontario. We were worlds apart as players of course, but at least I can say I  played in many of the same barns as him, maybe against some of the same guys he played against in town like Midland and Huntsville and Gravenhurst. I feel some sort of Central/Northern Ontario connection in a way.

Bobby Orr was a minor league phenom and we were talking about him with envy when we were kids. We knew about him. We heard about his exploits. Parry Sound kids my age came down to Orillia to play and I think our teams played there too. And we watched his brother Ron when his Junior C Parry Sound team played in Orillia.

I saw Orr a few times in Orillia over the years, including a night at the Atherley Arms Hotel when he was at a table with friends and a guy with a few too many drinks in his belly came up to Bobby and was rude and vulgar, which wasn’t cool.

I also by chance walked by him and his wife Peggy in the Orillia park one day and said hi, and they both smiled and said hi back.

I saw him play when he was 16 in an exhibition game in Bracebridge. He was with the Oshawa Generals at the time, but on this night he suited up with the Orillia Terriors senior team against a Muskoka all-star senior team. Orr had the puck all night, and we could see other players – talented, grown men – laughing and shaking their heads at how good this teenager was.

Orr skated like no other defenceman, he had different bursts of speed, he charged the net and racked up points like no other defenceman, and he controlled the play like no other player on the ice. He was also strong and smart, and when it came time to drop the gloves, he could be nasty.

That’s a complete player to me. He did it all and cruelly it didn’t last long because of his bad knees (10 seasons in Boston and a short stint in Chicago). But what a player he was before his knees did him in.

Orr himself says Gordie Howe was the best ever. He played against Howe and watched Gretzky throughout 99′s career. But it’s Howe he chooses, as do many.

Howe wasn’t flashy like the Rocket, Orr and Gretzky, but every pass from him was on the tape, his shot was as hard or harder than any player in the league, he was as good or better a goal scorer as there was, and he was a mean hombre, the toughest player in the league. Punches that crushed noses.

No one dared fight him. He struck fear into the hearts of others, but they respected him. To go into the corners with him was never a good thing. His elbows were legendary.

And of course Wayne Gretzky. You need a fancy calculator and about an hour to tally his records. There’s a legion of players and fans who insist he’s the greatest ever. It’s been said often that in the heat of battle, he thought two or three plays ahead. It was ridiculous how he could rack up the points.

But I go with Bobby Orr. Orr had it figured out ahead of time like Gretzky did. It’s some sort of miraculous instinct. He was a better skater than Gretzky, there’s no comparison in toughness, and he collected reams of points even though he was a defenceman.

He also comes from my neck of the woods and from the same era, which is important to me.

The only Boston Bruin I was ever a fan of.

 

 

Stuff – Including Max Makes Team

I’m at work, I’m very busy, and I can only offer the following, which isn’t much.

Puck drops at 8:30 ET tonight in Dallas, and the question lingers – will the Canadiens continue to smell? We can only wait and see.

The U.S. Olympic team was announced following the Bridgestone Winter Classic, and George Parros isn’t on it.

But Max Pacioretty is.

First a baby boy, and not long after, an Olympic roster spot announcement.

Congrats Max.

And about the Winter Classic, with more than 105,000 fans in attendance at “The Big House” in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The smallish yet shifty right winger skated casually out of his own end, and suddenly without warning, he burst in. It was like the others were standing still.

You can’t see the 105,000 fans here. They were far, far from the action, which has been my annual beef since these outdoor things began. Even the first row is probably a lousy view for the paying public, considering it’s about fifty feet from the boards.

But that’s their choice so maybe I’ll just shut up.

Anyway, the big rush.

Fergy, Ted, & Douglas

Douglas Murray stepped up to the plate Wednesday night in Buffalo against big John Scott, and although his face was bloodied, he gave the big tree a good run for his money.

Shouldn’t Scott be elsewhere? Like holding up a circus tent maybe?

I have a whole new level of admiration for the Swede with the English name. Previously I’d only noticed a guy who isn’t a great skater, can be caught out of position, who makes the odd mistake and never contributes to the scoresheet. But he hits hard, and I see now he’s got guts.

I’m proud that he took one for the team and showed that the Canadiens aren’t to be pushed around. Thank you Douglas.

In appreciation of him, I’ve dug out a couple of old photos from two tough Habs, back when they were still in the American Hockey League with the Cleveland Barons.

John Ferguson and Ted Harris, who took no prisoners in the 1960s. Although Harris did have his hands full with a young Bobby Orr, who could scrap with the best of them.

We don’t want John Scott-types on the team, but we’ll take a couple of Fergy and Harris-types any day.

Fergy’s reputation is spread far and wide. Ted Harris’ – not so much.

This is what Canadiens.com’s historical section says about him:

“Game in and game out, Harris’ physical game played an important role in the Canadiens success in the 1960s. He tangled with incoming forwards, kept the Montreal crease free of upright enemy players, applied some of the heaviest checks in the NHL and, on more than a few occasions, inflicted fistic retribution on those foolish enough to take liberties with his more subtly skilled teammates.”

Here they are as Barons – circa 1963, just prior to joining the Canadiens on a regular basis. (I apologize for the less-than-great quality).

JF

TH

Friday’s Washington Game

Couldn’t see all of the Friday night Habs-Washington tilt, I’m in Ottawa at a family reunion,, and all I know from glancing back and forth from time to time was that Alex Galchenyuk looked good playing on the right side with Morenz at centre and Joliat on left wing.

I also thought the pairing of P.K. Subban and Doug Harvey on the blueline was a good fit, especially on the power play when Harvey outsmarted three Capitals, sent it over, and PK blasted one home.

Max Pacioretty, playing on a line with Jean Beliveau and Maurice Richard, dinged more than one biscuit off the post and apparently enjoyed a fine night all round. Playing with Le Gros Bill and Rocket seems to really agree with Patches, and I hope Toe Therrien keeps them together.

I also hope Toe sticks with the Lach, Bournival, and Lafleur line as well. I see good chemistry there. And anytime now I’m expecting the Steve Shutt, Lars Eller, and Brendan Gallagher triumvirate to finally break out of the doldrums.

The problem is, neither Peter Budaj in the first two periods and Jacques Plante, who replaced Budaj in the third, could handle Alex Ovechkin, who had the two netminders’ numbers in a big way. And it certainly didn’t help when John Ferguson was sent to the box for goalie mugging and shortly after, Brandon Prust for tripping, and it was left to Claude Provost and Tomas Plekanec to kill unnecessary and ill-timed penalties.

Although I must admit, I enjoyed seeing Sprague Cleghorn coldcock the obnoxious Mikhail Grabovski, even though it put us behind the eight-ball once again.

The team really has to get it together. Bobby Orr and the big, bad Bruins are well ahead in first place, and Tampa Bay continues to play well. And if Phil Kessel and Dave Keon continue their torrid goal scoring pace, Toronto’s going to be tough.

Habs get it done/not done in Washington Friday night. And they’ll have their hands full when the Penguins come to town on Saturday.

It’ll be nice when Cournoyer finally gets back.