Tag Archives: Brian Engblom

Irving Grundman Said…

You’d have to think it’s quite odd for a GM to answer some punk’s question about getting tickets. Somehow I can’t see Pierre Gauthier or Brian Burke doing this, or any GM for that matter.

It’s one last letter from the bunch I’d lost years ago and then found recently, and surprisingly, it came from Irving Grundman, who was the Habs GM at the time.

But first, a few things about Mr. Grundman.

Irving Grundman replaced Sam Pollock as GM in 1978, and it was unexpected. Most thought Scotty Bowman would be named the new boss, but it was decided that Bowman would probably be too quick on the draw in trading players, and the bowling alley magnate Grundman was brought in, mostly because of his money-handling abilities.

By all accounts, Grundman wasn’t the greatest Habs GM there ever was, although the recent few might give him a run for his money. It was he who decided to choose Doug Wickenheiser instead of Quebec star Denis Savard in the 1980 draft, whereas Wickenheiser never became the player they thought he’d become and Savard would star in Chicago. Grundman and Jacques Lemaire disagreed on things and the star forward retired and moved to Switzerland. There were also problems finding a decent replacement for Ken Dryden in nets, and three coaches were hired and fired in Grundman’s short time at the helm.

Grundman also pulled the strings on the huge Rod Langway, Doug Jarvis, Craig Laughlin, and Brian Engblom trade to Washington for Ryan Walter and Rick Green and it was this move that is considered most responsible for the saving of the strugging Capitals franchise. Langway would win the Norris Trophy the first two years he was in Washington.

In his defence, Grundman also drafted Guy Carbonneau and Chris Chelios, which were good moves, but all in all, he was considered out of his league and should have concentrated on the bowling alley business.

After he was let go by the Canadiens, he would become a Montreal city councillor, found himself charged with corruption, and sentenced to 23 months of community service and fined $50,000.00.

Almost three months to the day after Mr. Grundman wrote this letter, he was fired by the Canadiens, and Serge Savard would take his place.

One Last Extra, Extra – A Great Year -1978

I’ll bet you’re tired of this. Well, don’t fret, this is the final installment of “Extra, Extra, Read All About It.”

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).

This final chapter looks at the great Habs Cup win in 1978, which was a lovely time indeed if you were a fan of the bleu, blanc, et rouge.

Serge Savard, after his team had had sailed to their third straight championship in 1978, lit a big cigar and reflected. “It’s something pretty special to be a Montreal Canadien, you know. We want to keep that role and the good things that go with it. But we have to work to do it because of those kids.”

And what kids were Savard talking about? Kids who played a large role in the winning of this Cup, youngsters like Pierre Mondou, 22, who assisted on two big goals in the final game a 4-1 win over Boston. It would be Mario Tremblay, 21, who didn’t play in the final until the fourth game, and scored twice. And it would be other young fellows like Brian Engblom, Gilles Lupien, Rick Chartraw, Rod Schutt, Mike Polich, Pat Hughes, and Pierre Larouche. 

And seeing these young guys play their hearts out was the motivation for the team to not rest on their laurels, not stand still, and not pat themselves on the back. There was no complacency on this team.

Scotty Bowman spoke about it afterwards during the celebration. “Having the extra guys who could play for just about any NHL club really helps in the motivation department,” said the coach. “We only have one player (Larouche, obtained in a trade with Pittsburgh) who ever played for another team.”

“Our farm system produces kids who want to play for the big club – and the guys with the big-league jobs know it. The kids are hungry, they have their agents pushing them and it makes a healthy situation.”

Larry Robinson won the Conn Smythe in this 1978 playoff year, his second in three years, (the other being in 1976), and he was awarded a brand new Ford Thunderbird from Sport Magazine for his efforts. “It’s an honour, of course,” said Robinson, “but the key to this team’s success is that it’s a real team and what one guy does is no more important than the contribution of another player.”

Montreal in these playoffs first met the Detroit Red Wings, eliminating the Wings four games to one. The Habs then swept the Leafs four straight before taking out the Bruins in the final, four games to two.

They would win one more Cup the following year before things eventually began to unravel.

Some final few words about Larry Robinson winning the Conn Smythe goes to Don Cherry (coach of the Bruins). “He deserves it,” said Cherry. “There’s nothing he can’t do. There were many four skaters on four situations in this series and at those times there was no stopping him.” 

Thanks for reading this series. Now I can hardly wait to write about our next Stanley Cup, happening next spring.

 

Extra, Extra…..Part Six in ’86

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).

This is part six – 1986

David Desharnais was born in 1986. Time marches on.

Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey, both well past their prime, called the 1986 Stanley Cup win the sweetest of all their championships. It was a team without snipers, a team full of hard-working grinders, and a team oozing heart and soul. And with Robinson and Gainey’s leadership, grinders grinding, and Patrick Roy in goal, the Canadiens took out the Calgary Flames in five games and Cup number 23 was in the books.

Patrick Roy was named the Conn Smythe trophy winner, a feat he would repeat again in 1993, and talk in the dressing room afterward was about the stop Roy made with just 14 seconds left, a stop that ended a Flames rally in dramatic fashion. In fact, the Habs almost blew it and who knows what would have happened in the series if Calgary ended up winning a game that was in the bag for the home team.

Montreal was leading 4-1 midway throught the third period and they were beginning to lick their lips at the thought of drinking from the Cup. But the Flames had other ideas. They made it 4-2, then 4-3 with Mike Vernon pulled for an extra attacker. Smiles and backslapping stopped on the Montreal bench. The Forum grew nervous. And then the Roy stop happened.  

Here’s Roy explaining the play. “The Flames were all around the net, and I had made the first save on Mullen, but the rebound went to (Jamie) Macoun, who was right beside me. I made the split and got my pad on the shot and then covered the puck with my glove. I was really lucky on that play, but you make your own luck, right?”

“Roy” muttered Chris Chelios. “Patrick Roy. Whew!”

Young Claude Lemieux scored ten goals in these playoffs, including four game-winners. Ryan Walter played with a half-healed broken ankle. Rookie Brian Skrudland, who had his jaw broken early in the game by Calgary’s Nick Fotiu, never missed a shift, and scored Montreal’s second goal.

Skrudland also notched the game winner in game two in the shortest overtime ever…just nine seconds in.

Linemate Mike McPhee, who became a household name in these playoffs, said of Skrudland, “He showed me what I could do when I saw him, at 175 pounds, playing like a 205-pounder every shift.”

Guy Carbonneau, called “the defensive Gretzky,” continued on even with a serious knee injury. Craig Ludwig played with a back so bad he had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Claude Lemieux, a favourite target of the opposition, played like he was possessed. “I like it fine when everybody’s after me…I am an inspiration to every player in the AHL.”

Chris Nilan couldn’t suit up for the last two games because of a damaged ankle, was bittersweet in the room during the celebrations. “I wanted to be wearing the colours,” he told reporters. “I’m glad it gave (Steve) Rooney and (Serge) Boisvert the chance to get their names on the Cup. They deserved it because they worked like hell and never opened their mouths.”

Rick Green, a whipping boy to the public was he came over from Washington with Ryan Walter in the unpopular trade that sent Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin packing, was considered the best defenceman of all in the ’86 playoffs. And Gaston Gingras finally showed he was a bonafide NHLer by having a fine series and scoring three big goals.

Montreal had reached the final against Calgary by first taking out the Boston Bruins in three games  (a best of five), then Hartford in seven games, and finally the Rangers in five.

And the last word goes to Mats Naslund. “We needed a lot of things to go our way if we were going to win. We had a lot of problems during the regular season, and while we were having them those problems, anybody who said we’d win the Stanley Cup had to be out of his mind. But when things started to fall into place, we felt we had a chance. We had the feeling we could beat the teams we faced, and this,” he said with a wave of his hand at the celebrations around him, “is the payoff.”