Tag Archives: Busher Jackson

Gentlemen, Start Your Skates

Carey Price is under the weather and may not play in the season opener Thursday night in Toronto. C’mon Carey, shape up. Up and at ’em. Eat six raw eggs and drink a half pint of cod liver oil.

Or if all else fails, smoke a doobie. But not too close to game time.

Finally, after all these months, hockey returns for real. And the schedule maker may have other issues, but having the Habs and Leafs go at it in game one is very good. 

It goes without saying that Habs and Leaf fans love when these two play each other. The rivalry between teams is an old one, a great one, and for those who don’t know, many years ago, many, many years ago, the Leafs were a force to be reckoned with.

I know. I read it somewhere in the Old Testament.

I have my mom’s diary beside me that she wrote when she was a teenager, and the entry for April 18th, 1942 is: “The Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup tonight for the first time in years.” She was right. It had been ten years since they’d won it before that, in 1932. Overall though, the team in blue has captured the hardware 13 times, which is better than anyone else except our guys, of course. (Detroit has won it 11 times, the Bruins five).

And imagine the Stanley Cup playoffs ending on April 18th.

My mom knew the Leafs’ Bucko McDonald when she was growing up in Sundridge, Ontario, where he’s from, and it’s entirely possible she liked the Torontonians as a young girl. Maybe all those times she helped me type letters to the Montreal Canadiens at the kitchen table, she was secretly a Leaf fan and never mentioned it. (Bucko is known for another reason too: he coached Bobby Orr in nearby Parry Sound when Orr was a wee lad and McDonald can certainly claim some responsibility for helping Orr grow as a player in his formative years).

As a hockey fan, I have great respect for much of the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Conn Smythe and Frank Selke building the team in the early days; Turk Broda, Syl Apps, Hap Day, the Kid Line, Bill Barilko. Later, Tim Horton, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Johnny Bower.

The Eddie Shack – John Ferguson battles that usually led to bench-clearing brawls. Backstrom and Keon lining up for a faceoff. Punch Imlach with his fedora and arrogant smirk. Harold Ballard saying and doing the outrageous, often distastefully and lacking a certain amount of grace and decorum. But he was a fixture and mover and shaker at the Gardens for decades.

All those many nights when the Canadiens and Leafs went toe to toe at the Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens and fans got their money’s worth in spades.

The story of hockey in many ways is the story of Montreal and those dastardly Toronto Maple Leafs.

But I’m a Habs fan, and so I do what I always do – hope for a Montreal slaughter, a gigantic take-down of the boys in blue. I want a demolishing, a trouncing, a slaughtering, a one-sided embarrassment. It’s not too much to ask.

Bring ’em on. Bring on Komisarek with the bad passes and bad penalties, bring on the unlikable duo of Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel. In fact, on the subject of Grabovski, here’s a lovely little read in case you missed it; Couple sues Maple Leaf.

Random Notes:

Roman Hamrlik is still nursing his sore knee but seems almost ready. Andre Markov says it’s a secret when he’ll return, and Mike Cammalleri stays in civvies for one night only for getting down and dirty against the Islanders in pre-season. Hey, you don’t mess with Cammy.

 

Howie Feels The Habs Are………….

There is someone very interesting living across the water from me, just over on Vancouver Island, and I wanted to find out what he thought about a couple of things, including the Habs.

So I phoned him.

Howie Meeker played eight years in the NHL, between 1946 and 1953, and all eight were with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He beat out Gordie Howe for rookie of the year, and although he played with and against legendary and mighty warriors during the golden age of hockey, he says he doesn’t dwell on the past. “That was then and this is now,” he says. I don’t think about it.”

 After Howie retired he coached the Leafs for a season, became a Member of Parliament, and probably his biggest claim to fame was the gig he found himself in when hecame an outspoken and much-talked-about Hockey Night in Canada analyst in the 1970’s and 80’s. He also sounds the same now as he did then.

My little phone call with Howie wasn’t exactly award-winning, because I’m no Peter Mansbridge or Ron MacLean or George Stroumboulopoulos. I just tried to shoot the breeze with him and I think he got bored with me quite quickly. He doesn’t know me, I was interrupting his day and his oyster shucking, and I understand that. But it thrills me when I can chat with someone from back then.

I asked what he thought of this year’s Habs. “A lot of heart,” he said, “but too small.” But, I countered, is small such a bad thing? “You bet,” he said. “Small guys have to play the game of their lives every single night. They must be number one stars all the time.”

It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping to hear. I wanted him to say that even though they’re small, they can win. But he didn’t. (And hey Tomas Plekanec. Howie says small guys have to play the game of their lives.)

What do you think of the Canucks playoff run so far? “They’re toast,” said Howie. “Kesler’s done nothing. The playoffs are a step faster and tougher, and Kesler hasn’t been tough. He’s called a power forward but nowadays, he’s too small to be called a power forward.”

Then came the question I like to ask of any oldtimer. What he thought of the Rocket. “I HATED THE SON OF A BITCH,” he said in his raised and good old Howie Meeker voice. “I hated the way he played. I thought he was a no good, rotten……….But I got to know him later on when I was doing HNIC, and I really got to like him.”

I also asked him something I’ve been curious about for many years. I’d always heard that Busher Jackson, part of the famous Leafs ‘Kid Line’  of Jackson, Joe Primeau, and Charlie Conacher, had a real drinking problem and had become destitute in his later years, even selling Leafs game sticks on Carlton St. outside Maple Leaf Gardens.

But Howie set me straight. “Busher was a great guy. I knew him well. And he was the best player on that line.” But what about him becoming destitute? “Not so, said Howie. “He happened to like drinking and Conn Smythe disliked him for some reason because of this, made a big deal of it, and kept him out of the Hall of Fame for years.

Howie was also one of the Leaf forwards on the ice when Bill Barilko scored his famous Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal in the 1951 finals against the Habs, and when I brought this up, he shot back, “I should have scored it. I hit the post. And then big dum-dum skates in and scores.”

And then, without warning – “Gotta go,” Howie announced. “I’m shucking oysters.” And that was that.

In the famous photo below, that’s Howie being pinned against the boards by Tom Johnson after he had passed the puck out to Barilko. (Barilko would later die that summer in a plane crash in Northern Ontario.)

You can see a couple of other retired player chats I’ve had, right here Drinking beer with Aurele Joliat and here, Shooting the breeze with Terry Harper.

I also asked Glenn Hall once about the Rocket and he said Gordie Howe was better. Another answer I didn’t want to hear.

And The Survey Says……Habs

A recent poll conducted by the Ipso-Reid research company has found that one-third of the 1015 people surveyed say the Montreal Canadiens are Canada’s Team. I thought that was already decided. Taken for granted. A no-brainer.

But it’s only a third of the people. And if you’re wondering about the Toronto Maple Leafs, wonder no more. They garnered 25 percent of 1015. That means 253 people, a lot of people, think The Leafs, who haven’t won anything in 42 years, should be called Canada’s Team.

I’m thinking Ipso-Reid did part of their survey in a couple of retirement homes. They spoke to old fellows in wheelchairs with blankets over their legs, and the old guys, God bless ’em, talked about the days of Charlie Conacher, Busher Jackson, Syl Apps, Hap Day, and Turk Broda, and they wept and blurted out as the nurses came running that the Leafs are Canada’s Team.

Then I think the Ipso-Reid bunch went to a Jefferson Airplane reunion concert, and between tokes, the now-aging baby boomers said the 1967 Stanley Cup was like, totally far out, and yes, the Leafs are Canada’s team.

Either that or the other thing. Of course anyone who happens to be a Leafs fan isn’t going to suggest that the Montreal Canadiens, the team they wish would get run over by a bus, should be Canada’s team. You’re a pretty bad fan if you’d do this. Imagine a good Habs fan talking to the guy from Ipso-Reid and saying,”Yes, I feel the Toronto Maple Leafs are Canada’s team.”

Ain’t gonna happen. It goes against nature, like Bob Probert trying to figure skate. 

Ipso-Reid didn’t stop there, although that’s the big one. They also found out that 62% of Quebecers feel Maurice Richard is the greatest Hab ever, while only 44% of Ontarians thought that to be the case. People in Ontario prefer Jean Beliveau for “the best” label.

I think it’s the Rocket, but I know lots of folk who say Beliveau. Either way, you can’t go wrong. I’m just glad neither of them ever became a Leaf.

Imagine.


My Dad Came From The Days When Hockey On The Radio Was Just As Good Seeing It On High Definition

My dad was born in 1920. He’ll be 88 in a couple of months.

 

He told me yesterday he really misses hockey from days gone by. About Foster Hewitt on the radio on Saturday night, telling him how Turk Broda was making a sprawling save, about Blake and Richard, Bill Barilko and Busher Jackson and all the grand old players from way back when.

 

Saturday night was a big night, he said. And when television came along, the only problem was the game started at the beginning of the second period.

 

After that he said he didn’t understand all the money players are making now.

 

Then we changed the subject and went on about chasing Nazi war criminals in South America.