Tag Archives: Calgary Flames

A Win Over The Flames Would Be A Big Flaming Deal

It’s a big game for the Habs when the Calgary Flames visit Tuesday, if only for the fact that Calgary is sporting an excellent 10-4-1 record so far and is a fine test for the sometimes good, sometimes bad Canadiens.

Montreal has hovered around the .500 mark ever since game 1 when Andrei Markov went down, and they can bring it back to that, as they’re now sitting at 8 wins and 9 losses. So it’s time to pound the Flames and pay them back for handing the good guys their first loss of the year in game 3 of the season, a game Montreal could have won with a few extra bounces.

In fact, the loss was the beginning of a horrendous west coast swing that saw them destroyed 7-1 in Vancouver the following night. I’m still considering therapy for that one. And as bad as Habs fans felt that night, don’t forget those images of Carey Price’s dad and mom in the stands. 

After that, they capped it off with a 3-2 loss in Edmonton.

All in all, it was a really lousy road trip.

A big night by the Montreal Canadiens would go a long way in instilling a good, winning spirit before they take to the road to meet the Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators on Thursday and Saturday respectively.

And I suppose we can’t really complain about .500 hockey, considering the absence of Markov and Ryan O’Byrne, and the implosion of Andrei Kostitsyn. And half the team was replaced and it takes time to gel with new teammates, not to mention new coaches and new system. 

Many of us have said it would take until the new year to see the real Montreal Canadiens, so if they can maintain a solid win-loss record until then, then I’m reasonably happy. Although a .750 record would work better, but I’m trying not to be greedy.

Habs Hit A Niittymaki Wall

It wasn’t like Montreal didn’t have its chances in this depressing 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Canadiens had long, extended chunks of each period where they stormed the net and swatted away all around Tampa goaltender Antero Niittymaki. But Niittymaki, like so many goalies who come in to Montreal, played like he’s the greatest backstopper on the face of the earth and 15 years from now will absolutely be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Other nights I’m sure he’s quite average. Just not tonight.

Canadiens’ Little Big Three zoomed all over the place, but only Brian Gionta could find the twine. Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri should have had one or two themselves but just couldn’t get it done. On this night, Niittymaki was the boss.

Carey Price wasn’t the boss. He was decent but not great, and we need great. There were several times when he was caught way out of position but Tampa couldn’t finish. But in the end, they finished three times which was too much for a Habs squad who couldn’t solve the other guy.

Random Notes:

I felt Tomas Plekanec skated well, as did Glen Metropolit at times. But maybe it’s just me.

Canadiens host the Flames on Tuesday.

Plus – Can we start over? 

Lanny McDonald To Play Goal For The Leafs

lannyRetired superstar Lanny McDonald, who was a forward all his life, has been recruited by the Toronto Maple Leafs to play goal for them after GM Brian Burke realized that his existing goalies suck.

McDonald scored 500 goals and added 506 assists in 1111 games with three different teams, the Leafs, Colorado Rockies, and Calgary Flames, and is now 56 years old. McDonald currently makes his home just outside of Calgary and there’s no word whether he’ll be moving to Toronto permantly, or just temporarily. McDonald was the one who roamed the ice sporting a big honkin mustache, a giant of a thing that became his absolute trademark. Did you ever wonder why his wife would want to kiss him with that disgusting furball covering his mouth? And imagine all the relish and boogers that got stuck in there?

McDonald couldn’t be reached for comment but ………

Oh, wait a minute, I’ve just gotten word that the goalie will be Joey MacDonald, not Lanny McDonald.

Hmmm.

Never mind.

Habs Play Two Good Periods, But It Takes Three

Sadly, the Montreal Canadiens will not be challenging the 1979 Philadelphia Flyers’ astonishing record of going unbeaten in the first 35 games of the season. They were on their way, mind you, but got stalled at game three. One little game has screwed up the whole record-breaking process.

Montreal played a great game at the Saddledome in Calgary Tuesday night. Yes, they lost 4-3, and yes, they had a letdown in the second period, but overall, they skated hard. I was proud of them. Fans got their money’s worth. For many of the Saddledomians, there were times when it was even more exciting than chuckwagon races.

Jaroslav Halak was in goal for the Habs, and as an official armchair quarterback, I think Carey Price should’ve been in goal. This was a big game, Calgary’s a strong team, and it’s only game three for gawd’s sakes. Price could’ve played in both Calgary and Vancouver, and then Halak could’ve stepped in in Edmonton Saturday night. Why not go with Price? He’s young, he’s in shape, he’s not burnt out, and he’s been hot. Why change? You think Ken Dryden or Jacques Plante only played two straight and then sat?

Three players earned their first goals in this game – Scott Gomez, Guillaume Latendresse, and Tomas Plekanec. The Gomez line, with Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, skated miles. They were part of the reason the crowd got their money’s worth. There’s going to be lots of thrills and spills this year with these three. Some good old fire-wagon hockey. Stay healthy, boys.

The Flames wore their old uniforms and it looked like Patterson and Peplinski out there. But on closer examination, it was only Prust and Pardy. And naturally, Montreal fans were scattered throughout, as will be the case in Vancouver Wednesday and Edmonton Saturday.  It goes without saying that when the Habs come to these western cities, it’s a big night for their fans. It’s a beautiful thing.

Of course, it’s much more beautiful when they win.

Random notes:

The Vancouver game is now getting into my territory, with Vancouver only two ferry rides away. It’s one of my big nights, a game I check first when the schedule comes out. It’s very important the Habs win this one. Not just for them and the standings, but for me. I need to have some bragging rights for a change. I’m a goldfish in a sea of carp.

Montreal has done very poorly in Vancouver, at least since 1996, winning just four while losing nine to the Canucks. I can’t stand it. This needs to be changed and I can’t think of a better time to start than Wednesday night.

Get In And Get Out Quick

It snowed in Calgary yesterday. Just a wet snow that vanished soon after, but snow nontheless. Winter’s on its way in cowtown, and soon people will be freezing their pistachios off scurrying from the Saddledome parking lot to the ticket takers inside.

I lived in Calgary for seven years, was a semi driver there, and once in late October, after a raging snowstorm had hit the night before, I dropped a trailer at a frozen meat warehouse and was bobtailing back in my tractor, I began to brake for a train crossing an icy industrial park road, and although I was only going about five miles an hour, slid right into it. How many people do you know who have hit a train?

Another time, while driving my truck in a major snowstorm south of Calgary, with a white-out so thick I couldn’t see even the hood, I crossed the medium into the northbound lane and didn’t know it until I got out and started walking around.

I ruined my knees skiing in the area. My first marriage ended there. I froze my pistachios often.

Calgary brings back bad memories. And on top of that, there’s Flames fans everywhere. Snow, ice, whiteouts, and Flames fans.

So the plan for the Canadiens is, get in, win, don’t get hurt, and get the hell out before anything bad happens.

Here’s To Fleury And All Small Players

theo1Theo Fleury, all 5’6″ of him, which is an inch shorter than both Brian Gionta and Henri Richard, is hoping to make a comeback with the team where he found his greatest glory, the Calgary Flames. He’s been sober for four years now and feels he’s ready to go. And we’ll see soon enough if he’s ready to go or not. 

What I remember most about Theoren Fleury, when I lived in Calgary, was this: the fans loved him, he had a gorgeous wife, and he played like he was six foot two. He fought for the puck in corners with guys he only came up to their shoulder pads with; he dropped the gloves with bigger guys, he checked hard and was a strong little bugger. He was a bonafide star on some excellent, star-laden Calgary Flames teams.

This is a guy who’s a shining example of a small guy doing just fine, thank you very much, and why so-called hockey experts who say Montreal has small forwards and that’s a bad thing  are just blowing smoke. Small guys can play in the NHL, as long as they play like big guys. And as long as most of them are forwards and not defencemen.

Montreal isn’t even that small. Sure, new guys like 5’7″ Gionta and Mike Cammalleri at 5’9″  have brought the average down a little, but they’re also gritty players who carry on the tradition of good, small guys like Henri Richard, who no one messed with, Dave Keon, and of course, Fleury.

Just buy one of those sponge bricks and when you hear broadcasters and reporters ramble on about Montreal being too small, throw the brick at your screen. They’re full of it. Or, if you’re sitting behind them at the rink, throw a real brick.

Theo Fleury’s chances are only slim that he’ll find a spot on the Flames roster, but I’m pulling for him. He’s been through a lot and wants to get back. He’s a tough guy who beat the odds in real life, just like he did on the ice. And good for the Flames for at least giving him a shot.

Notes From An Important Visit

Cameron, the Montreal Canadiens’ first-round draft pick in 2027, not only celebrated his first birthday in Calgary on Wednesday, but also took his first steps on Tuesday. Judging from these first steps, the upcoming blue-chipper looks like his skating style will be short and choppy strides, possibly like Steve Shutt.

The Calgary Flames, who are about to celebrate their 30th anniversary of being in Calgary, have unveiled their third jersey which will be worn six times this year. The jersey, the old red ‘flaming C’ style, is the exact same as the one the Flames wore when they lost to the Habs in the Stanley Cup final in 1986. (It’s also the same uniform worn when the Flames beat Montreal to win the Cup in 1989, but nobody cares about that.)

Someone wrote in to the Calgary Sun saying that Flames rearguard Dion Phaneuf was an absolute prince of a guy when he did an autograph session recently in the city. Phaneuf signed and posed and smiled for hours on end, thus making the day for countless Flames fans. There are also no reports of any Edmonton fans in the lineup being bodychecked into the display table by the hulking defenceman.

Flames prez Ken King says the team should have a new rink within three years. He also says his Flames are one of the best organizations in the NHL. They’re definitely better than Phoenix at least.

My ex-wife, who was also at the birthday party of the 2027 Habs first-round draft pick Cameron, thinks I’m an idiot for having a Habs blog. When I showed it to her, all she did was roll her eyes. She then told me she runs marathons and climbs mountains.

2027 draft pick Cameron is absolutely delighted with the Habs boots, which should fit in three or four years, given by his grandpa. He then carried on playing with wrapping paper.
2027 draft pick Cameron is absolutely delighted with the Habs boots, which should fit in three or four years, given by his grandpa. He then carried on playing with wrapping paper.

Intermission (Rambling And Babbling On)

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Rumour has it that Calgary Flames mascot Harvey the Hound, along with Snoopy, Goofy, Benji, Spuds MacKenzie, Huckleberry Hound, Marmaduke, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and all of the hounds of the Baskervilles have banded together and decided to boycott the city of Philadelphia because Michael Vick will be living there. “We never went there anyway because of Bobby Clarke,” admitted Harvey, “but the Vick thing takes it to a whole new level.”

And  Lassie’s grandson, Lassie, is considering making a bid for the Phoenix Coyotes. Lassie the 4th has inherited millions from his famous movie star grandfather, and is interested in becoming an owner. Gary Bettman, in an official statement, welcomed the new offer. “I’d rather have a dog as an owner than Jim Balsillie,” stated the commissioner.

I heard this on the radio the other day, and I can relate. “I only went to school when the pool hall was full.”

This is a sad and true story;  For months on, when I went into the doctor’s office, I’d talk to the receptionist. “Hi Kim” I’d say. Morning Kim, how ya doing, Kim, bye Kim, thanks Kim, nice day Kim. Then I found out her name is Michelle.

Yes it’s true. I almost gave Jean Beliveau a heart attack. I was at the Montreal Forum a long time ago, picking up a signed stick they’d given me, and at the bottom of the stairs somewhere in the building I stood silently and wrapped the stick up to protect the signatures. Suddenly, at the top of the stairs, the door opened and there was Jean Beliveau. All he saw was me wrapping some long thing up, like a gun. I THINK HE THOUGHT I HAD A GUN. Beliveau stopped in his tracks, the pleasant look vanished from his face, and he didn’t know whether to come down the stairs or not. “Hi Mr. Beliveau,” I said. “Just wrapping a stick.” And with that, he breathed a sigh of relief and came down. He reached for his pen to sign the stick, but I guess I had a case of the dozies, plus I was as surprised as he was, and I didn’t unwrap it for him. So he just put his pen back in his pocket, went out and I watched him go across the street and into the Texas Tavern for lunch. I still feel bad about this.

Remembering Danny Gallivan

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For me, and for so many others, there was no better announcer than Danny Gallivan, the voice of the Habs for 32 years from 1952 until 1984. He created incredible magic for Habs fans, and when I think of the old Montreal Forum and all the great games there, I think of Danny. Even today, especially today, I get goosebumps when I hear his voice.

I dug an old newspaper out of my trunk, a newspaper I’d kept from 1993 because it was about the greatest hockey broadcaster of them all. It’s a Calgary Herald, and the article is written by a terrific Herald staff writer named Gyle Konotopetz. In the story, he talks to Calgary Flames play-by-play man, Peter Maher, a legend in his own right, and Maher shares his own affection for Gallivan.

“It’s a snowy night in Boston…”
   Nothing is forever, thought Peter Maher, as he plugged in the majestic voice of hockey Friday afternoon and turned up the volume. Still, he wanted the cassette tape to roll forever.
“Big Robinson dashing up the ice…”
   Vintage Danny Gallivan, the same Danny Gallivan who Maher grew up listening to at Campbellton, NB, the buoyant voice crackling on a transistor radio, rising and falling with the play like a symphony.
“A cannonading drive by Cournoyer…”
   Maher wanted to listen and listen and listen. An eerie feeling came over the longtime radio voice of the Calgary Flames as he wheeled his car to the Saddledome on game day.
   The voice on the cassette seemed more alive, more vibrant than ever, yet the reality was that he would soon be dedicating this game, his 1,304th in the NHL, Rangers vs. Flames, to the memory of Gallivan, a haunting prospect.
The voice was that of his boyhood idol, and his pal, his life’s inspiration. The image is everlasting, like the Mona Lisa.
   “A shiver went up through me when I turned on the tape,” said an emotional Maher. “Foster Hewitt was the first good play-by-play man but Danny refined it. He was the master.”
   Danny Gallivan, the game’s artful crooner, died overnight Wednesday in his sleep. He was 75.
“Lemaire is on the prowl…”
   In the past, whenever Maher felt his own game slipping, he would plug in Gallivan. Friday, he replayed the most famous voice of Hockey Night In Canada in a glorious call of the deciding game of the 1978 Montreal-Boston Stanley Cup series to celebrate the legend. And he remembered the last words spoken by Gallivan in their last meeting, at the June draft in Montreal.
   “He said, ‘fed up with the grind yet, kid?” relates Maher, the Iron Man of broadcasters who has never missed an assignment. “Unfortunately, I was busy and didn’t get to spend much time with Danny. After I got my work done, I looked for him but he’d left. I feel kind of bad about that now. We should make time for those kind of things.”
   During Friday’s broadcast, Maher, 46, paid tribute to the fellow Maritimer whom he describes as “the god of the Maritimes.”
   Ed Whalen, the TV voice of the Flames, spoke in hushed tones about the man, then about the consumate pro behind the mike. “My, he was a god. A genuine class act, an exquisite man. Even though he was a god to me, when I met him for the first time in 1979 he treated me like a brother. He revolutionized broadcasting.”
“Oh, a Savardian spinnerama…”
   Maher was 18 when he first met his idol, the summer of ’65 in Montreal.  He was introduced by Denzil Murray, a Montreal police officer who also hailed from Campbellton. Murray died a week before Gallivan.
   “I was awe-stricken, almost speechless when I met him,” said Maher, the popular voice of the Flames the past 12 seasons. “Danny put me at ease.”
   Eventually Maher sent a tape of an amateur game to Gallivan. The native of Sydney, NS was so impressed he forecast Maher’s rise to the NHL at a banquet in Campbellton in the summer of ’77. “He said, ‘this kid’s a talent, you’re going to lose him soon.’ ”
   A few months later, on Nov. 11, Maher celebrated his 30th birthday as the rookie voice of Toronto Maple Leafs at the Forum. The old pro was in the next booth.
“The fans campaign for a penalty…”
   “Being up there with Danny, that’s when I knew I’d arrived,” said Maher, who last spoke to Gallivan on the phone in December. “But I’d never compare myself with him. I’ve used some phrases, like cannonading drive, but, out of respect, I never wanted to overdo it.”
“An e-NORRR-mous save by Dryden…”
   Maher’s exuberant call of the dullest of games can be traced to the infectious enthusiasm of Gallivan. “He told me that it was so important to look at every game as an important game….The biggest piece of advice he gave me was to take care of myself. He said its a tough, tough grind out there.”
“A scintillating save…”
   “He created excitement that was non-existent,” said Whalen. Said Maher: “Danny did a fair broadcast. He never struck me as a homer. And his word mixture was incredible. He preferred radio because it gave him an opportunity to paint a picture for his audience.”
“Risebrough robustly slams Johnathan into the boards…”
   Even with the advent of headset microphones, Gallivan persisted in using the traditional hand-held mike.
   “The hand-held mike was like a saftey valve to him, even though the mike was dead,” said Maher. “One time, Danny had to cough so he held the mike away from hi and coughed. Of course, the cough went over the air.”
“Look at the consternation on the countenance of Scotty Bowman…”
   “Kids would listen to him at night and wake up in the morning, asking their father what that phrase meant,” said Maher. “He was educating people. I’d never compare myself with him. Danny was the master.”
“The puck is lodged in Lapointe’s paraphernalia…”
  

For an example of Gallivan’s magic, here’s a clip of an April 16th, 1979 game at the Forum between Montreal and Toronto. Dick Irvin and Gerry Pinder are the colour guys, and the legendary Roget Doucet kicks it off with the national anthem.
 

You Want A Short Story? Here’s A Beauty

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These are Russian lapel pins. Russians love their pins, and there’s millions of them floating around. This little display I have at home are hockey and 1980 Olympics pins, and of course, there’s a story here.

In 1991, I told my friends, a Russian couple living in Leningrad, which shortly after became St. Petersburg, to start sending me pins and I’ll sell them (three for five bucks) and raise enough money to bring them to Canada to see some hockey. I raised $4000, they came, and we saw two games in Calgary, one in Edmonton, and were invited to a closed practice in Calgary where this husband and wife met all the players, got their picture taken with Theoren Fleury, and at the practice, GM Doug Risebrough came up to our seats to say hello.

Now this is where I hope you keep reading. Just a week before this couple had even landed in Canada, after all the pin selling, after all the preparation, my first wife informed me she wanted a divorce. So the whole month the Russian couple were with us, my wife and I pretended all was well so we wouldn’t ruin their holiday. But I was a hurtin puppy, and when everyone went to bed, I stayed up and drank myself into oblivion.

Now, I hope you’re still reading, because the story takes another twist. Not long after the couple went back to Russia, a letter came saying that they were also getting a divorce.

Ten years later, I married this Russian woman.