Tag Archives: Charlie Conacher

Hopefully Not Three In A Row

Whenever the Canadiens lose, like they have in their last two outings against Boston and Buffalo, I have to change my television viewing habits. I refuse to watch hockey highlights after the game, and the following day. Especially when the gang gets scored on with two seconds left.

Seeing some sportscaster talk about a Habs loss and how it happened isn’t my idea of a good time. Why do I need this again? It sucked the first time and surely it’ll suck the second time too. It’s been this way for me for many years.

I hate it when Montreal loses, and I definitely don’t want to watch others dwell on it.

I’m on days off now, and  instead of having sports on, I’ll watch a couple of cop shows, recycle, walk, do the dishes, read, pick my toenails, gargle, look in the fridge, swab my ears, vacuum, go to the store, and wait until they win again so I can watch some sports news.

Hopefully they’ll beat the Leafs on Saturday night, although there’s certainly no guarantee. Phil Kessel finally got his first of the year, and watch, he’ll play like Charlie Conacher when the Leafs and Habs connect that night.

When I first heard that Kessel had scored, I said good, I’ve got him in my pool. Then, when I checked my pool to see how I’m doing, I see I don’t have him after all. All along I thought I had the bugger, and disturbingly, it’s probably just another direct sign that I’m losing my mind. It goes along with when I was in Orillia recently and I was looking at a 1972 Ontario license plate for sale in a second-hand store. I went back the next day and somehow it had become a 1973 license plate.

The Leafs, although they’ve played eleven games to the Habs ten, are just one point behind Montreal and we can’t be having the Canadiens lose three in a row and the Leafs overtaking them. How that would suck. And once again there would be no sports on my television until at least after the next game.

Having no sports shows on is fine, I suppose, although I’m a fan of Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown. At least he doesn’t dwell on actual games. He’s into the bigger picture and I’m pretty confident he won’t bring up the latest Habs loss. Although the question lingers – why does he wear sunglasses indoors?

I hate it when Montreal loses. I take it hard. It’s always been this way, and I ask myself -  when am I gonna grow up? It’s only a game, isn’t it?

Charlie Switches Sweaters

This beautiful piece of art, measuring more than two feet by three feet, was originally in a Quebec school in the 1940′s as dated on the bottom of it.

In a scene from the 1930′s, it was used as part of student storytelling, copying, or whatever else they came up with in class. It’s now framed and hangs proudly on my living room wall, and it brings back many memories of playing on an outdoor rink growing up in Orillia.

There’s a fishing scene on the other side.

What’s funny about it is the Montreal player on the left, handling the puck, bears a distinct resemblance to Leafs star Charlie Conacher.

Hockey Inside/Out Makes My Day

Hockey Inside/Out has a fantastic eight minute clip of a 1932 Montreal-Toronto game, with Foster Hewitt doing the play-by-play and Howie Morenz showing why he was called the Babe Ruth of Hockey. Big Charlie Conacher, as smooth and as rugged as can be, was the Leaf marksman.

I’m tremendously grateful to see this. I love the old stuff with an unwavering passion, and this clip is magical. Thank you, Hockey Inside/Out gang.

The ad you see at the top is one I clipped from a 1940 newspaper I found. I’ll take two of your best 75 cent tickets please.

And happy Labour Day. I’m off to work shortly, because somebody has to.

 

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.


Just Another Crazy Day In Habs-Leafs Land

For as long as there has been and will be Montreal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leaf hockey games, there will be barnburners, surprises, see-saw battles, and spirited play. Seems like it’s always been this way. Like tonight. And in the end, it took a shootout to decide the outcome, after one team blew a late-game two-goal lead, only to pull it out in dramatic fashion.

It was back and forth, with goal posts hit and bodies flying and intensity oozing through every crack. It was Charlie Conacher and Toe Blake, Bill Barilko and Rocket Richard, Guy Lafleur and Darryl Sittler. It was squeals from the crowd and no one leaving early.

It was also not perfect, and both coaches, Jacques Martin and Ron Wilson, are now checking their scalps for patches of hair loss.

The Canadiens won the shootout with goals by Mike Cammallera and Scott Gomez, and the team gains two points, but kudos also to the Toronto Maple Leafs who didn’t take a back seat at anytime, who almost won the thing, and walked away with an important point. The final score was Habs-5, Leafs-4. And fans got their money’s worth.

What else can I say? The Habs blew a late 4-2 lead and had to settle for a shootout win. The outcome is good, the situation isn’t great. They made the Leafs and Mike Komisarek look extremely respectable. And that’s unacceptable.

Random Notes:

You have no idea how much I hate the barber pole uniform the Habs have been forced to wear. With every breath I take, I wish these uniforms would be eaten by moths the way Roch Carrier’s Toronto Maple Leafs sweater was. It took me most of the first period to even associate those barber poles with the Montreal Canadiens.

For me, and for most Habs fans, there’s only one jersey, and that’s the classic CH. These Ottawa 67′s, (Ottawa’s junior team who wear a similar style) as Chris described them as and he’s dead-on, were fine last year – once – as part of the centennial celebrations. Now it’s time to take them out to the back and burn them.

This is the Ottawa 67's jersey. These have been called barber-pole for years. I think they're easier on the eyes than the Habs version.

This is the Ottawa 67's jersey. These have been called barber-pole for years. I think they're easier on the eyes than the Habs version.

 

 

Secondly, the goaltending decision.

Jaroslav Halak let in four goals on Wednesday against Pittsburgh before Carey Price replaced him, and then Price played the next game against Chicago, a game he played well in. Price deserved to start this game tonight and I was completely taken aback when I heard Halak was playing. I am, as they say, befuddled.

Two players I’ve been a little critical of lately, Hal Gill and Guillaume Larendresse, both scored.

Habs host Atlanta on Tuesday.

Outdoor Rinks, School, Habs-Leafs, And Who’s That Guy With The Puck?

0042This beautiful piece of art measuring more than two feet by three feet, was originally in a Quebec school in the 1940′s. It was used, along with other outdoor scenes, as part of student essays or copying or whatever it was they did with it in class. It’s now framed and sits proudly in my living room, and it brings back many memories of playing on an outdoor rink growing up in Orillia.                                                                          

What’s funny about it is the Montreal player on the left, handling the puck.                                                                                                                                         

I would say there’s a distinct resemblance to Leafs star Charlie Conacher.

conacher