Tag Archives: Chicago Blackhawks

Bobby Hull Showed Up

I’m probably not that interesting to guys like Bobby Hull. I’m shy and feel slightly uneasy. I don’t have much to say.

Although when he first came in to our offices on Thursday, I said to him, “There’s the guy who blew slapshots past Habs goalies.” And he replied, “And it was fun too.”

Bobby was an amazing player. A wonderful skater with a great shot. A guy with flair and Hollywood good looks. The ladies loved him. Hawks fans loved him. The rest of us admired him. Opposing goalies lived in fear.

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Just A Little Pep Talk

Hardly any difference between the Canadiens and the visiting Chicago Blackhawks, who face off tonight at the Bell Centre (7 pm ET).

The teams are so close it’s mind-boggling, as you can see from the top six point-getters on both teams.

Kane – 54
Sharp -47
Toews – 45
Keith – 43
Hossa – 35
Seabrook – 31

Subban – 33
Plekanec – 28
Max – 26
Gionta -23
Galchenyuk – 23
Markov – 21

Hardly any difference.

Can the Canadiens beat this team that has 67 points to Montreal’s 55, with five guys with more points than our top guy?

I’m saying of course they can, because I’m a optimist, always have been, a Habs fan through thick and thin, and although I get angry at them and want to send up the St. Lawrence and out to sea now and again, the only way I know how to be a fan is to stick with them, keep hoping, and on a night when they play the defending Stanley Cup champions, cross my fingers and hope the power play clicks and guys who’ve been in scoring funks put it together.

Making they’ll play great! Put three solid periods together. Turn the Bell Centre into a riproaring madhouse, with everyone whoopin’ and hollerin’.

C’mon Canadiens, give us one of those games. We know you can do it.

 

It’s Good To Be Bubbly

Carey Price will be in nets, as you probably already know, for the 8:30ET game in Chicago.

We usually don’t know if this is good, bad, fantastic, disappointing or frustrating until the game is over. Because that’s the way it is when you watch the Canadiens.

But being the bubbly, effervescent, power-of-postive-thinking kind of guy I am,  I know exactly that our young goalie will be just fine as the team rolls over the Hawks and then destroys the Leafs tomorrow night.

Habs Get Their Behinds Booted As Goalie Drama Continues

A lovely woman in a tight, white sweater sat behind the Habs bench. The camera never showed her face, but she was lovely. You could just tell.

Do you think the Penguins put that lovely lady in the tight, white sweater in a seat behind the Habs bench as a distraction?

Montreal had their chances. Brian Gionta hit the post on a shorthanded rush with Scott Gomez. Tomas Plekanec has his split-second moments. But again, using the Penguins first goal as an example, the Canadiens have problems getting the puck out when the other team is forechecking, and this is leading to goals. I might have to round up a posse of some of you readers and get this straightened out. 

Penalties late in the game made it a completely lost cause for the good guys. Hal Gill tried the old push-the net-off-its-moorings trick which didn’t work because THE REFEREES AREN’T ALWAYS BLIND, HAL. And with only a few minutes left, Pittsburgh had their way with Montreal and probably didn’t even say thank you.

Sidney Crosby, as usual, played great against the team which used to be his favourite when he was a kid in Cole Harbour with icycle boogers hanging from his nose and dripping on to his little CH crest . Three goals for The Kid. Just once I’d like to see him injured when the Habs and Penguins clash.

Carey Price was in goal to start the third, and thus begins a new saga of “who’s the main goalie in Montreal now?” Was Halak that bad in the first two periods? He wasn’t standing on his head, that’s for sure, allowing four goals. And until the goaltending situation gets solidified, the Habs will never be great. It’s crucial to fix this.

Take the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury, for example. This guy is the undisputed number-one goalie for his team. He’s won a Stanley Cup. He’s a superstar. He wins games for his team. And Frozen Pond memorabilia company in Toronto says Fleury’s autograph is the number-one seller, past and present, in the business.

We want Price or Halak to achieve this status. Price could be, although his career hasn’t exactly started out so well. Halak probably can’t.

It was just one of those nights. A trouncing. An ass-kicking. A sad state of affairs.

Random Notes:

Habs see another good team on Friday – Chicago. My crystal ball says Price will start. Doesn’t mean he’ll finish, though.

If You Were Bruins’ Brass, Would You Have Let Bobby Orr Go?

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What would you have done if you were the GM of the Boston Bruins and had to make this major decision. All along you’ve had the world’s best player, Bobby Orr. He’d turned the fortunes around for the Bruins, was loved and cherished, and had done more for the team than the team had done for him.

But you let him get away when he became a free agent, and the next thing you know, the player Bruins’ fans thought would be a Bruin forever, was now a Chicago Black Hawk.

What would you have done?

Talks in Boston collapsed with bitterness stemming from Boston’s refusal to pay Orr what he and his agent Alan Eagleson thought he was worth. And what was he worth? Orr had had five operations on his left knee in nine years and had missed most of the previous season because of his knee. The Bruins had also been given private medical advice that Orr would probably not play again, or if he did, not well and not long. And Orr and Eagleson wanted $600,000 for five years while the Bruins’ best offer was $350,000.

And because of all that, he was gone. If you were part of the Bruins’ decision makers, would you have kept him after looking at these medical problems?  He still wanted to play, wanted a big raise, and there was no assurance he would even play.

What a dilemna. If it was me, I might have done the same as the Bruins. It wasn’t like they were turning their back on a player who had done so much for them. It probably was going to be money down the drain, and after all, hockey is a business. Don’t forget, Orr still planned on playing.

As it turned out, Orr played great in the 1976 Canada Cup and was voted top player in the tournament. But much of his magic was gone, and his acceleration and great skating, which were his biggest attributes, were only just a memory. His career was, for all intents and purposes, finished. He played just 26 games over three years in Chicago, and he never cashed a Hawks paycheck because, as he said, he was paid to play hockey.

It’s all very sad, but in my mind, the Bruins weren’t villains at all. They simply did what made sense.

Doug Wickenheiser Showed What Real Life Is

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Doug Wickenheiser was going to be the next big centreman for the Montreal Canadiens. Sort of like Jean Beliveau in a way, but of course that was an unfair expectation. There was only one Beliveau.

But Wickenheiser was going to be a beauty, that’s for sure. In his three years with the WHL Regina Pats, the big guy had tallied 37 goals, then 32, and finally, in his final year, a whopping 89 goals and 81 assists. The Montreal Canadiens were rubbing their hands with glee.

The Habs could’ve gone with the slick Quebecois fan favourite Denis Savard, but he was small, and the sight of 6’1″, 196 pound Wickenheiser erased any other ideas from the Habs brass. It was going to be Wickenheiser, they said. And thoughts of a new Jean Beliveau swirled around their heads.

But for some reason, Wickenheiser struggled in Montreal. Not only wasn’t he the new Jean Beliveau, but he was also just another struggling player, totalling just 7, 12, 25, and then 5 goals in his four years in Montreal before being dealt to the St. Louis Blues. Fans longed for Denis Savard and couldn’t believe the massive mistake made by the Canadiens brass, especially head scout Ron Caron, who was promptly fired for this poor choice of a draft pick.

In the meantime, Savard, picked third by the Chicago Blackhawks, (flashy defenceman Dave Babych went second) lit it up nightly, and in his brilliant ten years in Chicago, averaged 31 goals a year, including three years where he popped 47, 40, and 44 goals. It was no contest. Everyon agreed Montreal should have chosen Savard, a fire-wagon sparkplug from Pointe-Gatineau, Quebec.

Wickenheiser moved on to St. Louis, and never lit it up there either. It was obvious he was one of many players who were big stars in junior, but found the NHL a completely different story. The player everyone thought was going to make it big eventually bounced around after leaving the Blues, from Vancouver to the Canadian National team to the minors, Europe, and a ten other stops in between. It was just another story in along list of hockey player stories. Most have short careers in too many different cities. The stars are the ones we hear about, the ones who are good enough and fortunate enough to have more than a half-dozen years or so in the bigs.

In retirement, everything was going great. Wickenheiser had opened a nursery and frozen custard business in St. Louis, and his wife Dianne was expecting. But then, only eight days from Dianne delivering twins, a cyst on Wickenheiser’s wrist proved to be cancerous. There was talk of amputation. But the tumor was successfully removed and he was able to hold his new twin girls. 

For three years, all was well for Doug Wickenheiser. All he had to was wait out that magic five-year period to be proclaimed cancer-free. It wasn’t to be. Doctors found he had a rare form of lung cancer, but Wickenheiser, showing true greatness, and kept his head held high.  “I know I’ve got it,” he said. “I know I’ve got to deal with it. It’s part of life. People get sick. People get disease. I really just try to stay positive and pray everything goes well. I think it’s really harder on my wife.”

“I don’t think they (the twins) really know what’s wrong,” he said. “But they have their own prayer every night. They say, “Baby Jesus, please help Daddy’s boo-boo get better.”

Doug Wickenheiser passed away on January 12, 1999. He was only 37.

An arena in his home town of Regina bears his name.

Boston And Vancouver, Nervous After Feeling So Happy Lately

As a Montreal Canadiens fan living on Canada’s west coast, there are two teams I find myself paying strict attention to. And no, it’s neither the Pittsburgh Penguins nor the Washington Capitals, the two everyone’s talking about because they deserve to be talked about, with Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby on display, with Evgeny Malkin, after being hammered in the media for having a quiet round two, quickly finds his game and takes it to another level. Or even the play of Marc-Andre Fleury, who sometimes plays like a playoff goaltender, and other times plays like Theoren Fleury with pads on. Yes indeed, a great series to watch, but these aren’t the teams I’m paying special attention to.

I’m watching Boston and Vancouver in their particular series. Vancouver because they’re just down a windy road from me, involving two ferries to get to, and considered for most, not me but most, the home team in these parts. And Boston, well, because Boston is Boston. Montreal’s most despised rival, the team who swept the Habs in round one, and everyone, from the Boston Globe’s Kevin Dupont, to every Bruins fan on the planet, made us eat humble pie and they may have even peed it in first. Bruins faithful absolutely hate the Habs. Hate what they stand for. Hate the fact that they won so many more cups than them. The prediction was the Bruins would be too much for Montreal, and it became a lousy, gut-wrenching fact when it happed like that. And they rejoiced in our misery. Kicked us when we were down.

That’s why it’s a beautiful rivaly. We want our chance to kick them when they’re down too.

Surprisingly now, both the Bruins, who finished first overall in the east, and the Canucks, who finished strong and won their division title, are now in big doo doo. Bruins fans are surely reacting differently than the first series, as their team is now down three games to one to the Carolina Hurricanes. This wasn’t supposed to happen, thinks every single Bruins fan. “And heck, we don’t even hate Carolina like we hate Montreal. This really sucks.”

And the Vancouver Canucks, after sweeping the St. Louis Blues, now find themselves down three games to two and heading back to Chicago for game six. The Canucks knew they were going to be in tough against a good, young Chicago team. Just not this tough. If Vancouver gets eliminated, it’ll be yet another year where the team can’t get it done. Been this way since their initial season in 1970. They’ve never won the big one, and I know for sure that fans are sick to death of year after year of big-time disapppointed. And now I’m hearing everywhere that Mats Sundin in Vancouver is just a lousy carbon-copy of Mark Messier in Vancouver. Two big over-paid stars brought in to be saviours, and poof. Folks in these parts aren’t feeling good at this stage, being behind in the series like this. They’ve had it up to here with losing every single year. Incredibly, many are almost used to it.

If  Boston loses this series, does it mean it turns out they just weren’t as good as they thought? They seem to have what it takes. Just play Zdeno Charo fifty minutes a game and the defence is looked after. The snipers are there, Bergeron, Savard, Ryder. Tim Thomas  seems to be having fun between the pipes. Claude Julien’s a good coach. But if they lose, and you close your eyes, you can see millions of Habs fans in all corners of the earth with very small, very gentle smiles forming on their mouths.

Vaancouver has the world’s best goalie, Roberto Luongo, but from what I’ve seen, the young guns like Alex Burrows and company are starting to crack. There’s been unacceptable penalties taken by the Canucks, which of course, opens the door for the young Chicago studs to do their thing which they do very well, like score.

Time will tell. Both these teams can bounce back and win their series and breathe sighs of relief big enough to douse the Santa Barbara fires. But right now, both are in trouble. It’s all very interesting.

A Hockey Story

I didn’t write the following. I don’t know who did. But my son sent it to me and I think it’s a really nice story.

In the middle of a grueling six game road trip where a very young hockey team is away from home, the third game of the trip ends late on a cold Canadian Saturday night. This is the only break on the trip and the three days between games allow them the only break to get back home in their own beds for a couple of days before going back on the road. A scheduled commercial flight waits for them at Toronto ‘s International Airport for the short flight home. They could be home by midnight. This plane departs on schedule, but without a single member of the hockey team on board.

Earlier, back in the locker room, a vote was taken after the game and a unanimous decision is made by this young team to skip this flight and stay one more day. They make arrangements to check back in the hotel and on a frozen Sunday morning charter two buses that have no heat and begin a journey two hours straight north into a sparsely inhabited Canada , but where hockey is its passion.

They arrive at their destination to the surprise of the team’s general manager who is there attending his father’s wake. After a few emotional hours, this team boards the buses and head back for a two hour trip back to Toronto . On the way they ask the bus drivers to stop in a tiny Canadian town because they are hungry.

To the shock of the patrons and workers at this small hockey town McDonald’s, a professional team walks out of two rickety buses and into the restaurant, which just happens to have pictures of two members of this team on its wall. The patrons know every single one of these players by sight being fanatic fans of hockey in these parts. One can only imagine their amazement of the locals seeing an entire professional hockey team sit down and have a meal in their tiny little town in the middle of a hockey season.

After a while they board the buses and catch their same flight, 24 hours later, giving one day of their time to their general manager.

This a true story of the Chicago Blackhawks one Saturday night when they decided to attend Dale Tallon’s father’s funeral.

Stan Fischler Tells Us About Chris Chelios And Other Habs In 1988

I pulled this book from my bookcase because it was there and I was bored. It’s called Breakaway 88-89. written by Stan and Shirley Fischler, and it’s billed on the front cover as “The Essential Viewer’s Guide to the NHL.”

 

“I wouldn’t think of broadcasting a game without consulting Breakaway” gushes John Davidson. “If it’s not in my briefcase on a road trip, I’m in trouble.”

 

Don Cherry adds, “Everything anyone would want to know about the 1988-89 season.”

 

Here’s some of what Fischler wrote. Just keep in mind that it was Fischler who said Carey Price is a bum.

 

“There is so much conflict inside the Montreal Canadiens’ dressing year after year that one sometimes gets the feeling that the United Nations’ Security Council should be convened to handle the matter of who’s right and who’s wrong with the Habs. Consider:

 

-On a trip to Chicago, Chris Chelios engaged coach Jean Perron in a public argument on the team bench at Chicago Stadium.

 

-A mutiny threatened when Chelios accused teammate Chris Nilan of telling young defenceman Mike Lalor that the other backliners planned to convince Perron to employ only five defencemen – excluding Lalor.

 

-Perron angered French-speaking players on his team by declaring that some francophone Canadiens tend to think they’re big shots and need to be cut down to size.

 

-Nilan openly criticized Perron, asked to be traded and was dealt to the New York Rangers.

 

-Veteran defenceman Larry Robinson told friends he was tired of all the politics on the team and also took Perron to task. Eventually, Perron was fired.

 

Smartest Hab – Bobby Smith

Most entertaining/quotable – Craig Ludwig

Most overrated – Chris Chelios

 

Patrick Roy: He often falls prey to the inherent drawback of that style – flopping is not a precise science (as opposed to playing the angles), which makes it tough for him to duplicate his success.