Tag Archives: Clarence Campbell

Rocket’s Apology

Maurice Richard, in a 1954 ghostwritten column for a Montreal weekly, had called NHL president Clarence Campbell a dictator for the way he had penalized his brother Henri and Boom Boom Geoffrion for fights they hadn’t started.

Campbell was pissed, and Canadiens general manager Frank Selke had to persuade Richard to make a public apology and post a thousand-dollar bond. The French media was pissed as well, claiming that the NHL had forced Rocket to clam up.

A year after this particular kerfuffle, Campbell would suspend Rocket for slugging a linesman, which set off the infamous St. Patrick’s Day Richard Riot.

Rocket never liked Campbell, even after his playing days were long over. Campbell probably wasn’t crazy about Rocket either.

Here’s the letter of apology, which I found in an old scrapbook when I worked at Classic Auctions.


March 17

Good sign. Just disregard the legend part.


Phyllis’ Lousy Date

Clarence Campbell sure was a lousy date, taking his secretary/fiancee Phyllis King to a game at the Forum on March 17th, just after he suspends the Rocket for the remaining 3 games of the 1954-55 regular season plus the entire playoffs for slugging a linesman.

Folks in Montreal weren’t happy, and it certainly wasn’t a good time for Clarence to be impressing his squeeze. Phyllis ended up with eggs and tomatoes on her coat, tear gas smoke in her eyes and nostrils, and a couple of rubber boots and programs bouncing off her head.

Bad romance call by Clarence.

But all’s well that ends well. Phyllis and Clarence were married in November of 1955, eight months after the infamous St. Patrick’s Day Richard Riot, so obviously she forgave him for his lack of judgement.

Not the Richard judgement, the going-out-on-a-date judgement.

The following, from my collection of letters, is a rare and original Phyllis King letter from the office of her boyfriend, four years before the lousy date.


Here they are on their romantic date.


Who Were Those Greaseballs At The Richard Riot?

Good old St. Patrick’s Day. Green beer and other green things, leprechauns, jigs, barroom brawls, hangovers, and the Rocket Richard Riot which happened on this day back in 1955, 60 years ago today.

It was also long before taser guns, which might have come in handy that night.

As you know, the Rocket was suspended for the remainder of the season and the entire playoffs after slugging a linesman, and riots and boorish behaviour ensued on Rue Ste- Catherine outside the Forum until the Rocket himself went on radio and pleaded with everyone to stop the madness, which they did.

This hockey lore will continue for another 400 St. Patrick’s Days unless global warming puts an end to everything.

What I want to know is, who were those black-jacketed hoodlums that set it all off, and are they still alive?

Clarence Campbell and his fiancee Phyllis decided to attend the game that night after the suspension was handed down, and they were pelted with eggs and other garbage. Someone went up to Campbell and hit him twice before running off. And another set off a tear-gas bomb.

So who were these greaseballs? Who threw the eggs, who punched Campbell, and who set off the tear-gas bomb? I’d like to know.

I’d like to know if they were busted for any of this. If they felt badly afterwards. If they told their kids and grandkids as the years went by. If they became heroes in their neighbourhoods. If they’re still alive. Or if they kept their embarrassing secrets with them to their graves.

Were these people even hockey fans? And most intriguing, the tear-gas bomb was apparently a Montreal police force item. How did someone get their greasy fingers on a police item?

I know that 37 people were arrested for breaking windows and looting stores that night. But I’d like to know about the handful who got the ball rolling.

If you were where one of the hoodlums, please let me know. Get it off your chest. You’ll feel better.

Bob Hill And His Rocket Richard Tune

From 1955 – Bob Hill and his Canadian Country Boys sing about the Rocket and the events that occurred leading up to and during the Richard Riot in the spring of that year.

This 78 rpm record sells for about $200 now if one could find it, and if you click right here you can listen to it for free on the Museum of Canadian Music site that’s selling it for $3.99 in the Mp3 format. (Just scroll down below the info and you’ll see “tracks.”)

This is a great old tune, and I think it’ll make you smile.

I wonder if my neighbours have heard me singing along.


Saga of Rocket Richard

In this great game of hockey,
To which we do play,
There are heroes near and afar.
But the mightiest name in our national game,
Is Maurice the Rocket Richard.

When we need a man,
To encourage the fans,
He’ll shatter all records and more.
In fact quite the cream,
Of the Montreal team,
Is Maurice the Rocket Richard.

One evening in Boston, they struck at his head,
And cut him right over the ear.
With his temper so red and the way that he bled,
His thinking could not have been clear.

In the confusion,
Before they subdued him,
He’d struck an official I fear.
In so doing you know,
He’d trod on the toes,
Of Campbell, the man with no fear.

Says Campbell – young man,
That stick in your hand,
Has put you in trouble, by gar.
Though you needed five stitches,
You’re too big for your britches,
Just who do you think that you are.

Now you’ve done this before,
And you’ve made me quite sore,
And although you are a great star.
You’re through for the year,
Do I make myself clear,
Mr. Maurice the Rocket Richard.

In a terrible plight,
Was our Forum that night,
A riot got into high gear,
And when Campbell appeared,
He was slammed and jeered,
And his danger it soon became clear.

A fan tried to drop him,
The cops couldn’t stop him,
And a bomb made ’em all shed a tear.
As the president fled,
They cried “off with his head,”
Of Campbell the man with no fear.

Now our town has lost face,
And our team has disgrace,
But those hot-headed actions can’t mar,
Or cast any shame,
On the heroic name,
Of Maurice the Rocket Richard.

For he will return,
And his legend will burn,
In the annals of sport near and far.
There was never a name,
Of such stature and fame,
As Maurice the Rocket Richard.

Soup Riot


When Clarence Campbell suspended Maurice Richard for the remaining three games of the season and all of the playoffs in March of 1955, he was not a popular man. To say the least.

Of course Clarence wasn’t popular. His suspension of the Rocket was incredibly harsh, although Maurice did whack Bruins d-man Hal Laycoe a bunch of times with his stick after Laycoe had high-sticked him (which called for five stitches), and there was that coldcocking of linesman Cliff Thompson with a punch or two. But I digress.

Richard fans took to the streets, and as we all know, trashed several blocks of Rue Ste. Catherine, which forever after became known as the Richard Riot, or the St. Patrick’s Day Riot.

But there was more than just smashing and looting. Only ordinary greaseballs simply smash and loot. One disgruntled Habs fan came up with a much more creative protest – design, print and cover Campbell’s soup cans, which was no relation to Clarence, with Maurice Richard labels, and for a short time after the incident, various stores sold their tomato soup this way.


Phyllis’ Lousy Date

Clarence Campbell sure was a lousy date. He takes his secretary/fiancee Phyllis King to a game at the Forum just after he suspends the Rocket for the remaining 3 games of the 1954-55 regular season plus the entire playoffs for slugging a linesman, and all hell breaks loose.

Folks in Montreal weren’t happy, and it certainly wasn’t a good time for Clarence to be impressing his squeeze. Phyllis ended up with eggs and tomatoes on her coat, tear gas smoke in her eyes and  nostrils, and a couple of rubber boots and programs bouncing off her head.

Bad romance call by Clarence.

But all’s well that ends well. Phyllis and Clarence were married in November of 1955, eight months after the infamous St. Patrick’s Day Richard Riot, so obviously she forgave him for his lack of judgement.

Not the Richard judgement, the going-out-on-a-date judgement.

The following, from my collection of letters, is a rare and original Phyllis King letter from the office of her boyfriend, four years before the lousy date.


Here they are on their romantic date.


Signing Bonus

What a nice group of important signatures on this sheet that I managed to get my grubby hands on recently, had them authenticated, and now are mine.

A page consisting of:


The one and only Danny Gallivan. (Until now I’d never seen a Danny Gallivan autograph although there must be some floating around considering he did a lot of banquets and charity events, especially in the Maritimes.

Dave Balon, who passed away in 2007 after a 30-year battle with MS.

Max Bentley, The “Dipsy Doodle Dandy from Delisle”, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966.

GordieVic Howe
Gordie Howe and his brother Vic. Vic played 33 games with the New York Rangers in the early-1950s.

John Ferguson, who needs no introduction.

Clarence Campbell, former league prez, inducted into the HOF in 1966.

Bill Hicke, former Hab who died of cancer in 2005.

Garry Peters
Garry Peters, a Canadien for 17 games in the mid-1960s.

Plus these cool dudes –

John Bucyk – inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981
Pierre Pilote – inducted 1975
Johnny Bower – inducted 1976
Alex Delvecchio – inducted 1977

And two great defencemen-
Jim Neilson
Doug Barkley


Cal And Company

This Orillia Terriers were household names, almost like NHL players for young Orillia kids like me. All larger than life big shots in my eyes and with other little hockey fans.

I wonder if they realized that.

The team was packed with great players playing in a great Ontario Senior League in a time when clubs weren’t far off from pro calibre. Almost a minor pro team except no money was involved.

I was just a kid, and they were grown men, really old guys who shaved. They drove trucks and worked in local factories and delivered milk and some dated older sisters of girls I knew. And when they played they burned up the ice surface.

It was fast, rough, tough hockey, and sometimes retired NHLers would show up in various lineups, including Harry Lumley between the pipes in Collingwood, and rugged forward Cal Gardner in Orillia. (top left corner in photo).

I remember watching Gardner play like it was yesterday. I can even visualize now where I was sitting during one game when he was on the ice, which is weird because I’ve often forgotten why I’ve walked from the living room to the kitchen.

But it’s vivid, and it was fun to see a guy in the flesh who had actually played in the NHL against the Rocket and Howe and others but was now an Orillia Terrier, only a few feet away, and who used the same dressing room as I did when I would lace up my little blades.

Gardner played for the Rangers, Toronto, Chicago and Boston before retiring in 1957, was twice an all-star, and joined Orillia after being with the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League. His two sons, Dave and Paul both became NHLers too.

He also also had a couple of big connections with the Habs in different ways.

Gardner was on the ice for Toronto when Bill Barilko scored his legendary goal to win the Cup for the Leafs in 1951, and had set up Howie Meeker who missed the net, just before Barilko didn’t miss the net.

And he and Montreal’s Ken Reardon enjoyed a bitter and dangerous feud that lasted years. It began when Gardner was with New York and got his stick up after a shot from the point and clipped Reardon on the lip. Gardner said his stick was up a little. Reardon said it was a blatant cross check to the face.

Whatever it was, it started a bench-clearing brawl and Reardon promised revenge on Gardner, pretty well every time the two met after that.

In 1949, when Gardner was a Leaf, Reardon finally got that revenge at the Forum, when he “accidentally” ran into Gardner and broke his jaw on both sides, causing league prez Clarence Campbell to force Reardon to post a $1000 good behaviour bond. But they continued to rough each other up even after that and the ill-will apparently continued long after both had retired.

Too bad Reardon didn’t latch on to an Ontario Senior team and they could have kept it going, maybe at the good old Orillia Community Centre, with me there to see it. I never minded seeing a little blood and intestines splattered on the ice, as long as it wasn’t mine.

Guy Should Have A Blog

Guy Lafleur should have a blog. Imagine the insights we’d get!

Guy could tell us all about his troubles with Jacques Lemaire, about why the team hasn’t won the Cup since 1993, why Rejean Houle didn’t get enough in return for Patrick Roy, why Steve Shutt was hard on rookies, what he thinks Michel Therrien is doing wrong, why sometimes there’s not enough foam on the Bell Centre beer. All kinds of stuff.

Imagine the readership he’d get. We’d rush to open his blog to see what he says. It might be the most fascinating blog in the history of blogs.

“You can’t keep guys like Vanek and Pacioretty on the team,” Lafleur now says. “They should stay home if they’re not willing to pay the price. Your team won’t win with players like that who disappear under adversity.”

Guy would get a million hits for that story alone. Advertisers would flock to him. He’d be the king of bloggers.

Lafleur was basically talking about game six of the Rangers series that ended the Habs year. New York threw a blanket over the Canadiens and that was that.

The problem, I think, is that some of the true greats like Lafleur sometimes expect others to step it up in superstar fashion, and I guess lately he’s been stewing about the team, Max and Vanek in particular, not pulling out all the stops in that final game.

Max, however, had scored the winning goal in both the Tampa and Boston series which eliminated those teams, so it wasn’t like he was going through the motions. He’s enjoyed some fine moments. But Guy was focused mostly on game six of the Rangers series when all the boys, not just Max, were stuck in mud.

Vanek, I still don’t know. Guy might have a point there. The guy had helped kickstart the team into another level when he joined them, but was definitely a disappointment in the postseason, not just game six but throughout.

But he’s probably gone anyway so it doesn’t matter what Guy says about it.

Some guys think out loud like Guy, others don’t. Bobby Orr’s teammates in Boston said that if they weren’t playing well in big games, they’d look over at Orr in the dressing room and he’d be glaring at certain guys. No words, just two eyes. If Orr was glaring at you, it wasn’t good.

Lafleur’s very much like Maurice Richard in some ways. Rocket sometimes couldn’t contain himself either, and after too much criticism in his ghost-written newspaper column, sometimes about other players and teams but particularly about league prez Clarence Campbell, Rocket was told to forget the column or else.

But no one could tell Guy to forget his blog. He could carry about things and Gary Bettman or Geoff Molson couldn’t say a thing.

C’mon Guy, start your blog. Get it all out, right or wrong, and make some serious coin doing it.



Downtown Montreal Mosey



Luci’s back in Powell River for a few months to keep her job going and keep the plants alive and all that, and I’m on my own for awhile. So I’ve started to do what I’ve wanted to do for most of my life. Really get to know downtown Montreal.

Today I drove down at 8:30 am, parked my car across the street from the Forum, walked down Ste, Catherines four kilometres to St. Laurent, walked up the Main about a kilometre to Prince Arthur, headed east to St. Denis, went down St. Denis to Rene Levesque, down Rene Levesque to Crescent, turned left into Chinatown, turned right on Gauchetiere to University, up to Ste. Catherines, and back to the Forum to my car.

Almost 12 kilometers. But I stopped at a bar on Peel where I fired up Skype and talked to Luci in Powell River for awhile.

Montreal has a fantastic downtown. When I started this big honkin’ walk it was early Saturday morning, and the streets were quiet. But as the hours rolled on, the streets came alive. It was interesting to see.

Below is a picture of the Sun Life Building that I took in about 1963 when I was thirteen. The Sun Life Building used to be the headquarters of the NHL before they took their typewriters and ledgers and secretaries and moved to New York.

It was where NHL Prez Clarence Campbell had his office and took phone calls and advice from owners like Conn Smythe and Arthur Wirtz and James D. Norris.

And it was where Maurice Richard got hauled up on the carpet in 1955 and was suspended by Campbell for the remainder of the season and all the playoffs after the Rocket, for very good reason, punched a linesman in the face. A perfect situation for rascals like Smythe and Wirtz and Norris to have happen.

I can see it now. The phone would ring and one of Campbell’s secretaries would answer, get on the intercom, and say, “Mr. Campbell, Mr. Smythe is on the line,” and Clarence would pick up the phone and say “Hi Conn, how’s things in Toronto? Have they found Barilko’s body yet?”

And Smythe would say, “Never mind that, Clarence, you have to put the hammer down once and for all with Richard. He’s getting too big for his bridges. He’s been in a lot of shit this year, he could hurt one of our guys, and I don’t care about those damn newspaper stories that say Richard is taunted and harassed by opposing players. It’s not true. Ted Lindsay and the rest are swell people. Real gentlemen. So Clarence, me and the boys feel that the next time this Richard bastard runs afoul, we want you to deal with it properly or we’ll fill your seat with King Clancy or someone like that. Someone who listens.”

So Rocket got the big suspension which led to hoodlums trashing shops near the Forum on Ste. Catherines St.

I noticed today that there’s still lots of old buildings near the Forum that would have been there during that riot.

Back to the Sun Life building. It was an important place for a young hockey fan like myself, a historic place, and I took a picture of it back then.

And below that, a couple of pictures I took of it today.




Mr. Campbell Talks Habs, Parity, And Expansion

It’s the Habs in Newark tonight, and it’s anybody’s guess what we’ll see from the gang that sometimes can’t shoot straight.

I’m not even going to try.

One thing is certain, though. The team that went to the Stanley Cup finals last year was the New Jersey Devils, and one year later they’re not even making the playoffs.

Teams can’t remain strong. Players become UFA and are gone to the highest bidder. New Jersey lost Zach Parise because Minnesota came along and threw 98 million over 13 years at him.

Do you like this sort of thing? Do you enjoy the fact that with the way the league is now, it can be Stanley Cup finalists one year, bums the next?

It’s parity at it’s finest. Gary Bettman’s dream. No dynasties. Everyone the same. Here today, gone tomorrow. Yawn.

I’ve talked about this before, and some disagreed and that’s fine. My opinion, which hasn’t changed, is that I think there should be an absolute powerhouse in the mix, a team others yearn to beat, and one which fans come out to see, boo, and hope like hell for a whipping. That’s the way it was for many years with the Canadiens. Everyone wanted to beat them, and it was a feather in anyone’s cap when they did.

Clarence Campbell felt this way too, as you can see in this 1959 interview I found in my trunk, entitled “Canadiens Are Good For Hockey.”

“When the teams are all bunched up and battling for playoff berths the way they have this season, then I’m a happy man. It actually makes it easier for me. They’re so busy doing what they’re doing, and the rewards at stake are so great, they don’t have much time for misdemeanors.”

“Well, with the exception of Montreal, this is the kind of hockey race you must appreciate,” writer Ed Fitkin said.

“It’s a dream,” Campbell agreed, “but when you say ‘with the exception of Montreal,’ the only people who feel that way are the other teams. Actually, my view is that it’s an awful lot better to have a front-running team that will set a standard that everybody else has to shoot at. I’d far rather have one team away out in front than one away out behind.”

Later on in the interview, Campbell discusses the idea of expansion, which has nothing to do with what I was just talking about, but I think is fun regardless, coming from a much simpler time.

“Expansion,” declared Mr. Campbell, “is quite a problem. One of the things you must always keep in mind in connection with hockey is that the ideal league is six teams, combined with our present playoff system. That leaves two teams out of the playoffs but who are, as we always hope, constantly in the running. Now you add to the league, and have just one more team that isn’t going to make it. And the present formula for successful operation in hockey, and this applies to other leagues as well as our own, is that a six-team league is an ideal thing. Now that’s for a start. There are other considerations. And that is, if other cities do develop with the necessary facilities and the interest sufficient to pay what it costs to support a National Hockey League team, then of course they are obviously entitled to consideration, and if any such groups do evolve, we’ll have to do it. That, of course, raises the question of transportation, which is becoming more difficult all the time as far as the operational of the league is concerned. Then it might mean that we’d have to go to the air more.”





Scenes From His Tavern (And More)

This is the kind of thing I really love. It’s not mine, just a photo online, but imagine how great it would look on a shelf in your house.

A Rocket Richard ashtray from the tavern he owned in the late ’50s and early ’60s, Taverne 544/9



Below, a 66 minute National Film Board documentary (in French) on the Rocket called Peut-être Maurice Richard, and scenes from his tavern can be seen at 18:15, 54:55, and 64:26.

The one at 54:55 shows Rocket arm-wrestling a customer, and throughout the film there are wonderful moments, even if you don’t speak French. Maurice Richard was such a nice and humble man.

(Thanks to Christopher for sending this along).

Peut-être Maurice Richard by Gilles Gascon, National Film Board of Canada