Tag Archives: Claude Mouton

Letters On My Shelf

Many of these letters were written to me, while some I collected along the way. If you find these boring, please don’t tell me.

Beginning with –

Red Fisher (1965) (after I complained to him that Stan Mikita swore at me when I asked him for his autograph at a Hawks-Leafs exhibition game in Peterborough during the Leafs training camp).

Red

Phyllis King (1951) – Clarence Campbell’s secretary and future wife.

Phyllis

Here’s Clarence and Phyllis on their romantic date at the Forum, which helped spark the 1955 St. Patrick’s Day Richard Riot.

coverofTHN

Legendary sports editor Elmer Ferguson (1929). The Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award is presented to outstanding hockey journalists and includes the likes of Jacques Beauchamp, Red Burnett, Trent Frayne, Red Fisher, Andy O’Brien, Michael Farber, Roy MacGregor and others.

Elmer

Sam Pollock (1964). By far my favourite letter.

Claude Mouton (1985)

Irving Grundman (1983)

Almost three months to the day after General Manager Grundman wrote this letter, he was fired by the Canadiens and Serge Savard would take his place.

Forum secretary Manon Bruneau (1984)

Letter from Sam Pollock to Habs prospect Michel Lagace (1962). This is the kind of letter I would have liked to receive.

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Looking for tickets at Maple Leaf Gardens (1965 & 1966)

Two replies from Claude Mouton (1983) about my request for a stick. He gave me a Bob Gainey stick, signed by the entire team, which I picked up at the Forum after driving from Ottawa after graveyard shift.

Jean Beliveau (1984)

I decided I needed an 8X10 glossy of the Rocket shaking hands with Sugar Jim Henry, so I went right to the top. I wrote a letter to La Presse and it ended up on the desk of editor-in chief Gerard Pelletier (1964)

Pelletier would later serve in the Pierre Trudeau government, and was eventually awarded the Order of Canada.

Frank Selke Jr. (1961)

Drinking Beer With Aurele Joliat

Ottawa’s Prescott Hotel in the mid-1980s was still a classic old beverage room with a Ladies and Escorts door and a regular entrance. It was like a lot of bars back then, smelling of stale beer and cigarette smoke, and the trays of beer were served by middle-aged guys in white shirts.

It was also the Wednesday night bowling team’s bar, where the members, a bunch of young guys and one really old guy, got together after a big night out at the lanes.

I had just read in the paper about the bowling team and the really old guy, and when the next Wednesday rolled around, I grabbed my brother-in-law and we went down to the Prescott with one thing on my mind. It’s not every day that you get a chance to drink beer with Aurele Joliat, star player of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1920s and ’30s, and good buddy of Howie Morenz.

In the Prescott, I spotted Mr. Joliat right away, mainly because he was about 50 years older than the rest of the bowling team, and I went over and asked him if I could buy him a beer. He grumbled something and he might have cursed a bit, but he joined us.

For the first fifteen minutes or so, our man was fairly miserable. When I asked what he thought of the Rocket, he said the guy couldn’t lace Morenz’s skates. He complained about today’s players, saying they would would never had cut it in the old days (as most oldtimers say). He scowled and dropped a bunch of F-bombs, but truthfully, I don’t think he minded the attention.

Soon after, Joliat started to change, maybe because he could feel that I was genuinely interested in him and the hockey of his day. He became soft-spoken, and I think he came close to tearing up when talking about Morenz.

He happily signed a couple of things I had brought along, including Claude Mouton’s book “The Montreal Canadiens”, and when I was fumbling about with a cast on my wrist and trying to find the page with his picture, he grabbed the book from me, went right to it, and signed “To Dennis and his broken arm, Aurele Joliat”.

The evening had begun with a testy old man, and ended with a nice, friendly old fellow.

We drove him home (which was cool in itself), and he thanked us and said goodbye, and when I think about it, I wish he would’ve asked us in for a cup of tea. I would have liked to have met his wife (I think she was still alive), looked at some of his old photos, and maybe, if he still had it, touched that little cap he wore when he starred for the Montreal Canadiens, all those years ago.

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Could’ve But Didn’t

Bell

Luci and I were at the Bell Centre today to see the Canadiens drop a 2-1 overtime decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and as you can see, we were up fairly high.

But having said that, it was still way closer than most seats at NHL outdoor games.

And not only that, we got to see two goals down at our end. Daniel Briere’s in the the third period that tied the game at one, and P.K. Subban’s deflection in the second that put the Lightning up by one in the first place.

On a Habs power play no less.

I’m not mad at P.K. for that big Lightning goal in a game that featured almost no scoring. We’ve seen goals like that over the years from different players.

It’s a natural instinct to stick the stick out when the puck’s near the goal.

As long as he never does it again. Once, maybe twice, in a career is enough thank you very much.

It just wasn’t a barn burner, which is what one hopes for when going to a game. Montreal got chances only here and there, and I found myself glancing often at the scoreboard that showed cute babies in little Habs jerseys asleep in mom or dad’s arms.

I wanted to see a madhouse, people all around me yelling and screaming, but it wasn’t to be. The team just didn’t provide enough incentive to raise the roof.

The Lightning had more opportunities, but Carey Price, who was awarded the Molson Cup for January beforehand, was sparkling often.

The Canadiens still could’ve won it though, it they’d created more chances. But as has been the case so often, the hammer wasn’t down a lot. Maybe one of those little kid’s hammers, but not the big honkin’ workingman’s hammer.

After Briere’s goal in the third, the boys picked it up a notch or two and went hard in overtime. P.K. Subban weaved and wove like he was on a mission to correct his own-net goal, but although we oohed and aahhed, nothing much came to pass.

And  it was all for naught, because with 24 seconds left in overtime, the puck found its way behind Price and that was it.

They got a point and we made our way to Ste-Catherines where we drowned our sorrows with smoked meat at Reuben’s.

Random Notes:

Brandon Prust was in a scrap with Jean-Philippe Cote early in the first, and then late in the second, he and Lightning goalie Ben Bishop had a slight disagreement, as it appeared Bishop didn’t appreciate Prust telling him his mother wears army boots.

Carey Price skated up to get a closer looked and was given a penalty for leaving the crease.

Christian Thomas saw some action for the Habs in just his second NHL game and was given 8:16 seconds of ice time, just 25 seconds less than Briere.

A kid sat beside P.A. announcer Michel Lacroix and read the Habs starting lineup.

I have a beef here. A serious beef. I’ve been trying for more than 50 years to be stick boy for one game. And some kid who’s been a Habs fan for only a couple of years gets to read the lineup?

Michel Lacroix has an excellent voice. For me, he’s as good as Claude Mouton was.

Shots on goal TB 36, Habs 29.

Next up – Sunday at 1 pm again, only this time it’s the Winnipeg Jets.

 

A Night At A Fan Club

In going through some papers last night in the basement, I found something I’d written in 1992. I’m not sure why I’d written it, but anyway…

The first page talks about how I grew up to be a Montreal Canadiens fan living in Orillia, a city thick with Leafs fans, but I won’t bother with that part here.

After that I went into being in Russia in 1991 and spending an evening with members of the Russian Montreal Canadiens Fan Club, where no one spoke English except for one guy, Konstantin Krylov, who presently is a scout for the Anaheim Ducks.

At that time it was during the fall of the Soviet Union, and up until then, Russians had had very little contact with foreigners from the west. It was almost unheard of that westerners would spend any time at all in a Russian’s home, so it was all new, for both sides.

But I was lucky. I lived with a Russian family in St. Petersburg several times over the years, for short periods, and I still feel very fortunate for the experience.

I’m beginning halfway through my piece, when I went to a meeting at the apartment of the president of the fan club, Alexander Varnovsky

“Anatoly brought me by streetcar to Alexander’s apartment building in the heart of Leningrad. As we approached the old six-story building nestled beside a children’s playground off a main downtown street, Anatoly pointed upwards to the president’s place. There, in the window, thousands of miles from home, in such a mysterious country, was a giant Montreal Canadiens crest. And beside it, Alexander and several of his friends waved and smiled and motioned to us to come up.

Hockey Night in Leningrad, without the television.

That evening at the Fan Club was without doubt one of the most enjoyable and interesting few hours I’ve ever spent. I could sense a feeling that I was truly welcome, and they seemed happy that they were able to get some Canadian impressions of the NHL, and of course their beloved Montreal Canadiens.

Alexander’s apartment looked like many hockey fans’ apartments, although it was very small. The walls were alive with Habs’ team photos from different years, and photos of Lafleur and Cournoyer and Beliveau and Carbonneau, among others, smiled down. Sasha had written many times to Habs public relations director Claude Mouton, and Mr. Mouton had graciously answered many of his letters and sent hats and pennants etc. All of Mouton’s letters were proudly displayed.

Even as I was taking off my coat, the questions started rolling off their tongues. The big one, the one brought up the most, was how I felt about the ’91-’92 team, and did I think they had the talent to go all the way. Of course they did, I answered. I’ve been answering that question the very same way all my life. So in Russia, it was no different.

As tea and pastry were served, I tried to explain why I thought the team would be successful. And I was grilled constantly about all aspects of the Habs, and the N.H.L. in general. What really stood out, what truly impressed me, was the amount of knowledge and insights my new friends had about North American hockey. They had only seen international competition for the most part – Canada Cups, World Championships, Olympics and such. Until then, a Montreal-Boston clash, for example, rarely or never graced the screens of Russian T.Vs.

But they were all hockey scholars in the truest sense. They all had their own ideas on who should win the Hart Trophy, or who the best goalie was, or what GM was the craftiest, or what skater was the most innovative.

They appreciated the aggressiveness of Shane Corson and Mike Keane, and loved the style and grace of Denis Savard. They expressed concern over the youthful defence of the Habs, and were all in agreement when Wayne Gretzky’s name came up as the greatest in the game today.

Throughout the evening we talked about league president John Ziegler, Serge Savard, Russian and Canadian fans, Hall of Famers, and famous games. They said that the classic Super Series ’76 featuring the Canadiens and Red Army 3-3 game was the turning point for them all, when they saw for the first time the beauty of Montreal’s game. They had heard many stories before that, but this was their first look, and it left a lasting impression.

The evening went by far too quickly, and after several hours it was time to go back to Anatoly’s. The entire fan club walked us the few blocks to the streetcar.

I made some great friends that night. We all share a deep love for the Montreal Canadiens, and I feel so fortunate to have met and spent such a memorable evening with them.

Several months later, back in Calgary, I received a letter from Leningrad, which had now become St. Petersburg once again after the system had collapsed and they were starting anew. There was one page in Russian and another translated into English, and it stated that I had been unanimously voted into the St. Petersburg Montreal Canadiens Fan Club.

I was the first and only member of the club from outside Russia, and I am very proud.

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Thought I Needed A Lafleur Cap

On February 16, 1985, I watched on TV as the Montreal Canadiens honoured Guy Lafleur. But it wasn’t just the on-ice ceremony that my eyes were focused on. One couldn’t help but notice that fans in the building were wearing special Guy Lafleur caps, which were given out that night.

They were just cheap painters caps, but they were Habs colours with LAFLEUR printed across the front, and I decided that I’d like one too. If those lucky bastards got be there, and on top of everything else, they also got a cap, then I felt I should at least get a lousy cap.

So I wrote Claude Mouton and asked about the possibility. It wasn’t to be.

(All these old letters, which I thought were long gone but recently found, can be seen by clicking on “Letters” in Categories).

Here’s what it looked like, from Classic Auctions.

 

Two Letters From Claude Mouton

As some of you know, I came across a pile of my old letters recently, a pile I thought was long gone, and lately I’ve shown those from Red Fisher, Gerard Pelletier, and Jean Beliveau. (If you click on “Letters” over in the Category list, they’re stored there).

Today it’s two from Claude Mouton.

I wrote a letter to Mouton, who was the Canadiens publicity director along with being the Forum PA announcer, (he also did a stint as Montreal Expos PA announcer), and I asked him about my chances of getting a Guy Lafleur game-used stick. Mouton wrote back that it was impossible for them to send sticks by mail, but of course this didn’t sway me. I wrote back and said I’d drive to Montreal from Ottawa and pick up the stick myself.

Claude must have been sick of me by that time, but being the good guy he was, he wrote again and said to give them some notice and they’d have a stick waiting for me. So I drove down after working a graveyard shift as a semi driver, went up to the Forum offices, and they gave me an unused Bob Gainey stick signed by the entire team.

As a side note, I was down at the bottom of the stairs wrapping this stick up in my jacket so I wouldn’t smudge the autographs, when Jean Beliveau opened the doors at the top and saw me fiddling with something, and he froze. I think he thought I had a rifle.

Anyway, here’s the two letters. The first is Mouton’s reply saying they didn’t mail sticks, and the second telling me to come down to Montreal and they’d give me one.

The Boys Having Some Fun With The Pen

 

I drank beer with Aurele Joliat in Ottawa at the old Prescott Hotel, sometime in the mid-1980’s, and drove him home afterwards. I had brought my book, ‘The Montreal Canadiens” by Claude Mouton with me, and Aurele was more than happy to sign it and mention my broken arm.

 

Ken Dryden signed his book ‘The Game’ for me by writing “I’ve had a lot of fans in my life, and you’re one of them. Happy Birthday, Dennis”

My sister got him to do it. It was a bit of an inside joke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What It Takes To Be A Good Montreal Canadiens Fan

A GOOD MONTREAL FAN:

Won’t have another favourite team also.

Will have a real dislike for Toronto and Boston, and probably Ottawa.

Won’t stop rooting for them if you live in, or close to, another NHL city.

Will feel lousy anytime the team loses.

Is proud to say you’re a Habs fan in any circle of people.

Will never admit that Howe was better than Richard.

Really, really wishes they’d win the Cup soon.

Will say that Harvey comes right after Orr for greatest defenceman, even if you’ve never even saw a film clip of him.

Really misses the Forum.

Really misses Claude Mouton.

Really misses Danny Gallivan and Rene Lecavalier.

Never bets against them in sport select-type lotteries.

Won’t sing that wretched song when the game is close.