Tag Archives: Dave Keon

More To The Roy And Brian Spencer Story

Spencer

A new email adds greatly to an old story.

In 2008 I wrote about former NHLer Brian Spencer and the tragic events surrounding his dad when CBC decided to air a Vancouver-Oakland game instead of the Leafs and Chicago, which was Brian’s first NHL game.

Brian’s dad, Roy, furious at not being able to see his son in this huge moment in time, decided to bring a rifle to the local TV station, where he would be gunned down by the RCMP.

You can see the full story here – The Sad Story of Roy Spencer and his son Brian.

Today I received an email from a woman named Carole Fawcett who was working at the TV station when Roy Spencer burst in, and I appreciate very much her taking the time to describe those horrific events.

Here’s her email:

Hello

I was at the actual event in Prince George, where I worked for CKPG Radio and Television. Just wanted to clarify a few details about the Roy Spencer incident.
He had actually been calling the station all day asking where the game was going to be showed. He was very abrasive and rude I remember being told. He came to the station that night, and once in the door, lunged toward me (I was at the reception desk), wrenched the phone from my hands, banging it against my face in the process. Then he went further into the station. Fast forward to the TV studio where he had us all lined up with his gun pointed toward us and told the TV Switcher to shut down the TV which he did – so all people watching in Prince George would have had their TV’s go black. He told us he had killed (said he was a commando in the war) and would do so again and that we were NOT to put the TV back on the air. He threatened one of the staff members and then subsequently all of us. Unbeknownst to him, Fiori D’Andrea had managed to call the police before he got to the television studio. So, when he went outdoors, the RCMP said – “Halt – or we will shoot”……………and he ended up wounding three RCMP officers. He was killed in the process. He was suffering from serious mental health issues…………………..and his ability to be rational was long gone.

Of course in those days there was no help for staff and we were expected to be back at work the next day.

Just thought you may want some details from someone who was there.

Carole Fawcett, MPCC, CHt
Master Practitioner in Clinical Counselling
Clinical Hypnotherapist

Ralph Backstrom Was The Guy

He was all the things I knew were good in life – he skated like the wind, had a great brush cut and a pretty wife, and he wore the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens.

What’s better than that?

This was Ralph Backstrom, and I wanted to be just like him. I knew I wasn’t going to be another Rocket or Beliveau or Geoffrion, but I thought maybe I could be like Backstrom. And I wasn’t even on drugs when I thought this.

It meant getting a brush cut and trying to look like him when I watched him on TV taking faceoffs and darting up the ice with the puck. I could do that and I did. I got the brush cut.

Ralph came out of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, a little town in northern Ontario that churned out NHL players in abnormal fashion, having produced him and Ted Lindsay, Mike Walton, Dick Duff, Mickey and Dick Redmond, Wayne and Larry Hillman, the Plagers, and many others.

About 30 in all. That’s a lot of players.

Ralph was a phenom in Kirkland Lake minor hockey, and became captain and the best of the powerhouse Hull-Ottawa Canadiens juniors before he joined the big club. He had it all, I thought. I gotta practice more, I thought.

I admired the way Ralph Backstrom played, the way he skated and was so solid both as a playmaker and a checker. And I loved the way he and rival Dave Keon of the enemy Leafs went head to head on glorious nights when the Habs and Leafs were what life was all about for Canadian kids from coast to coast.

This guy isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and when he played he sometimes got into coach Toe Blake’s bad books. But he was a great hockey player. Underrated maybe, but absolutely great.

And I wanted to be just like him and I was. I had the brush cut.

DK

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Canadiens Begin Their Win Streak!

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It took Max and Lars Eller to come through in the shootout as the Canadiens down the Leafs 3-2 in Toronto, thus avoiding suicides, bricks through TVs, and serious hairpulling throughout Habsland.

Not really a fantastic win, or even a great win. Maybe only a decent win. But it was a big one as they snap a five-game losing streak in the midst of a gigantic slump, and it has to feel good.

Now the boys can relax and maybe take in a late show with Rompin’ Ronnie and the Hawks at Le Coq d’Or on Yonge Street before calling it a night.

It began in splendid fashion as the team dominated the Leafs, outshooting them 14-3, and jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals by David Desharnais and Tomas Fleischmann, although Fleischmann’s goal appeared to go in off Daniel Carr.

But as we’ve seen before, a quick start can mean little as Toronto slowly found their game and scored in the second and third periods to send the game into overtime.

It would take the shootout to decide things, and now the challenge is for the team to win two in a row, something that hasn’t happened since November 20th to the 27th when they nailed down four straight.

After that, as we all know and need to forget, the roof fell in and continued until tonight, when they grabbed two big points against a team that boasts the despicable Dion Phaneuf.

Random Notes:

I feel good about this, mainly because it wasn’t a loss. But not good enough to put on my dancing shoes and head down to the Westview Hotel, though. They’d think the grim reaper just walked through the door.

A loss would continue the nightmarish slide into Satan’s basement. But it wasn’t a loss, mainly because Max and Eller got it done in the shootout, when Galchenyuk, Flynn, and DD didn’t.

Canadiens outshot the Leafs 29-19, and were 0/4 on the power play.

Next up – Monday, when the boys travel to Columbus to take on the BJs.

Extra Random Notes:

Before the game began, Leaf greats Turk Broda, Tim Horton, and Dave Keon were honoured with inclusion on Toronto’s Legends Row, and it was emotional fifteen or twenty minutes.

Broda retired when I was two, but I saw Horton and Keon in their prime, on those great old Leafs teams.

I sat behind Keon and his wife in church in Orillia when I was young. Keon and most of the Leafs had attended Leaf trainer Bobby Haggart’s wedding in Orillia the day before, and the next day in church there was the great centreman, standing and kneeling and sitting and crossing himself, just like the rest of us.

I also have a personal story about Tim Horton. I’ve been to his doughnut shop many times.

Broda was on hand for the opening ceremonies of the arena in Orillia in 1950.

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Leafs And Pigs Fly

If I was a better man, I’d feel sorry for Leafs fans. Unfortunately, I’m a terrible person.

This email came today. The Leafs win the Cup every year. Their fans must be so spoiled.

Hi Dennis,

As you’re probably (joyfully) aware, Leafs fans have had to endure years of heartbreak. While the Habs made the playoffs four out of the last five seasons, those poor bastards over in Toronto have suffered 45 seasons of dashed hopes, drowned in beer. It’s a serious problem. On the heels of a frustrating lockout, with a new GM and a new coach, the Leafs might finally be ready to turn a (very sharp) corner – should they start planning the parade?

Being the devoted Habs fan that you are, we thought you might appreciate this cheeky open letter to the Leafs that ran in Wednesday’s Toronto Star:

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Mark Zwolinski at the Star has shared a great twitpic of Leafs Assistant GM Dave Poulin accepting the delivery from Gare Joyce on behalf of the team.

Dave has promised to pass the eReaders along to the players and coaches. We’ll be following up with them on twitter during Saturday’s game, using the hashtag #TMLtalk in hopes that some of them will appreciate the joke and give us a book review.

If you have an eReader and a soft spot in your heart for the pipe dreams of others, the NHL of a bygone era, or some highly amusing speculative fiction, you should check this one out. Please let me know if you’d like to receive a copy.

Best,

Kelsey Marshall

Marketing & Publicity Intern

Penguin Canada

Habs Demolish Leafs

Feels great writing that. “Habs Demolish Leafs.” Normally I leave the title for last, but I couldn’t wait tonight. And I could’ve said “Habs Blast Leafs” or “Habs Blank Leafs”, but I prefer Demolish. Even though the Torontonians hit a few posts and outshot the Canadiens 32-18. But forget about that. It’s the scoreboard that tells the tale.

A big 5-0 shutout win for Carey Price and the gang. Four straight wins and seven points from a playoff spot. Things are still a long shot, but how great it feels when Montreal is on a roll and looking good.

It was Mats Sundin Night at the Air Canada Centre, a night when Sundin’s jersey was sent to that special place in the rafters to join other Leaf greats. They do it a little differently in Toronto. They honour the numbers, but future players are still allowed to wear them, unlike Montreal where the number goes up, never to be worn again. Imagine if Mike Komisarek wore number 9 while in Montreal for example? It would just suck.

And it’s this jersey-honouring that pissed off Dave Keon so much that he cut almost all ties with the Leafs, which is a shame. Keon was a legendary Leaf, but now he stays in Florida, sits under palm trees, and tries to pretend the whole thing never happened. But that’s the way it is in Toronto.

The Sundin ceremony was lengthy, his wife Josephine looked quite sensational, and his parents were visibly proud of course. And the first period was as sloppy as a pre-season game because of the wait as Sundin spoke and Josephine smiled and probably wondered if I was somewhere in the crowd.

But Montreal would find their game. They scored four in the second and another in the third, killed five penalties overall like it was a walk in the park, and between the pipes, Carey Price once again played like he’s the best in the game, which I think he is, although I might be slightly biased.

Canadiens scorers on this night were Eric Cole, Rene Bourque, Max Pacioretty on the power play, Lars Eller, who swept around Dion Phaneuf and beat James Reimer in a nifty play that’ll have fans on the streetcars talking about on their way back to the suburbs, and Mathieu Darche, who converted a Tomas Plekanec play started by Price.

The Habs smothered the Leafs often, Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty, Erik Cole, and Mathieu Darche enjoyed fine games, and all concerned -players, coaches, you, me, Lucy, Dave Keon, have to be perfectly content with what unfolded on this night.

The plan is to win most of the time from here on in. Four straight is a beauty start.

Random Notes:

Canadiens host Carolina on Monday. This good stuff needs to continue.

 

Gentlemen, Start Your Skates

Carey Price is under the weather and may not play in the season opener Thursday night in Toronto. C’mon Carey, shape up. Up and at ’em. Eat six raw eggs and drink a half pint of cod liver oil.

Or if all else fails, smoke a doobie. But not too close to game time.

Finally, after all these months, hockey returns for real. And the schedule maker may have other issues, but having the Habs and Leafs go at it in game one is very good. 

It goes without saying that Habs and Leaf fans love when these two play each other. The rivalry between teams is an old one, a great one, and for those who don’t know, many years ago, many, many years ago, the Leafs were a force to be reckoned with.

I know. I read it somewhere in the Old Testament.

I have my mom’s diary beside me that she wrote when she was a teenager, and the entry for April 18th, 1942 is: “The Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup tonight for the first time in years.” She was right. It had been ten years since they’d won it before that, in 1932. Overall though, the team in blue has captured the hardware 13 times, which is better than anyone else except our guys, of course. (Detroit has won it 11 times, the Bruins five).

And imagine the Stanley Cup playoffs ending on April 18th.

My mom knew the Leafs’ Bucko McDonald when she was growing up in Sundridge, Ontario, where he’s from, and it’s entirely possible she liked the Torontonians as a young girl. Maybe all those times she helped me type letters to the Montreal Canadiens at the kitchen table, she was secretly a Leaf fan and never mentioned it. (Bucko is known for another reason too: he coached Bobby Orr in nearby Parry Sound when Orr was a wee lad and McDonald can certainly claim some responsibility for helping Orr grow as a player in his formative years).

As a hockey fan, I have great respect for much of the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Conn Smythe and Frank Selke building the team in the early days; Turk Broda, Syl Apps, Hap Day, the Kid Line, Bill Barilko. Later, Tim Horton, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Johnny Bower.

The Eddie Shack – John Ferguson battles that usually led to bench-clearing brawls. Backstrom and Keon lining up for a faceoff. Punch Imlach with his fedora and arrogant smirk. Harold Ballard saying and doing the outrageous, often distastefully and lacking a certain amount of grace and decorum. But he was a fixture and mover and shaker at the Gardens for decades.

All those many nights when the Canadiens and Leafs went toe to toe at the Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens and fans got their money’s worth in spades.

The story of hockey in many ways is the story of Montreal and those dastardly Toronto Maple Leafs.

But I’m a Habs fan, and so I do what I always do – hope for a Montreal slaughter, a gigantic take-down of the boys in blue. I want a demolishing, a trouncing, a slaughtering, a one-sided embarrassment. It’s not too much to ask.

Bring ’em on. Bring on Komisarek with the bad passes and bad penalties, bring on the unlikable duo of Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel. In fact, on the subject of Grabovski, here’s a lovely little read in case you missed it; Couple sues Maple Leaf.

Random Notes:

Roman Hamrlik is still nursing his sore knee but seems almost ready. Andre Markov says it’s a secret when he’ll return, and Mike Cammalleri stays in civvies for one night only for getting down and dirty against the Islanders in pre-season. Hey, you don’t mess with Cammy.

 

Ron And Dennis’ Excellent Adventure

The other day the phone rang and it was my old friend Ron Clarke, and although he lives in the Kitchener/Waterloo area, he was in Vancouver visiting his 34 year old daughter who has terminal lung cancer.

Ron and I go back further than any other of my other friends as we were childhood buddies and schoolmates and we played road hockey and  held on to bumpers of cars and got free rides as the unsuspecting drivers made their way through snowy streets. He and I traded hockey cards, smoked our first cigarettes together, went through minor hockey, and he started hanging around with a girl in grade seven and ended up marrying her after they dated for about ten years.

Ron and I went our separate ways because he was a straight-laced guy who wanted no part of what was happening with the counter-culture in the 1960’s, and I was the opposite. But we always remained friends over the years anyway.

After talking to Ron, I remembered a time when we were 12 year old altar boys and one of the priests was not only the big shot priest, the Monsignor, but he also somehow had a connection to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It might have something to do with St. Michael’s College in Toronto but I’m not sure. 

Monsignor Lee asked Ron and I one day if we’d like to go to Peterborough for the day and visit the Leafs in training camp, and off we went. Turns out Monsignor Lee had more than just a slight connection with the Leafs. It was almost like he was part of them.

In the afternoon, we had dinner with the team, for gawd’s sakes, although the players, Keon, Horton, Mahovlich, Baun, Pulford and the rest were on the other side of the room. Ron and I sat at a table with King Clancy and Jim Gregory, and the two of them, with the Monsignor, told old stories about when they did this and when they did that, and although I don’t recall any of the conversations, I can still picture  Clancy being really funny and Jim Gregory doing most of the talking.

Later on, we had primo seats at the Peterborough arena to see the Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks play an exhibition game and we went down to the boards and got Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita’s autographs.

Then, back to Orillia we went, an hour away.

Back to the present. I spoke briefly on the phone with Ron’s daughter, Jocelyne, and I told her she was going to beat her lung cancer. She said that’s not what any of her doctor’s have told her.

Addendum:

Ron and I also went to Barrie at about the same age as when we went to Peterborough, and he and I helped the AHL Buffalo Bisons trainer and stood behind the bench as stick boys for an exhibition game between the Bisons and Rochester Americans. Don Cherry played for Rochester but it didn’t matter at that time, (I only know because I still have the lineup sheet), and the only players who made an impact on me where Gilles Marotte, Billy Dea, and Fred Stanfield.

I also remember Ron and I coming home from playing hockey at the arena in Orillia and noticed the Habs-Leafs on TV in someone’s living room. So we sat outside the window and watched the game without the people knowing.

The Next Ralph Backstrom Somehow Got Missed

I’ve said it many times before, that if there was one player on the Montreal Canadiens I wanted to play like, it would have been Ralph Backstrom.

How could I not want to be like Backstrom? A minor hockey sensation in his hometown of Kirkland Lake, he captained the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens to a Memorial Cup win, and was considered the top junior in the whole country. In his debut season with the Canadiens, he was rookie of the year, and he ended up winning six Stanley Cups.

He also had a really pretty wife and sported a short hair style I tried to get my barber to copy on my head.

I knew in my heart I would never be a Rocket or Beliveau, so Backstrom was the one I watched closely and tried to mirror in style. He wasn’t big but he was lightning fast, and I wasn’t big and sort of fast. I would crouch to take face offs just the way he did when he lined up against Keon and Mikita and the others, and I knew that any day the scouts would knock on my door because I reminded them of Ralph Backstrom.

But it never happened and I don’t understand it. I thought I was doing everything right.

Huntsville’s John MacWilliams Could’ve Been A Star

I originally wrote this a year ago and I’m delighted that MacWilliams’ son emailed me and let me know about his dad. Here’s the original story and the email I received a couple of days ago.

He wasn’t big, this John MacWilliams of Huntsville’s Squirt, then Peewee, and later, Bantam teams, all of which played Orillia on a regular basis in the early 1960’s. In fact, he was small. But regardless of his size. he looked like a hockey player. And did he ever play like one.

We were constantly told by our coaches to watch this MacWilliams, be careful with him, don’t let him get wound up because he’d be almost impossible to stop.

And he was. He was the most fantastic young hockey player I’d ever seen. Even on my own own team, my regular centreman John French went on to play for the Toronto Marlboros, was chosen by the Montreal Canadiens and played in the minors with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, and eventually ended up in the World Hockey Association with New England and Indianapolis.

But there was no one like John MacWilliams. He reminded me of Ralph Backstrom and Dave Keon, the way he skated and danced around the ice. He dazzled, and made the rest of us look quite ordinary.

And then, just like that, he was never seen again by any of us in Orillia.

This was a guy headed to the bigs with a bullet. We were all sure of that. But it never happened.

A few years ago I emailed national newspaper writer and acclaimed author Roy MacGregor, who’s roughly my age, and comes from Huntsville. I figured he might know about John MacWilliams.

MacGregor replied back, saying that yes indeed, he remembers John MacWilliams, and that the young fellow was probably the best he’d seen to. And then he told me what happened to him.

This young guy, with all the talent in the world, who skated and scored the way I wanted to, the way all of us wanted to, simply quit hockey completely and took up figure skating.

Email:

Hi Dennis, I’ve had the privilege of reading your blog and the article about my father. He has read it as well. He is the guy who has been teaching hockey skating on the east coast for the last 30+ years. We did it together. We lived in Saint John NB and the Dartmouth NS and next to Howie Meeker, nobody revolutionized the hockey school like my Dad. He was elite in both sports back in the 60’s and I think the decision to pursue the figure skating route was made because of his size.  He still runs hockey Schools in Ontario and the Maritimes and has taught several huge name NHL players, one just scored a pretty big goal in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago. He has two Granddaughters and loves to spend time with them and golf. He currently resides in Guelph, Ontario. If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.  Thx Jon MacWilliams

The Leafs Haven’t Won Since Pamela Anderson Was A Virgin

Leaf fans line up on Toronto's Yonge St. for the big 1967 Stanley Cup parade
Leaf fans line up on Toronto's Yonge St. for the big 1967 Stanley Cup parade

The Toronto Maple Leafs, who play the Habs on Tuesday, haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967.

We all feel terrible about this. It’s a really long time ago, 42 years. And 42 years means – if you were born in 1967, you’re old enough to be a grandparent. You were born long before home computers and digital cameras. Electric typewriters were state-of-the-art technology. The Beatles still liked each other. Brand new cars that year are now antique classics. I was a rotten teenaged bastard at this time.

Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Pamela Anderson were born in 1967. Expo 67 opened in Montreal. Not one player now playing in the NHL was born yet. And because there were no computers, it meant there were no blogs to remind everyone that the Leafs haven’t won in 42 years.

It’s a long time ago.  A long, long time ago.

Don Cherry had just turned 33 when the Leafs last won. Ron Maclean was 7, Jacques Martin 14, and Leafs coach Ron Wilson was 12.

And Leaf players now? George Armstrong is 79, Dave Keon 69, Frank Mahovlich 71, Bob Pulford 73, Allan Stanley 83, and Johnny Bower is 85.

Cost of Living 1967 (in the US, but similar to Canada)

How Much things cost in 1967
Yearly Inflation Rate USA 2.78%
Yearly Inflation Rate UK 2.7%
Year End Close Dow Jones Industrial Average 905
Average Cost of new house $14,250.00
Average Income per year $7,300.00
Average Monthly Rent $125.00
Gas per Gallon 33 cents
Average Cost of a new car $2,750.00
Movie Ticket$1.25
Polaroid Camera $50.00
Parker Pen Set $11.95
The Federal Minimum Wage is increased to $1.40 an hour