Tag Archives: Dick Irvin Jr

Provost, And Three Unrelated Photos

Four photos that have nothing to do with each other. But anyway.

Below all these words, Claude Provost, Terry Sawchuk, and Allan Stanley chase after the puck. After that, a ’67 Ford Fairlane ad from an old Life magazine, then a wrestling poster I took off a telephone pole in Orillia, and finally, an Aqueduct poster I borrowed from a New York subway car.

But first, before you’re dazzled by the photos, a little about Claude Provost.

Claude Provost was an unheralded fellow with the Habs during the late ’50s and throughout the 1960s, but who wouldn’t be unheralded, playing on a team that included the Rocket, Beliveau, Geoffrion, Plante, Harvey, Moore, Pocket Rocket et al? But he was a key guy, a right winger who shadowed the league’s top left wingers, particularly Bobby Hull, who must have had nightmares about this fine player whom I’m hesitant to call a grinder. After all, during the 1964-65 season, Provost scored 27 goals and in the playoffs that year became known near and far for the number he did on the Golden Jet, limiting the flashy balding blond to just one goal and two assists en route to the Habs 13th Cup win.

Hull must have thought that when he went to bed at night, he’d wake up with Provost between him and his wife.

Claude Provost died of a heart attack when he was only 51, which is quite disturbing. He was way too young.

And this – from Dick Irvin’s great book The Habs, a little story by Dr. Doug Kinnear, the Canadiens physician back then:

“I was covering the first game of my hockey career and Claude Provost got cut by a high stick. They signalled to me from the bench so I went to the clinic and saw that he had a deep laceration on his forehead. The cut was about two inches long. It was my job to do the stitching and the first thing I did was ask for the freezing. Bill Head was the therapist in those days and he shook his head to give me the signal that hockey players do not require cuts to be frozen. I swallowed hard, took the needle and the sutures, and proceeded to sew up the laceration. Then I said, “Claude, you’d better go next door, lie down and rest for a while.” He said, “Thanks Doc,” jumped off the table, headed back to the bench, and was on the ice for his next shift. That was a revelation to me.”

And now, the other three photos that have nothing to do with each other or Claude Provost..

Dick And Gomez

Long before he was a legendary coach of the Canadiens, Leafs, and Blackhawks, and long before he got frisky with the missus and made little Dick Jr., Dick Irvin Sr. was one of the world’s greatest players, which you can read all about right here – Dick’s Biography, and which also includes how he became coach of the Habs.

But enough about that. I want to mention one particular event.

While playing for Regina in the Western Canada Hockey League, Dick was deliberately hooked under his chin by a fellow with the great name of Spunk Sparrow. (In my next life, I want to be called Spunk Sparrow). And because Dick had a habit of playing with his tongue between his teeth, Sparrow’s stick caused Dick to bite right through this crucial part of the mouth which helped him eat, talk, and whistle.

Dick refused to have doctors look after him, stayed on the ice, won the faceoff, skated past the penalty box where Sparrow was serving his time, and belted Sparrow so hard that Sparrow needed sixteen stitches to fix the wound. It was only after that that Dick would let doctors sew up his tongue, which was hanging out of his mouth.

You see, this is what we need from Scott Gomez. If he’s not going to help his team by getting points, at least he can smack a guy sitting in the penalty box, or whack a guy over the head with his stick from time to time. If only to show he means business.

Is it too much to ask? We’d just really appreciate the intensity.

One small footnote about Dick’s biography link above. It fails to mention that Dick had a falling out with Montreal GM Frank Selke about the way he was handling Maurice Richard. Selke felt that Dick was encouraging the Rocket to display, far too often, his sometimes over-the-top fiery bad temper, and Selke replaced Dick with Toe Blake. (Rocket punched out and whacked a few people over the head with his stick too).

 

 

 

Fuzzy-Faced Bobby Hull Helped Dick Irvin In Practice

Rocket, Frank Selke, and Dick Irvin in deep discussion just before Richard was suspended which led to the infamous 1955 St. Patrick's Day Richard Riot in Montreal

After Dick Irvin’s coaching career ended in Montreal, he joined the Chicago Black Hawks for the 1955-56 season, but his health was in such bad shape during the Hawks’ training camp that year, that, as son Dick Irvin. Jr. told Frank Selke, he had to sit on the sidelines and let 16 year old Bobby Hull, who was still a junior but at the Hawks camp, do the on-ice work for him.

Mr. Irvin died in May of 1957 of bone cancer.

Harvey Did It Often And Got Away With It

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Please excuse the glue stains on the picture but it’s the only one I have that shows what I’m about to go on about.

As great as Doug Harvey was, and most agree it’s him and Bobby Orr as the best-ever on the blueline, he had one slightly daring habit that drove first coach Dick Irvin, and then Toe Blake, crazy. And I understand them. It would drive me crazy too.

Harvey had the breath-stopping habit of taking the puck directly in front of Bill Durnan or Jacques Plante or whoever else was in goal, on his way out of his end. Sometimes even through his own crease. Defencemen are taught from an early age never to do this. When it happens, the crowd gasps and the coach shakes his head. It’s a dangerous play and chances are, the player might ride the pine for a few shifts after that. Not to mention the other team could end up scoring in several different ways.

But Harvey, because he was so great, did it often and got away with it. But it didn’t mean his coaches had to be thrilled by it.

Dickie Moore, in Dick Irvin Jr’s wonderful book “The Habs”, tells this story:

“When Dick was coaching he was always after Doug about the way he would handle the puck around our goal crease. One night in Detroit, Dick went after him pretty good on the bench. The next shift he gets out and cuts in front of the net and nearly lost the puck to one of their guys, but he didn’t. He kept carrying it along by the boards, passed by where Dick was, and said, “See, coach, he missed me.” And this is right in the middle of a game against Detroit. We all started to laugh and so did Dick. How many guys would do that?