Tag Archives: Dick Irvin Sr.

Habs Vs Hawks – Close But No Cigar

Dick Irvin Sr, who played for the Hawks in the late-’20s before his coaching career, which included Montreal, began. Dick would be 124 if he was still around (125 in July).

The Canadiens couldn’t quite get it done, falling 4-2 to the visiting Chicago Blackhawks, and if you like your glass half-full you could say Montreal sits at 8-3 in their last 11 games.

But if you’re a half-empty type of person, you might say they’ve lost two of their last three.

And the kind of person I am? Mostly a half-full kind of guy except when I’m not. And as I’ve said many times, the regular season will be long forgotten when pucks are dropped to begin the postseason.

Tuesday night in snowy Montreal, the home team fell behind 3-0 in the third frame, but red-hot Paul Byron banged home a rebound to ruin Corey Crawford’s shutout, and soon after, Shea Weber blasted one from the blueline to narrow it to 3-2.

A great comeback by the Habs. Exciting. Tense. Stressful. Stirring. And then Jonathan Toews found the empty net to salt it away for Chicago and ruin all that’s pure and good.

It was an ‘almost’ type of thing. Corey Crawford stood on his head throughout, as the Canadiens outshot the Hawks 39-24, but try as they may, Montreal skaters as a whole are snakebitten. They have a tough time scoring. But again, the playoffs are a different ball of wax completely. The scoring will probably start then!

There’s the half-full thing again.

I’d say that the boys miss the net way too much but they probably know that.  But the fierce rally late in the game that would sadly fall short for Montreal made my heart soar like a clown or a duck or something, flying around with an umbrella.

Random Notes:

A couple of big games coming up the Habs, as they meet the Sens in Ottawa on Saturday and then host those same Ottawans on Sunday. Yes, as much as the regular season will be forgotten come playoff time, these are huge games for both teams. Time to kick some sand in the faces of Sens players and their fans.

And one last thing. I’m guessing that Alexei Emelin will be an easy target now, considering how he was out of position on a couple of Chicago’s goals.

But I’m sticking up for him because I think the pros outweigh the cons for Mr. Emelin. He lets loose thunderous hits, he’s a bone-crunching bummer for players racing down the side with him waiting, and he has a good shot from the point. I like his old-time hockey style and I appreciate anyone on the Canadiens, including him, who plays a rugged game.

He reminds me of Gilles Marotte, who dished out Emelin-like checks for Boston, Chicago, L.A., New York, and St. Louis in the 1960s and ’70s,

The problem is, quite often the lights are on but nobody’s home for the Russian rearguard.

 

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).

 

 

 

This Is A Stick-Up

Yes indeed, this is the stick. The one I just bought at auction and which I’ve mentioned before. But here it is in one of my rooms which makes the story new, sort of.

Classic Auctions describes as having “great Hall of Fame pedigree” and that in itself makes me all teary-eyed and goofy. The stick alone is a fine specimen, but what really puts it over the top are the names on it. It’s been signed by 17 members of the 1948-49 team and they are, if you don’t mind and not bored already – Elmer Lach, Ed Dorohoy, Billy Reay, Joe Carveth, Rip Riopelle, Ken Mosdell, Bob Fillion, Doug Harvey, Jacques Locas, Bill Durnan, George Robertson, Dick Irvin, Hal Laycoe, Ken Reardon, Maurice Richard, Emile Bouchard, and Murph Chamberlain.

Lach’s signature is the only one really faded and hard to see. Doug Harvey signed with a fine-point pen but is there in all its glory but you have to look for it.

Some folks get excited when they buy a new lawn mower or a nice pair of cowboy boots. Habs ‘Hall of Fame pedigree’ things like my new old stick, yellowed and well-used, is what I prefer.

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?