Tag Archives: Dick Irvin

Dick And Danny Do The Game

It’s the magical combination of Danny Gallivan and Dick Irvin as the Habs and Flyers battle on May 16, 1976. Montreal would win 5-3 on this night, sweeping the Flyers to win their 19th Stanley Cup.

Period one (30 min.) and period three (42 min) are included here, and we see the Cup awarded. Just wonderful, and thanks to my old buddy Rugger for sending it along.

Period One:

Period Three:

Q&A With Robert L.

I recently mentioned that Robert Lefebvre has a new book out, his first, called Tales From the Montreal Canadiens Locker Room, and below is a recent chat I had with Robert regarding his thoughts behind the process. And if anyone has their own questions for Robert, feel free, as he’s agreed to answer them in the comments section.

Robert, first let me congratulate you on your new book. It’s most definitely a fine addition to anyone’s hockey library. I know you were up against a deadline, so was it an enjoyable experience, or extremely stressful?

Thanks, Dennis. Writing a book, as I’ve learned, can only be both. It’s an intrinsic thing. The conceptual writing portion is extremely enjoyable and forming that work to meet someone’s expectations then borders on the stressful. But perhaps that is as it should be. As the writer, my wish is for the book to reach as many people, as many fans, as possible. The publishing company’s goal is to have a product that will sell. I met my deadline, went over by some 20,000 words, and then came the stressful task of fitting the book to their scheme. I didn’t enjoy the editing process, quite honestly, but passing through it I recognize how it made me a better writer.

You knew there is already reams of material already written by others over the years. How did you decide on the path your book should take? How did you feel you could make it different from others?

Initially, I was solicited to fulfill the requirement for a scheduled book, that had been dropped by a previously contracted author. However, that did not play in, whatsoever, to what I felt I could bring, or wanted to write of regarding the Canadiens.

Two things crossed my mind as I considered my publisher’s offer. First and foremost, was that my mindset was already deeply imbedded into another book that I’d been researching for three years. I knew, wholeheartedly, that I would not be able to separate myself from what I’d learned. It had a lot to do, or maybe everything to do, with the Canadiens true origins as a francophone, or French-Canadian hockey club. The other was that “Tales from the Canadiens” types of books, had really been done to death.

There’s the Dick Irvin books, a few Brian McFarlane’s Habs tales things, and countless others – I grasped real quickly that you, as a fan, might not want to read such a thing again, anymore than I wanted to have to rewrite it. I am sure that you can, and perhaps any Canadiens fan whose read these books, can place themselves in my shoes. I had to write according to a predisposed book title and subtitle: “Tales From The Montreal Canadiens Locker Room – A Collections Of The Greatest Canadiens Stories Even Told.”

Now how daunting is that, to live up to?

I proposed, to my publishers, a completely different track, and to their credit, they accepted my vision. Because the title is part of their branding, they would not alter it, but to great extents, they allowed me to write the story I wished to pursue.

I was quite surprised they accepted, because truthfully, in my esteem, a first time author is a nobody until that book hits the shelves. Furthermore, for me, that “nobody,” to write a book to suit that description, seemed a loaded and disingenuous premise, given that I had never been inside the Canadiens locker room.

And to that end, the very first thing I asked of my publishers, and was granted, was that I could write in the prologue, a little disclaimer of sorts, that addressed all the above issues.

Once they said “Yes” I was more than prepared, hell bent, and caution to the wind, to deliver a different kind of historical Montreal Canadiens retrospective.

As you weave your way from the beginning of the Canadiens’ existence to the present day situation, you explore the various myths that have cropped up over the years including the territorial rights in Quebec that many fans of other teams have always claimed was unfair, and how Sam Pollock managed to secure Guy Lafleur, using the talents of Ralph Backstrom, which strays slightly from the story most of us have heard over the years. I found this all very interesting, and the territorial rights explanation can be used by Habs fans from here on in. Did you have in mind the setting of records straight before you wrote your first word?

To address the last question first, that exact thing became my mandate from day one. Mandate is probably too strong a word. What I wanted to achieve, was a book that considered Canadiens history differently, than all the usual tributes to their legend and tradition, that are misleading in my eye.

Think about this: In over a hundred seasons, there were 24 Cups won. That means that for more than 75 seasons, they didn’t win. The Canadiens haven’t always been great – that’s not a news flash! So what popped up, was how does all that losing fit into all that winning. There was a story there.

Dennis, I don’t know about you, but from my seat, going on twenty years from the last Stanley Cup win – having Habs tradition, glory, legend and myth shoved down my throat, doesn’t do a lot for me anymore. I wrote about it for so long at Eyes On The Prize, that what finally became most interesting to me was the cracks in the stories. There were just too many things, that to my eye, no longer added up. All those things – the tradition, the glory, the legend, the myth – they truly cannot help the Canadiens win again. If one adds in all the francophone controversy stuff, it in

From my perspective, this book has three very distinct phases or contexts. The first begins with the very first game played by a French-Canadian side of seven players in 1909, that caused the Canadiens creation. It arose from a mindset that French players born in Quebec were inferior to their English counterparts – which was very true. Their challenge was to become their English rival’s equals, which did not happen for thirty years, until the Rocket came along.

The second phase is the Original Six years, wherein the Canadiens became hockey’s greatest team. The context then takes on the outsider’s perception, that the club were unfairly advantaged by specific “French” player rules that never truly existed as they were reported. It is here that much of the Canadiens legend is formed, mostly inaccurately. It was at that moment, that words such as tradition entered into equation, but as you have read and noticed, that also has been greatly misrepresented. Reports always had, and do until this day, qualify the Canadiens’ greatest wins as having come from the benefits of the misappropriated “French Rule,” while the truest reason they won so steadily remains that they were able to harvest a winning mentality in which both the French and English shared in equally. That is the true lost story of Canadiens glory.

The third phase, and the final context under which the book moves forward, has all to do one particular quote made by Sam Pollock regarding winning tradition. No one who has followed in Pollock’s wake has gotten it. Not to give those chapters away, I’ll suffice to say that those who’ve manned the Canadiens since he’s left, see but the recipe to spite the ingredients.

To go back to your original question, yes indeed, and absolutely, I tried my hardest to bring in factual details that would lead to setting the record straight. I had more, but I did not have the space. You say that the details of the Lafleur acquisition shed new light. These details aren’t new – they are ancient, but the story that gained legendary status followed the “Trader Sam” myth, as opposed to what really happened, which was far less “sexy” to headline hunters of the day.

Same for the French territorial rights thing. Let it all anger others – it sells tickets and creates rivalries. Explain it outright, and with precision, and it’s not so defining. Or maybe now, after all these years, another analysis is more intriguing.

That’s a common thread of my book – bringing new arguments to the plate, based on more complete research and a less mythologized angle.

Other sections of your book deal with wonderful lighthearted moments, like the antics of Jean Pusie and the Jacques Demers casket story to name two. You created a fine balance between telling the story of the team along with inside tales, all within 200 pages. Was this enough space, or would you have preferred to write twice as much?

Limited space and time was this book’s enemy. But those are the givens, right? The legend of Jean Beliveau – I had two very amazing stories – could not be fit in. It’s very unfortunate, because I really hoped to include them.

Throughout the book, especially in the later years, you explore the mistakes that have led to the misery the team has experienced in recent years – the poor trades, the hiring of the wrong upper-management personnel, and of course the Patrick Roy-Mario Tremblay fiasco. But you never created an overall picture of doom and gloom. You pointed out the problems and show optimism for the future. Are we on the right track with Marc Bergevin and his team now, or do you think we probably have to endure many more years of futility?

Well doom and gloom is, in my opinion, as much about a reader as it is about fact. In a historical perspective, how often have fans felt the team was on track, only to learn otherwise. A personal admittance of mine from back in the day – I was all for the Habs getting rid of Roy under the circumstances, but darnit, get something akin to a cornerstone in return.

I couldn’t end the book on a downer note, because I absolutely fail to see things in that light, personally. The Canadiens are nowhere near as brutal as their record of last season shows. It was just one of those years in which everything goes inexplicably off the rails. The talent is there, obviously. The glue and grit weren’t. But honestly, I see nothing but sure values in certain current players and a pool of delicious prospects coming up the pipe. I allowed myself to penetrate the final pages, otherwise I’d have been dishonest.

That and Marc Bergevin reminds me nothing of the Pierre Gauthier of last season!

Your book is on the shelves now, signed, sealed and delivered, and it’s a job well done. Can we expect another in the near future?

By my definition of near, no! Sorry! I wish, though. I would love nothing more than to give you a timetable, trust me on that! The first book I was working on is still being worked on, slowed in the last year to my regret. I would love to be able to pump it out, but it’s one that is really close to my heart, and one that is as important to get right as much as it is for me to get it into your hands. I’ve learned lots writing the “Tales” book, and the next one will reflect that.

Big Canadian Day, Eh!

For those of you in other countries, today, Sunday, is a big day in Canada. Grey Cup Day. The 100th Grey Cup. When Canadians from coast to coast gather to eat meatballs, dips and chili. They also drink a lot of beer on this day, which is never a good idea because most have to work the next day, and if they haven’t learned in 100 years, they probably never will. But Canadians are Canadians. Just a wild and crazy bunch.

This Grey Cup will feature the Toronto Argonauts hosting the Calgary Stampeders, and I don’t really have a favourite. Maybe the team with the best-looking cheerleaders. Maybe I’ll root for the Argos because Torontonians have the Leafs and I feel sorry for them.

This was a trophy donated by Earl Grey in 1909. He originally had wanted to give away silverware that represented the best amateur hockey team in the country, but that rascal Sir Montagu Allan beat him to it, so Earl had to make it football because all the good hockey trophies had already been taken. I’ll bet he was pissed when he found out Monty got there first.

Habs great Doug Harvey was a huge fan, and once played against the Argos as a member of the Quebec Rugby Football Union, which in the 1940s was part of the CFL. He said that if he had to choose between hockey and football, he’d choose football. The Canadiens would often find themselves playing in Toronto on Grey Cup night, and coach Dick Irvin warned the guys not to go to the big game in the afternoon because he didn’t want any of them getting colds and sore throats and all that. The fine was $500, and every year Doug would go to the game and then pay the fine.

Cure for the hangover? Okay.

This is a sure thing, and it’s taken most of my life to figure it out. Put your coat on and walk about nine kilometers (5.5 miles), or more. I don’t know why this works. Maybe it’s something about getting the blood flowing. Or crisp air getting into your lungs. But it’s the best hangover cure I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried a lot.

Random Note:

If your math doesn’t add up, that this is the 100th Grey Cup even though the trophy was donated in 1909, it’s because the game wasn’t played during the First World War years. At least I think that’s how it works.

 

 

 

 

When Toe Spoke, Players Listened

 

Maybe it began when Toe Blake took my book into the dressing room and had Doug Harvey sign it after my dad had asked him if he would, but the man is at the top of my list, along with the Rocket and Beliveau and a couple of others, of those I’ve admired most in the hockey world. He seemed a wonderful guy, even if he was once barred from the Forum pool hall for cursing too much.

Toe’s been gone some time now, he passed away in 1995, and I smiled when I recently read this little story as described by Rick Wamsley in Dick Irvin’s great book about goaltenders – In The Crease.

Wamsley was a Habs goalie for four years, from 1980 until 1984, and although Toe Blake was long retired from the game at that time, the old coach and player would still come around and offer his invaluable advice. Here’s Wamsley telling his story:

“We played in Montreal and I guess I was feeling my oats because I had wandered out of my net quite a bit, into the corners, living dangerously and all that. After the game Toe Blake came into our dressing room. He was such a presence when he showed up, that old tradition thing again. He came up to me and said, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” I said, “Of course not, Mr. Blake.” Then he said, “What I want to know is, when you’re in the corner with the puck, who’s playing goal?” I got the message.

Roger Leger Was All Choked Up

Another little ditty from my Bee Hive collection as we wait for the Habs to destroy Chicago on Tuesday.

Roger Leger was not only in the running to replace Dick Irvin as coach of the Canadiens, a job Toe Blake was eventually given, but also managed to get his bridgework stuck in his throat one night against Detroit in 1948 which caused the team to lose the game.

The Canadiens were winning by one goal late in the game and as the puck came back to Leger on the blueline from a faceoff, Ted Lindsay rammed his elbow into Leger’s mouth, forcing the guy’s bridgework down his throat. Leger left the puck sitting there as he choked and panicked and skated for the bench and a Detroit player grabbed the puck and tied the score. Soon after, the Wings popped the winner.

However, in Leger’s defence, I would’ve done the same thing. The hell with the puck.

Me And Methuselah

I became 60 years old today. I know, it’s ridiculous. It’s way too old.

If this keeps up, I’ll catch Methuselah, who apparently lived until he was 969.

When I was born, on Oct. 4th, 1950, the Rocket had only played eight seasons with the Canadiens. He’d go on for another ten years after that. Dick Irvin was coaching the Habs when my mom gave birth to me, Gerry McNeil was the goaltender having replaced Bill Durnan, and it was three long years before Jean Beliveau put the sweater on.

I was born five years before the Richard Riot and nine years before Jacques Plante decided to wear a mask for the first time. I’ve been alive for 18 of the 24 Stanley Cups Montreal has won.

I’m really freaking old. But I’ve been told a few times that I have the passion of someone half my age.

World War ll had ended only five years before my birth. Hockey telecasts wouldn’t start until I was a two-year old, in 1952. I’m the same age as Tom Petty and Jay Leno, a year older than Guy Lafleur, and three years older than Bob Gainey.

But I want to confess something. I’m glad I’m this age and wouldn’t trade it for anything younger. I mean this. I grew up in the 1950′s and 60′s, in great and exciting times, and among other things, watching the Original Six teams get it on. The first expansion didn’t happen until I was 17, and so my youth was seeing what many of you only read about. 

I ate dinner with the Leafs (I know, the Leafs) at their training camp in Peterborough when I was 13. I saw the Rocket play live, as well as Jacques Plante and Doug Harvey and the rest. At one game in Toronto, my dad corralled Toe Blake and had him go into the dressing and get Doug Harvey’s autograph for me.

I saw Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr, Tim Horton, Stan Mikita, Bernie Geoffrion, Phil Esposito, Terry Sawchuk, Dickie Moore and all those old greats play, either live or on TV, and I was a 21 year bartender working in Sudbury when the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series was held.  And while in my 30′s I spent an evening drinking beer with an old man named Aurele Joliat.

When I was 13, the Beatles came to America for the first time and played the Ed Sullivan Show. And in the summer of 1966 when I was 15, I saw the Beatles live in Toronto.

I was a teenager when all that classic rock you know the words to was fresh and new. I went to the Atlantic City Pop Festival held two weeks before Woodstock and saw a very similiar lineup as in Woodstock, and I was a 22 year old in the crowd at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum in 1973 enjoying Led Zeppelin.

You’re doing your own thing now, seeing your own players you’ll tell your grandkids about, and singing along to your own music. I say savour everything, because believe me, from the bottom of my heart, you’ll be 60 before you know it.

But don’t despair. Getting older isn’t a bad thing at all. You’ll just have to trust me on this.

I Was Cold (And Mildly-Warm Other Things)

Yes, I know there are wars and strife and you have your own many problems, but I just want to say that I dealt with really uncomfortable air-conditioning today and you just might start thinking that your own lives aren’t so bad after all.

The ferry was freezing, the doctor’s office was freezing, the Telus office was freezing, the restaurant was freezing, and the ride back on the ferry was freezing.

You tell me. Are your problems so bad now?

But this is a Habs blog, at least until the NHL shuts down for a year, so here’s the important Habs stuff for today:

I’m reading Net Worth which I think every hockey fan should read if you haven’t already as it deals with the corruption and greed of owners and others over the years, with Alan Eagleson getting his share of ink of course, and in a memo from Frank Selke to his Montreal owners, he described Jacques Plante as “almost a mental case in his exalted ego and we must give serious thought to a replacement as he is not very amenable to discipline.” Another star’s “I.Q” is so low that we must not let ourselves count too highly on him.” Bernie Geoffrion “can’t even check his suitcase.” Dickie Moore was a “disappointing worker at training camp and as you know I had quite a session with him at contract-signing time.”

What a nasty memo. The book also details the viciousness of Detroit GM Jack Adams and naturally, good old Conn Smythe in Toronto. These people, and others, acted like children, were ruthless, cheap bastards who manipulated every person who came into their lives. They stole, lied, cheated, and connived, all for the almighty buck. 

I don’t know whether Gary Bettman looks good or bad compared to them.  

James Norris Sr, a man who virtually controlled hockey at one time, although he’s barely remembered, had a great-grandfather who injured his leg in a logging accident and amputated it himself.

I got this picture to go with my Billy Reay stick. This is the 1948-49 Montreal Canadiens – Butch Bouchard is the captain on the left just beside Bill Durnan, and that’s coach Dick Irvin over on the other side. (Give it a click, it’ll get bigger). My stick is signed by pretty well everybody in the picture. Billy Reay is three over from Irvin. I wonder if that’s my stick.

I think there should be this kind of team picture nowadays. Even if just from time to time. Players standing like that. Something different.

Maybe We Only Live Once, So I Splurged

The billionaire developer who bought the Paul Henderson jersey wasn’t the only one who got what he was after in the recent Classic Collectables Auction.

I bought something too! For $330. (plus the usual extra fees.)

You should know that I’m not a rich man by any stretch. Heck, my wife and I might have to live in a tent when we’re retired, or in Hobo’s spare room near Peterborough. But I was watching the auction carefully, I had my eyes on one thing in particular, and I told myself that if  the thing didn’t go crazy, I’d dearly love to get my hands on it.

With my wife’s blessing, I was going to go for it and work a little overtime here and there and not eat for a month so it wouldn’t hurt too much.

I splurged and bought a beauty.

I was the winning bidder of Billy Reay’s game-used stick from the time he played on the 1948-49 Montreal Canadiens, (he was leading point-getter for the Habs that year, ahead of the Rocket, 45 to 38), and it’s signed by most of the team including the very rare and valuable signatures of coach Dick Irvin and goalie Bill Durnan, along with Doug Harvey, Maurice Richard, Reay, Murph Chamberlain, Elmer Lach, Butch Bouchard, Ken Reardon, George Robertson, Ed Dorohoy, Joe Carveth, Howard Riopelle, Ken Mosdell, Bob Fillion, and Jacques Locas.

To me, it’s a Hall of Fame piece and I’m very proud.

And if you think I’m nuts, think again. Two years ago I paid $200 for a ticket stub from game eight of the 1972 Summit Series in Moscow and one similar to mine but not as nice just sold for $4000 in this recent auction. There’s been other times too where I’ve come out far ahead.