Tag Archives: Doug Risebrough

Lots To Read (If You Want)

I once phoned Hall of Famer and ex-Hab Bert Olmstead in Calgary (he was in the phone book), hoping to get him to talk about the old days with the Rocket and Stanley Cups etc. He hung up on me.

When I had my sports bar in Powell River, Frank Mahovlich and Red Storey came in while on an oldtimers tour. Frank told me the Montreal organization was so much better than the Leaf organization. We fed them a spaghetti dinner. That night, referee Storey, with a microphone, told the crowd that the spaghetti at Kane’s was the best.

I spoke to the Habs’ Jim Roberts after a game at the old Forum when I was about 13 , several years before it was renovated in 1968. He was nice to me and I decided to start a Jim Roberts fan club. I didn’t because I figured it was too much work and he wasn’t a good enough player.

I met the Rocket when he was refereeing an oldtimers game in Calgary. I told him he’d sent me a Christmas card when I was about 8 years old and he said he used to send out lots of cards but didn’t remember much at all about the old days. My sister took a picture of him, then the Rocket said he wanted me to take a picture of him with my sister.

My dad took me to a Montreal-Toronto game back in the 1950s. Somehow he corralled coach Toe Blake in the lobby and asked him to take my hockey book into the dressing room and get Doug Harvey to sign it. Blake did.

My peewee coach in Orillia, Jack Dyte, played 27 games for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1943-44 season. He had one goal and 31 penalty minutes.  He played alongside Punch Imlach for the Quebec Aces in the old Quebec Senior League and against the Rocket before Richard joined the Habs.

When I lived in Ottawa, it was well known that a somewhat down-and-out Doug Harvey was living in a railway car (which was once used by Canadian PM John Diefenbaker) at the race track across the river in Hull. And what did I do? Nothing. Didn’t go there. Didn’t bring him any smokes or a bottle. Didn’t invite him home for a turkey dinner. Nothing. It’s a big regret.

I had breakfast with HOF goalie Glenn Hall when he came to Powell River for the Allan Cup back in the late-1990s. After breakfast I drove him around the area in my Hyundai Excel.

Butch Bouchard didn’t own a pair of skates until he was 16, and just four years later he’d made the NHL.

I grew up just down the street from Rick Ley, who was a solid defenceman for the Leafs in the late 1960’s and into the ’70s. He also played for the New England Whalers in the WHA and has his sweater retired in Hartford. He then went on to a coaching career in Vancouver and Toronto. He and I would sometimes skate on an outdoor rink before school, and in the summer, during a pickup baseball game, with him pitching and me catching without a mask, the batter tipped one of Ley’s pitches and the ball knocked my front tooth out. I’ve had plastic in my mouth ever since.

In the late 1960s, Rick Ley’s older brother Ron and his buddies threatened to take me behind the pool hall and cut my long hair.

Bep Guidolin played his first NHL game in 1942 with Boston. He’s the youngest player ever to play in the league, at 16 years old.

Floyd Curry attended his first Montreal Canadiens training camp in 1940 at just 15. He didn’t make the team but it’s still quite a feat.

Bobby Orr played for the Jr. A Oshawa Generals when he was just 14.

Hall Of Fame goalie Johnny Bower didn’t play his first NHL game until he was 30 when he was called up from the minors to the NY Rangers. He played one season, then three more in the minors. After that he was traded to Toronto when he was 34 years old (maybe older). Amazingly enough, Bower played goal all those years with poor eyesight and rheumatoid arthritis.

Claire Alexander, who played defence for the Leafs in the mid 1970s, came into the league when he was 29. Before that, he was a milkman in Orillia, Ontario (my hometown).

In the early 1960s, when I was about 12, my parish priest, Monsignor Lee, was somehow connected to the Toronto Maple Leafs. I think it had to do with St. Michael’s College. At one point he took my buddy Ron Clarke and I to Peterborough to see an exhibition game between the Leafs and Chicago, and the afternoon before the game, we had dinner at the hotel with the Leafs’ brass. The players were in an adjoining room. Ron and I had dinner with the Monsignor, King Clancy, and Jim Gregory, who is now in the builder’s category of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In the 1950s, New York tough guy Lou Fontinato (who later was traded to Montreal), got into a scrap with Rocket Richard. Fontinato got Richard’s sweater off and proceeded to rip it to shreds with his skates. A few weeks later, Fontinato received a bill from the Canadiens for $38.50.

I was a milkman in Calgary for awhile and Doug Risebrough was one of my customers. His wife, who looked after the milk situation, gave me a small tip at Christmas. Risebrough played 13 years in the NHL, with both Montreal and Calgary. When he was eating his Cheerios with the milk I had faithfully delivered, he was coaching the Flames. I remember years before, in Ottawa, when the Habs played a pre-season exhibition game at the old Civic Centre, the buzz in the papers was the new promising rookie who would be playing that night in his first NHL game. That player was Doug Risebrough.

I played on the same Midget team as Dan Maloney for one game in Barrie after our Orillia team got eliminated and three of us were loaned to Barrie. I remember he was big, and a real leader even then. We were about 16. I also spent an afternoon with him hanging out and playing pool. Dan Maloney played for four teams (Chicago, LA, Detroit, and Toronto) over 11 seasons, and eventually went on to coach. He was truly a great guy and a tough bastard.

Toe Blake’s real first name was Hector. He got the name ‘Toe’ from his younger sister who pronounced the last part of Hector as toe, as in “Hectoe.”

Turk Broda, who was the Toronto Maple Leaf goalie from 1936 to 1952, had the nickname “Turk” because as a child, his neck would turn red like a turkey when he got angry. His real name is Walter.

During the time I owned my restaurant in Powell River, the Hanson Brothers (from Slapshot) came to town for a promotional thing at the arena. Afterwards, two of them, the Carlson brothers, came into my pub and at midnight, I locked the doors and drank beer and talked hockey with them until about 5AM.

When I was 12, my peewee baseball team played in a tournament in St. Catherines, Ontario. For one game, goalie great Gerry Cheevers, in his early-20s at the time, was the umpire.

When I was about 11 and at the opening of the Hockey Hall of Fame at the CNE in Toronto with my dad and sister, I asked Foster Hewitt for his autograph. He signed for me, but because he was in a deep discussion with someone, he kept my pen. I was too shy to ask him for it so my sister had to get it for me.

Howie Morenz was Toe Blake’s hero when Blake was a boy. He said he even called himself Howie. Years later, in 1937, Blake played for the Habs alongside his boyhood hero Morenz. This was the same year Morenz died from complications from a broken leg.

Toe Blake used such terrible profanity, he was barred from the Forum Billiard Hall.

In the early ’60s when I was about 13 or so, my previously mentioned buddy Ron Clarke and I went to Barrie, Ont. for an exhibition game between the AHL’s Buffalo Bisons and the Rochester Americans. We were there early and somehow got talking to the Buffalo trainer, and he let us be stickboys for the game. The team gave Ron and I sticks, although I broke mine later playing road hockey. And Don Cherry played that night for Rochester, although I only know this from the lineup sheet I still have.

Toe Blake said “Hockey has been my life. I never had the opportunity of getting one of those million dollar contracts, but hockey was worth more than a million to me in plenty of ways.”

1950s Habs grinder Marcel Bonin would at times eat glass (probably after several pops), and also wrestled a bear or two. And once, while at training camp in Victoria, BC, Bonin broke his thumb during some horseplay off the ice. He kept it a secret from Toe Blake, then during the next practice, pretended to hurt his hand on the ice and kept himself from getting into hot water with Blake. It worked.

Two NHL players who were notorious for treating rookies on their own teams badly were Steve Shutt and Dave Keon. Shutt’s reasoning was, “Hey, it happened to me so it’s gonna happen to them too.”

Jim Pappin, who won a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, lost his Cup ring years ago. But it was found several years ago in the Gulf of Mexico when a diver using an underwater metal detector came up with it.

I saw Bobby Orr twice in my home town of Orillia. Once when I was sitting in the park down by the lake, he and his wife strolled by. He had a hockey school with Mike Walton in Orillia at this time. The other was out at one of the local beverage rooms, and he and a bunch of people I knew a little, sat near us. There’s a strong chance my table drank more beer than their table.

Gary Lupul, a great ex-Canuck and a good friend of mine who passed away several years ago, introduced me to goaltender Richard Brodeur, who was in town on an oldtimers tour. Gary told Brodeur I was a Habs fan, and Brodeur said “Oh. I don’t want to talk to you.” (He was joking. I think.)

I was also introduced to the Hanson Brothers’ manager when the Hansons came to town. I held out my hand and he asked “Do you wash your hands when you take a crap?” I said of course, and it was only then that he shook my hand.

A kid I played minor hockey with for four or five years, John French, ended up getting drafted by the Montreal Canadiens and played a couple of years with the club’s farm team, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. But it was the early 1970s and extremely difficult to crack the Habs line up, so French signed with the New England Whalers of the newly-formed World Hockey Association instead. He played with Gordie Howe and another good Orillia boy, his old friend Rick Ley, who had played for the Leafs before jumping to the WHA.

The best seat I ever had at a game was in the first row at the Montreal Forum in the late-1970s, behind the net, just to the right of the goal judge.

The worst seat I ever had was at Edmonton’s Northland Coliseum for a game between the Habs and Oilers, and we were in the very first row behind the Oilers bench. John Muckler and his two assistant coaches stood right in front of us, so the only time we could see was when the play was down at either end.

Canada’s greatest pool player, Cliff Thorburn, is a long-time Habs fan.

The first two artificial rinks built in Canada were in Victoria and Vancouver.

From a documentary I learned that Russian Czar Peter the Great would often go incognito to Europe, with a shaved mustache and old hat, and from a painting of him shown in the doc wearing these,  he looks a dead ringer for deceased Russian hockey star Valeri Kharlamov.

When the Rocket was playing for the Verdun juniors in 1939, he took boxing lessons in the off-season. He became so good at it that he was entered into a Golden Gloves competition, but a damaging punch in the nose by his coach prevented him from participating.

Leaf star Darryl Sittler and his wife Wendy were staying at Paul Henderson’s house and looking after their three daughters when Henderson scored those big goals during the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series.

Team Canada had a six-hour stopover in Paris on the way to Stockholm. Goalie Ed Johnston said this about Paris: “What’s wrong is the same thing you find with all these European cities. Too many old buildings.”

While in Stockholm, a Swedish fellow at the press conference mentioned that maybe Bobby Orr, who was injured and didn’t play in the series, wasn’t as good as Russian Valeri Kharlamov. “He’s good in the NHL,” said the guy, “but in Europe he’d be only average.” A Canadian who overheard this said, “Put this down. Bobby Orr-healthy-would eat any Czech or Russian alive. And he’d spit out any Swede.”

In Moscow, the Canadians were seen coming back to their hotel at all hours of the night. While some of the boys were sitting around the lobby of the Grand Hotel, someone mentioned hearing that the Russians had put street crews with jackhammers outside the Canadian team’s windows in the early morning. “No problem,” said one player. “We won’t be in anyway.”

Coach Harry Sinden celebrated his 40th birthday while overseas. “Ten days ago I was 29,” he said.

Some Canadian fans who arrived in Moscow found out there were no tickets available for them. These included Maurice Richard, Punch Imlach, former referee-in-chief Carl Voss, and legendary wrestler Whipper Billy Watson. Those left out were given three options: they could take an all-expenses paid 10-day tour of Copenhagen; they could fly home and be refunded; or they could stay and take their chances on finding tickets. Most chose the third option.

Dennis Hull, after a tour of Moscow, gushed, “I really like the place. It reminds me of Buffalo.”

 

 

 

If It’s Wednesday, It Must Be Calgary

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I know, the pictures aren’t great. The ones I was hoping to use are a bit blurry.

That’s the Calgary Saddledome behind Gaston, taken from my son’s street.

Maybe it’s because I’m blurry. Eight hours from Nelson to Calgary. It’s that number 3 highway. I felt just a few more miles and I’d end up in the Twilight Zone.

We’re at my son’s place in downtown Calgary, on a warm, sunny day, and aside from the above whining, things are great. I haven’t seen my son in over two years, and he looks good. He’s a martial arts guy who loves the Habs.

Calgary remains a bittersweet place for me. I went through a divorce here, but it’s a nice place regardless. Anyway, it was a long time ago and I never would have ended up with Luci if that nightmare from so long ago hadn’t happened. So I think I’ll embrace this vibrant city.

Thank you Calgary.

Even though I had a slew of terrible jobs here, including home delivery milkman. I also had several trucking jobs and I worked in the Safeway warehouse where I assembled boxes of bananas to be shipped to stores. Often I kicked myself for moving from Ottawa.

Years ago when my first wife and I brought a Russian couple over for a visit, I contacted the Calgary Flames and they were amazing. It was a novelty for all concerned. They gave the couple a team-autographed stick. They brought us to a closed Flames practice where GM Doug Risebrough came up and said hello. They took us down by ice level and my Russian friends had their picture taken with Theoren Fleury, who had just come off the ice. And they gave us four tickets to two separate Flames games.

Because of all this, it’s very difficult for me to say anything bad about the Calgary Flames organization.

I’m sorry but I have to cut this short. My son’s internet isn’t working and so I had to slip out to a restaurant to get this done. But I need to get back. I only have a few hours to spend with him.

Tomorrow the car is pointed toward Saskatchewan. Maybe we’ll make Regina. Maybe not.

Please check in and I’ll let you know. Your guess is as good as mine.

Have You Ever Been To……?

We really need a general manager in place pronto in Montreal. Not just because the draft is coming up fast and we have the number 3 pick to decide on, and not only because he has to hire a coach and figure out how to ship out Scott Gomez, but also because we need something to talk about here.

I think the GM should be a female. Some nice, sexy, low-cut clothes, a smile and a wink, a gentle stroking of the arm, and she’ll have Glen Sather so screwed up he’ll take back Gomez in a New York minute. And throw in some cash for good measure.

Doug Risebrough’s name has come up and we could talk about the time he ripped Marty McSorley’s sweater to shreds when Calgary played Edmonton. Or when he, Mario Tremblay, and Yvon Lambert were three of the finest plumbers on some of the finest Habs teams ever.

We really need a GM and coach in place so we can agree and argue and plan how we’re going to win the Cup with these guys on board.

Until then, have you ever been to Malibu?

Malibu is only a few minutes along the Pacific Coast Highway heading out from Santa Monica. The houses aren’t spectacular from the highway, but the back of them, along the beach, show their true beauty. They’re also are in the 20 million range if you’re thinking about living there.

Moonshadows, in the second picture, is the restaurant where Mel Gibson got plastered, then got in his car and was promptly stopped by a cop, charged with a DUI, and began a slurring rant about Jews and others.

Although the houses along the beach are owned and lived in by movie stars and high-priced lawyers and such, regular people like you and me can access the beach at several barely-marked paths which you have to look closely for. These billionaries certainly don’t want a lot of riff-raff taking over their beach and talking hockey, that’s for sure. But we can hang out whether they like it or not.

When you go, spread out a towel, gaze at the water, then turn around and notice the hired help at these 20 million dollar places polishing the silver on the decks and washing windows. Live and lounge like a rich movie star on the white sand with the surf crashing before you, then get back in your car and drive several miles to your Motel 6 and hope your TV works and the sheets are clean.

 

Toe Blake Mistake

Over the years, card companies like O-Pee-Chee and Topps have slipped up in various ways, putting the wrong name on someone’s card or incorrect information listed and such, which hasn’t really affected the collecting aspect, but simply became conversation pieces more than anything else.

Both Bob Gainey and Serge Savard in different years had Doug Risebrough’s name listed below the photos. On Guy Lafleur’s rookie card, his name is spelled “La Fleur” and in another year Guy was listed as a defenceman. And in one of the most notorious examples of card error, Jacques Lemaire somehow managed to have a Buffalo Sabres uniform on when he never once played for the Sabres.

But the practice of screwing up dates way back, as you can see on this 1940’s gumball card. Toe Blake as a Chicago Black Hawk? Hah!

These weren’t normal gum cards. I believe they were dispensed from gumball machines, hence the name “gumball card.”

Here’s the other side of it.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It (Parts Two And Three)

For the last eight Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup wins, from 1971 to 1993, I managed to save the front pages and laminate them. (Although one, from 1977, is an inner page).

Part one was just a few days ago. This is part two and three -1976 and 1977

It was their 17th Stanley Cup, a beautiful, delicious four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers. How sweet is that? Sweeping the Broad St. Bullies, the goons who had slashed and punched their way to the two previous championships. But this time, real hockey prevailed over thuggery.

All in all, it was the Canadiens plumbers who made things happen. At least for the most part. Bob Gainey, Jim Roberts, Doug Jarvis, and Doug Risebrough proved just how important blue-collar guys can be. The team had Lafleur and Shutt and the boys, but the lesser-lights shone. “Really, the plumbers did the job for us in this series,” said Steve Shutt. “But when we needed the goals, the two big guys (Lafleur and Perter Mahovlich) came through.”

Lafleur and Mahovlich weren’t having a sensational series up until the final game and the plumbers stepped up. But both Lafleur and Mahovlich scored goals in the third period to ice the thing and to prove that singer Kate Smith, the Flyers’ lucky charm, wasn’t such a lucky charm after all.

Kate was there in person that night to sing the anthem, usually it was a recording, but even her live and in colour wasn’t enought for the thugs from Philly. And in the dressing room, the Habs sung God Bless America in a good-natured jibe to the singer.

It had only taken Montreal 13 games from start to finish in these 1976 Stanley Cup playoffs, sweeping Chicago, taking out the Islanders in five games, and then the four-game dismissing of the Flyers.

Some Flyers fans thought it might have been different if their team had been healthy. Rick MacLeish didn’t suit up, and Bobby Clarke and Orest Kindrachuk played but weren’t 100%. And Wayne Stephenson was between the pipes instead of number one, Bernie Parent. But even coach Fred Shero admitted that his team, althought they might have prolonged it slightly, would have lost anyway. “If we’d had everybody healthy, I suppose we might have lasted longer, we might have made it close, at least.” said Shero. “But on the other hand, I imagine that if we had been able to play better, Canadiens might have played better too. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they could.”

And to make all Habs fans giddy, Shero also went on about how good the Habs actually were. “These are guys you can’t ride off the puck. They’re immune to normal forechecking. You put pressure on most defences and they fall apart. They cough up the puck or throw it away. These fellows never panic. They just won’t give up the puck. They’re always in control.”

And Shero wasn’t finished being nice. “And my God, they’re all like forwards besides. That’s what you’ve got to have on your defence in the NHL today. You can put Robinson, Savard or Lapointe up front and they don’t look out of place at all.”

The last word goes to Bobby Clarke. “We were beaten by one great hockey team, the best in many years.”

And now, 1977

In the spring of 1977, as I was on the verge of getting married for the first time, Jacques Lemaire scored the overtime goal to give his team their second straight Stanley Cup in this late 1970’s run, and it was done with a lovely four-game sweep against Don Cherry and his Boston Bruins. Is this one of the reasons you hate the Habs, Don?

It had been quite a year for this dominating bunch. Montreal only lost eight times in 80 games and racked up a record 132 points. Nobody was going to beat them in the playoffs. You didn’t have to be Kreskin to figure it out. In fact, the team swept the Blues, took out the Islanders 4 games to 2, and then swept the Bruins. Fourteen games in total, and very similar to the 13 it had taken them the year before.

Guy Lafleur won the Conn  Smythe trophy for playoff MVP and managed nine goals and 17 assists throughout. But he had this to say: “It’s my third Cup and it’s always nice, but it’s not the same excitement. I don’t think I’m the best player. It’s just that everything went well for me.”

Jacques Lemaire was the quiet hero on this ride. His teammates had told him to shoot more, and on this night, he delivered with the overtime marker. “Why shouldn’t I be happy,” said Lemaire. “I’m on a holiday. I’m on a holiday starting now. It’s about time. It still is Lafleur and Shutt, except tonight. Tonight was a mistake. They said, shoot the puck, you look good.”

Coach Scotty Bowman had this to say about Lafleur and Shutt. “They play more like Europeans. I’m not knocking the NHL style of play, but the Europeans make more plays on the move. That’s what Lafleur and Shutt do.”

And last word to Don Cherry. “It’s hard to believe we kept outshooting them and still can’t win a game. I still say the whole thing boiled down to those three defensemen.”

Great Big “C”

Of course the Canadiens need a captain. Someone to show young guys the ropes, a natural-born leader, one the other players can look up to and respect and learn from, on and off the ice. The team went without one last year, but now it’s time.

I can’t wait to see who will be wearing the “C” and who will be joining the the select list of those who wore the badge of honour beforehand – players such as Butch Bouchard, Toe Blake, Maurice Richard, Doug Harvey, Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, and more recently, Saku Koivu.

All in all, since 1909 there’s been 28 different men chosen as leader in Montreal. And a 29th is coming soon, I hope.

Bob Gainey was named captain of the team in 1981, and the following is taken from “Canadiens Captains” by Michael Ulmer (1996).

“Gainey found the role surprisingly political. At first he was too closely associated with the coaching staff, so he discreetly moved to distance himself from the club’s management and make himself more available to individual players. Still, when a young Chris Chelios or Petr Svoboda needed to be reminded of his defensive responsibilities, Gainey acted decisively.

“Bobby always walked the great line to being a friend when a player needed it and kicking some players in the ass when they weren’t living up to what their obligations were as teammates,” (Doug) Risebrough said. “He had a great ability to teach people and be vulnerable to people. I think sometimes if you’re vulnerable to people, you open yourself up, people have a tendency to give of themselves.”

“I think I can usually touch people somehow. I can make them either comfortable if they’re not or put them on edge if they’re comfortable,” Gainey said. “Each team has different kinds of people. You’ve got your young kids and you’ve got married people and we had different cultures and maybe not initially when I became captain, but in the last five or six years I was able to work in all different groups. If I had to, I could go to anyone’s house and feel welcome.”

The City Didn’t Appreciate The Beauty Makeover

When I lived in Calgary about 15 years ago there was this big, sloping field behind my backyard fence leading down to a busy road. The grass was long and yellow there, and I felt it needed some beauty added to it. So I got out my lawnmower and cut a big CH in this slope and thousands of cars a day saw it as they drove by.

Then, one day, there was a knock on my door. It was a man with a frown on his face, from the City of Calgary, and he told me to stop this nonsense, let the grass grow back, and never do it again or I’d be fined.

(And by the way, among those houses up on that big hill behind me is where Doug Risebrough was living at the time. I know because I was his milkman.)

Roadrunner, Flower, Coco, Riser, Little M, Big Bird, and Gasser Celebrate

 

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Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Lemaire, Guy Lafleur, Doug Risebrough, Pete Mahovlich, Larry Robinson and Gaston LeBois celebrate after winning the Stanley Cup in 1976.

“Gaston was our best player,” admitted Jacques Lemaire. “He was a bit long-in-the-tooth, but at least he wasn’t a puck hog like big Pete, or a chain smoker like Flower, or a moody son-of-a-bitch like myself.”

You Want A Short Story? Here’s A Beauty

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These are Russian lapel pins. Russians love their pins, and there’s millions of them floating around. This little display I have at home are hockey and 1980 Olympics pins, and of course, there’s a story here.

In 1991, I told my friends, a Russian couple living in Leningrad, which shortly after became St. Petersburg, to start sending me pins and I’ll sell them (three for five bucks) and raise enough money to bring them to Canada to see some hockey. I raised $4000, they came, and we saw two games in Calgary, one in Edmonton, and were invited to a closed practice in Calgary where this husband and wife met all the players, got their picture taken with Theoren Fleury, and at the practice, GM Doug Risebrough came up to our seats to say hello.

Now this is where I hope you keep reading. Just a week before this couple had even landed in Canada, after all the pin selling, after all the preparation, my first wife informed me she wanted a divorce. So the whole month the Russian couple were with us, my wife and I pretended all was well so we wouldn’t ruin their holiday. But I was a hurtin puppy, and when everyone went to bed, I stayed up and drank myself into oblivion.

Now, I hope you’re still reading, because the story takes another twist. Not long after the couple went back to Russia, a letter came saying that they were also getting a divorce.

Ten years later, I married this Russian woman.