Tag Archives: Eddie Shack

Fan Favourite Fergie

John Ferguson was a lot of things.

He was one of the most popular players to ever wear the Montreal sweater, according to one who would know, Dick Irvin Jr. He was a serious lacrosse player, mostly in Nanaimo, BC. He was assistant coach on Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series. He was deeply involved in horse racing. He was coach and GM of the New York Rangers, and GM of the Winnipeg Jets.

But most of all, he was a great fighter for the Habs in the 1960s, who could also score goals. Twelve seconds into his very first NHL game with the Habs, Fergie got into a fight with Boston tough guy Ted Green and won. He was a coach’s dream.

Fergie was one those guys who would cross the street if members of the opposing team were walking his way. He avoided playing in golf tournaments if players from other teams were participating.  And he would only be involved in hockey schools if all the other instructors were Montreal players.

“We played for the sweater,” John Ferguson once said, and because he said that, he’s one of my all-time favourite Montreal Canadiens. I even saw him and Eddie Shack go at it once when I was at a game at Maple Leaf Gardens, and it brought down the house. It was one of those great, delicious bench-clearing brawls, and Shack and Fergie were the headliners, two rival gladiators with a glorious dislike for each other. They went punch for punch, Leaf fans screamed for his blood, and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, right up there with Brigitte Bardot standing by the fence in  And God Created Women.

John Ferguson was one of the best. He died on July 14, 2007, at only 68.

School Daze

I might have hated high school even more than I hated the Leafs. I fell behind right off the bat. And I realize now that one of the big reasons I wasn’t all that successful with the ladies might have something to do with those early morning hockey practices and not showering afterward.

Grades one to eight had been somewhat better. It was way slacker. I could keep up. Each year was kind of just hanging out, trading hockey cards, playing baseball at recess, and intentionally dropping my pencil so I could bend down to pick it up and look up girls’ skirts. And in grade school the big thing that kept me going was hoping that the day would come when a scout from the Montreal Canadiens would notice me and off I’d go.

My mother and sister had both loved school and were brainiacs. But it didn’t matter as much to me. Eddie Shack couldn’t even write his name and he managed. And I’d read that Rocket Richard had hated school. That was important.

High school was worse. I was too old for a bunch of my favourite things, including the pencil trick. I’d given up my dream of playing for the Habs. And most of the girls, although they didn’t say it, preferred guys who didn’t have skin that sometimes looked like the measles.

I’d read about a kid in a high school in Toronto who had been suspended for having shoulder-length hair, and I thought it would be cool if I was suspended for having long hair too. I couldn’t even do that right. They didn’t seem to care. I failed at math, science, and getting suspended. So I decided to go another route. I’d be a rebel. Failing miserably was cooler if you were a rebel. It softened the blow when all those D’s on report cards showed up.

Considering everything, it’s turned out pretty good. Even without the Montreal Canadiens scouts, and even though I was such a lousy student. I think it’s probably helped that I have a decent work ethic, and whenever I found myself out of work, I’d take any job I could find, big or small.

And what would I have done differently back then? Maybe had showers after hockey practice.







Hockey? I’m Not Ready Yet

I woke this morning to the news – that NHL brains have made a sharp u-turn and hockey will begin again, maybe on January 15, maybe on January 19. (Details can be found on 8,537 news and sports sites).

I’m not ready for this. I’m not finished talking about Gary Bettman and rich hockey players yet. It’s too soon. It’s only January and it’s cold. Hockey should be played where it’s hot, like in Phoenix and South Florida. And how am I supposed to blog about actual hockey games forty-eight or fifty times in the next while when I’m out of shape? Players need training camp? So do I.

I just hope Bruins fans and others don’t keep bringing up the shortened season after Montreal wins it all. It’s going to be a nice, handy excuse for them – that they were just getting going and if it was any longer, they would’ve made the Habs look like the German junior team. This is what we’re up against. It’s gonna suck but we have to be ready for it.

I really was in a no-NHL-state of mind. I’d learned to occupy myself other ways on nights when hockey wasn’t being played. Like watching Sportsnet and TSN go on and on and on about hockey not being played. Good, quality entertainment.

I’m worried for some. Scott Gomez was on a roll with his Alaska Aces, notching six goals and seven assists in just eleven games. Now what? Now he has to stop scoring again. You have to feel for the guy. And Brad Marchand is only halfway through his grade seven course and will have to either stop completely or do homework on planes.

Maybe I can help Marchand, with this advice that comes via Eddie Shack. When Shack was playing, one of his teammates in the dressing room asked him how far he got in school, and Eddie said grade eight. When the other player asked how he managed to get so far, Eddie said it was easy, he’d lend the teacher his car.

It’s not just Gomez or Marchand. They all have to go back to work now. I know this feeling. A nice two or three week holiday and then I’m back in the thick of things and it’s hard. The players have been laying around and golfing and traveling to New York for six months now. Imagine what they’re going through. Hopefully they were able to keep busy. David Booth probably had a nice time blowing bears’ brains out, and Evander Kane had a nice picture taken of himself in Las Vegas holding a couple of three inch wads of bills and pretending the money was a phone. Now that’s fine humour. That’s how you keep busy.

I feel for the owners. Now they have to act like nice people when they show up at their private boxes, and that means they’ll have to tip the $9 an hour person who brings them their 20-year old scotch. Hollywood people can act like they’re nice and normal because they’re actors. Owners don’t have this luxury. They have every other luxury, just not this one.

What about Russian fans who’ve been flocking to KHL games this year? My stepson Denis in St. Petersburg says hockey in Russia has never been so exciting and invigorating to fans there. Now these players who took jobs have to come back to North America and not take anybody’s job and fans in the old country will be left with the team that once was. It’ll take some getting used to. And it’ll be nice for the captain of St. Petersburg SKA to get his “C” back now that Ilya Kovalchuk won’t be needing it anymore.

Can Montreal do well this year? It’ll be a sprint instead of a marathon, and who knows? It depends on how many games before Andre Markov gets hurt, and whether the power play can score sometimes. Maybe Alex Galchenyuk will be in the lineup! Let’s just embrace what we’ll have – a short race to the finish line. It’ll be over before we know it. Then we can get back to what we’re used to – no hockey.




Job Openings

I haven’t completely given up on getting the stick boy job, but I’m now starting to think that maybe I should have a plan B in place. I just want a nice, part-time job that I can continue to do when I’m older and which will help pay for the RDS channel and some food.

So it made me quite excited to see a few help wanted ads in a magazine called New Scientist that Luci brought home from work. I read these and thought, hey I can do this! This is excellent, because the stick boy thing is dragging its heels and maybe I can do both if both happen to come my way.

Here are the ads, and if you beat me to them, I’m going to be really upset.

Postdoctoral Position in Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology:

The Scripps Research Institute on the Jupiter, Fl campus is looking for a postdoctoral scientist to study molecular, cellular and behavioral aspects of neuronal signaling. Experience with electrophysiological approaches and genetic mouse models is particularly desired.

And not only that, the University of Nebraska is looking for a Postdoctoral Research Associate! This position will continue studies that have identified small molecules that block fatty acid import. Expertise in mammalian cell culture and rodent handling and a working knowledge of lipid metabolism and pharmcological analysis of small molecules and how they impact metabolism are preferred.

Damn I’d like one of these cushy jobs. Almost like a holiday with pay! I wouldn’t even be surprised to see locked-out players like Brad Marchand go for one of these. And I could be wrong but didn’t Eddie Shack and Gump Worsley do these doctoral jobs when they worked during the summers?

I’m applying right away but I probably won’t get either. They just seem so easy. Surely there must be a catch.

Shack And Beliveau

My old buddy Mike Williamson gives us this little story. He was at a store the other day and Eddie Shack happened to be there shopping. Mike and Eddie chatted for about 20 minutes or so, Jean Beliveau’s name came up, and they both agreed it’s great that Jean is improving from his recent stroke.

Eddie told Mike that when he played against Montreal, he would often give Jean a punch after hitting him, and then say sorry. One day the two of them happened to cross paths at the airport and Jean asked Eddie why he always said sorry after punching him.

Because sometimes I lie,  answered Eddie.

Fergy Left His Steak And Walked Out

To help take your mind off the wacky world of this year’s Habs, at least for a few minutes, I thought I’d mention a couple of tidbits about good old number 22, John Ferguson, that I found while re-reading my book Breakaway by Charles Wilkins.

First, an autograph I got from him in the mid-60’s.

Fergy was sitting in a restaurant with teammate Dick Duff, ready to tackle a steak, when Eddie Shack of the Leafs walked in. Duff, who had played with Shack in Toronto, struck up a conversation with his old friend. Fergy was so disgusted that a teammate would socialize with the enemy that he got up and walked out, leaving his uneaten steak.

Henri Richard was given the captaincy after Jean Beliveau retired, but Pocket Rocket wasn’t the Habs’ first choice to wear the C. It was Fergy. Fergy had decided to retire in 1971 and GM Sam Pollock offered him the honour of being captain if he would stay longer. But Sam was turned down.

John ended up resenting the Canadiens organization. He was in the hospital having surgery on a bone below his eye, a very serious operation, and he said that not once did a member of the team’s ownership, management, or coaching staff come to visit him. And only one them phoned – Toe Blake – but just once.

The Hall of Fame committee had Fergy’s name on the ballot and it went through, but for reasons unknown, they changed their minds and he was never inducted.

Ferguson was asked by Harry Sinden to play for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series but declined. His reasoning was that there was so much talk about Bobby Hull not being able to play because the Golden Jet had bolted to the new WHA, he felt it would be too much of a distraction to accept the offer, considering he’d been retired for a year. He became assistant coach instead.

Ferguson laid a beating on Chicago’s Eric Nesterenko during the 1965 Stanley Cup finals that changed the momentum of the series, and caused Nesterenko to live with the memory of it for years to come. Nesterenko even became the subject of a novel “The Drubbing of Nesterenko” by Hanford Woods, and although the fight was an absolute disaster for the Black Hawk, it only added to the legend of Fergy.

Here’s the fight:




Reward For A Job Well Done

Carey Price was selected as number one star Saturday afternoon after the San Jose game. I know because it said so on the TV screen.

The three star selection seemed to be a bigger deal years ago than now. The game was never over until the three players skated out to the cheers and jeers of the crowd. They often made grand entrances, skated wide circles, waved and blew kisses, and it was the icing on the cake, one final drama to cap the big night. Yvan Cournoyer would come out looking like he wanted to grab a puck and go with it. Eddie Shack, on those rare occasions when he was chosen, would sometimes do pirouettes.

The three stars are still announced at games now, but TV audiences don’t always see them, especially when it’s other than Hockey Night in Canada. And many times we may not even see who was selected at all. I guess time is money, and sometimes there’s no time to show the three stars.

And why are there three stars in a hockey game? Because Imperial Oil, who sponsored Hockey Night in Canada for so many glorious years, had a brand of gasoline in the 1940’s called “Three Stars.”

You Met Who?

These are my two kid brothers in the early 1970’s with good old Eddie Shack.

Paul, on the left, now has a great job with Correctional Services of Canada (parole board), which might come in handy if I decide to murder Gaston.  It’s funny he’s wearing number 99. Wayne Gretzky was just a little kid like Paul at that time.

Joel, on the right, became a musician and lived in Nashville for a long time, and now plays in bands part-time and also builds houses.

Eddie Shack, for all I know, might still sell Christmas trees, hustle ten different ways, and continue to do extremely well for a guy who never learned to read or write. (He used to use a stamp to sign his autograph).

What’s this all about? It’s because I’m keeping on top of the contest which is not only related to sending a kids team to Whitehorse for Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada The Big Save, but stories of NHL players you’ve met over the years is a fascinating subject in its own right.

Tell me about these NHL players you’ve encountered, like these folks have in the comments section of My Brothers Met Eddie Shack At A Car Dealership, and I’ll put the names in the old fedora, pick one out, and somebody will win a family pack of hockey stuff like jerseys, hats, and toques from Scotiabank, which I’ll draw at the end of the month.