From time to time lately I’ve been showing pages from my old Habs scrapbook. Here’s more.
And at the risk of sounding like a broken
record MP3, just click on the photos to make ‘em bigger.
Baseball has its dog days of summer, but so does hockey. The Canadiens haven’t played a game since losing 6-1 to the Ottawa Senators on May 9 in the opening round of the playoffs, bowing out four games to one in the process. If my math is right, that’s 64 days ago.
It’s been a long time, and it’ll be a while yet before the puck is dropped for real again. And I’ve never come to grips with losing the Expos. It still hurts, and I’ve tried to revert to my childhood team, the L.A. Dodgers, but without Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, it just hasn’t been the same.
So I go to my binders and start pulling stuff out.
My brother used to be the bass player in country singer Michelle Wright’s band. He and Michelle ended up living together and had a place in Nashville, although things, as they tend to do, came to an abrupt end and my brother now has a wife and daughter and moved on a long time ago from those days.
Michelle would sometimes send me things, and today I found this as I was going through old binders.
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).
But Susan and Carl were not just a loving couple. They also fought the good fight for all NHL players, and in the end were the force that brought down Alan Eagleson and his cronies who were putting into their pockets millions of dollars which rightfully belonged to the players.
Her man Carl, who spoke like a professor and was an excellent defenceman, is gone now, but Susan remains close to the retired players from the era of the Original Six teams and continues to strive to help NHL widows who might not be getting their fair share.
(If anyone knows the whereabouts of Rhonda Lapointe, widow of deceased NHLer Rick Lapointe, please contact me so I can pass it along to Susan).
Susan invited my wife Luciena and I to a luncheon in Toronto where about 60 ageing gentlemen, who once upon a time were stars in the golden age of hockey, the 1930′s to 1960′s, gathered to swap stories and tell tall tales, and to eat and laugh and catch up on old times. It was like a warm family reunion.
Pete Conacher, from the famous Conacher family and who had played in New York, Chicago, and Toronto, sat with us, treated us with kindness, and was such a gentleman. Ivan Irwin, who wore number four in Montreal before Jean Beliveau, joined us and told great stories from his day.
Wally Stanowski now 92 years old and a Leaf and Ranger legend, was a friendly old fellow, and said he doesn’t watch much hockey anymore. Wally is the last surviving member of the 1945 Stanley Cup-winning Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ron Hurst, taking the mike, told bawdy jokes, and the cleanest I can get is the one he related about how a hunter had brought back a monkey and when asked if he wanted to mount it, replied that he’d rather just shake its hand.
Ivan Irwin recalled how he was the sixth defenceman in Montreal and told Frank Selke that it would probably be best if he was traded somewhere where he would play regularly. Selke promptly shipped Irwin to the minors in Victoria, which was the last thing the big defenceman expected. The next season he was dealt to New York. I mentioned that he probably only made about $4000 a year back then, and he said, “try half that.”
In the photos below, the wonderful Susan Foster poses with Ivan Irwin. Also, a look at the room full of long-retired greats, along with 92 year old Wally Stanowski in the red shirt, and Pete Conacher and Ivan Irwin with Luci.
Carey Price is under the weather and may not play in the season opener Thursday night in Toronto. C’mon Carey, shape up. Up and at ‘em. Eat six raw eggs and drink a half pint of cod liver oil.
Or if all else fails, smoke a doobie. But not too close to game time.
It goes without saying that Habs and Leaf fans love when these two play each other. The rivalry between teams is an old one, a great one, and for those who don’t know, many years ago, many, many years ago, the Leafs were a force to be reckoned with.
I know. I read it somewhere in the Old Testament.
I have my mom’s diary beside me that she wrote when she was a teenager, and the entry for April 18th, 1942 is: “The Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup tonight for the first time in years.” She was right. It had been ten years since they’d won it before that, in 1932. Overall though, the team in blue has captured the hardware 13 times, which is better than anyone else except our guys, of course. (Detroit has won it 11 times, the Bruins five).
And imagine the Stanley Cup playoffs ending on April 18th.
My mom knew the Leafs’ Bucko McDonald when she was growing up in Sundridge, Ontario, where he’s from, and it’s entirely possible she liked the Torontonians as a young girl. Maybe all those times she helped me type letters to the Montreal Canadiens at the kitchen table, she was secretly a Leaf fan and never mentioned it. (Bucko is known for another reason too: he coached Bobby Orr in nearby Parry Sound when Orr was a wee lad and McDonald can certainly claim some responsibility for helping Orr grow as a player in his formative years).
As a hockey fan, I have great respect for much of the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Conn Smythe and Frank Selke building the team in the early days; Turk Broda, Syl Apps, Hap Day, the Kid Line, Bill Barilko. Later, Tim Horton, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Johnny Bower.
The Eddie Shack – John Ferguson battles that usually led to bench-clearing brawls. Backstrom and Keon lining up for a faceoff. Punch Imlach with his fedora and arrogant smirk. Harold Ballard saying and doing the outrageous, often distastefully and lacking a certain amount of grace and decorum. But he was a fixture and mover and shaker at the Gardens for decades.
All those many nights when the Canadiens and Leafs went toe to toe at the Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens and fans got their money’s worth in spades.
The story of hockey in many ways is the story of Montreal and those dastardly Toronto Maple Leafs.
But I’m a Habs fan, and so I do what I always do – hope for a Montreal slaughter, a gigantic take-down of the boys in blue. I want a demolishing, a trouncing, a slaughtering, a one-sided embarrassment. It’s not too much to ask.
Bring ‘em on. Bring on Komisarek with the bad passes and bad penalties, bring on the unlikable duo of Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel. In fact, on the subject of Grabovski, here’s a lovely little read in case you missed it; Couple sues Maple Leaf.
Roman Hamrlik is still nursing his sore knee but seems almost ready. Andre Markov says it’s a secret when he’ll return, and Mike Cammalleri stays in civvies for one night only for getting down and dirty against the Islanders in pre-season. Hey, you don’t mess with Cammy.
Bill Hunter deserves to to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In fact, Hunter, who passed away on December 16, 2002 at the age of 82, should have been enshrined years ago.
To say that Wild Bill shouldn’t be in the hallowed hall is a little like saying Lord Stanley, Conn Smythe, or Frank Selke shouldn’t be either. The man practically instilled the right to skate, shoot, and score in Western Canada.
Here’s a rundown of some his astonishing accomplishments. Then you decide whether he belongs.
He was either coach, general manager, president, chairman of the board, owner, or any combination of the above of the Regina Capitals Senior Club, Saskatoon Quakers, Medicine Hat Tigers, Moose Jaw Hockey Club, Yorkton Terriers, Edmonton Oil Kings Junior Club, San Diego Gulls, Alberta Oilers and Edmonton Oilers of the newly formed World Hockey Association (WHA). He was also general manager of Team Canada 1974.
And he almost single-handedly created the Western Hockey Junior League and was the mastermind behind the modern-day Memorial Cup format.
In 1982 he launched Saskatoon’s bid to acquire a franchise in the National Hockey League by purchasing the St. Louis Blues with the intent to move the club to Saskatoon, only to be turned down by the league. But from this, a world-class multipurpose sports and entertainment complex known as Saskatchewan Place was built.
He was awarded the Canadian Tourism Award, inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, Notre Dame (Saskatchewan) College Hall of Fame, City of Edmonton Hall of Fame, was an Honorary Life Member of Notre Dame, is in the Saskatoon Hall of Fame and was given the Order of Canada. It just goes on and on.
So why isn’t he already? Because Wild Bill rubbed some the wrong way. The NHL was never pleased that Hunter helped form the renegade WHA, which enticed players from the old-guard NHL, which led to a rise in salaries.
Has the NHL held a grudge till this day? If so, it’s time to get over it and do the right thing.
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.
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.
Scott Gomez will wear number 11 this coming season for reasons explained here, and regardless of why, I agree that number 11 is better than 91 as there aren’t a lot of low numbers left on the Habs, only numbers 6 and 8 now as the rest are immortalized in the rafters, and number 11 is a fine number. It’s also been popular over the years as 69 different players have called it their own.
I’ve also spent several quality minutes googling the number 11 and here’s an example of what I’ve found;
Number Eleven possesses the qualities of intuition, patience, honesty, sensitivity, and spirituality, and is idealistic. Others turn to people who are ‘Eleven’ for teaching and inspiration, and are usually uplifted by the experience.
I’m thinking “intuition” means Gomez will be unreal in going to where the puck will be going, like Gretzky used to do. “Patience” of course means he won’t panic with the puck when a scoring opportunity presents itself. “Honesty” means we’re going to get an honest effort from Gomez each and every night. “Sensitivity” I’m having a hard time with. We don’t want sensitivity. We want Gomez to play with an edge and shove the odd stick down someone’s throat when it’s deemed necessary. “Spirituality” I guess means that if Gomez is a spirtitual type, the odds should be in his favour when playing non-spiritual types, like Sean Avery. Finally, “idealistic” probably means Gomez gets what it means to be a Montreal Canadien and will teach all those around him that they’re Montreal Canadiens and the rest aren’t.
Here’s some former number 11′s, at least at some point in their career with the Montreal Canadiens, without naming all 69.
Saku Koivu, of course.
Joe Malone, whom Frank Selke said was the handsomest player to ever play. Of course, Mr. Selke wasn’t around to see Scott Hartnell.
Dunc Munro, the guy who made 50 grand a year when he was with the Maroons, by owning all the program rights.
Tony Demers, who ended up in St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary on a manslaughter conviction.
Floyd Curry, who first came to Habs camp when he was only 15.