Tag Archives: George Chuvalo

‘Thumbs Up’ To Chuvalo And Orr

When I was ‘slightly’ younger I hitchhiked across much of Canada three times. There was never any money for motels or hot meals in restaurants, only a few bucks for potato chips and cigarettes. Those tiring, mosquito and black fly-filled trips usually took about eight days or so.

I was always a hitchhiker, even before the cross country trips. At 14, while living with a family for a month in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec on a French-English exchange, my new buddy Normand Chaput and I stuck our thumbs out and toured a big part of the province, even camping out one night on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

When Normand came to live with us for a month in Orillia that same summer, he and I hit the road again, to Toronto, Buffalo, and also only 30 miles up the road from Orillia, where we saw two different icons in two different places, doing what they did best.

We were let off at a gas station near Gravenhurst, where a small crowd had gathered around a makeshift boxing ring, and we had a look. A look at a young George Chuvalo, then Canadian heavyweight boxing champ, sparring with a partner.

There he was, the man who would twice take on Mohammed Ali, giving and taking shots to the face and gut at a gas station parking lot.

After the fight, Normand and I carried on to Bracebridge, to the big exhibition charity game between the Orillia Pepsi’s senior club, and the newly assembled Muskoka All-Stars. And because the Muskoka All-Stars were a bit of a stacked team with several pros on it, a young, slight, blond-haired kid from the junior ranks was loaned to Orillia to help make the teams more equal.

But it wasn’t equal at all. The blond-haired kid, Bobby Orr, having just completed his first season with the Oshawa Generals, was, at 16 years old, dominating the game so much, so thoroughly, he had both the fans and the other players on the ice laughing and shaking their heads in admiration. He owned the puck, skated through the older, more experienced opponents, came back hard and broke up oncoming rushes, and controlled and dazzled. It was a major eye-opener for me, Normand, and a lot of people in the Bracebridge Arena.

Hitchhiking with Normand was just the beginning. It seemed like wherever I went, I hitchhiked. Barrie, Toronto, into parts of Muskoka, Sudbury. When I was 17  I thumbed my way to Los Angeles after taking the train to Vancouver, and after that, at 19, I began my three trips across Canada.

I don’t pick up hitchhikers now, it’s too risky of course. It was probably almost as dangerous then, but I didn’t realize it. Maybe I dodged a bullet. And it was hard work, dirty, and uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

But I got to see George Chuvalo and Bobby Orr in action, and that time in Bracebridge made the dirt and car fumes all worthwhile.

Subban And Karlsson

Some of my buddies I was with in Ottawa this weekend said that when comparing PK Subban and Erik Karlsson, it’s ridiculous to even talk about. It’s a no-brainer. Karlsson is way better.

Do you feel that?

These are two different defensemen. Karlsson methodically takes control, makes the plays, and is always dangerous. When he came back from his injury last year, he wasn’t overly impressive, but before that he was a major force on all parts of the ice, especially in enemy zone, and he gets back smartly the way Bobby Orr used to.

P.K. is a whirling dervish and dangerous in his own right. Full steam ahead, flamboyantly possessed, with the enthusiasm of a kid playing on the pond. He skates like the wind, has the big shot, and plays like he’s about to physically explode. He rushes and gets back quickly too, but he seems to end up on the ice more, makes more mistakes, and isn’t the cool cucumber Karlsson is.

Is it better to have a special player like Karlsson – smart, in control, often dangerous, and a guy who seems to do everything well? Or like P.K., who raises fans out of their seats with his dynamic rushes and bone crunching open-ice bodychecks, who’s the big man on the power play, the one who on most nights creates a buzz in the rink like no other player?

One of my friends complained about P.K.’s habit of submarining people. And my brother also said recently that what he didn’t like about Subban was his turtling and lack of enthusiasm when it came time to drop the gloves.

Are these valid points?

What if P.K. corrects a few things here and there and becomes even more dynamic? What if he wins the Norris again? What would my friends say?

My wish is this. Along with being such a media darling and doing a great job on sports panels, I wish P.K. would take boxing lessons and show the hockey world he’s added fighting finesse to his arsenal. Maybe George Chuvalo can put him in touch with someone.

I don’t know what Karlsson can do in the fisticuffs department. Can he scrap?

I’m anxious to see how both young stars develop. C’mon P.K., I gotta deal with these Sens fans. Help me out here.

Tale of the Tape

P.K.

24 years old. 6′ 206 lbs, has played 3 full seasons, 202 games, with 32 goals, 82 assists, 302 PIM.

Karlsson

23 years old. 6′, 175 lbs, 3-plus seasons, 233 games, with 43 goals, 120 assists, 124 PIM.

 

 

Going Back To St. Hyacinthe

Luci and I spent part of Sunday in the city of St. Hyacinthe, 50 kilometres east of Montreal.

I wanted to go back and see it because when I was in grade nine we were asked if we wanted to do a French-English exchange during the summer and I volunteered. Several towns and cities were available to choose from, and I chose St. Hyacinthe because it was near Montreal and Habs right winger Bobby Rousseau was a golf pro there.

I think the Canadiens also held their training camps there from time to time, which gave it extra bonus points.

I spent a month with a nice French family, the Chaputs, and then my new friend Normand Chaput came with me to Orillia for a month. We had  hitchhiked all over Quebec and even slept in our sleeping bags on the Plains of Abraham, and from Orillia we thumbed down to Niagara Falls and Buffalo, and up to Bracebridge to see a charity hockey game starring a kid from the Oshawa Generals playing for the Orillia team that day, Bobby Orr.

Today in St. Hyacinthe Luci and I went to Frontenac St., where the Yamaska River flows behind, and I saw that the old Chaput house is now gone, as well as the complete neighborhood, which isn’t surprising considering it was about 48 years ago.. In place are beautiful and expensive homes, a far cry from when the street was a blue collar street with men coming and going who punched clocks and got their hands dirty.

We went downtown and it looked familiar, because Normand and I would go there from time to time to see live music in a teen club, including seeing a band I can still picture, with long, bleached white hair and singing Beatles tunes. I can almost remember their name.

We also accidentally drove by the old train station where the Chaputs greeted me when I stepped onto the platform all those years ago.

I’ve inclosed a couple of links from previous stories I’d written about that time, including the day we saw Bobby Orr, and also when I went back to St. Hyacinthe few years after that first time and did something I’m not proud of.

I wish I could find Normand Chaput or any of his family now. But I think it’s impossible to do.

Seeing Bobby Orr and George Chuvalo All In One Day

My Late Apology to the Chaput Family

Seeing George Chuvalo And Bobby Orr Do Their Thing, All In One Day

(From July 30, 2008)

When I was young and not too bright, I hitchhiked across much of Canada three times. There was never any money for motels or hot meals in restaurants, only a few bucks for potato chips and cigarettes. These smelly, mosquito-bitten trips usually took about eight days or more each way.

I was always a hitchhiker. At 14, while living with a family for a month in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec on a French-English exchange, my new buddy Normand Chaput and I stuck our thumbs out and toured a big part of the province, even camping out one night on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

When Normand came to live with us for a month in Orillia that same summer, he and I hit the road again. And when we did, just a few hours later, only 30 miles up the road, we saw two different icons doing what they do best.

We were let off at a gas station near Gravenhurst, where a small crowd had gathered around a makeshift boxing ring, and we had a look. We watched as a young George Chuvalo, then Canadian heavyweight boxing champ, sparred with a partner.

There he was, the man who would twice take on Mohammed Ali, taking big-time shots to the face at a gas station parking lot.

After the fight, Normand and I carried on to Bracebridge, to the big exhibition charity game between the Orillia Pepsi’s senior club, and the newly assembled Muskoka All-Stars. And because the Muskoka All-Stars were a bit of a stacked team with several pros on it, a young, slight, blond-haired kid was loaned to Orillia to help make the teams more equal.

But it wasn’t equal at all. The blond-haired kid, Bobby Orr, having just completed his first season with the Oshawa Generals, was, at 16 years old, dominating the game so much, so thoroughly, he had both the fans and the other players on the ice laughing and shaking their heads in admiration. He owned the puck, skated through the older, more experienced opponents, skated back hard and broke up oncoming rushes, and controlled and dazzled. It was a major eye-opener for me, Normand, and a lot of people in the Bracebridge Arena.

Hitchhiking with Normand was just the beginning. It seemed like wherever I went, I hitchhiked. A few years later I thumbed my way to Los Angeles after taking the train to Vancouver, and after that, at 19, began my three trips across Canada.

I don’t pick up too many hitchhikers now. It’s too risky. And it was probably almost as dangerous then, but I didn’t realize it, and maybe I dodged a big bullet. It was also hard work, dirty, and uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

 But I got to see George Chuvalo and Bobby Orr in action, all in one day, and that made some of the dirt and car fumes worthwhile.

Seeing George Chuvalo and Bobby Orr Do Their Thing, All In One Day

When I was young and not too bright, I hitchhiked across much of Canada three times. There was never any money for motels or hot meals in restaurants, only a few bucks for potato chips and cigarettes. These smelly, mosquito-bitten trips usually took about eight days or more each way.

 I was always a hitchhiker. At 14, while living with a family for a month in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec on a French-English exchange, my new buddy Normand Chaput and I stuck our thumbs out and toured a big part of the province, even camping out one night on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

 When Normand came to live with us for a month in Orillia that same summer, he and I hit the road again. And when we did, just a few hours later, only 30 miles up the road, we saw two different icons doing what they do best.

 We were let off at a gas station near Gravenhurst, where a small crowd had gathered around a makeshift boxing ring, and we had a look. We watched as a young George Chuvalo, then Canadian heavyweight boxing champ, sparred with a partner.

 There he was, the man who would twice take on Mohammed Ali, taking big-time shots to the face at a gas station parking lot.

 After the fight, Normand and I carried on to Bracebridge, to the big exhibition charity game between the Orillia Pepsi’s senior club, and the newly assembled Muskoka All-Stars. And because the Muskoka All-Stars were a bit of a stacked team with several pros on it, a young, slight, blond-haired kid was loaned to Orillia to help make the teams more equal.

 But it wasn’t equal at all. The blond-haired kid, Bobby Orr, having just completed his first season with the Oshawa Generals, was, at 16 years old, dominating the game so much, so thoroughly, he had both the fans and the other players on the ice laughing and shaking their heads in admiration. He owned the puck, skated through the older, more experienced opponents, skated back hard and broke up oncoming rushes, and controlled and dazzled. It was a major eye-opener for me, Normand, and a lot of people in the Bracebridge Arena.

 Hitchhiking with Normand was just the beginning. It seemed like wherever I went, I hitchhiked. A few years later I thumbed my way to Los Angeles after taking the train to Vancouver, and after that, at 19, began my three trips across Canada.

I don’t pick up hitchhikers now, it’s too risky. And it was probably almost as dangerous then, but I didn’t realize it. Maybe I dodged a bullet. And it was hard work, dirty, and uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

 But I got to see George Chuvalo and Bobby Orr in action, and that made the dirt and car fumes all worthwhile.