Tag Archives: Gerry McNeil

Partying at Butch’s

Circa 1954 Canadiens players and their ladies get together at Butch Bouchard’s Cabaret in Montreal to enjoy some pops and chuckles.

I love this photo. It took some digging to find the names of some of the wives, and I’m not sure who some of the couples are.

Otherwise, around the table are Doug and Ursula Harvey in foreground, Bouchard (in glasses with wife Marie-Claire), Elmer Lach, Gerry and Theresa McNeil, Bernie and Marlene Geoffrion (being served by the waiter), Ken and Lorraine Mosdell across from the Geoffrions, and Maurice and Lucille Richard up by the Harveys.

A happy bunch letting off steam.

 

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Nice Old Set

The title sounds like I’m talking about Sophia Loren.

I have the majority of the 1954-55 Parkhurst set in various conditions ranging from good to excellent, which is a ways down from near mint and mint, but still pretty darn good. The 100 cards were from the Original Six teams, plus some action shots.

This is a nice set to have, considering kids back then didn’t really collect cards, but instead threw them against buildings, playing closest to the wall. They (we) also put them in bicycle spokes and created a nice sound as the wheels turned and cards got destroyed.

Below are the complete Habs, which include, in order, Gerry McNeil, Dickie Moore, Jean Beliveau, Eddie Mazur, Bert Olmstead, Butch Bouchard, Maurice Richard, Boom Boom Geofrrion, John McCormack, Tom Johnson, Calum Mackay, Ken Mosdell, Paul Masnick, Doug Harvey, and Floyd Curry.

Butch Gone At 92

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The Canadiens and their wives party at Butch Bouchard’s club in Montreal. That’s Butch on the left, in glasses. Others present include Elmer Lach, Gerry McNeil, Ken Mosdell, the Rocket, and Doug Harvey.

Emile “Butch” Bouchard, old number 3 on the Canadiens blueline, has passed away at 92. He was a leader among men, a great Montreal Canadien, and it’s a sad day.

I’m not able to write a proper story now as I’m about to start up the car and head for L.A. from Las Vegas, but here’s something I posted in 2009.

How many hockey players played the game since they could walk, practiced like crazy, went through minor hockey over many years, and ended up playing beer league or not playing at all? Most of us, right?

Not this guy.

Emile “Butch” Bouchard, the big defenceman who skated for the Habs from 1941 until 1956, pulled off something amazing, something I’ve thought about since I first read him tell it in Dick Irvin’s great book, “The Habs, An Oral History of the Montreal Canadiens, 1940-1980.”

I know it was the war years and many players were overseas, but still………

Here’s Butch:

“I started skating in high school. I never had a pair of skates until I was sixteen. I always borrowed skates or rented skates. In those days you could rent a pair of skates for a night for five cents and play a game of hockey. Otherwise I would play in the park and I would be the goalie, without skates.

I went to a school called Le Plateau and I borrowed thirty-five dollars from my brother, Marcel. He was older than me and he was working. For the thirty-five dollars I bought skates, a pair of pads, a pair of pants, shoulder pads, and gloves. All that for thirty-five dollars in those days.

I played for our team at Le Plateau and the second year I was there Arthur Therrien came to me and asked if I could play junior for him with the Verdun team. So I played one year junior and two years senior.

After my second year in senior hockey I was with the Canadiens. So I made the NHL just four years after I had my first pair of skates.”

Lots In The Lineups

You can look at the Nov. 25, 1950 program lineups for the Habs and Leafs and see a few cool things.

This was Montreal’s 20th game of the season, and they would lose 4-1 to the Leafs in Toronto on this night. (Okay, that wasn’t so cool).

Gerry McNeil is in goal for Montreal in his rookie year after Bill Durnan retired after the previous season.

Number 5 for Toronto is Bill Barilko, who would score the legendary Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal for the Leafs in game 5, against these same Habs, to cap off the season. Barilko would be killed that summer when his plane crashed in Northern Ontario.

Hal Laycoe, number 12 for the Habs, would be traded to Boston later this season and was a major player in the 1955 Richard Riot.

Rocket Richard has ten goals at this point, more than anybody else on the team.

Habs #14 Billy Reay would eventually coach for 16 NHL seasons, two with Toronto and 14 in Chicago. I have a game-used stick of his from two years prior to this, signed by the entire Habs team.

Elmer Lach, number 16, is still playing and would play three more years after this.

Golly gee willikers, that’s Howie Meeker, number 11 for the Torontonians.

And Turk Broda, who was at the opening ceremonies for the brand new Orillia Arena that year, has one more shutout than McNeil at this point.

 

 

 

Those Damn Leafs

We’ve had our bad days before with those blasted Torontonians.

Sid Smith scored the overtime winner in game one of the 1951 Stanley Cup finals, and he and his team look a tad happier than Habs netminder Gerry McNeil.

This is the series when the Leafs’ Bill Barilko scored his Cup-winning goal in game five and not long after, the defenceman perished when his plane went down in Northern Ontario.

Is Detroit Finished Or Not?

This cartoon has absolutely nothing to do with the following story. I just threw it in because it involves the Detroit Red Wings, which happens to be today’s subject, and it’s mostly about the Habs, which is always a good thing.

Meanwhile.

During any regular season, I pay very little attention to teams in the NHL other than the Canadiens. If you came to my house, rarely, if ever, would a game not involving Montreal be on. And so there are some teams I know only a little about, mainly because of what I read in newspapers or hear Mike Milbury or Glenn Healy babble on about.

I’ve always been quite aware of the Detroit Red Wings, though, because they boast the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, the inimitable Pavel Datsyuk, and a host of players named Franzen, Holmstrom, Kronwall, Rafalski etc. Although in the back of my mind, this team had seen better days, with too many guys ready for the old folks home.

But it was one period of the Wings and Phoenix Coyotes in the opening round, on one particular power play, that Detroit played like everyone was 25 years old and ready for the Hall of Fame, and which convinced me that the Wings were still a powerhouse.  

That night, Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski controlled play on the blueline in a way which is rarely seen. They tossed the puck back and forth, players moved around with the precision of the 1972 Soviet squad, and Pavel Datsyuk, who is as brilliant as they come and in my book the best Russian in the league, was a magical demon in enemy territory.

It seemed men against boys, and after that I thought there was no way Detroit would be stopped in the west.

It would be the Habs and Wings in the final, and Montreal better not take too many penalties.

I went to work the next morning and mentioned to a deckhand, a diehard Canucks fan, that I didn’t believe Vancouver would win the west because Detroit looks just too good. That power play, I said, was as dangerous as can be. And Datsyuk…….

They won’t get by San Jose, said the deckhand, and this got me wondering. Should I have watched more hockey this year? This guy is a deep thinker and I listen when he speaks. And now he says Detroit would lose to the Sharks.

The rest of it you know. San Jose went up three games to none over Detroit, but the Wings have crept back in, winning the next two.

All I can think now is, San Jose must be awfully good to be winning the series against this team that impressed me for one period awhile ago. I’m also thinking that maybe watching only one period might not be quite enough.

But it seems Detroit’s coming back.

The deckhand might be wrong after all.

A Glimpse Of Gerry McNeil

As we await the Habs’ obliteration of the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, I thought I would give a brief intermission look at a friendly, popular, and important member of the Montreal Canadiens from days gone by. 

The photo above shows early 1950’s Habs’ goaltender Gerry McNeil playing for his St. Fidele bantam team in Limolou, Quebec circa 1939. That’s him in the Canadiens sweater wearing the pads.

Gerry McNeil began his career in the late 1940’s as a backup goaltender behind the legendary Bill Durnan, but when Durnan retired due to nerves in 1950, McNeil became the number one goalie and stayed that way until Jacques Plante took over in 1954.

McNeil was in the nets when Bill Barilko scored his famous overtime goal for the Leafs in 1951, which you can see in the clip below, and is part of one of the most famous hockey photographs of all time, the Barilko goal. But I’m sure the Habs goalie, who passed away in 2004 at age 78, would have preferred his historic photo to be under different circumstances.

(Below the video is the famous Barilko photo which I know most of you have already seen but I feel I’d be remiss in not including it).

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.