Tag Archives: Gump Worsley

Habs, Leafs, And Beatles

On August 17th in 1966, the Beatles played an afternoon show in Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens.

I was there and I’m pretty darn proud of it.

I was 15 years old and had a summer job as a highway construction slave labourer, but the boss let me go early and I went down to Toronto from Orillia with a disc jockey my sister worked with at the local radio station. She had got word to me just that morning that the DJ was going and asked if I would like to go with him.

I didn’t have a ticket, but believe it or not, they were still available when I showed up at the Gardens, and I got a $5.50 ticket in the very last row on the floor.

It was madness, of course. There were about six bands in the lineup, including the Ronettes, the Cyrkle, and Bobby Hebb, and the Beatles in the finale played for about 40 minutes with girls screaming and fainting and carrying on.

That fall, hockey season began, and the next spring, the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Habs in six games to win their last Stanley Cup.

The Leafs were an old team with guys like Terry Sawchuk, Johnny Bower, Red Kelly, and Allan Stanley, but Montreal wasn’t that young either. Henri Richard was 30, John Ferguson 27, Claude Provost was 32, Dick Duff 30, Ted Harris 30, Jean-Guy Talbot was 34, Jean Beliveau was 35, and the goalies, Gump Worsley and Charlie Hodge, were 37 and 33 respectively.

Of course, Montreal also had the kiddies. Yvan Cournoyer was all of 22. Claude Larose was 23. Jacques Laperriere 24. And Serge Savard and Carol Vadnais were just 20.

John and Ringo were 26, Paul 24, and George 23.

The Habs and Beatles remain in the hearts of millions.

The Leafs continue to suck.

50 Or More; And That Curved Stick

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Up until this December 1964 Hockey Pictorial question was posed, just three players had ever scored 50 goals in a season – Maurice Richard in 1944-45, Bernie Geoffrion in 1960-61, and Bobby Hull during the 1961-62 season.

Who would finally score more than 50 in a season?

As you can see, five of the six players polled thought it would be Bobby Hull, while Jacques Laperriere figured Jean Beliveau would be the man.

The answer would come the following year, when yes indeed, it was Bobby Hull, who scored 54 in 65 games.

Hull would also bulge the twine 52 times in ’66-’67 and 58 in ”68-’69.

And how did the Golden Jet explain his talent for scoring? He mostly credited the introduction of the curved stick, which allowed him to blast howitzers at panic-stricken goaltenders. And although that’s a very credible explanation, it doesn’t do Hull complete justice. He was a beautiful skater, strong as an ox, and one of the greatest ever. The curved stick only added another huge element to Hull’s game.

Not long after Hull’s feats, the numbers would get out of hand. Phil Esposito would light the lamp 76 times in 1970-71, and during the 1980-81 campaign, eight players would score 50 or more, including Mike Bossy with 68 markers.

But it would be the 1981-82 season when goal scoring really blossomed, led by Wayne Gretzky, of course. Ten players cracked the 50-goal mark that year, with Gretzky notching an amazing 92 goals.

And back to the curved stick -

Andy Bathgate says it was he who was the first to use it, but it was Hull’s teammate Stan Mikita who is generally regarded as the inventor, although it came accidentally.

As explained in Bruce Dowbiggin’s book “The Stick,” Mikita’s stick cracked during practice, and he tried to break it and throw it away, but it wouldn’t snap completely. Mikita then jammed the stick into the door at the bench and it ended up looking like a boomerang.

While he waited for his trainer to get him another stick in the dressing room, which was several minutes away down the steps at the old Chicago Stadium, Mikita, out of anger, slapped a puck with the broken stick and the puck took off. He slapped another and it was the same thing. He was amazed, even at the new sound the puck made hitting the boards.

Back in the dressing room, Mikita started bending all his sticks, but they were breaking, until someone suggested making them wet first, which he did. He then left his new, curved sticks overnight, and the next day at practice he started shooting. The first shot was like a knuckler in baseball. It dropped and veered, and the next shot did all sorts of weird things too.

Bobby Hull was watching all this, and began bending his too.

Coach Billy Reay wasn’t impressed. He figured they wouldn’t be able to control their shots, and he was right. In Hull’s first game using this new banana blade, his first shot went right over the glass. In another game, Hull hit Ranger goalie Gump Worsley in the head, and when asked if he feared the curved blade, Worsley replied that he thought fans behind him were in more danger than him.

And about Andy Bathgate saying he was the first.

Bobby Hull said he always remembered Bathgate as having a bit of a curve to his sticks, even in the late ’50s, but it was Mikita who pioneered the whole idea of it. Bathgate has said that when Chicago was playing his Rangers one night, his trainer had lent Mikita one of Bathgate’s sticks (which is unusual to say the least), after the Hawk had run out of his own, and Mikita had liked the curved stick.

Mikita disagrees and talked to Bathgate about this, and in Dowbiggin’s book is quoted as saying, “I told Andy to his face that he’s – well, let’s say I talked to him about it. I might have borrowed some sticks, but I sure don’t remember any curve.”

And one final note: It was a Bathgate shot that smashed into Jacques Plante’s face, causing Plante to come back out wearing his mask for the first time during a game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Night At The Station

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone. On this day you’re an Irishman no matter what your roots are, and that’s a good thing. Except for the hangover you might have tomorrow morning.

I’ve talked many times about the Richard Riot that took place on March 17, 1955, and today, instead of going on about what you already know, I’d like to show a recent comment here from a fellow named Eric Buch.

Here’s what he wrote. It’s just one sentence, but it’s a beauty.

“The first game that my brother ever went to see at the Forum at the age of nine (March, 1955) featured the “Richard Riot” – tear gas, cars turned over and store windows smashed for many blocks down Ste. Catherine Street.”

I felt that was so fantastic. Imagine, the first time you go to an NHL game and you find yourself in the middle of history being made.

Eric also tells us about the time his teacher took the class down to the Westmount station one night to meet the Habs, and lo and behold, they all showed up.

Again, here’s Eric:

“Every year she would take the girls in her class to see the Ice Capades at the Montreal Forum and the boys to a Montreal Canadiens game. Her husband was a conductor for Canadian Pacific Rail and was able to find out which station the Habs would be leaving from to head to their next game. We went to Westmount station just before midnight (we were about the only ones there) and, sure enough, within minutes the entire Canadiens team came into the waiting room. It was Nirvana – seeing our hockey heroes, talking with them and getting their autographs – and a night that I will never forget.”

“By my calculation, it would have been January or February of 1965. Beliveau was the Captain and other players I recall meeting that night included Richard (“Pocket Rocket”), Backstrom, Rousseau, Laperriere, JC Tremblay, Cournoyer, Provost, Ferguson and ‘Gump’ Worsley. They don’t make ‘em like that any more.”

 

Rangers Tonight

Rangers

The Canadiens hit Broadway tonight for a meeting with the Rangers, and to keep their win streak alive, they know they’ll have to contain the big five – Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Andy Bathgate, and little Camille Henry. They also know they must be aware of the Ranger’s tight defence, with stalwarts such as Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, Harry Howell, and Bill Gadsby patrolling the back end.

The Rangers sit eight in the east with 17 points, four points behind the second-place Habs, and at this point, N.Y. coach John Tortorella hasn’t announced whether he’s starting Henrik Lundqvist or Gump Worsley in goal.

A big game for the Habs, as they look to blast those Blueshirts and keep us happy.

Gadgetrometry

This may seem ridiculous to you, but when you get older, the world of electronic gadgets will try to pass you by like James Dean in his Porsche Spyder, blasting past the Beverly Hillbillies old truck with the rocking chair in the back.  Howie Morenz breezing by Hal Gill. Usain Bolt vs. Gump Worsley in the 200 metre.

You could be like me, and you don’t want that.

I’m falling behind and I’m not crazy about this. I want to keep up but it seems the world of technology is faster than my little brain can compute. I’m not like those people I see on street corners, bent over, looking into their hand-held gadget. I’ve never done that. I feel left out.

Maybe these people run the risk of having their heads and necks bent permanently downwards, and I’m not sure I want to run this risk. Why can’t I just phone and email when I get home? But that would mean I’d have to wait untill I got home. It’s a dilemma.

There is one disturbing sight I’m proud I’m not part of. I’m not one of those who reads their gadgets while talking to someone. You know he’s not listening, he’s reading. So you wait until he’s finished reading. I think it’s rude. Really rude. Others have agreed.

Today I’m going to the store to look at iPods. I have a lot of questions about this. How do you turn them on? How do you put music on them? How do you listen to music? I also like the idea of tablets, which aren’t as cumbersome as a laptop. It wasn’t that long ago that I thought laptops weren’t cumbersome. It turns out they became cumbersome when I wasn’t looking.

I’m trying to stay on top of things, but it’s tough. And if you think I’m an idiot, wait a few years. You’ll see.

 

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.

Player Pics

Back when the earth was flat and dinosaurs roamed about in foul moods, the Toronto Star Weekly (and other sister newspapers around the country) would once a week feature lovely full size photos of NHL stars which I would cut out and put into a second scrapbook, the first being my treasured Montreal Canadiens scrapbook. I looked forward to see who would be next in the long line of photos, and it was always interesting to check out the big-league equipment these guys wore.

Here’s five of them;

Gump Worsley, before he was a Hab, was a Ranger.

Terry Sawchuk, who many believe was the greatest goaltender of his day, (some even say the the best ever), would eventually pass away after a wrestling match with teammate Ron Stewart out on the front lawn.

Don Simmons was one goalie in particular that the Rocket seemed to have his way with, and there are several pictures of Richard bulging the twine behind a snakebitten Simmons. He owned a sporting goods store in southern Ontario for years after he’d retired from the game.

Gordie Howe. I once had breakfast with Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall, and I asked him who was the greatest of them all. He didn’t even have to think about it. He’d played against Bobby Orr, admitted the Rocket was the most dangerous from the blueline in, and had watched Wayne Gretzky closely from his farm near Edmonton, but his answer was Howe.

George Armstrong, Leafs captain and a guy I always thought was a really mediocre skater, but he made up for it with leadership and smarts. I never liked him much because he was a Leaf and sometimes he’d score against the Habs. He was also very stingy about signing autographs, which was rare for players back then.

Going For Galchenyuk

It was an impressive bunch indeed who took part in the recent NHL Combine, a 100 or more young physical specimens lifting and jumping and squeezing in front of an audience of NHL bigshots who studied these young fellows like men ogling strippers from the front seats of a strip club.

These young guys, strong, quick, and with great hair, are ready to make their mark in the big leagues, and watching them is a reminder how things have changed in pro sports with big contracts on the line. Long gone are the days of whipping into shape two weeks before the season opener. Gone are the days of the chubby and out-of-shape. Rest in peace, Gump Worsley.

With Montreal choosing third on Friday’s Entry Draft, it was interesting to see these kids and hear them talk and see what they can bring to the table. Do the Habs need a great young defenceman such as Ryan Murray, Mathew Dumba, or Morgan Rielly, or is a flashy forward like Mikhail Grigorenko or Alex Galchenyuk the answer? For me, from watching the Combines, I’m hoping it’s Galchenyuk who puts on the CH in four days.

Galchenyuk not only impressed at the Combines with his jumping and lifting, but also with his personality. This is is a kid with all kinds of charisma, and the fans, media, and ladies would love him. If Montreal is going to have a great young superstar, it’s terrific that he’s interesting and doesn’t come off as a cardboard talking head.

Most importantly, of course, is his talent, and from all accounts, this guy has plenty. He’s a big 6’2, 185 lb. package of speed and skill, notching 83 points in 68 games as a 16-year old with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. The following season he played only two regular season games and six playoff contests because of a knee injury, but that hasn’t seemed to bother scouts and general managers. He makes them drool even without playing.

Galchenyuk is also a bit of a curiosity. He’s American-born, from Milwaukee, his dad was a minor league hockey player, but the family returned to Minsk when Alex was a toddler. The family would come back to the U.S. when the young fellow was 15 so he could play Midget AAA for the Chicago Young Americans, where he sparkled, and a year later he was drafted by the Sarnia Sting.

Galchenyuk speaks English with a light Russian accent, and is a dual citizen, holding both American and Russian passports. He has said that when it comes time to play for his country, it would be the U.S., which should put to rest any concerns about the kid bolting to the KHL. That and the fact that he’s spent his formative teen years in North America honing his craft.

Galchenyuk apparently has what it takes to be a star in the NHL, and what better place to shine than in Montreal? In interviews he’s showed he’s not nervous in front of a microphone, he believes in himself, and seems a rare breath of fresh air. He’s poised and skilled and you would have to think there would be an opening for him in the near future when you consider the Habs’ centremen currently consists of David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller, Ryan White, and yes, Scott Gomez. Surely he’d find a spot in there somewhere. And it’s just another in several dozen reasons to send Gomez packing.

Of course, all this is wasted two-fingered typing if the young fellow goes second, after Nail Yakupov, or fourth, which is the Islanders’ pick. I’m just saying he’d be a nice pick for the Habs, and I’m hoping it happens.