When the original Hockey Hall of Fame, which was located inside the CNE grounds in Toronto, opened on August 26, 1961, I was there with my dad and my sister. I was almost 11 at the time.
I guess it was after the ceremony, after PM Diefenbaker and other dignitaries had said their speeches, when we went inside where there were all kinds of legendary hockey figures milling about. I had a HOF booklet with me, and I walked around getting autographs, with the help of my dad who would point people out. Later on, I cut the autographs up and displayed them against a black background, which I thought was cool at the time.
Most of the autographs are gone now, but I’ve managed to hold onto three from that day – Foster Hewitt, Conn Smythe, and Clarence Campbell, which you can see here.
The one clear memory I have from that day concerned Foster Hewitt, who was talking to people when he signed my book and absentmindedly kept my pen. I was too shy to ask for it back, so my sister went over and got the job done.
When I was at the Montreal Canadiens Hall of Fame at the Bell Centre the other day, I had a good look at all the honored members’ images on the ceiling in the lobby. They’re all in circles, so it’s kind of dizzying.
It took me a couple of days to figure out why Denis Savard is part of this. And make no mistake, I though Savard was a great player, a stickhandling demon. A guy with all kinds of slick moves. He’s a Hall of Famer because he was a great player with 17 years under his belt.
But he only played three years in Montreal, one where he scored just 16 goals. His glory years were in Chicago. It was unusual to see him lumped in with Vezina, Morenz, Richard, Harvey, Beliveau, Lafleur and the boys up there on the ceiling.
Ralph Backstrom, on the other hand, played 13 seasons in Montreal and won six Stanley Cups. But he’s not up there.
But after a couple of days, I figured it out. The Canadiens are honoring those who wore the CH and are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. So that was that.
Tony Esposito seems to be the only HOFer not on the ceiling. But he only played 13 games for the Canadiens and it’s not enough I guess. Whatever the minimum number is.