Tag Archives: Hockey Hall of Fame

Elmer Ferguson’s Letter

Recently I added two original letters to my collection. I’ll put the other up later on because spacing things out is my new mental health strategy. Sometimes it’s good to be spaced out.

I’ve got a bunch of cool letters and I’m very happy about this one, a beauty from 1929 on Montreal Herald letterhead from the one and only Elmer Ferguson, who was a long time editor of the Herald, later a Gazette columnist, and a guy an important award is named after.

I love old letters. Nobody sends me any, so I’ve resorted to collecting other people’s. Of course, I don’t write letters either but that’s beside the point.

I’ve added a small story about Elmer below it

Elmer

Elmer Ferguson, born in 1885 and deceased in 1972, was the sports editor for the now-defunct Montreal Herald, a newspaper in existence from 1811 to 1957. That’s quite a run. 146 years.

Elmer also did color commentary on radio broadcasts, first with the Montreal Maroons between 1933 and 1938, and then the Habs from 1938 to 1967. He worked alongside the late, great Danny Gallivan in later years.

Mr. Ferguson, who has signed the letter using fountain pen, was inducted into the media section of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982, and the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award is given each year to a journalist “in recognition of distinguished members of the newspaper profession whose words have brought honour to journalists and to hockey“.

Those given this big time award are automatically placed in the Hall of Fame, and among the many honoured are the likes of Jacques Beauchamp, Red Burnett, Trent Frayne, Red Fisher, Andy O’Brien, Michael Farber, and Roy MacGregor, all writers I’ve admired greatly over the years.

The man mentioned in the letter, Cooper Smeaton, was a referee and the NHL’s first referee-in-chief when the league was formed in 1917. He was inducted into the referee/linesmen section of the Hall of Fame in 1961.

The Sky’s The Limit

A few more days and the December 1st deadline for hockey to start will come and go, and will join the beginning-of-the season deadline, the November full-season deadline, the seventy-game season deadline, and the Winter Classic deadline. Soon it will become the fifty-game deadline, then half-a-season deadline.

Who knows? Maybe in several months we’ll have the beginning-of-the season deadline to be concerned with all over again.

Just close it off and shut it down completely. Quit those long, drawn out four and five hour marathon sessions. And I know, the people who sell popcorn and souvenirs and all the other things involved in off-shoots of NHL hockey can say it’s easy to say but what about us, I say just write it off as a terrible year, we all sometimes have terrible years, and hopefully you’ll rebound next year. Or the year after.

And I realize this isn’t as important as your livelihoods at stake, but for me personally, I’m now posting grade two drawings and sexiest man in the world stories, so we’re all suffering in different ways.

But all is not doom and gloom for me. Not by a long shot. It clicked when I saw that longtime Edmonton Oilers equipment manager Barry Stafford has been included in the Hockey Hall of Fame Trainers Wall of Honour, which makes it official – if I finally get the Habs stick boy job, I have a shot at someday being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame!

I just need to get the job, work hard, get those sticks lined up properly and out to the players in record speed, and who knows, if I can sustain longevity, maybe the day will come when I get the phone call and have to scramble to find a tux. And if and when I do get the call, I’ll include you in my speech. It’ll all boil down to how proficient I am. Players are particular about how they get the shaft.

You see, this is what is great about the sport. A guy rises from nothing, gets the job, and ends up in the Hall of Fame as an excellent stick boy. Maybe down the road, someone who did something not quite as important as stick boy, but still good, could even get in. Like Paul Henderson.

 

 

 

New Kids In The Hall

Congratulations to Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure, and Adam Oates for their induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, the shrine in Toronto that houses photos, plaques, artifacts, and memories of players who once played  the sport that has become extinct and remembered by oldtimers who think back to a time, like last year, when the game was actually being played and fans would come to the rinks with full wallets and leave with empty wallets.

These are four worthy inductees, all classy, all proficient, and which include two Canadians (Oates and Sakic), one Swede (Sundin), and one Russian (Bure). Bure was a shoo-in to make it big ever since he, Alex Mogilny, and Sergei Fedorov dazzled in the World Junior Championships when they were just young, peach-fuzzed Russkies. I also remember talking to a buddy about Bure and agreeing that this guy must not have had any trouble getting the ladies when he was starring in Vancouver.

Sundin rubbed me the wrong way slightly when he came out of retirement to play for the Vancouver Canucks, taking him until January to actually make up his mind and lace up for a measly five million to play half a season Sundin Helps His Wallet. But a great player, huge at 6’5, 230 pounds, and enjoyed a brilliant career, particularly in Toronto.

Adam Oates was not only a great playmaker but also an excellent musician, teaming up with Daryl Hall to record such smash hits as “Rich Girl” and “Kiss is on my List.” Oh wait, wrong guy. Oates teamed up with Brett Hull in St. Louis to become Hull and Oates, not Hall and Oates. Sorry.

Joe Sakic is from Burnaby, which explains why he’s called Burnaby Joe. A quiet and all-round respected and admired fellow who was such an excellent player, and whom of course would have looked mighty fine in a Habs uniform. He possessed a wicked wrist shot, and just seems to be a fine gentleman, as do the other three as well.

Four great players who deserve to be called Hall of Famers, and I can’t wait to see what their wives, if they’re all married, look like at the ceremony.

 

Canada’s Greatest City

Canadian Prime Minister Little Stevie Harper said the other day at the Calgary Stampede that Calgary is the best city in the country.

In 1990, on a whim, I quit a good job in Ottawa, my wife got a transfer from the post office, we hauled our two kids out of school and away from their friends, and moved to Calgary. Just for the heck of it.

Calgary, situated in a large wheat field, is where one can enjoy summer snow, winter thaw, and winter torture. I can recall one winter waiting with my son for a rapid transit train, and the electronic sign told us it was minus 69 with the wind chill. The wind blows off the prairies like a truly bitchy Mother Nature, and there are very few swimming pools because the mountains, an hour and a half away, cool the evenings down considerably.

Traffic on the Deerfoot, Crowfoot, and other trails during rush hour just sucks. In fact, it can be absolute bullshit. The city needs to revamp the way it has traffic flowing. And when the freezing rain hits the freeways, it’s like watching giant bumper cars bounce around.

We left our car in our driveway one time when we were leaving for overseas, and came back to find hundreds of dents in the roof from golf-ball size hail. It’s a place where I took one lousy job after another, including door-to-door milkman, and several semi-driver gigs. And two years after moving there, I went through an excruciating divorce that just about killed me.

However, Calgary can be a fine place. It’s only a few hours of leisurely drive to get to Banff. Or Edmonton if you’re so inclined. You’re probably not inclined but anyway.

The Bow River runs through town, which is a nice touch, especially since the city sits on the prairies and it’s nice to see water. It has NHL hockey and CFL football, and the incredible Mac’s Midget Tournament over Christmas. It used to have Triple A baseball, the Cannons, which I really loved going to. Flames defenceman Ric Nattress, who also played for the Habs in the early ’80s, and family sat behind us one time at a Cannons game.

Calgary has an excellent Chinatown, and lots of people wear cowboy hats.

I just don’t feel I agree with Little Stevie. I sure missed Ottawa, still do, and Vancouver has a lot of things going for it that you’ve probably read in brochures or seen in some crazy Canadian-made movie showing tons of street scenes. Montreal is fantastic except Darth says there’s too many potholes. And I seem to recall some sort of politcial unrest there too.

Toronto is where Li’l Stevie grew up. He probably got laid for the first time there. Smoked his first cigarette and joint there. Received his first wedgie. How come he doesn’t pick Toronto as Canada’s best city?

At least Toronto has the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Orillia is only a couple of hours away. Yorkville Avenue in the core of Toronto was once as cool a street as any in the country, maybe the coolest, but the Man and ladies with furs took over and it’s like Rodeo Drive now.

There’s a lot of great cities in this country. Maybe the one with the least mosquitos should be judged the best. Or the coldest beer. Or the best weather. Or the most beautiful women. And if having the most beautiful women decides the question, then yes, Montreal is the grestest city in the country.

 

Fleury Unplugged

I watched the “Theoren Fleury: Playing With Fire” documentary tonight that has Theo taking us back to when he started on his downhill spiral and eventual crash and burn, to the streets of New York where he went crazy with booze, broads, gambling, and lots of lines of coke.

This was a tortured soul, and a guy who wasn’t exactly Ken Dryden or Scrooge McDuck when it came to money. He once spent more than a million bucks during one weekend of debauchery. This is a guy who earned $50 million playing hockey, and is broke today.

As Fleury takes us along the lonely streets of New York, we stop at Madison Square Garden, where he played for three years, and they wouldn’t let him in. We then tag along as Fleury moves to Chicago, where he also played and partied, and at the United Center, he wasn’t let in there either.

It’s a dark film, there are no laughs or upbeat moments, and I suppose that’s why it’s so riveting. Fleury bares his soul, tells it like it was, had few friends on the team, was an unlikeable sort, and hung around with undesirables who happened to have a lot of drugs. His first wife said he was a lousy father, broke promises to his young son, and later when the kid was 16, Theo introduced him to dad’s seedy world. She described seeing her son in this situation like knitting a sweater for 16 years and then watching the wool unravel.

Fleury says he disliked being a contestant on CBC’s Battle of the Blades, that the show was basically scripted and the winner pre-determined, and said he’d never do it again. But he was also a guy who hated to lose, and maybe it’s just a bit of sour grapes on his part. Interesting if it really is scripted though.

He also believes he should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t be.

Theoren Fleury seems tired, ragged, unhappy, with a look of the hard street about him. It’s quite sad when you compare him to other great players whose lives are a bowl of cherries now. He was a star player, a small man who did big things, but the abuse by his junior coach Graham James obviously has taken its toll. He was out of control, contemplated suicide while living in Santa Fe, ended up going to A.A., and it seems this is going to be a long and winding road to recovery for this great player.

Someone on the show said you either love Theo Fleury or you hate him. I have no idea, but I admired him as a player on the ice throughout his whole career. The smallest guy in the league showing that size didn’t matter. He hit, fought, went in the corners, skated like the wind, and collected 1088 points in 1084 games. He really was a great and colourful player.

It’s quite a documentary and well-worth checking out. This is a guy with demons, but he’s working on it.

George Hainsworth – Great Hab (And Leaf)

George Hainsworth, who replaced an ailing Georges Vezina in the Montreal nets in 1926, carried the torch in fine fashion until 1933. He won the Vezina trophy in 1927, 1928, and 1929, and hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1930 and 1931.

He was also goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1933 to 1937, after being traded by Montreal for Lorne Chabot, and took the Leafs to the Cup finals in 1935. Eventually he would be replaced in the Leafs net by a young up-and-coming Turk Broda.

George ended his Hall of Fame career (inducted in 1961) by returning to the Habs late in the 1937 season for four games.

This must have been some kind of goalie. In the 1930 playoffs, he went 270 minutes and 8 seconds without allowing a goal. That’s four and a half games.

George Hainsworth was killed in a car crash in Gravenhurst, Ont., on Oct. 9, 1950. I didn’t know it at time. I couldn’t read the newspapers because I was only five days old.

Gravenhurst is 20 miles north of my home town, Orillia.

 

Hall Of Fame Scores Some Photos

Classic Auctions has donated photographs from renowned Original Six photographer Alain Brouillard to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Beautiful shots of the Rocket, Bobby Hull, Terry Sawchuk and others are included.

The link, sent over by Christopher (thanks Chris) can be seen here – Hall’s Summer Treat.

They Don’t Make ‘Em Like LeBois Anymore

Recently I wrote a small story about Habs great Sprague Cleghorn and some folks commented that they liked to read things about the old guys because they were such a colourful bunch.

So I’ve decided to listen to them, and today, I’d like to present another of the stars of yesteryear, Gaston LeBois.

Looking back now, Gaston LeBois admits it was his father who was mostly responsible for his sensational hockey career.

Mr. LeBois would flood the backyard for hours on end, alone and in the dark, and it was unfortunate that he chose July and August to do this. Young Gaston would play and play on this homemade rink, but after coming close to drowning, eventually abandoned it for an arena in winter.

His dad never forgave him, but Gaston found that he enjoyed frozen water over unfrozen water.

In 1962 Gaston was finally called up to the big team and never looked back. He became one of the finest mediocre benchwarmers in the history of the game, and it’s something he’s proud of, even to this day. “It was just nice to be dry after playing on my dad’s rink,” he admitted in a recent interview.

But he wasn’t always a bench warmer. During the 1972 series against the Bulgarians and with the team desperately needing a goal, LeBois jumped over the boards when coach Sinders wasn’t looking, called for a pass but missed, but carried on. Big Bill Esponosa grabbed the puck and threw it out to LeBois, and with just 34 seconds left in the game and a nation holding its collective breath, LeBois fanned on it, punched out the referee, and because his team lost, a riot ensued outside Rue Ste. Carla as thousands of angry fans wanted to find Gaston and kick him in the balls.

They say no one was better inside the Blueline and I agree. I’ve been to the Blueline Tavern and to this day, oldtimers gather round and drink and spit and tell stories about how Gaston could chug-a-lug and womanize for days on end and still be a mediocre bench warmer when called upon.

LeBois also scored six times in one game. Their names were Lola, Brigitte, Gloria, Xaviera, Penelope, and Sophia. Gaston has always said that this feat ranks up there as one of the biggest moments in his career.

Yes, LeBois was a beauty, all right. Part of a dying breed. He’d kick and punch and take on all comers to get what he was after. Of course, the team wished he had this much spirit and drive playing hockey as he did with bartenders.

Gaston LeBois was never inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and he once attempted to buy a ticket to get in but was kicked out when he tried to fondle the 70 year old ticket-selling nun. But I for one feel he should be elected, if only for scoring six times while sitting on the bench.

LeBois is still alive and living on Canada’s west coast. Although Premier Campbell is trying to get him to live on Canada’s east coast.

Lindros Could Piss Off The Pope

The question has been asked before. Should Eric Lindros be in the Hall of Fame at some point in the near future?

If you look at his numbers, the answer is yes. But as we all know, Eric Lindros is much more than mere numbers.

In 760 games, the big guy scored 372 goals and added 493 assists for 865 points. Compare this to another definitive power forward, Cam Neely, who was inducted into the Hall in 2005. Neely played 726 games and had 395 goals and 299 assists for 694 points.

But Neely is loved and admired by many. Lindros on the other hand……..

Lindros rocked the boat from the get-go, and this certainly must be contibuting to the reluctance by some to put him in the shrine. In junior he was drafted by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds but refused to report because it was too far from his home and family in Toronto, and the Lindros’ felt the education system up there wasn’t quite up to scratch.

The family held their ground and the young gun ended up playing for the Oshawa Generals, which was where they wanted him all along.

But if that wasn’t enough, Eric was chosen by the Quebec Nordiques in the NHL draft and he refused to join them too, citing language problems, poor marketing there, and the family felt that a hard-core Quebec town would be hard on a highly-publicized anglophone if he stumbled and fell short of his superstar status. And fans everywhere simply couldn’t fathom that a player was trying to decide on the perfect place to play instead of just going where he was told to go.

So young Eric and his aggressive parents managed to piss off much of the hockey world.

When the dust settled, Lindros became a Philadelphia Flyers after the Flyers sent to Quebec Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Mike Ricci, Kerry Huffman, Steve Duchesne, a 1st round draft pick in 1993 which became Jocelyn Thibault, another 1st round draft pick in 1994, and $15,000,000 cash.

Whew. If this was a typrwriter I would have run out of ribbon ink listing all these players given up for the big fellow.

In true Lindrosying fashion, things weren’t exactly rosy in Philadelphia either, with Eric and mom and pop fighting with GM Bobby Clarke, but this is fairly understandable. Clarke is a no-nonsense, old school, belligerent warrior who wouldn’t stand for Carl and Bonnie Lindros having any say in the way their son was treated, and it became the Clarke-Lindros war. But Bobby Clarke is Bobby Clarke, a man with uncouth thoughts drowning his brain cells (see his Roger |Neilson cancer quote at the bottom), and he’s also remained buddies with the biggest crook and boor in the history of the game – Alan Eagleson.

So any fighting with Bobby Clarke should never enter in to any Lindros/ Hall of Fame discussions.

In the end, Lindros’ career was cut down with about five too many concussions, and he didn’t exactly go out with a bang. More like a huge headache.

Maybe the big guy should at some point be in the Hall. He was a great player in his prime, a guy with slick moves normally reserved for smaller men, and he crashed and banged and was in many ways, a perfect hockey player. Don’t forget, he played a big role in the 1991 Canada Cup alongside the greatest NHL stars of the day and against the greatest European players, and he was still a junior. That was most impressive, indeed.

But my thinking is, let him sweat and wonder for awhile, just like he made fans do in Sault Ste. Marie and Quebec. And his mom and dad will have no say now in his Hall of Fame quest.

(Bobby Clarke may have been a great player and was an important member of Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series, but he can be as crude and ridiculous as his buddy Eagleson. Here’s what Clarke said about Roger Neilson, then on the Flyers coaching staff, getting cancer. “Roger got cancer. That wasn’t our fault. We didn’t tell him to go and get cancer. It’s too bad that he did. We feel sorry for him, but then he went and got goofy.”)

I Had No One To Hug When The Goal Was Scored

 

It’s possibly the most important hockey item ever up for sale, and I’m thinking if I sell my house and live in a tent until I die, I can get in on the bidding war now going on at Classic Auctions, the Montreal-based hockey auction house that sends me their catalogue before every auction and I sit and drool and slobber and complain that life isn’t fair because I can’t have anything in the book.

 But I’m a realist and know I have to save my money if I’m going to buy the Habs.

The jersey, worn by Paul Henderson in the four games in Moscow during the 1972 Summit Series, including game 8 when he scored the winner with 34 seconds left, is now closing in on $100,000 and will be at least double that when the auction wraps up in slightly less than a month.

Will it sit in some rich guy’s rec room beside the dart board?  Or in  a safe, or an office somewhere? Or will the winning bidder loan it to the Hockey Hall of Fame so much poorer people like you and I can look at it?

When the series was on, I was a week or two shy of my 22nd birthday and working as a bartender in Sudbury at a busy Irish pub called Flannigan’s in the Holiday Inn. I saw all eight games, mostly by myself in my little apartment with a lousy old TV, although I was working during the game-four tilt in Vancouver. But it was on Flannigan’s TV so I saw most of it when I should have been doing other things, like working. 

But that game eight. Wow! Such stress. The Russians were going to claim series victory if it was tied because they’d scored more total goals, but as you all know, Henderson solved the problem. And when he did, I’m pretty sure I yelled and jumped and afterward sat exhausted, and in my lousy little apartment had no one to hug and raise a glass with.

What a thing to see this jersey now up for bids. But really, it should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame where it belongs. As for Henderson, he never had the numbers to be in the Hall, but maybe, because of his many heroics in that wonderful series, he should be.

I’ve also learned, from asking the question dozens of times over the years, that most people feel he doesn’t belong. I think, though, there should be a section reserved strictly for him.