Tag Archives: Hull-Ottawa Canadiens

Don Liked His Beer

Don Cherry was almost a Montreal Canadien.

Don suited up with Montreal’s minor league affiliate Hull-Ottawa Canadiens of the EPHL (Eastern Professional Hockey League) before the start of the 1962-63 season, with the program here showing him in the lineup for an exhibition game against the Boston Bruins.

His tryout with Hull-Ottawa didn’t last more than a few games. Sam Pollock took him aside one day and asked him to lay off the beer. Cherry said he wouldn’t, and was promptly shipped out.

Maybe it’s why he’s never been much of a Habs fan.

 

Ralph Backstrom Was The Guy

He was all the things I knew were good in life – he skated like the wind, had a great brush cut and a pretty wife, and he wore the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens.

What’s better than that?

This was Ralph Backstrom, and I wanted to be just like him. I knew I wasn’t going to be another Rocket or Beliveau or Geoffrion, but I thought maybe I could be like Backstrom. And I wasn’t even on drugs when I thought this.

It meant getting a brush cut and trying to look like him when I watched him on TV taking faceoffs and darting up the ice with the puck. I could do that and I did. I got the brush cut.

Ralph came out of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, a little town in northern Ontario that churned out NHL players in abnormal fashion, having produced him and Ted Lindsay, Mike Walton, Dick Duff, Mickey and Dick Redmond, Wayne and Larry Hillman, the Plagers, and many others.

About 30 in all. That’s a lot of players.

Ralph was a phenom in Kirkland Lake minor hockey, and became captain and the best of the powerhouse Hull-Ottawa Canadiens juniors before he joined the big club. He had it all, I thought. I gotta practice more, I thought.

I admired the way Ralph Backstrom played, the way he skated and was so solid both as a playmaker and a checker. And I loved the way he and rival Dave Keon of the enemy Leafs went head to head on glorious nights when the Habs and Leafs were what life was all about for Canadian kids from coast to coast.

This guy isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and when he played he sometimes got into coach Toe Blake’s bad books. But he was a great hockey player. Underrated maybe, but absolutely great.

And I wanted to be just like him and I was. I had the brush cut.

DK

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R.I.P. Gilles

Gilles and Terry

Very sad to hear the news that Gilles Tremblay has passed away. He was 75.

Gilles was one of the elite left wingers of his era but his career would end at just 31 years old, mostly due to asthma. Gilles was never lucky when it came to avoiding health issues and injuries.

He was called up from the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens during the 1960-61 season, and hoisted the Stanley Cup four times in the late 1960s with the Canadiens, his only NHL team.

A Hab from 1960-61 to 1968-69, and one of the best.

R.I.P. Gilles. Thanks for the memories.

Below, Gilles in the third row of the 1961-62 team picture, on the far right between Dickie Moore and Marcel Bonin. It was his first full season with the Canadiens, and one in which he would notch a career high 32 goals and 22 assists in 70 games, at a time when 20 goals was considered outstanding.

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From My Pile Of Old Programs

Don Cherry belonged to the Montreal Canadiens for a short time in the early 1960’s, until Sam Pollock took him aside one day and asked him to lay off the beer. Cherry said he wouldn’t and was promptly shipped to the Spokane Comets of the Western Hockey League where he played one season (68 games, 9 goals, 13 assists), before moving on to the Rochester Americans of the AHL.

This is Cherry, number 6, with the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens of the EPHL (Eastern Professional Hockey League) in an exhibition game against the Boston Bruins before the start of the 1962-63 season. Hull-Ottawa, a farm team of the Habs, supplied many, many players to the big club in those days. Don just wasn’t one of them.

A Tough Camp – Tougher Than Most

It’s training camp in the late 1950’s. Of course it was nearly impossible to crack a spot in a lineup like this, with Hall of Famers and Stanley Cups oozing out of the woodwork, but Bill Hicke became a regular in 1959 and Ralph Backstrom the season before. But when you have a team with the Rocket and Pocket, Beliveau, Moore, Geoffrion, Harvey, Plante, Johnson, etc, there just wasn’t much room left.

All in all, the roster was basically set before anyone even stepped on the ice at training camp, and many of these players in this photo would soon depart to the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, Montreal Royals, Quebec Aces, Cleveland Barons and others.

Lagace Came Closer Than Us

Below is an original letter I bought on ebay for eighteen bucks.

It’s an invitation from Sam Pollock to Michel Lagace to attend the Quebec Aces training camp in 1962 and signed by Pollock’s secretary. I guess Sam was busy being Sam.

Lagace made the team that year, played five games and recorded one assist. That’s all I know about the guy.

Under the letter is Lagace’s stats where you’ll see he had a cup of coffee in the EPHL (Eastern Professional Hockey League) with both the Montreal Royals and Hull-Ottawa Canadiens. And although he didn’t exactly have a stellar hockey career, he accomplished more than most of us and should be proud. Don’t forget, the Canadiens and their farm system were stacked at this time.

I would have loved to have gotten a letter like this. All I’d get were phone calls from my Byer’s Bulldozers Orillia Midgets coach telling me to show up and could my dad drive some players to the game in Collingwood or Huntsville.

  Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1959-60 Montreal Royals EPHL 7 1 2 3 0
1961-62 Hull-Ottawa Canadiens EPHL 27 2 9 11 10 8 0 2 2 8
1962-63 Quebec Aces AHL 5 0 1 1 0

The Next Ralph Backstrom Somehow Got Missed

I’ve said it many times before, that if there was one player on the Montreal Canadiens I wanted to play like, it would have been Ralph Backstrom.

How could I not want to be like Backstrom? A minor hockey sensation in his hometown of Kirkland Lake, he captained the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens to a Memorial Cup win, and was considered the top junior in the whole country. In his debut season with the Canadiens, he was rookie of the year, and he ended up winning six Stanley Cups.

He also had a really pretty wife and sported a short hair style I tried to get my barber to copy on my head.

I knew in my heart I would never be a Rocket or Beliveau, so Backstrom was the one I watched closely and tried to mirror in style. He wasn’t big but he was lightning fast, and I wasn’t big and sort of fast. I would crouch to take face offs just the way he did when he lined up against Keon and Mikita and the others, and I knew that any day the scouts would knock on my door because I reminded them of Ralph Backstrom.

But it never happened and I don’t understand it. I thought I was doing everything right.

There He Was Again – Ralph Backstrom

He had all the things I knew were good in life – a big talent and one who could skate like the wind, a great brush-cut, a lovely wife, was a heralded phenom when he was a kid, and he wore the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens. What could be better than all that?

He was Ralph Backstrom, and I wanted to be Ralph Backstrom. I knew I wasn’t going to be another Rocket or Beliveau or Geoffrion, so I thought I’d be Backstrom instead. I started by getting a brush-cut and posing on the ice like I’d seen Backstrom do in pictures, even when I was supposed to be concentrating on playing. My coaches must have wondered what the heck I was doing.

He had come out of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, a little town in northern Ontario that seemed to churn out hockey players the way General Motors churns out cars, having produced Ted Lindsay, Mike Walton, Dick Duff, Barclay, Bob and Bill Plager, the Hillman brothers, Mickey Redmond and others, and especially Backstrom. He was a star in minor hockey, as most pros once were, and was captain and the best of the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens junior squad before he joined the big club.

I loved the way Ralph Backstrom played, the way he skated like a blur and was so solid both as a scorer and a checker. And because he was such a fast skater, he and Henri Richard would race around the Forum ice from time to time for the fun of it because they were the team speed demons.

I hadn’t seen an image of Backstrom for years, and suddenly, during the 100th birthday celebrations at the Bell Centre, there he was, smiling and walking out to centre ice with the others. It made me happy to see him. But he doesn’t have his brush cut anymore, and that made me sad.

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Habs Find Their Legs Late And Take Out The Blue Jackets

It only took about 36 minutes before the Canadiens awoke from their slumber, but from then on, they battled and finally bested the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3 on a night where once again Carey Price was stellar, and Marc-Andre Bergeron came to the forefront, played a forceful game, and scored two huge goals.

It was a night where I began to drift off as the Jackets led 2-1 and then 3-2, but I perked right up when Carey Price let his teammates know he was getting a little sick and tired of keeping it a game, and the boys rallied and beat Mathieu Garon, who had several cups of coffee with the Habs. and players throughout the lineup contributed which is a nice little change.

Mike Cammalleri, Bergeron with two, Glen Metropolit, and finally, Maxim Lapierre, with Sergei Kostitsyn earning a heart-warming assist. 

And although TSN’s Gord Miller and Pierre McGuite were quick to point out that the Blue Jackets were tired from playing the night before, the Canadiens aren’t exactly fresh and healthy either. And these announcers also couldn’t get over the fact that Montreal has been quite badly outshot in the last handful of games, but what do they expect? The team is experiencing a gaggle of injuries, for gawd’s sakes. 

The 1958-59 Habs would be outshot too if Doug Harvey, Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau were on the shelf and half the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens were called up. Sometimes I need to mute Miller, and I’d also like to give McGuire scalp burns with my knuckles.

Geez I miss Danny Gallivan.

Random Notes:

Canadiens visit Pittsburgh tomorrow night. They beat Washington and almost beat Detroit. They can do it against Pittsburgh too.

For the first time this season, I heard rumblings that Carey Price is almost ready to be mentioned as a possible Olympian. Has he ever come a long way since the Vancouver 7-1 implosion. I hope his mom and dad are really happy campers right now.

Is This The Team? Maybe, Maybe Not. And What About PK Subban?

It would be nice if we could look at the existing Habs lineup and go through it and examine and say, yes, that’s it, should be good. But there seems to be no sense yet in doing this, because this might not be the final team. Bob Gainey has hinted that an impact player may still be in the works, which means a trade is possible. And to get an impact player, it generally means a bundle of players would be on the move. Which means players like Tomas Plekanec, Ryan O’Byrne and the Kostitsyn’s better start (a) having a brilliant training camp, and (b) suck up to Bob a bit more.

So the lineup we see today could change in the near future.

It also seems that as impressive as young defenceman PK Subban has looked in rookie camp and before, he still won’t hit the big time. Not yet anyway. Hopefully the young fellow realizes there is no rush for Habs brass to bring him up – that there’s still fine tuning to be done, things to be worked on, and a slight maturing yet to develop.

Teams are usually in no hurry to bring up fresh-faced defencemen. They must bide their time. Terry Harper told me that he was called up to the Canadiens after being captain of the Regina Pats, and quickly learned what the press box looked like. He said he’d spend five games or so up top in the box, then be given a train ticket to Hull-Ottawa or Quebec where he’d continue to hone his craft, then called up later only to spend another five games or so in the press box before it was time to get back on another train. Or he’d watch the Habs from the box on Saturday night, then play for the Montreal Royals on Sunday. He did this for two full years before finally cracking the big team lineup.

Of course Subban may see action sooner if someone doesn’t perform to expectations and change is needed, and it would be interesting to see how how he looks. But all we can do now is wait for him to notch a minor pro year on his belt and then come out strong when he’s ready.

And of course, there’s always the thought that he could be part of a package Gainey puts together to land a big fish, which would be fodder for armchair critics for years to come.

Only time will tell when it comes to PK Subban’s NHL career, but it looks good. Looks good, indeed. As long as he’s wearing a Canadiens uniform.

Montreal’s 2009-2010 team looks like this so far. As you can see, there’s a few too many, so either being traded or sent down are the only two options for a couple of these guys.

Up front – Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, the Kostitsyn brothers, Guillaume Latendresse, Maxim Lapierre, Travis Moen, Glen Metropolit, Georges Laraque, Matt D’Agostini, Greg Stewart, and Kyle Chipchura.

On the blueline – Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik, Jaroslav Spacek, Paul Mara, Josh Gorges, Hal Gill, Ryan O’Byrne, and Yannick Weber. (And insert PK Subban just for fun.)

And last but not least – Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak