Photo from my scrapbook of a peach-fuzzed rookie Yvan Cournoyer during the 1964-65 campaign, with Dickie Moore (as a Leaf), Jean Beliveau, Jean Guy Talbot, Bob Pulford, Ted Harris, Ron Stewart, and Charlie Hodge.
And below, although I never scrambled for a foul ball or flying puck, I did manage (very quietly) to get a Cournoyer goal puck through a trade, a goal he scored on Oct. 26, 1972, only a month after the ’72 Summit Series in which Roadrunner played a major role.
Yvan would retire at 35 after 15 seasons, all with the Habs, and 10 Stanley Cups.
“Cournoyer has it on that wing. Here’s a shot! Henderson makes a wild stab at it and falls. Here’s another shot. Right in front. They score! Henderson has scored for Canada!”
And then there was that time he played on a line with Gaston.
No, this isn’t Mantle, Maris, Ford, Berra and others from the ’61 Yankees. It’s late 1950’s Habs, after winning another of their five straight Cups, getting down to business of going deep, shagging flies, throwing out runners, creating sparkling double plays, and drinking beer afterwards.
Below, Jacques Plante at bat, sizing up the pitcher; Boom Boom Geoffrion pounds his glove; Andre Pronovost, Phil Goyette, and Claude Provost share an inside joke in the dugout; Dollard St. Laurent at bat, hoping for a nice juicy one down the middle; and Marcel Bonin, the Rocket, and catcher Jean-Guy Talbot plan some serious strategy, because with these boys, whether it’s hockey or baseball, winning is everything.
He played during a time of legends, when Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau and Bobby Hull roamed the ice; when Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk and Glenn Hall stopped pucks; and when Toe Blake and Punch Imlach pulled strings from behind the bench.
He’s Terry Harper, the lanky, stay-at-home defenceman for the Montreal Canadiens from 1963 to 1971, and I spoke with him on the telephone a short while ago. He’s a nice man, this 69 year old, lives in California with his wife Gladys, who was just as nice and friendly as Terry, (the two have been together since high school in Regina), and Terry was perfectly happy to talk to me about the old days and even hockey today. He even showed interest in my life, asking about places I’ve lived and live now. And he felt bad for me when I told him Sam Pollock turned me down when I asked to be stickboy way back then. “I understand Sam’s reasoning,” he laughed. “Imagine how something like that could get out of control?”
“You caught me at a good time,” he said. And he also added, “if someone is still interested in what I have to say after 40 years, then I’m completely fine with it.”
Gordie Howe was the best he’s ever seen, he says. “Howe just dominated the game in every aspect, and he did so for so long. He did everything right.” But what about Bobby Orr? I asked. “Orr was fantastic but he didn’t play long enough,” he explained. “He played a transition game with his skating, which was fantastic, but for me he wasn’t even the best defenceman. Doug Harvey is the best ever. For pure defence, it’s Harvey. No one’s been better.”
Jean Beliveau? “He’s a good friend, a super person. He’s one of those who stayed with the team even today, and is a wonderful man and great for hockey.”
Toe Blake? “I really liked and admired Toe. A really thoughtful man, a deep-thinker. And I think the best coach ever.”
Sam Pollock? “Sam liked me. I was his captain for the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens and we got along well. He was a great hockey mind.”
And the game today compared to then? “Players are certainly bigger now. When I played, Jacques Laperriere, Ted Harris and myself were considered huge because players back then weren’t overly big like most are now. Even my first defence partner, Jean-Guy Talbot wasn’t big. We were a new breed.”
“Guys now don’t have harder shots than many back then. A puck can only go so fast. Bobby Hull could get up to about 105 mph, and I don’t think there’s too many who can shoot harder than that. I also don’t think players are faster now either. It’s pretty hard to imagine anyone quicker than Ralph Backstrom or Dave Keon, for example. And don’t forget, equipment now must be 15 pounds lighter at least. Same with the goalies. More pads and lighter overall.”
“Because it was only a six-team league, everyone knew everyone completely. There were no surprises. It was so tight-checking, teams weren’t allowed to make a mistake or a goal would be scored. It was more like a chess match back then. And I think players now probably have the wrong attitude. It’s mostly just about money but where would they be without the fans? It’s the fans who make them. Like you. There’s seems to be no interaction anymore between fans and players.”
Do you still have any of your old Habs sweaters, Terry? “We weren’t allowed to keep those,” he said. “The trainers were strict about that. We always had to hand them in.” (He was surprised when I told him his old number 19 would fetch thousands at auction now.)
And one last thing, does he follow the Habs at all now. “I don’t know the team, but I look at the standings in the paper. We don’t get a lot of hockey news here, especially about the Canadiens. We go down to San Jose from time to time to see the Sharks, and we used to make a point of going when Montreal was in town, but the way it is now, there’s years when they don’t even come. So we just go, usually around February when it’s getting important, and it could be any team visiting.”
After Harper’s days in Montreal came to an end, he joined the LA Kings and also did stints in Detroit, St. Louis, and the Colorado Rockies before calling it quits in 1981. He played a total of 19 seasons in the NHL, which is a big-time career, and is now a 69 year old stay-at-home defenceman in his local beer league.
You can read more about Terry Harper at Joe Pelletier’s site right here.
Most hockey players have always been big baseball fans. In the old days, they probably loved playing it even more than golf! And because hockey players are usually athletic in many ways, they are usually great ball players too. Doug Harvey, for example, could’ve played some level of pro. Later on, Larry Robinson was a long-ball hitting centerfielder with the highly-ranked Turpin Pontiac fastball team in Ottawa.
In these 1950’s photos gleaned from my old scrapbook, Marcel Bonin, Maurice Richard, and Jean-Guy Talbot might be discussing what to do with a man on first and third with nobody out. In the other photos, Jacques Plante and Dollard St. Laurent prepare to hit the long ball.
The Canadiens players barnstormed throughout Quebec and eastern Ontario in the summers, playing charity games that were always big hits. And the Rocket, in this photo, was in his second from last season with the Habs and his weight had ballooned to well over 200. In the the prime of his career, his playing weight was 185.
So baseball, which the Rocket loved, was also a way to fight the battle of the bulge. But he never did get back to 185 and in 1960, the Babe Ruth of hockey retired.
This is my old scrapbook. My dad and I started it in about 1957 and I stopped it in the early to mid 1960’s when my teenage hormones took over and girls and music came into my life. My dad was a sign painter and he painted the cover.
On August 17th, in 1966, the Beatles played an afternoon show in Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens.
I was there.
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 he was going and asked if I would like to go with him. I didn’t have a ticket, but believe it or not, the show wasn’t sold out and I got a $5.50 ticket in the very last row of the floor.
It was madness, of course. There were about six bands in the lineup, 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. Yvon 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 have continued on over the years in mostly glorious fashion. The Beatles remain in the hearts of millions.