That’s it for the Habs after falling to the Rangers 3-1 in game six, and I’d say I’ll now start getting excited about the Blue Jays’ season, except they’re 4 and 12 and about to lose another as I write.
I wish the Expos would come back.
Still no Stanley Cup since 1993. Will it happen again soon? Will it happen in my lifetime or yours?
I don’t have favourite players on my team. That time is long gone. When I was a kid, the Rocket was my hero. And Beliveau and Harvey and I guess, every player on the team. As a guy in my twenties, I was happy about Lafleur and Dryden and Robinson.
But it’s only about the crest now. I liked Subban for example, but it didn’t bother me one bit when he was traded because I thought Shea Weber was an upgrade in many ways. I still do.
It’s about the team only. Players can come and go and I won’t bat an eyelash.
A few days ago I saw a film clip of Andrei Markov coming out of a NY hotel (or maybe Madison Square Garden) and a kid, the only person in site, approached him for an autograph. Markov shook his head and casually walked across the street.
Players can say no all they want to adults, I understand and accept that. But there’s no excuse to say no to a kid.
No excuse. It would’ve taken all of about four seconds to sign the kid’s piece of paper.
And so, I finish off a season of game reports complaining about Andrei Markov.
Thanks to everyone who read my posts this season. I hope you liked some of them. And I also truly appreciate anyone who took the time to sometimes comment.
We thought the team had a decent chance this year to make a serious dent.
Game eight. A game that almost didn’t happen because both sides couldn’t agree on which two referees would suit up. The Russians, of course, lobbied for both Josef Kompalla and Franz Baader, the two West Germans who heavily sucked up to the Russians, probably in search of future Olympic and World Championship gigs in which Russia held a weighty voice. Canada’s choices were a Swede, Uve Dahlberg, with their second being Czech Rudy Batja.
Thus, in the 11th hour it was decided that Kompalla and Dahlberg would handle the duties, until Dahlberg allegedly fell ill with food-poisoning. So then it became Kompalla and Batja.
However which way you slice it, the officiating situation was a mess.
And so it began, with Ken Dryden in nets after Tony Esposito had performed well two nights prior in Canada’s 4-3 win. It was a game of wonderful and breathtaking hockey, with weirdness thrown in, including J.P. Parise blowing a fuse when he was assessed an interference call in which Kompalla waved it off and then Batja called it anyway. Parise complained, was given a ten-minute misconduct, and in a fit of rage skated to Kompalla with his stick raised, as if to chop the poor bugger’s head off. Needless to say, Parise took an early shower.
Both teams, in glorious fashion, went back and forth, with players coming close as the goalies held their ground time and time again. Phil Esposito roamed about and made the Soviets nervous. Alexander Yakushev continued to give Dryden fits, and the first period ended at two apiece, which seemed rightly so. Every inch had been fought for. JP Parise watched from the sidelines in his street clothes.
In the second, Russia took the lead, Bill White tied it, but then Russia scored two and it was 5-3 when 40 minutes had expired. Could Canada actually come back in the third period and win this? It didn’t look good. It was a two-goal Soviet lead, and a two-referee Soviet advantage. I can’t remember if I had any booze around or not, but surely I needed it.
But just two and a half minutes into the final frame, Esposito whacked one home, and at 12:56, Yvan Cournoyer tied it. A country jumping for joy, until we noticed a commotion from the penalty box area and wondered if we should be happy or not.
It turned out that the goal judge decided not to put the red light on when Cournoyer scored, prompting Alan Eagleson to freak out and be restrained by soldiers who began to lead him away, maybe to a train bound for Siberia. But Pete Mahovlich came to the rescue, others followed, and the Eagle was taken to the safety of the free world, otherwise known as the Canadian bench. But not before he got in a couple of one-finger salutes to the despicable goal judge.
Back and forth players went and the clock clicked down, which was fine with the Soviets. They had decided that they would claim victory in case of a tie, considering they had scored one more in total goals during the eight games. This couldn’t happen. We could not witness a smug, smiling and celebratory Soviet contingent, not after clawing back over a period of several games, and then having them claim victory on a technicality. A tie would be like kissing Leonid Brezhnev’s wife, or Leonid Brezhnev.
And then it happened, and maybe I should let good old Foster Hewitt take you home.
“Cournoyer has it on that wing. Here’s a shot. Henderson makes a wild stab for it and fell. Here’s another shot, right in front. THEY SCORE! HENDERSON HAS SCORED FOR CANADA!”
Yes he did, with 34 seconds remaining. And a nation rejoiced.
And win they did, 3-2, with absolutely no help from German officials Franz Baader and Josef Kompalla , who seemed to love the idea of sending a parade of Canadians to the sin bin and were living proof that when it came to refereeing hockey games, Germany made great cars.
No matter. Team Canada allowed a Soviet goal, then scored three in a minute and a half to take control in all aspects. Even Ken Dryden played well and finally beat his nemesis Soviets for the first time since facing them years before as an amateur.
This game had finally given us a glimmer of hope. The team played with poise and passion, they came together and played like they knew they could, and Paul Henderson, in the series of his life, scored the winner on a long slap shot that surprised everyone from Vladivostok to Victoria.
One particular incident on this night must be mentioned. It was time to stop Valeri Kharlamov, and John Ferguson provided an ugly-yet-brutally effective solution. “I think he needs a tap on the ankle,” Fergy told Bobby Clarke, and Clarke proceeded to chop and crack the Soviet star’s ankle, rendering the Soviet star useless and out of the series until game eight, where he looked absolutely non-Kharlamovian. Not one of Team Canada’s finest moments, but at this point, it was win-at-all-costs, which I understand. Although this tactic underlined what many at home and abroad had screamed loud and hard about – that the Canadians were thugs and weren’t playing the game the way it should be played.
Of course, no one mentioned the Swedes’ stick work and diving in Stockholm, or the Soviets’ exaggerated theatrics and their own particular brand of whining. And critics made no heed of the off-ice nonsense regarding Canada’s steaks and cokes going missing, and phone calls in the middle of the night to their hotel rooms with no one on the other end. Frank Mahovlich became so unnerved by the fact that his room might be bugged that he checked under the carpet and discovered what he thought was a KGB bug. The Big M then unscrewed it and promptly heard a loud crash as he realized he’d unscrewed a ceiling light from the room below.
The series had transformed into a bizarre, stressful, and unreal game of cat and mouse, but most importantly for Team Canada and the nation behind them, the Soviets were beginning to show some important cracks. Team Canada felt this thing was far from over, and Phil Esposito, as focused now as any man could be, was leading the charge like no other could. Years later, Espo would even say that he wasn’t a violent man but he would have killed to win if it had come down to that.
Below, Bobby Clarke, Bill White, and Tony Esposito see the sights of Moscow with their wives, while John Ferguson inspects some Red Army soldiers.
The cameras panned the Palace of Sports at Luzhniki in Moscow, where fans, the majority men and soldiers, stared hard at the ice and at the long-haired Canadian players swooping around. What were these fans thinking about these foreigners? They saw the long hair, they saw Esposito and others they recognized. They would scan the stadium, watching the Canadian fans whooping and hollering, and they must have wondered.
Of course they were curious, because in 1972, long before perestroika and glasnost (restructuring and openness), this was a novelty of the first degree. Westerners live and in colour, something not often seen in their closed country, and names they knew only slightly glided around the ice below. To have seen NHL games in their homes meant sporatic action on television, with announcers who droned on, in the middle of the night broken up periodically by agriculture commercials and speeches from Leonid Brezhnev and other stonefaced leaders from the Politburo. The Russians definitely didn’t have Hockey Night in Canada, Sportsnet, or TSN going for them back then.
Opening night, game five in Moscow meant serious business. At this point, three Canadian players had decided to go home. Vic Hadfield, told he probably wouldn’t see any action in Moscow, felt he should be preparing for the NHL season with his Ranger teammates. Jocelyn Guevremont’s wife, who had come along with her husband on the trip, fell ill and needed to enter a hospital back home. And Rick Martin said he felt pressure from Sabres boss Punch Imlach to return and be with his Buffalo teammates. Gilbert Perreault would do the same shortly after.
Canada had won just once in Canada, and to lose again meant having to win the final three, which seemed as remote a possibility as seeing Lenin scratch himself in his Tomb at Red Square. It would take a miracle, even if Canada could somehow pull it out on this night and narrow the gap.
During the opening festivities on this night, young Russian ladies skated out with flowers, and as one came near Phil Esposito, a petal fell off the stem and floated to the ice. When Espo was introduced, he stepped on the petal and fell flat on his rear end, to the smiles and laughter of the crowd and both teams. He did an exaggerated bow, seemed to be fine about the whole thing, and maybe we were more embarrassed than he was. Regardless, to show the high esteem the Soviet players held for our captain, Vladislav Tretiak would say years later that Espo did this on purpose to lighten things up for his tense teammates. It might have worked, but it certainly wasn’t on purpose. (see video below).
Maybe it was the 3000 Canadian fans cheering and blowing their horns and making such wonderful noise, but Team Canada came out with bounce, and late in the first period, J.P. Parise (father of Zach), converted on a Gilbert Perreault pass and Canada found themselves in the lead. At home we cheered, but we needed more. We’d seen in the past that leads can evaporate quickly against this Machine.
Early in the second period, Bobby Clarke shoved one past Tretiak, and the 3000 Canadians at Luzhnicki and 15 million back home cheered again. We liked what we were seeing, and we liked it even more when Paul Henderson made it a lovely 3-0 lead. Take that, you Russians.
It was heady times going into the third period. It would be such a beautiful win, a win for NHL and western hockey superiority, and a narrowing of the gap. Unsmiling Russian fans would be impressed by the NHLers. Soviet players might get nervous. It was perfect.
But Yuri Blinov scored and suddenly we weren’t so giddy. But although Henderson once again gave us a three-goal lead to allow us to breathe again, Ken Dryden mentioned later that, “We played stupidly. Instead of continuing the forechecking tactics that had worked so well in the first two periods, we stayed back and let the Russians take the puck to us.”
Anisin beat Tony Esposito to narrow the gap to 4-2, and then, just eight seconds later, Shadrin scored and it became 4-3. At this point, we needed a pill. Maybe some Anisin. And maybe we needed something much stronger than Anisin when Alexander Gusev’s shot was tipped by a Canadian player over the shoulder of Esposito, and the game was tied with still nine minutes remaining. The Soviets then won the damn thing when Vladimir Vikulov scored the winner.
5-4 Russia. We were perfectly aware of what this meant. A miracle would be needed, and we weren’t so sure it would happen. But something extremely important had transpired during this game five loss. Canada seemed in better shape and showed more drive. They had outplayed the Soviets before things collapsed in the third period, and they seemed to have found a way to hogtie the enemy with furious forechecking. Team Canada knew, even in losing, that they weren’t out of it yet.
The Canadians were beginning to feel better about themselves, but they were in a deep hole.
Things didn’t go nearly as planned during Team Canada’s two-game stopover in Stockholm on their way to Moscow. The first night, Sept. 16, the Canadians won 4-1 against the Swedish National Team, (with Borje Salming on defence for Tre Kronor), but Canada found themselves surprised by the blatant diving and other theatrics from the Swedes. The crowd seemed to dislike Team Canada immensely, and between the paying customers and the Swedish players, the stage was set for a damn fine good guy/bad guy scenario.
The following night, Sept. 17, became a night of penalties and lost composure. And as it was, it took a Phil Esposito shorthanded goal in the final minute to allow Canada to escape with a 4-4 tie. It just seemed that throughout both games in Stockholm, it became the difficult problem of getting used to European refereeing. The men in stripes just weren’t NHL calibre, frustration boiled over, and Team Canada became perfect villains for all concerned in this beautiful Scandinavian city. In the eyes of Swedes, the Canadians were thugs and overly-aggressive, and didn’t play the game the way it should be played.
During the first period of game two, Wayne Cashman and Sweden’s Ulf Sterner, who had suited up for four games in the NHL as a member of the New York Rangers in 1964, went into the boards and Sterner’s stick apparently entered Cashman’s mouth. The feisty Bruin had his tongue slit down the middle, but he waited until the end of the period before letting doctors look at him. It was only then that Cashman was finished in Sweden.
In period three, Vic Hadfield cut Lars-Erik Sjoberg with a high stick and Sjoberg then proceeded to give an Oscar-winning performance, waving off his trainer and doing a slow skate as blood poured out from his face. With the crowd hoping to lynch Hadfield, Sjoberg skated past the penalty box, looked at Hadfield, and pointed to his bleeding face. Sjoberg went to his bench, sat down for a few minutes before finally getting up and slowly skating to his dressing room, all the while letting the blood pour from his face for everyone to see. In Ken Dryden’s book “Face-Off At The Summit,” Dryden tells us that Sjoberg then waited at the bottom of the ramp so Swedish photographers could take pictures of the nose from all angles.
The fallout a day later was sensational. Swedish papers ran photos of Sjoberg’s bloody nose on their front pages. No photos of Cashman’s split and swollen tongue were mentioned. Sterner called the Canadians “gangsters.” The Canadian ambassador to Sweden, Margaret Meagher, said Team Canada behaved like animals.
Through it all, though, Alan Eagleson defended his players. (Again from Dryden’s book). “Certain things acceptable here in Sweden are not acceptable in Canada. You people are good with your sticks, particularly with spearing. Spearing is one of the worst sins in Canada; it’s not even part of the hatchet man’s style. And fighting is part of our game but not part of yours. We just play two completely different games.”
And when the man Eagleson was talking to said that Canada would lose in Russia, Eagleson replied: “No, we won’t lose, because despite all the things we have going against us, we still have it here.” He pointed to his heart.
I think it was after this game that my father began cheering for the Russians, which pissed me off to no end. But I can see why, I guess. He also can’t stomach Alan Eagleson, whom he thinks is equal parts son-of-a-bitch, P.T. Barnum, and arrogant bullshit. He’s probably right.
Team Canada not only lost the final game in Canada by a score of 5-3, but they lost in boorish and undisciplined fashion, and many people, including my dad, are fed up with what is transpiring. Bill Goldsworthy, who seemed to have lost his mind, sat in the penalty box while the Russians scored twice. Frank Mahovlich sat on Tretiak and wouldn’t let him up for about 30 seconds. It was frustration bursting at the seams, from both the Canadian players and the fans, and the Vancouverites showed no patience whatsoever.
So much for that laid-back West Coast.
The Vancouver crowd booed and jeered lustily, showing in angry, deafening fashion that they weren’t one bit crazy about the roughhousing of such a beautifully disciplined Soviet team that just wanted to play hockey. The crowd was frustrated at their team’s inability to display much of anything, although there was one moment to cheer about when Gilbert Perreault danced in in classic style and banked one off a Soviet player and in behind Tretiak. But overall, Vancouver was such a low point, to say the least. That damn Tretiak is sensational and simply killing us, and possibly our guys are now psyched out so much they may never recover in time to make at least a half-decent showing in the remaining four games.
Canadian hockey has just taken another major hit, maybe even more so than game one.
It was a nasty night. Canada’s record at home stands at one win, two losses, and a tie. Life sucks. And then Phil Esposito came out after the game and reminded everyone it wasn’t all that great for him and the boys either, which you can see in the video below. Later on, Frank Mahovlich, in Ken Dryden’s book Face-Off At The Summit, would mention that “after the seeing what the Russians did to to us at our game in Canada, I’m afraid nothing in sports is sacred anymore. If someone gives them a football they’ll beat the Dallas Cowboys and win the Super Bowl in two years.”
Now it’s on to Moscow for four games. It’ll be good for the team to get out of Dodge, especially after realizing that many Canadian fans aren’t admiring them so much right now. It’s going to take some kind of serious miracle to pull this one out, even to look somewhat respectable.
Below, cuff links and tie clip, presented to Canadian players from C.C.M., one of the many sponsors of the tournament.
It’s quite a thing to see a team go from shell-shocked to terrific in just one game, but Team Canada took over in Toronto, winning 4-1 in front of a house full of satisfied and relieved customers, and it made us think that maybe game one in Montreal was just one of those things, with the boys not being quite ready both physically and mentally. Now that they understand the job needed to be done, it was time to put the hammer down.
In the big picture it wouldn’t work out quite like that, but it was nice to think at the time.
Everyone was raving about the Russians at this point, after what they had displayed in Montreal. Even crusty Leafs owner Harold Ballard had apparently offered a million bucks for Kharlamov after seeing him just once, which must have amused the slick forward and his comrades to no end, considering they were earning less than 100 bucks a month at this point. The Russians after game one had become the new movie stars, and the Canadians, B-actors.
So it was quite pleasant when we kicked the shit out of them in game two.
This is when the Canadians started to play with more edge, and when Alexander Yakushev showed us that Kharlamov wasn’t the only superstar on the Soviet team. This is also when Peter Mahovlich scored a short-handed goal that has become a part of hockey lore.
The Canadians were leading 2-1 when Pat Stapleton was called for hooking, and if the Russians score, everything changes of course. We’d seen them come from behind in a big way just 48 hours prior and weren’t all that crazy about seeing it again. But Peter Mahovlich grabbed the puck at centre ice while killing the penalty, charged in with that big, lanky style of his, deked a couple of Russian d-men out of their jockstraps, skated in on Tretiak, made a couple of quick moves, and shoved it behind the stunned goaltender. (That’s Peter doing his thing in the Sun newspaper photo).
A sensational goal on a sensational night, Maybe it’s how the series might unfold from here on in. A big 4-1 win, this time with Tony Esposito between the pipes instead of the shaky Ken Dryden. All’s well on the western front, and it seems everything’s back to normal now.
Finally. The big night. The night we as proud Canadians will have our best hockey team teach a big honkin’ lesson to the Russkies, whom I feel sorry for because they’re going to get embarrassed and want to catch the next Aeroflot back to their mamas. Maybe we should let them score the odd goal.
The Russians and their fans back home are going to see how it’s really done. They’re going to be amazed by our skating and our big blasts and our hockey brains. They must be nervous, and I don’t blame them.
Pierre Trudeau drops the puck between Phil Esposito and Vladimir Vikulov, and of course our guy wins the faceoff handily. He’s suppose to win it, it’s protocol, but he’s done it with purpose, with pizzazz. No way that foreigner was going to get that puck. A statement made.
It’s the start of what should be a beautiful night, and when Esposito scores after just 30 seconds, and Paul Henderson then makes it 2-0 after only six minutes and change, it’s to be expected. Yes indeed. Maybe we’ll need a calculator to track the Canadian point-getters.
But something doesn’t seem right. The Russians seem to be playing as well as the Canadians, sometimes better. Often better, in fact. It’s disturbing. Why isn’t Team Canada toying with this bunch? How come the other guys have the puck so much?
Suddenly, and not totally unexpected at this point – a Russian goal. Then another. Then a couple of out-of-this-world markers by some guy named Kharlamov, who makes us sit up and ask, who the &%^$# is that?
It’s now 4-3 for the visitors in the third, and like a hammer and sickle to our hearts, the Russians get another still, then another after that, and yes, another after that. Goaltender Ken Dryden looks as average as can be, and why is that? He’s one of the players who knows how the Russians play. And he’s been standing on his head as a Montreal Canadien. But he’s mostly sitting on his ass tonight, and when the siren goes, I see the Russians almost wiping their hands after a solid day’s work.
Game 1 in Montreal and I’ve traded shifts with another bartender so I can watch without distractions. There’s no way I want to see this on the TV in the bar. Too much noise, too many distractions, too busy. I just want the solitude of my little apartment, where I can watch the game in peace and not have to serve a bunch of liquored-up car salesmen.
I can’t wait for the rest of the world to see how powerful we are at hockey. Maybe I’ll get a pizza. And I’m turning the phone off.
(I’d also like to mention that all of the memorabilia you’ll see in this series belongs to me.)
The late 1970s were fine years for Habs fans of course, as the Canadiens chalked up four straight Stanley Cup wins and all was well in this crazy, mixed up world.
Even after the run finished, the 1979-80 campaign saw the boys finish first in the Norris Division with 107 points, but cracks and unrest had begun to show.
Unhappy coach Scotty Bowman had left town for Buffalo after the 1978-79 season , where he assumed the role of coach and general manager after being denied GM duties in Montreal.
And as Bowman bolted, aging stars Jacques Lemaire, Ken Dryden, and Yvon Cournoyer retired.
In 1980-81, any semblance of a powerhouse team was gone and it was very sad. We were used to much better.
Difficult to stomach was the gang being swept in ’80-81 by the upstart Edmonton Oilers, with a skinny kid named Wayne Gretzky emerging as a freak of nature in the Oiler’s lineup.
Shortly after the disappointing sweep, Montreal coach Claude Ruel resigned and was replaced by the unsuccessful Bob Berry (14 different coaches have followed since).
Berry, between his three years as coach of the L.A. Kings and almost three in Montreal, would never get his teams past the first round of the playoffs, and 63 games into year three, Jacques Lemaire took over the helm.
It just wasn’t a rosy time for all concerned.
These were the days that saw a New York Islanders dynasty rise, with Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, Brian Trottier, Billy Smith and company winning their own four straight.
By then, the idea of the Habs winning four in a row as they once had was only laughable. It had become painfully obvious that the dynasty wasn’t just on life support, it was officially over.
The Flower’s greatest years were behind him, his 50-goal seasons would come no more. Goaltending was shaky, and Patrick Roy was still several years away.
Steve Shutt was the team’s leading point-getter in the 1980-81 season, recording 35 goals and 38 assists for 73 points. Mark Napier was next with 71 points, while Lafleur was third with 70 points.
The goaltending duties were shared by four guys that season – Richard Sevigny, Michel Larocque, Denis Herron, and Rick Wamsley.
Doug Wickenheiser, the Habs first-overall pick, chosen over fan favourite Denis Savard, suited up in this 1980-81 season and turned out to be not quite the player the organization and fans thought they were getting.
The much maligned (and initially much heralded) centreman recorded just 7 goals and 8 assists, and often found himself a healthy scratch.
Wickenheiser had been a huge star in junior with the Regina Pats and his big body at centre ice had folks wondering if they might have a new Jean Beliveau on their hands. But he never managed to become a major impact player (115 points in 202 games in Montreal), and was finally dealt to St. Louis.
And to add salt to everyone’s wounds, including Wickenheiser’s, the shifty and bilingual Quebecer from Pointe Gatineau, Denis Savard, had become the toast of the town in Chicago.
Rough times after those glorious late-1970s, and it would be five more years after ’80-81 before the Canadiens would become champs once again.
At that time, a handful of years in Montreal without Lord Stanley was unacceptable.