Tag Archives: Ken Reardon

Cal And Company

This Orillia Terriers were household names, almost like NHL players for young Orillia kids like me. All larger than life big shots in my eyes and with other little hockey fans.

I wonder if they realized that.

The team was packed with great players playing in a great Ontario Senior League in a time when clubs weren’t far off from pro calibre. Almost a minor pro team except no money was involved.

I was just a kid, and they were grown men, really old guys who shaved. They drove trucks and worked in local factories and delivered milk and some dated older sisters of girls I knew. And when they played they burned up the ice surface.

It was fast, rough, tough hockey, and sometimes retired NHLers would show up in various lineups, including Harry Lumley between the pipes in Collingwood, and rugged forward Cal Gardner in Orillia. (top left corner in photo).

I remember watching Gardner play like it was yesterday. I can even visualize now where I was sitting during one game when he was on the ice, which is weird because I’ve often forgotten why I’ve walked from the living room to the kitchen.

But it’s vivid, and it was fun to see a guy in the flesh who had actually played in the NHL against the Rocket and Howe and others but was now an Orillia Terrier, only a few feet away, and who used the same dressing room as I did when I would lace up my little blades.

Gardner played for the Rangers, Toronto, Chicago and Boston before retiring in 1957, was twice an all-star, and joined Orillia after being with the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League. His two sons, Dave and Paul both became NHLers too.

He also also had a couple of big connections with the Habs in different ways.

Gardner was on the ice for Toronto when Bill Barilko scored his legendary goal to win the Cup for the Leafs in 1951, and had set up Howie Meeker who missed the net, just before Barilko didn’t miss the net.

And he and Montreal’s Ken Reardon enjoyed a bitter and dangerous feud that lasted years. It began when Gardner was with New York and got his stick up after a shot from the point and clipped Reardon on the lip. Gardner said his stick was up a little. Reardon said it was a blatant cross check to the face.

Whatever it was, it started a bench-clearing brawl and Reardon promised revenge on Gardner, pretty well every time the two met after that.

In 1949, when Gardner was a Leaf, Reardon finally got that revenge at the Forum, when he “accidentally” ran into Gardner and broke his jaw on both sides, causing league prez Clarence Campbell to force Reardon to post a $1000 good behaviour bond. But they continued to rough each other up even after that and the ill-will apparently continued long after both had retired.

Too bad Reardon didn’t latch on to an Ontario Senior team and they could have kept it going, maybe at the good old Orillia Community Centre, with me there to see it. I never minded seeing a little blood and intestines splattered on the ice, as long as it wasn’t mine.

Ralph Signed

We’re going back to Montreal today after a tremendous handful of days in Ottawa with my brother and his family.

In the meantime, something from before because I need to load up the car, get to the gas station, slip in a CD, and head on down the highway.

Before NHL players had any sort of union or any kind of say in their matters, owners and management did pretty well whatever they damn well felt like doing. Management had all the power, and many players came from impoverished families with hockey as their only way out. They didn’t want to work in mines or mills or farms like their fathers, and the men in suits upstairs knew it.

Back then, especially as the 1950’s unfolded, it was common practice for owners to give management a certain amount of money and tell them to sign players for as little as they could and keep what was left over.

So of course management were cheap bastards.

The following story was told by Ralph Backstrom to Susan Foster, and was included in her fascinating book, The Power of Two. In this, I’m paraphrasing.

When Ralph was a 17 year old hockey phenom in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, the Canadiens sent Ken Reardon, a man who had graduated to Montreal management once his playing days were over, to the Backstrom home in Northern Ontario in the hopes of signing the kid. At the Backstrom kitchen table, Reardon sat with Ralph and Ralph’s parents and he placed five $100 bills on the table which would be the Backstroms to keep if Ralph signed on the dotted line.

Ralph told Susan that at that time, neither he or his parents had ever seen even one $100 bill, let alone five, and Ralph signed the paper, making him part of the Canadiens family.

As Reardon was leaving, he reached into his pocket and pulled out another five $100 bills, waved them in Ralph’s face, and told him he’d been authorized to pay twice as much for Ralph’s signature if need be. Then he put the 500 bucks back in his pocket.

The Rocket Said…..

In 1970 New York hockey writer Stan Fischler wrote a book called The ‘Flying Frenchmen’ in which he did a general story about the Habs over the years, and then in the second half of the book, Rocket Richard took over and wrote under the heading of ‘My Life With The Canadiens.’

Several things jump out from the pages and I’d like to mention a couple.

Rocket said, “Something should be done to put more of the class back into the game – the stickhandling and the wrist shot and the pattern plays that are so beautiful. Maybe it would be a good idea to eliminate the red line and allow passing all the way up to the opponent’s blue line.”

The Rocket, in talking about the 1969-70 Habs season said, “Too many times they were unable to hold on to leads in the late minutes of games. In my day we would sustain the offense at all times. But the latter-day Canadiens tended to go into a defensive shell, which is the worst technique to use to protect a lead.”

“Up front the Canadiens have too many little men.”

This next piece of business is odd and I feel what was said was somehow lost in translation when the Rocket wrote it and the ghostwriter, maybe Fischler, put it into English. Rocket was talking about a certain time when he played and it goes like this:

“There was no animosity on the team and there was plenty of spirit, especially with men like Ken Reardon and Butch Bouchard on the team. Butch was a big bull. When he was on the ice you knew that the smaller players on our team would be protected. If any of our men got pushed around Bouchard was right there to help. Butch and I were the first to step in if any of our teammates were involved in a fight. But I was never friendly with Butch. As a matter of fact, I never got along with him.”

And finally, this….from the Rocket.

“I’ve always felt that the Toronto fan is the best in the entire circuit. Whenever he sees good hockey being played, he’ll give the team and players a good hand even if they are bitter rivals of his home team.”

This Is A Stick-Up

Yes indeed, this is the stick. The one I just bought at auction and which I’ve mentioned before. But here it is in one of my rooms which makes the story new, sort of.

Classic Auctions describes as having “great Hall of Fame pedigree” and that in itself makes me all teary-eyed and goofy. The stick alone is a fine specimen, but what really puts it over the top are the names on it. It’s been signed by 17 members of the 1948-49 team and they are, if you don’t mind and not bored already – Elmer Lach, Ed Dorohoy, Billy Reay, Joe Carveth, Rip Riopelle, Ken Mosdell, Bob Fillion, Doug Harvey, Jacques Locas, Bill Durnan, George Robertson, Dick Irvin, Hal Laycoe, Ken Reardon, Maurice Richard, Emile Bouchard, and Murph Chamberlain.

Lach’s signature is the only one really faded and hard to see. Doug Harvey signed with a fine-point pen but is there in all its glory but you have to look for it.

Some folks get excited when they buy a new lawn mower or a nice pair of cowboy boots. Habs ‘Hall of Fame pedigree’ things like my new old stick, yellowed and well-used, is what I prefer.

Boys Will Be Boys. Sticks Landing On Heads And All That

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There’s nothing like some good, honest hockey violence to stir the soul and piss off the peaceniks.

The picture above shows just another in the ongoing saga of one of the nastiest, meanest hockey feuds in history that began in New York and carried on for years, with this one being in Toronto. It involved the Canadiens’ Ken Reardon and the Rangers and then Leafs’ Cal Gardner, and even carried on for years after. If you’re not crazy about fighting, you might want to go to another one of my posts like when I went to the Atlantic City Pop Festival or something equally serene. Because this post isn’t for you.

The Habs were in New York, and with about thirty seconds left in the game, Gardner crosschecked Reardon in the mouth and Reardon lost a couple of teeth and was cut on the lip for about twenty stitches. Emile Bouchard hit Brian Hextall over the head with his stick and Hextall and Bouchard proceeded to pound each other a bunch of times. Then Reardon said some bad words and some guy sitting behind the bench yelled that he shouldn’t swear because his girlfriend was with him, so Rocket Richard hit the fan over the head with his stick and blood was all over the place.

Reardon was not impressed with what Gardner had done to his Hollywood good looks and told a reporter that before he quit hockey he was going to get Gardner. And  although he swore it was an accident, he later on “accidentally” broke Gardner’s jaw on both sides in Montreal after Gardner had been traded to the Leafs.

The feud and the fights continued for years. In the above photo, the two lovebirds show some little playfulness at Maple Leaf Gardens. That’s Leaf captain Ted Kennedy on the left and Montreal’s Doug Harvey on the right along with the combatants, and the referee is Bill Chadwick, who just recently passed away.

Ken Reardon went on to become Frank Selke’s right-hand man in Montreal’s front office. Gal Gardner eventually retired from pro hockey in 1961 and played senior hockey in Orillia for awhile. I remember seeing him play when I was a kid. If I had known then that Gardner wasn’t very nice to a Montreal Canadien player, I might have thrown a hot dog at him.

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Goodbye Ken Reardon. Plus, Halak Shuts out The Islanders

Ken Reardon was a rough, tough, hard-rock customer for the Montreal Canadiens in the 1940’s, a rugged, aggressive and often fiery defenceman who after retirement became a high level executive for the Habs.

Ken Reardon died this morning, March 15, at 86 years old, and once again, another great Montreal Canadien from the past leaves us.  reardon.jpg

From the time Reardon joined Montreal in 1940, his life could be told in three chapters. His rugged, all-star play on the ice; his enlisting in the Canadian Army during World War 11 after only two years with the Habs, and being a main cog on the army hockey team; and his tenure as executive with the Habs, where he worked as assistant to Frank Selke and others, and was both a teammate, friend, and ultimately the boss of Maurice Richard and Toe Blake.

A story I like about Reardon occurred when Reardon was still a young player with Montreal, and he had this thing about looking good. One day he was getting a haircut prior to a practice, and was late getting to the Forum. He told the barber to be quick so the barber charged him only thirty-five cents instead of the regular fifty cents because it was a quick job. At the Forum, the door to the dressing room was locked so he had to knock, and coach Dick Irvin answered.  The young defenceman knew he was busted so he tried to make light of it. “I just got a haircut for thirty-five cents,” said Reardon. “No you didn’t,” replied Irvin. “You just got a haircut for twenty-five dollars and thirty-five cents.”

Tonight, Montreal, in another big game, (for about 15 teams, every game’s a big game), shut out the Islanders 3-0, with Jaroslav Halak in goal. In a week, the Habs have gone from first place to second to fifth, and now back to second again.

Big game.

Next up, the St. Louis Blues come to town, then Montreal goes to Boston on Thursday. Both are big games. Naturally.