Tag Archives: La Presse

Letters On My Shelf

Many of these letters were written to me, while some I collected along the way. If you find these boring, please don’t tell me.

Beginning with –

Red Fisher (1965) (after I complained to him that Stan Mikita swore at me when I asked him for his autograph at a Hawks-Leafs exhibition game in Peterborough during the Leafs training camp).


Phyllis King (1951) – Clarence Campbell’s secretary and future wife.


Here’s Clarence and Phyllis on their romantic date at the Forum, which helped spark the 1955 St. Patrick’s Day Richard Riot.


Legendary sports editor Elmer Ferguson (1929). The Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award is presented to outstanding hockey journalists and includes the likes of Jacques Beauchamp, Red Burnett, Trent Frayne, Red Fisher, Andy O’Brien, Michael Farber, Roy MacGregor and others.


Sam Pollock (1964). By far my favourite letter.

Claude Mouton (1985)

Irving Grundman (1983)

Almost three months to the day after General Manager Grundman wrote this letter, he was fired by the Canadiens and Serge Savard would take his place.

Forum secretary Manon Bruneau (1984)

Letter from Sam Pollock to Habs prospect Michel Lagace (1962). This is the kind of letter I would have liked to receive.


Looking for tickets at Maple Leaf Gardens (1965 & 1966)

Two replies from Claude Mouton (1983) about my request for a stick. He gave me a Bob Gainey stick, signed by the entire team, which I picked up at the Forum after driving from Ottawa after graveyard shift.

Jean Beliveau (1984)

I decided I needed an 8X10 glossy of the Rocket shaking hands with Sugar Jim Henry, so I went right to the top. I wrote a letter to La Presse and it ended up on the desk of editor-in chief Gerard Pelletier (1964)

Pelletier would later serve in the Pierre Trudeau government, and was eventually awarded the Order of Canada.

Frank Selke Jr. (1961)

The Rocket Photo Lives On

Shown often on Facebook, other websites, and on TV before and during game one of the Habs-Bruins series was the iconic photo  of Rocket Richard and Sugar Jim Henry shaking hands after one of the greatest playoff goals ever scored.

It even hangs on the wall of the TD Garden in Boston.

I have some slight connections regarding that famous photo that was taken by La Presse photographer Roger St. Jean, but first, a brief look back at the story behind it.

It was the second period of the seventh game of the 1952 Cup semi-finals between Montreal and Boston, on April 8th at the Forum, when the Rocket collided with rugged Bruins d-man Leo Labine, followed by a headfirst plunge into Bill Quackenbush’s knee.

Richard lay motionless on the ice, folks in the building thought his neck may have been broken, and blood flowed from his forehead.

Richard was taken to the infirmary in the Forum where he was applied stitches and probably smelling salts. Slowly he came around, and in the third period he got up from the table against the doctors’ wishes and made his way back to the bench.

On the bench, Elmer Lach told him the score was tied 1-1 with four minutes to go, Rocket told coach Dick Irvin that he was okay, and Irvin sent him out.

Rocket then proceeded to take the puck in his own end, ducked by the first forechecker, eluded the two other Bruins’ forwards, held off Quackenbush with his left arm as he swooped in, fooled the other defenceman Bob Armstrong, and came in on Sugar Jim Henry, who himself had suffered a broken nose and two black eyes earlier in the game.

Henry dove, Rocket pulled the puck aside and blasted it home, which won the series for the Canadiens.

It was just after, when players were shaking hands, that the photo was taken.

Back in the dressing room, Rocket sat unsmiling and quiet, and suddenly broke down. The doctor put a needle in his arm, and it was two hours before he was in shape to get up and finally leave.

Rocket had scored that series-winning goal while being semi-conscious.

I decided, when I was 13, that I needed an 8 x 10 glossy of the Rocket and Sugar Jim Henry so I went right to the top. I wrote a letter to La Presse and it ended up on the desk of editor-in chief Gerard Pelletier.

And who is Gerard Pelletier, you might ask? Well, aside from being editor at the Montreal French-language daily, and according to Wikipedia, he, his buddy Pierre Trudeau, and Jean Marchand were recruited by Prime Minister Lester Pearson to help derail the rising Quebec separatist movement.

Later on, Pelletier would become a cabinet minister in the Trudeau government, and would eventually take the role of ambassador to France, and then ambassador to the United Nations. He was also awarded the Order of Canada.

So as you can see, he was quite a big shot.

I think it was mighty nice of him to write to me, considering his paper had been on strike. And yes, he did pass my letter on to the sports department, because at some point, my 8 x 10 glossy showed up at my house.

Indirectly related to the goal –


One of my 75 Group two, 1944-64 Montreal Canadiens Bee Hives, Paul Masnick, who played a part, sort of, in that picture.

Paul Masnick was a journeyman centre who was with the Canadiens from 1950 to 1954 before going to Chicago and then Toronto.

In total, he played 161 games with Montreal. And it was because of him, indirectly, that there is the famous photograph.

In game six of the 1952 semi finals, it was Masnick who scored the winner on Sugar Jim Henry off a Doug Harvey rebound. This led to game seven, when the Rocket, coming back on the ice after being bloodied and knocked unconscious, scored the big goal which eliminated Boston and got Montreal into the finals against Detroit.

And it was after this Boston series that Masnick helped win, that the famous photo was taken.


And today –

Have a look at that huge framed picture behind Rocket and a couple of fellows at his appliances shop, the one of Rocket and Sugar Jim Henry.


That very picture, which measures 34″ x 44″, now hangs on a wall in my office!


Stars Of The World’s Fastest Game

Maybe if newspapers started doing this again, they might sell more papers.

Peter Hab mentioned the other day about old Star Weekly hockey pictures the newspaper would publish back in the 1960s, great photos usually shot by renown hockey photographer Harold Barkley.

The first four photos below are Star Weekly examples.

The Star, and all the other papers under the same publishing umbrella, weren’t the only ones who showed hockey players. At the same time, the Toronto Telegram, the Montreal Star, and other related papers published different style pictures, like Henri Richard you see below. These pictures were an inch or two longer than the Star’s and always extremely beautiful.

Heck, they were all extremely beautiful.

They weren’t the first either.

Long before these papers were doing it, a five-year period from 1927-28 to 1931-32 saw La Presse in Montreal publish a run of 71 NHL player pictures, mostly of Habs and Maroons, with a sprinkling of Leafs, Bruins etc thrown in. They’re at the bottom.













You Need A Picture, You Go To The Top

I decided, when I was 13, that I needed an 8×10 glossy of the Rocket shaking hands with Sugar Jim Henry, so I went right to the top. I wrote a letter to La Presse and it ended up on the desk of editor-in chief Gerard Pelletier.

And who is Gerard Pelletier, you ask? Well, aside from being editor at the Montreal French-language daily, and according to Wikipedia, he, his buddy Pierre Trudeau, and Jean Marchand were recruited by Prime Minister Lester Pearson to help derail the rising Quebec separatist movement. Later on, Pelletier would become a cabinet minister in the Trudeau government, and would eventually take the role of ambassador to France, and then ambassador to the United Nations. He was also awarded the Order of Canada.

So as you can see, he was quite a big shot.

I think it was mighty nice of him to write to me, considering his paper was on strike at the time. And yes, he did pass my letter on to the sports department, because at some point, my 8×10 glossy showed up at my house.




Michael Farber Has His Say About The Habs

This story was sent to me from Kevin Sachs at Sports Illustrated. It appears in this week’s edition of the magazine.

The yearlong celebration of the Canadiens’ centennial has hit rough ice. Bumbling stars, griping legends and an alleged felon have all played a part. By Michael Farber

In the musical finale to the celebration of the 100th season of hockey’s most self-reverential franchise, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra will leave its Place des Arts hall early next month, head a mile or so west to the Bell Centre and play a concert to celebrate the Canadiens’ grandeur. Because restraint is not in order when honoring a franchise that boasts 24 Stanley Cups, the program will include Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, although Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals might be more appropriate given the current cacophony in Montreal. ¶ During the incessant centennial tributes—coins from the Canadian mint, a closet’s worth of throwback jerseys, Patrick Roy’s sweater retirement, All-Star weekend . . . everything but greetings from Willard Scott on the Today show—life has been getting in the way. Think of the Canadiens’ centennial as a family holiday party, lovingly conceived and meticulously planned. Then Uncle Saul dips into the punch bowl early, Aunt Doris starts picking her teeth with a dessert fork, the cousins bicker and, well, it doesn’t mean the event won’t be memorable, but it hasn’t exactly all been bliss, you know?

After a 3–2 win over San Jose last Saturday, the Canadiens, who had the best record in the Eastern Conference last season, were 34-22-7 and six points out of ninth place. The I’m-unhappy-with-my-ice-time grumblings of enforcer Georges Laraque last week were practically met with a Gallic shrug after a truly wrenching stretch for the team. As Montreal closed a recent run in which it won only three of 15 games (before rebounding to win four straight), three of its players were publicly linked to a man charged with drug trafficking and conspiracy; the general manager gave his most gifted forward a two-game sabbatical; a former Canadiens Cup-winning coach said the partying of three current players was undermining their performance; and a franchise legend commemorated by one of four statues in the arena’s new Centennial Plaza ripped the team.

“With everything that was happening,” said forward Chris Higgins, one of the supposedly hard-partying players singled out by Jean Perron, coach of the 1986 champs, “it felt like the walls were caving in on us.”

At the center of the Montreal maelstrom was a pair of young wingers from Belarus, brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, and a 38-year-old man with alleged ties to organized crime. Pasquale Mangiola, arrested on Feb. 12 during Operation Axe, a multiagency investigation into street gangs, was described in Montreal’s La Presse as a resourceful man who could help procure the brothers anything they wanted. (A Montreal police source said that what was written in La Presse was accurate.) As the French-language newspaper screamed in a Feb. 20 headline, these things apparently included vodka, les femmes et voitures de luxe, implying that booze, women and tricked-out rides are bad things. The newspaper also reported that a third Canadien, Roman Hamrlik, was acquainted with Mangiola, but the 34-year-old defenseman told TV Nova in his native Czech Republic that although he had dined with Mangiola last season and provided him with tickets, he didn’t know Mangiola “was doing some bad things.” Andrei Kostitsyn, 24, and Sergei, 21, who was sent down to the team’s minor league affiliate in Hamilton just before the Mangiola story broke, have been ordered by the team not to comment, but according to La Presse they had a closer relationship with Mangiola than Hamrlik did. Mangiola, who posted bail of C$45,000 ($35,000 U.S.), has convictions for assaulting a police officer in 1997 and for possession of a stolen or forged credit card after a ’99 shopping spree that involved fine cigars and a $3,000 sheepskin coat. The NHL sent security personnel to investigate the alleged links to Mangiola, but a league source said the NHL doesn’t expect any players to be implicated in any criminal activity.

“This is disturbing for a number of reasons,” Montreal G.M. Bob Gainey said in his office last week. “You take young guys [like the Kostitsyns] under your care. You attempt to build strength and direction. . . . These guys, somebody tripped them up. I’m a little upset with the kids, but I’m more pissed off with [Mangiola]. He made a definite point of infiltrating those kids’ lives.”

Gainey had just finished dealing with another vexing Canadiens issue, the enigmatic Alex Kovalev. If the Artist, as he is called, is guilty of anything this season, it’s stealing money; the slumping $4.5 million per year right wing had 13 goals when Gainey requested that he skip back-to-back games at Washington and Pittsburgh. “I didn’t paint it as a humiliation,” Gainey says, “and he didn’t see it as humiliation.” At least once the initial shock wore off.

Kovalev, a 35-goal scorer in 2007–08, accepted the unscheduled hiatus and then, after being raucously cheered during warmups at his Feb. 21 return against the Senators, responded with an unassisted goal, two assists and some inspired work on the penalty kill in a 5–3 win. It was his first game with more than two points since Nov. 1; the goal was just his second since Montreal fans ballot-stuffed him and three teammates into the Jan. 25 All-Star Game at the Bell Centre. “I wasn’t proving anything,” said Kovalev, who after his Ottawa performance added a goal and three assists in his next three games. “I hate that word. I don’t try to prove to people that they’re wrong.”

Speaking of wrong . . . Canadiens icon Guy Lafleur was off the mark when he told the Montreal Gazette days before Kovalev’s return that Gainey’s handling of the winger was misguided. Lafleur also assailed coach Guy Carbonneau for his line juggling and added, “I don’t think this club has a team spirit.” Lafleur’s comments were surprising only because he is a paid team ambassador.

Perron hasn’t been on the payroll since being fired more than two decades ago, but he’s a regular panelist on the delectably named 110%, a nightly sports show on the French-language network TQS. On Feb. 16, well before the Mangiola news broke, Perron declared that Sergei Kostitsyn, Higgins and goalie Carey Price (box, above) had been partying to excess, damaging their play. A week later the 21?year-old Price, who has lost the starting job, told reporters, “I’m a young kid. It sucks when you try . . . [to] have a good time, and things come up and bite you.” When asked what he had learned from the experience, he said, “In the end my dad always said your sins will sort you out . . . and evidently they did.” This somewhat cryptic line might turn out be the quote of the centennial season.

Above the portraits of Montreal’s 44 Hall of Fame players in the Canadiens’ dressing room is an excerpt from John McCrae’s World War I poem, In Flanders Fields: “To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.” Nothing is mentioned about Price using the torch to light his smokes.

Photographs are now floating around the Internet—and seen by everyone in Montreal who has an e-mail address—dubbed habs en fête! Undated and without context, they show Canadiens at frat-boy play. (In one photo Price has a lit cigarette between his lips. He says the picture was taken last summer. He adds that he does not smoke.) There has been some lamenting from boys-will-be-boys apologists that the players have been Phelps-like victims of cellphone cameras, but to blame the medium is to miss the point. As former NHL player Tom Chorske recalls of his Montreal days in the early 1990s, “I don’t know if it had come from a fan, a bar owner or a taxi driver, but you’d show up at practice the next day and [then Canadiens coach] Pat Burns would say, ‘I know where you were last night.’ And he did.” The Montreal night has 1,000 eyes. Says Gainey, “People call me up and give me information.”

There is a maxim that hockey players get into trouble on the ice, not off it, which, of course, fails to give them enough credit for their incomes and ids. The Canadiens are like players anywhere, except they work in a city, and for a team, that bears the weight of hockey history. The chasm is not between the Montreal players’ partying and the acceptable standard of behavior for men with excesses of money, fame and testosterone, but between the Canadiens’ brand and incidents that rub the shine off the classy image.

Messing with the brand can be perilous. While Gainey and former Montreal G.M. Serge Savard both aver that they never made a trade strictly for off-ice reasons, players who have been viewed as nuisances have been curiously exiled, including bon-vivant star defenseman Chris Chelios, sent to Chicago 19 years ago; 2002 Hart Trophy winner José Théodore, dealt to Colorado in ’06, three seasons after a photograph of him with Hell’s Angels emerged; and boulevardier Mike Ribeiro, the center whom Gainey off-loaded to Dallas, also in ’06. Says a member of the Montreal police familiar with investigations involving Canadiens players since the 1980s, “You can’t do something that will harm the reputation of the Montreal Canadiens. They will not tolerate it, no matter how important you are to the team as a player.” Carbonneau, the coach, was traded to St. Louis in the summer of ’94 after a newspaper published a picture of him giving a middle finger to its photographer, who was shooting Carbonneau on a golf course.

“We live by a different standard, a different set of rules,” says defenseman Mike Komisarek. “We represent ourselves, but we also represent more than a million people in Quebec and 100 years of history. This is not a place where they pick up the paper the next day to see if the team won or lost. We are role models. And we owe something to all those players, teams and Stanley Cups that came before us.”

A 25th Stanley Cup in June is no longer widely anticipated, given the tortured nature of the season, but missing the playoffs in this, of all springs, would ruin the careful work done by a franchise that has always understood the importance of ceremony. To placate a passionate but increasingly restless fan base, Montreal must win at least one or two rounds to add another coat of lacquer to this shiny veneer of importance. If the Canadiens don’t, they’ll face the music.±

Three In A Row After Taking Out The Broad Street Broads

I’m not going into great detail about numbers. I’m too tired for that. It’s better to leave that to the beat writers at the Gazette and La Presse and the Philadelphia Inquirer who get paid to go into great detail. And really, the only numbers worth mentioning is the score, a Canadiens 4-3 overtime win over Philadelphia, and how this score has changed the landscape ever so slightly in the eastern division.

As we all know, Montreal has been hanging on to fifth or sixth place by the skin of their teeth lately. Any false move and they catapult themselves right out of a playoff spot. It’s that close. But this win now lets the Habs breathe short breaths instead of being choked by a giant pair of hands.

Have a look at all this breathing space. And considering how tight it’s been lately, this looks like we should almost be doing cartwheels. Montreal now has 73 points, with Florida and the Rangers miles back with a measly 70. And Buffalo and Carolina aren’t even on the same planet with a lousy 69 points. And Pittsburgh – they’re way over on the dark side of the moon with a piddly 68.

Random Notes:

When was the last time Montreal actually outshot the other team? Was it this year?

Alex Kovalev, the new Alex Kovalev, had three assists tonight.

Jaroslav Halak was great again. Without him, the team would’ve dug a hole so deep they’d be ordering chicken nuts and dumplings from a Beijing restaurant.

Mathieu Schneider scored the overtime winner. With Schneider coming in and playing so well with the team, now we know for sure just how much Mark Streit was missed.

Glen Metropolit didn’t play a lot but showed signs he’ll be a good addition. He had an early-game breakaway but didn’t score, and even came close in OT. Metropolit began the day as a Flyer and ended as a Hab. In another unusual but unrelated occurrence, years ago, Billy Reay realized he was fired as coach of the Chicago Blackhawks when Bill Wirtz had the pink slip put under Reay’s hotel room door on Christmas Eve. 

Patrice Brisebois only gave the puck away once tonight. Unfortunately, it resulted in a breakaway for Simon Gagne who promptly tied the game.

The Canadiens once again took way too many penalties. But I have to say, a lot of penalties throughout the year, for every team, have been silly, chintzy, absolutely borderline calls. Referees call the slightest thing. It’s like getting a speeding ticket for going one lousy kilometre over the speed limit. I say we take to the streets and protest against chintzy calls by the officials.

I’m going on a trip tomorrow and I’m pretty darn excited. More about that later.

Can Things Get Any Worse?

NHL investigating Habs over links to alleged drug trafficker

CBC Sports

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to Hockey Night in Canada’s Jeff Marek that the league is investigating a report in Friday’s edition of La Presse that links two Montreal Canadiens players to a man arrested in a recent sting operation.

“I can confirm we are investigating the facts,” Daly wrote in an email with Marek.

According to the Montreal newspaper, Canadiens forwards Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn allegedly made calls to 38-year-old Pasquale Mangiola requesting vodka, women and luxury cars while the players were at local restaurants and bars.

The Kostitsyns have not been accused of any criminal involvement with Mangiola, La Presse reported.

Mangiola, charged with drug trafficking, was among 55 people arrested Feb. 12. The suspects were allegedly part of a network of groups working together to traffic drugs in the Montreal and Ottawa areas.

When contacted by CBCSports.ca, Dominick Saillant, director of media relations for the Canadiens, declined any comment on the La Presse story. The Canadiens have not called a formal press conference, but have asked the media to be at the team’s practice at 2 p.m. ET.

Attempts by CBCSports.ca to contact the Montreal police were unsuccessful, but a phone message stated the department is not commenting on the anti-gang operation, called Project Axe, that led to Mangiola’s arrest, or the La Presse report.

Earlier this week, the Canadiens assigned Sergei Kostitsyn to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs. Kostitsyn, 21, has eight goals and 15 assists in 52 games for the Canadiens this season, his second in the league.