Tag Archives: Marcel Bonin

Lots To Read (If You Want)

I once phoned Hall of Famer and ex-Hab Bert Olmstead in Calgary (he was in the phone book), hoping to get him to talk about the old days with the Rocket and Stanley Cups etc. He hung up on me.

When I had my sports bar in Powell River, Frank Mahovlich and Red Storey came in while on an oldtimers tour. Frank told me the Montreal organization was so much better than the Leaf organization. We fed them a spaghetti dinner. That night, referee Storey, with a microphone, told the crowd that the spaghetti at Kane’s was the best.

I spoke to the Habs’ Jim Roberts after a game at the old Forum when I was about 13 , several years before it was renovated in 1968. He was nice to me and I decided to start a Jim Roberts fan club. I didn’t because I figured it was too much work and he wasn’t a good enough player.

I met the Rocket when he was refereeing an oldtimers game in Calgary. I told him he’d sent me a Christmas card when I was about 8 years old and he said he used to send out lots of cards but didn’t remember much at all about the old days. My sister took a picture of him, then the Rocket said he wanted me to take a picture of him with my sister.

My dad took me to a Montreal-Toronto game back in the 1950s. Somehow he corralled coach Toe Blake in the lobby and asked him to take my hockey book into the dressing room and get Doug Harvey to sign it. Blake did.

My peewee coach in Orillia, Jack Dyte, played 27 games for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1943-44 season. He had one goal and 31 penalty minutes.  He played alongside Punch Imlach for the Quebec Aces in the old Quebec Senior League and against the Rocket before Richard joined the Habs.

When I lived in Ottawa, it was well known that a somewhat down-and-out Doug Harvey was living in a railway car (which was once used by Canadian PM John Diefenbaker) at the race track across the river in Hull. And what did I do? Nothing. Didn’t go there. Didn’t bring him any smokes or a bottle. Didn’t invite him home for a turkey dinner. Nothing. It’s a big regret.

I had breakfast with HOF goalie Glenn Hall when he came to Powell River for the Allan Cup back in the late-1990s. After breakfast I drove him around the area in my Hyundai Excel.

Butch Bouchard didn’t own a pair of skates until he was 16, and just four years later he’d made the NHL.

I grew up just down the street from Rick Ley, who was a solid defenceman for the Leafs in the late 1960’s and into the ’70s. He also played for the New England Whalers in the WHA and has his sweater retired in Hartford. He then went on to a coaching career in Vancouver and Toronto. He and I would sometimes skate on an outdoor rink before school, and in the summer, during a pickup baseball game, with him pitching and me catching without a mask, the batter tipped one of Ley’s pitches and the ball knocked my front tooth out. I’ve had plastic in my mouth ever since.

In the late 1960s, Rick Ley’s older brother Ron and his buddies threatened to take me behind the pool hall and cut my long hair.

Bep Guidolin played his first NHL game in 1942 with Boston. He’s the youngest player ever to play in the league, at 16 years old.

Floyd Curry attended his first Montreal Canadiens training camp in 1940 at just 15. He didn’t make the team but it’s still quite a feat.

Bobby Orr played for the Jr. A Oshawa Generals when he was just 14.

Hall Of Fame goalie Johnny Bower didn’t play his first NHL game until he was 30 when he was called up from the minors to the NY Rangers. He played one season, then three more in the minors. After that he was traded to Toronto when he was 34 years old (maybe older). Amazingly enough, Bower played goal all those years with poor eyesight and rheumatoid arthritis.

Claire Alexander, who played defence for the Leafs in the mid 1970s, came into the league when he was 29. Before that, he was a milkman in Orillia, Ontario (my hometown).

In the early 1960s, when I was about 12, my parish priest, Monsignor Lee, was somehow connected to the Toronto Maple Leafs. I think it had to do with St. Michael’s College. At one point he took my buddy Ron Clarke and I to Peterborough to see an exhibition game between the Leafs and Chicago, and the afternoon before the game, we had dinner at the hotel with the Leafs’ brass. The players were in an adjoining room. Ron and I had dinner with the Monsignor, King Clancy, and Jim Gregory, who is now in the builder’s category of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In the 1950s, New York tough guy Lou Fontinato (who later was traded to Montreal), got into a scrap with Rocket Richard. Fontinato got Richard’s sweater off and proceeded to rip it to shreds with his skates. A few weeks later, Fontinato received a bill from the Canadiens for $38.50.

I was a milkman in Calgary for awhile and Doug Risebrough was one of my customers. His wife, who looked after the milk situation, gave me a small tip at Christmas. Risebrough played 13 years in the NHL, with both Montreal and Calgary. When he was eating his Cheerios with the milk I had faithfully delivered, he was coaching the Flames. I remember years before, in Ottawa, when the Habs played a pre-season exhibition game at the old Civic Centre, the buzz in the papers was the new promising rookie who would be playing that night in his first NHL game. That player was Doug Risebrough.

I played on the same Midget team as Dan Maloney for one game in Barrie after our Orillia team got eliminated and three of us were loaned to Barrie. I remember he was big, and a real leader even then. We were about 16. I also spent an afternoon with him hanging out and playing pool. Dan Maloney played for four teams (Chicago, LA, Detroit, and Toronto) over 11 seasons, and eventually went on to coach. He was truly a great guy and a tough bastard.

Toe Blake’s real first name was Hector. He got the name ‘Toe’ from his younger sister who pronounced the last part of Hector as toe, as in “Hectoe.”

Turk Broda, who was the Toronto Maple Leaf goalie from 1936 to 1952, had the nickname “Turk” because as a child, his neck would turn red like a turkey when he got angry. His real name is Walter.

During the time I owned my restaurant in Powell River, the Hanson Brothers (from Slapshot) came to town for a promotional thing at the arena. Afterwards, two of them, the Carlson brothers, came into my pub and at midnight, I locked the doors and drank beer and talked hockey with them until about 5AM.

When I was 12, my peewee baseball team played in a tournament in St. Catherines, Ontario. For one game, goalie great Gerry Cheevers, in his early-20s at the time, was the umpire.

When I was about 11 and at the opening of the Hockey Hall of Fame at the CNE in Toronto with my dad and sister, I asked Foster Hewitt for his autograph. He signed for me, but because he was in a deep discussion with someone, he kept my pen. I was too shy to ask him for it so my sister had to get it for me.

Howie Morenz was Toe Blake’s hero when Blake was a boy. He said he even called himself Howie. Years later, in 1937, Blake played for the Habs alongside his boyhood hero Morenz. This was the same year Morenz died from complications from a broken leg.

Toe Blake used such terrible profanity, he was barred from the Forum Billiard Hall.

In the early ’60s when I was about 13 or so, my previously mentioned buddy Ron Clarke and I went to Barrie, Ont. for an exhibition game between the AHL’s Buffalo Bisons and the Rochester Americans. We were there early and somehow got talking to the Buffalo trainer, and he let us be stickboys for the game. The team gave Ron and I sticks, although I broke mine later playing road hockey. And Don Cherry played that night for Rochester, although I only know this from the lineup sheet I still have.

Toe Blake said “Hockey has been my life. I never had the opportunity of getting one of those million dollar contracts, but hockey was worth more than a million to me in plenty of ways.”

1950s Habs grinder Marcel Bonin would at times eat glass (probably after several pops), and also wrestled a bear or two. And once, while at training camp in Victoria, BC, Bonin broke his thumb during some horseplay off the ice. He kept it a secret from Toe Blake, then during the next practice, pretended to hurt his hand on the ice and kept himself from getting into hot water with Blake. It worked.

Two NHL players who were notorious for treating rookies on their own teams badly were Steve Shutt and Dave Keon. Shutt’s reasoning was, “Hey, it happened to me so it’s gonna happen to them too.”

Jim Pappin, who won a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, lost his Cup ring years ago. But it was found several years ago in the Gulf of Mexico when a diver using an underwater metal detector came up with it.

I saw Bobby Orr twice in my home town of Orillia. Once when I was sitting in the park down by the lake, he and his wife strolled by. He had a hockey school with Mike Walton in Orillia at this time. The other was out at one of the local beverage rooms, and he and a bunch of people I knew a little, sat near us. There’s a strong chance my table drank more beer than their table.

Gary Lupul, a great ex-Canuck and a good friend of mine who passed away several years ago, introduced me to goaltender Richard Brodeur, who was in town on an oldtimers tour. Gary told Brodeur I was a Habs fan, and Brodeur said “Oh. I don’t want to talk to you.” (He was joking. I think.)

I was also introduced to the Hanson Brothers’ manager when the Hansons came to town. I held out my hand and he asked “Do you wash your hands when you take a crap?” I said of course, and it was only then that he shook my hand.

A kid I played minor hockey with for four or five years, John French, ended up getting drafted by the Montreal Canadiens and played a couple of years with the club’s farm team, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. But it was the early 1970s and extremely difficult to crack the Habs line up, so French signed with the New England Whalers of the newly-formed World Hockey Association instead. He played with Gordie Howe and another good Orillia boy, his old friend Rick Ley, who had played for the Leafs before jumping to the WHA.

The best seat I ever had at a game was in the first row at the Montreal Forum in the late-1970s, behind the net, just to the right of the goal judge.

The worst seat I ever had was at Edmonton’s Northland Coliseum for a game between the Habs and Oilers, and we were in the very first row behind the Oilers bench. John Muckler and his two assistant coaches stood right in front of us, so the only time we could see was when the play was down at either end.

Canada’s greatest pool player, Cliff Thorburn, is a long-time Habs fan.

The first two artificial rinks built in Canada were in Victoria and Vancouver.

From a documentary I learned that Russian Czar Peter the Great would often go incognito to Europe, with a shaved mustache and old hat, and from a painting of him shown in the doc wearing these,  he looks a dead ringer for deceased Russian hockey star Valeri Kharlamov.

When the Rocket was playing for the Verdun juniors in 1939, he took boxing lessons in the off-season. He became so good at it that he was entered into a Golden Gloves competition, but a damaging punch in the nose by his coach prevented him from participating.

Leaf star Darryl Sittler and his wife Wendy were staying at Paul Henderson’s house and looking after their three daughters when Henderson scored those big goals during the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series.

Team Canada had a six-hour stopover in Paris on the way to Stockholm. Goalie Ed Johnston said this about Paris: “What’s wrong is the same thing you find with all these European cities. Too many old buildings.”

While in Stockholm, a Swedish fellow at the press conference mentioned that maybe Bobby Orr, who was injured and didn’t play in the series, wasn’t as good as Russian Valeri Kharlamov. “He’s good in the NHL,” said the guy, “but in Europe he’d be only average.” A Canadian who overheard this said, “Put this down. Bobby Orr-healthy-would eat any Czech or Russian alive. And he’d spit out any Swede.”

In Moscow, the Canadians were seen coming back to their hotel at all hours of the night. While some of the boys were sitting around the lobby of the Grand Hotel, someone mentioned hearing that the Russians had put street crews with jackhammers outside the Canadian team’s windows in the early morning. “No problem,” said one player. “We won’t be in anyway.”

Coach Harry Sinden celebrated his 40th birthday while overseas. “Ten days ago I was 29,” he said.

Some Canadian fans who arrived in Moscow found out there were no tickets available for them. These included Maurice Richard, Punch Imlach, former referee-in-chief Carl Voss, and legendary wrestler Whipper Billy Watson. Those left out were given three options: they could take an all-expenses paid 10-day tour of Copenhagen; they could fly home and be refunded; or they could stay and take their chances on finding tickets. Most chose the third option.

Dennis Hull, after a tour of Moscow, gushed, “I really like the place. It reminds me of Buffalo.”

 

 

 

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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My Mom Would Send Five Dollars, And Sometimes Ten

I miss my mother so much.

When I was young she encouraged me as I embraced the Habs, and she helped me write early fan letters to the Rocket and others. She took a genuine interest in the team, and I remember how amazed she was when she learned that Marcel Bonin wrestled bears in the off-season, how she thought it was funny that Henri Richard was a leap year baby, loved that Boom Boom Geoffrion would sometimes sing on TV, and was absolutely delighted that Jacques Plante liked to knit.

As I grew older she’d listen politely when I played my Bob Dylan records for her, even though she must have chuckled later when I wasn’t looking. She’d nod and applaud when I sang the Hollies’ “Bus Stop” as I banged drum sticks on a foot stool. She cut up an old fur coat and made me a vest after we’d seen Sonny Bono on TV wearing one. She watched with me as bands would play on the Ed Sullivan Show, and she never criticized or said they looked or sounded ridiculous. She liked my long hair, loved my crazy friends, and seemed happy for me when a buddy and I sailed to England on an ocean liner when I turned 18.

But I know she worried about me when I lived on the edge, and it eats at me now that I put her through all that. She had never stopped loving me, even though I had become someone she couldn’t have been all that proud of.

Along with those letters from the Montreal Canadiens that I found recently and put on these pages, were also letters from my mom when I was hitchhiking around the country, sleeping in ditches, living dirt poor on the coast, and sowing some serious oats. She knew drugs had become a big part of my life, but she never lectured me when I’d see her, or in the letters she’d send. She worried if I was eating enough, if I was safe and happy, and that she’d recently sent money orders for five or ten dollars to help me buy food, which was a lot of money for her, and she hoped that I had gotten them.

I must have disappointed her to no end, and if only I could go back and change some things. I should’ve been a better son, there’s no denying. Another letter I found recently, from my sister, mentions that mom lived for my letters and was worried sick. So I smiled when I read my old Habs letters, and ached and welled up when I read letters from home.

I miss my mom so much, and when I’m in Orillia, I can’t visit her at the cemetery. It’s too hard. I can barely just drive by the place.

Below was my mom’s favourite Habs photo. She’d always laugh and mention how no one was paying any attention to the adults in the background because the Rocket was there. I think she saw a lot of me in those boys.

Below that is a picture of me when I was 19, which I’ve shown here before. Those were the days when my lifestyle must have kept her awake on far too many nights. I was all about a selfish me back then, and she would die a decade later, never knowing my kids or seeing that I didn’t become the bum she thought I might become. (I’m the punk in white, with the stubby beer bottle).

I just want to see her again, and if I could, I’d like to say sorry. Then I’d pull out some drum sticks and a foot stool and sing her another song. I loved my mom so much, and I know she’d smile and applaud.

 

The Boys Of Summer/Winter

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.

(Gleaned from my scrapbook).

  

 

Who Are These Baseball Players With The Hollywood Good Looks?

         

  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.

 

 

Continue reading Who Are These Baseball Players With The Hollywood Good Looks?

Holy Smokes! More Fascinating Facts! What A Blog!

Fascinating Fact #1.  It’s just what I always suspected. Patrick Roy is a moron.

Fascinating Fact #2.  In the early 1940’s the Montreal Canadiens were bringing in less fans than the senior league Montreal Royals. The Habs were averaging only about 1500 people in those days.

Fascinating Fact #3.  Guess what changed in Montreal? What caused fans to go from 1500 to 12,000 in only a few years?  Two words – The Rocket.

Fascinating Fact #4.  And guess what completed the growth of fan attendance, from 12,000 in the late 1940’s to regular sellouts at the beginning of the 1950’s. It was the signing of Quebec senior hockey hero, Jean Beliveau.  

Fascinating Fact #5.  Mickey Redmond, who played right wing for the Habs from 1967 to 1971, has been battling lung cancer since 2003. He says he’s feeling fine, thank God. Redmond was also a member of Team Canada during the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series.

Fascinating Fact #6.  Redmond was involved in a major deal halfway through the 1970-71 season when the Habs traded him to Detroit for Frank Mahovlich. Montreal also sent Guy Charron and Bill Collins, along with Redmond, to Detroit.

Fascinating Fact #7.   1950’s Habs grinder Marcel Bonin used to eat glass, and also wrestled bears. And once, while at raining camp in Victoria, BC, Bonin broke his thumb during some horseplay off the ice. He kept it a secret from Toe Blake, then during the next practice, pretended to hurt his hand on the ice and kept himself from getting into hot water with Blake. It worked.

Fascinating Fact #8.   Two NHL players who were notorious for treating rookies on their own teams badly were Steve Shutt and Dave Keon. Shutt’s reasoning was, “hey, it happened to me so it’s gonna happen to them too.” 

Fascinating Fact #9.   Jim Pappin, who won a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, lost his Cup ring years ago.  It was found last year in the Gulf of Mexico when a diver using an underwater metal detector came up with it.

Fascinating Fact #10.  This is the seventh installment of Fascinating Facts. 

Fascinating Fact #11.  Did I mention that Patrick Roy is a moron?