Tag Archives: Mats Naslund

“The Hockey News” From 1988

In a box in my closet I found a few old issues of The Hockey News from 1988, and here’s a sampling of things mentioned:

“We’re so used to this against Montreal, but we’re not complaining.” – Quebec Nordique GM Maurice Filion after an apparent tying goal was waved off against Montreal Feb. 29.

Consumer crusader Ralph Nader lobbied NHL president John Ziegler in an attempt to keep ticket prices down. FANS (Fight to Advance the Nation’s Sports), a group headed by Nader, cited the average ticket price for an NHL game at $7.87, which Nader said was “the most difficult to justify of all the major sports.” (Note from me – Originally I thought this had to be a typo, so I dug through old ticket stubs and I see that it was very possible. I have a Habs-Bruins stub at the Forum that was ten bucks. And various other stubs I have from the late 1980s ranged from ten to fourteen and upwards around twenty bucks. So maybe $7.87 isn’t completely farfetched. Just seems too cheap, that’s all).

“When Borje and the other Swedes went to the NHL, took all the crap and didn’t come home in a box,” said Mats Naslund, “we all knew we had a chance to play in the NHL.”

After Steve Yzerman scored his 50th goal – against Sabre goalie Tom Barrasso – he fished the puck out of the net. Then, inexplicably, he tossed it into the crowd on his way back to the Detroit bench. “I just thought someone else might appreciate it (as a keepsake) more than me,” Yzerman said. “I have the memory of it, and I’ll never forget it. I don’t need the puck. But he was destined to get it anyway. Jacques Demers chased down the fan who caught it, and traded him another puck and a stick for it. The coach planned to have the milestone puck mounted.

“Obviously, the fans in Minnesota don’t care about the playoff race.” Boston Bruin GM Harry Sinden, after 9,591 people showed up at the Met Center to watch Montreal and Minnesota play a 2-2 tie March 14.

Joe Sakic took it right down to the wire for a photo finish that not even the Western League stewards could decide. The Swift Current centre scored four goals in his team’s last regular-season game March 19 to tie Moose Jaw’s Theoren Fleury with 160 points. The WHL has no formal tie-breaking procedure and declared Sakic and Fleury co-champions. It’s the first time in WHL history two players have tied for the scoring championship.

Originally drafted by the Sabres in 1980, Randy Cunneyworth explains his failure to stick in Buffalo rather succinctly. “Square pegs don’t fit into round holes.”

“It’s funny,” said Stephane Richer. “In the past few games it seems that everything I shoot is going in or any time I make a pass to my linemate he scores.” Richer scored on four of 10 shots in a 7-6 overtime win at Los Angeles March 5. Among the goals was the game-winner, making it 44 goals in 65 for number 44 as he helped Montreal to a league-high eight consecutive victories.

Springfield Indians (AHL) center Bruce Boudreau had his 20-game point streak snapped by Maine in a 4-2 loss Feb. 28.

Leafs suffer double-digit embarrassment – a humiliating 10-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at Maple Leaf Gardens.

September Was Canada Cup Time

 

It was always around this time, in early September, when those beautiful Canada Cups were held, when the Russians were still the enemy, when Sweden, Finland, and Czechoslovakia offered up National team excellence, and when the United States was becoming, slowly, a team to be reckoned with too.

It was when Alan Eagleson appeared to shine, demanding and getting his way about money, times, the choosing of officials, and maybe even deciding what kind of mustard and relish went on the hot dogs. He pounded desks and swore and bullied his way through five successful ventures, and as rotten a bastard as he was, he got the job done.

Sadly, it was discovered later, with the perseverence and fight of Carl Brewer and his partner Susan Foster, that these tournaments, along with the annual all-star games, were lining Eagleson’s pockets, making him a rich man beyond his wildest dreams. It was money belonging to the players, that should have been deposited into the NHL Players Association pension fund and wasn’t, and Eagleson would later be forced to set up shop in the crowbar hotel for his dastardly deeds. 

There were five Canada Cups, all in September, and each held special magic. These tournaments gave us supreme hockey, brilliant hockey, fast, back and forth, with drama and suspense, great goaltending and memorable goals, and if you were rooting for Canada, you celebrated four of the five times.

Canada won in 1976 thanks to the tournament-winning overtime goal by Darryl Sittler against Czechoslovakia. Myself and other E.B.Eddy workers in Hull, Quebec hid in the mechanic’s room where a television was stored, and we watched the final game with one eye on the TV and the other on the boss’s van that he’d drive around in. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch but we got to see much of it.

Many pick this team as possibly the best ever, and it’s easy to see why. Bobby Orr was the tournament MVP. Denis Potvin said out loud that he was as good or better than Orr in the series, and maybe he was. Larry Robinson, Bobby Hull, Bobby Clarke, Guy Lafleur and a barrel full of other stars were in the lineup. Future Hall of Famers from top to bottom. We were proud in Canada.

Russia came back with a vengeance in 1981, clobbering Canada 8-1 in the final game, and the KLM (Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov, and Sergei Makarov) dazzled and made NHL teams drool at the prospect of getting these guys signed to a contract. That would come later.

Russia also boasted the brilliant Vyacheslav Fetisov and his partner Alexei Kasatonov on the blueline. These two despised each other but played like brothers-in-arms on the ice. And regardless of how powerful this five-man unit was, the Soviets also had an ace up their sleeves – the great Vladislav Tretiak in goal, who once again gave the NHLers fits as he had in the past. Tretiak was named MVP in this 1981 series and all in all, we weren’t so proud this time.

Canada met Sweden in the finals of the 1984 edition of the Canada Cup, and won two games to nil over Mats Naslund, Hakan Loob, Kent Nilsson and company. Gretzky, Michel Goulet, Paul Coffey, Mike Bossy and the rest of the ususal suspects proved too much for the Swedes, and the Canadians redeemed themselves from the previous 1981 embarrassment.

!987 proved to be maybe the most exciting of all the tournaments, at least in my eyes, and one of the most dramatic and memorable goals ever scored happened in the final game. On September 11th, the Soviet Union beat Canada 6-5 in overtime. Two days later, in Hamilton, Canada returned the favour and beat the Soviets by the same score, 6-5, again in overtime. And in Hamilton two days after that, Wayne Gretzky charged up the ice, passed it back to an open Mario Lemieux, and again, it was a 6-5 game, only the winner came with 1:26 seconds remaining instead of going into overtime.

I was in Leningrad, Russia, (before it was changed back to St. Petersburg) when the 1991 Canada Cup was held, and it’s an odd feeling to be sitting in a Russian home watching this tournament. Out hosts often cheered wildly for Canada, but maybe they were just being nice. But it wasn’t the Russians that Canada faced in the final, it was the U.S., and although the Americans managed to go so deep for the first time, Canada swept them in two games to win it again.

I miss the days of the Canada Cup very much. It was us against them, like it was in 1972, only without the initial shock of finding out that great hockey was being played elsewhere, and it offered the added bonus of the other European powerhouses involved. The Olympics now may present the same countries going head to head, but back then, European players still weren’t household names in North America the way they are now. They were still a curiosity, a mystery, and gawddam we wanted to clobber them.

The Canada Cups were a terrific time for hockey fans around the globe. It’s just too bad Alan Eagleson walked away with most of the money.

Our Piss Pots Did More Than Their Piss Pots

In the documentary “The Boys on the Bus”, which is a fascinating look at Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers during the 1986-87 season, the Oilers are in Montreal for a game, and beforehand, coach Glen Sather goes over some blackboard strategy in the room, and then tells his players to be careful with that “little piss pot (Mats) Naslund.”

Tonight against the Flyers, maybe Jacques Martin neglected to point out to his players to be careful with that little piss pot Daniel Briere. The dangerous little man outworked and outskated both 6’4″ Paul Mara and 6’5′ Ryan O’Byrne to barge in on Carey Price and put the Flyers up 1-0. And this same little bugger created havoc all through the first period, something maybe Scott Gomez could learn from.

And what about our piss pots? Most of them finally came to life in the second, with Tomas Plekanec setting up Andre Kostitsyn, and then Max Lapierre doing a little delayed drag move and hitting Mike Cammalleri on the fly to put the good guys up 2-1. But again, nothing from Scott Gomez.

And it thrills me to no end to announce that Georges Laraque assisted on Cammalleri’s goal, which gives BGL two assists for the year and now puts him on target for 55 assists this year if he continues his blistering pace.

The third period can be summed up like this: Marc-Andre Bergeron fired home a power play goal for the insurance marker, and Scott Gomez made two great plays to other players. Unfortunately, the other players were Flyers.

And although the officials once again called a last-minute penalty to the Habs, Philly couldn’t score, which must piss off the suits at league headquarters.

A 3-1 win. It wasn’t a great game. A great game is the 1975 Canadiens-Red Army game, or any game where the Canadiens trounce the opposition by five or more goals.

Random Notes:

Is it just me or is Scott Hartnell getting more homely?

Paul Mara left with some kind of injury. Hey, what would a Habs game be without an injury?

Canadiens in Ottawa Tuesday.

100 Years Of Heroes And Dreams

001A hundred years of heroes and dreams. A hundred years of men donning the sweater and taking to the ice.  A hundred years of kids watching and reading about, dreaming and becoming. From the time Didier Pitre took a pass from Jack Laviolette and slid it over to Newsy Lalonde, little boys donned the sweater, the bleu, blanc, et rouge, and they became Pitre and Lalonde and all those who came later. kids-sweater1-150x150

From the time Georges Vezina began stopping pucks for Les Canadiens, little kids wanted to stop pucks too, on lakes and ponds and old rinks throughout, and when they wore the sweater, they made the saves with people cheering them, and for all those winter nights near their homes, they were Georges Vezina.

Like magic they became Howie Morenz and Aurele Joliat, Toe Blake and George Hainsworth. They wore the sweater on nights so cold it should be illegal, slapping old rubber balls into snowbanks, stopping cow pies on slews, deking friends and sisters and little kids on the pond. wearing the red or white sweater with the simple and beautiful CH crest sewn on front.004

They became the Rocket, and Lach, Bouchard and Harvey, and they saw the game in their dreams. Behind the skaters they were Durnan and Plante crouched by the net, and when the time came, they were the Boomer and Big Jean scoring on the power play. It unfolded at the Forum and the Olympia and Conn Smythe’s old barn and the outdoor rink frozen in winter at the baseball field. And kids heard them on the radio and saw them in black and white and shuffled their bubblegum cards, wearing the sweater and becoming anyone they wanted to be, just when they wanted to be. 003

The wore the sweater when the Pocket Rocket wouldn’t give up the puck, when the Boomer boomed, and when the Gumper kicked out his pads. They opened boxes at Christmas and there was one to put on right away, and they were Ken Dryden and Lafleur and the Big Bird. And their kids and kid brothers wore the sweater when Patrick Roy and the Little Viking, and then Kovalev and Koivu, graced the ice. Now new guard takes their place, and kids are becoming them too.

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They said goodbye to the Forum and to the Rocket and all those others who went when it was time and when it wasn’t time, and they wiped little drops of tears from their sweater. And they smiled and clapped and looked above as they watched the sweaters of their heroes raised triumphantly to the rafters.

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Now, every night, the Bell Centre is packed with young and old, still wearing the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens. It’s been a dream for a hundred years. We are Georges, Howie, the Rocket and Guy. We’re Patrick and Saku and Price and Gionta and Markov.

We wear the sweater whether we have a sweater or not, and we celebrate. 002

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The Habs In 1986 – Getting Noses Dirty, And Winning It All

It’s certain the Montreal Canadiens of 1986 weren’t a dominant team in the league, or a great team like the Habs of other years. Heck, they weren’t even as good as several other teams in these playoffs. But they won the Stanley Cup and the rest didn’t. And they did it through a blend of old, new, and a goalie who stood on his head.

Montreal’s 1986 Stanley Cup win over the Calgary Flames was the 23rd time the team had drank from the old mug, and surprising as it was for all the armchair quarterbacks and hockey experts of the world, there were actual reasons why they were able to do this drinking.

Patrick Roy standing on his head was a very good reason. The rookie won the Conn Smythe for his performance in these playoffs, and one stop in particular may just have saved the day for the Habs. Coach Jean Perron had called a timeout with the game winding down and Montreal leading 4-3, when just 30 seconds after the timeout and only 14 seconds left, Jamie Macoun thought he had it tied when he fired and waited for the red light. But Roy pulled out the most important big stop of the series to maintain the lead. “I wasn’t on the ice when Roy made that save,” grinned Bobby Smith.  “When he made it, I was on my feet yelling: ‘Roo-ah! Roo-ah!’ This smile is going to be on my face until September.”

But Roy wasn’t the only reason the Canadiens came through. It was simply an amazing and unheralded bunch.

Ryan Walter for example, who played with a half-healed broken ankle, and played like a demon. Team doctors said with astonishment that if it was the regular season, Walter wouldn’t have even skated for another three weeks. Walter later explained, “Adrenaline is an amazing healer with a Stanley Cup in sight.”

Guy Carbonneau, playing with a serious knee injury.

Chris Nilan, who sat out the last two games with a damaged ankle, said of journeymen Serge Boisvert and Steve Rooney, who had filled in, “I’m glad it gave these guys a chance to get their names on the Cup. They deserved it because they worked like hell and never opened their mouths.”

Brian Skrudland, who was knocked out cold early in the final game, put the Canadiens ahead, 2-1, for good in the second period and never missed a shift. Later, in the dressing later, he blurted out, “You don’t know how much being a part of this means to me.  Since I can remember, I’ve always cried when the Canadiens and Saskatchewan Roughriders lost.”

Gaston Gingras, a player who was made fun of in previous years because of miscues and a big shot with no control, was a big-time player in the finals, scoring three large goals. No one made jokes about Gingras after this series was over.

Craig Ludwig, a solid defenceman, with a back so bad he could hardly get out of bed in the morning.

Claude Lemieux, the target of every player in the league, losing two teeth and creating havoc and playing like a man possessed whenever he stepped on the ice.

Rick Green, who performed so well on the blueline he was considered the best defencemen in all of the 1986 series, including those from the other teams. And Green had been a scapegoat because he and Walter had come to Montreal in an unpopular trade that saw Rod Langway, Doug Jarvis, Brian Engblom and Craig Laughlin sent to Washington.

Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson, thinking their time may have passed and wondering if they would ever win another Stanley Cup – and they played big and won again. 

Coach Jean Perron saying this 1986 team was the best defensive team in Montreal history. “When you don’t have great scorers you have to be great defensively. When we hang up that banner in the Forum, it will be screaming ‘defence…defence.’ ”

And there were others who made their mark too; Mike McPhee, Smith, Mats Naslund, Lucien Deblois and Mike Lalor to name a few, and Chris Chelios in just his second full year in the NHL.

Montreal would win again in 1993 and that would be it. Until this year, when they get solid efforts from the unexpected, and Carey Price comes through like Patrick Roy did back then.

Those TSN Guys Sure Can Be Kidders Sometimes.

This came out in the Edmonton Journal, written by John MacKinnon, and it’s quite amazing. Somehow, some place, the TSN gang must have got together and dropped some acid. MacKinnon’s story is entitled…

“Habs’ Dream Team Falls Flat With Imagination Shackled”  

So, in honour of the Montreal Canadiens centenary, TSN has assembled the “Ultimate Canadiens Team,” and it’s pretty much a laugh riot.

The TV folks put Jean Beliveau at centre between Dickie Moore and Maurice Richard on the first line. Fair enough. Then things got weird.

Saku Koivu between John Ferguson and Bobby Rousseau on the second line was an odd decision, and Brian Skrudland between Andre Pronovost and Jim Roberts on the ‘energy’ line, was a stretch, no offence to those splendid gentlemen, Cup-winners all.

The checking line of Guy Carbonneau between Bob Gainey and Claude Provost is OK, if you really need a checking line on a fantasy team. But the sublime Doug Harvey partnered with Mike Komisarek as the top defensive pairing? Ted Harris and Craig Ludwig as the third duo?

Michel (Bunny) Larocque backing up the incomparable Jacques Plante in goal?

Obviously, TSN was using some sort of ghost roster format to sort through 100 years of excellence. The network tried to inject a dash of realism — a questionable measure when the point is to indulge in fantasy — by limiting the number of Hockey Hall of Famers on the team to eight.

Still, an all-time assemblage of Les Glorieux with none of Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, Howie Morenz, Aurele Joliat, Henri (Pocket Rocket) Richard, Joe Malone, Yvan Cournoyer, Newsy Lalonde, Guy Lapointe, Chris Chelios, Jacques Laperriere, Emile (Butch) Bouchard, Tom Johnson, Sprague Cleghorn, Lorne (Gump) Worsley, Frank Mahovlich, Pete Mahovlich, Georges Vezina, Bert Olmstead, Dickie Duff, George Hainsworth, Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy, Steve Shutt, J.C. Tremblay, Rod Langway, Mats Naslund and Boom-Boom Geoffrion suiting up is mighty light on glory.

So how do you get to the right answer? That’s not so easy.

In this company, 50-goal scorers Pierre Larouche and Stephane Richer, or two-time 40-goal man Mark Napier, sit far down the list.

Others who wouldn’t make the cut:

Vincent Damphousse, Kirk Muller, Bobby Smith, Hall of Famer Buddy O’Connor, who centred the Razzle Dazzle Line, on and on.

To simplify, you could go with an all-native Montrealer team and start with the Richard brothers, Geoffrion, Lemaire and Moore up front with Harvey, Savard, Bouchard and Cleghorn on the back end, and the Gumper and Jose Theodore (Hart and Vezina Trophies in 2002) in goal.

How about the entire ’59-60 team, which capped off the five-in-a-row dynasty, or the ’76-77 edition, the best of the four-straight gang of the 1970s. You wouldn’t be wrong, either way.

Selecting Fergie, Skrudland, Harris and Ludwig ahead of a busload of Hall of Famers might be a bizarre conversation starter, but sifting through the Canadiens greats is quite a discussion, no matter how you attack it. With no right answer, finally.