Tag Archives: Mike Bossy

Canadiens In The Zone…The Twilight Zone

twilight-zone

I was watching one of my favourite TV  shows today, The Twilight Zone.

Have you seen any of this classic series? Ventriloquist dummies coming to life, weird things at bus stations, freaky little aliens on airplane wings.  George Stroumboulopoulos wearing shoes the length of a canoe.

Anyway, today’s episode was about a hockey team that one minute was one of the best in the world and a possible favourite to go all the way, and almost at the snap of a finger froze up like they were freaky aliens on an airplane wing over the North Atlantic.

Even the Toronto Bleeding Scabs thought they might be able to leap over them in the standings. It was that bad.

Sports writers were ruthless. Fans considered jumping off bridges. Little kids cried. Bloggers tried to think about what to write.

Why did Rod Serling screw with our minds like that?

Canadiens fall 3-1 to the Washington Capitals, their sixth straight loss, their tenth in eleven games, eleven in thirteen etc. No one’s scoring except Daniel Carr. The team has just six goals in these latest six losses. Marc Bergevin is making calls about Mike Bossy.

It’s enough to send me to the fridge where the brandy is, like a thirsty zombie in The Twilight Zone.

Next – Monday in Tampa Bay, where the boys can drop televisions and drive cars into the hotel pool if they so desire. They’re rich, pampered athletes. They can do whatever they want.

And frankly, dropping TVs and drowning cars to let off steam might be exactly what they need. Christmas at home didn’t help.

50 Or More; And That Curved Stick

003

Up until this December 1964 Hockey Pictorial question was posed, just three players had ever scored 50 goals in a season – Maurice Richard in 1944-45, Bernie Geoffrion in 1960-61, and Bobby Hull during the 1961-62 season.

Who would finally score more than 50 in a season?

As you can see, five of the six players polled thought it would be Bobby Hull, while Jacques Laperriere figured Jean Beliveau would be the man.

The answer would come the following year, when yes indeed, it was Bobby Hull, who scored 54 in 65 games.

Hull would also bulge the twine 52 times in ’66-’67 and 58 in ”68-’69.

And how did the Golden Jet explain his talent for scoring? He mostly credited the introduction of the curved stick, which allowed him to blast howitzers at panic-stricken goaltenders. And although that’s a very credible explanation, it doesn’t do Hull complete justice. He was a beautiful skater, strong as an ox, and one of the greatest ever. The curved stick only added another huge element to Hull’s game.

Not long after Hull’s feats, the numbers would get out of hand. Phil Esposito would light the lamp 76 times in 1970-71, and during the 1980-81 campaign, eight players would score 50 or more, including Mike Bossy with 68 markers.

But it would be the 1981-82 season when goal scoring really blossomed, led by Wayne Gretzky, of course. Ten players cracked the 50-goal mark that year, with Gretzky notching an amazing 92 goals.

And back to the curved stick –

Andy Bathgate says it was he who was the first to use it, but it was Hull’s teammate Stan Mikita who is generally regarded as the inventor, although it came accidentally.

As explained in Bruce Dowbiggin’s book “The Stick,” Mikita’s stick cracked during practice, and he tried to break it and throw it away, but it wouldn’t snap completely. Mikita then jammed the stick into the door at the bench and it ended up looking like a boomerang.

While he waited for his trainer to get him another stick in the dressing room, which was several minutes away down the steps at the old Chicago Stadium, Mikita, out of anger, slapped a puck with the broken stick and the puck took off. He slapped another and it was the same thing. He was amazed, even at the new sound the puck made hitting the boards.

Back in the dressing room, Mikita started bending all his sticks, but they were breaking, until someone suggested making them wet first, which he did. He then left his new, curved sticks overnight, and the next day at practice he started shooting. The first shot was like a knuckler in baseball. It dropped and veered, and the next shot did all sorts of weird things too.

Bobby Hull was watching all this, and began bending his too.

Coach Billy Reay wasn’t impressed. He figured they wouldn’t be able to control their shots, and he was right. In Hull’s first game using this new banana blade, his first shot went right over the glass. In another game, Hull hit Ranger goalie Gump Worsley in the head, and when asked if he feared the curved blade, Worsley replied that he thought fans behind him were in more danger than him.

And about Andy Bathgate saying he was the first.

Bobby Hull said he always remembered Bathgate as having a bit of a curve to his sticks, even in the late ’50s, but it was Mikita who pioneered the whole idea of it. Bathgate has said that when Chicago was playing his Rangers one night, his trainer had lent Mikita one of Bathgate’s sticks (which is unusual to say the least), after the Hawk had run out of his own, and Mikita had liked the curved stick.

Mikita disagrees and talked to Bathgate about this, and in Dowbiggin’s book is quoted as saying, “I told Andy to his face that he’s – well, let’s say I talked to him about it. I might have borrowed some sticks, but I sure don’t remember any curve.”

And one final note: It was a Bathgate shot that smashed into Jacques Plante’s face, causing Plante to come back out wearing his mask for the first time during a game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rocket’s 500th

Thanks a lot to Beatnik for sending the video below.

It was Glenn Hall in nets for the Hawks who was the victim on the night the Rocket notched his 500th regular season goal, which was the first time a player had reached that milestone. I had breakfast with Hall once when he was in Powell River for the Allan Cup, and although I didn’t mention the goal, I did ask him who the greatest player ever was, hoping he’d say the Rocket. But it wasn’t to be. His answer, and I wasn’t all that surprised, was Gordie Howe. But he did mention that the Rocket scared the hell out of him close in.

Rocket’s 500th was scored on the power play on Oct. 19, 1957 when he took a pass from Jean Beliveau and blasted it home. He was 36 years old, and received a 10 minute standing ovation from the Forum crowd.

Rocket was the first to hit 500, but not the last by a long shot. He now sits 28th on a list of 42 players to have reached this magical mark and beyond, including Wayne Gretzky in first place, who managed a ridiculous 894 when all was said and done. But of the 42 players, only seven scored their 500th in less time than Rocket, who did it in 863 games. (Rocket would score 544 regular season goals before hanging up his skates).

The others who scored their 500th in less games than Rocket would be:

Wayne Gretzky, who got his 500th in just his 575th game, which is mind-boggling. Mario Lemieux made it after 605 games, Mike Bossy in game number 647, Brett Hull scored his 500th during his 741st game. Phil Esposito in his 803rd game, Jari Kurri in his 833rd match, and Bobby Hull in 861 games.

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.

The 1980-81 Gang That Didn’t Quite Shoot Straight

Below, the 1980 Habs baseball team. Even though he’s not in the photo, Maurice Richard also played on the team.

The Canadiens just couldn’t get it done in 1981, being swept by the upstart Edmonton Oilers with a skinny kid named Wayne Gretzky emerging as a freak of nature in the Oiler’s lineup. And shortly after the disappointing sweep, Montreal coach Claude Ruel resigned and was replaced by Bob Berry. (11 different coaches have followed since). It just wasn’t a rosy time for all concerned.

These were the days of the New York Islanders dynasty, with Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, Brian Trottier, Billy Smith and company winning four straight. They were good, I give the bastards that. But if you think I’m going to rave about the New York Islanders, you’ve got another thing coming.

By then, the idea of the Habs winning four-straight as they did in the late 1970’s was only a pipe dream. 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 had cracks. 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 Montreal thought they were getting. He had been a 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 Wickenheiser 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, Denis Savard had become the toast of the town in Chicago.

It would be five more years before the Canadiens would become champs, and at the time, a handful of years was unacceptable. Nowadays, my calculator can’t count how long it’s been. It’s just ridiculous. But the slump may end soon.

 

 

Islanders Outmatched In Habs 7-2 Shootout

Fans at Le Colisee in Quebec City voiced their approval in the Habs 7-2 trouncing of the New York Islanders, and these obviously must not be the same fans who threw cups and swore loudly at the Canadiens when the Nordiques were around a couple of decades ago.

They loved the Habs tonight, though, but only because they don’t have their beloved Nords.

And maybe for the Canadiens it’s not the best thing that could happen, this 7-2 romp over the New York Islanders. Maybe the Habs will forget that they played a young and inexperienced team, minus John Tavaras, and now think they’re the 1976 Canadiens, who had their way, like tonight, on most nights back then. 

This was not Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, and Brian Trottier wearing the Islanders jersey on this night that the Canadiens zipped around with abandon. Not even close. But I think it’s okay because it happens, these bad habit-forming games. It’s not automatic that the winning team will pick up bad things in a trouncing. Years ago, team would barmstom throughout the country in pre-season, playing amateur clubs and it didn’t seem to effect them then, so why should a good old-fashion blow out for the good guys be such a bad thing now? Nothing wrong with a fun night.

At least it got a few guys scoring. Benoit Pouliot finally found the twine. Lars Eller, who we expect big things from, had two. PK Subban blasted one home. Mike Cammalleri notched one. And Tomas Plekanec, who appears to be ready to set the league on fire, had two more.

It was a one-side romp, and Carey Price, although not overworked by any stretch, was solid and allowed two goals he had little chance with.

Random Notes:

That’s it for pre-season with the boys going four wins, three losses. Now it’s time to focus on October 7 when they travel to Toronto to obiterate the Leafs.

Jaroslav Spacek, in his late-game fight with some guy wearing the other jersey, looked like he bailed out before it got too serious. Or maybe he just stumbled. Regardless, Spacek looked less-than-a warrior than he should have.

Steve Shutt Or Clark Gillies. Who Would You Take?

shutt_hallnhl_g_gillies_195 

They’re both Hall of Famers, both were left wingers, they both played 14 seasons, and both come from the same era.

One was a huge, tough player with great hands, and the other was smaller with great hands.

Both were extremely important players on their teams.

Who would you pick to play left wing on your team, Clark Gillies or Steve Shutt?

Shutt, 5’11”, 180 pounds, notched 424 goals and 393 assists for 817 points in 930 games. And he had only 410 minutes in penalties. In the playoffs, Shutt had 98 points in 99 games.

Gillies, 6’3″, 210 pounds, tallied 319 goals and 378 assists for 697 points in 958 games. He was sent to the penalty box for a total of 1023 minutes. In the playoffs, Gillies had 94 points in 164 games.

Gary Lupul told me once that of all the players he played against when he was with the Canucks, it was Gillies who frightened him the most. He was as strong as a bull who could also play the finesse game – a very lethal combination. Gillies also benefitted from playing alongside Brian Trottier and Mike Bossy and grabbing rebounds from a Denis Potvin slapshot.

Shutt on the other hand didn’t scare anybody except enemy goalies. He’d been a junior superstar with the Toronto Marlies, and continued his knack for scoring when he joined the Canadiens. Many times he simply cashed in after Lafleur or Lemaire had done much of the work, but regardless, if garbage goals were easy, then everyone would be scoring. Phil Esposito was the same sort of goal scorer as Shutt. And Shutt also grabbed rebounds from Robinson, Lapointe and Savard at the point.

Both were extremely valuable players on cup-winning teams, – Gillies with the Islanders, Shutt with the Habs. Their points are similiar, their size isn’t.

Who would you take?

Are These The 12 Best From Quebec?

the-rocket-150x150

 

j-beliveau1bossyroyharveyhenriplantelafleurbourquedionnemario

Would it be wrong to suggest that the twelve best hockey players to come out of Quebec are, in no particular order, Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, Mike Bossy, Patrick Roy, Doug Harvey, Henri Richard, Jacques Plante, Guy Lafleur, Ray Bourque, Marcel Dionne, Mario Lemieux…..

 And of course, Gaston LeBois?

002

Montreal Needs This Islanders Game…..Plus…..Grade Two Was A Long Time Ago

There are thirty teams in the NHL and it’s the law of the universe that says one of those thirty teams must be in last place.

And that would be the New York Islanders, whom the Habs play Saturday night, with a record of five points in nine games. (2-6-1)

 

So Montreal absolutely needs to win this game. And hopefully they’ll look good while doing it, and Alex Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec will be a force to be reckoned with. These two need a big, breakout game.

 

The Islanders will be wearing throwback jerseys from the 1970’s, similar to the Potvin, Bossy, and Trottier era.

So they’ll be looking good when they lose.

 

Meanwhile, I found my old grade two workbook with some serious pieces of my art in it. I think I was a better artist then than I am now.

 

     

All Tom Kostopoulos Has To Do Is Just Keep Proving People Wrong.

If you had a team made up of only players like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur, and Mike Bossy, with the same type of all-stars on defence and in goal, you wouldn’t win every game. You probably wouldn’t win the Stanley Cup. All you’d be is a fancy team that’s missing something.

 You wouldn’t have the type of players who battle in corners, who scrap to protect, who check other teams’ best lines, and who add colour and blue collar work ethic and dedication and the willingness to overcome odds that they’ve been overcoming for years.

 That’s why every good team needs the plumbers. And that’s why Tom Kostopoulos is not only one of my favourite Habs, but also a key ingredient on the club.

 This is a guy who was buried in the minors, had minor success with Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, and by all accounts, was going to be just another player in a long line of players who play a few years in the bigs and then become roofers and car salesmen.

 But Kostopoulos somehow made his way into the Montreal Canadiens lineup as a free agent a year ago, and he’s fit like a glove. He’s not a star, just a fourth-liner who sometimes replaces others on other lines. He’s a grinder, a sometimes-goal scorer, a guy who defends his teammates although he’s not huge (6′ 200 lbs.), a guy who gets his nose dirty, and in his own little way, is just as important as any player on the Habs.

 I remember the reactions on Habs forums when he was signed. Krustyopoulos they called him. What was Bob Gainey thinking, they cried. Fire Gainey. Imagine, signing a minor leaguer when there were good NHL’ers to be had.

 Early in last year’s season, a Quebec TV show called 110% was aired, with hockey people like Michel Bergeron and Jean Perron, and another named Michel Beaudry, and talk started about how the Habs should be playing their French Canadian players more, like Steve Begin, and forget about Kostopoulos, who’s from Mississauga, Ontario.

Beaudry, on live TV, and to the chuckles of the others, called him Kostfuckupoulos. 

 Not only did Kostopoulos prove Beaudry wrong with his great play on the ice, but Beaudry was fired from his TV show. 

 Bob Gainey, as usual, knew what he was doing when he signed this guy. Tom Kostopoulos would help any team in the league.

He helped the Habs last year with his character, grit, the way he played hurt, and the way he went up against anybody at any time. 

 And this year, he’s going to help them go a long way.