Tag Archives: Montreal Forum

The Dream Is Dead

About this year’s Montreal Canadiens?

I don’t wanna be stick boy anymore.

My idea of doing just that for one game only, thought up when I was a kid and kept alive all these years because I’m an idiot, is now dead. This team doesn’t deserve my stick boy skills.

I don’t want to ride around as a passenger on the Zamboni or be a flag boy anymore either, regardless of the fact that these things seem to be reserved for kids.  I always thought the kid thing was unfair and a slap in the face to old bastards like me.

Molson beer sucks, although it’s neither here nor there because I’ve given up drinking. But if I still drank, it wouldn’t be Molson. If I walked in to a bar and they only served Molson, I say gimme some prune juice, it’ll do the same job.

The Bell Centre sucks too, and I wouldn’t care if it sank into one of Montreal’s medium size sinkholes. There’s no memories there, maybe just the 2010 postseason, and it happened mainly because of a Slovak goaltender named Jaroslav Halak.

The Bell rocked that spring. But so would’ve the parking lot of Mundell’s Funeral Home in Orillia if the games were played there.

I’d like to say I wouldn’t care if it burned to the ground but concrete doesn’t burn well. And I’d hate to see Jean Beliveau’s old seat get torched.

And people say, oh, the wonderful Bell Centre, soaked in atmosphere! We’re looking at an ordinary rink like all the other ordinary rinks in the league, where fans for the most part sit on their hands, empty their wallets, and put up with music so loud that people in Europe shut their windows.

Have you been to the Bell Centre? If you have, you’ve probably noticed all the old photographs lining the walls in the corridors.

Guess what, kids. Those pictures are cheap photocopies. The originals, hung with pride at the mighty Forum, were auctioned off to collectors with deep pockets. There’s even some originals left if you’re interested. Big beauties sold by Classic Auctions, ready to be hung in man caves instead of the Bell Centre where they belong.

Ownership was too freaking cheap to use the originals from the Forum. Another kick in the groin to passionate fans.

Management of course sucks. Coach Michel Therrien needs to steal a propaganda poster from a North Korean hotel, and the only thing I can think of that Marc Bergevin has done well was buy out Scott Gomez.

I was proud of Bergevin that day. But you or I could’ve bought out Scott Gomez with Molson money too, so it’s not that big a deal I guess.

And I know I’ve shown the letter below a half dozen times or so, but it’s sort of related to the story and maybe some of you haven’t seen it. So I’m just going ahead and posting it because I don’t care.

And this was centre ice at the Forum, before the league mandated that all centre ice circles have the rink name wrapped around the circle to remind us where we are in case we forget.

Forum above

Below, a smaller Montreal sinkhole.

hi-Montreal-sinkhole-852

 

 

Remembering Jim Roberts

Forum program

I’d just turned 15 and was at the Montreal Forum for a game between the Habs and New York Rangers. My first visit to the shrine a handful of years before it was renovated, after seeing so many games from my living room and on those old Molson films we’d see at banquets or at the Hall of Fame down at the CNE.

I’ve mentioned before about this trip, about how I was a bit drunk when my dad picked me up at the bus station when I came back to Orillia. But the bus was full of older guys, all with bottles, and I had no choice.

When the siren sounded to end this game in Montreal, my friend and I wandered down to rinkside to look at the big CHs at centre ice. This is what I’d wanted to do as much as see the game. Go down to ice level and be close to the logos that I had only seen on grainy television.

We also saw trainers wheel out the players’ equipment bags on carts from the corridor near the dressing room. I can picture this like it was yesterday, and at the time it was very cool. A couple of trainers and a bunch of duffle bags lives on in my memory.

Nearby I spotted Jim Roberts, the all-important defensive forward who sometimes played defence, talking to someone, so I went up and asked him to sign my program, which he did and which you can barely see in the photo of the program above, just below Jean Beliveau and Jim Neilson.

Roberts was extremely nice and chatted with me, asking where I was from and such. He had no idea how much this impressed me. So much so that I decided to start a Jim Roberts Fan Club. It would be almost like being on the team for goodness sakes. Inside the Habs inner circle. What a fantastic idea this was.

The next step was writing Red Fisher, and I told him of my plan to start a Jim Roberts Fan Club. Red wrote back, (I had this letter for years but don’t anymore), and he said he’d mention this to Roberts the first chance he got.

I never heard back. Maybe Jim Roberts was waiting for me. Maybe he waited all season for his fan club to begin. Maybe Red forgot to tell him. Regardless, soon enough I realized I couldn’t start a Jim Roberts Fan club. I had school and hockey and the British Invasion bands were invading. I didn’t have time for this.

Where was I going to get stuff to send to members? How could I afford stamps? What would I write about, other than the fact that Jim Roberts was a good player and was nice to me when I asked for his autograph?

Jim Roberts passed away on Friday from cancer at age 75. He was a key member of five Stanley Cup teams in Montreal – 1965, ’66, ”73, ’76, and ’77, and a smart and hard worker whose true value came from shutting down big guns on other teams, much like Bob Gainey and Doug Jarvis, two guys who probably learned plenty from playing alongside Jim in the 1970s, would.

He was never a huge star. But his star shone brightly for me, not only for what he did while wearing the CH, but because he was so nice to me when I was young. I’m very much saddened by his passing.

Jimmyroberts

 

 

 

The Montreal Barns

In 2013, while you were at the beach getting high and ogling the opposite sex in their skimpy bathing suits, I was getting stuck in Montreal traffic, working my way around an inner city marathon involving thousands of runners, all of whom seemed in slightly better shape than me.

I did this because I wanted to see where the old Habs barns once stood or still stand. And I’m almost sure that not one runner got squished by my tires.

First, the 3,200-seat Jubilee Arena in east-end Montreal, at the corner of St. Catherine and Malborough (now Rue Alphonse – D. Roy.)

The Canadiens played there during their first ever season, 1909-10, and again from 1917 until it burned down in 1919.

What the Jubilee looked like, inside and out –

Jubilee Arena

Jub.

And what it looks like now. Nice, if you like warehouses.

Jubilee 1

Jubilee 2

From 1910 to 1918, the Canadiens played at the Montreal Arena (or Westmount Arena as it was also called), at the corner of St. Catherine and Wood, one block west of what would become the Forum.

The place held 4,000 people seated and another 6,000 standees, and burned down in 1918, forcing the Canadiens to move back to the Jubilee for a very short period.

The Montreal Wanderers played there also, and I kind of feel for this long-gone team. After being a powerhouse in the old ECAHA and NHA, they joined the NHL in 1918 and played just four games before their barn burned down. So they called it quits permanently.

What the Montreal Arena looked like then –

Westmount Arena

And what it looks like now –

Westmount 1

Westmount 2

Next, the 6,000-seat Mount Royal Arena near the corner of Mount Royal and St. Urbain, where the Canadiens, after the Jubilee burned down, played from 1920 to 1926 . After that they would take residence (with the Maroons) in the Forum, which was built two years prior in 1924.

The Mount Royal Arena burned down in 2000.

What it looked like then –

Mount Royal Arena

And what it looks like now. A Provigo supermarket –

Mount Royal 1

The classic Montreal Forum, built and opened in 1924 –

Forum_Montreal

Forum 1

Renovations in 1968 made it look like this –

New Forum

Forum inside

And then, after the team had moved to the Molson (Bell) Centre, the beautiful Forum became this –

Forum 8

Forum 1

Forum 2

Forum corridor

Forum hall

Forum 4

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And finally, the Bell Centre, originally named the Molson Centre, which opened in 1996.

Bell

pressbox

seats

The Canadiens’ dressing room, which the tour guy said is the smallest dressing room in the league, partly because they wanted to keep it as similar as possible to the Forum dressing room. and something about moving from the Forum after the season had already started.

dressing room

Hey Ghosts, Break’s Over

Sent over by Mike McKim, this article in Grantland.com – Battling the Ghosts by Sean McIndoe, talks about the Habs/ Lightning series, the old Forum and it’s replacement the Bell Centre, along with the distance between the two barns in different ways.

McIndoe also notes the apparent absence of Forum ghosts who were suppose to pack up and move over when the old cathedral closed its doors, but seem to be taking their time. If they came at all.

Contrary to what many think, I believe the Forum ghosts did make their way over to the Bell Centre in 1996, but they’ve had so much fun reminiscing, with the hangovers never ending and good times just rolling along, and they simply haven’t gotten around to modern day Habs teams yet, except for some fine times against Boston.

And they were on the job in the 2010 playoffs, at least for a few magical rounds. But all in all, they’ve really slacked off.

I can’t blame the ghosts. They welcome old buddies almost non-stop, so they party hard and tell tall tales, and lately, with Jean and Gilles and Elmer and Dollard and coach Ruel moving upstairs, there’s way too much to do in just a short amount of time.

Guys have to come from all corners of heaven to meet at the rebuilt Toe Blake’s Tavern. Fedora’s have to be dusted off. Someone has to be in charge of cigars at the corner tobacco store. It’s been tradition to have music greet the new guys, so Benny Goodman or Sinatra or Elvis have to be rounded up and sent to Toe’s.

So much to do, and we expect them to do more? Yes we do, because we believe in a serious work ethic from our ghosts,

It’s time to get off your behinds, ghosts. The boys down below need some guidance. Morenz only took 7 years after passing before lending a helping hand. What’s going on, Rocket? What’s the holdup?

And surely Toe and Dick Sr. can get the power play in sync, although it appears they might already be working on it.

All of you. Coffee break’s over. Up and at ’em.

Toe's

 

 

 

Happiness Is A Warm Stanley Cup

From legendary Canadian political cartoonist Duncan Macpherson, who also created the 1960s overhead image of the old Montreal Forum that proved very popular when I posted it a couple of times over the years, is his painting of jubilant Habs celebrating the Stanley Cup.

I know it’s Habs because the caption that comes with the picture says so, even though the sweaters are slightly different.

This is what we need to see this coming June.

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And here’s what folks liked so much. So much so that I’ve had many inquiries about how to get a print of this and which, sadly, I have no idea.

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A Beautiful Brick

Classic Auctions founder and president Marc Juteau gave me a going away gift before I left, and it now sits in my living room, reminding me of my special time there.

I remain tremendously proud of having worked at Classic, and I’ll never forget the job and the people I worked with. What a great bunch – Marc, Frank, Sean, Gilles, Dan, Josee, Debbie, Andre, Maude, Scott, Mathieu, and Greg. They became my friends, and they’re awesome.

Marc’s gift was a brick from the original Montreal Forum, before the building was renovated in 1968, placed into a special case, and with a plaque and Certificate of Authenticity from the Montreal Canadiens. I love it so much.

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Below, photos I took of the old Forum circa 1965, when I was 14 or 15. My buddy and I had taken a bus charter from Orillia to Montreal to see the Canadiens play the Rangers, and I still remember the magical feelings I had of the city.

And of course I remember the old Forum with the pillars on each side, and where, when the game was over, we made our way down and stared at the ice until we were told to leave.

The Forum would eventually be renovated and enlarged in 1968, but this is the old barn. Maybe one of the bricks you see in these photos is the one I have now.

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And a cool whimsical illustration of inside, from my old scrapbook.

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Our Jean

Jean

It was the mid-’80s and I was at the Forum offices to pick up a team-signed Bob Gainey stick that was waiting for me, and after getting it, I went down some stairs leading out but stopped at the bottom to wrap the stick in my coat to protect the autographs.

As I was wrapping it, the door above opened, and it was Jean Beliveau of all people. He saw what I was doing and he looked startled and he hesitated, because I’m sure he thought at first glance that it could’ve been a gun.

I picked up on his reaction, explained what I was doing, and he came down and took his pen out, ready to add his name to the stick. But I was so surprised, so brain-dead, that I just kept wrapping, and he put his pen back in his pocket and walked out the door and across the street into a restaurant.

I remember watching him as he walked across the street, and thinking that I’d just had an encounter with the great Jean Beliveau. But I had startled him, didn’t want his autograph, and blew a chance to have a beautiful and possibly lengthy chat.

Regrets, I’ve had a bunch. And this one’s right up there.

Born in Trois Rivieres and raised in Victoriaville, both relatively small cities fittingly midway between Montreal and Quebec where Jean gave his heart, soul, and staggering talent to both, first with the Citadelles and Aces in the provincial capital, and then as a beloved Montreal Canadien.

And in return, whether it was Quebec for an older generation, or the Canadiens for the rest of us, we cheered, admired, and embraced him.

We were proud of our Jean Beliveau, from his playing days through to the end. So lucky to have him.  Classy, friendly, polite, and dignified. One of the greatest ever, on and off the ice, and he was a Montreal Canadien. He was ours.

When the Rocket passed away in 2000, dark clouds hung over my head for weeks and probably months. And now it’s Jean. He was 83 years old and everyone has to go at some point, but of course it’s not easy.

I grew up watching him, beginning years before it became his turn to wear the captain’s ‘C’. I saw him play in the late-1950s at Maple Leaf Gardens with my dad, and throughout the 1960s at both the Gardens and Forum. I’m proud to be able to say that. He was a hero among heroes. A king of kings.

Jean, may you continue to lead and inspire in your new home, heaven. We’ll miss you so much.

 

Phyllis’ Lousy Date

Clarence Campbell sure was a lousy date. He takes his secretary/fiancee Phyllis King to a game at the Forum just after he suspends the Rocket for the remaining 3 games of the 1954-55 regular season plus the entire playoffs for slugging a linesman, and all hell breaks loose.

Folks in Montreal weren’t happy, and it certainly wasn’t a good time for Clarence to be impressing his squeeze. Phyllis ended up with eggs and tomatoes on her coat, tear gas smoke in her eyes and  nostrils, and a couple of rubber boots and programs bouncing off her head.

Bad romance call by Clarence.

But all’s well that ends well. Phyllis and Clarence were married in November of 1955, eight months after the infamous St. Patrick’s Day Richard Riot, so obviously she forgave him for his lack of judgement.

Not the Richard judgement, the going-out-on-a-date judgement.

The following, from my collection of letters, is a rare and original Phyllis King letter from the office of her boyfriend, four years before the lousy date.

Phyllis

Here they are on their romantic date.

coverofTHN

Barn Burners

Are you feeling romantic and appreciative and looking to do something nice for your spouse?

You could do what I did. I took my wife to see the places where the Canadiens played before they made the Forum their home. It goes without saying that she was overcome with joy and appreciation.

Three rinks. And all three burned down.

First, the 3,200-seat Jubilee Arena in east-end Montreal, at the corner of St. Catherine and Malborough (now Rue Alphonse – D. Roy.)

The Canadiens played there during their first ever season, 1909-10, and again from 1917 until it burned down in 1919.

What the Jubilee looked like, inside and out –

Jubilee Arena

Jub.

And what it looks like now, from two angles –

Jubilee 1

Jubilee 2

From 1910 to 1918, the Canadiens played at the Montreal Arena (or Westmount Arena as it was also called), at the corner of St. Catherine and Wood, one block west of what would become the Forum.

The place held 4,000 people seated and another 6,000 standees, and burned down in 1918, forcing the Canadiens to move back to the Jubilee for a very short period.

The Montreal Wanderers played there also, and I kind of feel for this long-gone team. After being a powerhouse in the old ECAHA and NHA, they joined the NHL in 1918 and played just four games before their barn burned down. So they called it quits permanently.

What the Montreal Arena looked like then –

Westmount Arena

And what it looks like now –

Westmount 1

Westmount 2

And finally, the 6,000-seat Mount Royal Arena near the corner of Mount Royal and St. Urbain, where the Canadiens, after the Jubilee burned down, played from 1920 to 1926 . After that they would take residence (with the Maroons) in the Forum, which was built two years prior in 1924.

The Mount Royal Arena burned down in 2000.

What it looked like then –

Mount Royal Arena

And what it looks like now. A Provigo –

Mount Royal 1

 

Training Camp For Them And Us

So far it’s been two days at rookie camp and three at the big one with more to come. And then there were those several days last year doing the same after just moving here.

If you’re a Habs fan and a Montrealer, you may have been to many of these things over the years. I’m sure you still appreciate it greatly. You’re not a jaded bastard, are you?

It’s the kind of thing I’d never done before but had always wanted too. Now here I am checking it out on most days and getting emotional just talking about it.

Plenty of Habs fans elsewhere would also like to be in Brossard right now. I can say that with complete confidence. And those who live in the Montreal area can do it every year if they’re able to call in sick on work and school days, or aren’t forced to go to Walmart on Saturday or Sunday morning.

Is there a better way to spend a morning and early afternoon?  Drills, intrasquad games. Watching the way they fly full-tilt around the ice, reminding me that it is indeed the world’s fastest game. Sixty-four guys all wearing the CH, with the number slowly getting whittled down.

For the players it’s all business, that’s for sure. And for those who don’t ever make the big club, who end up riding buses in the minors or junior and never get to hear the roar of the crowd or be threatened by Milan Lucic, it must be an unforgettable experience anyway.

Something to be proud of and talk about forever. That time they took part in a Montreal Canadiens training camp.

Yes, I remember it well.

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