Tag Archives: Montreal Forum

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 15 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.

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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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Rockin’ With Claudette

You’ve got yer Zeppelin albums, yer Beatles, Stones, and Springsteen. You’ve got Dylan and Van the Man and Nirvana and the Who. You’ve got Miles Davis and Pete Seeger and the Buffalo Springfield. You’ve got U2, Metallica, Dave Van Ronk, and the Clash.

But have you got Claudette Auchu and her organ music, featuring such tunes as “It’s Impossible”, “Love Story”, “Ebb Tide”, and the always popular “Yellow Bird”?

I do!

(Claudette was the Montreal Forum organist from 1969 to 1974).

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A Kid At The Forum

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When I was about 13, I took a bus from Orillia to Montreal with a friend to see the Canadiens for my first time. It was the original Forum before it was renovated in 1968, and I remember there were pillars throughout that caused obstructed views and I remember thinking that I was glad I wasn’t sitting behind one.

I also took a picture of Toe Blake’s Tavern on Rue Ste. Catherines, which is now long gone. (The tavern, not the street.)

On the bus ride back to Orillia, older guys were passing booze around and when my dad picked me up at the bus station, I was in rough shape.

A thirteen-year old kid with a hangover.

 

While Waiting

Just a great game the other night in Boston, and of course we need more of the same from the boys on Saturday afternoon when the Lightning come to town.

Meanwhile, cleaning more stuff off my desktop.

A snapshot of Jacques Plante and his wife in the late 1970s; a vintage sweater box I noticed on a shelf at work, a neat cartoon, and a Forum program that the cartoon was in, from a Montreal Maroons/Leafs game.

Hope you don’t mind. You’re at a slightly unconventional site.

And anyway, I could go on and on about how this year’s squad can never take a night off, how they have to skate and drive hard to the net and have the puck more than the other team and give 140% like I do at work.

But I won’t, because it’s Friday. Which means it’s beer time at St. Hubert’s Chicken.

Plante

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cartoon

Forum cover

The Old Forum – Before Renovations

Folks seemed to like this illustration, which I have in my treasured Habs scrapbook, the first time I posted it back in 2009, and I think it’s worthy of another look.

There’s no Canadiens crests at centre ice for some reason, but the pillars that were there blocking people’s views can be seen just at the top of the blues. And is that Rene Lecavalier and Danny Gallivan up there in the booth telling us in French and English how the boys are doing?

This is a 1960’s artist’s rendition of the old Montreal Forum before its 1968 restoration. I think it’s quite beautiful, in a whimsical kind of way.

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And now –

Forum