Tag Archives: Montreal Royals

The Rocket And The No. 9 Thing

Recently on Hockey Night in Canada, host Ron Maclean told viewers a little story about how Maurice Richard asked to change his number from 15 to 9 during the 1942-43 season in honour of his new baby girl Hugette, who weighed in at 9 pounds.

Wikipedia also says the same thing. Along with everywhere else you look.

But the number 9 must have already held a soft spot in Rocket’s heart, because as you can see in the lineup below, he was wearing it when he was playing senior hockey, a year before he joined the big club.

Is it possible that the traditional claim from Maclean, books, and the Internet, about choosing 9 because of his baby’s weight at birth, is strictly something that took on a life of its own over the years?

Not that I want to throw cold water on the time-honoured story.

Here’s my program from the 1941-42 season in the Quebec Senior Hockey League, featuring a game between the Montreal Senior Canadiens and the Montreal Royals. Further down, the Rocket in the lineup for the Senior Canadiens, a year before he joined the Habs, and with his number 9.

Maybe he simply liked the number, and along with his 9-pound baby, convinced himself that he wouldn’t mind having it again.

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Also playing on this particular night for the Montreal Royals was Bill Durnan, who of course became a legendary goalie for the Canadiens shortly after, from 1943 to 1950, and Glen Harmon, number 12 for the senior Canadiens, who joined the Habs the following season and played for them from 1942-51.

Below, from my scrapbook, the Richard family circa 1958.

From left to right, Maurice Jr, Hugette, Lucille, dad and Suzanne, Norman (who’s my age, and whom I spoken to on the phone a couple of times), and Andre. Two others, Paul and Jean, had yet to arrive.

Elmer Kept The Big Wheels Turning

Noticed this in an old Forum program I have and I thought I’d add a few words.

Elmer retired from the Canadiens after the 1954 season and spent a couple of years as a successful coach of the Montreal Royals of the Quebec Hockey League. From there, in or around 1957, he joined Maislin Transport as a sales and public relations guy.

I’m guessing this job paid way more than what he earned as a star centre with the Habs.

Maislin Transport began in 1945 and was run by seven Maislin brothers and a brother-in-law. The company eventually closed shop in 1982 but has morphed into what is now known as Maisliner, which does most of its business in the U.S.

Elmer’s fantastic career spanned 14 years with the Canadiens, beginning in 1940, and his numbers can be seen yes, right here.

A Tough Camp – Tougher Than Most

It’s training camp in the late 1950’s. Of course it was nearly impossible to crack a spot in a lineup like this, with Hall of Famers and Stanley Cups oozing out of the woodwork, but Bill Hicke became a regular in 1959 and Ralph Backstrom the season before. But when you have a team with the Rocket and Pocket, Beliveau, Moore, Geoffrion, Harvey, Plante, Johnson, etc, there just wasn’t much room left.

All in all, the roster was basically set before anyone even stepped on the ice at training camp, and many of these players in this photo would soon depart to the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, Montreal Royals, Quebec Aces, Cleveland Barons and others.

Lagace Came Closer Than Us

Below is an original letter I bought on ebay for eighteen bucks.

It’s an invitation from Sam Pollock to Michel Lagace to attend the Quebec Aces training camp in 1962 and signed by Pollock’s secretary. I guess Sam was busy being Sam.

Lagace made the team that year, played five games and recorded one assist. That’s all I know about the guy.

Under the letter is Lagace’s stats where you’ll see he had a cup of coffee in the EPHL (Eastern Professional Hockey League) with both the Montreal Royals and Hull-Ottawa Canadiens. And although he didn’t exactly have a stellar hockey career, he accomplished more than most of us and should be proud. Don’t forget, the Canadiens and their farm system were stacked at this time.

I would have loved to have gotten a letter like this. All I’d get were phone calls from my Byer’s Bulldozers Orillia Midgets coach telling me to show up and could my dad drive some players to the game in Collingwood or Huntsville.

  Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1959-60 Montreal Royals EPHL 7 1 2 3 0
1961-62 Hull-Ottawa Canadiens EPHL 27 2 9 11 10 8 0 2 2 8
1962-63 Quebec Aces AHL 5 0 1 1 0

The Old Program Sits On A Shelf

The old program sits on a shelf in my spare room (a room I’ll show you very soon), and it’s quite a program if I do say so myself.

It’s from the 1941-42 season in the Quebec Senior Hockey League featuring a game between the Montreal Senior Canadiens and the Montreal Royals, and what’s especially unique is seeing Maurice Richard in the lineup for the Senior Canadiens, a year before he joined the Habs.

You may have heard that when the Rocket joined the Habs he was wearing number 15, but when his first child Huguette was born, weighing in at nine pounds, Rocket asked if he could change to number nine in honour of his baby girl.

But the number nine must have already had a soft spot in his heart, because as you can see, he was wearing it when he was playing senior hockey.

Also playing on this particular night for the Montreal Royals was Bill Durnan, who of course became a legendary goalie for the Canadiens shortly after, from 1943 to 1950, and Glen Harmon, number 12 for the senior Canadiens, who joined the Habs the following season and played for them from 1942-51.

Scotland, Sergei, And The Man Who Would Be Coach

Is it just me or did the Hamilton Bulldogs just leave for Scotland and now they’re back again? Was that the fastest return trip overseas in the history of overseas trips? Or is time going so fast I’ll be dead soon?

Did anyone think to bring back a souvenir from Scotland for new teammate Sergei Kostitysn? Maybe a tartan kilt, or a jar of Haggis?

Will Sergei finally wake up, mature overnight and return to the big club a changed man and ready to go? A small part of me says no.

Is Jacques Martin more of a hard-ass than we thought?

Now that Vesa Toskala has let in eight goals in Toronto’s final pre-season game, will they start Jonas ‘Monster’ Gustavsson against the Habs Thursday night, even though his total NHL experience is three pre-season periods?

Thursday’s coming fast and I want to slide this important little ditty in before things get down and dirty:

Roger Leger showed up at my door the other day. No, not the person – he’s dead and has been for 44 years; the Bee Hive photo, a hard-to-get Beehive. All it took was tremendously hard work, diligence, superior sleuthing, and 22 bucks, to secure this little ducat.

And like most of these unheralded Habs players in the Bee Hive photos, there’s a story to go along with it, because surprising enough, this guy could’ve been coach of the Habs instead of Toe Blake!

When it came time to find a replacement for Habs coach Dick Irvin in 1955, Toe Blake wasn’t everyone’s first choice. GM Frank Selke wasn’t crazy about Blake because Blake, while coaching Valleyfield in the minors, rubbed Selke the wrong way many times. For example, Blake thought the Montreal Royals always got the best home dates at the Forum. “Tell the Forum to go fuck themselves,” Blake once said, and it was this kind of attitude that Selke didn’t appreciate.

To replace Irvin, who was basically asked to step down, Selke preferred Joe Primeau, once a member of the famed Kid Line in Toronto along with Busher Jackson and Charlie Conacher. Habs owner Donat Raymond wanted ex-Hab Billy Reay. Ken Reardon, who worked in the front office, wanted Blake.

And the French press pushed for Roger Leger.

Leger was a defenceman for the Canadiens from 1946 to 1950, and a very ordinary one at that. But he had leadership skills and that’s why he was in the running to coach the Habs instead of Toe Blake.

In the end, Blake got the job of course, and won five Stanley Cups in a row. What would Leger have done? Maybe the same. After all, half the team in those days ended up in the Hall of Fame. But the dynamics certainly would have been different, and maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t have been the same team at all.

Something to think about. Roger Leger as coach of the Montreal Canadiens instead of Toe Blake.

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Is This The Team? Maybe, Maybe Not. And What About PK Subban?

It would be nice if we could look at the existing Habs lineup and go through it and examine and say, yes, that’s it, should be good. But there seems to be no sense yet in doing this, because this might not be the final team. Bob Gainey has hinted that an impact player may still be in the works, which means a trade is possible. And to get an impact player, it generally means a bundle of players would be on the move. Which means players like Tomas Plekanec, Ryan O’Byrne and the Kostitsyn’s better start (a) having a brilliant training camp, and (b) suck up to Bob a bit more.

So the lineup we see today could change in the near future.

It also seems that as impressive as young defenceman PK Subban has looked in rookie camp and before, he still won’t hit the big time. Not yet anyway. Hopefully the young fellow realizes there is no rush for Habs brass to bring him up – that there’s still fine tuning to be done, things to be worked on, and a slight maturing yet to develop.

Teams are usually in no hurry to bring up fresh-faced defencemen. They must bide their time. Terry Harper told me that he was called up to the Canadiens after being captain of the Regina Pats, and quickly learned what the press box looked like. He said he’d spend five games or so up top in the box, then be given a train ticket to Hull-Ottawa or Quebec where he’d continue to hone his craft, then called up later only to spend another five games or so in the press box before it was time to get back on another train. Or he’d watch the Habs from the box on Saturday night, then play for the Montreal Royals on Sunday. He did this for two full years before finally cracking the big team lineup.

Of course Subban may see action sooner if someone doesn’t perform to expectations and change is needed, and it would be interesting to see how how he looks. But all we can do now is wait for him to notch a minor pro year on his belt and then come out strong when he’s ready.

And of course, there’s always the thought that he could be part of a package Gainey puts together to land a big fish, which would be fodder for armchair critics for years to come.

Only time will tell when it comes to PK Subban’s NHL career, but it looks good. Looks good, indeed. As long as he’s wearing a Canadiens uniform.

Montreal’s 2009-2010 team looks like this so far. As you can see, there’s a few too many, so either being traded or sent down are the only two options for a couple of these guys.

Up front – Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, the Kostitsyn brothers, Guillaume Latendresse, Maxim Lapierre, Travis Moen, Glen Metropolit, Georges Laraque, Matt D’Agostini, Greg Stewart, and Kyle Chipchura.

On the blueline – Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik, Jaroslav Spacek, Paul Mara, Josh Gorges, Hal Gill, Ryan O’Byrne, and Yannick Weber. (And insert PK Subban just for fun.)

And last but not least – Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak

A Rocket Program Before He Became The Rocket

      

 This is a program from the Quebec Senior Hockey League, featuring a young Maurice Richard playing for the senior Canadiens, farm team to the big club. The program is dated January 25th, 1942.

Maurice (he wasn’t called the Rocket yet) had signed with the senior club the year before, for the 1940-41 season as a 19 year old, and in his two seasons there, played only 22 games because of an assortment of injuries including ankle and wrist fractures. (Because of numerous injuries in the early days, Richard was turned down trying to enlist in the Canadian army.)

 Nine months after this game-night program, Rocket signed his first contract with the Habs, on Oct. 29, 1942, and 16 games later, broke his other ankle.

 Also listed in this program is future star and captain of the Habs, goaltender Bill Durnan, with the Montreal Royals. Other players sprinkled throughout include future Habs Floyd Curry and Glen Harmon, and Jim McFadden, who later on played for Detroit and Chicago.

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?