Tag Archives: Newsy Lalonde

Stevie L

From that fine part-time Orillia boy Stephen Leacock.

“In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the chance of life, and an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter…we are alive.”

Leacock was, of course, a world-renown humorist who in 1912 upset a bunch of locals after he’d made fun of the barber and undertaker and others in his book about Orillia called Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. My parents used to see his son Stephen Junior walking around town.

His beautiful Oriilia summer home, now a museum, sits on the shores of Lake Couchiching, a nice lake full of sunfish, perch and wee little bass, and where the odd time over the years someone would tell the newspaper they saw a sea serpent.

And although Stephen was originally from England, he seemed to get what hockey meant to many Canadians. He could’ve even been a Habs fan and followed the exploits of Vezina, Lalonde, Joliat, and Morenz and the boys when he was a professor and lecturer at McGill University in Montreal from 1900 to 1936.

Heck, he might have even taken a stroll to the Forum and watched the Montreal Maroons in 1934-35 when a young Toe Blake played eight games for them.

Stephen died in March of 1944,  and if he could’ve held on for another fifteen years or so, he might have seen me and my friends out on Lake Couchiching, whether it was swimming and fishing in summer or skating on the frozen lake in winter.

He might have made fun of us in a book like he did with the barber and undertaker and the rest in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. Maybe called it Sunshine Sketches of a Little Team.




Selke Pays The Program Writers

From my collection, this original accounts payable sheet is from Frank J. Selke, signed at the bottom, to various writers who had contributed stories to the Maple Leafs Gardens program in 1938.

Frank Selke, before he became the iconic GM of the Montreal Canadiens from 1946 to 1964, was an assistant and right-hand man to Conn Smythe in Toronto, from 1929 until ’46, when he moved to Montreal.

The names on this sheet are extraordinary, and when you see a payment of $40 for example, according to the Consumer Price Index, $40 in 1938 is equivalent to $642.23 today. And $25 equals $457.42.

Here they are:

Bobby Hewitson, an NHL referee from 1920 to 1934, was the very first curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and was sports editor of the now-defunct Toronto Telegram, a newspaper I delivered when I was 11 or 12. I had the final edition copy for years until my ex-wife threw it out.

Bill Grimes, legendary Boston sportswriter.

Elmer Ferguson, legendary sportswriter for the Montreal Herald and Montreal Star, which spanned 39 years. Elmer was also a radio commentator for the Montreal Maroons (1933-38) and the Canadiens (1938-67). He remains one of the greatest hockey writers of all time.

Tommy Munns, assistant sports editor of the Globe and Mail.

Victor O. Jones, sportswriter for the Boston Globe.

Ted Reeves, a true legend. Played on two Grey Cup Argos teams, and became a beloved sports writer with the Toronto Telegram and Toronto Sun. There’s even an arena named after him in Toronto. He used to write these rambling sports poems, one of which I have in an old program, and his nickname was “The Moaner.”

Fred Jackson, succeed Lou Marsh as sports editor of the Toronto Star.

Hal Straight, sports editor of the Toronto Sun, a man who taught Pierre Berton the ins-and-outs of the newpaper business.

Marc McNeil, sportswriter for the Montreal Gazette.

Bill Roche, sportswriter in Sarnia and Toronto, and hockey author.

Jim Hurley, sportswriter for the New York Daily Mirror.

Harry Scott, sports editor of the Calgary Albertan, who played two seasons for the Montreal Canadiens (1913-14, 1914-15), with Georges Vezina and Newsy Lalonde as teammates.

Please note: I couldn’t find any information about Boaxil O’Meara and John Buss. If anyone can fill me in I would appreciate it very much.

Where Were You In 1910?

This is a 1910 Canadian large cent. Pennies were bigger back then and only became the size they are now in 1920.

The Montreal Canadiens played their first hockey game on January 5, 1910 against the Cobalt Silver Kings. The team won, but only barely, squeaking out a tight 7-6 win over the Cobalters.

Maybe this penny was in the pocket of someone who was at the game! Maybe it belonged to Jack Laviolette or Didier Pitre or Newsy Lalonde! Maybe it was in the pocket of one of those scoundrel Cobalt fans.

Montreal Canadiens born in 1910 include Jack Riley, Jean Pusie, Jack McGill, Bob Gracie, and Wilf Cude, and you can be forgiven for not knowing most of these names as Riley played just 10 games in total from 1933 to 1935; Pusie played only 38 games between 1930 and ’36; McGill managed 134 games over three years – 1934 to ’37; and Bob Gracie played just 7 games in a Habs uniform in 1938, although he did rack up about 400 NHL games in total with other teams.

Wilf Cude, however, had more of a solid Habs career. He was a goaltender for the Canadiens between 1933 and 1941 and suited up for 249 regular season games with the club, managing 22 shutouts and a 2.90 goals against average.

Also born in 1910! Mother Teresa, Jacques Cousteau, and Bonnie Parker of Bonnie and Clyde fame.

I’d Have Cleghorn On My Team Anyday


I’d like to see the Steve Downie’s and Colton Orr’s of the world go head to head with Sprague Cleghorn. Bring ’em on, any of the league’s tough guys. They’d lose, and blood would be spilled.

Tiger Williams and Chris Nilan and Tie Domi would lose too. Because Sprague Cleghorn, Montreal great rushing defenseman from 1921 to 1925, was one of the meanest and nastiest players to ever play the game. Probably only a small handful of others, like Newsy Lalonde and Joe Hall, would give the guy a run for his money in the savage department.

Guys nowadays would scramble for cover if they went up against Cleghorn. He played in an era when the sport was excessively brutal, and many a player would crash into him and like magic would drop to the ice unconscious after Cleghorn had performed a deadly operation on them. Often a player might do Mr. Cleghorn wrong early in a game and Sprague would bide his time until later on, and in the end, the other guy would skate gingerly off the ice with a large and gruesome gash across his face, courtesy of our hero.

Red Dutton was quoted in Trent Frayne’s The Mad Men of Hockey, saying, “If some of the longhairs I see on the ice these days met Sprague Cleghorn, he’d shave them to the skull. Jesus he was mean. If you fell in front of Cleg he’d kick your balls off.”

King Clancy pulled the old trick of pretending to be a teammate and calling for the puck when Cleghorn was rushing, and Cleghorn fell for it. When the game ended Clancy was walking to the dressing room to the cheers of fans and heard a friendly voice saying “King.” Clancy turned and Cleghorn turned out Clancy’s lights. “Jesus did he hit me a beauty,” said King.

The Toronto St. Pats called up a tough guy, Bill Brydge, who was going to add muscle, and he gave it to Cleghorn – the knee, elbows, stick. Cleghorn didn’t pay any attention and waited. The time came and Brydge ended up with fifty stitches.

After Ace Bailey taunted Cleghorn one night about an offside, the big fellow unloaded on Bailey and down the St. Pats player went. Bailey struggled to get up and the now-aware Bill Brydge grabbed Bailey and said, “Stay down, you crazy bastard. Do you want to get killed?”

He speared, butt-ended, punctured a spleen or two, carved up faces, and pounded players over the head with his fist and stick. Scott Hartnell and Milan Lucic and these guys wouldn’t have a prayer. This was a guy who had Gordie Howe elbows and lethal stick long before Gordie Howe.

Imagine what he’d do to Dan Carcillo?

Cleghorn by all accounts possessed lots of skill, loved to take the puck end to end, and he’s a Hall of Famer, having been inducted in 1958. He was also a dapper gentleman off the ice who liked to wear fine clothes like he was dressing for the opera, and didn’t resemble at all the vicious son of a bitch he was when he had skates on.

Our man Sprague Cleghorn died at age 66 from complications after being hit by a car. He and his brother Odie, who also played for the Canadiens (1918-25), were close all their lives and after Sprague died, Odie also passed away, on the day of Sprague’s funeral.

Introducing The Coin Collection

I ‘ve carried around a certain amount of pride for much of my life – that I was one of the youngest paperboys in Orillia with one of the biggest paper routes.

Religiously, after school, I would push and ride my bike up and down hills, putting first the Toronto Telegram and later the Toronto Star and Orillia Packet and Times, between doors. I’d collect weekly payments from the stay-at-home moms and I also enjoyed that the older women took a liking to me and gave me big tips and chocolates at Christmas as a thank you.

I also developed a habit when I was a paperboy. I began to look closely at the change, and ended up with a nice little coin collection.

In 1920, as a result of people having sex in 1919, many babies were born, including Mickey Rooney and the great saxophonist Charlie Parker. Prohibition raised its ugly head that year,and it’s a sad thing indeed when we see old clips of the feds in their fedoras pouring illegal booze down drains.

My father was also born in 1920. He’ll be 90 in October.

In the news that year, Babe Ruth was sold by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees for $125,000 which must have sucked in a big way for Red Sox fans, and Canada introduced a 1% Federal sales tax.

In hockey, the Ottawa Senators beat the Seattle Metropolitans in 1919-20 to win the Stanley Cup, and in 1920-21, those same Senators won the Cup again by beating the Vancouver Millionaires.

The 1920 Montreal Canadiens iced a fairly respectable team with Newsy Lalonde, Georges Vezina, and Didier Pitre in the lineup, but they ended up third overall behind the Ottawa Senators and Toronto St. Pats and didn’t make the playoffs.

Curiously, I could only find three Montreal Canadien players born in 1920 – Jack Adams, who played just one year in the NHL in 1940-41, Marcel Dheere, a left winger who managed 16 games for the Habs in 1942-43, and the great Emile “Butch” Bouchard. (Although there seems to be some confusion with both Dheere and Bouchard, who may have been born in 1918 and 1919 respectively. My dates come from Claude Mouton’s book, The Montreal Canadiens.)

There’s A Reason Why It’s Been A Dark And Stormy Night

There’s a huge storm running rampant through British Columbia’s south coast right now, including Powell River where I am. Huge winds are knocking down trees and scattering branches and leaves on the roads. Rain is falling , the Island ferry has cancelled its sailings, the cat’s scared and won’t eat, and outside noises kept me awake most of the night. I’m hoping my roof doesn’t blow off.

This storm started sometime around 7 pm pacific, 10 eastern last night, almost to the minute when a hockey game in New York ended. I know what it means, and so do you. The Montreal hockey gods are rightly pissed off.

For whatever reason, Howie, Aurele, Doug, Toe, the Rocket and all the others chose the south coast to voice their displeasure. They’re furious at what they saw on the weekend in games against Ottawa and the Rangers. But please Howie, go easy on my roof.

“Those players aren’t  worthy of wearing the sweater,” says Howie as he smokes his pipe and keeps one eye on his great-grandkids down below. “Don’t they understand what it means to have the CH on the front for all to see? I bled those colours. Hell, I died from a broken heart when I couldn’t wear it anymore.”

“Let me *&%#%^ have a couple of $#%&*$ minutes with them,” Toe added. “They’ll wish they were back sucking on their mother’s %$#@ teats when I get through with them.”

“We used to go in to New York and show no mercy,” added the Rocket. “We had a two-goal lead before Storey would even drop the puck, because we had confidence, and we wore the sweater. It’s the sweater, tabernac. We played for the sweater. And me and Ezinicki, we’d go at it for………” “Never mind back then, Rock,” interrupted Newsy, who just came in. “We gotta do something about now. This is bullshit. These kids are supposed to be Montreal Canadiens.”

Over in the corner, Boom Boom stopped singing for a few minutes and joined in. “I knew modern-day players,” he said, “and most of them were spoiled rich kids who wanted it all handed to them on a silver platter. They’d get their agents to do their thinking for them, and tabernac, they’d just as soon play in Phoenix or Atlanta as in Montreal because it’s only about money and that’s all. Money. Merde, I didn’t mind working in the summer slinging crates onto trucks. Didn’t mind. These kids? Spoiled little pricks. Oops, sorry God.”

“So what are we gonna do, boys?” asked the Rocket. “Are we gonna sit up here and let this team rot like they have for all these years now. “Anybody?”

“I know,” piped up Jacques, who had been listening intently as he knitted socks. “Let’s start with a big storm, far away from Montreal. How bout the west coast? Then we can pick and choose as the days go by. We’ll fire asses all over place, make a big trade. get the team all riled up. But first we”l get the winds blowing on the south coast. Show we’re pissed off.”

“You’re good at that, Plante,” said Toe. “You riled me up all the time. But I like your thinking. We’ll start with the west coast %^%$@ storm, then we’ll fire asses and make some big ^&%$# trades happen. You’re smart, Jacques. Remind me again why I didn’t like you back then?”

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.


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.


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





Didier Pitre Looked Splendid Anyway

Didier Pitre, nicknamed “Cannonball,” was a huge, gentlemanly player who played defence, rover, and forward, and was the first Montreal Canadien player signed in 1909 in the National Hockey Association. Pitre’s career ended in 1923 with the newer NHL, which had formed in 1917.  He skated for awhile on a line with his old friend Jack Laviolette, who had assembled the team in the first place, and another original, Newsy Lalonde

This great photo is from the recent Sports Illustrated special edition, “The Canadiens Century” and it seems there was a slight difference back then when it came to the uniform budget. Regardless, the big fellow looked like a million bucks.


The Golden Age Of Hockey Is Never Now, Always Before

Isn’t it funny how no matter what decade we’re in, many retired players and older fans always insist that the game isn’t as good as it used to be, when they played or watched.

 It’s only natural that they feel this way. The present game, of any decade, just doesn’t have the romance it did for them. And hockey always changes, whether it’s the way players shoot, or pass, or even their size.

 Ken Dryden, when asked when he thought the golden age of hockey was, answered that it’s whenever we were young.  It is for me. The 1950’s and 1960’s were my golden hockey years. They were magic years, with road hockey, collecting cards, digging pucks out of snowbanks, outdoor rinks and frozen toes,  and a six team NHL. And I had the Rocket, Beliveau, Howe, Hull, Plante, and Sawchuk to watch.

 But for men who played in the 1930’s and ’40’s, those 1950’s and ’60’s sucked. And for the ones’s who played in the 1910’s and ’20’s, the next few decades after them simply didn’t cut it.

It’ll always be like this. Ken Dryden was right. It all depends on when you were born.

 Here’s some examples.

 Cyclone Taylor, one of hockey earliest stars, talking about the game in 1968:

“I don’t think I’d like to play the game now. I was used to going on at the start of the game and playing to the finish. I think any man between the ages of 18 and 35 who can’t play 60 minutes of hockey – well, he just doesn’t want to play, that’s all.”

 Newsy Lalonde, who signed with the Montreal Canadiens in 1910, talking hockey in 1970.

 “Never did I use the slapshot the way you see it used in the NHL now, with the curved sticks and all. With us there was no other shot to use but the wrist shot. When a man makes a slapshot today it’s more powerful than a wrist shot, but you can’t place it in the same way. The modern player just shoots the puck in the general direction of the net and that’s it. We knew where the puck was going and didn’t have to look twice.

And if you think hockey is a tough game nowadays, you have no idea what toughness is all about.”

 Bill Durnan, star goalie for the Habs from 1943 to 1950, talking about the NHL in 1969.

 “It’s a changed game, no doubt about it. Now it’s congested and half the time you don’t know how the puck went into the net. Thy just don’t have the plays we had; they simply shove the puck in the corner, then there’s a wild scramble, with three or four guys behind the bloody net. The puck comes out and somebody bangs it in. At that point, even the announcers who are supposed to know what happened start guessing.

And the players have changed, especially their attitudes, though at least until recently there were a few honest skaters left. John Ferguson, who played for the Canadiens, is an example. I was at a party with him a few years ago and somebody asked him why he was such a stinker on the ice and a nice guy off it. Ferguson replied. “When I’m on the ice, I’m at work!”

Now that’s the kind of answer we oldtimers would give.”

 Cooper Smeaton, NHL referee before and after World War 1, interviewed in the 1970’s.

 “Those were the golden days of hockey when you had fellows like Howie Morenz, Nels Stewart, and Georges Vezina. They talk about Bobby Hull’s speed, but Morenz would whip around his net like a flash and be up the ice before you could blink your eyes.

Take a goal scorer like Stewart. In today’s game he’d score 100 goals. And in the old days if a team was a man short it would stickhandle the puck until time expired. Now they just heave it down the ice. You don’t have to pay a guy $400,000 to do that.

We had a more appealing game game with lots of stickhandling and nice passing. Now it’s all speed.

But one thing remains the same though – the referees never seem to please the coaches or managers or owners. To this day, nobody is perfect.”