Tag Archives: Phil Esposito

Licked In Beantown


Done years back, when I didn’t know how to photoshop. I still don’t. It took a lot of clipping heads from gossip magazines, and not that it fits in this case, but I don’t have one like it for the Habs. I should.

So many great things to see in Montreal’s 4-0 loss to the Bruins in Boston.

There was a fine fight in the opening minute that saw Andrew Shaw deck Torey Krug with a solid right. This coming after Krug clocked Shaw on Dec. 12th, which resulted in our often brain-dead penalty taker being concussed for 15 games.

And I enjoyed referee Wes McCauley’s dramatic announcement of the fighting penalties with his mic on.

That’s about it. Everything else sucked, including this recap.

It also sucked to see happy Bruins fans. It’s just so much more heartwarming when these people look like they’re ready to jump off the John Hancock Tower.

Below, pretend it’s Shaw and Krug.

If you’re keeping track, that’s six losses in seven February games for the Canadiens. Points are slip slidin’ away. On far too many nights the gang has less than mediocre, and they’re causing me to rethink my list of passions.

My passions? Making my nose hairs look nice has jumped ahead. Teeth flossing is closing in fast. Sophia Loren and Sofia Vergara were already up there.

Carey Price allowed another four goals. It’s always either three or four goals a night now for our star goalie. Al Montoya is no worse, and he’s terrible.

Now the boys have five days off.

Michel Therrien? Maybe much more than that.

Random Notes:

After the boys’ five-day holiday where they’ll sleep in the basement and called names when they go out, they’ll host the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, which is a 2:00 puck drop (or 11 where I live).

Nathan Beaulieu, who seems to be regressing instead of progressing, was called for slashing Zdeno Chara, which was a polite way of saying he rammed his stick up into Chara’s family jewels.

Chara scored a shorthanded goal to make it 2-0 in the second period, and if you see the replay, enjoy watching Beaulieu take a nice lazy skate behind as the big fellow closed in.

The Bruins made it 3-0 on the power play, and Beaulieu should’ve been benched for the final frame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game 8 – C’mon Canada

Game eight. A game that almost didn’t happen because both sides couldn’t agree on which two referees would suit up. The Russians, of course, lobbied for both Josef Kompalla and Franz Baader, the two West Germans who heavily sucked up to the Russians, probably in search of future Olympic and World Championship gigs in which Russia held a weighty voice. Canada’s choices were a Swede, Uve Dahlberg, with their second being Czech Rudy Batja.

Thus, in the 11th hour it was decided that Kompalla and Dahlberg would handle the duties, until Dahlberg allegedly fell ill with food-poisoning. So then it became Kompalla and Batja.

However which way you slice it, the officiating situation was a mess.

And so it began, with Ken Dryden in nets after Tony Esposito had performed well two nights prior in Canada’s 4-3 win.  It was a game of wonderful and breathtaking hockey, with weirdness thrown in, including J.P. Parise blowing a fuse when he was assessed an interference call in which Kompalla waved it off and then Batja called it anyway. Parise complained, was given a ten-minute misconduct, and in a fit of rage skated to Kompalla with his stick raised, as if to chop the poor bugger’s head off. Needless to say, Parise took an early shower.

Both teams, in glorious fashion, went back and forth, with players coming close as the goalies held their ground time and time again. Phil Esposito roamed about and made the Soviets nervous. Alexander Yakushev continued to give Dryden fits, and the first period ended at two apiece, which seemed rightly so. Every inch had been fought for. JP Parise watched from the sidelines in his street clothes.

In the second, Russia took the lead, Bill White tied it, but then Russia scored two and it was 5-3 when 40 minutes had expired. Could Canada actually come back in the third period and win this? It didn’t look good. It was a two-goal Soviet lead, and a two-referee Soviet advantage. I can’t remember if I had any booze around or not, but surely I needed it.

But just two and a half minutes into the final frame, Esposito whacked one home, and at 12:56, Yvan Cournoyer tied it. A country jumping for joy, until we noticed a commotion from the penalty box area and wondered if we should be happy or not.

It turned out that the goal judge decided not to put the red light on when Cournoyer scored, prompting Alan Eagleson to freak out and be restrained by soldiers who began to lead him away, maybe to a train bound for Siberia. But Pete Mahovlich came to the rescue, others followed, and the Eagle was taken to the safety of the free world, otherwise known as the Canadian bench. But not before he got in a couple of one-finger salutes to the despicable goal judge.

Back and forth players went and the clock clicked down, which was fine with the Soviets. They had decided that they would claim victory in case of a tie, considering they had scored one more in total goals during the eight games. This couldn’t happen. We could not witness a smug, smiling and celebratory Soviet contingent, not after clawing back over a period of several games, and then having them claim victory on a technicality. A tie would be like kissing Leonid Brezhnev’s wife, or Leonid Brezhnev.

And then it happened, and maybe I should let good old Foster Hewitt take you home.

“Cournoyer has it on that wing. Here’s a shot. Henderson makes a wild stab for it and fell. Here’s another shot, right in front. THEY SCORE! HENDERSON HAS SCORED FOR CANADA!”

Yes he did, with 34 seconds remaining. And a nation rejoiced.

Game 6 – They Needed To Win

Part 10

And win they did, 3-2, with absolutely no help from German officials Franz Baader and Josef Kompalla , who seemed to love the idea of sending a parade of Canadians to the sin bin and were living proof that when it came to refereeing hockey games, Germany made great cars.

No matter. Team Canada allowed a Soviet goal, then scored three in a minute and a half to take control in all aspects. Even Ken Dryden played well and finally beat his nemesis Soviets for the first time since facing them years before as an amateur.

This game had finally given us a glimmer of hope. The team played with poise and passion, they came together and played like they knew they could, and Paul Henderson, in the series of his life, scored the winner on a long slap shot that surprised everyone from Vladivostok to Victoria.

One particular incident on this night must be mentioned. It was time to stop Valeri Kharlamov, and John Ferguson provided an ugly-yet-brutally effective solution. “I think he needs a tap on the ankle,” Fergy told Bobby Clarke, and Clarke proceeded to chop and crack the Soviet star’s ankle, rendering the Soviet star useless and out of the series until game eight, where he looked absolutely non-Kharlamovian. Not one of Team Canada’s finest moments, but at this point, it was win-at-all-costs, which I understand. Although this tactic underlined what many at home and abroad had screamed loud and hard about – that the Canadians were thugs and weren’t playing the game the way it should be played.

Of course, no one mentioned the Swedes’ stick work and diving in Stockholm, or the Soviets’ exaggerated theatrics and their own particular brand of whining. And critics made no heed of the off-ice nonsense regarding Canada’s steaks and cokes going missing, and phone calls in the middle of the night to their hotel rooms with no one on the other end. Frank Mahovlich became so unnerved by the fact that his room might be bugged that he checked under the carpet and discovered what he thought was a KGB bug. The Big M then unscrewed it and promptly heard a loud crash as he realized he’d unscrewed a ceiling light from the room below.

The series had transformed into a bizarre, stressful, and unreal game of cat and mouse, but most importantly for Team Canada and the nation behind them, the Soviets were beginning to show some important cracks. Team Canada felt this thing was far from over, and Phil Esposito, as focused now as any man could be, was leading the charge like no other could. Years later, Espo would even say that he wasn’t a violent man but he would have killed to win if it had come down to that.

Below, Bobby Clarke, Bill White, and Tony Esposito see the sights of Moscow with their wives, while John Ferguson inspects some Red Army soldiers.

A Deep Hole Dug In Moscow Opener

Part 9

The cameras panned the Palace of Sports at Luzhniki in Moscow, where fans, the majority men and soldiers, stared hard at the ice and at the long-haired Canadian players swooping around. What were these fans thinking about these foreigners? They saw the long hair, they saw Esposito and others they recognized. They would scan the stadium, watching the Canadian fans whooping and hollering, and they must have wondered.

Of course they were curious, because in 1972, long before perestroika and glasnost (restructuring and openness), this was a novelty of the first degree. Westerners live and in colour, something not often seen in their closed country, and names they knew only slightly glided around the ice below. To have seen NHL games in their homes meant sporatic action on television, with announcers who droned on, in the middle of the night broken up periodically by agriculture commercials and speeches from Leonid Brezhnev and other stonefaced leaders from the Politburo. The Russians definitely didn’t have Hockey Night in Canada, Sportsnet, or TSN going for them back then.

Opening night, game five in Moscow meant serious business. At this point, three Canadian players had decided to go home. Vic Hadfield, told he probably wouldn’t see any action in Moscow, felt he should be preparing for the NHL season with his Ranger teammates. Jocelyn Guevremont’s wife, who had come along with her husband on the trip, fell ill and needed to enter a hospital back home. And Rick Martin said he felt pressure from Sabres boss Punch Imlach to return and be with his Buffalo teammates. Gilbert Perreault would do the same shortly after.

Canada had won just once in Canada, and to lose again meant having to win the final three, which seemed as remote a possibility as seeing Lenin scratch himself in his Tomb at Red Square. It would take a miracle, even if Canada could somehow pull it out on this night and narrow the gap.

During the opening festivities on this night, young Russian ladies skated out with flowers, and as one came near Phil Esposito, a petal fell off the stem and floated to the ice. When Espo was introduced, he stepped on the petal and fell flat on his rear end, to the smiles and laughter of the crowd and both teams. He did an exaggerated bow, seemed to be fine about the whole thing, and maybe we were more embarrassed than he was. Regardless, to show the high esteem the Soviet players held for our captain, Vladislav Tretiak would say years later that Espo did this on purpose to lighten things up for his tense teammates. It might have worked, but it certainly wasn’t on purpose. (see video below).

Maybe it was the 3000 Canadian fans cheering and blowing their horns and making such wonderful noise, but Team Canada came out with bounce, and late in the first period, J.P. Parise (father of Zach), converted on a Gilbert Perreault pass and Canada found themselves in the lead. At home we cheered, but we needed more. We’d seen in the past that leads can evaporate quickly against this Machine.

Early in the second period, Bobby Clarke shoved one past Tretiak, and the 3000 Canadians at Luzhnicki and 15 million back home cheered again. We liked what we were seeing, and we liked it even more when Paul Henderson made it a lovely 3-0 lead. Take that, you Russians.

It was heady times going into the third period. It would be such a beautiful win, a win for NHL and western hockey superiority, and a narrowing of the gap. Unsmiling Russian fans would be impressed by the NHLers. Soviet players might get nervous. It was perfect.

But Yuri Blinov scored and suddenly we weren’t so giddy. But although Henderson once again gave us a three-goal lead to allow us to breathe again, Ken Dryden mentioned later that, “We played stupidly. Instead of continuing the forechecking tactics that had worked so well in the first two periods, we stayed back and let the Russians take the puck to us.”

Anisin beat Tony Esposito to narrow the gap to 4-2, and then, just eight seconds later, Shadrin scored and it became 4-3. At this point, we needed a pill. Maybe some Anisin. And maybe we needed something much stronger than Anisin when Alexander Gusev’s shot was tipped by a Canadian player over the shoulder of Esposito, and the game was tied with still nine minutes remaining. The Soviets then won the damn thing when  Vladimir Vikulov scored the winner.

5-4 Russia. We were perfectly aware of what this meant. A miracle would be needed, and we weren’t so sure it would happen. But something extremely important had transpired during this game five loss. Canada seemed in better shape and showed more drive. They had outplayed the Soviets before things collapsed in the third period, and they seemed to have found a way to hogtie the enemy with furious forechecking. Team Canada knew, even in losing, that they weren’t out of it yet.

The Canadians were beginning to feel better about themselves, but they were in a deep hole.

Uproar In Game Four

I think it was after this game that my father began cheering for the Russians, which pissed me off to no end. But I can see why, I guess. He also can’t stomach Alan Eagleson, whom he thinks is equal parts son-of-a-bitch, P.T. Barnum, and arrogant bullshit. He’s probably right.

Team Canada not only lost the final game in Canada by a score of 5-3, but they lost in boorish and undisciplined fashion, and many people, including my dad, are fed up with what is transpiring. Bill Goldsworthy, who seemed to have lost his mind, sat in the penalty box while the Russians scored twice. Frank  Mahovlich sat on Tretiak and wouldn’t let him up for about 30 seconds. It was frustration bursting at the seams, from both the Canadian players and the fans, and the Vancouverites showed no patience whatsoever.

So much for that laid-back West Coast.

The Vancouver crowd booed and jeered lustily, showing in angry, deafening fashion that they weren’t one bit crazy about the roughhousing of such a beautifully disciplined Soviet team that just wanted to play hockey. The crowd was frustrated at their team’s inability to display much of anything, although there was one moment to cheer about when Gilbert Perreault danced in in classic style and banked one off a Soviet player and in behind Tretiak. But overall, Vancouver was such a low point, to say the least. That damn Tretiak is sensational and simply killing us, and possibly our guys are now psyched out so much they may never recover in time to make at least a half-decent showing in the remaining four games.

Canadian hockey has just taken another major hit, maybe even more so than game one.

It was a nasty night. Canada’s record at home stands at one win, two losses, and a tie. Life sucks. And then Phil Esposito came out after the game and reminded everyone it wasn’t all that great for him and the boys either, which you can see in the video below. Later on, Frank Mahovlich, in Ken Dryden’s book Face-Off At The Summit, would mention that “after the seeing what the Russians did to to us at our game in Canada, I’m afraid nothing in sports is sacred anymore. If someone gives them a football they’ll beat the Dallas Cowboys and win the Super Bowl in two years.”

Now it’s on to Moscow for four games. It’ll be good for the team to get out of Dodge, especially after realizing that many Canadian fans aren’t admiring them so much right now. It’s going to take some kind of serious miracle to pull this one out, even to look somewhat respectable.

Below, cuff links and tie clip, presented to Canadian players from C.C.M., one of the many sponsors of the tournament.

Woes In Winnipeg ’72

Part 5

We had them. And then we didn’t.

There were such high hopes coming off the big game two win in Toronto, and more of the same was expected in Winnipeg, now that the boys had rid themselves of their cobwebs and decided to get down to business. But as depressing as can be, Team Canada just kept blowing leads like 3-1 and 4-2 and let a major win slip away, with the game ending in a 4-4 tie.

The Soviet Kid Line of Viacheslav Anisin, Alexander Bodunov, and Yuri Lebedev, in their first appearance in the series, accounted for five points, and Kharlamov was once again inserting daggers into all of Canada, with tonight a gorgeous shorthanded goal when he burst in alone on Tony Esposito, who was making his second straight start after playing so well in Toronto.

Added to the dismal atmosphere was the fact that Winnipeg wasn’t all that stirred up by the big show. Former Black Hawk superstar Bobby Hull, who had bolted to the WHA and was now playing for the Jets, wasn’t allowed to play for Team Canada because he was such a big, bad traitor, and many in Winnipeg felt the team should’ve been called Team NHL, not Team Canada. It also doesn’t take much to imagine how Hull would have helped.

Just not a great night overall, and it hurts that we blew these leads. Two victories and we’re rolling, but it not to be. We’re stuck with one measly win, a loss, and a tie so far, and the uphill climb is getting steeper.

Now it’s onward to Vancouver, where Phil Esposito gives us shit.

Readying For Game One

Game 1 in Montreal and I’ve traded shifts with another bartender so I can watch without distractions. There’s no way I want to see this on the TV in the bar. Too much noise, too many distractions, too busy. I just want the solitude of my little apartment, where I can watch the game in peace and not have to serve a bunch of liquored-up car salesmen.

I can’t wait for the rest of the world to see how powerful we are at hockey. Maybe I’ll get a pizza. And I’m turning the phone off.

(I’d also like to mention that all of the memorabilia you’ll see in this series belongs to me.)

Jean and His Buddies

Below, a photo that was once part of Jean Beliveau’s personal collection, and which now sits in my home in Powell River.

It’s Jean in the stands at Luzhniki in Moscow in 1972, flanked by two Soviet stars, the legendary Valeri Kharlamov and lesser-known Vladimir Vikulov.

Vikulov was no slouch, having been the leading scorer in the 1972 Soviet Championship League (34 goals), and was a pivotal guy with numerous medal-winning Russian squads back in the day.

He was the one who took the ceremonial faceoff against Phil Esposito before game one of the Summit Series in Montreal.

When I was in Russia years ago I was told that Vikulov was going through hard times after retiring from hockey, which is sad but not all that surprising.  Only a few from that legendary 1972 squad, guys like Mikhailov, Tretiak, Yakushev and a handful of others, did well over the years and enjoyed fine lifestyles, while many struggled in their personal lives in the years that followed.

This skilled right winger, who played in six of the eight Summit games, notching two goals and one assist, and who also played in the 1976 Canada Cup, died in August of 2013.

Habs Handled

Canadiens lose 4-1 to the visiting Boston Bruins and maybe the right thing for Marc Bergevin to do is hold a seminar for the boys and invite Mike Bossy, Steve Shutt, Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito and as many others that can be rounded up on short notice to explain how to get the puck over the goal line.

Seven goals scored in five games. Joe Malone once scored seven himself in one game.

And no matter that Peter Budaj didn’t stand on his head and happened to allow a couple of weak ones. The fact remains that he’s getting absolutely no help from his guys at the other end.

That’s four losses in five games. You’re trying our patience, team. You can stop the nonsense any time now.

The Canadiens dominated the first period, outshooting the Bruins 13-6, with breakaways by Max and Alex Galchenyuk and lots of good chances on two power plays.

But alas, no goals.

And the beginning of the end came in the second period when Jarred Tinordi got tangled up with the puck at the side of the net, and the Bruins popped their first of four on the night.

Of course the Canadiens had a chance to regroup when yet another breakaway cropped up, this one by Plekanec, but once again, a good chance squandered.

And suddenly, before you could say #*&%@#, it was 3-0 when the middle frame came to a close.

Not much else to mention. The third period saw another Bruins goal, and then DD banged one home during a scramble in the crease and all that meant was that Thomas Vanek, who was given an assist, finally got a point for his new team.

Random Notes:

Canadiens outshot the Bruins 36-32.

Next up – Saturday, when the Senators pay a visit. Hopefully that goal-scoring seminar can be arranged before then.