Tag Archives: Quebec City

Quebec City

We’re in Quebec City and it’s been terrific, with our hotel so perfectly situated we find ourselves only a couple of hundred feet from the Plains of Abraham.

When I was fourteen I spent a month with a French family in St. Hyacinthe on an English-French exchange, and my new friend and I hitchhiked to Quebec City and slept in sleeping bags on the Plains of Abraham. And now I’m back.

It’s Luci’s birthday and she and I celebrated at the greatest restaurant either of us have ever been in, called Parmesan, where joie de vivre reigned supreme, and where the staff was amazing, the food was excellent, and a singer and fellow with an accordion walked around and sang old Italian songs.

It was like being serenaded by Dean Martin and Perry Como.

We never stopped smiling and laughing for the two or three hours we were in Parmesan. Usually being in restaurants is fairly serious business.

We’ve already staked out a nearby Irish pub to watch the Habs-Rangers game tonight, after walking in and an employee showed us around and told us where the best TV viewing is.

And I hope I don’t sound like I’m boasting, but since my teens I’ve been saying exactly what Jacques Plante said in describing the nice time he had in Toronto when he played for the Leafs in the early-1970s:

“Maybe that’s been the trouble in our country; we just don’t get around and meet the neighbours in other provinces.”

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That Game was Worth At Least 75 Cents.

If I had paid a hundred bucks or so, or more, for a ticket tonight in Minnesota, I’d ask for my money back. Because even though the Canadiens won 2-1, this sad excuse for a game was a combination of sloppy play by the Habs, boring hockey by the Wild, and a never-ending amount of penalties called by the officials.

 

Imagine taking your new girlfriend on a first date to a game like this? She’d get up and leave with the hot dog vendor.

 

Montreal still hasn’t got their act together. PJ Stock was right. If they want to be a dominant team in the league, they have to start playing like one. And so far, except for the game against Toronto, they haven’t been good enough.

 

But at least they keep winning. That says something. But in my book, they haven’t looked great so far.

 

And if I could say good things about the Minnesota Wild, I could say the front office is laced with ex-1970’s Habs, starting with Doug Risebrough, the Wild’s President and GM, who I delivered milk to in Calgary when he was with the Flames and I was a door-to-door milkman.

 

Jacques Lemaire, Guy Lafleur’s centreman for most of the seventies, number 25 with the big slap shot, is the head coach and the inventor of boring coaching methods.

 

Guy Lapointe, one of the big three defencemen in the ’70’s along with Larry Robinson and Serge Savard,is the head of amateur scouting for the Wild. If you’ve read Ken Dryden’s The Game, you’ll know that Lapointe was a heck of a funny guy when he played.

 

And assistant coach Mario Tremblay. I’m not going to get into that.

 

I also don’t mind their sweater design. Reminds me of the old Quebec Aces sweater only with the colours reversed. Just plain and simple, with the round crest and laced neck. No fancy-dancy shit here.

 

Notes:

 

Young Habs’ Russian prospect Pavel Valentenko, toiling in the salt mines of Hamilton, asked the Canadiens if he could go home to visit his family. Montreal said yes, then the guy turned around and signed a three year deal with Moscow Dynamo. I suppose he had simply forgot to tell Bob Gainey that his family’s name is Moscow Dynamo.
 

 

Steve Downey has been recalled by Philadelphia. After his big scare of being sent down, maybe Downey will now be the next Lady Byng winner. What do you think?

 

Next up: The team is in Long Island Saturday to take on the New York Islanders. After that, they’ve got five freakin days off before they play the Blue Jackets the following Friday. FIVE FREAKIN DAYS! Stay out of the bars, boys. 

 

     

 

 

Looking At The Standings Because It’s Interesting

Now that the dust has sort of settled on getting the season underway, it’s a little disturbing to see the Buffalo Sabres playing so well. They have the same record as Montreal – 4 wins and a shootout loss for nine points, for goodness sakes. Even with those George Jetson jerseys.

 

The Sabres will come back down to earth shortly. I’m sure they will.

 

There’s good news, though, and the good news is that the Philadelphia Flyers, the team Steve Downey plays for, hasn’t won yet in five games. It doesn’t get much better than that!

 

The Florida Panthers are in Montreal Monday night to play the Habs. I know I say every game that the two points that night are extra important for the Canadiens,  so I’ll just say it again. These two points are extra important for the Canadiens. Gotta catch those Rangers.

 

Florida should be in Hamilton. Or Halifax, or Winnipeg, or Saskatoon, or Quebec City.

 

Why is there hockey in Miami, Florida?

 

I know there’s lots of snowbirds in Florida who are big hockey fans, but that’s not good enough. The team’s drawing only around 12,000 a game, and so now they’re giving away a pair of free tickets as long as you can show a Florida driving license. Miami people need to be at dog races and jai alai tournaments. Not hockey games.

 

Also interesting in the standings is Tampa Bay’s start. They’re winless after five games. And this with two new owners, the firing of coach John Tortorella, and the hiring of Barry Melrose. So it’s not going well for all concerned except Tortorella, who’s now providing reasonable thoughts on TSN. (Except for his prediction of who will win the Cup.)

 

Montreal sits in second place in the east with those bastard Buffalonians, with the Rangers leading with 13. But New York has played several more games than anyone else so the standings are slightly cockeyed. And there’s a handful of teams just behind Montreal and Buffalo, like New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Washington.

 

San Jose’s leading the west with St. Louis, Minnesota, and Edmonton hot on the trail. Both Edmonton and Minnesota are undefeated at 4-0.

 

And John Tortorella thinks San Jose will win the Cup.

 

 

Seeing George Chuvalo and Bobby Orr Do Their Thing, All In One Day

When I was young and not too bright, I hitchhiked across much of Canada three times. There was never any money for motels or hot meals in restaurants, only a few bucks for potato chips and cigarettes. These smelly, mosquito-bitten trips usually took about eight days or more each way.

 I was always a hitchhiker. At 14, while living with a family for a month in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec on a French-English exchange, my new buddy Normand Chaput and I stuck our thumbs out and toured a big part of the province, even camping out one night on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

 When Normand came to live with us for a month in Orillia that same summer, he and I hit the road again. And when we did, just a few hours later, only 30 miles up the road, we saw two different icons doing what they do best.

 We were let off at a gas station near Gravenhurst, where a small crowd had gathered around a makeshift boxing ring, and we had a look. We watched as a young George Chuvalo, then Canadian heavyweight boxing champ, sparred with a partner.

 There he was, the man who would twice take on Mohammed Ali, taking big-time shots to the face at a gas station parking lot.

 After the fight, Normand and I carried on to Bracebridge, to the big exhibition charity game between the Orillia Pepsi’s senior club, and the newly assembled Muskoka All-Stars. And because the Muskoka All-Stars were a bit of a stacked team with several pros on it, a young, slight, blond-haired kid was loaned to Orillia to help make the teams more equal.

 But it wasn’t equal at all. The blond-haired kid, Bobby Orr, having just completed his first season with the Oshawa Generals, was, at 16 years old, dominating the game so much, so thoroughly, he had both the fans and the other players on the ice laughing and shaking their heads in admiration. He owned the puck, skated through the older, more experienced opponents, skated back hard and broke up oncoming rushes, and controlled and dazzled. It was a major eye-opener for me, Normand, and a lot of people in the Bracebridge Arena.

 Hitchhiking with Normand was just the beginning. It seemed like wherever I went, I hitchhiked. A few years later I thumbed my way to Los Angeles after taking the train to Vancouver, and after that, at 19, began my three trips across Canada.

I don’t pick up hitchhikers now, it’s too risky. And it was probably almost as dangerous then, but I didn’t realize it. Maybe I dodged a bullet. And it was hard work, dirty, and uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

 But I got to see George Chuvalo and Bobby Orr in action, and that made the dirt and car fumes all worthwhile.