Tag Archives: Quebec Nordiques

Old And New Quebec Barns

We’re back from Quebec City where we had such a fine and outstanding time. A trip we’ll remember with great fondness.

Although when we were leaving Quebec it was minus-1 with snow and two hours south in Montreal it was plus-12 and sunny.

Below, the Colisee, scene of many a Jean Beliveau triumph with the Aces and Guy Lafleur with the Remparts, and the annual International Peewee Tournament held each February where 11 and 12-year olds sometimes play in front of more than 10,000 fans.

And of course the intense and often vicious Habs-Nordiques rivalry that existed from 1979 to ’95.

The unfinished building next door is the New Colisee, or Quebecor Arena, or whatever it’s going to be called, being built for a possible NHL team coming back in the near future. This place will hold 18,482 while the Colisee seats 15,176.

Coliseeue

Colisee Time

Habs at Le Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City to beat the Hurricanes.

There’s probably still a lot of Quebecers who aren’t crazy about the Habs after those Nordiques years. Or maybe it started when the Canadiens took Jean Beliveau from them.

We need a win and a good showing from the bleu, blanc et rouge tonight to impress these passionate fans in the provincial capital. And impress the rest of us too.

Colisee

John Kordic Fought To Play

kordic

John Kordic, as you know, was a rough and tough enforcer for the Habs in the latter part of the 1980s, and would eventually die at just 27 years old from a drug overdose and a scuffle with nine police at a motel in the Quebec City suburb of L’Ancienne-Lorette.

A violent ending to a man who earned his living by being violent.

We’ve seen issues before with guys whose roles it was to mainly fight, such as Derek Boogaard, and Kordic, like Boogaard, had issues.

My banker was a friend of Kordic’s in Edmonton, from childhood through to adulthood, and he said that although Kordic had a dad who pushed him hard and always expected more, the real problems didn’t begin until Kordic made the NHL. Kordic admitted that it started when the Habs would go on road trips to Los Angeles, where parties and drugs can crop up at the snap of a finger, especially for young, rich, and famous athletes.

So unfortunately, it began with the Habs. My question is, how do Kings players avoid this type of thing?

Ultimately, Kordic became addicted to cocaine, and in the link I provide at the bottom of this page, Kordic revealed that cocaine was in use with some of the Habs back then, and if it’s true, it’s tremendously disturbing.

Kordic wasn’t blessed with an abundance of hockey talent, although he enjoyed a decent junior career, beginning as a defenceman in junior in Portland before switching to forward as the years went by, but the need for fighters, or goons, in the NHL, became his ticket to fame and fortune.

It also became crystal clear that if he wanted to stay gainfully employed in the bigs, he needed to be as strong and as fast as he possibly could, and so the pressure was on. Which meant drugs like cocaine to ease the mind, and steroids to thicken the muscles.

Kordic would come home to Edmonton in the off-season with stretch marks on his neck from steroid-induced rapid muscle growth.

I was told that Kordic drove a Corvette when he came back home to Edmonton, and when he would leave, he simply gave the keys to his buddies and they bombed around the city in the flashy car. Kordic also had no sense of money responsibilities, and would ask to borrow cash from his friends even though he earned so much more than them. “Really John?” they would ask, but that was the way it was.

Kordic won a Stanley Cup with the Habs in 1986, and also toiled for the Leafs, Capitals, and Nordiques during his rocky and violent career. He once told my banker that it was great when he was with Toronto because it meant he, “didn’t have to backcheck, or forecheck, he just had to cash cheques.

In the end, it all got away from him, and a man described as just a truly nice guy and a great friend to many, let it get the best of him.

An excellent and somewhat disturbing 1992 Sports Illustrated story about John Kordic and be seen here Death of a Goon.

Below, Kordic and Torrie Robertson go at it.

 

 

England’s Eve

It turns out that Eve Pearce, who wrote a guest post a few weeks back, is British and lives in England. I didn’t know this until recently. I wonder if she (a) likes the Beatles, (b) eats bangers and mash, (c) realizes she drives on the wrong side of the road, (d) has been to a Buckingham Palace garden party, and (e) knows Blue Bayou.

The last story Eve wrote focused on hockey and its European beginnings. Today she talks about hockey in the U.K. and a couple of guys from there who did well in the N.H.L.

Here’s Eve:

Britain, NHL and the Next Generation

Britain isn’t exactly famous for producing top quality Ice Hockey players. Lack of government funding and a meagre climate are both plausible reasons why a distinct ice hockey culture hasn’t flourished within the borders of the UK. Despite a lack of financial infrastructure and a somewhat chequered history, domestic leagues in Britain still exist with the Elite Ice Hockey League leading the way as the highest level of competition in the UK. The league comprises of ten teams, with representatives from all four home nations – surprisingly the only league in any sport to do so. Nevertheless, most players from Britain want a shot at the big time, the NHL. The glitz, glamour and those machismo tendencies make it a very popular spectator sport for Americans and Canadians alike.

45 players from Britain have played in the NHL. The figure may seem surprisingly high for some, but the league dates back to 1917-18 when it was first conceived in Montreal, Canada. Of those 45 players, 19 are English, 19 Scottish, 4 Northern Irish and 3 Welsh. The most coveted players are Steve Thomas and Owen Nolan, who both played over 1,000 games in the NHL. These Britons were important players of the modern era, both finishing their careers in the 21st century. There are, however, no British born players currently participating in NHL, so these two players will be the main focus of this article.

Steve Thomas

Thomas started his NHL career in 1984-85 season after joining the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent from the Markham Waxers where he made a name for himself after scoring 51 goals in the 83-84 season. He proved to be an astute bit of business by the Leafs, as he became a bona-fide goal scorer in the NHL with nine 20-goal seasons to his credit.

Born in Stockport, England, Thomas was actually raised in Markham, Ontario, Canada and so qualified for the Canadian national team. Although he never qualified for the national team, his domestic career was anything but a failure. After scoring 35 goals in the 86-87 season, he helped Toronto reach the 2nd round of the playoffs and then moved to Chicago to take the next step in his career.

Unfortunately, the talented sniper failed to make an impression with the Hawks following an extended period on the sidelines with several injuries. Eventually he did find success in the 1989-90 season where he scored 40 goals for the Hawks whilst also showcasing his speed and quick release of the puck.

This wasn’t his best season in the NHL though. He set a career high goal tally in 93-94 when scoring 42 goals playing for the New York Islanders, where he spent the best years of his career.

As the 90’s came to a close, Thomas was now considered a veteran winger at the age of 35. However, he didn’t lack the energy and adrenaline to survive in this league, enjoying second stints with the Leafs (1998-2001) and Chicago (2001-2002) before joining the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The forward clearly still had enough passion for the game as he steered his team towards the Stanley Cup final. The Ducks eventually lost in seven games to the New Jersey Devils but Thomas was a key contributor throughout.

Thomas finished his career with the Detroit Red wings in 2003-04, having cemented his legacy as one of the greatest NHL players ever to be born in the U.K.

Owen Nolan

Like Steve Thomas, Nolan was also raised in Ontario, Canada but was born in Belfast, Northern Island. Nolan is probably the more famous out of the two, having been chosen as an NHL all-star in 1991–92, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1999–2000, 2001–02 and also playing 16 internationals for Canada.

He was drafted first by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1990-91 NHL season and played with them for over 5 seasons, at which point he was swapped to the San Jose Sharks for Latvian defenceman Sandiz Ozolinsh.

It was in San Jose where Nolan elevated himself to elite status. He was quickly named captain and registered career high figures in 1999-2000, finishing with 85 points and 44 goals in total. One of these goals came with 10 seconds left in a match with first seeded St. Louis Blues. He beat goaltender Roman Turek from just past centre ice and gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead.

In the 2003 trade window, Nolan was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Alyn McCauley and Brad Boyes. However, his success was restricted by bad performances and a series of injuries and so he never quite reached the heights achieved when at the Sharks.

His time with the Leafs was full of contract issues and financial squabbles so in the summer of 2006, he decided to join the Phoenix Coyotes on a one year $1 million contract. He did well at the Coyotes scoring 16 goals with 24 assists.

He never really settled anywhere in his later career. He spent the 2007-08 season with the Calgary flames where he played his 1000th game and hit his 11th career hat trick against his former team, the San Jose Sharks.

On July 6, 2008, the power forward signed a two-year contract worth a speculated $5.5 million with the Minnesota Wild, where he spent the last years of his career.

Can Britain inspire a new generation?

Britain has produced some important NHL players but most of them, as the examples above may testify to, were merely born in Britain – they were not nurtured or influenced by the UK coaching system hence why they legitimately qualify to play for the Canadian national team. Herein lies the problem and one that has more to do with British culture than a lack of effort in private investment.

Throughout the 40’s and 50’s, Ice Hockey was part of a whole host of activities that took place on the ice such as figure skating, ice dance, speed skating etc. Private businesses invested in local ice rinks and crowds were reaching capacity as professional ice hockey in Britain was seemingly thriving. However, by the mid 60’s, these crowds began to dwindle and professional ice hockey in Britain became no longer viable. British ice hockey then became stagnant and entered an ‘amateur’ phase in its history which was to remain for about 20 years.

Despite encountering a relative boom in the 80’s as professional ice hockey was reintroduced in Britain, all those years in the dark highlight a discouraging attitude amongst the public towards ice hockey. An attitude that is no doubt deep-set and rooted in British culture, as a whole.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Throughout the 80’s the number of ‘imports’ was limited paving the way for home grown junior amateurs to develop. Players like Tony Hand, who was the first ever British player to be drafted by an NHL team when he joined the Edmonton Oilers in ‘86, was a product of a Scottish junior development program. The problem is that not enough players reach this level and this is largely to do with the popularity of the sport and perhaps the fact that other sports are so much more important in British culture. Most kids at secondary school start playing the sports that feature in the school curriculum. Football, Rugby, Cricket, Tennis and Golf are all prioritized ahead of ice sports. Marketing and investment are also problems but it is the youth that hold the key to the future and Britain seemingly cannot inspire this new generation. 

 

“The Hockey News” From 1988

In a box in my closet I found a few old issues of The Hockey News from 1988, and here’s a sampling of things mentioned:

“We’re so used to this against Montreal, but we’re not complaining.” – Quebec Nordique GM Maurice Filion after an apparent tying goal was waved off against Montreal Feb. 29.

Consumer crusader Ralph Nader lobbied NHL president John Ziegler in an attempt to keep ticket prices down. FANS (Fight to Advance the Nation’s Sports), a group headed by Nader, cited the average ticket price for an NHL game at $7.87, which Nader said was “the most difficult to justify of all the major sports.” (Note from me – Originally I thought this had to be a typo, so I dug through old ticket stubs and I see that it was very possible. I have a Habs-Bruins stub at the Forum that was ten bucks. And various other stubs I have from the late 1980s ranged from ten to fourteen and upwards around twenty bucks. So maybe $7.87 isn’t completely farfetched. Just seems too cheap, that’s all).

“When Borje and the other Swedes went to the NHL, took all the crap and didn’t come home in a box,” said Mats Naslund, “we all knew we had a chance to play in the NHL.”

After Steve Yzerman scored his 50th goal – against Sabre goalie Tom Barrasso – he fished the puck out of the net. Then, inexplicably, he tossed it into the crowd on his way back to the Detroit bench. “I just thought someone else might appreciate it (as a keepsake) more than me,” Yzerman said. “I have the memory of it, and I’ll never forget it. I don’t need the puck. But he was destined to get it anyway. Jacques Demers chased down the fan who caught it, and traded him another puck and a stick for it. The coach planned to have the milestone puck mounted.

“Obviously, the fans in Minnesota don’t care about the playoff race.” Boston Bruin GM Harry Sinden, after 9,591 people showed up at the Met Center to watch Montreal and Minnesota play a 2-2 tie March 14.

Joe Sakic took it right down to the wire for a photo finish that not even the Western League stewards could decide. The Swift Current centre scored four goals in his team’s last regular-season game March 19 to tie Moose Jaw’s Theoren Fleury with 160 points. The WHL has no formal tie-breaking procedure and declared Sakic and Fleury co-champions. It’s the first time in WHL history two players have tied for the scoring championship.

Originally drafted by the Sabres in 1980, Randy Cunneyworth explains his failure to stick in Buffalo rather succinctly. “Square pegs don’t fit into round holes.”

“It’s funny,” said Stephane Richer. “In the past few games it seems that everything I shoot is going in or any time I make a pass to my linemate he scores.” Richer scored on four of 10 shots in a 7-6 overtime win at Los Angeles March 5. Among the goals was the game-winner, making it 44 goals in 65 for number 44 as he helped Montreal to a league-high eight consecutive victories.

Springfield Indians (AHL) center Bruce Boudreau had his 20-game point streak snapped by Maine in a 4-2 loss Feb. 28.

Leafs suffer double-digit embarrassment – a humiliating 10-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at Maple Leaf Gardens.

With The New Hartley Rumour……..

With the latest rumour being Bob Hartley coming in to coach the Habs, here’s a look at him in a Quebec televison series getting angry with Patrice Brisebois. A big thanks to Danno for giving us this glimpse, albeit acting, of Hartley, who won a Stanley Cup in Colorado with Patrick Roy as his goalie.

You can read about this TV series, which involves Montreal and Quebec and the rivaly the two teams had until the Nordiques left town, here - La serie Montreal-Quebec. Guy Carbonneau is the coach of the Canadiens in this series.

 

Into The Drink


Darth sent this picture quite awhile ago but I couldn’t bring myself to put it up. Until now that is. I hope there’s enough lifeboats.

A 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. What, the Habs didn’t win? Seriously?

Question: Who would you consider the better defenceman - Tomas Kaberle or Bobby Orr?

Isn’t Kaberle fantastic! Except for that time in the first period when he was so mesmerized by a slow-moving puck that he forgot to reach his stick out to clear the little black thing, and presto, into the net it went. And his long shots are the kind goalies prefer in practice. The ones they can see and stop and not get hurt by. But otherwise, him or Orr?

Wait a minute, that’s ridiculous. You can’t compare Kaberle to Orr. Orr was the best ever. I don’t know what I was thinking.

What about Kaberle and Larry Robinson?

I’m re-reading Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, and there’s a passage in there where Kerouac and Neal Cassady are in a bar and a guy named Gomez is wandering around trying to pick up chicks. I don’t know how their Gomez made out, but I sure hope he scored more than our Gomez.

The Canadiens played with blood, sweat and tears. Okay, there was no blood. And so what that it only looked like sweat and tears and their faces were wet because they’d poured water on them. And exciting! Whew! I’m only now just recovering.

Hey, I’ve only got so many decades left and if I die before they become a great team again, I’m going to be pissed.

Rene Bourque notched a shorthanded goal, which was the Canadiens’ first goal against Washington in 260 minutes, or about the length of time it takes Brad Marchand to read a comic book.

Random Notes;

Those shots of Dale Hunter behind the Caps bench gave me a queasy feeling in my gut. The Habs and Quebec Nordiques enjoyed the most vicious rivalry in hockey, and Hunter was front and centre of it all. He was a nasty piece of business. Actually, a dirty, miserable prick.

Sunday, the boys are in Sunrise, Florida to take on the Panthers. Are you excited?

 

 

Realignment Announced

There will be four new conferences beginning in 2012-13, decided today by the NHL Board of Governors in Pebble Beach, California.

Out of curiosity, I looked up Pebble Beach’s weather and it’s been around 12 degrees celcius during the day there, so the gang isn’t exactly enjoying hot weather. I’ll bet they’re getting some golfing in, though.

The new realignment is a geographical thing, and it’s all about cutting down on travel for teams, and less time zones to cross. I know Vancouver will be happy to not cross the country as often. Canuck players have admitted for years that the travel from the West Coast has been a tiresome endeavor and slightly unfair.

The first division, seen below, with New Jersey, New York, Pittsburgh and such, will do very little travel, aside from, as I understand it, when teams play teams from other conferences once a year. The cities in this conference are all within an hour or two of each other. And actually, when you see the four divisions, they all make sense.

Montreal’s division only has seven teams and there’s room for one more, like the Quebec Nordiques.

The New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh division also only has seven, but cities mentioned for future expansion, like Kansas City and Las Vegas, aren’t in the area and would throw the whole geographical thing out of whack again.

Here’s the realignment. The top four teams from each will make the playoffs.

* New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington and Carolina

* Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay

* Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Dallas and Winnipeg

* Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado

Extra, Extra, Read All About It! (Part One)

For the last eight Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup wins, from 1971 to 1993, I managed to save the front pages and laminate them. (Although one, from 1977, is an inner page).

From time to time I’ll talk a little about these wins, and I’ll use some quotes, but I won’t copy verbatim anything from the coverage because writers don’t like that and I don’t blame them. And the last thing I want is a writer or newspaper mad at me.

Maybe I’ll start with 1993.

“CUP COMES HOME” blared the headline, and little did we know that the Cup just a year later was going to run away from home and stay away. Stanley come home. We miss you.

It was Montreal’s 24th championship in 1993, and it was done on the shoulders of Patrick Roy, who would be named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the most valuable player in the playoffs. Patrick gave us 16 wins and just four losses along the way, and to think if he hadn’t become upset with Mario Tremblay in late 1995 and stormed off the ice saying it was his last game in Montreal, we might have racked up several more mugs in the 1990′s. (Roy had allowed nine goals against Detroit and Tremblay took his time pulling him, which Roy found unacceptable).

But all was peace and love in 1993, like it was when Roy was in the nets for the 1986 Cup win. Michael Farber, in the Gazette coverage, wrote, “You can sum up the Stanley Cup in almost any two words you choose: Patrick Roy. The best. The Canadiens.”

Montreal won that year by beating the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 and claiming the title in just five games. L.A.’s Wayne Gretzky was disappointed. “I said before the playoffs began that I want to go out on a high. I think I played as well as I can. The next few days I’ll talk to my wife. I’m not leaning toward retirement but I’ve fulfilled my obligation to Los Angeles.”  (Kings owner Bruce McNall put a blank piece of paper in front of Gretzky and told him to fill it in. The Great One would remain an LA King for another three seasons before heading to St. Louis and then the Rangers).

But back to the more important stuff – the Habs winning. Montreal’s Lyle Odelein emotionally stated, “You try to take the moment and just hold on to it. You think about what you’re doing and you try to make sure you remember it. I’m from Saskatchewan and I doubt there’s a kid out there tonight who wouldn’t have to do what I did – skate with the Stanley Cup. I was so pumped up I could have lifted the Cup to the sky.”

Stephan Lebeau recalled seeing the Cup in the garage at the Forum when Calgary won it in 1989, but he didn’t touch it. “You don’t touch what isn’t yours. I didn’t want to touch it until we won it.”

To reach the finals, the Canadiens had taken out the Nordiques 4 games to 2, Buffalo 4 straight, and the New York Islanders 4 games to one. Hab haters claimed that Montreal had an easy time of it because two stronger teams, Boston and Pittsburgh, had both been eliminated, but don’t believe these naysayers. They’re a bunch of wankers. 

Of course there was some rioting in the streets of Montreal. Thousands smashed windows, overturned cars, looted, and in general behaved like morons. I’m really hoping that next spring when the Habs finally get their hands on Lord Stanley once again, that fans don’t misbehave. It’s an opportunity to show the hockey world just how mature Habs fans are.

 

Grizzly Sundin

On the left is Canadian biologist Gord Stenhouse holding a young grizzly bear. Stenhouse tags and studies these cute little critters before they grow into big things that would rip Stenhouse to shreds in a matter of seconds. 

Beside him is Mats Sundin, ex-Nordique, Leaf, and short-lived Vancouver Canuck, and a guy who also likes grizzly bears. 

This picture was in the Saturday, August 13th edition of the Vancouver Sun that I stole from the lunchroom table at work.

Remember the summer of 2008 when the Toronto Maple Leafs gave Bob Gainey and the Canadiens exclusive rights to negotiate with Mats Sundin? It didn’t get done, as we all know, and it wasn’t until January of 2009 before Sundin finally chose Vancouver after about ten teams tried to get him for some inexplicable reason. Talk about general managers gone wild.

Thank goodness Montreal couldn’t get a deal done with this Swede. He was 37 years old, and after finally signing with Vancouver, played just 41 games  and recorded a lousy 9 goals and 19 assists, all for five million dollars.

He then retired, and I guess, grew fond of grissly bears.