Tag Archives: Red Fisher

Jim and Red

As we make our way through this endless and pathetic Habs season, I thought I’d tell you my Red Fisher/Jim Roberts story.

I was a kid at the Montreal Forum to see the Canadiens play the Rangers, and when the siren sounded to end the game, my friend and I wandered down to rinkside to look at the big CHs at centre ice.

This is what I wanted to do as much as see the game. Get close to the ice and see the CHs that I had only seen on grainy television. It was magical to me, and I can still feel that exact moment to this day. Funny what a couple of painted logos on the ice can do.

We also saw trainers wheel out the players’ equipment from the corridor near the dressing room, stacked in bags on carts, bags belonging to all the guys from my hockey cards. I can still feel this moment too.

Nearby I spotted Jim Roberts, the all-important defensive forward who sometimes played defence, talking to some guy in a suit, so I sauntered up and asked him to sign my program, which he did and which you can barely see in the picture above, just below Jean Beliveau and Jim Neilson.

Best of all, Roberts was extremely nice to me and asked me where I was from and such, and he had no idea how much this impressed me.

He impressed me so much that I decided to start a Jim Roberts Fan Club. It would be almost like being on the team for goodness sake. What a fantastic idea this was.

The next step was writing Red Fisher, and I informed him of my plan to start a Jim Roberts Fan Club. Red wrote back (I had this letter for a few years I think, but don’t anymore), and he told me that he would mention this to Roberts the first chance he got.

I never heard any more. Maybe Jim Roberts waited all season for his fan club to begin. Maybe Red forgot to tell him. Regardless, it probably wasn’t more than a day or two later that I realized I didn’t want to start a Jim Roberts Fan club. It would be way too much work, and I had school to worry about, hockey to play, Beatles to listen to, girls to think about, public skating to go to on Sunday afternoon,  Ed Sullivan and Bonanza to watch on Sunday evening.

I didn’t have time for this. My weeks were full.

On top of all that, where was I going to get stuff to send to members? How could I afford stamps? What would I write about, other than the fact that Jim Roberts was a good player and was nice to me when I asked for his autograph?

I don’t know what I would’ve done if Jim had contacted me and told me he was excited to have a fan club.  I’d be stuck.

What the heck was I thinking?

So if Red Fisher forgot to mention it to him, I’m very grateful.

 

 

R.I.P. Red Fisher

Red Fisher, the man we all knew had the best job on the planet, has died at age 91.

Red covered the Habs for the Montreal Star and Montreal Gazette, beginning in 1955 and ending in 2012, when he was 85-years old. He became one of the boys, part of the players’ and coaches’ inner circle, winning or losing money on card games while the trains took to the team to other big league cities.

His first hockey assignment was, amazingly enough, the night of the Richard Riot (March 17, 1955) at the Forum.

It had to have been an incredible time for Red, covering those Stanley Cup teams over the years and doing so in such fine and unique fashion, and at this time my thoughts go out to Red’s family and friends.

I can only add a bit of a personal story about Red.

In the early 1960s I was a kid at an exhibition game in Peterborough, Ontario between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks, and I approached Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who were standing by the boards, for autographs. Hull was more than happy to oblige, but Mikita was surly and miserable. I’ve always maintained that he told me to go to hell (or worse) but over the years I began to hope that he didn’t really get that harsh, that it was just me, because I was young, making too much of something.

I would like to say this… In no way is this to be taken that Stan Mikita was a bad person. In the beginning he was a little rough, but as the years went by, Mikita became a fine, friendly gentleman, a class act, and a legendary and deserving Hall of Famer.

After this incident in Peterborough, I wrote a letter to Red Fisher at the Montreal Star about it, and this is his reply back to me.

Three Goals in 21 Seconds

Hall of Famer Bill Mosienko pulled off the mind-boggling feat of scoring three goals in 21 seconds when he was playing for the Chicago Black Hawks in a game against the New York Rangers on March 23, 1952.

Of course it’s a record. How could anyone ever score three faster than this?

In this 1961 Montreal Forum program (below), Mosienko describes to the one and only Red Fisher exactly how he did it.

“It all came about in the final game of the season for both clubs. We were out to win, sure; but it didn’t mean too much to either team as it wasn’t the Stanley Cup or even playoff berths which concerned us at the time. We were both out of it. It was just another game.”

“Then all of a sudden, the scoring came quick-like, bing, bing, bing. Just like that I got three goals in the space of 21 seconds.

“It was early in the third period and the play was deep in our own end when Gus Bodnar carried it out, skating fast, and flipped to me at centre ice. I cut low around the outside of the Rangers defense, steamed toward the net and let go fast. Lorne Anderson, the Rangers goalie, dived at me, but the puck was low to the left-hand corner and he missed it. The time was 6.09.

“The puck was faced off, and Bodnar got the draw to me. Again I broke around the Rangers defence, was partially blocked, but managed to get away a sizzler, waist high, which eluded Anderson.The puck was past him before he was really set.

The time: 6:20

“Referee Georges Gravel faced the puck, and again Bodnar relayed the puck to me. This time, I cut directly between the Rangers defence, wiggled my way clear and skipped in on Anderson to fire a 15-footer into the top right-hand corner This made it three in a row.

The time: 6:30.

The spree bettered the previous mark of three goals scored in one minute, 52 seconds set by Carl Liscombe of the Detroit Red Wings against the Hawks in 1938. It also bettered the team mark held by the Montreal Maroons – when three different players, Hooley Smith, Babe Seibert and Dave Trottier – scored in 24 seconds back in 1932.

On Feb. 25, 1971, the Boston Bruins scored three times against Vancouver in just 20 seconds, which is an NHL team record at this time.

The record for two teams combining to score three happened on Feb. 10, 1983 when the New York Rangers and Minnesota North Stars did it in 15 seconds.

And as far as the next player after Mosienko scoring three quick ones, Jean Beliveau did it in 44 seconds.

0023

A Few Good Jobs

1. Retired Famous Race Horse. You were Northern Dancer and Secretariat, and the toast of the town. You retired on top of the world and were given a fancy stable and told to get out into the field and make love to the finest fillies out there. Whenever you felt like it. Every day.

2. Guy Who Crashes Cymbals in a Symphony Orchestra. You’re in Carnegie Hall, and the horns and violins are working their way up to big crescendo. The crowd is enthralled, and then, at the precise moment, you crash your cymbals.
That’s it I think. Your timing has to be on. And for this you get to wear an expensive tuxedo, make lots of money, and probably even sign a few programs! Or maybe there’s more to it than I know.

3. Red Fisher. Play poker with the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, and Geoffrion on trains to Chicago, Boston, and the rest. Go for a cold one after the game with Lafleur, Savard, and Robinson, and talk shop. Cover the Montreal Canadiens and become just one of the boys for nearly fifty years.

4. George Martin. He’d put on his cardigan sweater, jump into a limo to take him to studios like Abbey Road, and help the Beatles weave their magic. He was there almost from the start, and he also made zillions doing it.

5. Playboy photographer.

6. Phil Pritchard. Phil’s job is to babysit the Stanley Cup, 12 months a year. He takes it all over North America and Europe so players from the winning team can show it off where they live. He brings it out on to the ice with his white gloves on when a team wins it in the final game. He’s practically married to it, and it never talks back.

7. Habs stick boy (maybe not now but whatever).

Letters On My Shelf

Many of these letters were written to me, while some I collected along the way. If you find these boring, please don’t tell me.

Beginning with –

Red Fisher (1965) (after I complained to him that Stan Mikita swore at me when I asked him for his autograph at a Hawks-Leafs exhibition game in Peterborough during the Leafs training camp).

Red

Phyllis King (1951) – Clarence Campbell’s secretary and future wife.

Phyllis

Here’s Clarence and Phyllis on their romantic date at the Forum, which helped spark the 1955 St. Patrick’s Day Richard Riot.

coverofTHN

Legendary sports editor Elmer Ferguson (1929). The Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award is presented to outstanding hockey journalists and includes the likes of Jacques Beauchamp, Red Burnett, Trent Frayne, Red Fisher, Andy O’Brien, Michael Farber, Roy MacGregor and others.

Elmer

Sam Pollock (1964). By far my favourite letter.

Claude Mouton (1985)

Irving Grundman (1983)

Almost three months to the day after General Manager Grundman wrote this letter, he was fired by the Canadiens and Serge Savard would take his place.

Forum secretary Manon Bruneau (1984)

Letter from Sam Pollock to Habs prospect Michel Lagace (1962). This is the kind of letter I would have liked to receive.

002

Looking for tickets at Maple Leaf Gardens (1965 & 1966)

Two replies from Claude Mouton (1983) about my request for a stick. He gave me a Bob Gainey stick, signed by the entire team, which I picked up at the Forum after driving from Ottawa after graveyard shift.

Jean Beliveau (1984)

I decided I needed an 8X10 glossy of the Rocket shaking hands with Sugar Jim Henry, so I went right to the top. I wrote a letter to La Presse and it ended up on the desk of editor-in chief Gerard Pelletier (1964)

Pelletier would later serve in the Pierre Trudeau government, and was eventually awarded the Order of Canada.

Frank Selke Jr. (1961)

Remembering Jim Roberts

Forum program

I’d just turned 15 and was at the Montreal Forum for a game between the Habs and New York Rangers. My first visit to the shrine a handful of years before it was renovated, after seeing so many games from my living room and on those old Molson films we’d see at banquets or at the Hall of Fame down at the CNE.

I’ve mentioned before about this trip, about how I was a bit drunk when my dad picked me up at the bus station when I came back to Orillia. But the bus was full of older guys, all with bottles, and I had no choice.

When the siren sounded to end this game in Montreal, my friend and I wandered down to rinkside to look at the big CHs at centre ice. This is what I’d wanted to do as much as see the game. Go down to ice level and be close to the logos that I had only seen on grainy television.

We also saw trainers wheel out the players’ equipment bags on carts from the corridor near the dressing room. I can picture this like it was yesterday, and at the time it was very cool. A couple of trainers and a bunch of duffle bags lives on in my memory.

Nearby I spotted Jim Roberts, the all-important defensive forward who sometimes played defence, talking to someone, so I went up and asked him to sign my program, which he did and which you can barely see in the photo of the program above, just below Jean Beliveau and Jim Neilson.

Roberts was extremely nice and chatted with me, asking where I was from and such. He had no idea how much this impressed me. So much so that I decided to start a Jim Roberts Fan Club. It would be almost like being on the team for goodness sakes. Inside the Habs inner circle. What a fantastic idea this was.

The next step was writing Red Fisher, and I told him of my plan to start a Jim Roberts Fan Club. Red wrote back, (I had this letter for years but don’t anymore), and he said he’d mention this to Roberts the first chance he got.

I never heard back. Maybe Jim Roberts was waiting for me. Maybe he waited all season for his fan club to begin. Maybe Red forgot to tell him. Regardless, soon enough I realized I couldn’t start a Jim Roberts Fan club. I had school and hockey and the British Invasion bands were invading. I didn’t have time for this.

Where was I going to get stuff to send to members? How could I afford stamps? What would I write about, other than the fact that Jim Roberts was a good player and was nice to me when I asked for his autograph?

Jim Roberts passed away on Friday from cancer at age 75. He was a key member of five Stanley Cup teams in Montreal – 1965, ’66, ”73, ’76, and ’77, and a smart and hard worker whose true value came from shutting down big guns on other teams, much like Bob Gainey and Doug Jarvis, two guys who probably learned plenty from playing alongside Jim in the 1970s, would.

He was never a huge star. But his star shone brightly for me, not only for what he did while wearing the CH, but because he was so nice to me when I was young. I’m very much saddened by his passing.

Jimmyroberts

 

 

 

McKenzie Earns An Elmer

Congratulations to the always excellent and insightful Bob McKenzie for winning this year’s Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award, his profession’s highest honour, and which puts him Hall of Fame bound.

McKenzie is an absolutely deserving recipient, a guy at the top of his game, and the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) thinks so too.

There’s no word yet on whether P.J. Stock will take home the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for Excellence in Sports Broadcasting.

Below, a letter I have from Mr. Ferguson to Emile Dion in Quebec City, dated 1929.

 

Elmer

Elmer Ferguson, born in 1885 and deceased in 1972, was the sports editor for the now-defunct Montreal Herald, a newspaper in existence from 1811 to 1957. That’s quite a run. 146 years.

Elmer also did color commentary on radio broadcasts, first with the Montreal Maroons between 1933 and 1938, and then the Habs from 1938 to 1967. He worked alongside the late, great Danny Gallivan in later years.

Mr. Ferguson, who has signed the letter using fountain pen, was inducted into the media section of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982, and the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award is given each year to a journalist “in recognition of distinguished members of the newspaper profession whose words have brought honour to journalists and to hockey“.

Among those honoured are the likes of Jacques Beauchamp, Red Burnett, Trent Frayne, Red Fisher, Andy O’Brien, Michael Farber, and Roy MacGregor, and now McKenzie joins the pack.

The man mentioned in the letter, Cooper Smeaton, was a referee and the NHL’s first referee-in-chief when the league was formed in 1917. He was inducted into the referee/linesmen section of the Hall of Fame in 1961.

Elmer Ferguson’s Letter

Recently I added two original letters to my collection. I’ll put the other up later on because spacing things out is my new mental health strategy. Sometimes it’s good to be spaced out.

I’ve got a bunch of cool letters and I’m very happy about this one, a beauty from 1929 on Montreal Herald letterhead from the one and only Elmer Ferguson, who was a long time editor of the Herald, later a Gazette columnist, and a guy an important award is named after.

I love old letters. Nobody sends me any, so I’ve resorted to collecting other people’s. Of course, I don’t write letters either but that’s beside the point.

I’ve added a small story about Elmer below it

Elmer

Elmer Ferguson, born in 1885 and deceased in 1972, was the sports editor for the now-defunct Montreal Herald, a newspaper in existence from 1811 to 1957. That’s quite a run. 146 years.

Elmer also did color commentary on radio broadcasts, first with the Montreal Maroons between 1933 and 1938, and then the Habs from 1938 to 1967. He worked alongside the late, great Danny Gallivan in later years.

Mr. Ferguson, who has signed the letter using fountain pen, was inducted into the media section of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982, and the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award is given each year to a journalist “in recognition of distinguished members of the newspaper profession whose words have brought honour to journalists and to hockey“.

Those given this big time award are automatically placed in the Hall of Fame, and among the many honoured are the likes of Jacques Beauchamp, Red Burnett, Trent Frayne, Red Fisher, Andy O’Brien, Michael Farber, and Roy MacGregor, all writers I’ve admired greatly over the years.

The man mentioned in the letter, Cooper Smeaton, was a referee and the NHL’s first referee-in-chief when the league was formed in 1917. He was inducted into the referee/linesmen section of the Hall of Fame in 1961.

Life In The Fast Lane

As we wait for Friday night’s game in Columbus, I thought I’d tell you about one of the biggest chokes (and greatest comebacks) of all time, which happened to be in the final minute of a game.

If the Habs ever let this happen, I’m switching to cricket.

Learned from an old Forum program, it went like this, l

It was 1932 and the Montreal Maroons, desperately fighting for a playoff spot, were trailing 3-1 to the New York Rangers at the Forum with a minute left.

Fans were heading for the exits as the last minute of play began, when suddenly, a Ranger took a tripping penalty. Then with the Maroons on the power play, Bun Cook of the Rangers went to the box and the Maroons found themselves with a two-man advantage.

At that point, Maroons coach Sprague Cleghorn put five forwards on the ice, and at 19:12 of the third period, it became just a 3-2 lead for New York when Maroons forward Dave Trottier banged home a Jimmy Ward pass.

Don’t forget, players back then didn’t come out of the penalty box when a goal was scored. That rule was changed only when the powerhouse Canadiens of the late -1950s kept scoring and the league decided it wasn’t fair.

Anyway, the puck was faced off, Hooley Smith quickly got the puck over to Trottier, who quickly gave it back to Smith, and suddenly the game was tied.

It was 19:20 of the third.

Fans hurried back to their seats, the two Rangers in the penalty box must have felt pretty bad, and when the puck was once again dropped at centre ice, the Rangers took control but suddenly lost it. Trottier grabbed it, hurried down the left side, sent a feathery pass over to Jimmy Ward who worked it to Babe Siebert, who drilled it home to give the Maroons the lead and the win.

The time – 19:36.

In 24 seconds of the final minute, the Maroons scored three times, giving them a playoff spot and setting a record for fastest three goals scored by one team. The record didn’t last though. Boston scored three in 20 seconds in 1971.

And about another record, Bill Mosienko’s “three goals in twenty-one seconds”.

It’s hard to imagine, someone scoring three goals in twenty-one seconds, but Chicago’s Mosienko did it, with the Rangers again on the receiving end, and if you’d like to know how he did it, here’s how he described it to Red Fisher back in 1961. (Mosienko died in 1994).

“It was early in the third period and the play was deep in our own end when Gus Bodnar carried it out, skating fast, and flipped to me at centre ice. I cut low around the outside of the Rangers defense, steamed toward the net and let go fast. Lorne Anderson, the Rangers goalie, dived at me, but the puck was low to the left-hand corner and he missed it.”

The time was 6.09.

“The puck was faced off, and Bodnar got the draw to  me. Again I broke around the Rangers defence, was partially blocked, but managed to get away a sizzler, waist high, which eluded Anderson.The puck was past him before he was really set.”

The time: 6:20

“Referee Georges Gravel faced the puck, and again Bodnar relayed the puck to me. This time, I cut directly between the Rangers defence, wiggled my way clear and skippd in on Anderson to fire a 15-footer into the top right-hand corner This made it three in a row.”

The time: 6:30.