Tag Archives: Rocket Richard

Papa Got A Brand New Team

I’m a Habs fan, born and raised in Orillia, Ont, which is Leafs country I suppose, considering it’s only an hour and a half north of Toronto. I’m a fan and my old man had a lot to do with it.

My dad, who served in the Canadian army overseas in WWll, was a hockey fan most of his life, although his enthusiasm waned as he aged, which I understand more and more. He followed the Leafs when he was young, and once wrote a letter in the 1930s to Ace Bailey, who lay in a hospital after Boston’s Eddie Shore clubbed him over the head, ending his career, and nearly killing him.

Bailey’s wife wrote back and thanked him.

Later though, my dad began to change his mind about his team. The Toronto Star and Telegram both plastered their papers with Leafs stories and my dad would complain. It was always “Leafs, Leafs, Leafs” he used to say. Broadcaster Foster Hewitt was the definitive homer, and this rubbed dad the wrong way. And pops was a quiet fellow and wasn’t crazy about the brash, loud, and arrogant Leafs owner Conn Smythe.

In the 1950s, with television entering households, it was usually only Leafs game shown, and when the Montreal Canadiens played in Toronto, my dad liked what he saw on his TV. There was the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, and Plante. Magical names. Stanley Cups began to be won by the Habs on a regular basis, and the Leafs just kept plodding along. The Canadiens had something the Leafs didn’t.

When I was a boy he started a big Montreal Canadiens scrapbook for me. He helped me write fan letters to the Rocket, and at one point, Rocket sent me a Christmas card. He took me to Maple Leaf Gardens a couple of times, and once, when we were really early and stood at the gate, the Canadiens players walked right by us.

He bought me a hockey book for Christmas which he mailed to Montreal asking for autographs, and it was mailed back signed by the entire 1957-58 Habs – Richard, Plante, coach Toe Blake, Beliveau, Geoffrion etc, with Doug Harvey’s as the only signature missing. Later when we went to a game at the Gardens, he brought the book with him, took it down to the Montreal dressing room corridor, saw Toe Blake standing there, and asked Blake if he would take the book into the dressing room and get Harvey to sign it.

Believe it not, Blake did just that.

Thanks dad.

Bob’s Rocket Record. Just Got One!

A couple of years ago I wrote about a 1955 recording (on 78 RPM) by Bob Hill and his Canadian Country Boys called ‘Saga of Rocket Richard’, which was about the infamous Richard Riot on St. Patrick’s Day of that year.

My story is here if you want – Bob Hill’s Rocket Riot Tune

It’s hard to find, this old disc, but I got one just the other day! First an old pedal car, and then the record, all within a week. I’m on a roll.

Here’s my new/old record!

 

 

Ralph Backstrom Was The Guy

He was all the things I knew were good in life – he skated like the wind, had a great brush cut and a pretty wife, and he wore the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens.

What’s better than that?

This was Ralph Backstrom, and I wanted to be just like him. I knew I wasn’t going to be another Rocket or Beliveau or Geoffrion, but I thought maybe I could be like Backstrom. And I wasn’t even on drugs when I thought this.

It meant getting a brush cut and trying to look like him when I watched him on TV taking faceoffs and darting up the ice with the puck. I could do that and I did. I got the brush cut.

Ralph came out of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, a little town in northern Ontario that churned out NHL players in abnormal fashion, having produced him and Ted Lindsay, Mike Walton, Dick Duff, Mickey and Dick Redmond, Wayne and Larry Hillman, the Plagers, and many others.

About 30 in all. That’s a lot of players.

Ralph was a phenom in Kirkland Lake minor hockey, and became captain and the best of the powerhouse Hull-Ottawa Canadiens juniors before he joined the big club. He had it all, I thought. I gotta practice more, I thought.

I admired the way Ralph Backstrom played, the way he skated and was so solid both as a playmaker and a checker. And I loved the way he and rival Dave Keon of the enemy Leafs went head to head on glorious nights when the Habs and Leafs were what life was all about for Canadian kids from coast to coast.

This guy isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and when he played he sometimes got into coach Toe Blake’s bad books. But he was a great hockey player. Underrated maybe, but absolutely great.

And I wanted to be just like him and I was. I had the brush cut.

DK

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John Scott A Hab?

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Above, a new Hab and an ex-Hab. Will the new one be as fantastic as the old one?

I come home and see this? Big John Scott traded to Montreal from Arizona for Jarred Tinordi, with a bunch of other names and Nashville involved, although these don’t matter.

Sam Pollock, looking down from above, sure must be impressed.

Finally, the team’s goal scoring problems have been addressed. Big John has notched 5 goals and 6 assists in his 285 games, which is awesome because we all know it’s hard to score in the NHL, and he did it 5 freakin’ times!

This is fantastic. Now we wait to see who will score first, John or Tomas Plekanec.

And 5 goals in 285 games is almost exactly what the Canadiens as a whole are doing.

Big John reminds me in many ways of Guy Lafleur, Rocket, and Jean Beliveau. He knows how to skate, sort of, and those three could skate too, albeit way better.

Beliveau was big, but John, standing 6’8″ and weighing 260 pounds, is bigger, so that’s good, right?

And he’s an all-star like them. Fan%$#&tastic! Forget about the difference between fans voting John in as a joke while Guy, Rocket, and Jean got there by merit. This is only a technicality. They all put on their all-star sweaters the same way.

I’m sure there are other similarities too. But right now, with the numbness in my brain, I can’t think of any.

Anyway, who needs a young, skilled, huge, rough d-man like Tinordi who was also a first round draft pick. When the opportunity to grab John Scott arises, you take it.

Beauty trade, Marc Bergevin.

I need a drink.

 

Bridge Over Toronto Waters

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I guess it’s been decided that the future Champlain Bridge in Montreal won’t be named after Maurice Richard after all, which I respect but am disappointed about.

He was my hero when I was a young kid and he remains my hero now. No athlete has ever come close to the impact the Rocket had on me.

My friend Paul sent me a National Post article about how Toronto should name one of their bridges after the Rocket instead. Imagine.

It’s a fun piece and can be seen right here – A Rocket bridge in Toronto

Bring ‘Em On

Boston beat Detroit 4-2 today to take out the Wings in five games, and thus, it’s a good old Habs-Bruins party coming up in about another freaking week.

The road to the Stanley Cup means tough going throughout, and it’ll definitely be tough against a red hot Bruins squad.

But it can be done of course, and if any Habs fan out there says we’re screwed, may the Rocket reach down from above and grab you by the throat.

It’s Good To Be A Habs Fan

The Habs are gone, and for now………

No more P.K. Subban wheeling around and rushing like a man possessed, or blasting a missile from the point, or sailing across the ice, fired up, in the moment, to level an oncoming enemy.

No more Brendan Gallagher crashing the net, standing firm as bigger opponents try to figure out how to take his head off without getting penalized, with the young fellow holding his ground as he’s mugged and coming back for more. No more of the little bugger pushing hard against the gigantic Zdeno Chara and other behemoths, and when seeing this, how could it not touch our hearts.

No more Brandon Prust sticking up for his teammates, and sometimes finding himself on the scoresheet after giving the proverbial and impossible 110%. No more choirboy Lars Eller getting better each game, or witnessing 19-year old Alex Galchenyuk slowly make his way to a brilliant future.

No more of the players we cheer for on some nights when they’re on fire, and want to ship to Vladivostok when they’re struggling.

No more beautiful blue, white, and red uniform with the big CH on the front. The uniform the Rocket wore. How it must feel to put this sweater on. Fans of other teams don’t understand, and I guess we don’t expect them to.

No more Pierre Houde shouting “et le but,” or, from any of the English voices, “he shoots, he scores,” as one or another Montreal Canadien lights the lamp, and we celebrate and crave more.

No more anticipation of a big game, especially at the Bell, with a booming rendition of the national anthem beforehand, with the crowd ready and expectations high, with little kids carrying the flag or pretending to light up the ice. I applied for this flag job a few years ago, only to be told I’m about 50 years too old.

No more games, for a few months, for us who cheer for our Montreal Canadiens. We who feel the magic. Magic in the crest. Magic in a big night.

It’s over for now, until they come together once again, when, as we always have, we’ll hope and dream and yell at the referee.

Until then, until we see the blue, blanc, and rouge take to the ice, the games might as well be played in Oregon.

Boring, Oregon.

Boring

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Good Wood

Ron Green in Orillia sends along an interesting story from TheStar.com – Hockey Is In Tom Scanlan’s Bones  – about a fellow who bought game-used sticks once owned by the 42 players who scored at least 500 goals in the NHL. The sticks were up for auction last June from Classic Auctions in Montreal.

42 is a lot of sticks, especially when you attach the importance of the players who handled them. I have two that belong in this category – Wayne Gretzky and Jean Beliveau. He has 40 more than me, including the Rocket’s, which has me oozing with envy. I’ve always wanted one of Rocket’s sticks.

There’s a few in the 42 I can do without, starting with Mark Recchi, but all in all, it’s a beautiful pile of timber and good for the guy for being the winning bidder.

For the record, here’s the 42 men who’ve scored at least 500 goals, in order of ranking:

Wayne Gretzky – 894
Gordie Howe – 801
Brett Hull – 741
Marcel Dionne – 731
Phil Esposito – 717
Mike Gartner – 708
Mark Messier – 694
Steve Yzerman – 692
Mario Lemieux – 690
Luc Robitaille – 668
Jaromir Jagr – 665
Teemu Selanne – 663
Brendan Shanahan – 656
Dave Andreychuk – 640
Joe Sakic – 625
Bobby Hull – 610
Dino Ciccarelli – 608
Jari Kurri – 601
Mark Recchi – 577
Mike Bossy – 573
Mats Sundin – 564
Mike Modano – 561
Guy Lafleur – 560
Joe Nieuwendyk – 559
Johnny Bucyk – 556
Ron Francis – 549
Michel Goulet – 548
Maurice Richard – 544
Stan Mikita – 541
Keith Tkachuk – 538
Frank Mahovlich – 533
Bryan Trottier – 524
Pat Verbeek – 522
Dale Hawerchuk – 518
Jarome Iginla – 516
Pierre Turgeon – 515
Jeremy Roenick – 513
Gilbert Perreault – 512
Jean Beliveau – 507
Peter Bondra – 503
Joe Mullen – 502
Lanny McDonald – 500

Breakfast Of Champions

With my busy life I need to start my day right. That’s why I go for Rocket Flakes and a couple of DK Really Freaking Strong Beers. It’s a filling, nutritious and delicious combination, packed with seven essential nutrients and 40% alcohol content, and it gets me ready to greet the day with a big smile on my face.

Yes folks, Rocket Flakes and DKRFSB. Do your body, and your mind, a favour.

Cue the jingle:

“Rocket Flakes tastes really good,
Packed with vitamins, as it should.
Forget the milk, just add Kane’s beer,
You’ll be a breakfast pioneer.
Rocket Flakes, Rocket Flakes, Rocket Flakes.”

Flakes and beer. Now that’s a power play!

 

Toenail Clipping

I find myself thinking more and more about the lockout and how it’s affecting me, and I have to say it’s not affecting me a great deal at all, other than having to dig deep to keep posting here every day.

I’m just sick of the whole mess, one created through greed, distrust and lies, and one that may never get truly resolved, even if they go back to work. It’s way too discouraging. I’m also tired of seeing hockey analysts on TV going on and on about it every day, of press conferences with Donald Fehr with sombre-looking players standing in the background, and hearing that the Winter Classic is cancelled, with the all-star game next. Which is fine because I despise the All-Star game anyway. Seeing smiling players in a big love-in isn’t my idea of the sport.

I’m tired of hearing about players signing with teams overseas – it’s boring and depressing, and every time I hear, it’s like another nail in the season-being-over coffin. And of course I’m tired of Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, and the word “millions.”

I’m just sick of it all, even to the point of putting personal hockey memorabilia away, out of sight, and making my museum-like room, which I’ve shown photos of here, more of a normal room. I hate the term “man-cave” and I’ve decided to do something about it. I’m too old for a man-cave, and I’m allergic to dust.

When PK Subban does the weather on TV, it doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t smile or laugh or have any kind of emotion. All I can think of is, why didn’t he sign a contract. When Andrei Markov gets hurt in the KHL, I’m nonchalant. When owners and players jostle over millions, I yawn. I’m too busy trying to get my ducks in a row so I can retire from the workforce and still be able to pay some bills.

I think about hockey players now and I think very little. With the Canadiens it’s always been about the team as a whole anyway. When I watch them, I see the sweater. I see the crest. I see if they win or not. Who wears the sweater makes very little difference. It’s how they help the team that’s important. That’s why I climb up one side of Scott Gomez and down the other. He hasn’t helped the team and thus, he deserves it. It goes with the territory.

If Josh Gorges or Erik Cole came to Powell River, it doesn’t matter, even though they do a good job for the team. I wouldn’t go out of my way. I don’t want their autographs. Trevor Linden was in town recently, played road hockey just around the corner from me, but I stayed in the house and clipped my toenails or whatever. This sort of thing just isn’t important to me. Yes, if it was Jean Beliveau, I’d seek him out and ask him to tell some stories about another time, about Plante and Harvey and the Rocket and such. Being coached by Toe Blake. With Josh Gorges or Erik Cole, I’d really have nothing to talk about.

I won’t be watching when Toronto plays Pittsburgh or Columbus takes on the Devils, or any other of the hundreds of meaningless games (to me) around the league. I could care less. I have toenails to clip. It’s only about the Habs crest and the team winning. Everything else about the NHL means nothing. The lockout, money, and the previous disputes, have made me tired.