Tag Archives: Sprague Cleghorn

Sabres Stab Habs

It’s three losses in the Canadiens’ last four games after falling 3-2 in overtime to the visiting Buffalo Sabres.  Or four losses in six if you’re interested.

Yep, the boys are far from smokin’.

They held on to a thin 2-1 lead going into the third period, they were playing well and were on their way to two big points, but they couldn’t nail down the all-important insurance marker.

They couldn’t muster any killer instinct, Buffalo would tie it at 8:07 of the third, and then the Canadiens simply decided to give about 50% instead of the required 110%. It makes my blood boil, considering I always gave at least 160% wherever I worked.

Sometimes 170%. But I digress.

Well, I’m kinda mad. But not at Carey Price, who was terrific throughout and came up with two astonishing saves in the last 20 seconds of the third period to get the boys into overtime and of course that important single point.

Price got them the point, not the guys in front of him. The Sabres were allowed to fire clear shots and move in close far too many times. It’s soft hockey. Doug Harvey would be rolling in his grave. And if Larry Robinson was dead, he would be too.

Sprague Cleghorn would’ve punched Lehner, a ref, Brian Gionta, and most of his own teammates for losing a game they should’ve won, against a much-inferior squad. Toe Blake would’ve torn a strip off them and taken away the beer on the next train trip. John Ferguson would’ve punched a hole in a cement block. But that was a different time of course.

Today’s players check their investments, go to dinner with friends from the other teams, and say “obviously” a lot when interviewed.

Full marks to Sabres goalie Robin Lehner, who absolutely robbed Alex Galchenyuk in overtime with a glove save on a hard shot while being screened. It’s marked for the highlight reels. His save, and Price’s glove on Rasmus Ristalainen, are two for the ages.

But alas, after Lehner’s big stop, Zach Bogosian would light the lamp and win the game and not that I’m the pessimistic type, but I’d say the Canadiens are in a bit of a mid-winter funk right now.

I’ll also say it again, it’s the wives fault and they should be rounded up and sent to Powell River until the season and playoffs come to a close. I’ll find something for them to do.

Random Notes:

Artturi Lehkonen and Philip Danault scored for Montreal, with both goals coming the middle frame.

Next up – Tuesday, when the Calgary Flames come a callin’.

 

 

Habs Handle Caps

Old mitts. Maybe older than you.

The Canadiens held on and edged the Washington Capitals 2-1 on Caps ice, and displayed a fine rebound game after their pathetic effort Friday against the San Jose Sharks.

Artturi Lehkonen and Jeff Petry scored for Montreal, and Carey Price made his own personal statement.

After the Canadiens’ great start, especially in October when they racked up eight wins and a shootout loss, each win now makes their chances of making the post season even more secure.

It also means that although they have their down moments, like the Sharks game, or that 10-0 thing in Columbus, once the playoffs start you’ll forget completely about the regular season.

You say you won’t but you will.

And if you look at last year, the year of The Nightmare (also known as The Worst Habs Season Ever), you’ll see that the collapse to end all collapses began in December, when they won the first game of the month, then dropped the next four, won again in the middle of the month, then lost another six, and then won just once more before falling in their final game of December.

Three wins in December and three times in January. And the sky did fall.

But I’m now happy to report that the 2016-17 team has won four times already in December, with six games to go, and they remain top of the heap with Pittsburgh and a couple of other pretenders.

So they’ll make the playoffs (yes they will), we’ll forget about anything else, and then they’ll win the Stanley Cup because everyone will be healthy (Andrei Markov left early tonight) and Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Plekanec will see their luck change and light several lamps as the CH steamrolls everyone in their path..

Oh, you have your doubts? Well you obviously haven’t been talking to Sprague Cleghorn and Didier Pitre like I have.

Friday’s Washington Game

Couldn’t see all of the Friday night Habs-Washington tilt, I’m in Ottawa at a family reunion,, and all I know from glancing back and forth from time to time was that Alex Galchenyuk looked good playing on the right side with Morenz at centre and Joliat on left wing.

I also thought the pairing of P.K. Subban and Doug Harvey on the blueline was a good fit, especially on the power play when Harvey outsmarted three Capitals, sent it over, and PK blasted one home.

Max Pacioretty, playing on a line with Jean Beliveau and Maurice Richard, dinged more than one biscuit off the post and apparently enjoyed a fine night all round. Playing with Le Gros Bill and Rocket seems to really agree with Patches, and I hope Toe Therrien keeps them together.

I also hope Toe sticks with the Lach, Bournival, and Lafleur line as well. I see good chemistry there. And anytime now I’m expecting the Steve Shutt, Lars Eller, and Brendan Gallagher triumvirate to finally break out of the doldrums.

The problem is, neither Peter Budaj in the first two periods and Jacques Plante, who replaced Budaj in the third, could handle Alex Ovechkin, who had the two netminders’ numbers in a big way. And it certainly didn’t help when John Ferguson was sent to the box for goalie mugging and shortly after, Brandon Prust for tripping, and it was left to Claude Provost and Tomas Plekanec to kill unnecessary and ill-timed penalties.

Although I must admit, I enjoyed seeing Sprague Cleghorn coldcock the obnoxious Mikhail Grabovski, even though it put us behind the eight-ball once again.

The team really has to get it together. Bobby Orr and the big, bad Bruins are well ahead in first place, and Tampa Bay continues to play well. And if Phil Kessel and Dave Keon continue their torrid goal scoring pace, Toronto’s going to be tough.

Habs get it done/not done in Washington Friday night. And they’ll have their hands full when the Penguins come to town on Saturday.

It’ll be nice when Cournoyer finally gets back.

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.

 

 

Dear Team

Dear Montreal Canadiens,

In next year’s NHL Entry Draft, can I be one of the little kids that goes up on stage? I was turned down as stick boy and then flag boy, so I’m asking nicely if I can now be draft boy.

Oh, you say you have to be the owner’s son or something? Crap, it’s a big stage and there’s room enough for me too. That’s a lousy excuse. Just kick one of the suits off.

And what has the owner’s son ever done? Has he ever spent thousands of dollars on Molson beer? Does he own a bottle of Pit Lepine Froz-Ex? Has he even heard of Sprague Cleghorn? Hah, I thought not. And he’s up there being a big shot.

Please give me a chance. I’m fairly good at shaking hands, smiling for the camera, and looking kind of goofy, which is what the job calls for, doesn’t it?

Sincerely,

DK

And look at these other little bastards.

Canadiens Win Big!

The Canadiens won when they absolutely had to, beating the New York Rangers 4-1, and so many players stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the park, it was like watching Warren Cromartie and Andre Dawson take batting practice.

It feels good to be proud of the guys instead of wanting to send them all to Calgary.

The line of Max Pacioretty, Erik Cole, and David Desharnais combined for nine big points – Max with 2 goals and an assist, Cole with 3 assists, and Desharnais with a goal and 2 assists. And at the end, after the siren had sounded, the fans gave them the three stars and deservedly so.

But a couple of others also had big nights, two whom we might never have guessed. Peter Budaj in nets was solid, and came through in fine fashion. He could’ve been a star if Max’s line wasn’t so darned dominant.

And another who could’ve been a star was none other than Scott Gomez, who was flying all over the place, skating miles, making nice plays, and setting up Michael Blunden beautifully.

If Gomez can play like that every night, his sins will eventually be forgiven. But I’m not going to get carried away here. It was one good game for the much-maligned Alaskan, and I refuse to get hoodwinked. (what a great word – hoodwinked). I also don’t like his laughing and kibitzing, which he does even with opposing guys on faceoffs, and I think the Rocket would like to punch him in the face if he could.

Newcomer Rene Bourque also played well, and it’s nice what he brings. He’s big and strong, is good with the puck, and he’s a powerful skater. When he gets motoring he reminds me of Cole, and he changes the look of the team in a great way. Suddenly the Montreal Canadiens got bigger and stronger. It’s what I’ve been praying to Sprague Cleghorn for, for months now.

Of course, for every yin there’s a yang. Travis Moen injured his leg and hopefully it’s not serious. And Randy Cunneyworth showed he means business when he sat Lars Eller for all of the second period after Eller’s weak coverage near the goal led to the Rangers scoring. You gotta play tough and wrap up your man, however it takes. It’s not Woodstock/peace and love out there. And Andrei Kostitsyn also felt the wrath of Randy after lacklustre play.

That’s fine. These are grown men. They know their team needs an all-out effort now, and they’ll pay a price if they don’t give their all. I mean, if I’m caught sleeping at work I hear about it.

Eller saw ice time in the third, and on one occasion his rising shot struck Mathieu Darche in the throat that looked serious for a few minutes. Thankfully Darche was back out soon after.

The guys played well tonight. Travis Moen and NY’s Stu Bickel tangled after the draw for some reason, Hal Gill sprawled to break up a play and hopefully he’s not too sore in the morning, and PK Subban gave Tomas Kaberle shit for making too many passes back to him on the power play.

It was such an important game to win, and it’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

Okay, that’s a bit much, but you know what I mean.

Random Notes:

Shots on goal – 29 each.

I have Cole and Desharnais in my pool.

Next up – Wednesday, when Alex Ovechkin and the Caps come to town. Once again, no problem, right?

 

 

Must Have Been Tough To Be Both A Habs Fan And Revolutionist

Vladimir Lenin was not only a Russian revolutionist and often ruthless tyrant, but he was also a huge Habs fan as discovered recently when workers found artifacts hidden behind the walls of Lenin’s Tomb in Moscow’s Red Square.

Lenin lived until 1924, so would have picked up his Pravda newspaper on the steps outside his three-storey flat in downtown Petrograd and opened it to the sports page to catch up on the heroics of Morenz, Joliat, Cleghorn, and Vezina in the capitalistic and decadent west. He would have got the news late, so when Montreal beat the Calgary Tigers on March 25th, 1924 to win the Stanley Cup, Lenin wouldn’t hear about it for several weeks, well into April.

But I suppose it wouldn’t mattered a whole lot anyway because Vlad had been dead since January of that year. But you get the idea.

(Please note: I know you’re asking yourself right now just how I created this magic. Here’s all you do – take one of your Vladimir Lenin busts or statues that I’m sure you have laying around the house, then remove one Habs folded napkin from package, cut a hole where the neck is, and put on the Lenin bust. It’s that easy).

It Was Good To Have Murph Chamberlain On Your Side

Erwin “Murph” Chamberlain showed up at my door the other day.

No, not the real Murph Chamberlain, he’s been dead since 1986, but the Bee Hive, from those lovely 5×8 photos of years gone by, and one of the few I needed to complete a 70-odd set from the 1944-64 Group 2 series.

This was a guy, like Sprague Cleghorn a couple of decades before him, who would have straightened out the Sean Avery’s of the league in one or two quick and easy lessons.

Chamberlain was one of hockey’s larger-than-life characters – a tough as nails, hard-drinking, hard-partying, loud fellow who led teammates astray on a regular basis but was a leader in many ways, on and off the ice. We hear the stories, like the time a rookie at training camp was poised to make the club and shove a veteran aside until “Hardrock”, as they called Chamberlain, took the bull by the horns and beat the daylights out of the poor guy, thus ending the newcomer’s chances of taking one of Murph’s buddies’ jobs. Or in New York where Chuck Raynor once said with great fondness how Chamberlain babysat him in the big city.

He wasn’t a giant of a man at 5’11, 165lbs, but was as rugged as they came, much like Ted Lindsay was in Detroit and Chicago. But then again, 5’11 was quite a serious height in those days. Regardless, it’s common knowledge that this was one tough mother, or as I like to call him – “The Sprague Cleghorn of the 1940’s.”

Here’s some Murph Chamberlain stats: Murph stats. And I might need to remortgage my house for those last few Bee Hives I need.

They Don’t Make ‘Em Like LeBois Anymore

Recently I wrote a small story about Habs great Sprague Cleghorn and some folks commented that they liked to read things about the old guys because they were such a colourful bunch.

So I’ve decided to listen to them, and today, I’d like to present another of the stars of yesteryear, Gaston LeBois.

Looking back now, Gaston LeBois admits it was his father who was mostly responsible for his sensational hockey career.

Mr. LeBois would flood the backyard for hours on end, alone and in the dark, and it was unfortunate that he chose July and August to do this. Young Gaston would play and play on this homemade rink, but after coming close to drowning, eventually abandoned it for an arena in winter.

His dad never forgave him, but Gaston found that he enjoyed frozen water over unfrozen water.

In 1962 Gaston was finally called up to the big team and never looked back. He became one of the finest mediocre benchwarmers in the history of the game, and it’s something he’s proud of, even to this day. “It was just nice to be dry after playing on my dad’s rink,” he admitted in a recent interview.

But he wasn’t always a bench warmer. During the 1972 series against the Bulgarians and with the team desperately needing a goal, LeBois jumped over the boards when coach Sinders wasn’t looking, called for a pass but missed, but carried on. Big Bill Esponosa grabbed the puck and threw it out to LeBois, and with just 34 seconds left in the game and a nation holding its collective breath, LeBois fanned on it, punched out the referee, and because his team lost, a riot ensued outside Rue Ste. Carla as thousands of angry fans wanted to find Gaston and kick him in the balls.

They say no one was better inside the Blueline and I agree. I’ve been to the Blueline Tavern and to this day, oldtimers gather round and drink and spit and tell stories about how Gaston could chug-a-lug and womanize for days on end and still be a mediocre bench warmer when called upon.

LeBois also scored six times in one game. Their names were Lola, Brigitte, Gloria, Xaviera, Penelope, and Sophia. Gaston has always said that this feat ranks up there as one of the biggest moments in his career.

Yes, LeBois was a beauty, all right. Part of a dying breed. He’d kick and punch and take on all comers to get what he was after. Of course, the team wished he had this much spirit and drive playing hockey as he did with bartenders.

Gaston LeBois was never inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and he once attempted to buy a ticket to get in but was kicked out when he tried to fondle the 70 year old ticket-selling nun. But I for one feel he should be elected, if only for scoring six times while sitting on the bench.

LeBois is still alive and living on Canada’s west coast. Although Premier Campbell is trying to get him to live on Canada’s east coast.

I’d Have Cleghorn On My Team Anyday

 

I’d like to see the Steve Downie’s and Colton Orr’s of the world go head to head with Sprague Cleghorn. Bring ’em on, any of the league’s tough guys. They’d lose, and blood would be spilled.

Tiger Williams and Chris Nilan and Tie Domi would lose too. Because Sprague Cleghorn, Montreal great rushing defenseman from 1921 to 1925, was one of the meanest and nastiest players to ever play the game. Probably only a small handful of others, like Newsy Lalonde and Joe Hall, would give the guy a run for his money in the savage department.

Guys nowadays would scramble for cover if they went up against Cleghorn. He played in an era when the sport was excessively brutal, and many a player would crash into him and like magic would drop to the ice unconscious after Cleghorn had performed a deadly operation on them. Often a player might do Mr. Cleghorn wrong early in a game and Sprague would bide his time until later on, and in the end, the other guy would skate gingerly off the ice with a large and gruesome gash across his face, courtesy of our hero.

Red Dutton was quoted in Trent Frayne’s The Mad Men of Hockey, saying, “If some of the longhairs I see on the ice these days met Sprague Cleghorn, he’d shave them to the skull. Jesus he was mean. If you fell in front of Cleg he’d kick your balls off.”

King Clancy pulled the old trick of pretending to be a teammate and calling for the puck when Cleghorn was rushing, and Cleghorn fell for it. When the game ended Clancy was walking to the dressing room to the cheers of fans and heard a friendly voice saying “King.” Clancy turned and Cleghorn turned out Clancy’s lights. “Jesus did he hit me a beauty,” said King.

The Toronto St. Pats called up a tough guy, Bill Brydge, who was going to add muscle, and he gave it to Cleghorn – the knee, elbows, stick. Cleghorn didn’t pay any attention and waited. The time came and Brydge ended up with fifty stitches.

After Ace Bailey taunted Cleghorn one night about an offside, the big fellow unloaded on Bailey and down the St. Pats player went. Bailey struggled to get up and the now-aware Bill Brydge grabbed Bailey and said, “Stay down, you crazy bastard. Do you want to get killed?”

He speared, butt-ended, punctured a spleen or two, carved up faces, and pounded players over the head with his fist and stick. Scott Hartnell and Milan Lucic and these guys wouldn’t have a prayer. This was a guy who had Gordie Howe elbows and lethal stick long before Gordie Howe.

Imagine what he’d do to Dan Carcillo?

Cleghorn by all accounts possessed lots of skill, loved to take the puck end to end, and he’s a Hall of Famer, having been inducted in 1958. He was also a dapper gentleman off the ice who liked to wear fine clothes like he was dressing for the opera, and didn’t resemble at all the vicious son of a bitch he was when he had skates on.

Our man Sprague Cleghorn died at age 66 from complications after being hit by a car. He and his brother Odie, who also played for the Canadiens (1918-25), were close all their lives and after Sprague died, Odie also passed away, on the day of Sprague’s funeral.