Tag Archives: Terry Harper

Phoning Terry Harper

Unlike the time Bert Olmstead hung up on me, Terry Harper, the lanky, stay-at-home defenceman for the Montreal Canadiens from 1963 to 1971, was more than happy to chat, which happened almost a decade ago.

He’s was a nice, friendly fellow (I’m sure he still is) who at the time of the call was living in northern California with his wife Gladys (the two have been together since high school in Regina). We talked about days gone by and even hockey today, and he even showed interest in my life, asking about places I’ve lived and live now. And he felt bad for me when I told him Sam Pollock turned me down when I asked to be stickboy way back then. “I understand Sam’s reasoning,” he laughed. “Imagine how something like that could get out of control?”

“You caught me at a good time,” he said. And he added, “If someone is still interested in what I have to say after 40 years, then I’m completely fine with it.”

Gordie Howe was the best he’s ever seen, he says. “Howe just dominated the game in every aspect, and he did so for so long. He did everything right.” But what about Bobby Orr? I asked. “Orr was fantastic but he didn’t play long enough,” he explained. “He played a transition game with his skating, which was fantastic, but for me he wasn’t even the best defenceman. Doug Harvey is the best ever. For pure defence, it’s Harvey. No one’s been better.”

Jean Beliveau? “He’s a good friend, a super person. He’s one of those who stayed with the team even today, and is a wonderful man and great for hockey.”

Toe Blake? “I really liked and admired Toe. A really thoughtful man, a deep-thinker. And I think the best coach ever.”

Sam Pollock? “Sam liked me. I was his captain for the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens and we got along well. He was a great hockey mind.”

And the game today compared to then? “Players are certainly bigger now. When I played, Jacques Laperriere, Ted Harris and myself were considered huge because players back then weren’t overly big like most are now. Even my first defence partner, Jean-Guy Talbot wasn’t big. We were a new breed.”

“Guys now don’t have harder shots than many back then. A puck can only go so fast. Bobby Hull could get up to about 105 mph, and I don’t think there’s too many who can shoot harder than that. I also don’t think players are faster now either. It’s pretty hard to imagine anyone quicker than Ralph Backstrom or Dave Keon, for example. And don’t forget, equipment now must be 15 pounds lighter at least. Same with the goalies. More pads and lighter overall.”

“Because it was only a six-team league, everyone knew everyone completely. There were no surprises. It was so tight-checking, teams weren’t allowed to make a mistake or a goal would be scored. It was more like a chess match back then. And I think players now probably have the wrong attitude. It’s mostly just about money but where would they be without the fans? It’s the fans who make them. Like you. There’s seems to be no interaction anymore between fans and players.”

Do you still have any of your old Habs sweaters, Terry? “We weren’t allowed to keep those,” he said. “The trainers were strict about that. We always had to hand them in.” (He was surprised when I told him his old number 19 would fetch several thousand at auction now.)

And one last thing. Does he follow the Habs at all now. “I don’t know the team, but I look at the standings in the paper. We don’t get a lot of hockey news here, especially about the Canadiens. We go down to San Jose from time to time to see the Sharks, and we used to make a point of going when Montreal was in town, but the way it is now, there’s years when they don’t even come. So we just go, usually around February when it’s getting important, and it could be any team visiting.”

After Harper’s days in Montreal came to an end, he joined the LA Kings and also did stints in Detroit, St. Louis, and the Colorado Rockies before calling it quits in 1981. He played a total of 19 seasons in the NHL, which is a big-time career, and at the time of this phone call, was a 69-year old, stay-at-home defenceman in his local beer league.

Terry is 77 now.

Terry, winning another of his five Stanley Cups in Montreal
Terry, winning another of his five Stanley Cups in Montreal
Harper and Jacques Laperriere take to the ice for a scrimmage at the Forum.
Harper and Jacques Laperriere take to the ice for a scrimmage at the Forum.

Habs Beaten By Blues

The Canadiens were in St. Louis Tuesday night where the boys blew a two-goal lead (Paul Byron and Tomas Plekanec), and lost 3-2 in overtime.

But that’s all I can say about this. I’m waiting for my enthusiasm to return. It’s been gone for several games now.

But I would like you to know that I’ve lost 8 pounds by walking a lot and I now look like a friggin Adonis.

And if that isn’t interesting enough, there’s this: The decision to separate opposing players in the penalty box came after October 30, 1963 when Montreal’s Terry Harper and Toronto’s Bob Pulford fought on the ice and then continued their disagreement in the box after they’d been sitting side by side.

And if ALL THAT isn’t enough, Rocket Richard once said in a questionnaire that the one man he wanted to meet in person was actor John Wayne.

Habs Eaten By Coyotes

With Thomas Vanek in the lineup and Dale Weise a healthy scratch, the Canadiens drop a 5-2 decision to the Phoenix Coyotes, a game they were in until they weren’t.

Maybe it’s because Vanek played alongside smallish Tomas Plekanec and wee Brian Gionta, but he looked absolutely huge. He’s listed at 6′ at the Canadiens website, but 6’2″ everywhere else, including Hockey Database and Hockey Reference.

I’m going with those. He’s definitely bigger than 6′.

But that’s beside the point. The Canadiens lost, although it isn’t the end of the world. They just have to win in San Jose on Saturday to erase the bummer.

The Coyotes struck first when a long shot caromed off Douglas Murray, but Andrei Markov tied it with a big blast. Then with Lars Eller taking a tripping penalty in the offensive zone, Phoenix once again grabbed the lead and visions of Eller in the doghouse danced through many of our heads I’m sure.

But he was back out shortly after, which was nice to see. I hate seeing guys in the doghouse all the time. And if life was truly fair, Rene Bourque shouldn’t have played since last November.

The killer for the Habs came with just nine seconds left in the first period when Phoenix made it 3-1, and as they say, Antoine’s your uncle.

Montreal did narrow it to a 3-2 game in the second when Alex Galchenyuk scored on a 5 on 3, and Alexei Emelin had previously bulged the twine, but the goal was called back because Desharnais was stuck in the crease.

We could also say the Canadiens were all over the Coyotes in that second frame, but the home team had four penalties to Montreal’s none, and that might have something to do with it.

In the third, I listened to the game on the radio on my way to the airport to pick up Luci. That’s when I heard Phoenix make it 4-2 and then 5-2. It’s also when I got lost at the airport trying to find the parking garage.

Random notes:

Along with Weise, healthy scratches included George Parros and Francis Bouillon. Josh Gorges is back in Montreal having his damaged hand looked at.

The Canadiens apparently didn’t arrive in Phoenix until 3:00 am, but no excuses, right?

Habs outshot the Coyotes 26-23.

Thomas Vanek, although looking slightly out of sorts which is understandable, still managed to have three or four good chances to score, which is three or four more than Rene Bourque has managed in the last month.

Peter Budaj was less than sharp. We need Carey Price back, but with the final stretch and upcoming playoffs, it’s very wise not to rush things. Groin injuries take time. I remember suffering one myself after that private party with the players’ wives. Took me months to recover.

Newly acquired d-man Mike Weaver didn’t seem overly impressive in his debut but I think it’s unfair to judge after just one outing.

Next, the San Jose Sharks on Saturday at 10:00 pm ET. Another tough game, and it’ll be nice when this road trip is over. Not only because it’s a tough four games, but also because they’ve all been past my bedtime.

Maybe we’ll see a camera shot of grumpy Neil Young at the game. He’s been a season ticket holder in San Jose for years. Ex-Hab Terry Harper, who lives a couple of hours north of San Jose, also goes to games there from time to time.

 

A Letter For Michel Lagace

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Michel Lagace would report to the Quebec Aces training camp in 1962, as requested by Sam Pollock, and would suit up for five games, collecting one assist along the way.

Previously he had played seven playoff games for the Montreal Royals in ’59-’60 and managed 27 games with the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, both of the Eastern Professional Hockey League (EPHL).

That would be it for his pro hockey career.

Making it to the American Hockey League has always required serious talent, and even though it was only for five games, I say congratulations to Mr. Lagace for getting a lot further in hockey than most of us.

I would have loved getting a letter like this. I’d show all my friends, report to camp, work harder than everybody else, and eventually get called up to the Habs in a year or two. Then I play right wing with Jean Beliveau at centre and John Ferguson at left wing. I’d be on the cover of Hockey Pictorial, make the all-star team, make more money than my dad, and eventually end up in the Hall of Fame.

But first I needed one of those letters. Like Michel Lagace got.

 

 

Is Cammalleri’s Jersey Worth $1250.00 or $12.50?

Pierre Gauthier must have been some pissed off with Mike Cammalleri after the over-paid, underachieving rich kid called out the team in the waning hours before being sent packing to the wild west.

First, it was Cammalleri being dealt to Calgary midway through a game. Then it was Gauthier not telling the guy right away where he was going. And now we find out Gauthier wanted to charge Cammalleri $1250.00 for the jersey after the player asked if he could have it for sentimental reasons.

I’m of two minds about this. Gauthier refuses to leave the building, weeks after being let go. At least in spirit anyway. Maybe he’s a downright spiteful and immature type. Or possibly just has several screws loose, which many of us have suspected for quite some time.

On the other hand, Cammalleri wasn’t exactly Rocket Richard when it came time for intensity and fire, and doesn’t deserve a free jersey. He seemed overly-concerned with lookin’ good, except where it counted most – on the ice. He seemed to be all about his outside ventures, his brands, his image. When I watched him closely during the Flames-Canucks game not long ago, he scored a goal but also refused to get closer than two feet of opposing players. He played on the perimeter, waiting to be set up. And he performed over-extended fancy sweeps around the boards after whistles so fans could ooh and aah.

I would have dealt him too. Maybe in a slightly different way, though. And in hindsight, it certainly wouldn’t have been for Rene Bourque, which has absolutely nothing to do with Jerseygate but I thought I’d throw it in anyway.

In the last few hours I’ve been trying to figure out Gauthier’s thinking behind the $1250.00 figure. Why so much? Was this jersey going to bring in similar dollars in auction for charity? Did it need the world’s most expensive dry cleaning job? Cammalleri has ten letters in the name and was Gauthier hoping to recoup the dollars spent on such a long name on the back of the jersey? Or was it simply a case of Gauthier being quite an asshole?

And we also must remember this. For a six million dollar guy like Cammalleri, $1250 is chump change he drops in the ashtray when he comes home from the movies. It’s nothing, like a buck and a half for you and me.

So really, it’s come down to this for me. Gauthier is a mental case and Cammalleri, if he wanted the jersey badly enough, simply had to buy it and it wouldn’t have put the slightest dent in his wallet. I’m not taking sides either way here. Neither of them helped my team, and that’s a sin if I ever saw one.

Side note: A few years ago I chatted on the phone with Terry Harper, the old rearguard for the Canadiens in the 1960’s, and I asked him if he still had any of his old Habs sweaters from his playing days. Not a chance, he said. No one was allowed to leave the dressing room with a sweater and it was watched like a hawk by the trainers.

 

Enjoy The Original Six In Splendid Quality

I don’t know how often this has ever been in circulation, but it’s one of most greatest ten minutes of hockey clips you’ll ever see.

It’s from 1967, the quality is sensational, like it was filmed today, and we see Jean Beliveau, as smooth as smooth can be, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Jacques Laperriere, Terry Harper, Ralph Backstrom, Terry Sawchuk, and just about everybody else from that time, all from the old Montreal Forum with the pillars in the background.

It’s called Blades and Brass, is set to music of a Mexican brass band, and comes from the National Film Board of Canada. So just sit back and enjoy the Original Six at the old Montreal Forum, in perfect quality.

 

Habbing Hot Fun In The Summer

Early 1960’s article in Hockey Pictorial, asking members of the Montreal Canadiens how they planned on spending their summer.

Terry Harper was going on a western tour for Molsons and the Canadiens, and bringing along the wife and kids. Terry was born and raised in Regina, so a western tour would have been right up his alley. Kind of a way of getting home and having Molsons pay the shot, I suppose.

John Ferguson was going to work in a Boys’ Detention Home in Nanaimo, BC, and if I was one of those boys in the home, I’d be very polite around the Mr. Ferguson. The last thing I’d want to do was make him upset. Fergie also plannned on playing some lacrosse while on Vancouver Island, and by all accounts, he was a great lacrosse player.

Ralph Backstrom was going to hang out at the resort he bought near Buckingham, Quebec, a nice little town not far from Ottawa and full of Irish, English, and French townsfolk, and Dave Balon thought he’d sell a little real estate and play golf. The way salaries are today, I’m pretty sure Balon wouldn’t have to worry about selling real estate if he was lacing them up now.

JC Tremblay and his wife were expecting a baby, as were the Claude Provosts. What, these guys had sex with their wives? If they played in Toronto, Punch Imlach would’ve been pissed because they weren’t concentrating on hockey.

Have A Nice Trip, Said Toe

Frank J. Selke, Montreal’s Managing Director from 1946 until 1963, had a secretary named Lee Dillon, and I have three things that belonged to Ms. Dillon, two of which I’m showing today, and a third in a little over a month from now.

This first piece is Ms. Dillon’s pass to get into games at the Forum, and how sweet would that have been to have a pass into the Forum?

And below is a greeting card to Ms. Dillon from none other than one of my heroes, Toe Blake.

I’m very proud to own this. Toe Blake was not only the legendary coach wearing the fedora who was at the helm for eight Stanley Cups throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, but who also played on the same team as Howie Morenz in 1936, and was part of the legendary Punch Line with the Rocket and Elmer Lach.

Toe Blake was my kind of coach. Old school, demanded respect, and a winner. Do you think Toe would put up with pampered trillionaire brats? Hah!

Jean Beliveau goes on record as saying Toe was a wonderful guy. Terry Harper told me on the phone that Toe was a real gentleman. And yet he was kicked out of the Forum pool hall for using too much profanity.

Scotty Bowman learned from him. The Rocket considered him a big brother. Players won for him.

And here he writes to Lee Dillon. (And maybe added a few pesos).

 

Terry Harper Doesn’t Know How Much We’re Suffering

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I phoned Terry Harper this morning, just to say hello and also to take him up on his invitation from several months ago to call him again after I’d had a nice long chat with him back then. Shooting the breeze with Terry Harper

He said “call me again” and so I did.

He was a tall, stay-at-home defenceman of the Canadiens of the 1960’s, big number 19, when we were proud of the team and weren’t mad at them on an almost nightly basis. His regular defence partners most of the time were either Jacques Laperriere or Ted Harris and all three were towering skyscrapers when the league didn’t have a lot of towering skyscrapers. Terry was one of my favourites growing up, but then again, every player on the team was one of my favourites.

He also had a good brushcut.

Anyway, I wanted to make it a quick call because I don’t like to bother people but Terry is salt-of-the-earth, friendly as friendly can be, so I knew he wouldn’t mind.

He didn’t. In fact, when saying goodbye he told me to call again!

I told him I saw him introduced during the Centennial celebrations at the Bell Centre in December and I mentioned he looked great and hasn’t changed a bit from the old days. He said I must have been wearing some 3-D glasses or glasses that were the wrong prescription. And he said it was a fantastic night, seeing so many old teammates like Bobby Rousseau, Ralph Backstrom and Jean Beliveau, and everyone stayed in the same hotel and it was all done up right for them and their wives.

He said it was also great seeing not just old teammates but so many old friends from Montreal. But he did mention that there was no chance he’d be moving back there anytime soon because it’s just too cold. (He and his wife live in California.)

I did, however, also want to ask him about the struggling Habs now, but because he gets very little news and isn’t much of a computer guy, he isn’t really up to date on the problems we see as tormented Habs fans. So all he could say about the team being in trouble is he wouldn’t want to be Bob Gainey and that the goaltending situation is almost impossible to really know how to handle.

And that was that. A quick chat with Terry Harper. And yes, it could’ve been more in-depth. But it wasn’t which means I’ll never be asked to work for 60 Minutes or The Fifth Estate. But like I say, I didn’t want to bother him.

You can see Terry’s years in the NHL right here.


Habs Stomp On Bruins To Kick Off The Next 100 Years

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007It began with heart-warming moments. Onto the ice in full uniform came Guy Lafleur, Ken Dryden, Pete Mahovlich, Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey, Steve Shutt, and a host of others. It was like seeing a 1976 pre-game warmup.

And the best was yet to come. Others were introduced, and for me personally, seeing Ralph Backstrom, Bobby Rousseau and Terry Harper come out were special moments. I wanted to play like Backstrom and couldn’t, so instead I got a brush-cut like him. I wanted to shoot like Bobby Rousseau but few could, and anyway, I had a nice brush-cut like Backstrom. And I recently had a friendly and interesting chat on the phone with Terry Harper, who also had a brush-cut when he played.

But it was great seeing all the players. A whole cross-section of those from different decades, like the 1940’s Bob Fillion, Elmer Lach and Emile Bouchard, right up to modern times with guys such as Vincent Damphousse, Pierre Turgeon and Mike Keane. Coaches were there – Scotty Bowman, Claude Ruel, Jean Perron, Jacques Demers. And crusty old trainer Eddie Palchak came out in his trainers jacket and threw a couple of pails of pucks on the ice, like he did so many times in the past.

Next in line was seeing Lach and Bouchard finally have their numbers 16 and 3 sent up to the rafters. And as a capper, Ryan O’Byrne gave up his number three forever when he took it off and presented it to Bouchard, and O”Byrne is now number 20.

And then, to top everything off, the Habs trounced Boston 5-1, with Mike Cammelleri scoring three times. The team was solid, although a few less penalties would’ve been nice. And Carey Price was terrific, turning back 37 shots fired at him and looking like Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy, who surely were pulling in a big way for the youngster from their private box.

Such a turnaround after the zombie-like performances against Toronto and Buffalo. But I suppose when you’re playing in front of all those legendary figures up above watching, you need to bring your ‘A’ game. And they did and it was the best birthday present the team could give themselves. And us.

Ken Dryden said it perfectly, as he always does. When he speaks, it’s like he’s writing a book, his words flow with grace and smarts. Dryden said the 2009-10 team can never be the team of the 1950’s or 1970’s or any other year. For the players, it’s now their team, their century, and it’s up to them to create their own history.

The team of today must have heard Dryden, and they came out with a huge win on a huge night. The birthday party is ending, and a new team is born.

Random Notes;

Along with Cammalleri’s three goals, Glen Metropolit and Jaroslav Spacek also lit the lamp.

Gordie Howe came out carrying a Maurice Richard jersey. This is very poignant because they were never friends and Howe said many times he wasn’t crazy about the Rocket, even long after both had retired.

Philadelphia’s in town Monday. This is a team in slight disarray and it would be an excellent time to take advantage of their fragility.

Nice to see wooden sticks the old players carried, and Dryden’s mask.

I’m thinking about getting a brush-cut.

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