Tag Archives: The Game

Ken Helps Out

It was this running schtick I had going with my sister for awhile. One of us would say something like, “I’ve known a lot of people in my life…… and you’re one of them.” Or if we were in the car one would say, “You know, I’ve seen a lot of drivers in my life…… and you’re one of them.” Silly stuff like that.

Maybe you had to be there. Seemed funny at the time.

Ken Dryden showed up at a bookstore in Calgary and my sister got him to write this:

Eddy Palchak Passes On

Goodbye Eddie Palchak.

31 Years with the Montreal Canadiens, beginning in 1966, as trainer, equipment manager, babysitter, confidant, friend, big brother, skate sharpener, and massager of egos. He was part of the team for ten Stanley Cups, was in the room during highs and lows and the angry throwing of skates and sticks when things weren’t going well for some. He dished out numbers, pulled out needles and thread to stitch sweaters, and kept tape from running short.

He was a guy the players needed for their everyday problems at their hockey factory, in some ways he replaced moms and dads, and when you’re being relied upon for 31 years, you know you’ve done a great job.

Thanks for helping the Montreal Canadiens win ten Stanley Cups, Eddie. And tell the boys in Habs heaven that we think about them.

Eddie was 71.

And this, from Ken Dryden’s “The Game”

“Eddy Palchak left the Forum at 3 o’clock this morning. When our charter from Boston landed, as we walked to cars to take us home, Palchak, with assistant Pierre Meilleur, was unloading equipment bags from the plane into a van that would take them to the Forum. There, he and Meilleur unpacked the bags, hanging the equipment to dry, piling underwear, socks, jocks, and sweaters in the laundry room to be washed by a Forum assistant when he arrived early in the morning. Then, with only a few hours’ sleep, at 9:30 a.m. he was back, setting out a second set of underwear, sharpening several pairs of skates for the noon practice. By 3:30 this afternoon, more than an hour after the last player has left, he will leave the Forum again. Tomorrow, with a game at night, he will arrive for our morning skate an hour earlier than usual, at 8:30, leaving again at 1, arriving back at the Forum at 5, finally finding his bed in a Philadelphia hotel, after the game, after the plane ride, after unpacking the bags and changing up the wet equipment at the Spectrum, some time after 3 a.m.”

“For Palchak, a friendly, conscientious man with a round pillow face and wonderful Buddy Hackett-like smile, it is a familiar routine.”

 

I Want A Habs Version Of 24/7

Finally got to see Part One of 24/7, HBO’s fascinating look at the behind the scenes goings-on of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, two teams going in different directions, and one team with a coach who drops a ton of F-bombs as he gives his inspirational speeches in the dressing room and behind the bench.

It’s a lead-up to the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, and I can’t wait for Part Two next Wednesday.

Glimpses behind the scenes is one of my favourite things, and 24/7 is all about behind the scenes. Hangin’ out, Christmas party, practical jokes like Crosby and the boys taking the furniture out of a rookie’s hotel room and leaving it in the hallway. Team dinners, kids, fans, getting sewn up, and plane trips where we see most of the players playing video games.

I couldn’t be an NHLer. I don’t know how to play video games.

Best of all was Bruce Boudreau blasting his team after another loss. Not surprisingly, he heard it from his mother later on about the couple of hundred F-bombs he let fly in this documentary.

I thought his speeches were great. The hockey version of Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy.

Maybe not.

And the Caps continued to lose anyway.

The whole thing was fascinating and I wish someone would do the same thing about the Habs. How great would it be to see the Canadiens off the ice, as Ken Dryden described so wonderfully in “The Game?”

And I wonder if Jacques Martin swears as much as Bruce Boudreau.

Hoping For A Warm And Fuzzy Habs Dressing Room

Saku Koivu had this to say recently about the difference in closeness between his new team, the Anaheim Ducks, and his old. “It’s more of a tighter feeling than in Montreal.”

And that says a lot. Because if it’s true, that the Canadiens weren’t a close group, then no wonder they lost big and looked dismal while doing it. You can’t win if you’re not a family, even a disfunctional family. The Edmonton Oilers, thanks to the documentary “The Boys on the Bus”, along with testimonials from Gretzky, Messier, Fuhr et al over the years, have described and shown us what a hockey family is. The Habs of the 1950’s were a close group, except for Jacques Plante maybe, but he was a goalie, and goalies can be whatever they want. Ken Dryden told us in “The Game” what a tight group the 1970’s Canadiens were. The Toronto Maple Leafs, the second-most successful franchise of the 1960’s, became a family and banded together because of one common denominator – their distaste of coach and drill sargeant Punch Imlach. Detroit bonded, possibly because of the tragic car accident involving Vlad Konstantinov, and have shown many times to be a close group. Now Pittsburgh, maybe with the help of Mario Lemieux’s mansion/party house, seems the same.

But the Canadiens weren’t?

Were the rumours of a divided dressing room true? Did players go their own way socially, or in small groups only, like we’ve heard? Was there friction in the room, including those who felt Koivu was a taskmaster as captain? Were the Kostitsyn’s moody? Did Kovalev upset players with his inconsistant play and puck-hogging, and what was the true relationship between him and Koivu? Did players roll their eyes when they saw how Georges Laraque was told to go out and stage fights? Did the players drive coach Guy Carbonneau out? Did owner George Gillett stick his nose in places he shouldn’t, and too often? And is the real reason players from other teams have no desire to play for the Habs because attitudes and chemistry are all out of whack?

When Guy Carbonneau was fired, he said that someday the truth would come out. What is the truth? Is it related to a divided room, with some players poisoning the air? And has the team been blown up and rebuilt because of the problems among players that may have been the biggest contibutor to their dismal performance?

We’ll hear soon enough about this group, because no team, probably in any sport, is scrutinized, categorized and analyzed the way the Canadiens are. Bob Gainey knows what harmony in the dressing is. I’m thinking he’s gone out and tried to find it.

Hopefully he has.

Pointu Was Great (And Creative) On And Off The Ice

0075The Globe and Mail called Ken Dryden’s book, The Game, “the sports book of the year, or maybe the decade, or maybe the century.”  Dryden took us into the inner circle of the late 1970’s Montreal Canadiens, when they were the best team in hockey, poised to win their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup. It’s a great book, written with humility and intelligence, and I know many of you have already read it. I just wanted to share a few things that I really like.

I’m sure Ken Dryden had a little smile on his face as he wrote about Guy Lapointe, affectionately know as “Pointu”.  Dryden says in the early to mid-1970’s, except for Bobby Orr, Lapointe was the best defenceman in the NHL.

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In the shower, (Yvon) Lambert is singing. Lapointe grabs a bucket and tiptoes to the bathroom sink like a cartoon spy. He fills the bucket with cold water, and peers around the corner of the shower. Lambert is still singing. Lapointe winds up; we hear a scream. Lapointe dashes back into the room and quickly out again, dropping his bucket. Lambert, still lathered up, races after him, screaming threats.  Losing his trail, Lambert stops to pick up the bucket, fills it, and resumes his search. Finally he finds Lapointe hiding in a toilet stall; he backs him into the room. Naked, sobbing, pleading pathetically, Lapointe falls to his knees, his hands clutched in front of him. Lambert winds up to throw the water, then stops: in Lapointe’s hands are Lambert’s clothes.

The laces to my skates have been shredded into macaroni-size pieces too small for knots to hold together. I look up at a roomful of blank faces. Before I can say his name, Lapointe, who cuts my laces twenty or twenty-five times a year, though I have never seen him do it, gives me an injured look. “Hey, get the right guy,” he shouts.

“Hey Reggie (Houle),” he shouts, “That was a helluva play ya made last night.” Houle goes silent; we begin to laugh. “Yup,” Robinson continues slowly, drawing out each word, “not often ya see a guy on a breakaway put it in the crowd.” Lapointe snaps down his newspaper. “Don’t let it bother ya, Reggie,” he says sympathetically. “No harm done.” Surprised, we all look up. “The goalie just woulda stopped ya anyway,” he says, and we all laugh harder.

“Ah, I’m full,” Lapointe announces, wiping his face with napkin. “Anybody want my ice cream?” Shaking their heads, murmuring, everyone says no. Finally, after looking around, certain that no one else wants it, “Um, yeah sure,” I say tentatively, ya sure ya don’t want it?” Lapointe shakes his head, and hands it to me. I take a bite. Before I can taste what I’ve eaten, the room explodes with laughter – sour cream with chocolate sauce.

“Calisse, now I done it,” he groans. “Kenny, who’s a good lawyer? I need some help.” He looks genuinely worried this time.                                                          
“Call a guy named Ackerman,” I tell him earnestly.                                        
“What?” he says. “Ackerman,” I repeat louder, and suddenly I know what’s coming next. “I’m not deaf,” he says indignantly, and walks away laughing.

The Boys Having Some Fun With The Pen

 

I drank beer with Aurele Joliat in Ottawa at the old Prescott Hotel, sometime in the mid-1980’s, and drove him home afterwards. I had brought my book, ‘The Montreal Canadiens” by Claude Mouton with me, and Aurele was more than happy to sign it and mention my broken arm.

 

Ken Dryden signed his book ‘The Game’ for me by writing “I’ve had a lot of fans in my life, and you’re one of them. Happy Birthday, Dennis”

My sister got him to do it. It was a bit of an inside joke.