Tag Archives: The Rocket

Rocket In Orillia

I recently posted the photos below on an Orillia Facebook page called “If You Grew Up In Orillia You Remember….”, and lots of Orillians did remember that big night in 1962 when the great Rocket Richard came to town.

It was a big night for me, that’s for sure. Number 9 was my hero, which is something that’s never changed over the years.

Somehow the local sports editor, Lynn Jones, heard about me having a Montreal Canadiens scrapbook with plenty of pictures of the Rocket in it, so he called and asked if he could borrow one for the program they were putting together. I was very proud.

The Rocket signed it, but the pen was beginning to run out of ink.

After these pictures went on the Orillia site, an old baseball and hockey friend of mine, Warren Howes, sent a team picture from that night, with his younger brother, the goalie, in the front row.

As you can see, the entire team is wearing Habs sweaters but it appears they might have been worn to make Maurice happy.  The kids had either their team sweaters underneath, or Leafs sweaters, which is what Warren thinks.

You can see the Rocket standing behind the boys. And in my pile of Habs stuff here in Powell River is a helmet identical to the one the kid in the front row, third from left, is wearing.

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Rocket in Orillia

High Times for Max And P.K.

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For those who came here by mistake, don’t follow hockey, and are unsure of who’s who, Max is the one in the blue shirt.

Great news this week concerning P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty. One who gave and one who received.

First with the Subbanator, who only a few days ago donated a cool ten million bucks (over seven years), to Montreal’s Children’s Hospital.

What a gesture by the 2015-16 Norris Trophy winner and key  member of next spring’s Stanley Cup-winning team. A big-hearted man of the people, and a guy with lots of money.

Rocket Richard gave to charities, visited hospitals, and accepted invitations to countless banquets, not only because certain duties were required, but because he truly loved kids. But in his day, if he’d handed over even a grand to a hospital, his house might have gone into foreclosure.

Whatever. Rocket then, P.K. now – it’s about caring and helping and loving kids and beating the shit out of the Leafs and Bruins.

We now tap our fingers and wait for Erik Karlsson to do something almost as good as what P.K. did. Is it possible? Or is P.K. truly one of a kind?

Maybe Patrick Kane might want to think about doing something like this too.

Next:

P.K. and the boys cast their votes, and Max Pacioretty was chosen by his buddies as Montreal’s newest wearer of the iconic C. A great honour and Max deserves it. He’s a class act on and off the ice, a dangerous sharpshooter, and obviously popular with his teammates.

Maybe his French leaves much to be desired, but hopefully some media folk and fans don’t get their shorts in a knot and just suck it up and let it be.

Habs fans missed having a captain last year, and now the letter is back in place. Max will look terrific when he accepts the Stanley Cup from wee Bettman next June.

Last year I sat with Max, Brendan Gallagher, Brandon Prust, and Tomas Plekanec at a table while they signed autographs, and while Prust and Plekanec hardly said a word and left as soon as they could, Max and Gally were as friendly as can be to all concerned, and stayed afterward and met people connected with the event.

Max’s dad and I have exchanged emails over the past several years, and I might sound like Don Cherry or Glenn Healy here, but I told Mr. Pacioretty a couple of years back that I thought his son would make a fine captain.

And because I mentioned Rocket’s house a few paragraphs ago, here’s a photo of it, situated in the north end of Montreal (Ahuntsic), where he raised a family while scaring the bejesus out of opposing forwards, defencemen, and goalies.

It’s a beautiful house on a corner lot, with a park and river across the street, and the main difference now, compared to when Maurice and his gang lived there, is the upper part, which is completely different than the original dwelling. That and different windows.

I took Lucy to see it, and she seemed impressed that it was Rocket’s house. I stress the word “seemed.”

Peloquin

Here’s the original if you feel like comparing.

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Glass Breaker

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This old photo, which is in my scrapbook, shows the Rocket in the late-1940s breaking the plexiglass at Maple Leaf Gardens as Vic Lynn looks on in disbelief.

A couple of neat stories that go with this photo that I learned from reading Brian McFarlane’s book “True Hockey Stories: The Habs”.

The photo has been credited to Nat Turofsky, one of two brothers, both of whom shot reams of legendary pictures in Toronto, (You can see their Alexandra Studios name on the left of the photo).

But this one was taken by a kid apprenticing for the Turofskys, who was lucky enough to have been sent to the other end of the ice from where Nat was, and where the glass-breaking happened.

Best of all, sitting just behind the glass when it broke and having pieces of it falling on them were the two salesmen who had sold the plexiglass to the Gardens in the first place, and who had claimed that it couldn’t be broken!

Here’s the picture in my scrapbook.

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Happy Rocket Long Weekend

It’s the big Victoria Day long weekend in Canada, when we celebrate a queen from so far back that even Bob Cole wasn’t even born yet.

I don’t know about this. Did she even come to Canada? Did she watch the Leafs and say “We are not amused?”

It’s a great weekend though. It’s a time when students come home to visit mom and pop and spend the three days partying with friends with mom and pop never seeing them except at dinner time. It’s when outlaw bikers gather to play frisbee and learn to ballroom dance. And it’s when millionaire hockey players not in the playoffs finally open up their million dollar cottages up in the Muskokas or Laurentians.

I don’t know why we have a holiday for a British queen who reigned more than a hundred years ago. My feeling is, this big weekend should be in honour of Maurice Richard, the man responsible for slaying charging troops from Toronto and Boston, and overcoming the evil and ruthless Clarence of Campbell.

And if it’s all about celebrating a birthday, Bob Dylan was born on May 24th. Bob grew up just a few miles south of Canada, in Hibbing, Minnesota, so he knows what cold, snow and hockey are. I’m sure that right now he’s reading The Hockey News from his pad in Malibu. For me, it’s no contest between Bob and Vicky. Not once did I party and do illegal drugs to a Queen Victoria record.

Although Vicky was quite a looker, don’t you think?

But Rocket beats them both. Of course. So to everyone out there, Happy Canadian Rocket Long Weekend. If your kids aren’t home, don’t worry. They’re probably passed out in a dumpster somewhere and will be fine by dinner time.

 

Three Pretenders To The Throne. And One King

At least four major athletes have carried the handle of “Rocket” during their careers.  I wonder who the real holder of this title is? Hmm.

ismailRaghib ‘Rocket’ Ismail? He was a star football player in college, the Canadian Football League and the NFL, made millions, and promptly went broke after losing his fortune with bad investments in restaurants, movies and phone card dispensers among others. Now he gets jobs on reality shows like Pros vs. Joes, where average guys try to deke him out on the gridiron, and Ty Murray’s Bull Riding Challenge. He also coaches Slamball, whatever that is. Is he The Rocket? Not a chance.

clemensRoger ‘Rocket’ Clemens? One 0f the greatest pitchers in the history of the major leagues with over 4000 career strikeouts. Unfortunately, this Rocket was discovered to be juiced up on steroids for much of his career and has had several extra-marital relationships, including adultery with a then-15 year old country singer named Mindy McCready. And in Joe Torre’s book ‘The Yankee Years’, Torre writes that Clemens would soak in extremely hot water and then have the hottest possible muscle liniment applied to his genitals during rub-downs. Would he be the true Rocket? Not even close. 

burePave Bure, ‘The Russian Rocket’? A great hockey player, speedy, tricky, slick. Also a prima donna who had his own room in the dressing room, apart from his teammates, a la Barry Bonds. He’s now General Manager of the Russian Oympic team. Bure has also had his share of controvery. He apparently started dating tennis star Anna Kournikova while she was still Sergei Fedorov’s woman and endured his share of gossip column chatter. And then there were those alleged ties with the Russian mafia.

Is Bure the true Rocket? A great player, but no way.

And then there’s the other Rocket. The only Rocket. I don’t have to go any further.

Puttin’ On The Ritz. Looking Good In Public

I’m going on a little trip in a few weeks and needed to jazz up my wardrobe a little. You know, put on something nice when I go out for dinner and all that? So I pulled out all the stops and got what I think is just perfect. I found a guy in Minnesota who makes these nice shirts, and he’s got all kinds. You can find him at http://www.wearyourheroes.com/ 

Hey DK, that’s two minutes for looking so good!

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The Rocket Shows Up On Front Page Challenge

 After scoring his 500th goal in 1957, the Rocket appeared on the long-running CBC show Front Page Challenge, answering the panelists’ questions from behind their backs as they tried to guess who he was. After the question and answer part, Rocket came out and chatted for about ten minutes with the panel who, on this night, included cranky old skinflint Gordon Sinclair, lovely Toby Robins, author and joint-roller Pierre Berton, and guest Margaret Higgins. I’ve no idea if the Rocket fooled them or not.

Front Page Challenge ran from 1957 to 1995 and was as Canadian as you can get. Fred Davis was the slick moderator, and Gordon Sinclair and Pierre Berton were usually joined by Betty Kennedy, but on the Rocket’s night, Toby Robins was doing the duties instead of Betty. The show focussed on world news headlines and the special secret guests all had some sort of connection to said events.

I thought it was a great show. Gordon Sinclair never failed to ask the guests how much money they made, Berton was informed and talkative, and Betty Kennedy was well-spoken and lovely.

Fred Davis was as smooth as smooth can be. He always said the right thing, was always polite with a smile on his face, and kept the show moving professionally.

When I looked up the dates and saw it ran to 1995, I couldn’t believe it. I watched it as a kid, and I can’t associate it with the nineties at all. Maybe I’m just losing my mind.

Number Nine Is Too Sacred For Just Anybody

  When Wayne Gretzky retired, the entire league, every team, agreed the proper thing to do was to retire jersey no. 99 permanently so no other player would ever wear it.

 

This is absolutely reasonable. Gretzky deserves this honour. He was Gretzky, for goodness sakes.

 

But there’s another number out there that deserves the same royal treatment. Number nine.

 

Number nine was the number of Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, and of course, Maurice Richard.

 

How can you argue with that? Number nine shouldn’t be worn by Steve Downie or Oscar Moller. Number nine was worn by Mr. Hockey, the Golden Jet, and the Rocket, three of the greatest ever, right up there at the top of the mountain. It’s a sacred number.

 

Currently there are 15 teams of the 30 with a player wearing number nine. It doesn’t seem right.

 

I think all but two of these players should surrender their number nine, choose another one, and carry on. The two players, Mike Modano in Dallas and Paul Kariya in St. Louis, have had too good a career to not wear these sweaters. But when they retire, so goes the number.

 

Here are the other 13 players currently wearing number nine.

 

Eric Christensen – Atlanta

Derek Roy – Buffalo

Steven Weiss – Florida

Oscar Moller – LA

Mikko Koivu – Minnesota

Zach Parise – New Jersey

Brendan Bell – Ottawa

Scottie Upshall – Philadelphia

Pascal Dupuis – Pittsburgh

Milan Michalek – San Jose

Steve Downie – Tampa Bay

Niklas Hagman – Toronto

Taylor Pyatt – Vancouver

Jean Beliveau Gives His Thoughts While In Vancouver

Jean Beliveau was in Vancouver this weekend and gave a really nice interview with The Province’s Jim Jamieson. I thought you might like it. 

 

Q: What does the 100th anniversary of the Canadiens mean to you?

A: I find myself to be very fortunate to be part of it; I’ve been with them since Oct. 3, 1953 when I signed my first contract. I’m a very lucky man. I’ve never been traded and been with the organization for 55 years.

 

Q: How is your health these days? You had some health issues about eight years ago.

A: One morning I was shaving and noticed something on my neck. It turned out to be a malignant tumour. I had 36 treatments of radiation. It’s been 8 1/2 years and we are more optimistic every year.

 

Q: How many children do you and your wife have?

A: I have one daughter who is 51 and two grand-daughters, 24 and 22. The first one is an artist, she paints; and the second is a nurse.

 

Q: You auctioned off some of your memorabilia earlier this year in aid of the Jean Beliveau Foundation. What does your foundation do?

A: When I retired in 1971, the Canadiens presented me with a cheque for $155,000 and I turned it into a fund. In 1993, I turned it over to the Quebec Society for Crippled Children. Now the foundation is worth about $1.5 million and we have given about $1.5 million. I’m very proud.

 

Q: You were a part of the great Canadiens teams that won five straight Stanley Cups in the last half of the 1950’s. With today’s salary cap in the NHL, do you think we’ll ever see that happen again?

A: In today’s hockey it’s going to be difficult. A team is built around four or five guys, if you’re lucky enough to have them. But it’s very difficult to keep them now. If you start playing young, you’re free at 26. Teams have to rebuild all the time.

 

Q: We seem to be seeing more hits from behind and shots to the head today. What would you do to reduce it?

A: I played 23 years and never wore a helmet. I don’t know how players can hit someone from behind when he’s facing the glass. I have a hard time with that. I hope the league finds a way to get rid of it before somebody gets seriously hurt. If you’re suspended it hits the pocketbook.

 

Q: Who was the most difficult goaltender, defenceman and forward that you ever played against?

A: I always had a lot of respect for Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk. On defence there were some great ones – Bobby Orr, because of his speed, won the scoring championship. Red Kelly in Detroit also, but every team had a great defenceman when there was just six teams. At forward, I always had respect for Gordie Howe. He could do everything. Every time we played Chicago I was out against [Stan] Mikita and against Toronto it was [Dave] Keon. The Rangers had Jean Ratelle and [Rod] Gilbert, but there were so many others.

 

Q: Who was the best player you played with on the Canadiens?

A: Well, Maurice [Richard] of course, but I used to play with him mostly on the power play. My line was [Bernie “Boom Boom”] Geoffrion and Bert Olmstead, so we had two offensive lines and a good checking line. Also, we had Doug Harvey on defence. He could control the speed of the game like a general out there.

 

Q: The Canadiens power play was so dominant in the 1950’s that you actually forced the NHL to change the minor-penalty rule because your team would often score multiple goals on the same man advantage.

A: We had Maurice on the right, Bert Olmstead or Dickie Moore on the left, and and Harvey and Geoffrion on the point. One night against Boston (Nov. 5, 1955) I got three goals in 44 seconds on the power play. So they changed the rule that a player would come out of the box after one goal.

 

Q: How have you seen the NHL change through expansion?

A: I’m not surprised there are a few cities in the south that seem to have problems. Here in Canada, everybody has skated and they know about the game. In the morning when I check the summary of the games, I look at shots and attendance. In the US, the attendance is increasing it seems after the Super Bowl.

 

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