Tag Archives: Toe Blake

A Kid At The Forum




When I was about 13, I took a bus from Orillia to Montreal with a friend to see the Canadiens for my first time. It was the original Forum before it was renovated in 1968, and I remember there were pillars throughout that caused obstructed views and I remember thinking that I was glad I wasn’t sitting behind one.

I also took a picture of Toe Blake’s Tavern on Rue Ste. Catherines, which is now long gone. (The tavern, not the street.)

On the bus ride back to Orillia, older guys were passing booze around and when my dad picked me up at the bus station, I was in rough shape.

A thirteen-year old kid with a hangover.




That’s Tony Demers on the left, circa 1942, with a couple of youngsters named Elmer Lach and rookie Maurice Richard.

Kind of a pre-Punch Line.

But it wouldn’t become the Punch Line because (a) Toe Blake filled that role nicely, and (b), Tony Demers ended up in the penitentiary.

You can see Tony’s situation right here – Eight Years in the Big House

Tony was born and raised in Chambly, not far from where I’m living right now. He died in 1997, and if he was still alive, he’d be 96.

Punch Played

It’s hard to picture Punch Imlach as anything but a hard-assed coach. But the guy who coached first the Quebec Aces of the Quebec Senior Hockey League, then the Springfield Indians in the AHL, and then became the notorious and egotistical taskmaster with the Leafs and Sabres, began as a really good player, the “best centre in the loop”, they said.

But it’s still hard not to think of him as the guy in the fedora behind the Leafs bench, playing cat and mouse with the Habs’ Toe Blake, and being so hard on Frank Mahovlich that the Big M was once hospitalized because of Punch’s daily pressure.

Although it doesn’t look like it in this picture. But things would deteriorate.

Big M

This is when he was playing for Cornwall in 1941-42.

Imlach best



Jacket Diaries


This is my jacket, the same type as you’d see in Toe Blake photos and hockey cards, and is what the trainers in team photos would be wearing way back when. This baby’s from the mid-1950s. I have it in preparation of my being called up for the stick boy job.

A year ago I started to walk. I walked here and there and everywhere, almost every day, and in about six months I’d lost 25 pounds. And one day I tried this jacket on and it fit, which it didn’t before. A little short maybe, but it fit.

I brought this jacket to Montreal with me, and during the trip across the country, it was a lot of restaurant meals and sitting around with beer in the evenings. I ate pastries from those free hotel continental breakfasts, bought the odd Caramilk at gas stations so we could press on, and drove, ate, drank beer, sat around some more, and when we finally got to Montreal, I started a new job where I’m not moving around at all.

Now the jacket doesn’t fit as well anymore.

Is this a sad story?

Below, Toe wearing one from a different year, with the flags on the other arm, along with some different shading in the crest.


The Book’s Cover


I’ve mentioned a few times over the years about the time I got a book for Christmas when I was kid, called Let’s Play Hockey, which my father sent away to Montreal and got signed by pretty well every Montreal Canadien player from the 1958-59 season, with just Doug Harvey’s signature missing.

Not long after, my dad took me to a Habs-Leafs game in Toronto and he brought the book, took it down by the Canadiens dressing room, found Toe Blake, and asked Toe if he would take the book into the room and have Harvey sign it for me, which Blake did. That’s Harvey’s autograph over on the left, on its own.

As you can see, Jacques Plante’s at the bottom, Toe Blake’s at the top, along with Maurice and Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Boom Boom Geoffrion, Jean Guy Talbot, Claude Provost, Tom Johnson, Marcel Bonin, Ralph Backstrom, Phil Goyette, Bob Turner, Ab McDonald, Don Marshall, Andre Pronovost, and Ian Cushenan.

This team, of course, was a Stanley Cup winner.

The brown marks are from scotch tape which I’d used to protect the signatures with plastic back then.

Just recently while going through some old programs, I found an ad for this book, and as you can see, it cost a whopping $1.50 back then, which was probably a couple of hours work for my dad. The dust jacket for my book is long gone, so discovering this ad was cool. I’d forgotten what the cover looked like.






And The Answer Is (Was)….

clocks 1

Not long ago a couple of folks here wondered how teams are able to keep track of all the players’ ice-time during a game. I wasn’t clear either, so I began looking around my stacks of magazines and through old boxes, and I came up with an answer.

Of course, the answer comes from 1959 so things have changed slightly. But hey, it’s still sort of an answer.

This example is from Maple Leaf Gardens, but I’m sure it was the same at the Forum and the other four rinks back then.

Thirty-six clocks were originally installed at the Gardens in 1950, with two panels of switches, and from their vantage point, two men kept track of the players on the ice for both teams. There was one panel for the Leafs, and one for the visitors. Each panel had 18 on-off switches.

Beneath each switch was a player’s name inked on white tape, and the names were arranged so that the switches for players playing together were side by side. The two guys then quickly flipped the switches as players changed.

The 36 clocks were in a small room up high in the Gardens, and under each one was the name of the player whose switch in the booth was connected to his clock. The giant Sportimer over centre ice was also wired into the clocks, so when the timekeeper at ice level started and stopped the Sportimer, he automatically controlled the clocks for each man on the ice.

After each period, an employee recorded each player’s time in minutes and seconds, and when the game was over, the times went to the coaches of each team. Sometimes the employee would get a call for the times at the end of each period or even during a period if Punch Imlach or Toe Blake or one of those other guys wearing a nice fedora needed to check on a particular player.

Time in the penalty box wasn’t counted. When one of the Leafs once got into a game to sit out a teammate’s penalty, his total playing time was logged at four seconds – the time it took to get back to the bench after the penalty expired.  “Too slow,” said Leafs coach Hap Day. “It shouldn’t have taken him so long.”

After the game, the coach wants as many statistics as he can get. Along with playing times, he wants to know which players were on the ice for different situations. In 1959 at least, these extra things were done by a couple of guys up in the press box scribbing like mad.

So there you have it. A couple of guys asked, and I, with the help of my old trunk, delivered. Even though the information comes from 54 years ago.

clocks 2

Scenes From His Tavern (And More)

This is the kind of thing I really love. It’s not mine, just a photo online, but imagine how great it would look on a shelf in your house.

A Rocket Richard ashtray from the tavern he owned in the late ’50s and early ’60s, Taverne 544/9



Below, a 66 minute National Film Board documentary (in French) on the Rocket called Peut-être Maurice Richard, and scenes from his tavern can be seen at 18:15, 54:55, and 64:26.

The one at 54:55 shows Rocket arm-wrestling a customer, and throughout the film there are wonderful moments, even if you don’t speak French. Maurice Richard was such a nice and humble man.

(Thanks to Christopher for sending this along).

Peut-être Maurice Richard by Gilles Gascon, National Film Board of Canada

Goodbye Dad

My dad and I went to see our Habs in Toronto when I was little, we got to Maple Leaf Gardens early, and as we stood in the corridor, much of team, maybe all of the team, walked by us – The Rocket, Beliveau, Plante, Geoffrion, Moore – everybody. Shortly after, we went down by the dressing room and dad asked Toe Blake if he would take my book in and get Doug Harvey to sign it, which amazingly, Blake did.

This morning my dad died. He was 92.

Orillia on the horizon.







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.


More From Kouli

Kouli in Vancouver always has such great photos for sale on his site at Kouli the Greek and I very much appreciate him letting me show some of his stuff, which I do from time to time.

Below, Mr. Beliveau; the 1912 edition of the Habs; Charlie Hodge; Pete and Frank Mahovlich with Pocket Rocket; a scene from the 1970′s movie Million Dollar Hockey Puck; Rocket; Toe Blake; a great ad; Ken Dryden; and a very young Rocket. Hope you enjoy.