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I’ve always liked this picture, which is in my old scrapbook, even though it’s a little worse for wear. Two fine Habs fans showing off their favourite players the best way they knew how. Good thing their favourite player wasn’t named George Stroumboulopoulos or Ronaldo Konabopopolopolis. It would have to carry on down their legs.

Harvey captured the Norris Trophy seven times between 1954 and 1962, with Johnson winning it for the 1958-59 season. With these guys on the blueline, along with the usual suspects like the Richards, Beliveau, Moore, Geoffrion, Plante etc, it’s no wonder the Canadiens won five straight in the late fifties.

 

Nice Old Set

The title sounds like I’m talking about Sophia Loren.

I have the majority of the 1954-55 Parkhurst set in various conditions ranging from good to excellent, which is a ways down from near mint and mint, but still pretty darn good. The 100 cards were from the Original Six teams, plus some action shots.

This is a nice set to have, considering kids back then didn’t really collect cards, but instead threw them against buildings, playing closest to the wall. They (we) also put them in bicycle spokes and created a nice sound as the wheels turned and cards got destroyed.

Below are the complete Habs, which include, in order, Gerry McNeil, Dickie Moore, Jean Beliveau, Eddie Mazur, Bert Olmstead, Butch Bouchard, Maurice Richard, Boom Boom Geofrrion, John McCormack, Tom Johnson, Calum Mackay, Ken Mosdell, Paul Masnick, Doug Harvey, and Floyd Curry.

Continuing Along That Path…….

It began again yesterday - Battered and Bruised - after a two year absence, and it continues today.

My Habs scrapbook, put together by my dad and I when I was young.

And again, the photos enlarge when clicked on.

 

A Tough Camp – Tougher Than Most

It’s training camp in the late 1950′s. Of course it was nearly impossible to crack a spot in a lineup like this, with Hall of Famers and Stanley Cups oozing out of the woodwork, but Bill Hicke became a regular in 1959 and Ralph Backstrom the season before. But when you have a team with the Rocket and Pocket, Beliveau, Moore, Geoffrion, Harvey, Plante, Johnson, etc, there just wasn’t much room left.

All in all, the roster was basically set before anyone even stepped on the ice at training camp, and many of these players in this photo would soon depart to the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, Montreal Royals, Quebec Aces, Cleveland Barons and others.

Markov, Hamrlik, Rocket, And A Dead Deer

I had a close encounter with a deer today on my way to work at 4:30 a.m. We both lost.

The deer is now in deer heaven. My car is a write-off. The entire front end is crunched beyond repair.

If you ever need to wake up in a hurry when you’re going to work, just hit a deer.

So now is not the time to get into anything that takes a while. I see that Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik are getting their pens ready to sign on the dotted line, and after this happens, we can only hope that when the new season unfolds, Roman will have found some new zip, and Andrei will suffer nothing more than the odd hangnail. 

I have to go out and try to find a car, but I’ll leave you with this:

Hall of Famer Tom Johnson, who toiled on the blueline for the Canadiens from the late 1940′s to the early 1960′s, told the Montreal Gazette back in 1996 about the time a group of Habs shaved Rocket Richard’s chest during a train trip. “He was a strong guy and it took eight of us to hold him down,” Johnson said. “But he got his revenge while we were sleeping the next night. He took one shoe from each of us and threw it off the train. We arrived in Montreal and it was snowing – and here we were walking through the station with one shoe each.”

As The Scrapbook Turns – Part Three

Part three of the old scrapbook deals with newspaper clippings about the Rocket, plus Bernie Geoffrion and wife Marlene, and all the usual suspects – Toe Blake, Charlie Hodge, Pocket Rocket, Jean Beliveau, Tom Johnson, Habs in baseball uniforms, Rocket and son Normand, (who I’ve been eternally envious of), the Rocket meeting the Queen, him in a convertible in Czechoslovakia, and all the other little things that you can enlarge by double-clicking on the photos.

Parts 1 and 2 can be found by either scrolling down or going over to “Categories” on the right side and finding “The Old Scrapbook.”

 

Howie Feels The Habs Are………….

There is someone very interesting living across the water from me, just over on Vancouver Island, and I wanted to find out what he thought about a couple of things, including the Habs.

So I phoned him.

Howie Meeker played eight years in the NHL, between 1946 and 1953, and all eight were with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He beat out Gordie Howe for rookie of the year, and although he played with and against legendary and mighty warriors during the golden age of hockey, he says he doesn’t dwell on the past. “That was then and this is now,” he says. I don’t think about it.”

 After Howie retired he coached the Leafs for a season, became a Member of Parliament, and probably his biggest claim to fame was the gig he found himself in when hecame an outspoken and much-talked-about Hockey Night in Canada analyst in the 1970′s and 80′s. He also sounds the same now as he did then.

My little phone call with Howie wasn’t exactly award-winning, because I’m no Peter Mansbridge or Ron MacLean or George Stroumboulopoulos. I just tried to shoot the breeze with him and I think he got bored with me quite quickly. He doesn’t know me, I was interrupting his day and his oyster shucking, and I understand that. But it thrills me when I can chat with someone from back then.

I asked what he thought of this year’s Habs. “A lot of heart,” he said, “but too small.” But, I countered, is small such a bad thing? “You bet,” he said. “Small guys have to play the game of their lives every single night. They must be number one stars all the time.”

It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping to hear. I wanted him to say that even though they’re small, they can win. But he didn’t. (And hey Tomas Plekanec. Howie says small guys have to play the game of their lives.)

What do you think of the Canucks playoff run so far? “They’re toast,” said Howie. “Kesler’s done nothing. The playoffs are a step faster and tougher, and Kesler hasn’t been tough. He’s called a power forward but nowadays, he’s too small to be called a power forward.”

Then came the question I like to ask of any oldtimer. What he thought of the Rocket. “I HATED THE SON OF A BITCH,” he said in his raised and good old Howie Meeker voice. “I hated the way he played. I thought he was a no good, rotten……….But I got to know him later on when I was doing HNIC, and I really got to like him.”

I also asked him something I’ve been curious about for many years. I’d always heard that Busher Jackson, part of the famous Leafs ‘Kid Line’  of Jackson, Joe Primeau, and Charlie Conacher, had a real drinking problem and had become destitute in his later years, even selling Leafs game sticks on Carlton St. outside Maple Leaf Gardens.

But Howie set me straight. “Busher was a great guy. I knew him well. And he was the best player on that line.” But what about him becoming destitute? “Not so, said Howie. “He happened to like drinking and Conn Smythe disliked him for some reason because of this, made a big deal of it, and kept him out of the Hall of Fame for years.

Howie was also one of the Leaf forwards on the ice when Bill Barilko scored his famous Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal in the 1951 finals against the Habs, and when I brought this up, he shot back, “I should have scored it. I hit the post. And then big dum-dum skates in and scores.”

And then, without warning – “Gotta go,” Howie announced. “I’m shucking oysters.” And that was that.

In the famous photo below, that’s Howie being pinned against the boards by Tom Johnson after he had passed the puck out to Barilko. (Barilko would later die that summer in a plane crash in Northern Ontario.)

You can see a couple of other retired player chats I’ve had, right here Drinking beer with Aurele Joliat and here, Shooting the breeze with Terry Harper.

I also asked Glenn Hall once about the Rocket and he said Gordie Howe was better. Another answer I didn’t want to hear.

Tex Coulter: The Norman Rockwell of Hockey Artists

This print was painted by a fellow named Tex Coulter. He always signed his works simply as “Tex’ and much of his art was found in Maple Leaf Gardens calendars and on the covers of Hockey Pictorial and Blueline magazine in the 1950′s and early 1960′s. This piece on Jacques Plante and Tom Johnson is from a 1959-60 Gardens calendar.

tex1

Jacques Plante In Full Concentration

Of the gazillions of Habs’ photos in this crazy, mixed-up world of ours, this is one of my favourites. It’s 1958, Madison Square Gardens in New York, and Jacques Plante and Tom Johnson try to stop a Rangers attack, which I’m sure they had no problem doing.

The Ranger in front of Johnson is Camille (the eel) Henry.

The fans are paying strict attention. They were probably wishing their team was as good as the guys in white.