Tag Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

Habs And Leafs

Just like the old days. Habs and Leafs on a Wednesday night. I grew up with this type of thing. But back then, the Leafs were almost good.

Toronto’s in 7th place in the East with 24 points, which is ridiculous. It’s almost March and they’re sort of still in it. Must have something to do with the short season.

Starting tonight, the Leafs begin their annual spring collapse. It’s the way of the world.

Random Notes;

Michael Ryder’s number will be 73, which means Brendan Gallagher, because he’s a snot-nosed rookie, forfeits it and takes on number 11. Previous Habs number 11 guys include, of course, the legendary Scott Gomez, along with Saku Koivu, Kirk Muller, Ryan Walter, Yvon Lambert, Marc Tardif, Rejean Houle and so on, all the way down to Clayton Frechette during the 1912-13 season.

Approximately 73 Habs in all have owned number 11, which is more than any other.

Number 11’s a nice low number and I feel Gally’s lucky to have it. Same with Brandon Prust with number 8. Considering numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, and 12 are all hanging from the rafters.

 

 

Finding The Letters, Including Red’s

It’s unbelievable. I was going through a box yesterday and found some letters from the Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens, which were mostly replies to me about tickets. I thought they were long gone, and in fact it was only recently that I was thinking that I wished I still had some of these.

I’ll show some of these letters over the next while, but for now, I want to focus on one in particular.

In the early 1960’s I was an exhibition game in Peterborough, Ontario between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks, and I approached Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who were standing by the boards, for autographs. Hull was more than happy to oblige, but Mikita was surly and miserable. I’ve always maintained that he told me to go to hell, but over the years I began to hope that he didn’t really get that harsh, that it was just me, because I was young, making too much of something.

I would like to say this. In no way is this to be taken that Stan Mikita is a bad person. In the beginning he was a little rough, but as the years went by, Mikita became a fine, friendly gentleman, a class act, and a legendary and deserving Hall of Famer.

After this incident in Peterborough, I wrote a letter to Red Fisher at the Montreal Star about it, and this is his reply back to me. I thought it was long gone.

It’s Labour Labor Day Weekend

Yes it is, Labour Day weekend. Or Labor Day if you happen to live in the States.

Why don’t we all just spell it the same way? We’re on the same continent, with an invisible border and a shared dislike of Gary Bettman, Paris Hilton and politicians. People in Russia or Slovenia can’t tell the difference between a person from Brandon and one from Salt Lake City. That guy playing shortstop may be Canadian, could be American. We only know from his birth certificate and his preference for weaker or stronger beer.

But Canadians add the letter ‘u’ to some words, like labour, favourite, savour. It’s an old English thing. Did Queen Victoria force us to do this or she’d have our heads cut off?

On this Labour/Labor Day weekend, with everyone out buying school clothes and boarding up the cabin or having one last three-day summer drunk, should I even bother to write some kind of long-winded thing about the Habs that you may not read anyway, or should I just do this?

Ron And Dennis’ Excellent Adventure

The other day the phone rang and it was my old friend Ron Clarke, and although he lives in the Kitchener/Waterloo area, he was in Vancouver visiting his 34 year old daughter who has terminal lung cancer.

Ron and I go back further than any other of my other friends as we were childhood buddies and schoolmates and we played road hockey and  held on to bumpers of cars and got free rides as the unsuspecting drivers made their way through snowy streets. He and I traded hockey cards, smoked our first cigarettes together, went through minor hockey, and he started hanging around with a girl in grade seven and ended up marrying her after they dated for about ten years.

Ron and I went our separate ways because he was a straight-laced guy who wanted no part of what was happening with the counter-culture in the 1960’s, and I was the opposite. But we always remained friends over the years anyway.

After talking to Ron, I remembered a time when we were 12 year old altar boys and one of the priests was not only the big shot priest, the Monsignor, but he also somehow had a connection to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It might have something to do with St. Michael’s College in Toronto but I’m not sure. 

Monsignor Lee asked Ron and I one day if we’d like to go to Peterborough for the day and visit the Leafs in training camp, and off we went. Turns out Monsignor Lee had more than just a slight connection with the Leafs. It was almost like he was part of them.

In the afternoon, we had dinner with the team, for gawd’s sakes, although the players, Keon, Horton, Mahovlich, Baun, Pulford and the rest were on the other side of the room. Ron and I sat at a table with King Clancy and Jim Gregory, and the two of them, with the Monsignor, told old stories about when they did this and when they did that, and although I don’t recall any of the conversations, I can still picture  Clancy being really funny and Jim Gregory doing most of the talking.

Later on, we had primo seats at the Peterborough arena to see the Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks play an exhibition game and we went down to the boards and got Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita’s autographs.

Then, back to Orillia we went, an hour away.

Back to the present. I spoke briefly on the phone with Ron’s daughter, Jocelyne, and I told her she was going to beat her lung cancer. She said that’s not what any of her doctor’s have told her.

Addendum:

Ron and I also went to Barrie at about the same age as when we went to Peterborough, and he and I helped the AHL Buffalo Bisons trainer and stood behind the bench as stick boys for an exhibition game between the Bisons and Rochester Americans. Don Cherry played for Rochester but it didn’t matter at that time, (I only know because I still have the lineup sheet), and the only players who made an impact on me where Gilles Marotte, Billy Dea, and Fred Stanfield.

I also remember Ron and I coming home from playing hockey at the arena in Orillia and noticed the Habs-Leafs on TV in someone’s living room. So we sat outside the window and watched the game without the people knowing.

Both Leafs And Habs Spoil What Could Have Been A Very Nice Party

It was one of those nights where I worked the evening shift and wondered often how the game was going.

Maybe I should have just thought about my job.

The Habs sucked. They sucked to Toronto, falling 3-0, and the Leafs deserved it. It wasn’t one of these things where the best team lost.

I had a feeling things might not work out so well when the Canadiens had about an 8-1 lead in shots on goal and didn’t score. And sure enough, not long after, the Leafs beat Carey Price, and off and on from there on in, I was on the remote fast forward, getting rid of this mess as quick as possible. It was just too slow and depressing to want to see the whole thing.

The Leaf fans who weren’t amused about my previous post about 1967 must be chuckling with glee. I was warned that the Leafs were going to kick ass and the prophecy came true. And believe me, Toronto fans and those at Pension Plan Puppets, I give full credit to your team, and I wish you would realize a little more that I get in little digs at other teams, especially the Leafs and Bruins, in the name of great rivalry. I’ve  loved the Habs-Leafs, Habs-Bruins games for a long, long time, and somebody has to keep the thing alive. It’s not supposed to be peace and love out there.

Random Notes:

There are no Random Notes, the team doesn’t deserve them, although I’ll mention the Habs are in Buffalo on Thursday and then celebrate 100 years when they’re at home against the Bruins. I hate birthday parties.


Why A Former Canadiens Fan Turned His Back On The Sport

The article below was written by an Ottawa freelance writer named Buzz Bourdon and appeared in the Ottawa Citizen in 2004. Someone had sent the clipping to me and I’d put it in a book and saved it because for some reason I felt it was worth holding on to. It’s the story of how Bourdon lost his love for hockey, and although I can relate to the six teams, woollen sweaters and playing for hours outdoors, I can’t relate to him dropping hockey so easily because there’s too many teams now and overpaid players. In my mind, Bourdon didn’t really love the Habs and hockey as much as he thought he did. If he had a real love, he wouldn’t have abandoned it decades ago, never to come back again.

He calls it “The Death of Hockey – Why A Former Canadiens Fan Turned His Back On The Sport.” 

We didn’t sport snarling beasts baring their dripping fangs on our chests, we wore thick woollen sweaters, either in the colours of the Montreal Canadiens or the Toronto Maple Leafs. Deciding who to cheer for was a decision that lasted a lifetime. You usually made it by age six or seven. Naturally, as the son of two French-Canadians, I chose the Habs.

Clutching our wooden sticks, we couldn’t wait to jump on the ice. Every boy fought to wear the famous Number 9, immortalized by Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard and Bobby Hull. They were the biggest stars of the National Hockey League’s glorious six-team era, which lasted an all-too-short 25 years, from 1942-67.

Four decades ago, just about every Canadian boy had a passion for hockey. Do the kids of today still live hockey like we did? Do they ignore the biting cold and skate like the wind for hours on an outdoor rink or frozen field? You could pretend to be any player you wanted, even if you always got chosen last for the pickup games. The games went on forever, even when we went home for supper. We bolted down our meals and went right back out again. The ice was waiting.

I learned to love hockey during the 1960’s when my father was in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Life was very different then. No one took weapons to school. Pop stars didn’t sing misanthropic, misogynistic lyrics. There were no drugs in Air Vice Marshall Morfee School at RCAF Staion Greenwood, N.S. We were just nine years old. We looked up to and obeyed our parents, coaches and teachers.

Then as now, Air Force fathers and sons played the game in the Greenwood Gardens. There was no advertising under the ice or on the wooden rink boards. Our parents didn’t curse the referees or assault the coach if their sons didn’t get enough ice time. We were there to have fun.

Hockey was something I could share with my father when he was home. I relished spending time with him because he was away a lot flying as a para-rescue jumper with 103 Rescue Unit. His job was to jump from his aircraft and rescue people lost in the bush. I was proud of my father.

Since I couldn’t skate well or shoot, my father the coach put me at defence where I could do the least damage. We whacked away at the puck and fell down a lot. Staying vertical was a victory and passing the puck successfully brought applause. Goals were scored, even though I don’t think many of us could actually lift the puck off the ice while shooting it.

Despite my singular lack of ability, I had fun, even though I can’t remember scoring a goal or even getting an assist. It didn’t matter since losses were usually forgotten by suppertime. I worshipped Henri Richard, Gump Worsley, Yvan Cournoyer, John Ferguson et al, then in the process of ruling the NHL by winning four Stanley Cups in five years from 1965-69.

My season ended with the annual fathers’ and sons’ banquet. Sisters and mothers weren’t invited, just males of various ages, with an interest in hockey, either as a coach, player or father. Women’s liberation hadn’t arrived in Greenwood yet. I watched enviously as the stars got their trophies. I got a crest.

My love affair with hockey continued after my father retired from the Air Force in 1971. He bought some sewing machines and started repairing hockey equipment in the basement of our house near Montreal. Soon he was asked to start repairing the Canadiens gear. He also manufactured goalie pads for Ken Dryden, Jacques Plante and Bernie Parent, among others.

The ritual was always the same on the three Saturdays each month the Canadiens played at the Forum. While my father talked pads with the goalies, I took it all in. Imagine being 15 years old and a regular visitor to the dressing room of the Montreal Canadiens. Afterward, my father and I finished our Saturday ritual by eating smoked meat sandwiches and fries at the Forum Restaurant.

My father rarely asked for favours from the Canadiens but in the spring of 1973 he got us seats in the Forum press box for the final game of the season. It wasn’t exactly in the press box because we sat in the catwalk leading to the press box, but still…Frank Mahovlich scored a very pretty goal for the Canadiens and I went home starry-eyed.

Things changed a few years later. I lost interest in hockey and joined the army reserve. My father moved out and I didn’t see him very often. There were no more trips to the Forum. You grow up and the things you loved when you were a kid lose their importance.

I haven’t paid attention to the NHL for 25 years. I detest the vulgar team names, garish uniforms and obnoxious rock music. It’s a spectacle now, not a game. Most of the players are unshaven, grossly-overpaid louts. There are at least 10 too many teams. Who cares about all those American teams? I can’t remember the last time I was on skates. I don’t even own a pair.

I’ll never forgive the Canadiens for deserting the Forum in 1996. Hockey’s shrine was later gutted and turned into a cineplex, the “Pepsi Forum.” Killing time before your movie, you can stand at centre ice, where immortals like Toe Blake, the Rocket, Jean Beliveau and hundreds of others created magic over 72 years. I think it’s the saddest place in Montreal.

Rick Ley Deserves The Honour

 rick ley

I played a lot of hockey and baseball with the kid around the corner when I was growing up in Orillia, Ontario, and now this kid, Rick Ley, might very well have the new arena in Orillia named after him, thanks to some good, hard work by another old friend of mine, Mel St. Onge.

Below is the story just released in the Orillia Packet and Times. And if you click on this link http://dennis-kane.com/its-time-rick-ley-returned-my-hockey-gloves/  you will also see that Rick Ley owes me a pair of hockey gloves. (He also knocked out my front tooth pitching to me in a neighbourhood baseball game, but that’s another story).

NEW TWIN-PAD FACILITY: Idea pitched to name rink in honour of former NHL blueliner, coach

Posted By DAVE DAWSON, SPECIAL TO THE PACKET AND TIMES

Only one person has been born in Orillia, played his minor hockey in Orillia and gone on to a lengthy NHL career.

For that reason alone, the new twin-pad arena being built in west Orillia should be named in honour of Rick Ley, says Mel St. Onge, who grew up with Ley and played on various hockey and baseball teams with the future pro.

“Rick Ley, in my mind, is head and shoulders above anyone else who ever grew up in Orillia and played minor hockey in Orillia,” said St. Onge. “In fact, he’s the only guy who ever played all their minor hockey in Orillia and went on to play in the NHL.”

St. Onge pitched his proposal to name the new twin-pad arena in Ley’s honour at last week’s recreation advisory committee meeting. While he said the majority of the committee was supportive of his idea, city council will have to make any final decision on the matter.

“I gave each councillor and the mayor a copy of my presentation and talked to several of them personally,” said St. Onge, who once chaired the recreation advisory committee and formerly wrote a sports column for The Packet.

St. Onge was instrumental in having the baseball diamond at Tudhope Park named in honour of Orillia’s athlete of the half-century, Jerry Udell. He was also behind the naming of other diamonds: the Dean Heliotis and Gander Ross diamonds at McKinnell Park and the Cliff Yeo diamond at Franklin Carmichael Park.

“I just think it’s important that we recognize these people who helped put Orillia on the map,” said St. Onge. “Rick Ley is a perfect example of an Orillia boy who learned his craft here and went on to do great things. And wouldn’t it be great for today’s minor hockey players to know that a kid who once grew up in Orillia and played minor hockey here went on to play in the NHL…That‘s why it’s important to recognize people like Rick. ”

Ley, who was born in Orillia on Nov. 2, 1948, went to Central Public School during an era in which all the elementary schools in town had their own hockey teams.

“When he was at Central, we won the championship every year,” said St. Onge, who had the unenviable job of being the team’s goalie. “I can remember in practice when Rick would want to take shots on me, I’d tell him to back up because his shot was so hard.”

St. Onge remembers Ley getting called up to play midget and junior hockey — long before his age permitted it.

“He was named the top junior hockey player in Orillia when he was just 14,” says St. Onge.

A year later, Ley left Orillia to play for the Niagara Falls Flyers of the Ontario Major Hockey League, now known as the Ontario Hockey League. That first year, he and his mates won the Memorial Cup. A year later, Ley was named captain and the team won its second straight Memorial Cup title.

The Orillia native was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the third round — 16th overall — in 1966. “That was when there were just six teams,” said St. Onge. “Nowadays, he would be considered a first-round pick.”

Ley was a key stay-at-home defenceman for the blue and white for four years before being lured away by the upstart WHA and the New England Whalers, where he was captain for six years.

At the end of his playing days, his number was retired by the franchise that would become the Hartford Whalers and later the Carolina Hurricanes. He is one of just three players to have their Hartford sweater retired; Gordie Howe is one of the others.

While a knee injury cut short his playing career, he turned his attention to coaching and began a new career as a bench boss with the Muskegon Lumberjacks with whom he won an IHL championship.

Ley was named head coach of the NHL’s Hartford Whalers in 1989-90. He became an assistant coach of the Vancouver Canucks in 1991 and became the team’s head coach in 1994.

Ley returned to his roots in 1998 when he became Pat Quinn’s assistant coach with the Leafs in 1998 — a position he held until 2005.

And while his big league career is impressive, St. Onge said success never changed the quiet, powerfully-built lad he grew up with.

“Even though he was just two years older than me, I idolized Rick,” said St. Onge. “I have never seen anyone — then or since — who was so dedicated to his goal. He had to give an oral composition in Grade 8 about what he was going to be when he grew up. He said I’m going to play in the NHL. He always believed that.”

In fact, St. Onge said Ley used to sneak into the Community Centre at night so he could practise.

“The rumour is that Dick Davies (the manager of the rink) gave Ley his own key so he wouldn’t have to break in,” recalled St. Onge with a laugh.

While hockey was his forte, Ley, like St. Onge, was an excellent baseball player who, at the age of 14, was hitting homeruns out of the Lions Oval diamond — balls that routinely banged off the old tin roof at the Community Centre.

“Rick (who now lives in Dunville, Ont.) has never forgotten his roots, ” said St. Onge. “He has always been willing to help out a worthy cause … He is someone who is deserving of this honour. “