Maybe it began when Toe Blake took my book into the dressing room and had Doug Harvey sign it after my dad had asked him if he would, but the man is at the top of my list, along with the Rocket and Beliveau and a couple of others, of those I’ve admired most in the hockey world. He seemed a wonderful guy, even if he was once barred from the Forum pool hall for cursing too much.
Toe’s been gone some time now, he passed away in 1995, and I smiled when I recently read this little story as described by Rick Wamsley in Dick Irvin’s great book about goaltenders – In The Crease.
Wamsley was a Habs goalie for four years, from 1980 until 1984, and although Toe Blake was long retired from the game at that time, the old coach and player would still come around and offer his invaluable advice. Here’s Wamsley telling his story:
“We played in Montreal and I guess I was feeling my oats because I had wandered out of my net quite a bit, into the corners, living dangerously and all that. After the game Toe Blake came into our dressing room. He was such a presence when he showed up, that old tradition thing again. He came up to me and said, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” I said, “Of course not, Mr. Blake.” Then he said, “What I want to know is, when you’re in the corner with the puck, who’s playing goal?” I got the message.