When Toe Spoke, Players Listened


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.

13 thoughts on “When Toe Spoke, Players Listened”

  1. Dennis, if there were a like button here I’d have to click this one a hundred times.

    I can only imagine what he’d be like with the team today. Can you see it?

    Here Gomez got chewed out yesterday at practice for being half-assed and they are STILL letting him play tonight. Toe would have killed the guy. He’d kill a lot of our guys. My ears hurt just thinking about him in the room now with the way we’ve been playing this year.

    I remember Guy Lafleur, being asked in an interview a few years ago about this practice of dumping the puck into the offensive zone then going off to the bench for a change (when you had a possibility of a breakaway). He said something along the lines of “Toe would have punched me in the side of the head for being so stupid”.

    Toe was one of a kind. I wish I had the chance to have gone to his Tavern.

  2. Darth, I’m sure Toe would have no patience whatsoever with Scott Gomez, unlike so many who say to leave poor Scott alone, he’s a great guy, Toe wouldn’t have bought into that one bit. He’d probably say something like, if he’s such a great guy, maybe he should be a missionary instead of a hockey player. I spoke to Terry Harper a couple of years ago and asked him about Toe, and all he said was, he was a true gentleman and he loved him. I made it to Toe Blake’s Tavern a couple of times before games and it was an old-style tavern with men waiters wearing white shirts. Nothing fancy, but many awesome giant habs pictures on the walls. I’ve heard Toe’s son has them now.

  3. One of the best newspaper articles Red Fisher wrote (IMO) was the one he did on Toe Blake when he was fighting his battle against Alzheimers which is found in Red Fisher’s book……

  4. Remember that article. It was about how devoted Floyd Curry was to Blake once Alzheimers took over. Probably the best piece of work Red Fisher has ever produced.

    Ironically and unfortunately Curry battled the same disease in his later years.

  5. Martin, you’re right, it’s a terrible disease. I think the brain starts to shrink. Another killer we need to find a cure for. And so sorry about your mom.

  6. Chris, Gomez and Kostitsyn in particular are such slackers. I like this team except for a few who I can’t wait take the next bus to Schenectady or Timbuktu.Or maybe Anchorage or Tijuana. Maybe Aukland or Tomsk or Edinburgh. Anywhere but Montreal. I’m truly fed up with these few. Gomez of course is at the top of the list and I think he’s going to leave a bad taste in my mouth for years to come. Even when he’s long gone. I can’t stand to look at him.

  7. Dennis, have you noticed Andrei Kostitsyn seems to joke around with Gomez a lot lately. I’ll never forget the two of them laughing it up during that awful game against Boston last year while some of our guys were getting the shit kicked out of them.

    Gomez is a bad apple and he’s rubbing off on AK now. You can tell by AK’s recent cocky interview where he basically is asking to get more ice time or he will demand a trade. Sure he has the odd good game, but then he goes into cruise control for the next five or six. It’s bad enough Gomez is a bad apple but now he’s beginning to spoil the rest of the barrel.

    He’s had enough chances. It’s time for Gomez to go.

    I wish he’d do the honourable thing and just retire from hockey after offering an apology to everyone for letting them down.

    But don’t hold your breath for that to happen.

  8. Danno, you’ve nailed it. I remember those two laughing, and recently Gomez said Kostitsyn was his favourite teammate. I’m so sick of slackers and I’m more than sick of Gomez. Good comment Danno. Dead on.

  9. The interview with AK46 all he was doing was answering questions put to him by the media – If he had a better command of The English Language it probably would have sound/came out a bit better much like Pleks going back a few years when he said He played like a little girl. I’m sure if he was asked the same question(s) now he would have phrased his answer differently…..

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