Who WAS That Masked Man?


In May of 1971, the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in Chicago, beating the Hawks 3-2 in a tough seven games. And they did it with the most improbable guy in nets – Ken Dryden.

Dryden wasn’t a cup-winning goaltender, he was a McGill law student who also played for the minor-league Montreal Voyageurs. At least up until late winter of that year, that is. But like a Disney movie, he’s called up for the last six games of the season, and at the start of the playoffs, replaces Rogie Vachon, then goes on to help Montreal beat the Boston Bruins, Minnesota North Stars and Chicago, providing thrills and spills and blocking shots that shouldn’t be blocked.

It’s the stuff of fairy tales and dreams. It almost makes no sense. But that was the beginning of Dryden’s Hall of Fame career, and fairy tales and dreams or not, he must have been awfully good to do what he did as a raw rookie with only six games behind him.

And to make things even more magical, this raw rookie even won the Conn Smythe trophy that spring for most valuable player in the playoffs and took home $1500 and a car for being the hero. Forget Disney, I think we’re going to need Steven Spielberg to do this one justice.

This feat was so long ago, so far removed from the politician/public speaker and the man who does what he wants, when he wants; that he even spoke for half an hour after the game to reporters, missing much of the celebration in the dressing room. Finally, the shy goalie asked, “Sir. Would you mind if we went to the dressing room? I’d like to join the other fellows.”

He also admitted that fate had lent a hand. Hawks’ players Eric Nesterenko and Jim Pappin had both hit posts, and Bobby Hull rang one off the crossbar in that seventh game. And about his team in front of him? “There’s no mystique about the Canadiens team,” he said. “The players never believe they are beaten. And as a result, seldom are defeated.”

And who believed in Dryden in the beginning, when he was a law student and the goalie for the Voyageurs? That would be Floyd Curry, who coached Dryden with the Voyageurs and in March recommended him to Habs GM Sam Pollock. “I told Sam, “Take Dryden and you’ll win the Stanley Cup,’ ” said Curry. “He’s the greatest. And don’t forget, this was his first year of pro. He played very little last year with Canada’s national team. He’ll be as good as Bill Durnam and that’s the highest praise I can give a goalie.” 

I can’t find anywhere if Curry held a second job as fortune teller.

And the final word went to Chicago’s Bobby Hull, who said after the game, “Hockey in May is a drag when you’re a loser.”

17 thoughts on “Who WAS That Masked Man?”

  1. Hey Dennis;Good writeup for Mr. Dryden.I ejoyed yet another skate down memory rink,although I do remember most of it as I was always waiting for my favorite player(Rogie) to get into the game.Dryden was spectacular in the lead up to the finals,and he was just awesome in the final seven games,but lets remember Rejean Houle’s great effort in the shadowing of Bobby Hull,which in effect castrated most of the Hawks offense.I know they still had the likes of Stan Makita,Dennis Hull,Jim Pappin etc,but Mr. houle shut down their big scorer and coupling that with Kenny’s great efforts and Henri Richards winning goals,a Stanley cup was in the making.Now who did you mention about making a movie script to this?

  2. Houle was just a young fellow then, only about his second year or so. And I remember Claude Provost ten years prior who did nthe same thing to Hull.

  3. He was weak against the Soviets. Yet, they put him in in game eight in ’72 and he got it done. But he still let in 5 goals. I think even he admits he had trouble with the Russians.

  4. I loved Ken Dryden and his famous stance, leaning on his stick. The younger generation of fans are crazy about Roy, but Kenny was and will always be the best Habs goaltender to me. Nice piece Dennis.

  5. I’m with you, Moey. There’s a big difference, especially in character, between Roy and Dryden. Thanks.

  6. Great read, was unaware that Curry coached the Voyageurs. Curry was one of only 2 NHL’ers from my hometown and it’s a bit sad that few people from here know about him. Pretty cool I would think, to score a hat trick in front of the Queen.

  7. Ryan, is the other Ron Schock? When I was 21, (1972) I was a bartender in Sudbury and the Pittsburgh Penguins played an exhibition game there. They stayed at the Holiday Inn where I worked and a bunch of Penguins ordered beer from room service. I delivered it and Ron Schock answered the door and paid me. I wish I could remember if he tipped.

  8. Nice Dennis! Yes Ron is the other. Actually there is one still playing (AHL last year I believe). The Habs #1 pick in 1997 Jason Ward. Guess that pick didn’t pan out.

  9. Ryan, sorry I’ve took so long to reply. I’ve been at work. Chapleau! Never been. Seems like there should be more from there. It’s hockey country.

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