Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Come for a Habs Chat Thursday at CBC Sports

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This is no April Fool’s joke! Thursday I will be joining HNIC’s Scott Morrison on the panel  for an online chat with CBC Sports.

We’ll be talking about the current Habs situation as they battle towards the playoffs and whatever else comes up.

Hope you can join us at 2pm EST!




Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Look Back at Doug Wickenheiser

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Today would be Doug Wickenheiser’s 49th birthday had a battle with cancer not taken his life in January of 1999.

Wickenheiser is always remembered as the bust first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft.

At the time of the draft, The Hockey News pointed to Wickenheiser as the best available prospect out there. After all, he had just captained his hometown Regina Pats to a berth in the Memorial Cup, registered 170 points in the regular season and was CHL player of the year.

imageCaptain Doug Wickenheiser leads the 1980 WHL Champions Regina Pats around the ice. Photo: Marcia Wickenheiser Collection

With the Canadiens coming off their first season without a Stanley Cup in five years, GM Irving Grundman was under the gun to bring Stanley Cup glory back to Montreal.

The Canadiens first overall pick came from a deal, made by Sam Pollock, with the Colorado Rockies in September of 1976. The two teams exchanged 1980 draft picks and the Rockies received Ron Andruff and Sean Shanahan as part of the deal.

Essentially Pollock left Grundman a gift when he retired in 1979.

The Canadiens had to consider Wickenheiser, highly touted defenceman Dave Babych and a diminutive Quebec forward named Denis Savard as potential choices.

Savard brought the possibility of a potential francophone star to follow the footsteps of Lafleur, and was the choice of Canadiens coach Claude Ruel.

A more recent comparison to the francophone pressure that often rests on the Canadiens shoulder, might be Montreal’s choice to select Louis Leblanc first overall in 2009.

With the Big Three (Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Guy LaPointe) getting on in years, Babych would be a good compliment to the younger corps of Canadiens blueliners such as Rod Langway and Gaston Gingras.

Wickenheiser brought size, speed and skill, from the traditionally physical WHL, something the Canadiens were missing since the departure of Jacques Lemaire in 1979.

With the advice assistant GM and director of player personnel Ron Caron, Grundman went with the Saskatchewan native.

“It’s certainly a great feeling to be drafted by Montreal,” the 19-year-old said upon being selected. “It’s a great honour to be with a team like Montreal with such a winning tradition.”

Babych would go to Winnipeg and Savard went to Chicago. Two other defensemen, Larry Murphy (LA) and Paul Coffey (Edmonton), would be picked fourth and sixth. Four of these picks played over 1000 games, and three are in the Hall of Fame. None are named Wickenheiser.

In his rookie season, the young center spent nearly half the season in the press box and registering 15 points in 41 games. Much of the criticism went towards coach Ruel’s misuse of the team’s top pick.

Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Robinson, in his book “Robinson: For the defense”, felt that Ruel did not like him and speculates that his refusal to play Wickenheiser was partly in protest to Grundman not selecting Savard.

Wix_2Doug Wickenheiser - HHOF photo

His sophomore season wasn’t much better, with 35 points in 56 games.

Things appeared to turn around in his third season. Playing on a line with Ryan Walter and the legendary Guy Lafleur, he recorded his career best of 55 points (25 goals) in 78 games.

"It's said that it took Guy Lafleur three years to develop, but it seems they always forget that he played all the games for those three years,'' Wickenheiser said in a 1981 interview with the Regina Leader-Post.

For comparison’s sake, Denis Savard already had 315 points in his first three seasons with the Blackhawks.

Wickenheiser injured his back, in a collision with a goal post, during a March 30 game against Pittsburgh and missed the ‘83 playoffs. In fact he would never appear in the post-season with the Canadiens.

Things did not improve and midway into the 1983-84 season, with Serge Savard now running the show, he was traded to the St. Louis Blues. There he would be reunited with Caron, now the Blues’ GM.

“I hate the idea of leaving this place, but I feel it’s best for my career.” Wickenheiser said on being traded. “Things never worked out here. The pressure is off my shoulders. I have no bitterness against the organization. Unfortunately things didn’t develop as I hoped they would.”

Many thought maybe he would turn into a 40-goal scorer away from Montreal. That never happened.

Wix_3 Wickenheiser’s best personal success came with St. Louis – HHOF Photo

He would play three full seasons with the Blues, where he eventually settled and met his wife. His fist full season looked promising (23 goals in 68 games) before a freak accident put him out for the season with a knee injury.

Wickenheiser’s most famous goal came in the Blues’ “Monday Night Miracle” in Game 6 of the 1986 Campbell Confrence Finals

After a season in Vancouver, a single game with the Rangers, parts of two in Washington, as well as time on the Canadian national team, he was out of the NHL.

Wix_1 Wickenheiser with the Washigton Capitals – HHOF photo

He would play in Italy in 1990-91 and share the next season with a pair of German league teams as well as an Austrian club.

Returning to North America,  he played a season each in the IHL with Peoria (1992-93) and Fort Wayne (1993-94).

Wickenheiser would get a drastic change in life that summer when he had surgery to remove a cyst from his left wrist. The cyst was found to bee malignant, forcing him to retire from playing hockey and seek treatment for bone cancer.

He remained cancer free for three years, until the dreaded disease returned in the form of a lemon size tumor in his lung. Nine months later, cancerous lesions were found in his brain. Both forms were inoperable.

After a lengthy battle, Doug Wickenheiser lost his battle on January 12, 1999. He was just 37 years old and left behind his wife and three daughters.

Even though his NHL career never reached the level of expectation from that draft day in 1980, Wickenheiser’s dedication to the game and community involvement won’t be forgotten.

After his passing the Regina Pats retired his No. 12 jersey and an arena in Regina is named after him.

The WHL’s humanitarian of the year award was renamed the Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy in May 2001.

With such a great involvement with his adopted community of St. Louis, the Mid-States Hockey Association created a tournament in his name (The Wickenheiser Cup) for the lower-tier/small high school championship.

The Blues set up the Wick 14 Fund (Wickenheiser wore #14 in St. Louis) just prior to his passing in 1998. It has been since renamed the St. Louis Blues 14 Fund.

imageA commemorative banner also hangs from the rafters of the Scottrade Center. Only ight other Blues players have their numbers honoured or retired.

In 2004, the Regina Sports Hall of Fame inducted Doug Wickenheiser.

Related Links:

Habsworld: The Forgotten Habs - Doug Wickenheiser

Legends of Hockey

Greatest Hockey Legends

Dennis Kane

Resources

The Associated Press - June 12, 1980/April 1, 1983

The Montreal Gazette – June 12, 1980/December 22, 1983

The Regina Leader Post – September 21, 2007

Pepple, Todd: “The Last Face-Off: The Doug Wickenheiser Story”

Robinson, Larry: “Robinson For the Defence”

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Catching up with Yvan Cournoyer on the Links

image Cdn Expat Network President Sean Mitton and Habs HOFer Yvan Cournoyer at the RBC Cup golf event in Myrtle Beach, SC 03/22/2010

A big thanks to Sean Mitton, President and Founder of the Canadian Expat Network, for providing this to pass on.

Sean had a great chat with Habs legend Yvan Cournoyer, who was a guest of the RBC Cup “Canada vs. USA - Battle of the Beach”, in Myrtle Beach SC.

The USA squad took the overall team event, but the real winners were a local charity that will receive the $15,000 in donations raised.

More on the event can be found here.




Friday, March 26, 2010

The Habs Eastern Conference Race at a Glance Updated 03/25

image As the race for the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference heats up, I thought I’d put together a calendar for the teams currently seeded 5 to 10.

March 25 Update: The Canadiens win over Florida on Thursday night, and the Flyers overtime loss keeps Montreal in sole possession of sixth place, with Philadelphia two points behind. The Senators sit just ahead with 83 points.

Both the Flyers and Senators hold a game in hand over Montreal.

The Bruins (two games in hand on Montreal) are clinging on to 8th spot, with the Thrashers and Rangers sitting two and three points back respectively.

Mathematically still in the running (10 to 14) are the Lightning with 72 points. The Panthers and Hurricanes with 71, and the Islanders with 70.

After this Saturday’s game against New, Jersey, the Canadiens get three-day break to catch their breaths. At the same time the other contenders will catch up on their game(s) in hand, hopefully in a positive way (losing) for the Habs.

A moral victory: The Leafs sit at 66 points and would only reach 82 points and a maximum 35 wins if they won their remaining eight games.

The Canadiens have 37 wins so far, so even if they lost their last seven games they would still remain ahead in the standings. Just thought I’d point that out. =)

I will keep this updated, as the days progress, for handy reference. As teams slip out of contention, or other teams fall within reach relating to the Canadiens, I will add or delete them.

POS TEAM POINTS GR
5. Ottawa 83 8
6. Montreal 82 7
7. Philadelphia 80 8
8. Boston 78 9
9. Atlanta 76 8
10. NY Rangers 75 8

GAMES REMAINING FOR 5 TO 10th PLACE TEAMS

DATE

OTT

MTL

PHI

BOS

ATL

NYR

03/26 @BUF          
03/27 FLA NJD @PIT CAL @CAR @TOR
03/28     NJ      
03/29       BUF CAR  
03/30 @WAS     @NJD @TOR @NYI
03/31   CAR        
04/01 CAR   @NYI FLA @WAS  
04/02   @PHI MON @TOR   @TBL
04/03 @NYI BUF     @PIT @FLA
04/04     DET      
04/05       @WAS    
04/06 @FLA @NYI @TOR   NJD @BUF
04/07           TOR
04/08 @TAM @CAR   BUF    
04/09     @NYR   @WAS PHI
04/10 BUF TOR   CAR PIT  
04/11     NYR @WAS   @PHI



Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Text Book Hit by Habs Spacek on David Booth

The Florida Panthers David Booth can’t catch a break. First it was a solid, and controversial hit by the Flyers Mike Richards that put him out with a concussion.

Now having recovered, he again gets caught Thursday night with his head down and takes a thunderous hit from the Canadiens Jaroslav Spacek.

There is question that contact is made to Booth’s jaw, but it only seems to appear that way from one angle.

The hit appears square to the chest and I suspect that his head snapping back, or Booth trying to pull back last second, gives that impression. Panthers fans say it was on the jaw and even the Canadian Press issued it as a shoulder-to-head hit.

You decide:

After the game, Panthers coach Peter DeBoer, GM Randy Sexton and Panthers teammates all felt that it was a clean hit.

Ironic though that it happens on the night that the NHL’s new hit-to-head ruling goes into effect.

According to Sexton, Booth was examined by Canadiens doctors and was deemed alert, attentive and moving around. He was checked out at a loal hospital and is expected to travel with the team to Ottawa on Friday morning.

Hopefully he just got the wind knocked out of him. If any concussion-like symptoms occur however, it would not be surprising that his season is done.




Monday, March 22, 2010

A Skate to the Face: One of the scariest parts of the game

It’s not a head shot, or deliberate attempt to injure, but a skate to the face is always a terrible concern.

The most recent example comes from Monday’s Habs-Senators game.

Fortunately the Canadiens Travis Moen was treated for a facial laceration to the forehead and was treated at the Bell Centre medical clinic. Props to referee Bill McCreary for immediately waving for the Canadiens training staff to get out there.

The event was clearly an accident, but the player who is usually wearing the skates feels pretty bad about it.

He clearly knows that it could easily be him on the receiving end. It’s part of the risk of playing the game.

The same can be said about an errant high-stick (see Bryan Berard), or a misdirected puck.

Former Canadiens forward Richard Zednik is one of the most recent to have taken a shot from a skate. In his case it was his own teammate.

 

One of the scariest moments happened over 20 years ago to Sabres goalie Clint Malarchuk. Please watch this with extreme caution. This is why neck protection is so critical for goalies in today’s game.

Three years before that, Leafs defenceman Borje Salming was on his back during a goal-mouth scramble. The Detroit Red Wings Gerard Gallant was bumped, lost his balance and stepped right on the rearguard’s face.

It took 250 stitches to repair the damage. How he didn’t lose an eye, I have no idea.

image Borje Salming after taking a skate to the face in 1986– Toronto Star




Thursday, March 18, 2010

March 18th Birthday Greetings to a Trio of Former Habs

Birthday Greetings from Ya! The Habs Rule! to one Hall of Fame defenceman, another popular player, former captain and coach and one, well he played for the Habs so lets give him that.

image Guy Lapointe (b. 1948):

LaPointe was the third member of the Canadiens “Big Three” (along with Larry Robinson and Serge Savard) during the ‘70s.

“Pointu” played on all six Canadiens Stanley Cup teams during that decade, and was a First Team All-Star selection once and on the Second Team three times.

He holds the team records for goals by a rookie defenseman (15 in 1970-71) and goals by a defenseman in the regular season (28 in 1974-75).

LaPointe missed most of the 1979-80 season due to a shoulder injury, and battled injuries for the rest of his career. He would be traded to the St. Louis Blues during the 1981-82 season.

He retired, after playing a season with the Boston Bruins, in 1984 and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.

Did you know?: LaPointe was picked by the Quebec Nordiques during the WHA’s General Player Draft in 1972, and the Pro Draft the following year. He never jumped to the new league.

image Guy Carbonneau (b. 1960):

THE BIG 5-0 !!!

“Carbo” would be the eventual successor to Canadiens Hall of Famer Bob Gainey as not only the team’s captain, but also as the Canadiens top defensive foward.

His tough checking, penalty killing and exceptional faceoff skills earned him three Selke Trophies (1988, 1989, 1992).  His offensive skills should not be overlooked either, as Carbonneau averaged almost 20 goals a season during his time in Montreal.

He won two Stanley Cups with the Canadiens (1986, 1993) and a third with the Dallas Stars (1999) before announcing his retirement the following season.

Carbonneau served as the Canadiens head coach for just under three seasons, and is currently an analyst on Hockey Night in Canada.

He has also been participating in TVA’s highly popular TV series “La série Montréal Québec (The Montreal-Quebec City Series)>,” as the coach of the Montreal based team.

After much speculation, he was named as head coach for Canada’s Under-18 team on March 16, 2010.

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Jan Bulis (b. 1978):

Bulis came to the Canadiens via trade with the Washington Capitals along with Richard Zednik and a 2001 1st Rounder(Alexander Perezhogin) for Trevor Linden, Dainius Zubrus and a 2001 2nd round draft choice (later traded to Tampa Bay - Andreas Holmqvist).

His best season with Montreal, and also his last, was in 2005-06 when he scored 20 goals and 20 assists.

After a season wit the Vancouver Canucks, he jumped to the KHL where he plays for Mytishchi Atlant.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ex Habs Prospect Patrick LeBeau: Still in the game at 40

image Patrick LeBeau as a 19-year old prospect with the Canadiens

Patrick LeBeau’s NHL career may not have gone as plan, but his passion for the game has not stopped the left winger at age 40.

LeBeau was a promising star, in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), when he was drafted by Montreal in the eighth round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.

The following season, he won the Jean Beliveau Trophy when he scored 174 points to lead the QMJHL.

image LeBeau played just two games for the Canadiens

In the 1990-91 season, he signed with the Canadiens and was assigned to their AHL affiliate in Fredericton, where he scored 101 points, earning the league’s Rookie of the Year.

During that season, Lebeau got his first taste of NHL action when Stephane Richer caught the flu bug. He would be united on a line with older brother Stephan and record a goal and an assist in two games with the big club.

The 1991-92 season was split between Fredericton (71 points in 55 games) and the Canadian National Team. Lebeau would score 8 points for the Silver Medal winning team during the 1992 Winter Olympics.

Traded to the Calgary Flames the following season, he played just one game for them. The rest of the year was spent with the Salt Lake City Eagles (IHL), where he scored 100 points.

Signing as a free agent with the Florida Panthers in 1993, he again saw limited time in the NHL (four games) and spent the rest in Cincinnati (IHL).

From there Lebeau made his way to Europe, playing the next four seasons with an assortment of Swiss and German league teams.

During the 1998-99 season, the 28-year-old made another attempt at the NHL, this time with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Many, including the NHL, had thought Lebeau retired. Even the NHL’s Official Guide and Record Book from the previous season had him stated as such.

He made the team and scored his second, and so far last, career NHL goal on Colorado’s Patrick Roy. Lebeau, still a rookie in the NHL, played just eight games with the Penguins when a shoulder injury put him on injured reserve and ended his season.

The setback would not end his hockey career as he was back in Europe the following season. He would win back-to-back scoring titles, as well as league MVP awards (2004, 2005), while playing for the Frankfurt Lions in the German Elite League (DEL).

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image Patrick LeBeau with the Frankfurt Lions (DEL)

Still eager to make his mark in the NHL, Lebeau left the Lions in the summer of 2007 and joined the Philadelphia Flyers training camp.

"In 37 years, I did not expect to have a tryout with the Flyers or with any team in the NHL. It happened by surprise and I am very happy”, Lebeau said in an interview with RDS. “It is a dream that has long I want to achieve. I have not had the opportunity to do so since 1999 with the Pittsburgh Penguins.”

image At the Philadelphia Flyers training camp in 2007 –RDS photo

The dream was short-lived as he was released by the Flyers shortly after and would be unable to return to the German League for another season.

After failing to make the DEL’s EV Duisberg squad the next year, he signed with the Vienna Capitals of the Erste Bank Liga (Austria). At the age of 39, he would lead the league in scoring.

image At 40 years of age, LeBeau is one of the top scorers in the EBL (Austria)

As of his 40th birthday, he is tenth in league scoring as the Capitals hold a 3-1 lead in their league semi-final.

Patrick LeBeau’s complete career stats can be found here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Before Doug Harvey Ruled the Habs Blue Line…

I was in the midst of researching for an upcoming piece, and came across this little blurb from the November 13, 1943 edition of the Montreal Gazette.

Harvey_fb_Nov43 I had made mention of Doug Harvey’s multi-sport prowess in an article I put together on the anniversary of his death. I was quite surprised to find this though.

This truly demonstrates Harvey’s abilities, as a football player, all the while playing Jr. and Sr. hockey at the same time. Many felt that Harvey was an even better football player than he was at hockey.

World War Two would change things, as Harvey would go on to serve his country in 1944, and the football club he left behind would go on to win the Grey Cup.

By the time the war ended, Harvey’s thoughts of football were long behind him as he began playing pro hockey full team and was with the Montreal Canadiens for the 1947-48 season.

Alf Harvey: I have had little luck finding any info on Doug’s older brother. The SIHR player database does show an Alph Harvey, who played a dozen games for the Montreal Jr. Canadiens in 1941-42 and recorded 11 points (7 more points in four playoff games). It also shows he played in single games with the Montreal Jr. Royals and Ottawa Royal Signal Corps in the following seasons.




Sunday, March 14, 2010

March 14, 1971: Ken Dryden debuts with the Montreal Canadiens

To most fans across the NHL, it was a plain and simple statement issued, and in some cases buried in a corner of their local papers, by the Associated Press:

Call_upFans of the Montreal Canadiens knew well of Ken Dryden, who had been an All-American goalie with Cornell University and played on Canada’s national team. The 23-year old was quickly becoming established in Montreal in his first pro season with AHL Voyageurs.

Dryden was impressive in the Canadiens training camp in September, playing in two pre-season games against Chicago and Boston.

He would begin the 1970-71 season studying law, in his second year at McGill University, while at the same time posting a 16-7-8 record, with a 2.68 GAA and 3 shutouts with the Canadiens farm club.

After signing a new contract with Montreal in January of 1971, Dryden began focusing more on hockey, referring to his law studies as a “hobby”.

Dryden was officially called up by the Canadiens on March 7, when the team decided to carry three goalies (Dryden, Phil Myre and Rogie Vachon) through the remainder of the season.

Coach Al McNeil gave the rookie his first start on March 14, against the fifth-place Pittsbugh Penguins, after Vachon had played 15 straight games for Montreal. McNeil said the veteran goalie “deserved a break.”

“Our club was getting a little dull the last three games,” McNeil said as the Canadiens had just a tie to go with two straight losses. “We didn’t have too much life.”

With the team playing at home against Chicago the night before, the timing for Dryden’s debut in Pittsburgh was just right.

Dryden admitted being nervous filling the shoes of the popular Canadiens netminder. “Sometimes you feel it in your stomach, and other times in your legs,” he said. “This time it was in my legs.”

The Penguins managed to get 36 shots on Dryden, beating him just once on a deflection by Penguins rookie John Stewart at 18:01 of the second period.It was Stewart’s first NHL goal.

“I was following the shot from the from the point, and it deflected right into Stewart’s stick,” Dryden said.

Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the Canadiens had already scored three goals on route to a 5-1 win.

First_Game Bryan Hextall (note the name typo on the jersey) looks on as Ken Dryden makes one of his 35 saves in his NHL debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins – 03/14/1971 – Pittsburgh Press photo

The young netminder even admitted thinking he might get a shutout.

“Maybe some goalies say they don’t think of shutouts, but I do,” he said. “Trouble is it’s when you just start patting yourself on the back that you get beaten.”

Dryden was happy with his performance, but felt that debut jitters may have led to being exposed on rebounds that his teammates safely cleared.

“They had very few real good shots,” he said. “Sure I made a couple of reasonably difficult saves but I was warmed up to them after easier ones on the same shifts. I couldn’t wait until the game was over. I was really careless at times.”

Dryden would win his next five starts with the Canadiens, posting a 1.65 GAA, leaving McNeil to chose him over Vachon to lead the Canadiens into the memorable Stanley Cup quarter-finals against the first place Bruins.

A legend was born.

Did you know?: It’s well documented that Ken’s older brother Dave was an NHL goalie, as well the pair becoming the first brothers in the NHL to face off in opposing goals on March 20, 1971.

But on the night little brother Ken made his NHL debut, big brother Dave recorded a shutout, playing for the Buffalo Sabres, against the Minnesota North Stars. To top it off, he also recorded an assist.

“I’ll call him Monday,” Dave Dryden said. “Yeah I’ll call collect. It was a perfect night.”




Saturday, March 13, 2010

March 13, 1955: Dawn of the Richard Riot

rokt549 Maurice Richard addresses the people of Quebec 03/18/1955 – HHOF photo

Who would think, outside of the well-known rivalry, that a game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins on March 13, 1955 would result in one of the most infamous incidents in NHL, Quebec and Canadian history?

The 1954-55 season was winding down as Montreal and the Detroit Red Wings were battling for first place in the NHL standings, separated by two points with four games to play. The Bruins were just holding on to the final spot.

The Canadiens and Bruins would play a home-at home series over the weekend of March 13, with Montreal winning the first by a score of 2-1 at the Forum on Saturday.

Canadiens star Maurice “Rocket” Richard went into Sunday’s game leading the league in scoring and closing in on his first Art Ross trophy. Richard was just two points ahead of teammate Bernie Geoffrion and three in front of Jean Beliveau.

With Montreal up 1-0, the Bruins exploded for three goals in the second period, giving them a 3-1 lead heading into the third period.

With around six minutes to play, and with the man advantage, Canadiens coach Dick Irvin decided to pull goaltender Jacques Plante.

After a faceoff, Richard and Bruins forward/defenseman Hal Laycoe raced down the ice after the puck. Laycoe’s stick caught Richard in the head as he raced past the Boston defender near the Bruins’ net.

Referee Frank Udvari signaled for a penalty but let play continue until the 15:11 mark as the Canadiens had maintained possession.

image

After the whistle blew, Richard was almost to the Boston blueline when he realized he was bleeding from his head. Known for his fiery temper, he turned back and raced to Laycoe, who had already dropped his stick, gloves and eyeglasses that he wore.

Instead of dropping the gloves, Richard laid out a vicious stick swing at Laycoe, striking him across the shoulder and face.

Linesmen Sam Babcock and Cliff Thompson grabbed the players, but Richard broke free. Having had his first stick taken away, Richard found another stick and struck Laycoe two more times. The second blow, over his back, broke the stick.

A second attempt to restrain Richard by Thompson failed, and he again found another stick and struck Laycoe for a fourth time.

Thompson then forced the Canadiens star to the ice, until an unnamed teammate pushed the official away

Dazed and losing blood, Richard got up, grabbed a hold of Thompson and struck him twice in the face along the boards near the Boston bench.

The Montreal Gazette - Google News Archive Search_1B Linesman Cliff Thompson left the game with a shiner after receiving a pir of punches from Maurice Richard on 03/13/1955 – Montreal Gazette photo

Thompson managed to keep his senses and finally got the enraged winger under control. A Canadiens trainer got Richard off the ice and into the first aid room where he received five stitches.

“The left side of his (Richard) face looked like a smashed tomato,” wrote The Montreal Herald’s Vince Lunny. “As Richard skated the length of the ice, the rafters echoed with boos like thunder in a summer sky.”

Udvari issued a game misconduct to Richard for his deliberate attempt to injure and gave Laycoe a five-minute high sticking penalty.

The Bruins forward then received a ten-minute misconduct when he refused to sit down in the penalty box, and threw a towel at Udvari in protest.

Richard only had two words to say on the incident after game, “Ask Laycoe.”

Other counts of the game, mostly in re-enactments and as seen in the 2005 feature film “The Rocket” ,have Richard being restrained by Thompson as Laycoe is allowed to punch him repeatedly. There is no record anywhere that this actually happened.

Laycoe, who had been a teammate of Richard from 1947-1951, laid claim post-game that Richard’s stick had struck him in the head with his stick, in a pitchfork-like manner, first as the two raced for the puck. His statement that it was pitchfork-like may have been embellished as he later testified that he felt a “sudden impact” on his glasses.

A Boston reporter, who chose to remain anonymous in a story issued by the Montreal Gazette on March 18, was the lone supporter of Laycoe’s statement.

“The Rocket checked him, and there isn’t a doubt that his stick came up and flicked Laycoe in the face. As far as I’m concerned, it was strictly an accident. But Laycoe was startled, and his reaction was to swing his stick over the Rocket’s head and open him up.”

There was also a previous altercation between the two at 4:45 of the first period, when Laycoe served a minor penalty for charging and upending Richard.

Once things settled on the ice, the Canadiens managed to score in the final minute but lost the game 4-2.

image

In a rare photo from March 13, 1955, the Canadiens Bert Olmstead and linesman Cliff Thompson restrain the Bruins Hal Laycoe. Montreal’s Jean Beliveau is in the foreground holding back the Bruins Fleming Mackell. Maurice Richard is out of sight behind the two groups. – Photo: Corbis.com

As the Canadiens prepared to depart for the trip home, two Boston police officers arrived at the dressing room door, seeking to charge Richard with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Irwin, and likely several teammates blocked their path as an argument began.

The officers left without any incident after learning from Bruins president Walter Brown and GM Lynn Patrick would take up the the issue with NHL president Clarence Campbell. The league would schedule a hearing at it’s Montreal office on March 16.

On the way home from Boston, Richard had been suffering headaches but said nothing. At the Canadiens practice the following Monday, coach Dick Irwin noted his star player looked pale. Richard told him of the headaches and that he had not slept all night still not 100% and sent him to the hospital for further examination and x-rays.

Irwin was also highly critical of the officiating over the weekend (Udvari refereed both games) and that perhaps the incident could have been prevented.

“The game in Boston was badly handled,” Irwin said. “I’ve been in hockey a long time, and one thing I’ve noticed on the ice is that there are never any brawls on the ice when the officiating is good.

“Thompson took a flying leap at him (Richard) and knocked him to the ice. That sort of stuff (violent force) is against a league directive.”

Irwin had asked both linesman which player had possession when the initial high sticking incident occurred. Both said Laycoe, and the Bruins' player’s testimony three days later would be in agreement with that of the officials.

So if Laycoe indeed had the puck, immediately after striking Richard, why did Uvardi not blow the whistle sooner?

In defense of his player’s assault on the linesman, Irwin said that Richard had lost nearly a pint of blood from his injury and his face was covered with it when he struck Thompson.

“It was pouring down his face. How was the Rocket to know if it was an official or a Boston player?” he said. “I don’t believe Richard knew it was the linesman he struck”

In Boston, reports were that Brown and Patrick wanted Richard banned for life for the altercation.

“I personally see no alternative for Campbell other than immediate suspension at least the rest of the year, including the playoffs,” said Patrick. “With the playoffs coming up, I don’t see how Campbell can stickhandle around that.”

Other Boston writers laid claim that Patrick would rather not see Richard suspended immediately, possibly fearing poor playoff attendance, and suspend him for the entire following season.

_1A NHL president Clarence Campbell (center) meets with referee Frank Udvari (left) and referee-in-chief Carl Voss 03/15/55 – Montreal Gazette Photo

With the Rocket cleared by doctors, the hearing in Campbell’s office took place as scheduled on the 16th. Richard, Irvin, assistant GM Ken Reardon (in attendance for GM Frank Selke) represented the Canadiens. Brown, Patrick, Laycoe and coach Jack Adams were the Bruins reps. All three officials from Sundays game attended, as well as referee-in-chief Carl Voss.

After six hours of taking in testimony, as well as looking at Richard’s prior track record of incidents with players and officials, the most recent coming in December of 1954, Campbell made his decision.

The Montreal Gazette - Google News Archive Search_1C Clarence Campbell announces the suspension of Maurice Richard 03/16/1955 – Montreal Gazette photo

He suspended the Canadiens star for the remainder of the season and the playoffs, sending massive shock and protest across Montreal and Quebec.

The aftermath would peak the next night, when Campbell boldly appeared at the Canadiens/Red Wings match at the Forum.

Did you know?: In the 2005 feature film “The Rocket”, the role of the Bruins Hal Laycoe was played by former Canadiens defenseman Mathieu Dandineault. An interview with Dandineault, by the Montreal Gazette, on his part in the filming can be found here.

Laycoe’s playoff police escort: After the Richard Riot’s settled, the Bruins faced the Canadiens in the semi-finals. Laycoe was still non-favourable in the eyes of the Canadiens fans.

''I drew Laycoe as my taxi teammate. When we got to the Forum, the police were waiting for us,” said Laycoe’s teammate Ed Sandford. “They escorted us into the building and to the dressing room past a bunch of angry fans. Then every time Laycoe came on the ice, the crowd booed him.''

Resources for this story:

Books:

Coleman, Charles; The Trail of the Stanley Cup Vol. 3

Denault, Todd; Jacques Plante: The Man who Changed the Face of Hockey

Jenish, D’Arcy: The Montreal Canadiens: 100 Years of Glory

McFarlane, Brian: True Hockey Stories: The Habs

Online:

HabsEyesOnthePrize.com

Corbis.com

Google News Archives (Montreal Gazette Mar 14-18, 1955)




Thursday, March 11, 2010

March 11, 1937: Morenz Mourned by Fans and NHL alike

one_morenz06 Fans, family and teammates fill the Montreal Forum to attend the funeral for Howie Morenz 3/11/1937 – HHOF photo

On March 8, 1937 the hockey world lost Howie Morenz.

Deemed “The Babe Ruth of hockey”, the Montreal Canadiens star suffered a broken leg after a collision with Earl Seibert on January 28. Confined to a hospital room, “The Stratford Streak” would never recover from the devastating blow.

Having numerous complications from the injury, Morenz had his up and down days. One day would find the 34-year-old optimistic that he would return, and then thinking his career was over the next. It was diagnosed that suffered a nervous breakdown at St. Luke’s Hospital on March 5.

Despite a successful examination just hours earlier, a coronary embolism, caused by blood clots in his leg, finally caught up with him that Monday morning in March. Longtime line mate and friend Aurel Joliat said he died of a broken heart, and was probably right.

The hockey world was stunned by his loss as word made way across Canada and into the United States. Tributes poured in from former opponents and officials from the NHL.

“He had a heart that was unsurpassed in athletic history and no one ever came close to him in the colour department. After you watched Howie you wanted to see him often, and as much as I liked to play hockey, I often thought I would have counted it a full evening had I been able to sit in the stands and watch the Morenz maneuvers. Such an inclination never occurred to me about other stars.”

- Eddie Shore

“It is a terrible loss to the game, and a terrible loss to the Canadiens themselves. I certainly sorry for his family, for Howie thought a lot of his young boy, who will sorely miss him.”

- Conn Smythe

“He was one of the all-time greats of the game and it was only for the good of the game that the Rangers let him return to the Canadiens he loved so well.”

-Lester Patrick

The funeral would be held at the Montreal Forum on March 11 at 2:30 p.m. Morenz’s casket would arrive hours earlier and was placed on a bier adorned with wreaths, flowers and crosses.

Friends, fans and family made their way past the bier to pay respects to the fallen hero. Young, old, rich or poor, the number was estimated as high as 50,000 people.

InductFact7 Longtime teammate Aurel Joliat looks at Morenz’s vacant stall – HHOF photo

The assortment of flower arrangements was extensive, 150 in total. There were several No. 7 floral arrangements, but the one that stuck out the most was made of of lilies and roses with a card that read, “To Howie from Aurel.”

One of two hockey stick shaped floral arrangements came from “The boys in the balcony at the Boston Garden”, fans who jeered him yet cheered for him on the inside.

His No. 7 jersey, skates and his last stick he played, covered in a wreath, were laid alongside the casket.

Clasped in Morenz’s hands was a bunch of roses, placed there by his widow Mary Morenz, with a note from this three children, “To Our Daddy”.

The pier was placed at center ice, where one Forum usher stated, “Right under the coffin, there’s the blue circle where Howie faced the puck. He’s back again in his old position.”

Honour guards consisting of his Canadiens teammates and friends would rotate every half hour leading up to the service.

The first true superstar of the NHL, Morenz always filled the stands in Montreal and anywhere else he played. Even in death he could do the same, as well as filling rows of chairs on the wood covered Forum ice while close to 15,000 people waited outside.

imageThe Morenz family filled the first rows of seats and were followed by not just the players and staff of the Montreal Canadiens, but also the Montreal Maroons and Toronto Maple Leafs.

The NHL came in full representation, led by president Frank Calder. Owners and GMs from all teams and numerous referees were all in attendance. Former Canadiens owner Leo Dandurand made the trek from Louisiana.

The funeral was broadcast on Montreal radio station CFCF and had a simple format consistin of a prayer and hymn. Presbyterian minister Rev. Dr. Malcolm Campbell presided over the ceremony, delivering a brief eulogy.

“He was a hero in the true sense of the word. He never knew what is was to quit. Howie Morenz was not only the idol of thousands upon thousands of fans who went to see him weekly play hockey, but he was above all the hero of his teammates. It was his spirit that appealed to every player to do his best.

He chose hockey as a profession and he made an unqualified success of it. He was the fastest skater, I am told, in the business, a star, a superstar, a star on the ice and a star off the ice. He came into the dressing room whistling and singing, the cheering spirit of all his teammates. Everyone loved him, opponents as well as supporters. It is commonplace to say that no single player ever won such publicity as did Howie Morenz and yet it left him the same gentle, unassuming, plain man.”

- Reverend Dr. Malcom Campbell

Six of Morenz’s teammates (Babe Seibert, George Brown, Armand Mondou, Georges Mantha, Paul Haynes and Pit Lepine) would be pallbearers and carry the coffin out of the Forum, where thousands waited to catch a final glimpse before the motorcade made it’s way to Mount Royal Cemetery for burial.

20775_118497353227 Howie Morenz’s grave marker in Mount Royal Cemetery – findagrave.com photo

In a time before television, there is little video footage of the funeral, but the CBC archives has this brief clip.




Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March 9, 1994: Lyle Odelein’s scoring surge

imageYou don’t usually equate former tough-guy defenseman Lyle Odelein to offense, especially on the power play. After all, up to the start of the 1993-94, he only had three goals in 214 regular season games.

But on March 9, 1994, the player ranked 29th all-time in penalty minutes was a scoring machine as he notched three goals, all on the man-advantage, in the Montreal Canadiens 7-2 win over the St. Louis Blues.

A grinning Odelein received a standing ovation, from the Forum crowd, after scoring his third goal of the night on a shot that beat Jim Hrivnak at 15:02 of the third period.

The night was at the peak of his career high offensive season with Montreal, having tallied 5 goals and 13 assists over a 16-game span.

Earlier, he recorded five assists in a February 20 game against Hartford. That mark is a Canadiens franchise record that he shares with Doug Harvey and Sheldon Souray

Much of his success during that span can be attributed to coach Jacques Demers. Frustrated with the Canadiens power play that was dead last at one point that season, the coach decided to use his tough guy on the power play unit back in February.

Odelein finished the season with career highs in goals (11) assists (29), power play goals (6) points (40) and of course penalty minutes (276).

Did you know?: Lyle Odelein’s brother Selmar, was considered the star of the family and was picked No. 1 (21st overall) by the Edmonton Oilers in 1984.

Selmar played just 18 career NHL games with Edmonton, scoring two assists.




Thursday, March 4, 2010

March 4, 1981: Guy Lafleur reaches 1000 points

image Guy Lafleur became the fastest player to reach 1000 points on this day in 1981

For a few weeks in 1981, Marcel Dionne of the Los Angeles Kings held the NHL record for fastest player to reach 1000 points, doing so in 740 career games on January 7.

Then on March 4, the Montreal Canadiens Guy Lafleur broke that mark by 20 games during his team’s 9-3 romp over the dead-last Winnipeg Jets.

For Lafleur, who had already missed 22 games that season due to injuries, he may have thought it would be another 20 games for it to happen.

In light of the Canadiens riding a thirteen game unbeaten streak, and unbeaten in 19 at home, “Le Demon Blond” had been on a four-game scoring drought until that Wednesday night at the Forum.

“There was pressure, but I wasn’t really thinking about it (the record),” Lafleur said. “The last few games have been frustrating. I had chances to score and I was playing good hockey, but it’s frustrating when you can’t score. You start to get overanxious.”

He reached point No. 998 with an assist on Pierre Larouche’s opening goal in the first period and then notched No. 999, going top shelf past Jet’s goalie Michel Dion, just over four minute’s later.

The Canadiens would be up 8-0 after two periods. Lafleur would cash his own rebound past Dion for a second time at 0:54 of the third.

The milestone put him as just the third player in Canadiens history to reach 1000 points (Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard).

The Montreal Gazette - Google News Archive Search The Canadiens shut down after that, allowing the Jets to score three goals in the third. Winnipeg would end Montreal’s 14-game unbeaten streak the next Saturday.

“Well now I don’t have to think about it anymore,” Lafleur said after the game. “I’m happy about it, but I’m not going to just lay back. I think I still have a few good years ahead of me. I’s proud of it, but I still have four or five years to play.

A few good years he would have, finishing with the Canadiens as the franchise’s all-time scoring leader with 1246 points and 1353 overall in the NHL.

Lafleur’s record for fastest player to reach the 1000 point mark would last just under three years, when Wayne Gretzky would break it by almost 300 games. Since then, four other players (all in the Hall of Fame) have reached it faster than Lafleur.

Doing some research, I came across this game photo from the Montreal Gazette/Canadian Press. Take a look at the fellow in the black jacket.

The Montreal Gazette - Google News Archive Search_a Isn’t that the young midget star who would go on to reach 1000 points in 512 games.???




Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March 3 1920: Canadiens Fire 16 into Quebec’s Net

newsy_lalonde-1919 Newsy Lalonde records four goals in a 16-3 win over the Quebec 03/03/1920.

A 16-3 score sounds like a preliminary IIHF match between Canada and Japan, but on March 3 1920 the Montreal Canadiens set an NHL record with 16 goals against the Quebec Bulldogs. The 13 goal differential also stands as a franchise record in Montreal.

Now to be fair the Bulldogs, despite the presence of scoring leader Joe Malone, were the basement dwellers of the league and would be playing their last season in Quebec before moving to Hamilton.

In the first half of the 1919-20 season, the Bulldogs surrendered 81 goals in a dozen games. Including the March 3 game, they allowed another 96 in the final twelve, wining just four games all season.

The Toronto World - Google News Archive Search

To add salt to the wound, Quebec would face the Canadiens that Wednesday evening with goaltender Frank Brophy playing with a strained ligament in his thigh.

So with their goalie’s mobility limited, the already weak defended Bulldogs were at the mercy of the defending NHL champions and their top-ranked scorers.

The lone injury for Montreal that night was defenseman Bert Corbeau, who took ill just before game time and had to be helped onto the train afterwards.

The game was pretty much over after the first period by which time Montreal had a 4-0 lead. Didier Pitre already had three goals in the first period, and Odie Cleghorn had the other.

Seven Goals in a Period

The second period would see another Canadiens benchmark. Newsy Lalonde would score three goals, rearguard Harry Cameron would score the first two of his record setting four goals and Cleghorn and Amos Arbour added singles to give Montreal a team record seven goals in the period. That record has been matched six other times, the most recent in 1987.

Four Habs Score Three or More Goals

Lalonde scored his fourth goal in the third period, and Cleghorn became the third Canadiens player to record three or more goals that evening.

Arbour notched his second of the night and Cameron’s third and fourth goals set a team record for Habs defensemen that has only been equaled once since (Sprague Cleghorn – 1922).

To date, no other NHL team has had a game in which four players recorded three or more goals.

imageOdie Cleghorn

Malone managed to get  one of his league leading 39 goals that night for Quebec, but on that March night he would have needed a whole team of Malones to match the Canadiens.




Monday, March 1, 2010

My First 40 Years of Hockey Memories

canada_2010 Well what a weekend. Canada clinches the Gold in Vancouver, and on my 40th birthday to boot!

After watching Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal, I started thinking back on the forty years of hockey that I have witnessed or been around for, in one way or another.

Orr’s overtime winner in 1970 and Henderson’s goal in ‘72 were a bit beyond my memory when they happened, but have since been embedded.

The Habs Dynasty of the ‘70s, the Islanders and Oilers if the ‘80s, the Habs wins in ‘86 and ‘93 (10 overtime wins!). Sakic passing the Cup to Bourque in 2001, the Rangers breaking their Cup drought in 1995 and the goal that wasn’t for Calgary in 2004.

The Canada Cups ‘76,’81, ‘84, ‘87, ‘91 and later becoming the World Cup of Hockey.

The NHL/Soviet Super Series – Challenge Cup matchups, World Junior Tournaments.

The Gretzky trade, the Roy Trade, the closing of the Forum, the death of the Rocket…

Canadian Olympic triumphs 2002 and now 2010, mixed with disappointments (1998, 2006) and an oh-so-close in 1992. Not forgetting the USA “Miracle on Ice” in 1980.

Then there’s the players of the past forty years…Orr, Dryden, Tretiak, the Espositos, LaFleur, Bossy, Gretzky, Bourque, Messier, Naslund, Yzerman, Roy, Neely, LaFontaine, the Hulls, Howe, Beliveau, Lemieux. Dozens of Hall of Famers who were starting of finishing their careers.

P1060007 Me with Henri Richard  02/27/2010. Pocket Rocket doesn’t look a day over 18 1/2!!

Learning and reading of the greats of generations past, and those of the present. Not to mention meeting several of them in person!

Then there was the internet, which brought the whole hockey world together. We email, we tweet, we blog, we write, we comment on every aspect of the game.

I was going to detail this post in a more refined fashion, but then realized it might take days to write it..

Instead I leave a photo montage of notable images in hockey from the last 40 years for you to enjoy…I can’t wait to see what the next 40 bring!