Courtesy of Bernie Nichols
Courtesy of Bernie Nichols
Posted by Rick Keene on August 24, 2012
Golf is much sweeter with a Stanley Cup in your bag. A championship ring eases the swing as well …
This is how former Los Angeles King player and current L.A Kings coaching consultant Bernie Nicholls feels. In a phone conversation from a golf course in L.A – Nicholls could not be happier as he prepares for his day with the Stanley Cup.
” I get the cup on the 1st of August. I am taking it to my hometown of Haliburton, Ont”. Says Nicholls as he directs his buddies on the course. ” I am planning to spend the day with my Mom, Dad, brother and Stanley. We are taking the cup to my minor league rink. The local papers and tv stations will be there along with hundreds of people I have forgot I knew!” He laughs.
Nicholls career is no laughing matter.
Drafted in the seventh round by L.A in 1980, 73rd overall – Bernie’s transition from a scoring sensation in junior to the big leagues was relatively easy.
” My first season, I had Jimmy Fox on my left wing and several players including Darryl Evans on my right. Jimmy and I played together for six or seven years. We had some real trying seasons in L.A but a lot of great memories.”
One of those memories was the first time Bernie played against his hero; Bryan Trottier of the New York Islanders. It was during his rookie season.
” I was a huge Islanders fan and they came into Los Angeles to play a game. I had every member of the team sign my stick. I still have that stick and Bryan and I are good friends. He’s such an awesome guy!”
Following two seasons of 41 and 46 goals,including a one hundred point season, Nicholls discovered himself playing on a team with Wayne Gretzky following the blockbuster deal with Edmonton. During the 1988-89 season, Nicholls became one of only eight players in the history of the NHL to score 70 goals. His 150 points the same season, places him among only five players who have reached the same plateau.
” People assume I played on a line with Gretzky – and that is why I scored all those goals.” Says Bernie. ” Luc Robitaille was my left winger and Dave Taylor was on my right most of the year. I played with Wayne mostly on the penalty kill and scored eight goals. Playing with Wayne anywhere gets you points!” He laughs.
Just as the Kings were about to shed their sad – sack image, Nicholls was traded to the Rangers in 1990 for Tony Granato and Tomas Sandstrom. Two players who contributed to L.A’s 1993 Stanley Cup run. Something which Nicholls does not regret.
” I had great years in L.A!” I got to play with the greatest player in the game. How can I look back and be angry or sad?” He says.
Nicholls was in his second season with Edmonton when Nicholls’ former team, the Kings, took on the Canadiens for the Cup. It was an Oilers career which got off on the wrong skate.
Bernie’ swife Heather was pregnant when the former Kingston Canadian was dealt from New York to Gretzky’s former squad following three years in the Big Apple. The then 29 year old was exchanged along with Louie LeBrusk and Stephen Rice for another legend; Mark Messier. Nicholls refused to report until he knew his wife and soon- to- be twins were fine.
” I think the fans were understanding of me wanting to stay with my wife. ‘Slats’ ( Sather) was not happy at the time but we had a good run in the playoffs. We made it to the semi- finals so he ( Sather ) was a little more forgiving.”
The one regret Nicholls has of leaving New York was missing an opportunity to play with Mark Messier. A player most everyone in hockey holds in very high esteem according to the L.A King record holder for goals in a season.
” Wayne was a quiet leader – the ‘lead by example’ type. ‘Mess’ was both. Vocal and led by example. The two were great in their own ways.”
A two year Oilers stint led to an encounter with another legend. This time, the icon was behind the bench. Nicholls was traded by the Oilers to New Jersey for Zdeno Ciger and Kevin Todd on Jan.13 , 1993.
“Jacques Lemaire was my coach in New Jersey. Obviously coming from the Canadiens’ system – Lemaire knew what is was to be a winner. Jacques taught me to be a complete hockey player. I learned how to play both ends of the rink”.
Being in the Devils’ system, a defensive one, did not stop Nicholls from being himself.
” Lemaire adapted to me and I to them.” Says Bernie. “It was a win – win situation. Any team including a defensive one needs offence.”
Bernie left the Devils just prior to the team winning a Stanley Cup. Marking the third time Nicholls exited a team prior to success. At no time did he think he was jinxed.
He signed as a free agent in Chicago in 1994-95 and two seasons later with San Jose . It was with the Sharks, Nicholls decided to complete an almost twenty year career in 1998 – 99. A career which did not include hockey’s most coveted prize. A career which ended with 1209 points in 1127 games.
Little did Nicholls know – his dream of winning a cup would be realized twelve years after he retired. Until this past season, Bernie had been working at the family hunting camp along with his Dad and brothers. The camp is in Haliburton, his home town. It is also where Nicholls resides with his wife and two kids; daughter McKenna and son Flynn.
Just after Christmas, with hockey forever in his blood, Nicholls decided to contact Darryl Sutter – the Kings’ new head coach. Nicholls had skated for Sutter twice before and developed a great relationship.
” The team had just finished a ten game homestand and were embarking on a three game roadtrip. I joined then as a special teams advisor on that trip. Darryl asked me what I thought when we returned to Los Angeles. I enjoyed it and was hired on the spot.”
Nicholls’ job consists of working with guys who need to hone their skills.
” I worked with Doughty and Martinez on their shots. Staying before or after practice to just kinda discover things they forgot. “
The main difference between the young players of today compared to when Bernie was young? Size, strength and speed. Bigger, stronger – faster. Aside from that, hockey players are still hockey players.
According to Nicholls – today’s players still have the same passion and ‘ win at all cost ‘ mentality he and his peers toted back in the day. The only difference; lack of respect …
” These headshots and blindside hits are deplorable!” Says Nicholls.” Some of the guys don’t care about each other. I think Brendan Shanahan is doing a great job with cracking down. The only thing I think is that a stiffer number of games for a suspension should be handed out. Torres for example. This guy is a repeat offender. I would have been happy if Shanahan had given him a fifty game suspension. I think that plus hefty fines are the only way to deal with dirty hits.”
Bernie agrees with coaching being a huge part of a player’s progress and cites Darryl Sutter as an example;
“Sutter does not believe in cheapshots. It is not part of his make-up. He instills this mentality with his team and look at the results. Not one guy was suspended on the Kings this season. “
Nicholls also believes in players taking responsibility for their actions.
” Eric Lindros is a perfect example. You cannot skate through the middle with your head down and expect not to get drilled. Scott Stevens was doing his job. He did not warrant any penalty for those hits.”
Another player Nicholls does not believe warranted any punishment was the Bruins’ giant defenceman; Zdeno Chara.
“Zdeno Chara should not have been suspended for his hit on Max Pacioretty a couple of seasons ago.” Says Nicholls.
” It was an unfortunate accident. If the hit happened on the boards and the stanchion was not there – it would have been a normal hockey play. Unfortunately for the kid’s (Pacioretty) sake – he was severely injured.”
Is the Los Angeles coaching staff surprised by the Stanley Cup victory? Not at all says Bernie .
” We came together during the season. A feeling of togetherness. When we met Vancouver in the first round – we had nothing but confidence. We beat them the last two times we played them and look what happened … Once we got going – we were good. We beat the hell out of them!”
Nicholls maintains a combination of ‘ peaking’ at the right moment plus Jonathan Quick’ s ability to keep them in every game – were large factors in the Cup victory.
” We never doubted. The young guys got nervous a few times – like when we got closer to the cup. It was normal but we prevailed.”
The only Kings’ alumni who joined Nicholls in the celebration was Jimmy Fox. A former player who still works with the team. Nicholls’ biggest supporter and fan of the team was his twenty year old daughter – McKenna.
” She’s a huge Kings’ fan and was by my side every step of the way. It was awesome to have her with me – very special!”
Nicholls’ son Flynn is not a hockey fan nor did he play the game which his Dad excelled at. Flynn is an avid guitar player and is enrolled at film school.
Perhaps Flynn should get out the camera and film his Dad, Mom, sister, uncles and grandparents on August 1st. He could chronicle what should be a heartwarming moment for the entire Nicholls clan.
Once Bernie finishes golf of course …
Photos courtesy of Bernie Nicholls.
Posted by Rick Keene on July 10, 2012
Other teams sway. The Devils do not. Their system is relentlessly relentless. The Kings are proving to be the same.
Change the sweaters, a difference would not be noticed. Is that Jonathan Brodeur or Marty Quick? Zachary Brown or Ilya Penner? This final is a throwback to the six team league. Tighter than a girl holding a boy’s hand on fright night at the local movie house. Is it boring, fun or perplexing …?
How about all three.
L.A. won the first two games asleep at the wheel. A start to the finals which everyone hoped was final. A snooze fest. A Nightmare at 103 Elm Street, Newark – New Jersey …
Among the bandwagon- ers in L.A., in front of thousands of spectators who would never know the difference between a frozen pogo and a frozen puck; all that changed. A Jersey squad’s system started to work. A system that does not work with defence. A system that does not win with offence. It’s a system that wins with a rope-a-dope stragedy.
Ali would be proud.
The Devils do not attack a la late eighties Oilers. Parise is no Anderson, Elias is no Messier and Kovalchuk is no Gretzky. What they do is attack like a piranha taunting their foes; one bite at a time …
They nibble until the opposition is tired. The Kings are fed up. Errors will start. Like a dog chained too long – freedom is required, freedom is needed. Frustration becomes the Kings’ enemy. Frustration becomes the Devils’ friend.
Combine all this with the Kings’ sense of slippin’ away, the ‘holding the stick’ too tight, the ‘end this now’ mentality – the Devils are steering the Stanley Cup ride. Fitting that game six is in L.A. This way – Brodeur can win on home ice. In front of the fans which love him dearly. A party which may make his decision to retire that much easier – that much more fun.
This way – Martin Brodeur’s kids can tell their friends; “Daddy’s at it once again …”
Posted by Rick Keene on June 11, 2012
Laying in bed, late at night.
The wind from outside causing branches to send hair – raising knocks on the window? Lightning causing the room to light every three minutes with a flash of horror … ?
The world seemed to spin with an intensity that – as a five year old child, seemed too much of a cross to bear. A young heart racing in anticipation of something arriving from the shadows. A demon’s hand removing the safety net a warm blanket provided.
An eternity condensed into a five minute span which clouded visions of innocence into darkened lanes of shadowy depths.
Unable to fend off the tyrannical winds anymore, little feet rise and propel a diminutive body down the hall and into the waiting arms of a comforting caregiver.
In the world of hockey …
Red Fisher was those arms.
Posted by Rick Keene on June 9, 2012
Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you’ll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press’ll think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob. – Crash Davis
Catchers on the field and goalies in the crease. The former, no diamond on the diamond and the latter – no steel pillar between the steel pipes. Physically at times, mentally flexible.
The two positions are the same. Everything happens in front. A different outlook on the game(s) they play. Baseball teammates are facing a catcher while hockey players have their backs to the goalie most of the time. Two directions. Enough to make anyone flakey …
The view makes the athlete a perfectionist. The sight lines enable the full picture. Tic-tac-toe for Thomas, tic – toe for the skater. Because guys like Thomas in hockey or Russell Martin in baseball cannot cope with the loneliness of the position, they start to see things differently. Sometimes – that difference carries over to real life.
My allergy to those fucking fans has returned!- Denis Lemieux
Tim Thomas has carried his views into real life. The Vezina Trophy winning goaltender is unorthodox on the ice and his weird ways are portrayed in his off- ice views. The strangeness works during a game – on the street, in America, not so much …
In the game of hockey, life is fast.
No time for players and / or teammates to analyze the goalies’ comments. During stoppages in play or in the course of a game, everyone has an opportunity to talk to their mates. Everyone except for the goalie. Thomas cannot turn to his buddy and say;” Hey, I am going to skip the White House reception. What is your take on that?” The ruminations have sixty minutes to ruminate.
This is not saying the Bruins’ net minder is wrong on his anti – Obama stance. By the time a thought is passed to a mate in the dressing room, it has deep- rooted seeds. As crazy as it may or not be – it has grown to a foundation that leaves less room for input. In the words of Mick Jagger;
” It’s just that demon life that’s got you in it’s sway!”
Where does that leave the Bruins …?
No chance to win a Stanley Cup. That is precisely where.
Tim Thomas is the reason the Beantown bullies won last season. The Bruins as a team, really – not as talented as people thunk. The only time they were deserved the title of champions, was against the Vancouver. They had an opportunity to play against the Canucks because of Thomas.A cycle which ends now …
Thomas is a late bloomer. Why risk a year off when a year may well be all that is left in the tank?
Only Thomas and his family know. Only Thomas and his family are aware of what is going on behind the net. If an absence is called upon to save his marriage – bravo to the net minder. If a leave of absence is called upon because the net minder is burnt out – sorry, it’s his own fault.
An atlete’s schedule is hard enough. It’s difficult on the player and the loved ones. Instead of going home ( or to the White House ), Thomas brought so much pressure onto him and his family it’s amazing he did not implode at the sixty game mark.
His decisions were selfish and now the Bruins’ organization must pay the piper with a Rask. A Rask which is not a Thomas. A Rask which is not a Stanley Cup winning net minder.
Thomas is taking a year off.
Then again, he is a goalie. Things could change – easily …
Relax, all right? Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls – it’s more democratic.- Crash Davis
Posted by Rick Keene on June 4, 2012
Scott Mellanby? Never skated alongside Guy Lafleur …
Rick Dudley? Never partied at Pete Mahovolich’s parents’ home as a teammate. Mahovlich made the rounds. Dudley and the ‘Little M’ may have crossed paths and rum and cokes somewhere as acquaintances.
Marc Bergevin? Not even an entrance into the Canadiens’ storied dressing room. Three hockey playing men; three non – Habitants.
On the dreaded day in 1995, when former team president Ronald Corey appointed Steve Shutt, Yvan Cournyoyer, Mario Tremblay and Rejean Houle to run the Montreal Canadiens – things were never the same since.
Amid a rah – rah press conference, a ‘garbage goal’ skater, a ‘roadrunner’ and two lunch pail plumbers were expected to resurrect a franchise that did not require resurrecting.
Just two short years removed from a Stanley parade, Houle et al were called in to ‘save’ a squad which commenced the season a (tongue-in-cheek) horrendous 0- 4. This on the heels of the team missing the playoffs for the first time in twenty- five seasons. For Jaques Demers, the writing was on the wall even if he could not read it.
Houle, the G.M, and Tremblay – the coach; had no experience in either position. Still, the bleu, blanc et rouge blood which pumped through their veins; enough to instill victory to their former club. Add the inexperience of assistant coaches Cournyoyer and Shutt – the worse foursome at any golf tournament around the NHL.
That tenure set Le Club de Hockey Canadien further from a parade than an eighty – two year old man with no patience. Players came and went amid so much panic, it’s a wonder the fire alarm did not summon the emergency workers daily. Add the fiasco with Patrick Roy – the Habs were going downhill and quick …
Same old Song and Dance
In years since, the Habs have tried in vain to bring in fresh faces. Attempts have been made with the likes of Vigneault, Therrien, Julien and Jacques Martin. Upstairs – Andre Savard attempted a coup and had moderate success. The common denominator of all these hockey people? French Canadians and Hab fans from the past.
When this did not work, back to the familiar ‘ex – ‘Hab’ drawing room.
Carbonneau and Gainey were on the right track. A first place finish in the Eastern Conference for the first time in twenty years. Then, something funny happened away from the old Forum. The team (corporation), realized millions could be made with a centennial celebration worthy of kings. Everyone could get rich, the organization would receive attention and a chance to display feathers like a hockey – playing peacock.
Along the way, the team was forgotten …
A kindergarten class requires a teacher. If not, paint will adorn the walls and the sandbox will smell awful funny. Gainey and Carbonneau’s crew lost without the Skipper. Somewhere, Carbonneau lost his way also and was dismissed by Gainey.
Enter a Gauthier with ties to the French. Enter a Martin with ties to the Gauthier. A repetition worthy of not repeating. Plus ca change … Plus c’est la meme chose!
A New Beginning
Serge Savard, a man wronged by Corey in 1995, was given a shot at redemption. New owner Molson, a virgin at hockey affairs… Serge or – ‘Le Senateur’, brainstormed with the boss. In Savard’s views, hockey first – language second. By hiring Bergevin to run the show – an English ‘sheep’ in French clothing. Savard is savvy. Savard knew ex- Quebec Premieres Parizeau and Bouchard attempted to rally the French away from Canada while sending their kids to the States to learn. In English.
By hiring Bergevin, a response to the French call of duty. By hiring Bergevin, an insight into the real hockey world – en Anglais.
Rick Dudley – an Englishman straight from Toronto. Scott Mellanby – an Englishman straight from the land of Halak. The new coach … ? Straight from the land of versatile knives.
For all intensive purposes, Hartley is English with enough French to order breakfast and not be laughed at in La Belle Province’s La Belle Province.
Bob Hartley never skated with Guy Lafleur either …
Posted by Rick Keene on May 28, 2012
If things go wrong, don’t go with them. ~Roger Babson
Montreal G.M. Marc Bergevin announced the club has signed Dudley to be an assistant G.M. He joins Larry Carriere who the club has announced has returned in the same role ( Carriere was an assistant to Gauthier last season before joining Cunneyworth behind the bench.Another of Gauthier’s ‘make Cunneyworth look like crap’ moves ).
Dudley’s appointment should raise alarms amongst the Habs faithful for several reasons.
If the former hockey playing Sabre and Jet is an astute hockey man as everyone from Stan Bowman to Mats Naslund’s niece’s boyfriend is saying; why in the name of Jocelyn Lemieux has the guy held more jobs with so many organization’s in his post – playing career.
Is he unlucky? Is he a pain to work with? Does he consistently forget the deodorant at his home each workday … ? Questions that a Canadiens fan should ask. Last season was a disaster in Montreal – what the team and city require is a hose to extinguish the flames. Not a ‘hoser’ to light more fires …
Chicago, Tampa, Florida, Atlanta and Toronto. More stops for Dudley in management positions than an eight year old on a road trip. The most alarming aspect of his actions? Aside from his stint in Chicago under the tutelage of Dale Tallon,there are no banners on his resume. No replica Stanley Cups on his constantly moving furniture.
In this age of transient players, it seems upper and lower management are now joining the gypsy – esque movement. Where is Doug Jarvis at the moment? Anyone aside from his Mom know?The bright side of the Dudley signing is much better than the dark side. Instead of dwelling on his Toronto team tanking as near as three months ago, Dudley is joining a man who has had success with Dudley in the past. Boss Bergevin and Dudley worked together under Tallon in Chicago.
Judging by Tallon’s success in Florida following one season and his turnaround of a Chicago organization – the man may be voted ‘as the man mostly likely to be Sam Pollock’ by his peers. If indeed the man is so bright and Bergevin is a quick learner – the Habs’ future is bright.
Montrealers can attest to that.
Several people with names like Savard, Lemaire, Robinson, Gainey, Risebrough, Sather and many more – learned by watching Sam Pollock. They watched, they listened and won.
Let’s hope Dudley and Bergevin are good students …
Let us be of good cheer, remembering that the misfortunes hardest to bear are those which will never happen. ~James Russel Lowell
Posted by Rick Keene on May 25, 2012
At least it is supposed to be that way. For the Los Angeles Kings – it appears the wait may be over.
Forty – five seasons have passed since the team entered the league. Four decades … count èm! So many great players have come and gone from L.A. without winning a cup, it seems improbable.
Charlie Simmer, Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor – a trio that was named the triple crown line; never had a dinner at Lord Stanley`s table. No sippin`from the silver for these guys and – in the case of Dionne, a sad ending for the NHL`s second highest scorer ( at that time ). That was, of course, until a guy named Gretzky skated along and set the record books on fire. In turn – sending Dionne to third place as the league`s highest scorer ( Gordie Howe second ).
Two guys. A pair of skaters that had more in common than scaring goalies. A duo who donned the jersey of the L.A. hockey team.
Dionne skated almost invisibly in the city of Angels. If not for his scoring prowess and that of his linemates – most of the hockey world would never have heard of this guy. Gretzky, was the opposite. Everyone had heard the name Gretzky and the city of Los Angeles was anonymous in the hockey world.
Suddenly, people in L.A were not just attending hockey games in the city after Wayne was dealt there – they were breathing it!
Dionne did what he could to put L.A. on the map of kids`bedrooms walls in Chicago and Toronto. He won scoring titles at a time when a certain Guy, as in Lafleur – was not just scoring, winning Stanley Cups as well. It is documented, over the years, Dionne had opportunities to leave his adopted city and play in hockey markets. Citing his love for the city and loyalty – Dionne never budged.
Now that the 2012 edition of the Kings are one win away from advancing to the finals for the second time in their history - a phone call must be made … A very `quick`phone call …
” Hello Marcel? This is Jonathan Quick … Can you please call Mr. Simmer and Mr. Taylor?”
” Sure kid – why? What`s up?” Answers Dionne.
“Well sir … there is going to be a Stanley Cup celebration and Mr. Gretzky told us that the three of you deserve to be here! More than him …!”
” I see … Sounds good kid! When do we come? “
” It`s hard to say sir … in my gut – I believe we have five games left!”
” Okay see you there … oh and Quick …?”
” Yes sir …?”
” Call up Wayne and tell him to join us …!”
“Sure thing Mr. Dionne …sure thing …!”
Posted by Rick Keene on May 18, 2012
What does a team require to win the Stanley Cup?
Defence, offence and great goaltending will allow a bunch of guys to carry a shiny, silver chalice to their home towns. Glory and benefits …
The single dudes? Put it this way … a Cup in hand saves nine lines …!
Married with a few kids in the back of the SUV? The Cup a place to store the kids. A crib annotated with signatures from past victories.
What most people do not know – there are a few intangibles that every team that has toted Lord Stanley’s Cup high above their shoulders has owned.
Here are the Top Ten Ingredients for a Stanley Cup Winning Team …
10. Red Bull in the water bottles.
9. Satin – lined jockstraps to make the ‘in-between’ shift moments that much more pleasurable.
7. A dart board with Alan Eagleson‘s photo on the dressing room wall.
6. Skates equipped with staples on the toe.
5. A goaltender who has never heard of the Philadelphia Flyers.
3. Free foil!
2. Eleven pictures of the Pocket Rocket ironed on the inside of every jersey.
and the number one ingredient?
1. A fabric softener that not only leave clothes soft and comfortable – a fresh and lasting fragrance as well …!
Posted by Rick Keene on May 17, 2012
Suddenly, everyone is upset with the New York Rangers.
We already have goaltenders, we don’t need six. – Bobby Holik
Holik played for the New Jersey Devils – a team that was credited with ruining hockey as the entire on – ice squad would collapse to their zone. Their style was called a trap and helped the Devils win Stanley Cups.
New York is collapsing everyone in front of their net and the entire team appears to be blocking shots. According to Scotty Bowman, the winningest coach in NHL history; all this started with Roger Nielsen when Nielsen was coaching the Leafs.
” He ( Roger ) realized with guys like Lapointe, Robinson and Savard on our points, if you covered them – they just passed quickly to our talented forwards. So, he left the points open and put all his forwards below. His goalie only had to concentrate on the shot from the point. “
Holik concurs with Bowman that it was not Lemaire`s nor the Devils`fault.
Strong words from a guy who should know. “We are in a different era now and it’s time to focus on today’s game and how to make it better. If you think everybody blocking shots, collapsing around net (creating a force field) and eliminating most scoring chances is the proper approach then you are winning.”
Holik`s words should be heeded by Montreal fans, the Montreal media and the Canadiens` management. In 2010, a certain Jacques Martin coached the Habs deep into the playoffs. Two rounds following victories over Pittsburgh and Washington.
In those series, lead by former Hab defenceman Hal Gill – Montreal blocked more shots than any other team. Guys that would never put thier bodies in front of blistering slapshots, doing it at alarming rates. It worked …
Les Canadiens advanced to the Conference finals and were felled by their lack of sniping. Beat by Bobrovski – the worst shot blocker in the league.
As the Rangers block their way to a possible Stanley Cup, a Montreal Canadien fan should remember it was Martin who coached the Habs – not Cunneyworth nor anyone else.
Why wasn`t everyone upset with the Canadiens?
Posted by Rick Keene on May 16, 2012
The setting – a cozy den…
An elderly yet youthful man sits in a chair and thinks for a moment. Hockey souvenirs adorn the dim lit ambiance, creating a sparkling effect as the light caroms off of gold and silver picture frames.
The light also reflects off the balding man’s head as he gazes at the phone that lay just beyond his Stanley Cup – ringed fingers. The plush green chair on which he sits – providing comfort in an otherwise uncomfortable situation. He reaches for the phone and presses the digit one. Automatically – numbers are dialled. The man waits as the ringing commences.
It is 10:30 pm on a Wednesday evening …
“Hello … ? ” The voice responds curiously on the other end.
“Larry … ? It’s Coco … !” Says the man as he stands and starts to pace.
” Jacques? Is everything okay?” At which point a ladies’ voice can be heard in the background of the recipient’s home. ”It’s just Jacques – Jacques Lemaire … go back to sleep honey.”
” I hope I am not disturbing you?” Says Lemaire in a quiet tone.
” No – no problem Jacques. What’s up?” Asks Larry Robinson curiously.
” Larry, I was thinking of taking the head coaching job in Montreal. I would want you to join me as my assistant.”
For a few moments there is silence …
” Seriously Jacques …? ” I thought you did not like working in the fishbowl that is Montreal? Why the change of heart?”
“Well Larry – the situation in Montreal is bad. It pains my heart to see the organization that meant so much to me and millions of others suffering so much. I mean, you and I and guys like Kenny and Serge helped build a legacy. In the past few years – it has become a joke. Now that the Molson family is back and they hired Marc as the G.M – I believe we can win fairly quick with this team.”
Once again – there is silence. It is obvious to Lemaire, Robinson is thinking seriously.
” I agree Jacques …it hurts me too. But remember, Bob went back for the same reasons. He went back and turned that team into a playoff team and look what happened? The pressures and the insane media turned him into a different person. Suddenly, he was making all these poor decisions …?”
“Don’t forget Larry.. ” Lemaire pauses to cough. ” Bob had to deal with the craziness of the centennial celebrations, players like Kovalev and Komasarek and most importantly – the death of his daughter; Laura. Don’t forget, Bob gave the reins to Gauthier when he took care of the funeral and it was Gauthier who did not like McDonagh. Bob would never have thrown Ryan into the mix.”
” I realize that Jacques. What about the way the organization treated us …? ” Robinson excuses himself and takes a sip of something. ” They knew it meant a lot to me for my Dad to see my sweater number retired …! They could have done it while he was alive. I mean it’s not that they were not going to do it …?”
” Yes I know Larry. That was not nice on their behalf. C’mon let bygones be bygones – you can work with a great young core of defence men in Montreal. You can turn P.K into a Norris trophy winner for God’s sake!” Lemaire voice gets excited. ” They have a great first line with Cole, Pacioretty and Desharnais. Gionta is a great leader, Eller will be great and they have a number three pick in the draft! Add this to guys like Leblanc and White …White Larry …? You gotta love the kid’s spunk! He’s another Knuckles? Larry – we can do this!”
” Jacques …Jacques …calm down for a second.” Robinson says firmly.
” You are right Larry. Sorry – this team excites me with the possibilities!” Lemaire’s voice remains enthusiastic.
” Jacques. Do you realize the Montreal Canadiens retired Patrick’s number?
” Of course I do Larry – don’t be silly! Who doesn’t? ” Lemaire chuckles.
” Jacques, in your career you amassed 835 points in 853 games. You won eight Stanley Cups with the team. You are one of only six NHL players in history to score two Cup winning goals. You have won two Jack Adams trophies as coach of the year along with another Cup. Heck you won a Gold Medal in the Olympics as coach and for God’s sake Jacques – you even have an arena named in your honour in Lasalle?!” Robinson is obviously agitated.
” Um … thanks for the recap Larry!” Lemaire laughs. ” What’s your point?”
” Don’t you think the Montreal Canadiens should retire your number first?”
” Good point Larry …good point! Goodnight and thank you!”
Posted by Rick Keene on May 10, 2012
In last night’s series ending loss to the New Jersey Devils, the way the Flyers went down in defeat was downright spooky. Scary. Hand – wrenching, white knuckles kind of stuff …
Hitchcock – ian …
For days, years and decades – Philadelphia iced a good hockey squad. A roster often unmatched, whether it was under the watchful eye of Ziegler through Bettman. Year after orange, black and white season – every player on the Philly roster poured their sweat and blood toward winning the Stanley Cup. Every player except whoever happened to be in between the pipes.
That’s not to say the padded ones did not try. Au contraire mes freres! The net minders gave their all.
Robbie Moore, the diminutive goalie from Sarnia, Ontario – putting all of his 5′ 5″ frame in front of hundred mile an hour snapshots in 1979. Posting an impressive 5-0 shutout in his Flyers’ debut. Moore went on to play four more regular season games with Philadelphia that season. He posted two shutouts and finished with a 1.77 G.A.A.
He would match his season total in games played in the post season. Unfortunately, his goals against soared to 4.03 and the Flyers’ were bounced in the second round by the Rangers.
Moore never to play goals in Philly again … Moore never to play in the NHL again …
Legend has it – Mr. Moore was prone to nerves. Tossing his cookies before, frequently during and occasionally after games. An anxious goalie makes a strange crease fellow. An anxious goalie makes a mess!
Was Moore victim number one of the curse … ? More importantly – who is responsible for the curse?
The Flyers won back to back championships in the mid – seventies. One of the reasons, and a very big one – was the play of goalie Bernie Parent.
Parent backstopped a young, some say ‘ too violent’ Flyer squad to victory over the Boston Bruins in 1974 and the following season as well. Aside from this ‘championship roadblock’, the Flyers’ journey has been filled with many, often peculiar ‘bumps in the road’.
The Curious Case of Michel Belhumeur
What’s in a name?
Everything if you happen to be have been in goals for the Washington Capitals during the 1974- 1975 and 75- 76 seasons. For part of it anyway…
Micheal ( Michel ), translated his play into a 0 – 29 – 4 record with a goals against average of 5. 34 during his two and only seasons with the hapless Caps. These stats made him part of hockey history and wrongly translated his name to what the goalie from Sorel, Qc must have felt; ‘ill humor’ in lieu of the direct translation; ‘ good humor’!
What does this have to do with the Flyers?
M. Belhumeur was drafted by the Flyers in 1969. He was their 40th overall pick. Following stints with the Quebec Aces, Charlotte Checkers and Richmond Robins – the 5’10″ Virgo was called up to the Flyers during the 1972-73 season.
In goals for 23 games, the rookie posted a respectable 9-7-3 record with an admirable 3.22 ‘rookie’ G.A.A. For his troubles, he was returned to Richmond for the following season and his career as a Flyer net minder was over.
The Philadelphia organization exposed Belhumeur in the 1974 expansion draft and he joined the Washington Capitals’ organization. According to reports – Michel was agitated with the Flyers for giving up on him. Were Michel’s temperament and subsequent ‘words’ responsible for a curse in Philly … ?
Maybe it was a combination of his and teammate Bill Clements’ departure to Washington?
Along with players such as Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Reggie Leach – Clement was an integral part of the Flyers’ championship teams. As one of the ‘Broadstreet Bullies‘, the Buckingham,Qc.native reached his potential during the 1974-75 season.
On the heels of a nine goal season the year before – Clement notched 21 goals as the Flyers picked up the Stanley Cup for the second straight year. Along with many of his teammates, Clement savored the win over the Bruins as his favorite and once more – along with several teammates, looked forward to a third straight Cup.
Clement never had a chance to fulfill his dream.
Like Bonhumeur; Bill ended up with the Capitals following the amateur draft. Clement was traded for the rights to Mel Bridgeman. In Washington, despite having his most prolific season, the
6’1″ bruising power – forward skated with a grudge against Kate Smith’s non- choirboys.
Could it really have been Clement who has cursed the goalies in Philadelphia? How could a man whose work consists of doing voice – over work and acting be the villain of Voodoo in the city of brotherly love? As one of the voices in the popular EA Sports’ NHL video games from 2006 inclusively to a Philadelphia Flyers’ seasoned broadcaster, surely he is in position to ‘reverse the curse’.
A curse Guy Lafleur’s former centerman in Thurso may have inadvertently placed on his alma mater when he was dispersed to Washington in 1975.
You see – Bill Clement started playing hockey at the age of eight.
As a goalie …
Posted by Rick Keene on May 9, 2012
Relax don’t do it
When you want to go to it
Relax don’t do it
When you want to come
Relax don’t do it
When you want to come
When you want to come
One can only hope this is the song encircling the Habs’ new G.M. as he gets acquainted to his new office in Le Centre Bell.
Aside from little things such as removing Pierre Gauthier’s signed print of the Marx Brothers from his wall, M. Bergevin must commence repairing the on-ice Canadiens de Montreal. Pronto …
Forget the off-ice stuff. For now.
Leave that to Mr. Molson – after all, he comes from a long line of superior marketers. Who else but the Molson family could get folks from Port Hope, Ontario to drink Molson Export by re-naming and bottling the same beer as Molson Canadian. A spade is a spade and a drunken Wendel Clarke fan is a drunken Wendel Clarke fan.
Bergevin may or may not have his priorities in the following order;
If the number one choice is his number one choice – presumably a logic is tossing about in his Chicago – raised, Montreal – born mind. It all depends which type of team he is envisioning in his thoughts.
A successful squad in the NHL is basically built in three ways. A trio of options that usually lead to a parade somewhere.
As for the defence …
The goalie must stop pucks at key moments in a game. The type of save that lifts his team to greater heights. There is nothing worse for a player sitting on the bench witnessing a soft goal when they are doing their best to win a close game.
A goalie’s feelings work in reverse. A soft goal more often the end result when he sees his mates not scoring when he keeps them in the game. This was part of the problem for the Canadiens in 2011 – 12.
Bergevin’s job is to understand in himself which type of team he feels can win. He must keep the pieces of the puzzle that are part of the solution and rid the current day Habs of the parts that are non – conducive to his dreams. The coach he hires must be on the same ice rink. The new guy cannot be skating in Quebec city while Bergevin and his team are practising in Brossard.
Bergevin’s Options ( according to everyone but him).
Names of possible coaches are being bandied about in Montreal as loosely as loose lips sink already sinking CH ships.
Bergevin should consider the following if indeed some of the candidates are his candidates as well;
The last five years Crawford coached in the NHL, his teams missed the playoffs. Vancouver, L.A. and Dallas. Crawford holds a.536 winning percentage as an NHL coach in fifteen years. He won a Stanley Cup in Colorado in 1995 – 96. It must be noted – the Avalanche team that won was filled with talent. Foote, Deadmarsh, Forsberg, Sakic, Nolan, Lemieux and Patrick Roy to name a few. Jean Perron and Jacques Demers won a Stanley Cup because of Patrick Roy – they are not considered to be candidates for the current day Habs. Just saying …
Almost a mirror image of Crawford. Hartley won a Stanley Cup in Colorado with pretty much the same line-up as Crawford possessed. Again – a certain M. Patrick Roy was between the pipes. In the last six years as a coach in the NHL (Colorado and Atlanta ), Hartley’s team missed the playoffs five times. Career -wise, the Hawksbury born coach has a winning percentage of .579 and most recently coached the Zürcher Schlittschuh Club Lions in the Swiss league to a championship.
Anyone who follows the Habs is aware Alain Vigneault commenced his NHL coaching career in Montreal. M. Vigneault is a good coach who possesses a good sense of humour ( he coached Maxime Lapierre ) and a career winning percentage of .581. In Montreal for three seasons and twenty games ( 1997 – 2000 ), Vigneault was learning his craft as his borderline .500 record attests. Recently, M. Vigneault was blessed with a very talented team in Vancouver. A Stanley Cup finalist last season and a somewhat surprising exit in the first round this year. Does his stint in Vancouver and his gained experience allow him a return to Montreal? There are no Sedins in Montreal. Just sayin’…
Like M. Vigneault, Therrien started his career in Montreal and parted with a .500 record. He then went to Pittsburgh where he had two winning seasons with Malkin and Crosby. The following season – again with a talented Pittsburgh team, Therrien was fired with a 27 – 25 won / lost record and Pittsburgh went on to win the Cup under Dan Byslema. Really, Therrien has no business being considered for the job … If you can’t win with Crosby and Malkin, where can you win?
Probably the most sane choice of the bunch. He is the only Canadiens’ coach to gain over 100 pts in the past 18 seasons in Montreal. Very popular with the fans in the city and what could be his downfall – also allegedly very popular with the clubs around Montreal as well. He is associated with Bob Gainey which is bad yet he is no longer speaking to Bob Gainey which is good if he hopes to regain the coaching job. Bergevin and Carbonneau played their youth hockey in Quebec and come from the same era. This may help Guy get the job. Sheesh – the guy won with Kovalev on the team! Credit is due …
If a vote was held tomorrow in Montreal for a new mayor – Patrick Roy would get the job and he is not even a politician …
If M. Roy did not possess a winning attitude, M. Hartley, M. Crawford and M. Perron would not be Stanley Cup winning coaches. His ego and winning attitudes are legendary and dangerous. Roy wins when he can control situations and loses when he cannot. To be named as a rookie head coach in Montreal, Bergevin must understand Roy’s intentions. Roy must commit to Montreal and not have his heart in Quebec. Roy and Bergevim must also come to a very strict understanding about who is boss and where.
As an opponent and journeyman – Bergevin is well aware of Roy’s reputation. He probably knows better than anyone in the Habs organization the real stories of Roy. The ones the Habs were not privy to. Roy’s passion is what the Habs require – Roy’s passion is what the Habs do not need right now. Good luck Marc Bergevin …
The great thing about Bergevin being hired is the fact he has never been part of the Canadiens’ organization. He has a mind of his own that was formed outside of the madness.
M. Bergevin did not arrive in Montreal and think about taking the job without ideas in his head. These ideas were talked about in his meeting with Molson and Savard. The Habs’ brass obviously enjoyed listening to Bergevin or else the Hawks’ former assistant G.M would be walking in the Windy city right now with his wife.
He could fool everyone and bring in some guy who is not on the top of the gossip lists in Montreal.
Someone like Joel Quenneville …?
Shooting stars never stop
Even when they reach the top
Shooting stars never stop
Even when they reach the top
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Posted by Rick Keene on May 4, 2012
Disgusting, isn’t it?
That should be the motto of most of the panel of ex- players and ex-coaches on RDS. What do these guys do when they are not acting like little old ladies …?
So and so did this, so and so did that … so and so did this with so and so … It is a wonder hockey can be played in the background and the panel on L’Anti Chambre are aware!
Here are a bunch of guys that get together every night. They peer into the camera with so much anger and ‘truth ‘. It is as if they are saying ” If we approve – then hockey in Montreal will be okay?”
Are you serious guys? In the words of a man being woke up in the middle of the night by a lost stranger; ” Who exactly are you …?”
Mario Tremblay is the worst.
Either that or he should be commended for having courage. Added together – he is the worst courageous guy on television. M. Tremblay must be commended for his passion and devotion to Les Canadiens de Montreal. In his own facon – the former Stanley Cup whining Hab acts like a protective parent. Les Habitants are his kids and as most parents think – ” DO NOT MESS WITH THEM OR I”LL KILL YA.”
This mentality should be applauded. It should be instilled in every player that currently plays for the Habs and their offspring along with their offspring. You tell two Habs and so on and so on …
The problem with Tremblay is; ‘ they give everyone a licence to fish or drive yet anyone can be a parent’. In this case - coach or wannabe coach…
There are several of his kind polluting the airwaves with craziness.An entire generation of children watching RDS will be arrogant, in-your-face, broadcasters when they grow up. Broadcasters who want to be coaches …
Ironically, M. Tremblay ( considered along with a certain M. Houle ) is considered to be the villain in the ‘ Hunchback of Patrick Roy ‘saga. He used poor judgement with the former Conn Smythe winning net minder and caused a ‘Roy’ -al coup. Mario Tremblay committed a ‘ faux pas ‘ in hockey and in business . He let his personal feelings interfere with the end product – a winning hockey team.
Mario Tremblay finished his coaching career with a wining record in Montreal. In 179 games coached; Tremblay possesses a 71-63-25 record for 167 points. No Scotty Bowman type numbers. No Boom – Boom Geoffrion numbers either …
Does this allow him the right to be on television – providing insight to kids and parents that cannot think for themselves? Generations of hockey fans in this city, take these guys’ words as the only words when it comes to intelligence in hockey. Because of these ‘ broadcasters’, blue and white collar francophones live in the dark ages. It is a type of propaganda. A dictatorship. A sovereign legacy …
Aside from a tiny little man who lives behind a rock in the aboriginal outback, everyone is aware of the French – Canadian connection with the Montreal Canadiens. As the world changes – so must every organization. Families much cling together and remain on top of life issues. If not, kids may be drowned in a van.
Even the Royal family, an institution older than the Montreal Canadiens – are aware that a new generation is watching. They are aware this new generation accepts and welcomes William and Kate because the newlyweds are not the Queen and Prince Phillip. It is now time for RDS to accept the same notion as they cede the Canadiens’ royal legacy to a younger Bergevin – led future.
The passion must not be forgotten. Every now and then, bring out the tapes and replays of the Canadiens’ terrific past. A legacy of hall of famers not to be left behind like a rolled up piece of tape on the dressing room floor. The rest of the time – blank tapes must be entered for new recordings.
It is time for RDS to re-think their future. ‘Too many cooks spoil a broth ‘ and too many ex- hockey players/ coaches / brown nosers – spoil a hockey telecast.
Employ some younger Francophone minds that do not recall the days of the usual parade route. ‘Jeune’ guys who know hockey and are aware that a Shea Weber would not lose his way along Ste. Catherine Street with or without a Stanley Cup.
It is time RDS looks in the mirror .
Maybe it won’t be discusting after all …?
Posted by Rick Keene on May 3, 2012
The more things change in Andrei Kostitsyn‘s life, the more things don’t require a perestroika – at least in Andrei’s way of thinking.
The Russian who was supposed to snipe for the Montreal Canadiens, is up to his old tricks. Let us hope for Kostitsyn’s lady of choice’s sake – the tricks are not old as he makes the rounds in the seedy side of the hockey rink.
Andrei and his teammate, Alexander Radulov, are both being scratched from game three in their second round series against the Coyotes. Suspended for breaking team rules.
It appears the duo – took the wrong fork in the road to the Stanley Cup. Veering left to the wee hours of the morning instead of keeping a curfew and staying on the right track. Andrei should know better. While in Montreal, the enigmatic Belarussian forward was linked periously close to a police investigation with alleged ties to the Russian mob.
Andrei, his younger brother Sergei and former teammate – Roman Hamrlik; cavorted off the ice instead of the ice surface. In a town such as Montreal where a hockey – playing Hab is the equivalent of a Tom Cruise sighting in Tinseltown, the trio’s shenanigans were as obvious as a pimple on Jimmy Durante‘s nose.
Sergei was shipped away ( hockey matters played a small part ), Roman was exonerated and Andrei remained off the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Until now …
Did brother Andrei mistake the anonymity of being a Predator with a licence to prey on rum and cokes? Did himself and Radulov not understand or feel the heat from the media’s playoff scrutiny as it filtered through the camera lenses?
Granted – this pair of partying players did not get arrested. They were not involved in a secret – service undercover operation involving undercover girls wearing Secret nylons and providing a service. As far as the world knows – they did nothing short of not being able to read the digital numbers that flash from their cellphones. The ones that informed them that David Letterman was off and Ferguson was awaiting them. Yet – in the name of Dick Duff … Where’s the hockey integrity? The passion? The desire to win …?
Down 2 – 0 in games to a Coyote team should not give anyone the right to re- enact a scene from the movie Coyote Ugly. Want to be ugly? By all means. Go back to the hotel room and watch some American politics on the tube. That will be more sleaze than Radulov and Kostitsyn will ever witness at an after – hours club. Not satisfied boys? Perhaps watching game tapes of your team’s performance in a loss to Pheonix should be on the agenda? That’s sleazy!
After – all, hockey and winning the Stanley Cup are the reasons millions are being directly deposited into your account. Up one or two games in a series? An outing with a few beers and a missed curfew is more tolerable yet not really. Win or lose – in a few weeks, a summer of sun, ladies and Pina Coladas await.
For now …
Please concentrate on the task at hand. Ask anyone who has ever been part of a Stanley Cup winning team. The celebrations start following a win …
Posted by Rick Keene on May 1, 2012
The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Beantown six that day:
The series stood three to three, with but overtime to play.
And then when Marchand died in the crease, and Chara did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest -
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Thomas could get down and set -
We’d put up even money, now, with Thomas in the net.
Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the muck,
For Thomas, mighty Thomas, was going to stop the puck.
There was ease in Thomas’ manner as he stood in his place;
There was pride in Thomas’ bearing and a smile on Thomas’ face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed a sign,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Thomas in front of the twine.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with hurt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing Ovechkin ground the stick into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Thomas’ eye, a sneer curled Thomas’ lip.
And now the vulcanized – covered disc came hurtling through the air,
And Thomas stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy stickman gave Thomas a shove -
“That ain’t my style,” said Thomas. ” Careful,” said the ref while tapping the goalie’s glove.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the referee!” shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Thomas raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Thomas’ visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to Hendricks, who thought he saw a hole;
But Thomas still missed it, and the scorekeeper said, “That’s a goal.”
“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Thomas and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Thomas wouldn’t let that puck go by again.
The sneer is gone from Thomas’ lip, his teeth are clenched in vice;
He pounds with cruel violence his stick upon the ice.
And now Ward holds the puck, and shoots it so mad,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Thomas’ pad.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children yuck;
But there is no joy in Beantown – mighty Thomas has missed the puck.
*A ‘ few ‘ minor adjustments were made to Casey at the Bat
by Ernest Lawrence Thayer ©
Posted by Rick Keene on April 26, 2012
And a-one and a-two!
There’s a place where I can go
And that’s where I wanna be
I’m sayin’ good-bye to you, good people,
For I’ve found a place for me!
(Yeah yeah yeaaaaaaah…)
Gonna go way out…WAY OUT!
That’s where the fun is, way out…WAY OUT!
That’s where the sun is, way out…
- The Way Outs
If Fred Flinstone could fast – forward to 2012 in a time car; one – his legs would be very sore and two – he would discover the NHL is filled with aliens.
Entire hockey teams behaving like men behaving badly and badly at that. Unlike anything hockey fans have witnessed since Kate Smith rallied the city of brotherly love to not love anyone in the mid – seventies. Bettman’s boys are losing it and losing it big!
Sidney Crosby fighting? Tossing his purse aside and demonstrating his frustration? Hey Sid! Remember the concussion that sidelined your industrious sideline career? If you keep this up – a Crosby coffin will be the most popular Penguin merchandise on sale at EBay.
Even former Penguin, Jaromir ( you gotta move like ) Jägr – has a few thoughts on the person who captains his old squad;
There is a lot of talk now about Sidney Crosby and what he’s been doing on the ice. Some give it a lot of thought, others less. And I am a guy who does not care at all, I take no notice. He does harm only to himself. But every man is different, perhaps this helps him get into the game and play better.
The Penguins appear deader than an adolescence’s dream of pulling in Jessica Alba for a night. The Pens’ problems stem from a schizophrenic point of view. One Penguin team was successful – this one is not!
M&M ‘s Rule !
If Pittsburgh followed the rule of the M and M’s – they may have had a chance. They would not melt in any glove as they compete for the Candy … er … Stanley Cup.
Taking two candies between thumb and forefinger. Apply pressure, squeezing them together until one of them cracks like Bryzgalov’s ideas. That one is the loser. Eat the inferior one as soon as possible and the winner gets to go another round.
The black and gold and the red M&Ms are tougher. The newer blue ones from Winnipeg are genetically inferior.The blue M&Ms as a race – cannot survive long in the intense theatre of competition that is the modern candy and – Bettman’s world.
Occasionally, a mutation appears. A candy that is misshapen or pointier. Flatter than the rest. Almost invariably this proves to be a weakness, but on very rare occasions it gives the candy extra strength. In this way, the Maple Leafs continue to adapt to their environment.
At the end of the pack, there remains one M&M, the strongest of the herd. Since it would make no sense to eat this one as well, I pack it neatly in an envelope and send it to: M&M Mars, A Division of Bettman’s NHL, New York, New York 17840-1503 U.S.A.
Along with the strong M & M – I attach a note;
“Please use this M&M for breeding purposes.”
Theres a town I know where the hipsters go they call it Philadelphia
And when you get an itch to do the Twitch in Philadelphia
it’s a twitchin’ town so I’ll see you down in Philadelphia
-The Way Outs
Posted by Rick Keene on April 18, 2012
Have your buddies gone golfing without you?
No worries – ignite your IPad!
What’s that? Not up on Steve Jobs’ legacy? Then do it the old – fashioned way! Grab a piece of paper and your favorite Robert Picard pen. Sit down on your Carey Price – signed couch and relax!
It is time for a Montreal Canadiens quiz! Ready?
What player celebrated the fifty – ninth anniversary of scoring a Stanley Cup winning goal on April 16, 2012? Who was the all – time leading scorer in NHL history when he hung up his skates for good in 1954? Which former Hab retains the record for most assists (six) in one game by a Montreal Canadien?
If any of your answers include Maurice Richard, Boom Boom Geoffrion or Jean Beliveau – sorry, an excursion to Montreal Canadien summer school is on your agenda. No holiday to visit Howe or Harry Howell. No trip to Toronto to see Gretzky’s jersey and no lunch at Guy Lafleur’s restaurant!
The correct response to all three questions is Elmer James Lach. The funny thing …? The last person to give you the proper answer – Lach himself …
On hand yesterday to drop the ceremonial first puck for the 43th annual Pointe Claire Old- Timer’s hockey tournament, the ninety- four year old and longest living Montreal Canadien – was all smiles as he took his place at center ice. His rightful place!
Hard to believe – almost sixty years ago, Lach was on another ice surface and another era – celebrating his very own Stanley Cup winning goal against the Boston Bruins in a 1 – 0 overtime victory. A goal just 1:23 into the opening extra period. A goal that gave the Saskatchawan- born Lach a broken nose!
” Me and Maurice ( Richard ) were so excited that we won, we jumped into each other ‘s arms to celebrate! Rocket’s stick caught my nose a little to the side and that was the way I started my summer!” Lach laughs while he signs a miniature Stanley Cup. ” It didn’t bother me that much – I had been though worse.”
Worse is an understatement as Mr. Lach dealt with a fractured skull, a badly broken arm, two broken jaws ( which he played through ), a fractured leg, the same cheekbone shattered twice, a sliced foot, hundreds of stitches and 7 broken noses; including the one delivered by The Rocket. Of all the injuries – the one that bothered him the most however, was the broken hip he suffered on February 25, 2011.
” I was shoveling the snow off my deck and before you knew it – I was on my back! Luckily my wife looked out and saw me laying there. If not, I would have been covered in snow!” Lach laughs. ” This bothered me most because of my age – it took a while to heal and I can’t stand sitting around!”
Lach played through all his injuries, mostly on the famous Punch Line with Rocket Richard and Toe Blake. Two men – according to Lach, that shared the same sentiments as himself; they hated to lose!
In the 1944–45 season, Lach played in all fifty games, picking up a league-leading eighty points ( 26 goals – 54 assists). The same season, linemate Maurice Richard became the first player in the NHL to score 50 goals in 50 games. The Punch line amassed 220 points in total, a NHL record until the 1960s. Lach earned the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s Most Valuable Player. He was also named to the First All-Star team.
” That was the reason our line was so successful! All three of us did not agree with a defeat. When we travelled to Toronto – to play the Leafs, the three of us would go to the same bar. We had a few drinks and all we talked about was hockey, hockey, hockey! Because of these talks, we knew exactly where each other would be on the ice at all times!”
His number 16 was retired on December 4, 2009 during the Montreal Canadiens Centennial celebrations on the same night as Emile Bouchard. The latter passing away on Saturday morning – two days before the anniversary of Lach’s winner.
Mr. Lach remembers his former teammate fondly as he recalls the time the team elected Bouchard as captain. ” Butch was our leader! There was no doubt about it! We all had to write down our vote and I was probably the first to give my vote ( Bouchard ) to our coach – Dick Irvin Sr.“
Lach also recalls Irvin Sr. as the guy who pulled the most practical jokes on the team. The coach – of all people !
” I came out of the shower after a game and my clothes were missing. I looked at Rocket – I knew by his expression, he had no idea where they were. Same thing with Toe. Then, I see Mr. Irvin standing in the corner. His hand trying to cover his mouth but his laughter got louder and louder!”
Elmer does not watch a lot of hockey yet enough to give his take on the current woes of the club de hockey Canadien. Lach believes Geoff Molson does not know enough about hockey and that is the biggest problem.
” It all starts at the top and falls down. If management is off – the rest of the team will suffer.” He says as he signs yet another souvenir for a fan(free of charge).
Mr. Lach utilizes a cane and a walker to get around. Dave Stubbs, one of the best sports writers in North America and writer at the Montreal Gazette- has become Lach’s unofficial ‘ keeper ‘ in recent years. Stubbs cannot understand why Lach does not receive the same accolades as Richard and Blake. Part of the reason, says Stubbs, is Lach’s humble nature.
” He’s not one for the public eye – it took a while, as usual, for me to convince him to drop the puck today!” Stubbs continues. ” This guy played on one of the greatest lines in the history of hockey. There was no one tougher or more dedicated to the Canadiens than him.”
So what will Lach do to celebrate the anniversary of his Stanley Cup winning goal?
” If the weather is nice tomorrow – I’m going golfing!” States Lach as he finishes his Budweiser …
Posted by Rick Keene on April 17, 2012
“Who’s in Goals … ?”
Savard: Strange as it may seem, they give hockey players nowadays very peculiar names.
Roy: Funny names?
Savard: Nicknames, nicknames. Now, on the St. Louis team – we have Who’s in goals, What’s on left wing and I Don’t Know is the center …
Roy: That’s what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the St. Louis team.
Savard: I’m telling you. Who’s in goals, What’s on left wing and I Don’t Know is the center.
Roy: You know the fellows’ names?
Roy: Well, then who’s in goals?
Roy: I mean the fellow’s name in goals.
Roy: The fellow playin’ goals …
Roy: The guy in goals.
Savard: Who is in goals.
Roy: Well, what are you askin’ me for?
Savard: I’m not asking you–I’m telling you. Who is in goals.
Roy: I’m asking you–who’s in goals?
Savard: That’s the man’s name.
Roy: That’s who’s name?
Roy: When you pay off the goalie every month, who gets the money?
Savard: Every dollar of it. And why not, the man’s entitled to it.
Roy: Who is?
Roy: So who gets it?
Savard: Why shouldn’t he? Sometimes his wife comes down and collects it.
Roy: Who’s wife?
Savard: Yes. After all, the man earns it.
Roy: Who does?
Roy: Well, all I’m trying to find out is what’s the guy’s name in goals?
Savard: Oh, no, no. What is on left wing.
Roy: I’m not asking you who’s on left wing !
Savard: Who’s in goals!
Roy: St. Louis has a good second line?
Savard: Oh, absolutely.
Roy: The right winger’s name?
Roy: I don’t know, I just thought I’d ask.
Savard: Well, I just thought I’d tell you.
Roy: Then tell me who’s playing right wing ?
Savard: Who’s playing goals.
Roy: Stay out of the crease. The right winger’s name?
Savard Oh, he’s the back – up goalie.
Roy: Wait a minute. You got a second centerman on this team?
Savard: Wouldn’t this be a fine team w i t h o u t a second center man?
Roy: Tell me the centerman’s name.
Something says it will be a very long summer …
Posted by Rick Keene on April 13, 2012
There will be a twenty – one foot cup erected in Times Square before the playoffs start. No, it is not Shaquille O’Neal’s jock- strap! The NHL, is placing a giant Stanley Cup on the streets of the Big Apple.
Karma beats the Rangers! Read all about it! Kharma beats the Rangers!
The field of 16 is set and all the first-round matchups have been made.
Just like George of the Jungle – I will go on a shaky limb and …
1. Vancouver (1) and Los Angeles (8)
The Canucks are a good team and mad! Angry for losing the Stanley Cup to Boston last year. These two elements will leave the Kings booking a beach vacation sooner than later. Vancouver should take six games to shake the Kings’ sand from their skates. Allow the Luongo factor to deposit two wins to L.A lore … Vancouver in six.
2. St.Louis (2) and San Jose (7)
The best first round match- up in the west.San Jose, following years of being expected to win – suddenly are the underdogs. This may work in their favor. They have more experience than the Blues and veterans like Thornton are aware of their mortality on a good team. If Blues’ goalie Elliot starts and fails – they have Halak. If Halak starts and fails – they have Elliot. Expect the limit here. The Blues are in foreign territory and have nothing to lose… St.Louis in seven.
3. Pheonix (3) and Chicago (6)
Les Coyotes are always skating on their final legs in Pheonix. The out- pouring of love the fans demonstrated last year goes a long way. Captain Shane Doan‘s heart and legs cannot carry the team past the Hawks. Unless … Never mind. Hawks in six.
4. Nashville (4) and Detroit (5)
Did I say the best series was St.Louis and San Jose ? Ok – Maybe not. The Predators are ready to pounce and the Wings are aware their time is limited to grab a Cup with the veterans in tow. This alone should propel the Wings higher unless Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne stands on his guitar case … Red Wings in seven
Aside from Kharma, the Rangers are not high in the goal scoring department which may be their biggest opponent. The Sens have nothing to lose and may ride the Alfredsson – train all the way (at least past New York). Ranger goalie Lundvquist is a factor as is Tortorella’s temper. The play- offs are a different animal as the Rangers will discover. Senators in seven.
2 Boston Bruins(2) and Washington Capitals(7)
The defending Stanley Cup champs should commence their defence of the title easily. The Caps and their captain, Ovechkin , played tag all year with success. If Tim Thomas can avoid the CIA snipers but not the Capitals’ shots – an easy series for the Bad Bruins. Boston in six
3 Florida Panthers(3) and New Jersey Devils (6)
A strange match – up. The upcoming Panthers may be thwarted by their happiness. The final time the Cats were on the dance floor, the thought of a black President was as rare as a plastic rat on Panther ice. Martin Brodeur, the Devils’ legendary goalie may utilize this ‘end of a career’ series as one final kick at the puck. The Devils also have Kovalchuck. New Jersey in six.
4 Pittsburgh Penguins(4)and Philadelphia Flyers (5)
Let’s get ready to rumble …! An opening round series that is tailor made for everyone to be happy! The NHL brass will be smiling, the television networks and hockey fans ‘coast to coast’ will all be pumped in Pennsylvania! The teams hate each other and Mike Milbury did his job well in applying fuel to a Flyers’ fire. Unfortunately for Philly fans, coach Laviolette and his team’s ability to be undisciplined will cede the series to Pittsburgh. Pens in six
There you have it ! Enjoy the first round and remember to …
Watch out for that tree …!
Posted by Rick Keene on April 10, 2012