luncheon mates  

preseason feed

Forklifting: Amid cutlery and condiments and watermelon wedges, Chicago linemates take to the table during the Black Hawks training camp in September of 1971. From the right, that’s left winger Dennis Hull (cheeseburger), centreman Stan Mikita (vinaigrette), and right winger Cliff Koroll (big bowl of … rice? mashed? Rice, I think). (Photo: Ray Gora, Chicago Tribune)

this week: are you a hockey player or are you just someone who plays hockey?

Forty-three years ago this week, visiting Moscow with a Canadian rep team, a right winger, Waterloo-born, in Ontario, went shopping. The Minnesota North Stars’ Bill Goldsworthy that is, seen above: he bought a balalaika.

Fast forward to this past week, when an NHL deputy commissioner was talking about newly enhanced security measures at all 30 of the league’s rinks. Fans going to games will now have to walk through magnetometers — those metal detectors you know from airports.

“For better or for worse,” Bill Daly said, “we live in an uncertain world, and it has to be of paramount importance to us, the health and safety of our fans. An extra precaution that might take an extra 30 seconds for each fan I think is more than worth it if it means you’re creating a safer environment for your fanbase.”

A right winger, meanwhile, sat down to read a statement to a gathering of reporters on the opening day of the Chicago Blackhawks’ training camp in South Bend, Indiana.

“I am confident,” Patrick Kane said, “once all the facts are brought to light, I will be absolved of having done nothing wrong.”

Anything, he may have meant. Accused of sexually assaulting a woman in August, he’d arrived to play hockey while a New York state grand jury considered whether or not he’ll be indicted.

Chicago management said they saw no problem with having Kane attend camp as though nothing had happened. Fans cheered when he stepped on the ice for the first time.

Up north and over the border, a former centreman — the greatest ever to have played the game? — was surprised, this week, by just how excellent this collection of “better casual clothing” is that Sears Canada is selling in his name.

The new No 99 Wayne Gretzky Collection will (and I quote) keep men looking neat, handsome and fashionable this Fall.

20150909_C7711_PHOTO_EN_493076These are polos we’re talking about, t-shirts, knit jackets, hoodies. Mercerized cottons, cashmeres and merino wool give this collection a luxurious feel, offering men a complete look: I have this on good authority. “The long-sleeved 100% cotton shirts come in a variety of patterns, including plaid, printed and checked.”

“Sears got my style down when they created this collection,” Gretzky confided in a press release. “I had the opportunity to wear all the pieces, from the t-shirts and sweaters to the jeans and dress pants, and the style, quality and value is excellent. I thoroughly expected it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it would be this good.”

At that Blackhawks press conference, Kane took questions from reporters.

Q: Patrick, how tough is it to focus on hockey with so many things going on right now?

Kane: I’m focussed. I’m happy to be here at camp. It’s an unbelievable venue here at Notre Dame. There’s a lot of history in this venue. I know we’ve had some success coming back here the last couple of years. It’s good to be back here again. I’m happy to see all my teammates and get done with our fitness testing today. It seems like we have a fun weekend ahead of us, so I’m looking forward to enjoying that. I’d like to keep to hockey questions only.

Q: Are you going to stop drinking?

Kane: Hey, Mark, I appreciate the question. I wish I could answer those questions right now, but there is a legal matter going on that I can’t answer that.

Q: Patrick, to all the people who believed this stuff was behind you, do you feel like you let them down, do you feel like you let the organization down this summer?

Kane: I appreciate the question, David. I’d like to answer that, but at this time with the legal process ongoing it’s just not a question I can answer. I appreciate it. I’m sorry I can’t answer it and thank you for the question, though.

PR Man: Thank you very much. We’ll excuse Patrick here.

Kane may be more important than ever to the Blackhawks, said someone, a pundit, referring to the vital cogs the defending Stanley Cup-champions lost over the summer.

“It doesn’t look like any of it has affected him,” said another Chicago winger, Bryan Bickell, asked about Kane and possible distractions. Also, sic: “He feels comfortable and when he left he was a happy Patrick Kane from when he left is what he is now.”

A Montreal defenceman pledged C$10-million over seven years to the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation who, for its part, unveiled The P.K. Subban Atrium last week. The man himself was on hand to say a few words, including several to Elise Béliveau about how he hoped that this was something that would have made her late husband Jean feel proud. Also:

“Sometimes I try to think, ‘P.K., are you a hockey player, or are you just someone who plays hockey?’

“I just play hockey. Because one day I won’t be a hockey player anymore, I’ll just be someone who played hockey. So what do I want people to remember me for other than being a hockey player? Well, every time you walk into this hospital, you’ll know what I stand for.

“In life, I believe you are not defined by what you accomplish, but by what you do for others. That’s how I live my life.

“This is not about hockey or about how many goals I score next year or even how the team does.” Continue reading


mr. ed

Special Ed: As a junior, ed Sandford skated for Toronto's own St. Michael's Buzzers and Majors; by 1947, he was a Boston Bruin. Seen here in January of 1949, he finished his nine-year NHL career as a Blackhawk in Chicago. (Photo:Louis  Jaques/Library and Archives Canada/e002343753)

Special Ed: As a junior, Ed Sandford skated for Toronto’s own St. Michael’s Buzzers and Majors; by 1947, he was a Boston Bruin. Seen here in January of 1949, he ended his Bruin years as team captain before finishing his nine-year NHL career as a Blackhawk in Chicago. (Photo:Louis Jaques/Library and Archives Canada/e002343753)


hinterland who’s who

Who's Asking? The artist previously as #99 is the only hockey player to have made it into a new series of illustrated biographies for young readers, if not the only Canadian (as long as you're willing to count Alexander Graham Bell). Others in the line-up include Isaac Newton, Christopher Columbus, both Barack and Michelle Obama,  J.K. Rowling, Bob Dylan, and Jesus. (Illustration: Nancy Harrison)

Who’s Asking? The Conservative campaign mascot previously known as #99 is the only hockey player to have made it into a new American series of illustrated biographies for young readers, if not the only Canadian (as long as you’re willing to count Alexander Graham Bell). Others in the line-up include Isaac Newton, Christopher Columbus, both Barack and Michelle Obama, J.K. Rowling, Bob Dylan, and Jesus. (Illustration: Nancy Harrison)

a slight sneer mantled joliat’s lean bronze face

Montreal Mite: On early 1930s ice, left to right, Johnny Gagnon lines up with Canadiens teammates Gus Rivers and Sylvio Mantha.

Montreal Mite: On early 1930s ice, left to right, Johnny Gagnon lines up with Canadiens teammates Gus Rivers (a fellow right wing) and defenceman Sylvio Mantha.

“Morenz was small,” I wrote between hardcover in Puckstruck, page 141, “five foot nine, 165 pounds. His skates were small, one of his teammates remembered later, and so too were his wingers. His wingers, in fact, were smaller than him: Aurèle Joliat, five-seven, 136 pounds, on the left, while to the right it was Johnny Gagnon, the Black Cat, five-five, 140 pounds. This miniature man, with his tiny skates, his micro sidekicks — just thinking about the three of them, you start to squint.”

More on Morenz’s Montreal flyweight sidekicks from Harold C. Burr, writing in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 20, 1931:

Joliat and Gagnon are two of the lightest men in hockey. Their skates are not the light regulation aluminum blades, for fear they would go right up into the rafter some night, so rumor has it. But that’s likely an exaggeration. You know how newspapers are.

It seems, though, that the little fellows are jealous of their weight, each scheming to be the lighter. Joliat is the taller and looks the heavier. But Gagnon doesn’t take anything for granted in hockey, which is ordinarily a wise precept. One night in Montreal the gamecocks almost came to blows over the question. Joliat shook his gauntleted fist under the Gagnon nose, stopping to get the low altitude, and Gagnon just spluttered back in French.

“Jump on the scales!” taunted Joliat, his volatile nature uppermost.

 “Do it yourself!” screamed Johnny.

So it was arranged. It was a simple question to settle beyond further dispute. The athletes were naked. Possibly there was one more soapsud on Joliat than on Gagnon, but Gagnon wore a drop of perspiration to make up for it. Johnny was first on the scales.

“One hundred and thirty-nine pounds,” intoned the voice of the weigher.

A slight sneer mantled Joliat’s lean bronze face as he lithely took Gagnon’s place.

“One hundred and thrity-six,” cried the voice of the weigher once more.

Johnny Gagnon just gave a stricken gasp and ever since hearing those fatal figures has been trying to lose the three pounds that keep him [sic] for hockey fame. For, after all, it’s quite a distinction to be the smallest man in a game where beef is at a premium. “He’s fast — and heavy,” has been the descriptin of the ideal forward ever since hockey was born in zero prairie weather and grew up in the little crossroads towns.”


books that hockey players read: boom-boom and random harvest

boom boom

I have no idea what Boom-Boom Geoffrion thought of Random Harvest, but I can say this: none of the reviewers was too impressed. None that I’ve read. One of the nicest things that Charles Poore, writing for The New York Times, could summon up to say was that it was like an artichoke, layered.

James Hilton’s fourth novel was a big deal when it was published in 1941. Jonathan Franzen’s Purity big? That sort of thing, I’m thinking. Six years had passed since the English author had published his previous blockbusting book, Goodbye Mr. Chips, which in turn had followed on the heels of Lost Horizon, the book with which he made his name and gave the world (and the word) Shangri-La.

The new novel told the story of a soldier of the First World War, shell-shocked, with no memory of the rich, high-born man he used to be. Charles Poore warned that he was sticking by his rule of never to give away the ending of a book; what he was willing to say was (i) it wasn’t a plausible plot and (ii) he preferred the parts to the whole. It was, he was willing to declare in his end-of-January column, the most dilemma-strewn, plot-clotted story of the year.

In Toronto, the estimable William Arthur Deacon gave it a look for The Globe and Mail. He felt that Hilton had turned his back on — well, everything of significance, in favour of being a mere purveyor of entertainment. He advised the thoughtful reader to leave it alone. “After the inevitable movie, it will pass, slowly at first and then rapidly, into the void of eternal forgetfulness, because there is really nothing much to it.”

It was a bestseller, on both sides of the Atlantic. Deacon was right and also, wrong. A movie did follow, in 1942, starring Ronald Colman and Greer Garson. It made a lot of money, too, while failing to charm the critics.

As for the perpetual void, Boom-Boom Geoffrion obviously braved it long enough to pluck himself the copy with which he’s seen relaxing here. Based on this photo, which dates to the late 1950s, it may have been bedtime fare for two of his young children, too, daughter Linda and elder son Bob. Never mind the critics: the Geoffrions appear to have made it nearly all the way to the end.

random h


A dispatch, this morning, from The Canadian Press on the front lines of the Conservative campaign; requisite photo of the prime minister with stick in hand here.


Stephen Harper got to show off his hockey skills at a photo op in Port Moody, B.C., on Tuesday.

The Conservative leader was visiting Cascadia Sports Systems, a company that builds products for gymnasiums and hockey arenas, including boards.

Harper blasted about a dozen shots into the boards at a test area within the facility.

He also pretended he was shooting a puck at the assembled media and then started laughing saying, “I could do that all day.”

Harper didn’t specify whether he was talking about scaring cameramen or shooting hockey pucks.


Colin Kilburn never ended up playing an NHL game but in 1949 he did attend the Montreal Canadiens’ training camp as a 21-year-old, where (when he wasn’t on the ice) he posed with a Montreal traffic policeman. Kilburn was a high-scoring left winger at this time for the Edmonton Flyers of the Western Canada Senior Hockey League, winners of the 1948 Allan Cup. He went on to play in the WHL as a Victoria Cougar, a Vancouver Canuck, and a Spokane Comet. He coached in Spokane, too, as a playing assistant for the Comets and, in the 1960s, as the full-time boss of the bench for the Spokane Jets Western International League. Born in Wilkie, Saskatchewan, he grew up in Edmonton, where he started his hockey career as a 9-year-old goaltender. A 1995 obituary by Dan Weaver in Spokane’s Spokesman-Review told how he departed the net for a more advanced position:

He was a 15-year-old goalkeeper in junior hockey with players up to 20 years of age when he remembered 13 goals being “fired past me in two periods.

“I went in and threw off the goalie pads,” he said in a 1966 interview. “I went back out and had two goals and an assist in the third period. I never played goalie again.”

(Photo: Editorial Associates)

electoral froth 2015: sometimes in a hockey game

Forechecker-In-Chief: Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes up a stick during a visit to the Bishop Cotton Boys School in Bangalore, India, in November of 2012. (Photo: PMO/ Jason Ransom)

Forechecker-In-Chief: Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes up an Easton during a visit to the Bishop Cotton Boys School in Bangalore, India, in November of 2012. (Photo: PMO/ Jason Ransom)

The Conservative campaign was faltering last week, which is to say stumbling, drifting, losing ground on the long road to Canada’s federal election on October 19: that’s what everybody was saying, if not the Conservatives themselves. The big problem? Missteps, according to The Globe and Mail. Also? Dogged controversies. Mike Duffy was one of those, along with some candidates who had to be dumped for loutishness. The economy hasn’t been playing well for Stephen Harper’s governing party, of course, not to mention (other than to mention) the Syrian refugee crisis. Dissension in the ranks! Plummets in the polls!

The Toronto Star’s Ottawa bureau chief was on the case, Tonda MacCharles. She said that Stephen Harper was rattled.

No, sir, said the Conservatives.

Still, campaign manager Jenni Byrne did leave Harper’s side to return to Ottawa party headquarters, a sign of … something? And there was (as MacCharles reported) “a report that Australian polling consultant Lynton Crosby was parachuting in to pull the rip-cords on a campaign in free-fall.”

Peter Mansbridge and the “At Issue” panel got into that on Thursday on CBC-TV’s The National. Here’s what Andrew Coyne from The National Post:

“I wonder how much of it is just sort of a morale boost. Sometimes in a hockey game you replace the goalie, not necessarily because that’s going to make a difference, functionally, but it just gives the team a jolt.”

Mansbridge: “Yeah, but it can also work the other way.”

Also from Tonda MacCharles came news of a private Tuesday dinner for the prime minister in Toronto. Stepping beyond his small circle of advisers and strategists, he’d gathered unnamed friends for consultation. MacCharles:

Asked about the performance of campaign manager Jenni Byrne on Thursday Harper refused to comment, saying he won’t discuss “questions of staffing.”

“Obviously I have a good team,” he said, before shifting his answer back to campaign mode: “For me the big question of this campaign remains the same,” he said in French — the choice before voters about which party has the best economic plan to move the country forward.

That, too, was deliberate, part of one of the takeaways from the kitchen cabinet dinner, that the campaign had to get back to focusing on its core economic message, and pitch the contrast between Harper and his opponents.

Other takeaways: Harper should loosen up. Voila: there soon followed two photo ops of him doffing his suit jacket and playing ball hockey with kids after a disability savings announcement, then later shooting the ball around with his staff on an airport tarmac.

Yet no one downplays that it had been a tough week.



snow, shore

Snow Show: Eddie Shore flurries to a stop at Bruins practice, circa the 1930s. (Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.)

Snow Show: Eddie Shore flurries to a stop at Bruins practice, circa the 1930s. (Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.)


Sept. 10 1957 Sawchuk camp

Terry Sawchuk wasn’t happy to leave Detroit in the summer of 1955, having just helped the team win the Stanley Cup, but GM Jack Adams decided it was time: he had a young goaltender by the name of Glenn Hall waiting in the minor-league wings. So Sawchuk went to Boston, where he got sick, came back too soon, suffered in the net and, in December of 1956, retired from hockey: done.

Until he returned. In June of 1957, Adams traded Johnny Bucyk to the Bruins to get Sawchuk back for the Red Wings. (A month later, he shed Hall and Ted Lindsay to Chicago.)

“I’m very happy to be back home and back in hockey,” said Sawchuk, who was 27. By early September, he was on his way (above) to the Red Wings’ training camp in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. In early workouts there, defenceman Red Kelly impressed with his, quote, vitality. Gordie Howe and Metro Prystai were also reported to be extremely peppy. The Canadian Press noted that Sawchuk felt that his reflexes were just as quick as ever following his short retirement. “The only thing he noticed was that his legs didn’t have as much bounce.”

Sawchuk would play every one of the 70 Red Wings’ regular-season games that year, and all the playoffs. It wasn’t 1955 anymore: playing Montreal in ’58, Detroit was out in four.



He hadn’t seen Valery Kharlamov skating by yet, or faced Yevgeni Zimin’s wrist-shot. Mid-August, 1972: it was summer still, a Sunday afternoon, and Ken Dryden was still just a goaltender in his underwear.

Team Canada had gathered at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens for a day of medical examinations before the week started and the players took to the ice. “They were in good shape,” said Dr. Jim Murray, one of the team’s three doctors, “some a little better than other, perhaps, but all very, very good. These are tremendous physical specimens, you know. That’s one of the reasons they’re the great hockey players they are. The better a player, I find, the more likely he is to stay in top condition throughout the off-season. Take Big Frank (Mahovlich), for instance. He’s not an ounce overweight.”

That’s Dr. Jack Zeldin, above, checking Dryden’s blood pressure. The Toronto Star noted that on the ice, he wore contact lenses — that’s why “he looks strange in glasses.”

“I think our guys will be in adequate shape,” Canadian coach Harry Sinden was telling The Star’s Jim Proudfoot the next day after he’d overseen a 90-minute skate.

“A lot of people seem to believe there’s something magic about the Russians because they get up at 6 a.m. and play soccer or whatever it is and eat borscht for breakfast.”

“It’s my experience that you’re liable to find NHL players getting home at 6. But they’re great athletes and proud men and they’ll be ready. I’ve been very impressed by their determination to get this job done and to do it right.”