henri richard, 1936—2020

 

(Top Image: “Henri Richard” by Aislin (alias Terry Mosher),  January 26, 1974, ink and felt pen on paper, M986.286.179, © McCord Museum)

proto-gritty

If the Philadelphia Flyers’ brash new mascot Gritty has helped himself to most of the headlines and the #hockeytwitter memes this season, Youppi! will always have the upper hand in terms of … seniority? It’s 40 years since the original shambling orange behemoth made his debut as the mascot for the late Montreal Expos, and so this past weekend the hockey team he defected to in 2005 fêted the anniversary throughout Saturday’s Canadiens game versus the Colorado Avalanche. Never mind that the math proposed by this postcard, team-issued in 2017, doesn’t quite add up. And would it bad form to be recalling a Montreal Gazette columnist’s thoughts on the hockey team’s acquisition of a baseball orphan? Probably so, but an unimpressed Pat Hickey’s ’05 gripe is pretty good. “The moth-eaten bastard Muppet,” he called Youppi!, not to mention “a symbol of everything that was wrong with the Expos.” Approaching its centenary, the hockey team (Hickey felt) was just fine without any such envoy at all. “If the Canadiens did feel the need for a mascot, why not come up with something more original than [sic] Fonzy’s third cousin?”

Years before the actual switch, as the 1988 Expos started their season at a stumble,  Gazette cartoonist Terry Mosher (a.k.a. Aislin) conjured Youppi! putting out feelers to Canadiens’ GM Serge Savard:

“Youppi Calls Serge Savard,” by Aislin (alias Terry Mosher); May 18, 1988; felt pen, ink, printed film, overlay on paper; © McCord Museum

 

a more up-to-date building could hardly be imagined: on this day in 1924, the montreal forum made its debut

Works In Progress: Construction continues on Montreal’s Forum in September of 1924. Ground was broken on the new rink on Cabot Square in June of the year; Canadiens and St. Patricks first skated on regular-season ice there on the night of November 29. (Image: © McCord Museum)

It was 94 years ago tonight that Billy Boucher scored the first NHL goal in the history of Montreal’s formerly august Forum: it took the Canadiens’ winger just 55 seconds on the night of Saturday, November 29, 1924, to beat Toronto St. Patrick’s goaltender John Ross Roach. Boucher came back for more, too, completing a natural hattrick early in the second period as Canadiens went on to win the night 7-1.

Built in five months at a reported cost of a $1,000,000 — some $14.7-million in modern-day dollars — the Forum wasn’t, in fact, Canadiens’ primary rink in 1924 — they made their main home at the Mount Royal Arena until 1926. It was Montreal’s expansion team, eventually known as the Maroons, who were the key tenants that first year.

Still, Canadiens got first crack at the Forum’s new artificial ice, and in getting that —  well, as the Gazette reported, “two records tumbled.” The crowd of 9,000 was the largest ever to witnessed a game in the city which had, additionally, never seen a professional game played so early as November. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing, in the newspaper’s view: “As might be expected of hockey in November, the game was not a good exhibition,” their correspondent was sorry to say.

The building, on the other hand … “A more up-to-date building for sporting events could hardly be imagined.” An important innovation, for hockey: the new rink did away with “promenade” seats, right up along the boards. This, the Gazette felt, meant not only that spectators farther back would no longer find their views obstructed by promenade-folk standing up when a rush went down the ice; the new “arrangement also eliminates discomfort to the players, who have been frequently ragged and aggravated until they would lose their tempers, which results in arguments between spectators and players.”

On the subject of discomfort to players, an injury to Canadiens’ winger Odie Cleghorn did cloud the occasion. He stopped a foray by his Toronto counterpart Bert McCaffrey, who lost his balance. The Gazette:

In the words of Cleghorn, “quite by accident,” the tip of the stick of the falling player caught Odie in the eye and he had to be assisted from the ice. Medical examination showed that the under part of the eye lid had been cut, but that the eyeball had only been bruised.

The doctors wanted to wait for the swelling to recede before they decided a course of care. In the meantime, Cleghorn was “ordered to remain out of hockey for a few days.”

Sale Away: Canadiens played their last game at the Forum on March 11, 1996. Next day, the building hosted a public auction of famous bits and pieces, fittings and fixtures — possibly, also, an authentic splinter or two.