y’a rien pour m’arrêter

“It’s what I wanted to do,” Guy Lafleur was saying in 1979 as his first LP made its way to market. Montreal’s Canadiens were coming off their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup championship that fall, so what better time, really, for their superstar winger to be releasing his debut disco/instructional album?

“It was a lot of fun to make,” said Lafleur, who was 28 that year. Lafleur! came in French and English versions, with six tracks on each, featuring the man himself offering rudimentary tips to a pulsing background laid down by the Montreal trio Toulouse. Or as Mike Rutsey, a Canadian Press writer put it:

Lafleur, whose vaunted slapshot will from now on ring to the chorus of shaboom, shaboom, has boiled the game he loves into four key ingredients — skating, checking, shooting, and scoring — and packaged it to the shuffa-shuffa disco beat.

“You can listen to it, enjoy it, and exercise,” Lafleur himself touted, “and everything on the record goes well with the music. The music is the big thing. It’s different and it’s a new method of teaching kids how to play hockey.”

I’ll take the French track-titles over the English: give me “Vas-Y” and “Y’a Rien Pour M’Arrêter,” you can keep “Face-Off” and “Power Play.” You can sample the whole (French) shuffa-shuffa for yourself here.

The vinyl was only part of the package: also included was an instructional booklet and a poster featuring a handsome, half-dressed Lafleur. For all that, pre-Christmas sales may not have been been quite what the hockey player and his people were hoping for. According to a Gazette column from November of ’79, a prominent Montreal record store reported that the 50 to 75 copies of Lafleur! that had been snapped up in the early days of its release had it lagging behind Bob Dylan’s latest (non-disco and only semi-instructional) offering, Slow Train Coming, which was selling by the thousands.

 

flyby

Lift-Off: Posing here in 1940-41, Sam LoPresti puts Emile Francis to shame, I’d say, when it comes to sailing across his net in search of a puck that may or may not ever show up.

Like Frank Brimsek and Mike Karakas (Bob Dylan, too), Sam LoPresti hailed from Minnesota’s Iron Range. Born on a Tuesday of this date in 1917 in the now-ghostly mining town of Elcor, LoPresti grew up in nearby Eveleth. He played two seasons for the Chicago Black Hawks, and was a stand-out in his team’s (ultimately unsuccessful) playoff series in the 1942 playoffs against the Boston Bruins.

In March of 1941, as a rookie, LoPresti played another famous game against the Bruins. In this one,  he faced 83 shots, stopping all but three in a 3-2 Boston win. LoPresti’s teammate Doug Bentley was, for one, disgusted … with Boston. “They must have been lucky because they certainly weren’t good,” the winger told a reporter next day. “Any team which has to take 83 shots at a goalie isn’t good in my book. What a bunch of Deadeye Dicks. Phooey.” (Doug Bentley did not himself score in this game, it might be pointed out, though his brother, Max, did.)

“I couldn’t sleep all night,” offered LoPresti. “I was so exhausted from the game that I kept tossing and turning in bed.” When he did manage, finally, to sleep, his roommate, Chicago’s Eveleth-born defenceman John Mariucci, woke him up to remind LoPresti how wonderfully he’d played. “I’m so tired now I’m going to sleep all the way back to Chicago,” LoPresti said.

Following the 1942 season, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard, then transferred to the Navy. In February of 1943, he was serving as a gunner’s mate on a merchant ship that was torpedoed by a German U-Boat on an Atlantic crossing. Along with 20 or so shipmates, he spent 42 days in a lifeboat before being rescued off the coast of Brazil. He did eventually return to hockey, though never to the NHL: he played senior hockey in Duluth and Eveleth before retiring from the ice in 1951. LoPresti was a charter member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, inducted in 1973. His son, Pete, followed him into the crease, tending NHL goals in the 1970s for the Minnesota North Stars and (briefly) the Edmonton Oilers.

Sam LoPresti died in 1984 at the age of 67.

’cause: nobel

David Remnick gets it right, as the editor of The New Yorker usually does: if you mean to celebrate today’s announcement that Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, do it by ear. Cue up “Abandoned Love,” listen to “Desolation Row,” with “Brownsville Girl” to follow that, then “Dignity,” then “Boots of Spanish Leather,” “Lay Down Your Weary Tune.” Keep going. And while you’re doing that, read this, from Dylan’s seductive memoir, Chronicles: Volume One (2004), in which he recalls his youth in Minnesota:

Winters, ten below with a twenty below wind-chill factor were common, thawing spring and hot, steamy summers — penetrating sun and balmy weather where temperatures rose over one hundred degrees. Summers were filled with mosquitoes that could bite through your boots — winters with blizzards that could freeze a man dead. There were glorious autumns as well.

Mostly what I did growing up was bide my time. I always knew there was a bigger world out there but the one I was in at the time was all right, too. With not much media to speak of it, it was basically life as you saw it. The things I did growing up were the things I thought everybody did — march in parades, have bike races, play ice hockey. (Not everyone was expected to play football or basketball or even baseball, but you had to know how to skate and play ice hockey.)

Embed from Getty Images

 

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)