saving face

Crashed In The Crease: In the 1957 Stanley Cup final, Montreal goaltender Jacques Plante was felled in Boston by the Bruins’ Vic Stasiuk.

Jacques Plante played 398 games in the NHL over seven long bare-faced years before he donned his famous mask after a wicked shot from Andy Bathgate cut him on the Sunday night of November 1, 1959. Born in Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel, Quebec, on a Thursday of today’s date in 1929, Montreal’s goaltending great had suffered head traumas before that, along with nearly every other goaltender who braved the ice in the NHL’s agonizing early decades. Masks would have made sense throughout that time, of course, but the prevailing wisdom among the hockey cognoscenti (including Plante’s coach, Toe Blake) was that masks interfered with a goaltender’s view of things, showed weakness, not worth the trouble.

A maskless Plante was felled, above, for instance, in Boston in a Stanley Cup final game in April of 1957, when Vic Stasiuk crashed into him, or clipped him with his stick, or shot the puck in his face (contemporary accounts vary). He recovered that night, and finished the game.

In November of 1954, Plante didn’t start the game he was supposed to, which was at the Forum, against the Chicago Black Hawks. The image below shows the aftermath of a nasty friendly-fire incident in the pre-game warm-up when teammate Bert Olmstead caught him with a high shot. “Plante went down like a log,” Baz O’Meara reported in the Montreal Star, “with a scream strangling in his throat. His outcries could be heard as high as the standing room section, before they were stilled by a surge of unconsciousness.”

Called in as Plante’s emergency replacement was Andre Binette, 20 years old, a practice goaltender for the Canadiens and the QHL Montreal Royals. In his one-and-only NHL game, Binette helped Montreal down the Black Hawks by a score of 7-4.

At Montreal’s Western Hospital, Plante was found to have a fractured right cheekbone. In his absence, Binette would cede the net to Claude Evans and Charlie Hodge. He was back in the Montreal net in a matter of weeks, unmasked, stopping 29 shots in his mid-December return to help his team beat Gump Worsley and the New York Rangers 5-1.

“Plante came back brilliantly, had to make some nomadic rushes out of the net to save goal,” O’Meara reported, “did so with the fancy flourishes which have been his hallmark all through his career. … Plante showed no ill effects from his recent accident, gave a distinguished display.”

Man Down: Canadiens trainer Hector Dubois checks in on Jacques Plante at Montreal’s Western Hospital in November of 1954. (Image: Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

 

moe betters blues

Kenny Mosdell’s big night came on a Saturday night in February of 1955, when the Montreal Canadiens honoured the service their trusty 32-year-old centreman, then in his eleventh Hab season, with a pre-game shower of gifts. Ahead of a Forum meeting with the New York Rangers, teammate Elmer Lach (he was out of the line-up) did a turn around the ice at the wheel of a gleaming new Oldsmobile 98 before handing the keys to the man they called Big Moe. Mrs. Mosdell, Lorraine, was on hand, along with the Little Moes, Wayne and Bonnie, who were presented with a Collie puppy.

“Kenny is a great worker,” Canadiens captain Butch Bouchard announced when he took the microphone, “he gives us his best, and we appreciate him very much.” Mosdell stepped up to offer emotional thanks. “I hope I’m with Canadiens another 11 years,” he said. Canadiens won the game 10-2, with Boom-Boom Geoffrion scoring five goals and Doug Harvey chipping in with five assists. Gump Worsley was the long-suffering Ranger goaltender. Mosdell couldn’t buy so much as an assist on the night. He ended up playing in parts of three more seasons with Montreal, taking a turn, too, with the Chicago Black Hawks.

Kenny Mosdell died on a Thursday of this same date in 2006. He was 83.

(Images: Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

double stack

Denial: Is it just me or does this look like a disappointed Red Berenson trying and failing to breach the defences of a sprawled Gump Worsley? Artist Duncan Macpherson was content to call this 1965 drawing, rendered in crayon, wash, and graphite, “Hockey Players,” and leave it at that. © McCord Museum

toe aglow

Their Cup Runneth Over (and Over Again): Montreal’s mighteous Canadiens celebrate another Stanley Cup championship in May of 1965. Gathered to the left are Gump Worsley, Noel Picard, Jimmy Roberts, a battered Henri Richard, a tooth-lacking Bobby Rousseau, and captain Jean Béliveau. Grasping the Cup from the right are Jean-Guy Talbot (#17) and Yvan Cournoyer (#12). Above it all is coach Toe Blake, who died on a Wednesday of today’s date in 1995 at the age of 82. Blake won 11 Cups in his career, three as a player with Montreal Maroons and Canadiens, the other eight as a coach. (Image: Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

incoming

Stop Right There: Has any NHL goaltender looked more mortal in the nets, resembled a guy who ended up there by mistake, suggested (as John K. Samson put it) what it might be like if our poor everyday dads somehow, ridiculously, ended up pressed into sudden service at the Forum? But of course Gump Worsley’s goaling was the real major-league deal: he won a Calder Trophy, two Vézinas, and four Stanley Cup championships in his day to prove it. Born in Montreal on a Tuesday of today’s date in 1929, he turned 37 in 1966. He was labouring through a 13th NHL season that year, his third with Montreal, as he made the case that he was one of the league’s best puckstoppers. Successfully, as it turned out: he and fellow Canadiens goaltender Charlie Hodge not only shared the Vézina Trophy that year, they guided their team to a second successive Cup. (Image: La Presse)

canadiens cavalcade

Lorne Rider: The Montreal Canadiens won their 15th Stanley Cup in May of 1968, their third in four years, by beating the upstart St. Louis Blues in four games. Two days later, on a Monday of this very date, a crowd of 600,000 fans (some estimates went as high as a million) turned out to see the team (including goaltender Gump Worsley) parade for three hours along a 30-kilometre route through the city. “If Canadiens don’t get tired of winning the Stanley Cup,” Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau proclaimed that day, “we won’t get tired of running receptions for them. (Image: Louis-Philippe Meunier, VM94, E-2087-25 Archives de la Ville de Montréal)

goal-time charlie

Partners in Pads: Goaltender Charlie Hodge was in on six Stanley Cup championships when the Montreal Canadiens were winning them in the 1950s and ’60s. Here he is (on the right) in 1966, when he shared the Hab net (and a Vézina Trophy) with Gump Worsley. Hodge died on this date in 2016 at the age of 82. (Image: La Presse)

a rest is as good as a change

Practice Makes Parched: Born in St. Catharines, Ontario, on a Thursday of this date in 1945, Doug Favell is 77 today: all hail to him. Scene here: a practice at Montreal’s Forum, February of 1969, when Favell’s Philadelphia Flyers were in town to take on the Canadiens. Bernie Parent would get that start for Philadelphia, and the loss, which went into the books as a 4-1 win for Gump Worsley’s Habs. A rumour adrift that same week had Favell and winger Brit Selby heading to Toronto in a trade for centreman Mike Walton. That didn’t happen, but the Leafs did send Walton to the Flyers in 1971 in a trade involving Parent … whereupon the Flyers quickly flipped Walton to Boston. Favell, of course, did end up in Toronto, by way of a 1973 swap that brought Bernie Parent back to Philadelphia just in time to win a pair of Stanley Cup championships. (Image: La Presse)

pause for patchwork

For Lorne: That’s Gump Worsley’s eyebrow we’re seeing here, after the Montreal Canadiens’ long-suffering goaltender took a puck just below his (unmasked) eye in the third period of a game at Montreal’s Forum on Saturday, December 23, 1967. It was a battle of last-place teams, with Canadiens dwelling in the cellar of the NHL’s East Division while the visiting Oakland Seals anchored the West. With Worsley here is Canadiens defenceman (#3) J.C. Tremblay with (probably) team medic Dr. Doug Kinnear ministering and (possibly) trainer Larry Aubut standing by — unless it’s Montreal’s other trainer, Eddie Palchak. Off in the middle distance is Oakland defenceman Ron Harris. Worsley stayed in the game, despite his wounds, seeing out Montreal’s 4-2 win. (Image: Pierre McCann, Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

no greater new york brydge

Born in Renfrew, Ontario, on a Sunday of this date in 1898, defenceman Bill Brydge first took to NHL ice in 1926 in Toronto, when the team was still the St. Patricks. So far as I can tell, the scar that’s apparent here dates to that season: in January of ’27, in a game against the Rangers in New York, he caught an errant stick in a scramble in front of the Toronto net, suffering cuts that were closed with eight stitches.

The image here dates to 1933, when Brydge was 35. A lyric of John K. Samson’s comes to mind, from his 2007 song “Elegy for Gump Worsley:”

He looked more like our fathers,
not a goalie, player, athlete period.

From Toronto, Brydge went to Detroit, traded for Art Duncan. He played a year, 1928-29, on the Cougars’ blueline, and was subsequently sold to the New York Americans for $5,000. He played seven seasons for the Amerks. Bill Brydge died in 1949 at the age of 51.

 

stoppage with a smile

Full Stop: Rogie Vachon was born in Palmarolle, up in Quebec’s Abitibi country, on a Saturday of this date in 1945, so that means he’s turning 76 today. He started his NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens, where he conspired with Gump Worsley to win a Vézina Trophy (and was in on three Stanley Cup championships, to boot) before he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1971. He played seven seasons in L.A., where he was properly beloved, before seeing out his career with stints with the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins. Vachon was named Canada’s MVP at the 1976 Canada Cup, and was selected to the tournament’s All Star team. He was elevated to hockey’s Hall of Fame in 2016. (Goal magazine from February, 1977)

how many times do you get to celebrate your first cup victory?

The redoubtable Gump Worsley was part of four Stanley Cup-winning teams with Montreal in the 1960s. The first championship he was in on came at the start of May in 1965, when he shared the net with Charlie Hodge through a seven-game series against the Chicago Black Hawks. Worsley got the call for the game that decided it at the Forum on May 1 of ’65, and he didn’t disappoint — unless you’re thinking of Chicago fans and their beloved Black Hawks themselves, who were thwarted to the tune of 4-0. 

Born in Montreal on a Tuesday of this date in 1929, Worsley would commemorate his career in They Call Me Gump, the entertaining 1975 memoir he wrote with Tim Moriarty’s aid. “Nothing has ever matched the thrill,” they wrote therein of climbing the championship heights in ’65. “The first Cup victory is always the biggest moment in a hockey player’s life.”

Worsley recalled shaking hands with the Black Hawks after that final game at the Forum, and thinking how grateful he was that he’d persevered through tough times in the early days of his career to make it to this point.

“Then I thought about drinking. I’d been good for about eight weeks, laying off the hard stuff while I was on a diet. Now it was time to forget that damn diet.”

Somebody handed him a bottle of champagne as he arrived in the team’s dressing room, and Worsley shared that with Quebec Premier Daniel Johnson.

Then, next, came what we’re seeing pictured here: “I telephoned my kids and parents. They’d always prayed I would be on a Cup winner, and now that I’d made it they were having a party too.”

(Worsley doesn’t, in the book, mention getting Maurice Richard’s congratulations, or kicking back for his regular post-game smoke.)

“Well,” he does write, “the champagne really hit me hard. I must have been out of shape. Because when we got to the Queen Elizabeth Hotel for a victory party, I was sick as hell. So I switched to drinking poor man’s rye.”

“My hangover the next day was worth the price. How many times do you get a chance to celebrate your first Cup victory? Once.”  

(Images: Michel Gravel, La Presse, Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)