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)

fix you

Pause For Patchwork: 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)

farewell the forum

Castle On Cabot Square: An architectural rendering of the Forum’s 1960s-era renovation.

It was 25 years ago, on a Monday of this date in 1996, that Montreal’s Canadiens took a final turn on the ice of the famous Forum. They beat the Dallas Stars by a score of 4-1, for the record, though the game itself was truly the undercard for the pre- and post-game ceremonies by which Canadiens bade farewell to the arena that was their home for 72 years and some 3,500 games. A crowd of former Canadiens was on hand that night, including 20 Hall-of-Famers. Guy Lafleur and Jean Béliveau were on hand for the game’s ceremonial opening face-off, and when Maurice Richard joined them at centre ice, the crowd stood and cheered for ten glorious minutes.

I was there that night, high up at the north end, Section 601, with the overflow press, near where they used to keep the ghosts. I won’t say that I was there under false pretenses, though it’s true that I may have stretched those same pretenses to accommodate my powerful need to witness and distill the history unfolding … I mean, Émile Bouchard was out there on the ice, for Gump Worsley’s sake — and of course Gump was there, too. Both Butches Bouchard, in fact, father and son!! Mahovliches, major and minor! Lach and Reardon and Moore, Henri Richard, Savard and Lapointe, Ferguson, Shutt, Dryden, Cournoyer! It was unbelievable.

I was freelancing for The Financial Post in those years, reporting for the paper’s arts section from several non-fiscal sectors — that is, I wrote book and movie reviews, travel features. The Post didn’t need me covering a hockey game, even a historic one, but I was able to convince my editor that the auction on the day after that Forum finale was enough of a business story to demand my presence. The Canadiens didn’t mind accommodating me — or if they did, they didn’t mention it. (The feature I filed is here.)

Ezra Soiferman was at the Forum that night, too, and he was toiling harder than I was. It may be that we passed one another in the halls as the old arena’s time as the home of the Habs expired; it’s possible. A Montreal filmmaker and photographer, he attended the game as a guest of Forum anthem-singer André Ouellet.

Soiferman took some 250 images as he wandered the arena that night. It wasn’t until 2016 that he collected some of them into a book, which he published privately to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Canadiens’ departure for the Molson (now Bell) Centre. Other than the cover image, below, and a photo of a Guy Lafleur greeting Ouellet, there’s nary a hockey player in it: this particular album is filled with last glimpses of fans and ushers, custodians and purveyors of chiens chauds, security guards, corridors, stairwells, seats, doorways, escalators, grey girders, and — yes — urinals. It’s an odd, honest, altogether charming chronicle of a venerable old arena on one night at the end of an era.

following yonder star

Flyby: The Minnesota North Stars sent out a Christmas card looking like this in December of 1972; open it up, and you’d find a team portrait alongside the sad prospect of this same Santa picking a puck out of his net. Cesare Maniago was the Stars’ regular, non-Yuletide goaler that season, with Gilles Gilbert and Gump Worsley backing him up. And the airborne puck-carrier seen here? He looks a little like North Star winger Dean Prentice … or maybe it’s Dennis Hextall, who led the team in scoring? Not sure of the artists but there’s a good chance it’s George Karn, the man who designed both Mineesota’s starred N when they joined the NHL in 1967 and the team’s uniforms.