hall-passed: reggie leach

With the Hockey Hall of Fame announcing its 2018 class this afternoon, Martin Brodeur is the name that fans and pundits alike seem to be settling on as a sure bet. Other candidates thought to be up at the front of the pack include Martin St. Louis and Daniel Alfredsson. There’s talk that hockey trailblazer Willie O’Ree, 82, might be in, too — maybe, the word was yesterday at NHL.com, he could be inducted as a builder for his quiet energy and devotion he’s put in as an ambassador for inclusion and diversity with the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone initiative.

For a piece that went up yesterday at The New York Times, I’ve been talking to and writing about Indigenous hockey players recently.  Fred Sasakamoose was one of the first to play in the NHL, and I don’t know why he wouldn’t be in the conversation, too. I’m not sure whether Sasakamoose, who’s 84, has even been nominated, but I hope so: given his tireless work with and advocacy for Indigenous youth over the years, he’s as worthy a candidate as O’Ree.

Then there’s Reggie Leach. You’ll recall, maybe, the effort that the great John K. Samson organized to press the case for the Riverton Rifle to be welcomed into the Hall. In 2010, there was the song Samson recorded that doubled as a petition, both of which went by the name http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/rivertonrifle/.

In 2013, Samson put together a well-argued application supported by a very complete statistical package and accompanied by endorsements from, among others, novelist Joseph Boyden, Ian Campeau (a.k.a. DJ NDN) of A Tribe Called Red, writer Stephen Brunt, and Wab Kinew, who was then Director of Indigenous Inclusion at the University of Winnipeg. Samson and some of his friends would eventually go in person to deliver the whole bundle, song and stats and supplications, to the Hall’s very doors.

That’s worth watching, which you can do below, even if the whole enterprise was in vain: as of this hour, Reggie Leach still isn’t an Honoured Member of hockey’s Hall of Fame.

Talking to Leach, who’s 68 now, this past January, I asked him about that. He said that he was aware of continued efforts by friends and fans of his across the country who are still intent on convincing the Hall that the time is now, but that he doesn’t worry much about whether the call comes or not.

“I don’t get involved with it,” he told me from his home Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation, near Little Current, Ontario, on Manitoulin Island. “I’m just happy that there are people who think that I should be in there. To me, that’s a great honour. They’re my Hall of Famers, those people. If I don’t get in, I really don’t care, because I think it’s mainly where you come from and who you played for that matters — stuff like that.”

(Top image: cover of John K. Samsons 2010 ANTI- EP “Provincial Road 222”)

 

 

this week + some others: the game’s fast, sometimes guys go into the boards wrong

Embed from Getty Images

“Mon captain,” Yvan Cournoyer said this month, tearfully, “mon captain. Bon voyage.”

With Jean Béliveau’s death on December 2, the country remembered, and paid homage.

“Like a prince, like a king,” said Sportsnet’s Stephen Brunt. “Our royalty.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: “For all the feats he has accomplished and all the accolades he has received, Jean Béliveau has always symbolized the little boy whose only dream was to play for the Montreal Canadiens. Hockey is better because of the realization of this dream.”

“In all of my thoughts about Jean Béliveau,” wrote TSN’s Dave Hodge, “I hear Danny Gallivan’s voice.”

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau stood in the House of Commons. “Mr. Speaker,” he said,

I had an extraordinary childhood during which my father introduced me to kings, queens and presidents, but he was never more proud than when he was able to introduce his eldest son to Jean Béliveau.

Every time I met Mr. Béliveau thereafter and shook his hand, I saw what an impact he had not just on me, but on everyone around him. He was a man who epitomized dignity, respect and kindness.

Jean Béliveau was a man of class, of strength, who demonstrated the kind of leadership that inspired not just players but all who watched and met him. He will be greatly missed, but he will continue to inspire generations of not just young hockey players but of Canadians across this great country.

“Beyond being one of the greatest players in NHL history, Jean Béliveau was class personified,” said Mario Lemieux. “He was a hero to generations of his fellow French Canadians and hockey fans everywhere. Our sport has lost a great ambassador. He will be missed.”

Hockey, meanwhile, carried on.

Connor McDavid mentioned that he had a favourite Canadian Tire memory.

Dave Bidini took issue with a newspaper’s use of the word “belted” to describe a puck propelled by Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf that ended up in Carolina’s net.

“If you can build off a game we lost, we can keep our heads high,” Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux told CSN Philly after his team lost a fifth game in a row.

Though goaltender Steve Mason had a different take. “We’re all tired of moral victories,” he told Ryan Dadoun from NBC Sports. “The team played a good game but you don’t win it. It’s not good enough. Enough of the moral victories. We got to go out and start winning hockey games. Everybody is frustrated and ticked off, but it’s a matter of going out and winning now.”

“Belted” was James Mirtle’s word, in The Globe and Mail:

… Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf belted in his second goal of the season with three minutes left in the second.

Legitimate usage or no? Bidini felt that it belonged on baseball grass and dirt, not ice.

Sidney Crosby the latest NHL player to have the mumps

was a headline, this month.

Another was:

Kevin Klein Loses Part of an Ear, Helps Rangers Down Pens

“Say what you want about hockey players,” mused New York coach Alain Vigneault after that particular game, “but they’re tough SOBs.”

Toronto is likely to miss the playoffs, a professor of economics at the University of Waterloo suggested this month. Dr. Phil Curry is his name, and he works with a group called the Department of Hockey Analytics, gathering up and crunching advanced statistics to (quote) better understand the game. Using a model that incorporates both points and Score Adjusted Corsi, he contends that Toronto will be on the outside looking sadly in when the post-season gets going next spring — oh, and the Calgary Flames are due for collapse, too. Continue reading

jean béliveau: tall, handsome, digs books

img002_2 2

Jean Béliveau died on Tuesday in Montreal. Yesterday, the NHL announced that he’ll lie in wake at the Bell Centre, Sunday and Monday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. His funeral will be nearby, next Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, Rene-Levesque Blvd. where it corners with Mansfield.

In the meantime, as memories of the man continue to flood in along with tributes to his skill and leadership and grace, a few suggested readings, along with a smattering of opinions of the man collected from the last few days as well as deeper down in the archives.

1. “He’s tremendously strong, a beautiful skater, already a superb stick handler, strictly a team man with a perfect sense of playmaking. He has a wonderfully hard and accurate shot. He’d be a star on any hockey club. I wish he were on mine.”

• “The Marvels From Montreal” by Whitney Tower, Sports Illustrated, January 23, 1956. Read it here.

2. “He abhors violence, digs books, has adopted the flair-cuff, smokes a pipe — and more you didn’t know about Jean, the man.”

•  “A Day in the Life of Jean Béliveau” by Ted Blackman and “Béliveau” by Marv Moss in The Montreal Gazette, March 24, 1971. (This way.)

3. “Béliveau won out by a slim margin over Bernie Geoffrion with Dickie Moore and Tom Johnson also in the running.”

• “Béliveau Elected Captain” in The Gazette, October 14, 1961. Here.

(Montreal Gazette, June 11, 1971)

(Montreal Gazette, June 11, 1971)

4. “It was a difficult decision to reach. Hockey has been my life since the day my father gave me a pair of skates when I was five years old.”

• “A Tearful Jean Ends His Career” by Pat Curran, The Gazette, June 10, 1971.

5. “The referendum? I have no comment to make on the referendum. You don’t know what kind of trouble a question like that can cause.”

• “Should Quebec Go? 12 Prominent Québécois Say How They’ll Vote in the Sovereignty Referendum” by Bee MacGuire in The Gazette, April 12, 1980

6. “He was the great Jean Béliveau, tall, handsome, graceful and gracious, with his warm dignity and friendly smile, yet there he was. He treated everyone with such respect. He said the right things, and in the right way — in French and in English — because that is what he believed, and that’s how he was. He made every occasion better. He made everyone who attended feel that their town, their organization, their province, their country, their event mattered. That they mattered. Appealing to their best selves, he reminded them of the best that was in them.”

• “An appreciation of Jean Béliveau” by Ken Dryden, Toronto Star, December 4, 2104

7. 

we want quinn: a short history of the quinn-orr wars of 1969

1969-70 O-Pee-Chee #186 Pat QuinnPat Quinn was a coach and a manager and a hockey co-owner and the tributes continue to mount following news of his death a week ago in Vancouver at the age of 71. If you’ve seen them, you’ll know that he was a straight-shooting cigar-chomping golden-hearted remarkable-CV’d guy’s guy old-school big-presenced Hamiltonian ornery Irishman larger-than-life goofy-grandfatherish intimidating great-story-telling three-piece-suited unconventional level-headed adaptable keeping-it-simple father-figurely high-acumened gruff-exteriored kindly personality’d news-conference-maestro hockey-beauty-loving square-jawed much-respected fine-broth-of-a-lad time-for-everyone-even-the-Zamboni-driver well-educated charismatic legendary Hibernian lion whip-smart could-have-done-anything-in-his-life heart-on-sleeve Gordie-Howe-idolizing player-trusting sarcastic not-a-detail-freak smart-cookie winner who left his indelible mark on the game and everyone who met him.

You’ll have heard, too, if you hadn’t before of a famous hit of his, when he was a defenceman in 1969 for the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s been getting a lot of ink; here’s more.

Quinn’s active-NHLer adjectives included bruising, fearsome, give-it-his-all, tough, no-nonsense and not-afraid-of-a-good-fight. But while he may have played 617 NHL games over nine seasons for three teams, scoring 18 goals and 132 points while incurring 971 minutes of penalty punishment, but mostly the memorializing distills all that into the several seconds it took him to cross forty(ish) feet to desolate Bobby Orr with a bodycheck.

It was the first game of the playoffs, early April, in Boston. A crushing hit, CBC.ca was recalling last week, that rendered Orr unconscious. The Globe and Mail ran a photo of what it looked like the moment after the two men fell.

You have back up, though. To tell the story. March 15, nine games to go in the season, Boston came to Maple Leaf Gardens. The Leafs were battling Detroit for the final playoff spot in the NHL’s Eastern Division while the Bruins were sitting 14 points ahead, safely in second. They were a scoring juggernaut. The team was about to set an NHL record for goalscoring in a season. Headed for a scoring title, Phil Esposito already had more points than anyone ever had in the league. And Orr was close to setting a new record for points by a defenceman.

quinn orr

Orr Wrestled Quinn: March 16, 1969, Boston’s famous #4 topples Toronto’s mighty #23. (Photo: The Globe and Mail)

But the Bruins were slumping. That’s what GM Milt Schmidt said. Coach Harry Sinden had injuries to contend with, ailing goalies in Gerry Cheevers and Eddie Johnston and a pair of limping Eddies, Shack and Westfall. Plus Boston hadn’t won in Toronto since 1965, 21 games ago, back when Orr was still skating for the Oshawa Generals.

And the Leafs did prevail, 7-4. Walloped was a word Louis Cauz used in The Globe and Mail. Toronto played it rough. Bruce Gamble played great in the Leaf net. Well, once they went down 3-1 he did. After that, as Toronto came roaring back, Gamble shone. Ron Ellis scored a couple of goals to — what’s the word? — pace the Leafs. Toronto was Ellis-paced.

Oh, and high sticks. There were those, too, and several elbows, and sundry punches. Those contributed something, I’m thinking. Or didn’t. Anyway, a 26-year-old Pat Quinn was involved in a lot of this. Towards the end of the first period, he and Boston’s Don Awrey exchanged … glances? funny faces? fuck-yous? The Boston Globe called it potential squaring off. I guess the linesmen intervened before the two players got any squares off and while:

Brent Casselman was restraining Quinn, the big youngster pushed the official around quite enthusiastically.

In another report, he shook Casselman. Coach Sinden preferred tossed him around. The Bruins couldn’t believe he wasn’t ejected from the game and summarily suspended, which was had happened to Esposito earlier in the year when he manhandled a referee: two games. But Quinn got away with an elbowing minor.

In the third, Bobby Orr was in front of the Toronto net when Gamble made a save and Quinn was there to charge him head first into the sidebar (Boston Globe, March 16) or cross-check him into the Leaf goalposts (Toronto Star, March 17) or run him into the crossbar (Boston Globe, March 17) and Orr wrestled Quinn to the ice after the two had traded punches (Star, March 17) or tipped over his larger opponent (Boston Globe, March 16) and (also) Quinn kicked Bobby a few times in the process (Boston Globe, March 17).

That was the Saturday night. Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day, the two teams met again in Boston. The crowd chanted “We want Quinn” and possibly “Kill Quinn,” but they were disappointed: he didn’t play let alone get murdered. His groin was, well, pulled, and after skating pre-game he withdrew from the line-up. Without him, Toronto lost 11-3. Esposito had five points. Derek Sanderson scored a hattrick — or I guess notched.

“I was eating my heart out not to be out there,” Quinn told The Globe and Mail. “I’ve never wanted to play in a game as much as that one.” Continue reading

bobby orr’s knees feel just super

Paying The Price: Bobby Orr checks himself out of hospital in 1966, after treatment for strained knee ligaments. ("Here Comes Bobby Orr" 1971)

Paying The Price: Bobby Orr checks himself out of hospital in 1966, after treatment for strained knee ligaments.
(“Here Comes Bobby Orr” 1971)

Bobby Orr’s been showing his knees as he’s been making his way around the interview circuit this week to talk about Orr: My Story, the autobiography he wrote with the help of Vern Stenlund.

It was no surprise when CBC’s cameras hovered over Orr’s scars on the national news on Monday: his many surgeries define his hockey career as much as any of his trophies or statistics. He told Peter Mansbridge that doctors have gone in 19 times over the years (both knees) — though in an interview in The National Post published Wednesday, Joe O’Connor suggested that they’ve all been on the left side, and that Orr himself can’t be sure of the exact number, only that it’s somewhere between 17 and 21.

The Post played a big photo of the knee that George Plimpton once said looked like a bag of handkerchieves. Montreal’s Gazette crowned it “the most famous knee in hockey medical history” — O’Connor notches it up to “the most famous knee on the planet.” Either way, Orr is feeling “spry.”

“Everything else hurts on my body,” he was saying, “but my knees feel great. I will do hockey clinics, but I skate real slowly, and I would never play again. I am afraid of hurting myself. I am 66, not 26.”

A look back through the annals at the optimism, guarded and otherwise, that has attended Orr’s tortured joints over the years:

• People, March, 1978:

After the most recent surgery in April 1977, doctors benched him for a year. The surgeon performing that operation said the chances were one in 10 that Bobby would play again.

Despite those odds, Orr insists that “the knee feels good” as he settles back with wife Peggy in the family room of their ranch house. Darren is in the kitchen devouring Sesame Street and spaghetti, and 1-year-old Brent gurgles in a walker. “The knee is strong,” Orr says. “It doesn’t hurt anymore. It doesn’t buckle. But inside there’s just bone on bone, no cartilage left, nothing to absorb shock. Little pieces of bone break off and float through the joint.” His wife pales at the description and turns her face. “Sometimes you can hear them when I walk.” Continue reading

the ghost of bobby orr (i)

The Goal: Photographer Chad Coombs' "Hockey Night In Canada: A Bobby Orr Tribute.' For more of his work, visit www.chadcoombs.com.

The Goal, ish: Photographer Chad Coombs’ “Hockey Night In Canada: A Bobby Orr Tribute.’ For more of his work, visit
http://www.chadcoombs.com.

The news that Bobby Orr was writing a book emerged into the wider world back in March, just as Number Four was celebrating his 65th birthday. There wasn’t much more to be told at the time, beyond bare details. Orr: My Story would be the title. It would be out in October.

It’s been a while since Orr wrote books, of course, a good, oh, what, 40 years? He was pretty prolific, bookwise, back when he plying the blueline for the Bruins, publishing exactly as many of them, in the early 1970s, as he won Stanley Cups, i.e. two. (Three, if you want to count Hockey As I See It, a booklet he published in 1970 with Pepsi.)

Those weren’t really autobiographies. Orr On Ice (1972), for which he had the help of writer Dick Grace, never even pretended to be. At age 24, Orr was the game’s dominant player, had been for a few years, and he was ready to tell kids — sorry, “youngsters” — what he knew.

His foreword states the case head-on: “Believing that pictures tell a better story than words, I am presenting this book to you with as few words as possible. … Hockey is all action, and action photos speak louder than words.” Turn the page and we’re off: here’s the man himself, standing tall in jockstrap and skivvies, knees yet unscarred, showing you how to get dressed. Ten pages later, he pulls his sweater over his head, and we’re ready to move on to what’s next up: groin exercises.

Bobby Orr: My Game (1974) was textier, but as Orr new co-pilot, Mark Mulvoy from Sports Illustrated explained upfront, the aim, again, was largely instructional. The time had come (prefaced Mulvoy) for Number 4 to explain just how he played the game — in detail. After 25 pages of third-person biography, the narrative shifts over to the first to start at the start: your skates don’t need to fit at first, and if your hockey gloves don’t have palms, no worries. Get out there, skate, have fun, that’s what it’s all about.

Talking to The Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek in March, Orr came equipped with a helpful list of what the new book would not be: a tell-all, or an exposé of his dealings with his former disgraced agent, Alan Eagleson. “If anybody’s going to buy my book because they think there’s a lot of dirt in it,” he said, “don’t buy it.”

What Orr didn’t dish: who was the writer he worked with, this time out? Continue reading