Dennis Kane’s Excellent Montreal Canadiens Blog

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Mike Bossy Does It Well, Alex Ovechkin Doesn’t May 17, 2008

Watching Henrik Lundqvist get yanked in Sweden’s 5-4 loss to Canada in the World Hockey Championship reminded me of something. Lundqvist speaks English with no accent whatsoever. At least that’s what my ears have heard in the couple of interviews I’ve seen of the Ranger goalie on TV.

Speaking perfect English is an amazing thing when it’s not your mother tongue. It’s very admirable. Some European NHL players have mastered it. For most, of course, it’s impossible.

Detroit’s Swedish star Nick Lidstrom speaks English almost perfectly, but you can detect that Swedish tongue in there just slightly. And it’s a little more so with Mats Sundin and Daniel Alfredsson. You can definitely here the Swedish way of talking in their speech, although their English is excellent.

But not at all with Lundqvist. In those two interviews I heard, he could’ve been the guy in the pool hall, Or the Canadian goalie in the beer league. I need to hear more from Lundqvist. I’m curious about this.

The NHL Russian guys’ English is basically all the same, ranging from pretty good to lousy.  Alex Kovalev speaks English pretty well, with the obvious Russian accent,  but Alex Ovechkin is still a work in progress, and Evgeny Malkin is only beginning. Igor Larionov, on the other hand, spoke excellent English back in the days when Soviet players couldn’t play over here, and so had very little exposure to English. Somehow, though, he got great at it.

Larionov even snuck away from the Russian camp to Wayne Gretzky’s parent’s house in Brantford during the 1987 Canada Cup and partied with all the Canadian guys.

Remember the 1972 Summit Series? We got the odd interview with some of the Russian players including Valeri Kharlamov, and they were interviews using an interpreter. But at the end, the few Russian players managed a meek “thank you” in English, and it was both surprising and wonderful.

The Finnish players pick it up pretty well, like Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, but you can hear the Finnish accent in there, even though their words and grammar are perfect.

The Czechs, it seems, have a little bit of a harder time of it. Jaromir Jagr’s English is terrrible, after all these years in North America. Tomas Plekanec, however, looks promising as a speaker of English. But the Czechs, like the Russians, use their throats and tongues differently, so there’s many English words they’ll never master properly.

Some of the English guys speak French really well. I can’t learn French, but they speak it with almost no accent. Mike Bossy wins by a landslide on this front.

Henri Richard was so quiet in the early days of his career, that when Toe Blake was once asked if Henri could speak English, Blake replied, “I don’t even know if he can speak French.”

French guys like Daniel Briere, Martin Biron, Vincent Lecavalier, Mario Lemieux, and Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault speak English with only a trace of an accent. It’s very impressive.

It’s just a good thing there’s no heavy-duty Scotsmen in the NHL. Their accent can be thicker than lumpy gravy. I worked with a Scottish guy in Calgary who had been in Canada for years, but he could talk to me for fifteen minutes and I wouldn’t have a clue what he was saying.

Compared to this guy, Alex Ovechkin sounds perfect.

 

 

No Room For Alex. Wow, Those Russians Must Have Some Kind Of Team. May 6, 2008

Former 1980′s Russian player, Vyacheslav Bykov, who now coaches Team Russia, told Alex Kovalev through a text message that there’s no room for him on the team which is now in Canada for the 2008 World Hockey Championship.

No room for one of the best forwards in the NHL. Too slow, said the text message. Those Russians have been a barrel of laughs since 1972.

With the Russians, it’s always something else than what the official party line says. They’re masters at being cagey. The years they dominated NHL teams, particularly in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s, they politely said they were here to learn from the pros, which was almost laughable. They have a history of manipulating on-and-off ice officials. In 1972, they made sure Canadian food went missing when Team Canada was holed up at their Moscow hotel. They awoke Canadian players in the middle of the night with telephone calls. And they’ve held a gun to Hockey Canada’s head for more money on more than one occasion throughout the years. 

There’s always a questionable agenda, and some unsavoury activity, when it comes to the Russian hockey family.

Why wouldn’t Alex Kovalev, one of the smartest, shiftiest, magical talents in hockey not be invited to play for his home country? This guy should not only be on the Russian squad, but should be captain.

He’s not slow. Or if he’s slower than the chosen players on Team Russia, then they must be lightening-fast. It must be three lines of Alex Ovechkin’s, and Valeri Kharlamov risen from the dead. It must be the KLM line reincarnated.

Kovalev has probably upset the Russian Ice Hockey Federation somewhere down the line. Maybe he’s spoken too much about how great it is in North America, because by all accounts, he loves it here. Heck, he doesn’t even want to be called Alexei anywhere, but simply Alex.

It’s possible he’s critized the Russian way of doing things from time to time. Kovalev has never been one to keep things bottled up. And the Russian hierarchy certainly has long memories. Kovalev has probably never towed the line. He would’ve made a great hippie in the 1960′s. 

If Alex Kovalev can’t make this team, then Teams Canada, USA, Finland, Sweden, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic don’t stand a chance. These teams will be too slow. Like Kovalev.

I don’t particularly want Kovalev playing in the World’s anyway. He’s 35 years old and needs to rest his weary bones after the long and stressful season of being a leader and star with his Montreal Canadiens. I want him fit, healthy, and renewed for next season when the Habs take a more serious stab at the Holy Grail.

It’s bad enough that Andrei Markov will be joining the Russian squad. He hasn’t been 100% healthy lately, which showed drastically in the playoffs, and this tournament better not set him back. He needs to be firing on all cylinders, along with Kovalev, when October rolls around.

 

 

 

Holy Smokes! More Fascinating Facts! What A Blog! March 26, 2008

Fascinating Fact #1.  It’s just what I always suspected. Patrick Roy is a moron.

Fascinating Fact #2.  In the early 1940′s the Montreal Canadiens were bringing in less fans than the senior league Montreal Royals. The Habs were averaging only about 1500 people in those days.

Fascinating Fact #3.  Guess what changed in Montreal? What caused fans to go from 1500 to 12,000 in only a few years?  Two words – The Rocket.

Fascinating Fact #4.  And guess what completed the growth of fan attendance, from 12,000 in the late 1940′s to regular sellouts at the beginning of the 1950′s. It was the signing of Quebec senior hockey hero, Jean Beliveau.  

Fascinating Fact #5.  Mickey Redmond, who played right wing for the Habs from 1967 to 1971, has been battling lung cancer since 2003. He says he’s feeling fine, thank God. Redmond was also a member of Team Canada during the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series.

Fascinating Fact #6.  Redmond was involved in a major deal halfway through the 1970-71 season when the Habs traded him to Detroit for Frank Mahovlich. Montreal also sent Guy Charron and Bill Collins, along with Redmond, to Detroit.

Fascinating Fact #7.   1950′s Habs grinder Marcel Bonin used to eat glass, and also wrestled bears. And once, while at raining camp in Victoria, BC, Bonin broke his thumb during some horseplay off the ice. He kept it a secret from Toe Blake, then during the next practice, pretended to hurt his hand on the ice and kept himself from getting into hot water with Blake. It worked.

Fascinating Fact #8.   Two NHL players who were notorious for treating rookies on their own teams badly were Steve Shutt and Dave Keon. Shutt’s reasoning was, “hey, it happened to me so it’s gonna happen to them too.” 

Fascinating Fact #9.   Jim Pappin, who won a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, lost his Cup ring years ago.  It was found last year in the Gulf of Mexico when a diver using an underwater metal detector came up with it.

Fascinating Fact #10.  This is the seventh installment of Fascinating Facts. 

Fascinating Fact #11.  Did I mention that Patrick Roy is a moron?

 

St. Louis Wins In A Shootout. Grrrrrr. S**t, F**k. March 19, 2008

For two and a half periods tonight, the Montreal Canadiens would have had a hard time beating Byer’s Bulldozers Orillia Midgets circa 1965. (with a smallish but speedy Ralph Backstrom-type right winger).

And it the end, it bit them hard as the lowly St. Louis Blues, full of Canadians and Americans, waltzed into Montreal, full of nothing, and came away with a 4-3 shoot-out win.

I knew the sleeping with the wives, the paying of bills, the shoveling of the sidewalk, the washing of dishes, the visits from the in-laws, the catching up on phone calls, the diaper changing, the grocery shopping, the praise from strangers on the street, was gonna effect the play of the team. I had a feeling Montreal might suck tonight.

And in general, they did.

Their passes were off, their shots missed the net, they fell down often, they ran into each other, they looked confused, they were out of sync. And sadly, Halak was mediocre. It was just a bad night. And most of all, it was two important points slip, slidin’ away.

It’s no wonder the Soviet National teams of the ’60′s, ’70′s and ’80′s were so good. Everything was in sync because when they weren’t playing house, they were holed up in camps living together, eating together, playing soccer, working in gyms, and practising on the ice.

Of course they hated it and wanted to lynch coaches Bobrov and later, and especially, Tikhonov, but the results were there. No wives, no snow shoveling, no phone calls, no mother-in-laws. Just hockey.

But of course that won’t work nowadays. Not in the NHL, anyway. But I want to know why teams come out flat like the Habs did tonight. Why was everything out of whack? What causes this? Should the Habs hire Viktor Tikhonov?

You could say they took the Blues lightly because St. Louis has twenty points less than Montreal. But every game now, as I’ve said before, is a huge game for Montreal. So taking a team lightly doesn’t cut it. It has to be the wives.

Next up, Thursday in Boston. Out of the house, on a plane, into a hotel, eat group meals.  Price is probably back in goal.

They’d better win this one. It’s important.

And one last thing. I have a photo of Bobby Rousseau in the early 1960′s scoring on a penalty shot by blasting a slapshot from just inside the blueline. Everyone now tries the fancy stuff. Why don’t they just move in and fire away. Goalies are human.

 

Toronto Beats The Habs. I Hate Hockey February 8, 2008

Things were going so well for me lately. I’ve had a few days off where I’ve just kind of lounged around. Twice in the last two days my wife has suggested we go out for some beers, and how good is that? My problem stepdaughter has found a nice apartment over on the island.

So things have been good.

But I knew it. I knew my good times were winding down when Toronto lost 8-0 to Florida the other night. I knew they were playing Montreal next, and I just knew these Leafs, who normally stink, were going to play like the 1972 Russian National Team against the Habs.

Bad news for me, and bad news for Montreal. Toronto wins 4-2. I’m gonna take up cricket. GO PAKISTAN!

It would’ve been better probably if the game was played in Toronto instead of Montreal. The Leafs would’ve felt crazy pressure at home, more than in Montreal. Instead, they got to get out of Dodge and play some pond hockey.

Frankly, Montreal hasn’t looked great in their last three games. They blew a three goal lead to the Rangers and lost 5-3. They barely hung on to win 4-3 against Ottawa after leading 4-1. And tonight, against Toronto, a team with about five NHL’ers and about 15 American Hockey Leaguers, they lost 4-2.

Kovalev was great again for the Habs. Carey Price, just called up from Hamilton, was good. A few others were pretty good.

The rest suffered from a bout of narcolepsy.

 

The Circus Is In Town: Montreal Takes On The Leafs February 7, 2008

This might not be good for the Montreal Canadiens. They play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night, and because the Leafs just got pasted 8-0 by the Florida Panthers, of all teams, they won’t be feeling good right now. This is a team in turmoil, has been all year, all decade, all several decades, and we’ve seen this scenario before. A team gets embarrassed, humiliated, laughed at, and dismissed, and comes out next game and plays like gangbusters.

The Leafs usually play well against the Habs anyway, so when I think about it, this game could smell. 

But it shouldn’t. The Habs are hotter than Angelina Jolie in heat, and are 16 points better than the Leafs, who are as cold as cold can be.

If I had a say in this, I’d want another 8-0 loss for the Leafs. I always have great evenings when Montreal scores a lot.

The Leafs in turmoil is part of being a Leaf. Even in the ’30′s, ’40′s, and ’50′s, Owner Conn Smythe was hiring and firing and mouthing off to the press about players like Busher Jackson and coaches like Dick Irvin and Billy Reay. There were the fights between Punch Imlach and various players such as Frank Mahovlich in the 1960′s. And Harold Ballard took turmoil to new heights in the 1970′s and ’80′s when he fought with Darryl Sittler and had his ‘C’ removed from his sweater, and when he ordered coach Roger Neilson to wear a paper bag over his head. (Neilson refused, thankfully.) Or Ballard going on about hating European players and how he wouldn’t let the Russians ever play at Maple Leaf Gardens. (He did anyway.)

Then there was the boardroom backstabbing, with Ballard trying to make his girlfriend Yolanda, who knew nothing about running a hockey team, a principle shareholder.

Frankly, I’ve never understood why King Clancy remained so faithful to the miserable old coot all those years.

Now, this year, GM John Ferguson Jr. has been fired, (probably rightfully so), and Cliff Fletcher has been brought in to restore some sanity to the asylum. Coach Paul Maurice’s job is hanging by a thread, and the Leafs’ best player, Mats Sundin, is the only one in the free world who thinks he’s staying put and not traded.

It’s all wonderful stuff.  And it’ll be even more wonderful if the Habs clobber them Thursday night.

 

Those Who Would, And Wouldn’t, Look Good In A Montreal Canadien Sweater January 27, 2008

DEFINITELY NOT:

Daniel Briere:  This is a guy who wants to collect his millions the easy way, in relative obscurity, so when he has a bad game no one notices. This is not a Montreal Canadien. I feel he’s a little shy in the cahoonie department.

Trevor Linden:  He tried it, but was a bum there. Wearing the Habs jersey must have interfered with his wet dreams about the wet coast.

Sean Avery:  If Avery ever becomes a Canadien, I’m taking up cricket. GO PAKISTAN!

Todd Bertuzzi:  I shouldn’t have brought this up. Now I’m going to have nightmares all night.

Steve Downie:  Players who try to injure other players is certainly no Montreal Canadien.

He belongs in Philadelphia.

Mike Milbury:  There’s nothing like a supreme smart-ass to play in Boston and not Montreal.

Matthew Barnaby:  Such a mediocre talent. And he’d have that smile on his face after he’d get his head kicked in.  Sean Avery, Jarkko Ruutu, and Steve Downey learned their smile from this guy. I shudder just thinking about him in a Habs jersey.

DEFINITELY YES:

Bobby Orr:  Yep.

Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux:  Yep.

Gilbert Perreault:  This is a guy who should’ve played in Montreal. Talk about a Flying Frenchman. However, he did bail out on Team Canada in 1972, so that’s a big strike against him.

Vincent Lecavalier:  Big strong French-Canadian centreman like Jean Beliveau. His grandfather would’ve been so proud to see him in a Habs jersey.

Sidney Crosby:  If he had had a say in it, he’d be wearing the red, white, and blue right now.

Jean Ratelle:   Another tall, strong French-Canadian centreman. Geez, was he ever out of place in Boston.

Marcel Dionne:  It basically came down to Lafleur or Dionne, as Montreal couldn’t grab both. I’m glad it was Lafleur, but Dionne would’ve looked good in the jersey also.

Valeri Kharlamov:  The great Russian was at the mercy of political bullshit in Moscow and there’s no way he would ever have been released to play in North America. He would’ve looked fantastic in Habs colours, though.

Vladislav Tretiak:  He didn’t hide the fact he would have loved to play in Montreal, but the same applied to him as did Kharlamov. Anyway, Montreal had Dryden.

Pamela Anderson:  With or without the sweater.

Dennis Kane:  If only he was taller, faster, stronger, smarter, with a better shot, and was a better fighter and skater, he would’ve looked FANTASTIC in a Montreal Canadien sweater.

 

More of the Mind Blowing “Fascinating Facts!” January 15, 2008

Facinating Fact #1.  Montreal drafted Mark Napier instead of Mike Bossy.

Fascinating Fact #2. Scotty Bowman, when coaching the Habs in the 1970′s, would usually be a real  miserable soul after the team had won. But when the team lost, he was a nice, happy person. The general consensus was that Scotty liked to play games with his players’ heads, and it was a big reason he was such a good coach. (If that makes sense, please fill me in.)

Fascinating Fact #3. I was a milkman in Calgary for awhile and Doug Risebrough was one of my customers. His wife, who looked after the milk situation, gave me a very little tip at Christmas.

Risebrough played 13 years in the NHL, with both Montreal and Calgary. When he was eating his Cheerios with the milk I had faithfully delivered, he was coaching the Flames. I remember years before, in Ottawa, when the Habs played somebody else in a pre-season exhibition game at the old Civic Centre, the buzz in the papers was the new promising rookie who would be playing that night in his first NHL game. That player was Doug Risebrough.

Fascinating Fact #4.  CBC television host George Stroumboulopoulos, is a good, solid Habs fan.

Fascinating Fact #5.  I played on the same Midget team as Dan Maloney for one game in Barrie after our Orillia team got eliminated and three of us were loaned to Barrie. I remember he was big, and a real leader even then. We were about 16. I also spent an afternoon with him hanging out and playing pool.

Dan Maloney played for four teams (Chicago, LA, Detroit, and Toronto) over 11 seasons, and eventually went on to coach. He was really, really tough.

Fascinating Fact #6.  I have a beautiful old ticket stub from Game 8 of the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series at Luznicki Arena in Moscow.

Fascinating Fact #7.    Rumours are flying that Scotty Bowman (although he denies this) could become a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.

Typical. Montreal grooms them (Bowman, Cliff Fletcher, Dryden, Risebrough, etc.) and they become suits elsewhere.

Fascinating Fact #8.  Toe Blake’s real first name was Hector. He got the name ‘Toe’ from his younger sister who pronounced the last part of Hector as toe, as in “Hectoe.”

Fascinating Fact #9. Turk Broda, who was the Toronto Maple Leaf goalie from 1936 to 1952, had the nickname “Turk” because as a child, his neck would turn red like a turkey when he got angry. His real name is Walter.

 

The Boston Bruins Are Not As Nice As You And Me January 10, 2008

Montreal plays Boston tonight and I’m coming clean here. I’ve never liked the Boston Bruins. They’re like lawyers and politicians. Or Martha Stewart and Nancy Grace. Just not likeable. Terry O’Reilly, Mike Milbury, Stan Jonathan, Bobby Schmautz, Ken Hodge, Wayne Cashman, Phil Esposito, mouthy coach Don Cherry. Not likeable. And slurring, drunken fans. Not likeable.

And nothing’s changed over the years to change my mind. They’re like a team full of Sean Avery’s and Steve Downie’s.

However, during the 1972 Canada-Russia series, I cheered for Espo, Cashman, and the other Bruins on the team. Otherwise, they were not likeable.

My wife asked me once who I disliked more, Toronto or Boston, and I couldn’t answer. When Montreal plays Toronto, then it’s Toronto. When Montreal plays Boston, then I dislike Boston the most.

Don’t you think Bobby Orr would’ve looked good in a Habs uniform?

In other news, former NHL’er Sergio Momesso had his house burglarized and his 1986 Stanley Cup ring with the Habs was stolen, along with three of his jerseys, Montreal, Vancouver, and St. Louis.

You wonder what goes through the minds of these thieves. I mean, why would anyone want a Canucks jersey?

 

Thoughts from the magnificent 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series January 3, 2008

THE SERIES TOUCHED ME 

From time to time I pull out my videos of games and behind-the-scenes footage from the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series. It’s a time and place that is part of my life, and I’ve studied this eight game series with love and fascination. It has touched me, and I feel I could write a book about it. I was a 21 year old bartender in Sudbury, Ont. at this time, and before the series had started, I was more than eager to see our indestructible boys destroy those lesser talents from the evil empire. Wow, did I have my eyes opened.

YOU KNOW THE OBVIOUS

I don’t need to explain any of the obvious about this event. You know, or have probably heard, about the society comparisons, about the Henderson and Esposito heroics, about Canada winning with 34 seconds to go in the 8th game. But there’s more than the obvious about this series that has entered my life, and I’m very proud of it.

THE SERIES HELPED ME FIND THE WOMAN OF MY DREAMS 

Through a series of bazaar happenings which are too complex to mention here, I ended up marrying a Russian woman who had only known what little she knew of Canada because of this series. Luciena had indeed watched the big series from her side of the world, and she was not only proud of her hockey stars, but was also amazed by ours. She liked that Canadian players were without helmets. She loved the look of a young Bobby Clarke with his front teeth missing. Phil Esposito seemed bigger than life to her, and she laughed when he slipped on a flower petal while being introduced. She found it incredulous that 2700 Canadian fans packed Luchnicki Stadium in Moscow and made so much noise, because her fellow Russians weren’t permitted to show extreme emotion in the building. It just wasn’t part of Soviet upbringing.

GETTING TO KNOW SOME OF THE RUSSIAN PLAYERS 

Years later, Luciena took me to a St. Petersburg Ska, a Russian Elite League team, practice, where the great ’72 star and captain Boris Mikhailov was coaching. She called him over and introduced us, telling him I was Canadian. Not surprisingly, the always intense Mikhailov didn’t seem all that interested, and looked right through me.  I went to various games in Russia during my six times there, and met other ’72 stars like Evgeny Zimin and Victor Kuzkin, who were usually there scouting. I was introduced to the great Valeri Kharlamov’s son, Alexander, who was playing for Red Army at the time. And some of my Russian friends over the years have collected autographs for me from  ’72 players like Alexander Ragulin, Vladimir Petrov, and others.

MIKHAILOV’S DOING BETTER THAN YOU AND ME 

The last time I was in St. Petersburg, in May of 2007, we stayed with an elderly woman whose son-in-law had played for Ska under Boris Mikhailov, and the apartment we lived in had been arranged for by Mikhailov, who of course had serious pull in such matters.  Zena, the old woman, told us that Mikhailov had an apartment in the expensive Nevsky Prospekt downtown area, and had an indoor swimming pool. So it was obvious the feisty captain the 1972 Russian National team had done well for himself.

VIKULOV ISN’T

I find it interesting as well that during the 8th and final game of that series, the Russian players who weren’t dressed for the game that final night weren’t even allowed in the building. Imagine. And many of the Russian players haven’t ended up successful like Mikhailov, Tretiak, Anisin, and Yakushev have. Some are dirt poor with meagre government pensions, and one player, Vladimir Vikulov has become such a down-and-out alcoholic that even his old teammates don’t want to discuss him now.

 

 
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