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.

 

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Malkin Blasts Away For Pittsburgh. He Must Have Heard About Bobby Rousseau. May 13, 2008

When Pittsburgh star Evgeny Malkin skated in alone and surprised everyone by blasting his slapshot by Flyers’ goalie Martin Biron from only about ten feet out, I knew it was time to pull out my old scrapbook.

It was circa 1965, and Montreal speedster Bobby Rousseau, a slapshot specialist and off-season golf pro in Ste. Hyacinthe, Quebec, was awarded a penalty shot one night in a game against Boston.

Rousseau grabbed the puck at centre ice, took it just inside the blueline, and to the surprise of everyone, including his coach Toe Blake and Boston goalie, Bruce Gamble,  wound up, fired, and scored.

Has a penalty shot or shootout goal ever been scored from so far out? I doubt it.

So when you see breakaways next year, or all the shootouts and penalty shots, ask yourself why the players don’t just tee up and blast away every so often. The goalie is not in the least expecting it.

Like Malkin did the other night. And like Bobby Rousseau did those many years ago.

 

 

 

Mike Ribeiro Two-Hands Detroit Goalie. Maybe He Was Using Sidney’s Stick. May 12, 2008

It’s an interesting study, this Mike Ribeiro.

Let’s first start in the here and now, and work our way backwards.

 

In game two against Detroit, Ribeiro, the Dallas Stars offensive threat, while skating past the Wings’ net, received a butt-end from Detroit goalie Chris Osgood. Ribeiro then turned around and gave Osgood a two-hander across the chest of Osgood. It was, for lack of better words, selfish and stupid on Ribeiro’s part.

 

Now let’s back up a little. Ribeiro was an underacheiving forward for the Montreal Canadiens, and was sent packing to the Dallas Stars for defenceman Janne Niiniman and 5th round draft pick, and he blossomed into a big point-getter and an important piece of the puzzle in Dallas.

 

Habs critics had a field day with this. Gainey was an idiot, they cried. How could he make such a bad decision to practically give Ribeiro away and now the guy’s a star in Dallas? What a mistake Gainey had made, they decided.

 

But Gainey traded him for a reason. There was talk that he was a person who helped separate the dressing room into cliques. He was a yapper on the ice who never backed up his tough talk.

And the instance that showed me he was no Montreal Canadien came when they did a close up of him one night in a game against Pittsburgh, and the the Habs were losing by a goal late in the game. And was Ribeiro all business and focused on the task of tying the game up? No. Instead, he skated over to Sidney Crosby and asked him if he could have one of his sticks.

 

To me, this is no Montreal Canadien. The Rocket and Doug Harvey would be rolling over in their graves about this Crosby stick thing.  Jean Beliveau, I’m sure, never asked Gordie Howe for his stick in a closely-fought battle. Toe Blake would’ve benched him for a month if he did.

 

I was glad when Ribeiro was traded. And I could care less how many goals he went on to score with Dallas. He was never going to be a Montreal Canadien, plain and simple.

 

Who Should Win. And The Best Things Boston Has Going For Them April 7, 2008

    Wednesday it starts, the quest for the Cup, with Ottawa visiting Pittsburgh, the Rangers are in New Jersey, Colorado goes to Minnesota, and Calgary takes on San Jose.

On Thursday, the other four series begin, with Nashville travelling to Detroit, Dallas goes to Anaheim, Philadelphia is in Washington, and, last, but not least, the best of them all, the only one that matters, the beginning of the saga – those dastardly Boston Bruins, right now shaking in their boots, jet to Montreal whether they want to or not.

And although Toe Blake said predictions are for gypsies, I’m going to have my say about who I think will win each series. And this isn’t rocket science.

It’s not going out on a limb to say Pittsburgh will beat Ottawa.

The Devils very possibly could be taken out by the Rangers.

Minnesota should beat Colorado because I don’t trust Jose Theodore.

San Jose should wipe the floor with Calgary.

Detroit will have no problem with Nashville.

I’ve no idea who will win the Dallas-Anaheim series, but probably Anaheim will.

Washington, because they’re on such a roll, should beat Philadelphia.

And Montreal will ice an almost healthy team and spank the Bruins like they’ve never been spanked before.

The best thing’s Boston has going for them is:

Don Cherry doesn’t coach them anymore. They’re in big enough trouble already without having any ‘too many men on the ice’ penalties called against them.

Boston goalie Dave Reese no longer plays, so there probably won’t be any Montreal players getting a ten point night like Darryl Sittler did.

Fans at the Bell Centre won’t be in danger because Mike Milbury, who liked to fight up in the crowd, is only a lousy hockey anaylst now.

Eddie Shore is long gone, so Montreal players are safe from getting clubbed over the head.

And Phil Esposito’s retired, so there’ll be no trails of brylcreem all over the ice.

 

 

 

It Sure Wasn’t Hard Becoming A Habs Fan April 5, 2008

I’m asked from time to time why I cheer for the Habs and not the Toronto Maple Leafs, seeing that I grew up only an hour north of Toronto, in Orillia. The answer’s easy. The Montreal Canadiens were a gift from my dad.

My dad’s 87 now, and of course, still watches hockey. He’s been a hockey fan all his life, followed the Leafs when he was young, and he once wrote a letter in the 1930’s to Ace Bailey who lay in a hospital after Boston’s Eddie Shore clubbed him over the head, ending his career, and nearly killing him.

Bailey’s wife wrote a thank-you note to my dad in return.

But slowly, my dad began to turn. The Toronto Star and Telegram both plastered their papers with Leafs stories and my dad began to wonder about the almost invisible other teams. It was always “Leafs, Leafs, Leafs” as he used to say. Foster Hewitt was the definitive homer, and this rubbed dad the wrong way. And dad, being the introverted type, cringed when he read or heard about the goings-on of brash, loud, and arrogant Leafs owner Conn Smythe.

In the fifties, with television entering households, it was only Leafs game shown, and when the Montreal Canadiens played in Toronto, my dad liked what he saw on his TV. There was the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, and Plante. Stanley Cups began to be won by the Habs on a regular basis beginning in 1955, and the Leafs just kept plodding along. The Canadiens had something the Leafs didn’t.

When I was a boy, my dad started a big Montreal Canadiens scrapbook for me. He helped me write fan letters to the the Rocket, and at one point, the Rocket sent me a Christmas card. He took me to Maple Leaf Gardens a couple of times, and once, when we were early and stood at the gate, the entire 1958 Montreal team walked right by us.

He bought me a hockey book which he mailed to Montreal asking for autographs in, and it was mailed back signed by the entire 1958-59 Habs – Richard, Plante, Toe Blake, Beliveau, Geoffrion etc, and the only one missing was Doug Harvey. When we went to a game at the Gardens, he brought the book with him, took it down the the Montreal dressing room corridor, saw Toe Blake standing there, and asked Blake if he would take the book into the dressing room and get Harvey to sign it.

Believe it not, Blake did just that. My son has the book now.

So of course I became a Habs fan. They’ve been magical for me, and the magic has never gone away. It’s been a lifelong love affair.

And it’s all because of my dad.

 

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?

 

Tony Demers Didn’t Exactly Ride The Glory Train March 19, 2008

While myself, Mike, der Habinator, and all the good people of the world who cheer for the Habs and are stewing this very minute because of the lack of effort and coordination shown last night, I thought I’d get away from the day-to-day roller coaster ride the team takes us on and tell you about a Montreal Canadien player who didn’t exactly make the uniform proud. It’s interesting, and very, very sad.

It’s the story of a player for the Montreal Canadiens in the late 1930’s and into the ’40’s, and his name was Tony Demers. In a room in my house, I have a really nice photo of the Rocket, Elmer Lach, and Tony Demers posing as a line. 

So the guy was on his way up, I suppose.

                                                                                                                       tonydemers1_g.jpg

Demers was a guy who only played parts of five seasons in Montreal, as he bounced up and down from the minors. He scored only 20 goals total, so he was no star, not by a long shot. His short career ended in 1942, when he played one game with the New York Rangers, and that was that. Sort of. Because what came next wasn’t exactly what he probably had in mind.

In 1945, Demers was fined for an assault on a hotelkeeper. Then, the next year while playing senior hockey in Sherbrooke, he got involved in a gambling situation and was given a ten game suspension. But the suspension became the least of his problems.

In 1949, Demers was hauled in to the police station regarding the death of a woman who was later revealed to be Demer’s girlfriend. The story issued was that the two had been drinking heavily, they got into an argument, and that he had hit her. Hospital officials, though, claimed it was more than a simple hit, it was a thorough beating. Demers claimed she had gotten all her bruises from jumping from his moving car. And he didn’t take the unconscious woman to the hospital until the following day.

 The court didn’t buy it.

Tony Demers was found guilty of manslaughter and was given 15 years in the maximum security St. Vincent de Paul penitentiary in Montreal. He seved eight of the fifteen before being released.

In the late 1980’s, while I was living in Ottawa, it was announced that this notorious St. Vincent de Paul was finally closing its doors after about 100 years, and the public was invited to tour the closed prison for a dollar. So I took my then-wife and our two kids to Montreal for the day to have a look.

The penitentiary was a horrendous place. They had left the cells the way they were, so clothes, writings on the walls, etc. were there as they had been. It was dirty and dark and my kids got scared. In Roger Caron’s book ‘Go Boy’, he described St. Vincent’s as the meanest and most dangerous prison in Canada, and he knew because he had served most of his adult life in different institutions all across the country.

So while the Rocket, Blake, and Lach, thrilled the Forum faithful with big goals and Stanley Cups, an old teammate, one who shared the dressing room, the train rides, the restaurants, and hotels, sat in a dark cell, maybe listening from time to time on the radio as his old friends carried on. It’s all very sad, but the guy, I’m sure, deserved it.

Demers went into obscurity after his release and had nothing to do with the hockey world after that. He died in 1997.