Saturday, November 17, 2007

Habs Welcome Robinson To The Club - At Long Last



Perhaps it is fifteen years later than when it should have happened, but the Canadiens are finally getting around to doing the right thing with Larry Robinson's number 19.

Numbers could possibly place Robinson in a Habs franchise perspective quicker than a paragraph.

In regular season and playoff points, only Beliveau, Lafleur and two guys names Richard surpass him. In games played, only the Pocket is ahead of - by 31. In playoff games played, Robinson leads all Canadiens with 203, twenty three more than Henri.

Not too shabby for a 17 seventeen year stint playing on a team in which he never missed the playoffs.

In his career, he sits 30th in all time games played, 78th in points scored, and 7th in points by a defenseman.

He holds one sturdy, unbreakable record claim - 20 straight seasons without missing the playoffs.

Larry Robinson's story is that of a farmer's lanky son, growing up in small town Marvelville, Ontario with a passion for the game. He is converted into a defenseman at age 17, and plays only one season of OHA hockey before being drafted by the Canadiens. He grooms for a season and a half with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, winning a Calder Cup while being admirably tutored by an old vet named Noel Price. He is an emergency call up to the Habs the next season, and never returns to the minors. That season, he wins the Stanley Cup - his best contribution being an overtime goal against the Flyers. From there on, he builds a legend that sees him voted to the Canadiens all time Dream Team in 1984.

My personal 10 Unforgettable Larry Moments:

1 - He is cut from the 1970 Cornwall Royals training camp for refusing to cut his hair. The Kitchener Rangers happily snap him up. Royals win the Memorial Cup regardless. People still chuckle and wonder about that in this town.

2 - His overtime goal celebration against the Flyers in 1973. Worthy of an inpromptu lottery winning happy dance, Robinson launches into a flailling skip and jig that earns him the dreaded "Big Bird" nickname he so much hates.

3 - Robinson versus carpentry. Larry perfectly lines up his 220 lb frame against that of the equally sized Gary Dornhoefer at the Canadiens blueline, throwing the boards right off their hinges. A hush comes over the Forum as the maintenance crew, crowbars in hand, yank it back into place.

4 - The defanging of Dave Schultz. In the midst of an all out brawl between the Flyers and Habs, Robinson finds Schultz about to pounce onto a Canadiens player already involved in a scrap. Robinson administers the ultimate of corrections to Schultz by pummelling him senseless with a series of one handed haymakers like only a good farmboy could. The Flyers were never the same threat again.

5 - Imitating Orr. In one particluar game against the Bruins, Bobby Orr had just beaten the Canadiens for a goal with one of his patented ice long rushes when Robinson duplicated the feat in the third period. The sight of Robinson gingerly tiptoeing up ice, while scanning and then dodging all comers was something to behold. Unfortunately for highlight reel lovers, he played on a team which didn't require him to use this skill all that often.

6 - The wagging index finger. After having proven himself in the fisticuffs departement, Larry stopped receiving offers to tangle. In scrums, Robinson was often in the middle, gloves off, and pointing that digit in some feisty players nose to further deter any thoughts of continuing. Dryden kidded Larry that this was fast becoming his cariacature moment.

7 - The Dream Team. I was watching with my father the night the Habs all time team was unveiled. I was proud that one player from my era, had joined with 5 from his. Hearing my old man say Robinson belonged there was of no small consequence to me. Watching Larry laugh it up with a clowning Aurel Joliat and his leather cap was quite rememberable as well.

8 - Robinson buys a dozen worms off me - I think! One summer when I was 15, a tall gentleman in a pickup truck pulls over at my roadside "Worms for Sale" stand to get some fishing bait. He looks like Larry, minus the long hair, sideburns and mustache. I thought to myself that it could be him, so I hesitantly ask. He throws me an awkward glance and says "No, but I get that alot". Off he goes and I'm still wondering. A few days later, someone mentions to my father that they saw Robinson about town. The following weekend I see his truck approaching again. I wave, he waves back, and keeps on going! I waited until the start of the season, to judge from his new look, if it was indeed him. Gone were the sideburns and long hair, and the handlebar mustache was trimmed to a more sedate look. I guess I'll always wonder if it was him.

9 - Rebirth. Robinson was a rejuvenated veteran on a youth propelled 1986 Canadiens. Watching him hoist the recaptured Stanley Cup with joyfilled eyes was a prized moment. The Canadiens weren't supposed to be there, and Robinson was as exhuberant as a teenager in this victory.

10 - An unfitting end. Robinson should have retired a Canadiens player for life, but a contract squabble with GM and former defense partner Serge Savard messed up what should have been a glorious sendoff. Savard felt Robinson was done as a player, and reneged on giving him his due traditional one years free salary upon retirement. Savard then discontinued the tradition and blemished Robinson's name suggesting that Larry attempted to negoatiate his own jersey retirement. (More on this in an upcoming post.)

4 comments:

Habster said...

Robert,
Great article about one of my favorite Canadiens players. I've linked to it on my blog (All Habs) and have added the youtube footage of the Shultz's fight,the bone crushing hit and his beautiful goal scored against Boston (made Milbury look like a Pylon!!!!)
Keep up the great work!!!

Anonymous said...

you do some great work Robert, should you not think of a career change. Sometimes people don't realise there self worth. It is obvious you love this work. IAN

Robert L said...

Thanks Habster, I will be posting on Robinson again soon, and will mention those added video links.

Ian - Thanks for the kind words and I'm glad to see you got my e-mail. However this is not my ACTUAL career ( I wish!), it is just love induced hobby. I work in the emergency dispatch service sending fireman and OPP scattering on a daily basis. Maybe one day I'll be able to devote entire days to Habs blogging, but for now it is a free service!

Anonymous said...

Love the personal touches Robert!
Sure wish he could handle the defensive\assistant coaching job here in Montreal.

Go Habs Go