Thursday, July 31, 2008
The Montreal Canadiens 100 Seasons has been all consuming project for me to undertake starting this past summer. I hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as I have had digging it up. I always thought that there should be one single place online, almost like a web book, where much of this could be found. Now, hopefully, I can make that a reality.
As of today, July 31, 2008, I have completed documenting roughly about half of the team's history. As I continue to write and research these posts, I will begin posting on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday schedule, while bringing the Habs current goings on once training camp begins.
Thanks for tuning in.
The Montreal Canadiens were born on December 2, 1909 in room 129 of the Windsor Hotel.
J. Ambrose O'Brien, a businessman and sports entrepreneur from Ottawa, with financial backing from business partner T.C. Hare, submitted the one thousand dollar National Hockey Association league entry fee and made guarantees for player salaries in the amount of $5,000.
The Montreal Wanderers had been one of the stronger teams in Eastern Canadian Amateur Hockey Association in 1908-09 and the owners of the club were upset that the ECAHA's other 3 teams - the Ottawa Senators, the Montreal Shamrocks, and the Quebec Bulldogs - had left them behind to create a newly formed league called the Canadian Hockey Association.
The CHA had been on created November 13, 1909 and was formed of the Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec franchises, in addition to the Montreal National, and a team known as All - Montreal.
O'Brien meanwhile, had sports and arena interests in Renfrew, Haileybury and Cobalt and was sought out by Wanderers owners to form a new rival league to the CHA. Included in their ideas, was one for a Montreal based team comprised mainly of french speaking players, to counter the same idea of the CHA's Montreal National. It would be called the Montreal Canadiens, and their colours would be blue and white.
There was one small problem, these Montreal Canadiens had no arena to play in.
The issue was solved by the Wanderers, who wanted this new league to work out in such a bad way, that they would share their home rink, the Jubilee Arena, with the Canadiens.
So the NHA was born, with the Canadiens joining forces with the Renfrew Creamery Kings, the Cobalt Silver Kings, the Haileybury Comets, and of course, the Wanderers. The Canadiens and the NHA, in its rivalry with the CHA, endured a difficult birth with several false starts.
After part of the initial schedule was remade and finally scrapped, the NHA accepted, or conspired to lure as the theory goes, two additional franchises from the CHA - the Senators and the Shamrocks - and began the season anew in January of 1910.
Jack Laviolette, a star player with the Montreal National of Federal Amateur Hockey League, the Michigan Soo Indians of the International Hockey League, and the Montreal Shamrocks of the Eastern Canadien Amateur Hockey Association, was regarded as one of the brighter hockey men the city of Montreal had in the early 1900's. He was brought in by owner O'Brien and teamed with secretary treasurer Eddy McCaffery in forming the group of players that would comprise the inaugural Montreal Canadiens team.
Laviolette, in addition to being manager, would also serve as the team's best defenseman and captain. He completed the task of getting players in place in less than one month.
Born Jean Baptiste "Jack" Laviolette in Belleville, Ontario on July 27, 1879, he moved with his family to Valleyfield, Quebec at age 12, where he developed a love of the game of hockey on his best friend Didier "Cannonball" Pitre's backyard rink.
Pitre, another defenseman, would become Laviolette's first signing to the Canadiens as he outbid the National for his services. It was quite a coup for the team, and the signing involved outracing the National's agent by train, who was also on the way to scoop up Pitre.
Soon after, Laviolette added Jos Cattarinich in goal and Newsy Lalonde in the rover position. The team's starters were rounded out by Ed Decary at center, with Arthur Bernier and Georges "Skinner" Poulin on the wings. Seven other players would suit up for Montreal in the restarted 12 game official season and they included Joseph Bougie, Ed Chapleau, Edgar Leduc, Edward Millaire, Patsy Séguin and goaltenders M. Larochelle and Teddy Groulx.
On a team photo handout of the day that featured the composition of the team, are two players named Rick Duckett and Noss Chartrand. There is little data pertaining to the standing of these players who were likely victims of the earlier season's false started schedule.
Laviolette, McCaffery, and O'Brien did much financial wheeling and dealing in aquiring several of their players, and certain transactions were contested with threats and lawsuits. After having stolen Pitre from under the National's nose, he targetted the services of Lalonde and Decary, and then moved on to All - Montreal for Poulin, all of whom where under contract.
With much of this contested in court, the Canadiens made headlines in local newpapers prior to having played their first NHA game.
Edouard Lalonde, was already known as Newsy by the time he arrived on the Canadiens scene. Born in Cornwall, Ontario, on October 31, 1887, the 22 year old Lalonde would quite rightfully become recognized as the Canadiens first true star player. Lalonde's on ice style made him the original "Flying Frenchman".
On January 5, 1910, the Canadiens beat the Cobalt squad 7-6 in overtime, with Lalonde scoring twice in what unofficially became their first ever game. Shortly after, the CHA was dissolved, and hence the Shamrocks and Senators, along with some of the league's better players, were absorbed into NHA.
It is not known how many games the Canadiens had played prior to the schedule being quickly revamped. The prior games played were shelved from the record and there exists little documentation today that details the false start.
The Canadiens restarted the season on January 19 and Lalonde recorded the team's first goal and hat trick in a loss to Renfrew. Both the Canadiens and Wanderers would play their local games at the Jubilee Arena, at the corner of Ste. Catherine and Malborough in the Westmount section of downtown Montreal. The Canadiens would lose the first four games in its history before beating Haileybury 9-5 on February 7, in front of a hometown crowd 3,000 strong. Pitre, the team's highest paid player at $1,700 per season, scored the winning goal.
Pitre would also score the winning goal in the Canadiens only other win of the 1910 season, registering a hat trick - a first for a Canadiens defenseman - on March 11 in a win over the crosstown Shamrocks. The game in itself was an oddity of sorts, as Canadiens starting goaltender M. Larochelle was tossed from the contest for vehemently arguing a goal with officials. Laviolette would take over in goal himself, thus becoming the first player coach to be credited with a win. Larochelle, who has no other Canadiens appearances to his credit, would not return. He has henceforth disappeared into mysterious Canadiens lore.
At the onset, the Canadiens were a bleak on ice, and off ice proposition. After three games, Laviolette passed the manager's hat to goalie Cattarinich so that he could concentrate his efforts on other duties involving the team while continuing to play.
Several events and strange occurances would mark the Canadiens initial campaign. Montreal would suffer its worst loss in history in this season on February 26, via a 15-3 pounding at the hands of the Haileybury Comets. In that game, Alex Currie and Nick Bawlf would become the first players to score 6 and 5 goals respectively against the sadsack Canadiens.
Finances were a problem for the Canadiens as well, and on March 9, prior to a game against the Wanderers, the Montreal players went on strike. Angered at not having been paid for their previous game, the players were convinced by Laviolette - who pointed to an arena full of possibly disappointed fans - that they would receive full renumeration for their services as soon as the gate receipts were counted.
The Canadiens would finish out the schedule in last place with a record of 2-10, scoring 59 goals and allowing an even 100. The following season, only Lalonde, Pitre, Laviolette, Bernier and Poulin would return.
In his first NHA season, Lalonde would score 38 goals in 11 games to win the league's first scoring title. He scored 16 of those in 6 games with the Canadiens before being "lent" to the Renfrew squad where he would add 22 more in the season's final five games. The move was done primarily to strengthen the O' Brien owned Creamery Kings in a Stanley Cup bid.
O' Brien was the big mover and shaker in the initial days of the NHA's first steps. In addition to the Canadiens and Renfrew, he also had ownership of the Haileybury and Cobalt franchises, and donated the league's first championship trophy - the O' Brien Cup.
Despite O' Brien's help, Renfrew would not manage its Cup goal, and the NHA championship and the Stanley Cup would become property of the Montreal Wanderers in 1910.
The Wanderers, led by stars Ernie Russell, Harry Hyland and goalie Riley Hern defeated the Berlin (now Kitchener) Union Jacks 7-3 in a one game Stanley Cup challenge held March 12, 1910 at the Jubilee Arena.
Ownership of the Stanley Cup at this time in hockey history is very different than it is known as today. As it was created to be a challenge cup, rules governing who could compete for it and how were in constant evolution until the bowl become property of the NHL.
The 1909 Stanley Cup champions were the Senators, then of the ECAHA. Ottawa had been awarded the Cup as league champions, and it was too late in the season for them to accept an outside challenge from the Winnipeg Shamrocks. While Ottawa partook in its first NHA season the following calendar year, it twice successfully defended its title in a pair of total goals games in January of 1910 against the Edmonton Eskimos and a team from Galt.
Though the Senators had twice defended their title, the team's name is inscribed on the bowl just once. Wheras other squads multiple wins within a 12 month period are duly recorded, there seemed to be little operative practice of consistency for inscriptions on the bowl.
Hockey in 1909-10, grew in often conspicuous leaps and bounds, and the Canadiens inaugural season mirrored the game's fast changing times.
The team's owners were sometimes suspect, often perceived by the public at large as simply money men cashing in on the sport's rise in popularity. As many of them were involved in boxing, horseracing, and gambling rings, hockey often suffered from the perception of it being nothing more than a violent mug's rackett. And it truly was!
Owners bought and sold teams quickly. Player's rights were fought over considerably. Local rinks gate receipts were questioned. In short, every variety of legal standing regarding the game had its share of dubious moments. Owners took advantage of players naivity, and the sides barely trusted each other.
That the Canadiens survived all of this, team name and origin intact, is quite a feat. They would have more than their share of trials and tribulations in their early going, but on the backs on great visionairies and proud players, they would outlast city rival teams through a multitude of ups and downs over the coming decades.
In all the fuss and flux, it would be the constants that remained from year to year that would bring about allegiance in the locals.
Laviolette and Cattarinich were emotionally invested in the team. Players such as Lalonde, Pitre, - stubborn as they came - and other mainstays to come, helped reinforce the team's humble foundation and build the sport in Eastern Canada.
Newsy Lalonde would leave his mark on the NHA and NHL, as much for his scoring exploits as he would for his temperament. A controversial figure of sorts, who was known at the time to have been making more money as one of the nation's best lacrosse players, Lalonde never hesitated to refuse his services when he felt he was being taking advantage of financially.
After the 1910-11 season, he jumped to Pacific Coast Hockey League's Vancouver Millionaires for more money. He was back in a Canadiens jersey the following season. Two seasons later he was sold / traded back to the Millionaires, but refused to report, causing the Canadiens all kinds of headaches in player and money transfers.
Regardless of his stubborn nature and his principles, Lalonde would be regarded as one of the NHL's early greats. He won six scoring championships across four leagues in his day - 2 NHA, 2 NHL, 1 PCHA in 1912, and 1 OPHL in 1909 - and would remain associated with the Canadiens as a player until 1923 when he was dealt to the Saskatoon Shieks for $3,500 and Aurel Joliat after a contractual squabble with then manager Leo Dandurand.
During his 12 seasons as a Canadiens player, Lalonde had been captain for eight of those years and its coach for 6. He played his final NHL game as a member of the New York Americans in 1927 and retired in 1929 after a year with the Niagara Falls Cataracts.
By 1932, he had patched up differences with Dandurand and returned to coach the Canadiens once more for two and a half seasons during some lean years for the club.
Pitre, a giant of a man for an early hockey player, had the on ice temperment of a teddy bear. He would play 13 of his next 14 hockey seasons in a Canadiens uniform, outlasting his sometimes rival team mate Lalonde by one season. A fast skating strong man with a reknowned hard shot, Pitre was one of the early game's better offensive defenseman at a time when the position was much less defined than it is today.
Laviolette would suit up for the Canadiens until 1918, when a car accident would end his career.
Cattarinich would not play for the Canadiens beyond the 1910 season. He would later team with Dandurand and another local businessman named Louis Letourneau to purchase the Canadiens.
For the 1910-11 season, Cattarinich would find his replacement in goal, and his discovery had a profound effect on the future of the Montreal Canadiens franchise.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
And what a ball it was the first time around!
As many readers here will recall, the Montreal Gazette sponsored Habs Inside Out fan site helped launch and promote a day for fans last season that went by the name HIO Habs Fan Summit. For the 40 or so Habs fans who took part in the day, it was a smashing good time that they will likely never forget. For a recap of last year's events, here is a link that will bring those unfamiliar with it up to date.
What I personally enjoyed best about the day, was how fans who latched onto the team after the 1986 or 1993 Cups mingled with folks like myself who caught the Habs virus with the 1970's dynasty or earlier 1960's and 1950's versions. In short, beyond basking in the glory of Habsland, the people, the fans, were the best part of the whole day. Many others have echoed those same sentiments.
You know those annual family reunion gatherings where you get reaquainted with a bunch of relatives you have little in common with? This is the opposite. Immediate strangers will feel like long lost friends 24 hours later. The day, oddly, has that effect on people.
Recently, some posters at HIO, including myself and regulars such as Ian Cobb, The Teacher, Yeats, DD, Chuck, Smart Dog, Grabbed The Cup and Connecticut Man1, began discussing what will be involved in this year's event. When it could happen? Who will be attending? What events could be planned for the day?
Especially important to the day, is which roles participants will take on to make the event run as smoothly as it did last year?
Jason Weiss, known as Jay In PA on the site, set the bar extremely high in co-ordinating many facets of this large undertaking last year. Jay had lots of solid help from friends at the site in many of the endeavors. He is passing the torch off this time, as committments have limited his participation to that of expert adviser. Presently, many are offering themselves up to fill his shoes and those of others who helped greatly.
In the last few days, there has been a groundswell of support to get the second Summit launched. The thinking is that once the 2008-09 schedule is released by the NHL in a matter of days, a Saturday night game in October or early November will be chosen. The reason for keeping the event early in the season is due to travel and weather concerns. Many attendees from the last Summit came from both coasts and down south in the states. In order to accomodate far away Habs fans, it is best to rule out the chances of inclement weather hampering their trip by choosing an early date.
As with the choosing of any date, it will unfortunately not be suitable for everyone that would wish to attend.
Until a game date is chosen, though, all plans are still in the formative stages.
The Habs Inside Out site, who were extremely pleased and proud of the reaction last year's event garnered, have yet to announce anything official in regards to their participation.
What has been discussed so far, has revolved around organizing ourselves and choosing which events to take part in. Ian Cobb, has stepped up to help co-ordinate the day's events, and has already gotten in contact with Rejean Houle, the president of the Canadiens oldtimers alumni, to see what can be offered to the group in terms of activities.
Connecticut Man1 has created a blog site where information and news will be shared, and Smart Dog and I may be assisting him with that end. Smart Dog, who will be coming in from Halifax, may also be helping set up accomodations for the out of towners. The site's link is here, in skeleton form for now. Please bookmark it you wish to keep track of things. There may also be a Facebook site that is kept private once things are up and running. This post at this site here will also have a sidebar link that will be accessible for updates whenever they come in.
Chuck, proudly hoisting a cup of Molson Ex below, has offered to help in the area of charities and fundraising. More on that in a bit.
HabsChick has offered to help co-ordinate events as well and may be helping out in the areas of tickets, tours, and hotels.
Many other fans at the site have offered their assistance as well. There has been no shortage of goodwill to make it happen.
At this stage, Mr Cobb is attempting to round everyone together to iron out the finer details of pulling this off. Ian prefers to conduct his business over the phone and will be scheduling a conference call with Jay Weiss shortly.
I have Ian's number to pass along, but I cannot publish it here. I can pass it along though. My e-mail at this site is realitycheck-time (AT) hotmail (DOT) com if you wish to get in touch.
Details on how everything is progressing will be updated here as often as is neccessary. Keep checking the sidebar.
If anyone is interested in helping out, attending, or has interesting ideas to share, I can be contacted via this blog's e-mail mentioned above.
Last October, the day's schedule began around noon when everybody met outside the Bell Centre. There were two guided Bell Centre tours that we received a great group rate on. I'm sure that will happen again. Those who've never taken one can see what it was all about at my blog link above. Speaking for myself, there is no way I wouldn't go on it again. There is just so much to see!
The Gazette then organized a group photo shot for the paper that is at the top of this post.
After the shoot, we all ate supper one block from the arena, before heading off to the game. After the game, most of us headed down to Hurley's pub for wobbly pops and munchies. The restaurant we chose last year might not have been prepared to handle a group our size. This time will be different and we might need a larger locale to suit our needs and give them time to get ready for a bunch of crazy, hungry Habs fans. One place mentioned for the meal was La Brasserie Brunoise, and it received some thumbs up support from posters. Other ideas are of course welcome.
One facet of last season's event that I missed out on was a donation to the Gainey Foundation. There was a jersey raffle with the proceeds going to the fund, that I thought was a very classy gesture. I thought that this was one thing we would not want to overlook this time around, and I starting thinking about some hockey memorabilia that I own that could go to that end.
I dropped this note off at HIO this afternoon, and it garnered a way more positive response than I imagined. Maybe it's because I am nuts, but I can't back out now. Here's what it involved:
"In regards to the Summit, I have an idea to raise some money for a donation to the Gainey Foundation. I have a collection of Wayne Gretzky cards - over 700 different ones from 1980 to 1995. There is no RC or second year, but I had the collection evaluated at about $2,200 about four years ago.
In my collection, there is the 50 cards Neilson cupcake set from 1982 in mint shape from an uncut sheet, and the 99 card set Upper Deck commemorative career retrospective that was put out in 1999. Also included is about 95% of his O-Pee-Chee cards. Other than cards, it includes Coke bottle cap liners, cereal box covers, and some limited edition stuff like the numbered 802 goal card. I spent a wack of money collecting it and I understand that I will never get a return value on it.
If it were to go to a good cause, I would be very happy about that, but I'd like to get something in return for it, say a couple of hundred bucks at the very least. I can understand that some might not agree that I profit from the raffle itself, but I did spend a decade collecting it. Maybe someone has ideas that could make all this work in a good way.
Let me know what you all think, pro and con, and we'll figure something out and make a good thing happen."
Soon after posting this, I received several thumbs ups for the idea, with others chipping in with other raffle ideas. I think making a donation to Gainey's fund is very appropriate. I'm a big believer in giving back.
One poster made some mention that a group raffle could involve a prize for all participants. That could be accomplished easily enough by having more fans add some Montreal Canadiens items into the raffle. To that end, if there is a way for Mr. Houle to get my 26 Guy Lafleur cards signed, I'll add them into the pot as well. Sorry, though, the RC Guy signed personally to me a decade ago is not up for grabs! Anyone is welcome to toss in a Habs related article of their choice to enable this idea to happen. No one is obliged to feel as though they have to, either. I just think it would be fun stuff if everybody got something out of this! No Habs fans shouldn't be a winner, right?
If anyone's isn't an active participant in the HIO chatter, don't let it disuade you from getting in on the day. You'll be amongst friends real fast as everyone there is as fanatical about the team as you surely are. Everyone's welcome and the more the merrier!
That's all for now Habs fans.
Keep checking back as this year's event rounds into shape.
Below are some select shots of the Gretzky collection being donated to the raffle.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Robert L Note: Regarding the pic....I read Four Habs Fans everyday. I Googled "cuffs" and this is what came up. Call it my flattering way of saying hello!
So Mats Sundin remains undecided as to what his hockey future holds!
I wouldn't want to be the waiter waiting on him in a restaurant! He'd order water, ask for some time. He's not even sure he's hungry!
Despite numerous attempts by Canadiens GM Gainey to take his temperature, there isn't even a sign of a pulse.
This puts the Canadiens in a quandry today, as the team clearly pinned their hopes that Sundin would be interested in playing in Montreal. Apparently, the big Swedish center is interested, if he does decide to pursue his career.
The "if" remain a big "if".
He has mentioned through his agent that he is impressed with Bob Gainey and his endeavors to sign him, but it all ends right there for now.
There have been back and forth chats between the three parties, and only they are privy to what they are worth.
It begs many questions, for starters, does Gainey wait Sundin out and risk coming up empty on the free agent market?
Are there plans B and C in place, and are they viable solutions to the Canadiens continued improvement?
How does this scenario affect other potential signings with the team?
Will Bob, or has Bob, imposed his own deadline for a concrete answer from Sundin?
Another question that some people will see as valid, in terms of the perception of the team and Gainey to land that targeted big fish free agent, is that if the Canadiens fail to reel in what they seek, should it be taken in the context that star players simply do not want to come to Montreal?
Before getting to the answers, perhaps a look at the big picture is in order, for the sake of balance and common sense amidst all this free agency frenzy.
To begin with, despite what some people might think, the Montreal Canadiens are in awesome shape. They finished first in their conderence last season, led the league in goals scored, own a jealous crop of rising youngsters, and are run by one of the best management teams in the league. They are progressing slightly ahead of plans.
On the flipside, after a very surprising regular season, they were knocked out of the playoffs by a team they should have beaten.
What is raising the stakes in this free agent summer is the fact that the Canadiens are possibly one solid signing away from being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. They are also entering their 100th anniversary season, which for many translates into the silliest notion that the team ought to go for broke to try to win a Cup in it's centennial season. I don't follow that compromised lack of logic, but I understand why others are caught up in it, including the organization itself.
But that's another thing altogether!
The way I see it is, if the team's most identified need is at center, how does signing a player who fits in anywhere else remedy that?
What the Habs need most in order to maximize the assets it already owns is a centreman and nothing else.
Should Gainey wait Sundin out?
I'd be tempted to say "not a chance", but there is no other center of Sundin's stature that could add the same things to the team as he would. Gainey should wait it out only if Sundin has given a solid verbal reason to him, such as saying, "Bob, I'm leaning towards playing next season, and if I do, the Canadiens are the first team I will contact. I promise you that. I should know in two weeks how I feel."
If Gainey has not heard a statement similar to this, he ought to think to himself, "Thanks for nothing", and move on.
Are there other viable plan B and C solutions?
The other two highest profile free agents available are Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell. While both are quality players, I'd be cautious to guess exactly what they could add to the Canadiens.
My guess is both will be looking for about 8 million dollars to sign somewhere.
Hossa would obviously be an upgrade on wing for the Canadiens, but they are about to hand a King's ramsom for one good year's work to Andrei Kostitsyn. The signing of Hossa would bump him down a line. It would upset the apple cart some, with not enough offensive centers for all the firepower on the wings. The Habs would be creating another Michael Ryder, searching for his game, the odd man out.
As for Brian Campbell, I think he is being overpriced in this free agent season because he is clearly the lone markee offensive blueliner out there. Heck, he doesn't even have Souray numbers, but is set to command quite the pricetag. Of course Campbell is way more rounded in his game by a longshot, still he is no physical specimen. If a team is spending that type of money on a defenseman, they should get the whole package.
Campbell's numbers in the end might resemble Mark Streit's totals, which the Habs could have at half the cost.
So plans B and C may just become finding cheap ways to upgrade the third and fourth lines. That wouldn't be the worst thing!
This scenario would affect other potential signings by the team by causing the Canadiens to focus their upgrading of the club from the bottom up instead of from the top line down. In other words, is there a better Bryan Smolinski out there? Would Brooks Orpik be an improvement on Ryan O'Byrne.
My say is, for the extra dollars, why even bother?
If Gainey has not given Sundin a deadline date beyond July 1, I hope that his patience is based on something concrete that Sundin has said. Barring a definite gauge of Sundin's interest for Montreal, Gainey will know whether to move on or not based on the talks they have had.
For now, all scenario's point to little happening for the Canadiens on July 1.
Of course Gainey will be criticized, it comes with the territory! Regardless of the efforts involved, it will be perceived in many corners as a failure by Gainey, but nothing will be further from the truth.
Gainey was criticized for not adding Hossa at the trade deadline last February.
Gainey was also commended for not overpaying for Hossa at the time, and compromising the future of the team.
It's the old "damned if you do, damned if you don't" motto playing out.
Many free agents will be calling Montreal and the Habs will not be interested for a variety of reasons, some listed above.
What it comes down to, is that Gainey long ago identified Sundin as the one concrete upgrade the Habs could sensibly make.
He's gone out on a limb to secure the rights to negotiate with him ahead of free agency - from the Maple Leafs, no less.
If it doesn't work out, why is Gainey to blame?
He set the table by adding Alex Tanguay at the draft immediately after the prosepective deal with the Leafs.
As a fan of the team, I'd be more worried if the Canadiens were to panic and begin adding players after July 1 that have no place.
My take is that if Sundin refuses the Habs advances, then it is truly time to start signing what is already in the Canadiens stable to long term deals that will be bargains years from now.
What else would be as sensible and sound?