Saturday, 19 January 2013

Today in Habs History: January 19th Edition



Today’s edition comes in a timely manner, as the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs prepare to drop to puck and start the delayed season. It also incorporates why I started this web site, to have a place for fans to share their favourite Canadiens moments.

On this day in 1972, as they will tonight, the Habs and Leafs were again carrying on their long storied rivalry. The game had no significant milestones, but it stood out in the mind of my friend Dennis Kane, when I asked him what his favourite Canadiens goal was.

Kane grew up north of Toronto in the small community of Orillia, Ontario. He often shares his hockey memories and pages from his scrapbook, that he assembled growing up in the town pinched between Lakes Couchiching and Simcoe, on his blog. If you haven’t visited it before, I strongly suggest you make it a habit.

In January of 1972, he found himself living in Toronto. At the time he was unemployed and renting a small upstairs room of a house on Broadview Avenue, with just his clothes and a small radio as his only possessions.

On the evening of January 19, he sat alone near the top of the stairs that led to his room. In the living room below, the tenants and their family took in the Canadiens hosting the Leafs on their TV. Kane could hear the family in conversation below as the game progressed. For a small town boy alone in the big city, it had to be something he dearly missed.

After a while, someone from the living room noticed Kane sitting atop the stairs, and invited him down to watch. “Maybe they heard me cough or something,” Kane said. “I was hoping they would invite me to watch. Seeing the game in a family setting was a wonderful setting.”

The game itself had been a goaltending dual between the Leafs Bernie Parent and the Canadiens’ Ken Dryden.

Both goaltenders were destined to join the Hockey Hall of Fame. Parent was in his second season with Toronto, having been traded from the Philadelphia Flyers. He shared his time between the pipes in with the legendary Jacques Plante, who became a great friend and mentor to the young goalie.

Dryden was coming off an outstanding Stanley Cup playoff performance the season prior and was well on his way to a Calder Trophy. The Canadiens goalie had missed the last dozen games with a back injury before that evening’s game. “It was like starting over again,” Dryden said on the layoff. Montreal had gone 5-7 during Dryden’s absence over that span.

The game remained scoreless and seemed to be headed to a 0-0 deadlock, with Dryden making 32 saves to Parent’s 26. With eight seconds left in the game, an icing call against Toronto would prove to be the game breaker.

Unable to make a line change, Leafs coach John McLennan was forced to sit his top faceoff centers Dave Keon and Norm Ullman on his bench and let Jim Harrison take the draw. Canadiens coach Scotty Bowman had the luxury of sending out captain Henri Richard, still one of the league’s best faceoff men, to line up to the right of Parent. “I wanted Henri out there, because he shoots right, “Bowman said after the game, “and he was to get the puck back to Frank Mahovlich in the slot.” The Canadiens coach also replaced Richard’s usual winger Claude Lariose with center Peter Mahovlich to give added size in front of the Leafs crease.

It didn’t go as planned for Bowman, but the end result would be the same. The younger Harrison surprised Richard, winning the draw, and forcing the puck into the corner. In the process the Leafs center’s stick struck Richard in the forehead. “The Pocket Rocket”, never to give up on the puck, still managed to wrestle past Harrison, retrieve the puck and dished it into the slot. The puck bounced off the skate of Leafs defenceman Brad Selwood. “It’s between my legs, and I’m trying to find it, when Pete Mahovlich finds it and pushes me out of the way,” Selwood said “He shoots it and it goes off my skate and into the net. God, what a disappointment.”

“I thought there was no way to beat Parent,”coach Bowman said. “He was as sharp as he’ll ever be.”

“That’s the kind of game you need,” Richard said. “It could be the thing that brings the whole team together, particularly on the road.” It couldn’t have been farther from the truth as with that win, Montreal went 21-5-9 to close out the regular season. There fortune would carry the Canadiens to repeat as Cup champions. They would fall to the New York Rangers in a six-game first round series.

For Kane though, some forty years after that Wednesday night game, the long missed feeling of family made that night just as important as any Game Seven. “The family was pissed, but I jumped for glory,” he said. “I’ll never forget that evening. Thank-you family on Broadview, and thank-you Pete.”

Also on this day…

1929: George Hainsworth picks up his 10th shutout of the season, and 37th of his career, in a 0-0 tie with the New York Rangers. Johnny Roach picked up the whitewash in the Rangers end.

1952: Dick Irvin becomes the first NHL coach to reach 1000 games, but his Canadiens came out on the losing end of a 4-2 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

1957: Jacques Plante earns his 24th career shutout and Maurice Richard had a three point night (2 goals) in the Canadiens 5-0 win over the Rangers.

1958: Bernie Geoffrion’s two goals make him the 6th player in club history to score 200 goals. “Boom Boom” added two assists in Montreal’s 6-2 win over the Boston Bruins.

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