(photo: Montreal Gazette: Jan 27,1966)
If you were at the Montreal Forum on this day in 1966, you likely didn't notice anything different about the visiting team’s sweaters. They sure looked and played like Roger Crozier, Gordie Howe and the rest of the Detroit Red Wings, but something was a little different on this night.
Prior to their Saturday night game against the Canadiens, it was discovered that 45 of the Red Wings sweaters, both red and white, were stolen from the Detroit dressing room at the Montreal Forum. The theives made off with them following an old-timers game the night before. According to Red Wings publicity director Ron Cantera, the sweaters were valued at $20 a piece.
Detroit GM Sid Abel felt that maybe the Canadiens players or staff were playing a prank. “If it’s a joke, we’re not laughing,” he said.
Turns out it was a prank played by University of Montreal university students, who were on a obscure scavenger hunt that timed in with the upcoming winter carnival. The students’ take included the sweaters, kidnapped go-go dancers (photo), a small bear from the Lafontaine Park Zoo, a painting of the Queen from the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, paintings from the Forum, motor vehicles and other items.
The students displayed their wares on the flank of Mount Royal. One student appeared on the first page of the Montreal Gazette, a couple days later, wearing Howe’s sweater. Reportedly the mischievous lot also had the bear wear the famous Number 9, before returning it to the zoo.
The students then swarmed the Forum ice, following the Canadiens – Chicago Blackhawks game the following Wednesday, all wearing the stolen Red Wings sweaters. Thirty-three students were rounded up off the ice and charged with theft.
A day after they appeared in court, the Canadiens and Red Wings announced they would not press charges as the sweaters and paintings were returned safely. Montreal police did continue the investigation into the other student shenanigans.
The concern for the Red Wings though was the fact that they had no sweaters to wear that Saturday night, and may have been forced to forfeit.
Fortunately for “Mr. Hockey” and the boys, the the theft was discovered overnight and Detroit’s farm team, the Hamilton Red Wings of the Ontario Hockey Association, wore identical garments. The junior Wings were able to hastily fly in theirs to loan in time for the puck drop at the Forum.
The Canadiens would rather the students had taken the Red Wings skates and sticks, as the visiting club out played them all night and capitalized on Montreal miscues. Paul Henderson scored what would be his 8th game-winning goal of the season, as he stepped out of the penalty box and intercepted a Henri Richard pass. The Wings forward, who as we all know had a knack for crucial goals, broke in alone and beat goaltender Gump Worsley.
Howe added a power play goal and another errant Montreal pass led to the Red Wings third goal. Crozier stopped 31 Canadiens shots for his 7th shutout.
Elsewhere on this day:
1931; George Hainsworth records his 56th career shutout in a 3-0 Habs win over the Ottawa Senators.
1950: Dick Irvin becomes the first coach to win 500 NHL games and the Canadiens defeat the Boston Bruins 4-3.
1958: Jacques Plante’s 33rd career shutout leads the Canadiens to a 2-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
2013: Alex Galchenyuk scores his first career goal as the Canadiens defeat the Florida Panthers 4-1. Brendan Gallagher assisted on the goal for his first career point,
Born on this Day: Bill Durnan (1916), Elmer Lach (1918), J.C. Tremblay (1939), Serge Savard (1946)