Sep 282010

Half Dressed

Canadian hockey player Danny Belisle from South Porcupine, Ontario played only a few games in the NHL although he played ten in the minors and went on to enjoy a successful NHL coaching career.  He told me the following story about getting ready for his fifth game as a rookie.

Brian, this took place in 1960 when I was playing for Vancouver in the Western Hockey League, a team owned by the New York Rangers. I was called up to the Rangers on Christmas Day and my first game was against the Montreal Canadiens. On their roster at that time was Jacques Plante, Boom‑Boom Geoffrion, Rocket Richard, Pocket Rocket, Dickie Moore and Jean Beliveau. They had a first place team and were headed for a fifth straight Stanley Cup. We had a sixth place team and were headed for the dumpster.”

Anyhow, I was fortunate enough to get a goal in my first game and I went on to play in another three games. Now I had played in four games and had two goals. Before the fifth game I was in the dressing room putting on my gear, and I must admit I was feeling pretty good about myself, pleased that I’d scored a couple of goals, and that I wasn’t on the ice for any of the goals scored against us, which was quite important in those days. So I was putting on my equipment (actually, it was Red Sullivan’s equipment because we were about the same size and he was injured). Camille Henry and Dean Prentice were also hurt and not playing. I had most of the equipment on when Alf Pike, the Rangers’ coach, came in the room and says to me, “Hey kid, take the stuff off, I think Camille Henry is ready to go.” I was disappointed but still, it was no big deal. I shrugged and began taking my equipment off. I’ve got it pretty well off when Alf Pike comes back in. This is like five to seven minutes later, and he says to me, “Hey kid, put your gear back on. We’re not sure Camille Henry can play after all.” So I’m all happy again, right? And I start putting my equipment back on, even though I’m beginning to wonder if I’m getting jerked around a little bit. But you didn’t dare say anything in those days, not as a rookie. Believe me. About ten minutes later, Pike comes back in again and he’s heading for me. I have most of my gear back on when he says, “Hey kid, we’re still not sure about Henry. I want you to get half dressed.”

Half dressed? At this point I guess I told myself that this had gone on long enough. I felt a bit foolish getting dressed and then undressed and dressed again. So I put the bottom part of my equipment on my jock, my shin pads and my hockey pants. Then, instead of lacing up my skates, I put my shoes on and then my shirt and tie. The other guys kept looking over at me and suddenly they began to laugh. I was standing there half-dressed, like I’d been told. The dressing room was in hysterics. Guys like Bathgate and Fontinato were making jokes about my wardrobe. I wish I could remember all their quips. And just then, sure enough, Alf Pike came trotting back in. He stood and gawked at me. Before he could say anything I said, “Hey, I’m half dressed like you told me.” He says, “Yeah, well take everything off. Camille Henry is ready to play.” I didn’t know it then, but I’d played my last game in the National Hockey League. I was sent back to the minors the following day.

May 192010

I like to imagine that this hockey poem could have been written by Albert Forrest, the youngest goalie ever to play in a Stanley Cup series (in 1905, for Dawson City, versus Ottawa. Forrest lost the second game by a 23–2 score).

The Night I Faced One-eyed Frank McGee

Yes, I’m the boy who stood in goal,
Facing pucks he hurled at me.
Yes, I’m the lad whose job it was
To stop the Great McGee.

I tried my best but failed the test,
For the record shows that he
Scored 14 goals in a single game,
And all of them on me.

Oh dear, oh my, it was a catastrophe!

They cheered him loud, they cheered him long.
It was quite a sight to see.
Each time he scored, the more they roared,
“You’re our hero, Frank McGee.”

I stood there shaken, looking on,
The victim of his spree.
Oh yes, he scored those 14 goals,
It was easy as could be.

I wish he’d done it somewhere else,
And on someone else—not me!
When he tired, his mates took up the slack
Till the score reached 23.

Oh dear, oh my, it was a catastrophe!

Someday, when I’m old and grey
With my grandson on my knee,
I’ll tell him of the night I faced
The mighty Frank McGee.

I’ll tell him of his blazing shot
And his boundless energy
And how he played with one bad eye—
Why, the man could hardly see!

But his scoring touch was a gift from God,
At least, that’s my philosophy.
I’ll talk about Lord Stanley’s Cup
And how it slipped away from me

Because of hockey’s greatest star,
Old one-eyed Frank McGee.

Oh dear, oh my, it was such a catastrophe!

To read more about Albert Forrest look for my book, The Youngest Goalie at your local library or try finding it :

In Canada at this link:The Youngest Goalie

In the US at this link: Youngest Goalie

Feb 032010

A soft spoken, articulate young man named Ken Dryden was drafted by the Boston Bruins in 1964 but his pro rights were traded to Montreal for a couple of young players who never played a shift in the NHL. But Dryden opted for a college education and played for Cornell University. He returned to professional hockey in 1970-71 with the Canadiens’ farm team in Halifax.

When the Canadiens opened the playoffs, they were pitted against the powerful Boston Bruins, led by superstars Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. The Bruins had smashed a fistful of records on their way to a first place finish. They had won 15 more games than the Canadiens and finished with 24 more points.

The Bruins were stunned to see Ken Dryden—a raw rookie—start in goal for Montreal. Had Scotty Bowman lost his mind? They’d show his rookie netminder what playoff pressure was all about.

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