Former NHL referee and current CKAC radio personality Ron Fournier is quite an act.
Fournier has a call in radio show on CKAC that more often than not turns into a personal podium for his soliloquy's and rants.
The long time former ref is a knowledgable, intelligent, often personable and very informed breath of hot air who never fails to forget that listeners are calling in to offer their takes, and not to hear his views expounded for the umpteenth time.
The man could be great on air, but he's quickly tedious as he can't help be his own worst enemy at times. Listening to him can be an equally alluring, yet frustrating experience.
A typical Fournier set up for callers offers a provative question, balanced with his insider's insight into the subject, followed by an almost scripted interjection by the ref.
A caller will be about to either make an interesting point, or deviate from Fournier's opinion, when the old zebra's loud cacophonous machine gun like stutter of hard consonant letters wails in from left field to end what ought to have been a conversation, leaving nothing but a monlogue to ensue in it's wake.
Fournier holds no prisoners, regardless of subject on his my way or the highway show.
Many people are of the opinion that he is little more than a self promoting, aggrandizing, pompous, arrogant ass.
He isn't. He's just a passionate hockey fan, like you and I, minus every once of self-realization.
Plainly said, the man has no clue as to how others perceive him.
This past evening, a young listener phoned in to chat about P.K. Subban. He was bringing up the prospect's chances of making the team. Fournier misunderstood him as speaking of "Perezhogin" and dismissed the poor kid's feelings in a slam.
For two seasons now, I have listened as Fournier has appointed himself the lone crusader for having Emile "Butch" Bouchard's number 3 jersey retired. Perhaps he has been at it even longer.
Fournier has been incessant and obsessed in his goal. He's had my ear every time he mentions the name of the Canadiens great defenseman, because I too, believe the octagenerian Butch is about 40 years overdue to receive the honour.
The merits of Emile "Butch" Bouchard are all there, in place, and the retirement of his number should have occured in the mid 1960's, in all rightful truth.
What saddens me, is that as badly as Fournier wants to help make this happen, he is preventing it, by his means of attack.
He's not unlike a schoolyard bully taunting you to gain your lunch money, who, upon the first notion of refusal to hand it over, goes for the kill in insulting your mother.
Fournier has taken the Canadiens organization to task - and at every possible front.
This has gone one for awhile now, and Fournier feigns being personally insulted whenever the Canadiens organization fails to grant him an answer he finds suitable.
He often offers that he finds it unfathomable, and unthinkable, that the Canadiens could have overlooked the career contributions of their first native Quebec born captain.
Fournier truly has a righteous point.
The trouble is not so much the message, but the method belonging to the self appointed messenger.
He just never relents.
On the occasion of the Canadiens hockey club announcing a bevy of centennial celebrations, Fournier grasped the building of five outdoor hockey rinks by the team to make himself a new point.
True to his insight and acumen, the point Fournier again made, has merit.
Back in his playing days, Butch Bouchard, who was never a wealthy man in the days when hockey paychecks were an absolute ripoff, endeavored to finance and build an arena in St. Michel, Quebec.
Fournier uses this worthy note to again underline that the Canadiens organization are being disrespectful to Bouchard by not stating how Bouchard was a pioneer in this area.
The trouble I have with Fournier, is why is he making it so personal.
Again, later in last night's show, he made it a point to say he would not quit on the matter of Bouchard until he made it happen.
To Fournier's credit, he has done an excellent job of educating the general public on the sometimes forgotten Butch. Both younger, and middle aged hockey fans surely know Bouchard better, due to Fournier's twisted dilligence.
Perhaps the trouble with raising Bouchard's number, is that there is a logjam of equally worthy Habs legends whose ceremonial night may have passed them by. Goalies Bill Durnan, George Hainsworth and George Vezina could all have had their numbers retired, as well as forwards Toe Blake and Elmer Lach.
Fournier points out, almost nightly, that along with Eddie Shore, Butch Bouchard was the greatest defenseman of his era. Between 1940 and 1955, it was asumed that Bouchard and Eddie Shore were thought to be the game's greatest at the position. If Fournier's word is not to be taken, he has gone out and gotten a recording of Gordie Howe saying so.
The former ref also notes the absense of a Norris trophy for defenseman, which was only inaugurated in 1953-54, in the twilight of Bouchard's career.
Quoting former Canadiens coach Dick Irvin Sr. from newpaper articles at the time, Fournier points out that the coach felt Bouchard was his most valuable player in the 1944 and 1946 Stanley Cup championships. Of course this pre - dated the Conn Smythe trophy as well, which Fournier claims Bouchard would have won twice.
With three or four Norrises and a pair of Smythe's, who then would be overlooking Bouchard's number three in this centennial season?
Fournier surely has a compelling argument.
In addition to the unwon silverware, Fournier rightly underlines what a great captain Bouchard was for the Canadiens and their community in the day. Butch tenured as captain for eight seasons, but it wasn't merely the length that was and is impressive, it was the manner in which he assumed his duties that were remarkable.
Emile "Butch" Bouchard, as gentlemanly off the ice as he was commanding and fierce on it, was the Canadiens first Quebec born team captain. Fournier has sought both oral and written testemonials from team mates of Bouchard's era to further state his worthiness.
By all accounts, Bouchard was the template for Jean Beliveau as Canadiens captain - a claim Le Gros Bill would never deny.
Fournier even goes the distance in garnering quotes from opponants in the day, as testemonials for Bouchard's crusade.
The Canadiens former defenseman, who turned 88 on September 11, has often said that the honour would be tremendous. He has rarely publicly mentioned Fournier's efforts, althought it is known that he has thanked him for it.
Where Fournier goes off the rails, is in atempting to humiliate the Canadiens at every turn for this oversight. He calls them into question at every opportunity, such as the outdoor rinks announcement just a few days ago. Each time the Canadiens honour another jersey, the tirades peak again.
Fournier has even been willing to get political about it by bringing the language nonsense into it, claiming that the english speaking George Gillett has no idea what Bouchard means to the province. Fournier plays that Bob Gainey, a former captain himself, is unthinkably disconnected to Bouchard's legacy as well because of language.
Simply reading about what Fournier has to say on this whole matter only paints a portion of his disgust. Listening to him and hearing the arrogant tone he brings to it, is a whole other bowl of cherries.
The feigned aralmity, the high brow superiority in remarks, sounds of imcomprehension in light of facts, and his unwillingness to consider other's opinions all play highly into the vocal charade.
The worst part is that beyond the merit of some of his claims, he's begun to be regarded as a broken record. He's like a close friend still complaining about his divorce terms seven years later.
It's likely he's gotten tuned out by those who might have once cared, because he has gotten downright cartoonish over it all.
Last evening, a caller phoned in with a question that was running through my mind at the moment he asked it. It went something like this:
"Ron, do you think that perhaps the Canadiens have chosen to ignore you personally and put this whole Bouchard jersey thing on the backburner because of how you are going about it?"
Seconds later, the tone of Fournier's voice said as much, without giving notion to the heart of the question. He alluded that such would be unfortunate, while mentioning that Bouchard, currently wheel chair bound, may not live to see the day.
Clearly, Fournier has taken the wrong path, and chosen the wrong methods to seek closure in his crusade. Sadly, it is Bouchard in the end who is left waiting.
One might get the sense that others would come forth and help, but don't for fear of being co-opted by the Fournier campaign.
I, myself believe that Bouchard's number deserves it's place among the rafters.
It should happen in time, and it truly should have happened this season.
Fournier has a date all picked out in March, and pleads for it often.
Perhaps he should step back, and allow the groundswell he has created to follow through and get the work done.
Last November, I came upon a site honouring Emile "Butch" Bouchard
that is truly remarkable. It has every imaginable angle of tribute to the worthy former player. It documents through photo's, video's, and other forms of remembrance and testemonials, the many merits of Butch.
All told, it makes the case.
Members of Bouchard's family have helped put it together.
Ron Fournier might even be behind it somewhere- I wouldn't be surprised!
Here's hoping that with or without Fournier's misguided assistance, or even perhaps despite it, Butch gets his day!
If you are interested in the career of Emile Butch Bouchard, the site
in his honour is truly worth a bookmark.