The name Bert Corbeau is certainly not the first defenseman that comes to mind in the 101 year history of the Montreal Canadiens.
But during his playing years, Corbeau was one of the most feared, and despised players of his era. I mean seriously, how many NHLers can you name that have had a frozen turnip thrown at their head?
Such was the legacy of Corbeau, a tough as nails blueliner who could thwart any opposing rush, and on many occasions be the Canadiens best player on the ice.
Though not a Hall of Famer, Corbeau did lay claim to several firsts in his playing years. He was a member of the Canadiens first Stanley Cup winning team in 1916, the first player to play for both the Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the first Leafs captain and the first player to amass over 100 penalty minutes in a season.
Outside of his playing career however, little has been compiled about his life after he hung up his skates. That can now be shared, in more detail, thanks to a new book by sports historian and Habs fan Waxy Gregoire.
Corbeau grew up in Penetanguishene, ON and never forgot his hometown roots, right up to his untimely death in 1942.
In Gregoire's book, the reader gets an idea of how rough and vicious the game of hockey was be over nearly a 20-year span from 1915-1942. For a tough-skinned player/player-coach like Corbeau, he was right at home.
Writing a book on a person who has been deceased for nearly 70 years can be a difficult task. It was even more difficult considering taht everyone that knew him had also passed on. Some of his family, including Corbeau's granddaughter still live in the area.
Gregoire persevered and, with two years of research, pulled some rather interesting stories and anecdotes, during Corbeau's career. Players battles with management over salaries, the canceled 1919 Stanley Cup playoffs and Franke Selke's humorous tale of how Corbeau's NHL career ultimately ended at the hands of Canadiens legend Howie Morenz are all nicely included.
The book also looks at his coaching career at several levels, including his local clubs, that eventually found him in Atlantic City. Corbeau carried his tough playing style into his coaching career, notably in AC, and seldom kept a player on his roster if he didn't feel that player had no potential to develop further.
There's also further divulging into the harshness in the minor leagues, as demonstrated by Corbeau and his Atlantic City players being forced to battle their rival Baltimore home crowds just to get back to their dressing room.
The book is also complimented by a series of bios on the players and key hockey personalities that centered around Corbeau's career.
Gregoire, who also sits on the board for the Penetanguishene Sports Hall of Fame, is hoping that his first book will be part of a series on local sports heroes. Amos Arbor and Howard MacNamara are two other Penetang-area players to make the Canadiens in the franchise's formative years. Corbeau's brother Conn was a Stanley Cup winner with the Toronto Blue Shirts. Hall of Fame defenseman Pierre Pilote (the subject of Gregoire's next venture) and former coach Mike Keenan also reside in the surrounding area.
For the avid Habs or hockey history buff, the book is a worthwhile addition to your collection and at 96 pages it makes an easy read. Those interested in the book can email Mr. Gregoire, or pick it up at the PSHOF.