This is the funniest hockey story I ever heard! Funny in many ways.
One of those, "It gets better with time" tales!
I've been told it over and over again and have often repeated it myself. It goes back close to thirty years ago, and has almost gained urban legend status. The final details of the story are likely made up from partial truths.
I'm posting this because I heard it again recently, with a new added twist to it. The person who was telling this to me, is a bit well known about town, so he remains without a name here. He swore up and down that it was all 100% true, which made hearing it even funnier.
It's about Guy Lafleur and a near fatal car accident that occured somewhere around 1980. At the time Lafleur had an endorsement deal with General Motors and was often seen in TV ads hocking Chevrolets. It is told he received a brand new Caprice each year of the deal.
It was a well know fact that Lafleur's partying ways caught up to him one night in an almost fatal car crash. He'd often be out late, having a couple too many and then he'd proceed home via the Quebec backroad highways to get home. He was often stopped by the QPP, but never ticketed or charged. More than once, he actually recieved police escorts.
At the time, Lafleur's fame and game were at a peak. Having come off 6 consecutive 50 goals seasons buys you some favor in your home province.
On this particular night, Lafleur was pretty hammered as he headed home, so much so, that he drifted off to sleep behind the wheel. Soon enough, his Chevy veered off the road and took out some posts before smashing into a lamp pole.
Police were quick to the scene and spotted the accident. Getting out of their vehicles, it's been told that one of the officers recognized Lafleur's car, running to it in fear the provincial hero was dead.
As he approached the car window, he could see a post had penetrated the windshield and sat up against Lafleur's right shoulder. Lafleur's head was tilted to the left, his jaw slung open some, with no sign of blood other than small cuts from the shattered glass.
He was unconscious. Or dead!
The officer panicked and began shaking Lafleur's shoulder hoping in fright that he'd not left the world for good.
"Guy, Guy, wake up", he said, jostling him lightly.
To his surprise Lafleur, while totally dazed and drunk, came out of it straight away.
He raised his head to look at the officer bleary eyed, and asked in all liquored sincerety, "Did I score?"
"No", replied the cop, "You hit the post!"
That was the way I'd always heard the story told. The new wrinkle that played it's way into the story had to do with him getting knocked cold during a game, just as he put a puck into the goal.
While I recall hearing something of the like years ago, I'd never heard the "Did I Score?" line attached to this part of the legend of that goal. I'm not exactly sure that the goal was scored in that manner, or that the obvious joke part of the crash detail was true or not.
While the story of the crash has often been mentioned in Lafleur folklore and bios, his drunken question has never been substantiated. At least not in the two biographies I've read.
I also doubt that the line could arise from a goal that was likely never scored. Considering that the goal is attributed to a 1965 Pee Wee contest, a good fifteen year prior to the crash.
The way it came to me recently, had a hometown tilt to it as well. It's also where the BS starst to permeate the nameless man's tall tale.
The person telling me this worked at local arena's for years in his youth, driving the Zamboni and doing odds and ends, so he claims.
He might have had an urge to top my story, one I'd just related to him after he'd told me the crash story / joke.
In the middle 1960's, Lafleur played quite a few contests here in Cornwall, usually in the context of tournaments.
Lafleur's coming out party was the Quebec Pee Wee Tournament, to this day still, a huge event. Lafleur single handedly tore up the scoresheet with twenty-something goals in five games. National attention was soon to follow.
To imagine Sidney Crosby, or Gretzky in their youthful exploits: the Lafleur talk was much of the same, minus the media coverage of today.
The story I was telling this man, was not my own.
At one of the arena's in town, the Bob Turner Memorial Center, the boys minor hockey league was run by the same group of people for close to 25 years. In the arena, the stands on one side stretch about 15 rows high, and beneath them are rooms that had not been used for decades due to a renovation project around 1970.
Under these stands, in a type of concierge store room, was broken down skate sharpening machines and lots of collected junk. The room was a long corridor that stretched the length of the ice. Electrical wire was strung all over from the renovations and the place was so littered that no one dared to venture into the dark and dusty, not to mention dangerous, area. It soon became a forgotten dungeon of disaray.
One day, in the late 1990's, the house league president got curious. As he was prepared to finish up his career in the rink, he decided to check out under the stands to see what he could find. He'd been told that the trophies that no longer had place in the arena's main showcases were once stored there. Forgotten there!
Armed with searchlight and hundreds of feet of extension cord, he threw on an old jacket and a hardhat, ready to play Indiana Jones.
After spending a good two hours coughing up dust, he landed but a half dozen old trophies. Once out of the rubble, he got to cleaning them off and discovered that one of the trophies had been awarded to Guy Lafleur.
Lafleur's name was the last plaqued MVP name on a filled Cornwall Pee Wee Tournament piece of hardware.
The trophy was no masterpiece of creation. The wood had rotted some and the metal plates seemed damaged and bending from time in the cold. To him the thing was priceless. He promised to let me see it one day, but there was no way he was going to sell.
I never did get to see it.
As I was finishing this bit of storytelling, my conversation partner was looking agitated to tell me something about Lafleur. I listened with my BS detector on alert, and let him go on.
His tale started out totally fact based. He was telling me about a game played at what was once called the Water Street Arena in the 60's. The WSA is a 70 yr old structure that leaks from the roof today and is one good storm from being condemmed. It's where the Cornwall Colts call home.
Lafleur was there in the mid sixties with a team from Thurso, Quebec and their tournament opponants were a team from the Ottawa area. The Ottawa team was a hapless bunch made much better by a forward / defenseman named Larry Robinson. The "Big Bird", as he was yet to be known, was doubleshifted most of the game at both position.
The game in question has been memtioned in both the Lafleur books I've read, as well as the "Robinson For Defense" autobiography.
Both players made mention of the game, merely in passing, as they were on that day, each teams best player.
It didn't really connect with two stars until both were playing for the Montreal Canadiens almost a decade later. Neither book made reference to what my storytelling friend was to allude to next.
During the game, which he says he was at, (Oh yeah, let's see a ticket stub!), Robinson was nothing but a mere goon put on the ice to run Lafleur down. He said that Robinson's skating was rough, but his long legs allowed him a certain speed. Catching a youthful Lafleur was in his dreams.
Towards the games end, which Thurso won handily, Robinson, I am told, nailed Lafleur as he stood creaseside poking at a rebound.
The hit knocked Lafleur cold ( ! ) and it is upon him opening his eyes that he supposedly uttered the infamous "Did I Score?" line.
That would be too good a story not to tell, and I suggested that to my unfazed, tale stretching friend.
No book makes mention, ever, of this. Then again, the man has huge ears!
Sometimes it's a fine line between legend and fact, myth and truth. It gets finer as stories blur, get stretched, forgotten and generally more detailed with age.
Today I knew two things about the Lafleur crash story. One, he did smash his Caprice into a lampole, surviving with just a terrible headache and a small gash on his right earlobe. Two, the whole mess still makes a helluva good joke going on thirty years.