Yesterday, I received an e-mail from T.C. Deneault of Habs World / The Hockey News who informed me that he has been undertaking a thourough search on classic games for a few years now. There is both good news and bad for goldiggers of classic Habs, according to T.C., as there is possibly more out there in television station vaults, but perhaps not as much as some fans would have hoped for.
T.C. has been industious in trying to turn over stones, calling the stations themselves to see who has what and how much. What his e-mail to me reveals is that what remains of the saved game tapes over the years is often copyright exclusive to stations that initially broadcast the games, and not always property of the Canadiens organization itself. In the era of the 1950's and 1960's, tapes of games weren't treated with the same reverence as they would be today. In cost cutting measures, these tapes were often erased and used again to save money. Shortsighted of course, but hey, even the Beatles sadly practiced such measures.
Here are the contents of T.C.'s e-mail, and a run down of what he was able to acknowledge as still being in existance.
I couldn't help but notice that you raised some questions about some of the games you felt were excluded. I have spent a chunk of the last few years looking for footage and thought I could maybe pass along some information that I've been able to gleem through years of writing television stations.
As of this writing the oldest known complete Habs game known to exist is game three of the 1959 Stanley Cup finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The cup clinching game (game number five is also around). Sadly, there are a limited amount of games from this point on until 1975 that are known to exist. This is a list of what is known to be still around from this time period. Keep in mind that this list is compiled from hockey game trading websites (obviously the sale of games is against current copyright laws). After 1975 and with the advent of vcr's many games have become available but there are some exceptions.
1959 STANLEY CUP FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game one (3rd period only)
1959 STANLEY CUP FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game two (2nd period and portions of the 3rd)
1959 STANLEY CUP FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game three
1959 STANLEY CUP FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game five, Habs win 4th cup in a row
1960 STANLEY CUP FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game two
1960 STANLEY CUP FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game four, Habs win 5th cup in a row, rockets last game
OCTOBER 15TH, 1960 MONTREAL vs. N.Y. RANGERS -(2nd and 3rd period only) Moore, Geoffrion, each score three goals, in French
MARCH 10TH, 1962 MONTREAL vs. BOSTON -(last 2 minutes of 2nd and 3rd period only) in French
1963 SEMI FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game one (3rd period only)
1963 SEMI FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game four (3rd period only)
1963 SEMI FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game five, plante's last game as a Hab
1964 SEMI FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game seven, geoffrion's last game as a Hab
1965 SEMI FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game one (missing first 14 minutes of game)
1965 SEMI FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game three
1965 SEMI FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game six missing 10 minutes of 1st period, no goals)
1965 STANLEY CUP FINALS MONTREAL vs. CHICAGO -game five
1965 STANLEY CUP FINALS MONTREAL vs. CHICAGO -game seven, Habs win cup
1966 SEMI FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game four
NOVEMBER 2ND, 1966 MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -(1st period only) Worsley vs. Sawchuk
1967 STANLEY CUP FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game one (2nd period only)
1967 STANLEY CUP FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game two (3rd period only)
1967 STANLEY CUP FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game three (3rd period + overtime only)
1967 STANLEY CUP FINALS MONTREAL vs. TORONTO -game six, Leafs win their last Cup
1968 QUARTER FINALS MONTREAL vs. BOSTON -game three (missing first 12 minutes of game, middle 6 minutes of the 3rd period)
1969 SEMI FINALS MONTREAL vs. BOSTON -game one (g/picture is somewhat grainy, sound is low)
JANUARY 16TH, 1971 MONTREAL vs. BOSTON -(ex) Frank Mahovlich's home debut with Montreal
The first thing you'll notice about the list is that most of the games feature the Toronto Maple Leafs. A couple of years ago when the Leafs launched their own tv channel they featured two classic games a week, and in the process unearthed many games that before then had been thought to not exist. Obviously, there are more out there, but this is a matter of Leafs TV sending a person into the CBC archives to unearth the footage.
Clearly, there are more Habs games lurking somewhere in the CBC vault. Why they remain there is a mystery to me.
That brings me to your wish for the 1971 playoffs. Well, on that front there's some good news and there's some bad news. If you can believe it, CBC is believed to have erased all of their footage of the 1971 playoffs and had other programs taped over it to save on storage costs. As a matter of fact there are currently only 3 Habs games known to exist between the years 1968 to 1974. When you consider that the team won 4 cups during this period this is a truly a sad case.
However, NESN, a channel that has carried Bruins games since the 1960's does have complete broadcasts of the 1971 playoff games.
Unfortunately, they as well are not too forthcoming in terms of getting access to their tape library so with the exception of the odd highlight show, all of this footage has been shelved. The game seven of the finals against the Black Hawks is believed to exist in the CBS vault as they also carried the game in addition to CBC. Unbelievably, CBC has to rent out the footage from CBS to use it on their shows now (this includes Bobby Orr's famous cup winner against the Blues in 1970, a game broadcast on CBC by Danny Gallivan and Dick Irvin, that is long gone and CBC has to pay a fee to CBS to show the goal).
Sadly, in looking at the 100th anniversary DVD I am most saddened to see the Habs team of the 1960's and early 1970's get so shabbily treated with no representation on the box, after all they only won six of the team's Stanley Cups. Sad, because the 1965 cup winner exists, and has been shown repeatedly on the NHL network and yet it still doesn't make the list of games to choose.