Kovalev Just One Of Many Former Habs Looking Dismally Awful In Rival Colours
Sometime last week I was sitting next to a man reading his morning Ottawa Sun paper when he raised both his hands, cramped them into a fistfull of knuckles and rubbed his eyes.
"Hot sunshine girl?", I asked.
"Nah, just can't get used to the sight of Alex Kovalev in Ottawa colours. Thought my eyes were playing tricks on me!'
So there you have it......an article is born!
I've often had the same thoughts. Seeing some longtime Habs favorites in another uniform than the one they looked so well suited for has always made me want to chew on skate leather and spit. Kovalev is no mild exception.
Here's a dozen or so such cases over the years, from recent to vintage, to make you cringe, laugh or cry.
Saku Koivu in a Ducks jersey is pure eyesore, made only slightly less repulsive by the luck that it isn't a Mighty Ducks quack mask logo on his chest. Koivu's free agent destination of choice is explained by the presence of countryman and newly crowned 600 goal scorer Teemu Selanne. Still, this one hurts, as Saku is one former Hab that never should have donned another sweater. Montreal fans had only recently got to see him face his former team two weeks back, and we're disappointed when he was not included in the shootout specialists at game's end. A part of me, a small part, wanted to see Saku stick it to his former mates.
This one is a giggler now, but was hardly a knee slapper on July 1, 2009. The defecting commie, er Komi, had chosen the Leafs! Yikes, and yucks. Now it's just good ol' yuk yuks, as time has proven how suitable Mike Komisarek is to the drab blue and white duds. And when I say "duds" I mean "duds."
Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion is one of six 50 goal scorers in Montreal Canadiens history, and the first of five to don rival colours. Boomer retired from the Habs in 1964, a little unpleased at being forceably retired. Legend has it that he was promised a coaching position in the organization following his retirement. When that didn't pan out, he made a return to the NHL with the Rangers, in a player / coach role. The Broadway Blueshirts seemed for a while to be the desination of destiny for exiled ex-Habs, as defenseman Doug Harvey and goalie Jacques Plante, legends both, enjoyed brief revilals in Gotham. In time, two more 50 goal scoring Habs would follow Boomer's path.
Upon the creation of the WHA in the early 1970's, a quator of former Habs made the jump to the new league's Quebec Nordiques over the course of the new rings first few seasons. The losses of Mark Tardif, J.C. Tremblay and Rejean Houle stung somewhat, as Habs GM Sam Pollock lost assets due to his bookeeping priorities. On paper, the Habs hardly suffered, and Houle made amends by returning a few short years later to participate in another Cup run. Did anyone miss Dale Hoganson's carrot top Beatle-do fitting into a Habs casque? Kinda yucky on the Nords early rags. It would get worse a decade and a half later.
Pete Mahovlich, laid back and funloving, was an inconsistent thorn in coach Scotty Bowman's side nearing the late seventies. A favorite whipping boy of the coach, it was somewhat inconceivable that Montreal would depart with a player who set a team record 82 assists just a few seasons before. Due to Mahovlich's slipping points total and Jacques Lemaire fullfilling duties between Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt quite admirably, the "Little M" became expendable, especially when the brilliant Pittsburgh Penguins offered up and coming 50 goal man Pierre Larouche for the services of a declining Pete. Mahovlich, who knew a good joke when he cracked one, likely didn't find it too humourous to go from the sad sack Pens to the sadder sacked Red Wings upon being cut from Pittsburgh two years later. Neverthless, I find this version of the Penguins colours quite attractive for some odd reason. Pete must have looked down onto his chest and riffled off a few one liners in that one.
Several other Habs from the '70's dynasty were on their final legs into the early to mid eighties. Steve Shutt was treated with a lot more dignity than some others, kind of, when he asked for and received a trade wish to the Los Angeles Kings. The seldom used Shutt was dealt to L.A. for future considerations that became himself at season's end, as per his second wish, to retire a Hab. Shutt, the owner of a contagious machine gun giggle, must burst into full out guffaws when looking back at shots of himself in a yellow helmet. This is almost as unsightly as it gets!
Perhaps no player was purged from Habs history in quite the dramatic fashion that Guy Lafleur was in 1984. The Flower was no longer the player of his glory days, but was a consistent 30 goal threat until Serge Savard and Jacques Lemaire reduced his role on the club to about eight minutes a game. It was a sad and terribly painful episode to watch, made all the more so by fact that it was grossly unneccessary.
With his fans behind him, Lafleur's revenge took place on Forum ice some four years later in New York Ranger colours. No one who's seen that game, in person or on television, will ever forget. The Flower owned out hearts. That changed for many of us when he slipped inside the skanky colours of the hated Nordiques. The greasy scheme team is not where Lafleur's final strides should have taken place.
Had Jacques Plante not been ill and away from practice one day early in the 1950's, legend has it that he would have been signed on that fateful day by the Detroit Red Wings, who came to Quebec and left with Marcel's Pronovost and Bonin. Nonethless, Plante would eventually don the colours of the NHL's five other Original Six franchises in due time.
Of course, the man who changed the face of hockey and brought goaltending into an art form, made his mark and lasting impression with the CH. The trouble was, Plante had more personal idiosyncrasies than facial scars, and had worn out his welcome with coach Toe Blake by 1964. A shocking trade first sent Plante to the Rangers, where he looked every bit the washed up warrior. After a brief retirement, Plante revived his game and legends with stellar seasons in St. Louis Blues' colours, where he looked damned good. Those performances launched Jake the Snake into a journeyman's twilight, with successive appearance with the Maple Leafs (cringe, accordingly), the Bruins and finally the WHA Edmonton Oranges. Despite the juicy colours, Plante still maintained the assured look of professor of the position. Unfortunately, his 1964 sacking was but a prelude as to what the Canadiens would do with a franchise goaltender.
Now if an entire top line on a team can be dispatched elsewhere over time, the same fate would surely befall the Habs' "Big Three" blueliners, Guy Lapointe, Serge Savard and Larry Robinson. Unthinkable, well perhaps not!
Lapointe was the first to go, after two seasons in Montreal replete with injuries in which he'd scored only one goal in each, Pointu was pointed towards St. Louis. Serge Savard, longtime blueline general with the Habs had won eight Stanley Cups and numerous accolades with the team. That, unfortunately, did not spare him from the Forum boo-birds in the final stages of a glorious career. Those sounds told Savard that it was time. A little more than a season later, good buddy John Ferguson relentlessly pursued the great defender, getting him to suit up with the Winnipeg Jets. The addition of Savard helped key a turnaround in Jets fortunes, and enabled Savard to cap a highly respected career with a much more dignity. Still, though, doesn't that Savard O-Pee-Chee card just leap off the page. I mean the colours are almost right, just in the wrong order. Hey, at least he never became a Ranger!
Robinson's fate, that of being dealt to the Kings, came via the Savard himself, who decided to play hardball with the Big Bird in contract talks. In Robinson's account, several promises were reneged upon by his former partner, prompting Larry to seek free agency, with compensation. Robinson in a Kings jersey, albeit a more classic one than Shutt wore, was still an unpleasanr sight. He is another in a long line of Habs greats that deserved retirement in the colours he became a legend in.
Lapointe, Savard and Robinson were far from the first Habs heroes booed out of Montreal. When speaking of Habs tradition, this is one as old as the team itself. The treatment lead to the dumping of the clubs first two great stars, Newsy Lalonde and Howie Morenz.
Lalonde had been everpresent on the Canadiens since the club's first game in January of 1910. He'd accomplished everything possible in the game over the years, often as the team's captain and coach. By 1922, the 35 year old Newsy was slowing, and murmurs were being heard from the crowd. As Lalonde had a reputation for turning it off and on, his effort was questioned by management. Newsy retalliated akin to his moniker, by publishing in the dailies his letter of response to such accusations and announcing that he was quitting the team on principle. The public outcry led to a brief patching of wounds, but the oldtimer was gone by the following campaign, sent west to the Saskatoon Crescents armed with hockey's richest ever contract. Lalonde trade dividends were lofty: the deal returned star Aurele Joliat to the Habs and a few seasons later, the highly respected Lalonde advised Montreal that teammate George Hainsworth would be a suitable replacement for goalie Georges Vezina.
The Stratford Streak was winding down a legendary career as the game's greatest ever talent in 1934 when the Forum fuddlers began to rag. It so pained Canadiens GM Leo Dandurand that he felt he was practically doing Howie a favour by trading him to where he would be better appreciated. Morenz played well with the Chicago Black Hawks at first, but as time passed, the fit was not a good one. Off to the Rangers Morenz was dealt, and little good did it due anyone. As Morenz proceeded to find himself a lion in lamb cloth, a clammor was building in Montreal for Morenz's return. As Habs' coach Cecil Hart was about to begin a second stint behind the Canadiens' bench, he made the reacquisition of Morenz a conditional term. The return of Howie to Aurele Joliat's side prompted a Habs' revival that was unfortunately cut short by his untimely death as the result of a brutal leg injury suffered in a game at the Forum. To suggest that the tragedy shocked the hockey world is putting it mildly. A funeral on Forum ice capped an era in the most sudden of manners.
Another era was capped in December 1995, on a day Habs fans still dread recalling. No need to reindulge in the painful details, other than to add that events conspired to oust goalie legend-in-the-making Patrick Roy from Habland. As a Colorado Avalache member, Roy contunued to reach peaks foretold in the clubs' logo. To this day, he is one of the very few former Habs traded away who have gone on to Stanley Cup glory.
Can we at least be thankful that timing did not allow it to occur in Nordique colours.
When the Canadiens traded steady two-way centerman Jacques Lemaire to the Buffalo Sabres fans were in a state of.....er, wait, scratch that one.
Were you perhaps caught off guard as I was, upon opening a pack of O-Pee-Chee hockey cards in the mid 1970's and finding that atrocity. I opened mine in the school yard at lunch break, freaked out, and ran home to ask my father "what the ..."
What occured to produce this historically incorrect card, was a rumourm sending Lemaire to Buffalo for Richard Martin. I remember hearing that one shot down, but apparently someone at the card company jumped the gun, just a tad!
If you're curious about hockey card misprints, outright goofs and simple printing and spelling errors, check out this take from Kevin at Ya! The Habs Rule. I discovered a bunch from it.
Finally, not to make anyone wretch or anything, comes this unique newspaper clip from February 1949. Yup, it is exactly what it looks like, perhaps the very first photoshop and a prank on Habs fans courtesy of Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper - Maurice the Rocket in the absolutely, never looked uglier, tablecloths of the dreaded "make believes."
And yes, they did dream on!
This particular composite I made comes from Le Petit Journal, dated February 6, 1949, with the blueish photo being scanned from the pages of the 1998 book La Glorieuse Histoire des Canadiens.
The origin of the not too funny lark has it that the Maple Leafs' Conn Smythe thought they could and would offer the Canadiens a wadload of cash for the Rocket. The Globe got to thinking of what Richard would have looked like in the jersey, and cropped his head onto a Leafs' sweater.
Nice try! Habs GM Frank Selke quickly informed his former employers something akin to "Nah! Ain't gonna happen for all the gold in the world!"
Initially, as the story goes, shockwaves were sent through Habs fandom, thus neccessitating the Selke retort.
Makes you wonder if someone in Toronto got wind that Roch Carrier would one day write The Sweater!
After all the unsightliness displayed above, thankfully history spared us this one!
Lalonde would win a final scoring title with the WCHL Crescents returning to the NHL in 1927 as coach of the forever terrible New York Americans. On one particular fateful evening, the Americans were short a few players, prompting the 40 year old Newsy to dress one last time in stars and stripes. The image, due to the rarety of photos from the day, is the most lasting of Newsy, and also the most non-representative of his career.