"We Want Pusie!" - The Tale of an Incomparable One - Time Canadiens Prospect
There is surely no player in the Canadiens lengthy history as colourfully inept and as eccentric as the late, great Jean Pusie.
His NHL hockey exploits are few, but in certain minor league stops, his on ice antics remain legendary. By comparison, Pusie's entertainment skills would pale those of Leafs' legend Eddie Shack. Once you have read about Pusie's "career", you'll agree this character is something of a cross between goalie Gilles "Gratoonie The Loonie" Gratton and shock comedian Andy Kaufman. He should have been in Slapshot!
While looking up something else altogether, I stumbled across a couple of tales on Pusie, in the Dick Beddoes' 1990 book "Greatest Hockey Stories", and it is precious stuff. Incidentally, if you can find that book anywhere, be it a library or online, jump on it - it won't disappoint.
Pusie's tale begins when came up through the Canadiens system sometime in the late 1920's. He would appear with the Habs in two brief stints in 1930 and in 1935. Brief stints, were in fact, all of what Pusie's career would consist of. In close to 20 years in hockey, he would switch teams 28 times, not once beginning a campaign where he had ended the previous one. Four of those stopovers would include the NHL Rangers and Bruins.
The Habs were defending champs in the fall of 1930, and Pusie was making his first appearance at a Canadiens training camp. A preview of his not so subtle ways came early, when he approached coach Cecil Hart.
"You want to keep weening de Coupe? Then sign zee great Pew-sie!
The Canadiens once thought highly of Pusie, as the newspaper articles in this piece attest. He appeared in 6 regular season games and three more in the 1930-31 playoffs, etching his name in with others on the Habs fourth Stanley Cup.
Pusie was strong as a bull and had a great skating stride, yet the Canadiens still felt he was a prospect that needed a certain amount of minor league grooming. Articles of the day in Montreal tell that Pusie was a fan favorite everywhere he went, but rarely were his idiosyncracies played up in local media.
Despite the allure for the Canadiens that he was a home grown talent, the fact remains from the get go that Pusie was a fairly flawed proposition. The biggest knock was that he couldn't skate with the puck unless his head was down - an essential hockey skill, to say the least. Here's Beddoes run down.
"Pusie possessed a wickedly wild shot, so inaccurate that he could not hit the province of Quebec if he was standing inside the Montreal Forum. He could not carry the puck except by skating with his head down, an excellent way for a hockey player to get his head knocked off. Rival checkers gleefully send taxicabs for opponants who skate with their head down."
Perhaps Pusie's most notorious moment came in 1933, while playing for the IHL's London Tecumsehs. After a long clearing pass had sent Pusie on a clear breakaway, he fired the puck so hard it took the goalie's glove right off and into the net.
Pusie wasn't about to allow that moment of instant notoriety escape without a show. He'd turn it into infamy!
Immediately after the puck crossed the line, Pusie hit the breaks, and to the fans' delight scooped both puck and glove from the net, holding them high above his head before the stunned goalie had gathered his wits. Once the netminder stood up, Pusie grabbed the goalie's bare hand and loudly counted the remaining five digits.
"Dey are all here. You are lucky zee shot of the great Pew -sie dint tear dem off!"
Pusie then put the mit back on the goalies hand, patted him on the butt, and proudly strutted to center ice. The crowd went ballistic!
A few games later, London were awarded a penalty shot in a game. In an era when the coach selected the shooter, inevitable chants of "We want Pew -sie, we want Pew -sie" came raining from the stands. The coach complied, sending the player out.
With the spotlight squarely on him, Pusie then put on a display that would embarass Alex Ovechkin in an All Star game. Skating to center ice, he spied the opposition goalie, and announced "Clear de h'ice - here come Pew - sie!" He then rushed to the blue line without the puck and stopped, throwing off chunks of chopped ice as though another lightning bolt idea had just struck. Dropping his gloves and stick, he skated towards the goalie, shouting out something akin to him not having a chance. He then returned to mid ice, grabbed his gloves, stick and puck, and moved in for his shot.
Pusie skated in on the goalie like a whirlwind, spreading out for big windmill windup, and promptly flubbed a weak and wobbly dribbler at the frozen goalie that skittered past him at turtle speed. As though that weren't embarassing enough, Pusie then celebrated it gallantly, skating over to the goalie, kissing him on both cheeks. By this time, the goalie lost it, and swung the paddle at Pusie's head, narrowly missing. He skated back to the bench to the tune of a standing ovation.
By this stage in his career, his nomadic travels had just begun, and he'd soon criss - cross North America, stopping in minor league places such as Three Rivers, Regina, Providence and Seattle.
With Vancouver Maroons in 1933, he'd set the WCHL on fire, with 30-22-52 totals, accomplishing the rare feat of winning the scoring race as a defenseman.
While playing in Regina, an itinerant priest summoned Pusie to dress up with the Notre Dame Hounds, in some kind of whacked out charity game that pitted the local Wilcox team against some nearby Maidstone bush leaguers. Pusie scored all 19 goals in an 18-1 rout. For good measure, Pusie scored once on his own goal.
"Zee great Pew - sie must save de oder guys from de amba - rass!"
Playing with the Can - Am Boston Cubs in 1936, Pusie once turned a two minute minor penalty into 15 minutes of purgatory by excessively bitching about a delay of game call. After a few minutes had elapsed, the official noticed Pusie was no longer in the sin bin. Even the timekeeper was unaware of his whereabouts. A search went up, and Pusie was found at the concession stand, peeling and eating an orange. Another time, a fan hit him with one, and he promptly stopped mid game to do the same.
With Pusie moving swiftly through a series of destinations, it seems he left tales of his antics at every stop. Playing for Muzz Patrick's Cleveland Barons in 1938, Pusie decided to add a boxing exploit to his growing list of escapades. His challenger would be Tiger Warrington and they fought for the the Dominion light - heavyweight title.
Pusie lasted all of 24 seconds in the ring, with one shot of Warrington's cracking his jaw like an anvil landing on cement.
The following season found Pusie on the blueline of the AHA St. Louis Flyers. In one memorable game, Pusie was caught back alone in a three - on - one break. Feeling helpless, he shrugged in disbelief and bellowed "Fuck eet", letting go of his stick and dropping to his knees. The three Flyers skaters sailed passed him, sharing the puck as though in a game of shinny. Pusie bowed his head and covered it - unable to watch the scene unfold - as goalie Herb Nelson shouted obscenities.
One season removed from that fiasco, Pusie was with the Vancouver Lions of the PCHL. In a skirmish with the Portland Buckaroos, an opposing player cold cocked an official, and Pusie decided he would avenge the ref by administering the same to the player. When his own manager called him off the ice, he smashed his stick and hurled the remains at him. That same day, he was suspended by his team.
A few days later, Pusie received a telegram from his father in Chambly, Quebec. Beddoes suggested that the contents of the letter should be preserved among hockey archives such as the double bladed skate and the metal jockstrap. The telegram read:
"Jean, most of the time you are crazy, but this time you are right. Come home at once."
Pusie played another two seasons then quit - as Beddoes puts it - "to become a thespian in the refined kidding of pro rasslin'."
In 2001, Greg Oliver of Slam Sports did a flashback obit piece on Pusie, pointing out more distinctive anecdotes from his vivid time. Check that one out here, as well as GHL's lookback on his time in hockey and his Legends of Hockey profile.
Pusie died in 1956, at the age of 43.