Things I found out about my hometown hero Jean Béliveau

I was 6 years-old the only time I saw Jean Béliveau in person. He had just retired from the game in 1971 and he was sitting comfortably in that blue convertible car, waving and saluting the legion of fans on Notre-Dame Street in Victoriaville, Quebec. That’s the name of the town where the man himself developed as a hockey player at the family house backyard ice surface. It’s also the town where I lived from the time I was 3 years-old until I turned 17. My dad, a huge Bruins fan all his life, had mentioned Bobby Orr a few times but I can honesty say that Jean Béliveau is the first French-Canadian hockey player I had ever heard of by the time I started Grade 2. Actually I didn’t even know there was a NHL. The city of Victoriaville’s only arena back then was bearing the name Jean Béliveau. That was the place where I learned how to skate at 4 and play in organized leagues at 6. On the weekends many friends, my brother and I would head to the Aréna Jean Béliveau to play and watch hockey games. Any game. Gilbert Perreault was also a hometown boy so hockey was very popular there. With time, way after I left, the city acquired a QMJHL team, demolished the old arena and rebuilt the Colisée Jean Béliveau known today as the Colisée Desjardins. There is a section in the Colisée named after him which is red, white and blue. Of course he was present at the official opening of the section.

Fans attending a junior game in Victoriaville last Saturday showed their appreciation for the local legend.

I never saw Jean Béliveau play from my own eyes. Not even on TV. I was too young when he retired. I had the chance at some point to catch up with his hockey career and what he accomplished. Since he passed away on December 2 I found out or was reminded of his greatness as a hockey player and as a man.  I gathered a few facts, stats, anecdotes and stories about the legendary #4 I meant to share with you:

  • He did not always wear the jersey #4 with the Canadiens. He wore the #17 and #20 for the only 2 games he played during the 1950-51 season. He also wore the #12 for 3 games played in 1952-53. He wore the #17 again for the first game of the season in 1953-54. The second game against Chicago on October 8, 1953, he wore the number 4 for the first time.
  • He never scored 50 goals in one single season.
  • After he scored 3 goals in 44 seconds during a power play on November 5, 1955, the NHL rule was changed the next season to allow the penalized player to return to play if a goal was scored against his team during the penalty.
  • Béliveau’s name appears on the Stanley Cup a record 17 times, 10 as a player and the other 7 as an executive. Only Henri Richard has won more Stanley Cup as a player with 11.
  • He still holds the record for the fastest Cup-winning goal from the start of the game in League history scoring 14 seconds into game 7 vs Chicago. A game that would end 4-0.
  • In 1961, he was elected captain by his peers. He wore the “C” for the next 10 years, which remains the longest tenure of any captain in club history.
  • He was the first player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for his performance in the 1965 Stanley Cup playoffs.
  • He is the first and only captain to win the Conn Smythe and score the game-winning goal in the same night.
  • After winning the Stanley Cup for a last NHL game in 1971, the Hockey Hall of Fame waived the usual 3-year waiting period and immediately inducted Béliveau in 1972.
  • He was known to sign autographs for as long as it took especially after games. His signature is classic and a recognizable one for any collector of hockey cards or memorabilias. When teammates would ask him why he cared so much his answer was that it was his duty.
  • When the Canadiens celebrated his 500th goal he refused a car or a cheque from the club. Instead the ”Jean Béliveau Foundation” was established and he was able to donate $155,855.00 to the start-up fund that night. The foundation is meant to help children in need. Its administration was assumed by him until a decade ago. He left clear instructions on how the funds should be used.

Beliveaufund__2__medium

During the days that followed his death many stories were heard including some special and personal anecdotes from callers on radio shows:

  • One man from Kapuskasing, Ont. said that as kids him and his friend were in Montreal and decided to climb the fence to see if Jean Béliveau was at his house. They located him next to his pool wearing a swim trunk. Béliveau spotted them, offered them to come over and eventually signed a picture his wife took of the boys next to her husband.
  • A caller said he was shoveling snow as a boy in 1961 to bring extra money home for his family when he knocked at Jean Béliveau’s door and offered to shovel at his place for 2$. The hockey player agreed and ended up giving a 5$ bill. That same night, the man said his parents told him who was that tall man living in that house. He had not recognized the #4.
  • Another caller said that he fell off his bike about 20 years ago and as he tried to get back up he saw a hand. As he looked up to see who it was he saw Jean Béliveau standing. Béliveau offered to bring him at the hospital but the man said he would be fine. He brought him home and told the injured man he would send him a puck with his autograph as requested. Weeks later, the man received a thicker package than usual with the Montreal Canadiens logo on it.
  • Many people told stories about him visiting sick children unannounced during and after his career as player. He would show up at arenas to watch kids play and enter dressing rooms with the permission of coaches.
  • He was extremely popular with women of all ages who started to follow hockey because of him.
  • When the fans at Bell Centre started to show disrespect toward the American anthem years ago, the Canadiens had a tape played before the anthems one night. It was Jean Béliveau’s voice reminding all those attending to stand up, remove hats and caps and remain respectful throughout the singing of both anthems. That was the end of it.
  • He said prior to retirement that he would never play for another team.
  • Habs co-owner and CEO Geoff Molson – his two brothers Andrew and Justin are co-owners – said he was 4 when his father Eric introduced him to Jean Béliveau. Some thirty-five years later, Geoff asked Béliveau to be his special advisor when he took over the destiny of the Molson family who owns the team.
  • I could go on and on…

He was the greatest ambassador of the Montreal Canadiens throughout 7 decades. Especially the ones that followed his playing career. He is the one who came up with the idea to have a room where former players could go and meet before, during and after games. Former Habs Vincent Damphousse said that whenever Béliveau would enter the room it would become silent. as if royalty was walking in. He has his chair of course. Damphousse added that those who were present when Béliveau was there had to behave as gentlemen in the room. On Monday, Guy Lafleur addressed the media and was particularly touched by the death of his idol he met when he was 10. Lafleur said that he wore number 4 from the time he started to play in organized leagues until he was drafted by the Canadiens. The ”Flower” added that he tried to be as good an ambassador and model as Béliveau was but it was a tough act to follow. Lafleur, along with Serge Savard, will probably be the next French-Canadians and former Habs to receive a somewhat similar honor one day. Ken Dryden is another one that brings a lot of great memories here in Quebec. But Jean Béliveau is from another era. One that is definitely closing in with another legend Gordie Howe who will soon pass away. About Béliveau, a newspaper headline was titled ”Pope of Hockey Died” last week. Or the ”Gentle Giant”. The man who would make you feel like you are special according to many who met them. A modest man living in a simple house on the south shore of Montreal with a great view of the city he spent his whole career and most of his life. From the day of his death to the day of his funeral, the national tribute lasted 9 days. Fans of all ages were able to walk by his casket for two days at Bell Centre. It was the first time I ever listened to a funeral on radio. Repeats of his funeral are still on TV as I write this. I admit I shed a few tears when Ken Dryden spoke at the cathedral on Wednesday. I felt proud the legendary #4 was French-Canadian like me and that he lived during my time and sad that he will no longer be around.

Au revoir et merci Monsieur Béliveau!

 

 

 

How I Tried To Be An Insider

Before I start this, I have to admit something, yes this is partly influenced by the Joshua Kusnick article that you can read here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=25125 It’s a great read. This isn’t really a life story but it has bits and parts of my own story trying to become an hockey insider. 

Just like most young sports fans on Twitter I wanted to be part of the action. I wanted to break news. There’s a lot of people like me out there. But I didn’t want to make stuff up. I’d hate to see you guys have to make stuff up, so I’d like to help. Here’s what I did. I met a guy or two. Follow this and I both cannot and will not guarantee you will find a source. 

  1. Do not badger people. A lot of people will say no. Remember they’re doing you a favour. They’re not getting anything in return. Sometimes people will throw you a bone. 
  2. Do not ever gloat about who your sources are. If you get a source that’s a scout for Team A, do not gloat that your source is a scout within Team A. Use a quick google search, each team has 15-20 scouts. How hard do you think it is for front office to quickly find these guys? It’s not hard. If you gloat, your source will get in trouble with their respective team, and no one will ever work with you again.
  3. Start from the bottom. Minor league teams have front office members too! Sure the breaking NHL news is really cool, but no one is going to leak that information to you the first day you’re on the job. Start with a D-3 NCAA for example. Show that you’re a reliable person, and maybe someone will try help you out.
  4. Meet these guys in person. Would you risk your career for a person you’ve never met? Go to games, meet some of these guys and form a relationship with them. Get a business card or their contact and talk to them. Don’t ask for secrets right away. That’s a little weird don’t you think? Show that you’re reliable and you should get their trust.
  5. The first one is the hardest. Once you get the ball rolling, and you’re starting to develop a name for yourself, it gets easier. It’s like cooking a steak. The first steak you make might not end up well. However, each time you make a steak after, it becomes easier! Just because the first guy said no to you, keep working on it!

So those are some of the secrets I follow. I’m not an insider, I’m just a blogger.   Yes I know, some of these points are similar/repeated from the article, but they’re true in both cases, and I felt they were the most important.

Do you have any questions? Fill out the contact form below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. 

Lastly, make sure to share this with your friends, “like” us on Facebook here: and make sure to “follow” me on Twitter @hkyBlogger!

 

Names To Watch For In The Draft Part 1

We all know about the big names in the upcoming draft. You have your Connor McDavid’s and your Jack Eichel’s. Now what about your other names?
Noah Hanifin (ISS – #3), (TSN – #3) – Not as sexy as a franchise player like McDavid or Eichel, but still a very good player. If it wasn’t for two franchise players like McDavid and Eichel, Hanifin would be your consensus number 1 pick, and he wouldn’t be a shabby number one pick. He’s currently a 17 year old playing in the NCAA and he’s doing very well. As a defenseman, he has 3 points in four games, almost unprecedented at 17 years old. He does need to work on his shot a little bit, but he’s going to have a very good career in the NHL. You can watch him this year playing at Boston College.
Pavel Zacha (ISS – #10) (TSN – #6) – Allan Walsh’s client has been coined as the Czech Wonder Kid. He’s currently playing for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. Not the a superstar skill player like Connor McDavid, he’s a big physical player with skill that can be compared to Nick Ritchie or possibly Milan Lucic.  He has the size to play in the NHL sooner than later, but may need some time to work on his passing. He’s a great overall package. I had him as #5 on my list. Superstar ceiling.
Paul Bittner (ISS – #18) (TSN – #29) – WHL superstar Paul Bittner seems like he’s been in the WHL forever, and it wouldn’t be a lie. This is his 3rd WHL season and he’s still 17 years old. Very physical player. Could be a Pavel Zacha-lite player, but still very good. If drafted near TSN’s ranking of 29, he could be a huge steal. I personally can’t see that happening. I have him at #18 as well. His floor would be a bottom six player in my opinion, but his ceiling is much higher. No matter how he does in the preseason after he’s drafted, I would put him back in the WHL. He could use some seasoning. Make sure to check him out playing for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.
Got anything to tell us? Let us know down below, tweet me @hkyblogger and “like” us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/NotYourAverageHockeyBlog

Nashville Predators Preview

The message was clear: Shea Weber needs help. After finishing as the top point scorer and one goal shy of being the top goal scorer in 2013/2014, the elite defenseman’s lack of support became more evident than ever.

The biggest move by general manager David Poile was made during the NHL Entry Draft when he traded forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spalling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for previous 40-goal scorer James Neal. A trade that has generally been viewed as a positive one by the Predators’ fan base.

After acquiring goal scorer James Neal, everyone started asking the obvious question: who is going to deliver him the puck in the same fashion as Evgeni Malkin did in Pittsburgh? Poile went out into free agency to solve the problem to the best of his ability. He came back with three potential first-line centers to partner up with Neal: Olli Jokinen from Winnipeg Jets, Mike Ribeiro from Arizona Coyotes, and Derek Roy from St. Louis Blues. It will be interesting to watch if Ribeiro can revive his much trouble career and if Jokinen or Roy can shine in their new environment.

One thing is clear; Shea Weber cannot do everything on his own if the Nashville Predators wants to be in the hunt for a playoff spot come May.

Buffalo Sabres Preview

Tim Murray’s first summer as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres was a busy one. The disappointing 2013/2014 season resulted in four new assistant coaches for head coach Ted Nolan, including former elite NHL: ers Bryan Trottier and Arturs Irbe. On the player side, the second-overall-pick Sam Reinhart is supposed to bring much needed playmaking ability on the center man position. His intelligence and leadership qualities make him a good candidate to run for captaincy in a few years. Speaking of captaincy, the Sabres are yet to select a captain for the 2014/2015 season. Newly acquired Brian Gionta from free agency is one named that might surface along with current assistant captain Drew Stafford.

The Sabres made two big moves buying out defensemen Christian Ehroff and forward Villo Leino . As a result, they were able to bring in seven players: Matt Moulson and Josh Gorges being the most notable ones.

It will be interesting to see if Swedish goaltender Jhonas Enroth finally can take one addition step to become a true No. 1 goaltender in the National Hockey League, something that is essential for the Sabres after they traded away their best player in recent years, Ryan Miller, at last year’s trade deadline. Also, look for defenseman Tyler Myers to continue to grow into an elite player.

The Buffalo Sabres might not be competitive in 2014/2015 or even in 2015/2016, but they are definitely on the right track.

Montreal Canadiens Season Preview

The Good

GM Marc Bergevin was able to add to his roster by bringing in forwards Manny Malhotra and P.A. Parenteau (though trade) along with defenseman Tom Gilbert.  Parenteau will be counted on to provide offense in their top six, whereas, Malhotra will be utilized as a faceoff specialist, thus taking pressure off of Plekanec and allowing him to focus more on his offensive game.  In my opinion, Tom Gilbert was the smartest signing that the Habs made this off-season (aside from extending Subban of course) because the Habs now have 3 right handed shooting defensemen and 3 left handed shooting defensemen thus giving their defense much more flexability.

The Question Mark?

With Brian Gionta (free agent) and Josh Gorges (trade) now in Buffalo, the question in Montreal is who will emerge as the leader(s) in the locker room.  Many people have pointed to the likes of Markov, Plekanec, Pacioretty, and Subban as possible choices.  The question still remains, with the loss of a lot of leadership, will the Habs have enough voices in the locker room to help them though the tough times that come with an 82 game schedule and the grind of the playoffs?

The X-Factor

CAREY PRICE.  We have seen it over the last two seasons in Montreal.  Two years back during the lockout shortened season, Price was having a fantastic year and after the Habs clinched a playoffs spot, it seamed like the team, and Price in particular, had taken their foot off the gas.  That trend continued into the post season as the Habs were tossed aside in 5 games by the Ottawa Senators.  This past season, Price had a Vezina worthy season, won Olympic gold and carried that momentum into the post season.  He led Montreal to the conference finals.  If Price can emulate his season from a year ago, the Habs have a great chance of duplicating or even making it further this coming season.

Prediction

3rd place in Atlantic Division; 2nd round loss in playoffs to Tampa Bay Lighting

Metro Teams Preview- Isles, Rangers, Caps, Devils

New York Islanders 

The Islanders finished the 2013-14 season with a total 79 points and a  record of 37-37-11, good for 13th out of 14th in the Eastern Conference and dead last in the Metropolitan Division.  It was a season of little highs but mostly lows for the Islanders who were coming off of a playoff berth in the season prior.  While the season left much to be desired, the Islanders had one of if not the best off seasons this summer.  In the draft they took Michael Dal Colle with the fifth overall pick and later in the first round took Josh Ho Sang with a picked acquired from Tampa Bay.  Later round picks saw the drafting of goalie Illya Sorokin, who was taken with an eye towards the future allowing him to continue his development in the KHL before coming to North America.  Free agency was the cherry on top for the team who looked to address certain areas, in particular the situation in goal.  The first move was accomplished early on with the acquiring of the rights to Jaroslav Halak from St. Louis, later signed to a four year deal and then the signing of former Bruins back up goalie Chad Johnson to a two year deal.  Finally creating a solid tandem in net.  The splash move though was the acquisition of Mikhail Grabovski from the Capitals and Nikolai Kulemin from Toronto, bringing their pairing back together.  In all the Islanders made the moves necessary to be competitive this season, they just now have to put it altogether on the ice.  It is not out of the realm of possibility that they’ll be in the playoffs this season, especially as John Tavares will be back and this year will more prospect development as well.

 

Washington Capitals

This season will mark the beginning of the Barry Trotz era in Washington, as the Caps fired Adam Oates two weeks after the end of the regular season.  General Manager George McPhee was also let go as his contract was not renewed with the club.  With changes at the top, it begins a new era in Washington.  Last season the Capitals can up short as they missed out on the second wild spot by just three points and third place in the Metropolitan Division by four points.  For a good portion of the season, they had a playoff spot, but the collapse looked ever looming in the rear view mirror for the team, especially as the Flyers came surging up the standings following their dismal start to the season.  What killed the Caps were a number things, from a flawed defense to an offensive attack that lacked bite.  They were more or less listless for the second half of the season.  Some of the moves that the team made in the off season was the interesting signing of Brooks Orpik to a five year contract and Matt Niskanen to a seven year contract to solve the defensive woes.  How Trotz handles this season will be interesting as he’ll have to start where Oates left off.

 

New York Rangers

Coming into this season, the Rangers are reigning champs of the Eastern Conference and looking to get back to the Finals, this time for a much different result.  This off season among the things that the Rangers needed to address are the power play, but also to prove that last season’s run was not just a right place in the right time run, but there’s more gusto as well.  In the off season, the team was extremely active on the first day of free agency.  Joining into the frenzy along with the rest of the league.  They lost Benoit Pouliot to Edmonton, Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle to Tampa Bay, and were able to move on from Brad Richards as well.  On the other side, they brought on Dan Boyle from the San Jose after the Islanders failed to sign him on even though they owned his rights.  The other signing of note was Tanner Glass from Pittsburgh, who was signed to a three year contract.  It should be interesting in the second year of the Vignault era, especially after last season’s run.

 

New Jersey Devils

Much like Washington, the Devils came up short last season as they fell short of the second wild card spot by a difference five points behind the Detroit Red Wings.  They also finished six points behind the Flyers who took home third in the Metropolitan Division.  The biggest issue for the Devils last season was staying healthy, and with the moves made this off season along with the continued development of the younger players.  If they can have a healthy Elias back, that will be an added boost for a team that came close last season, but were missing a few major pieces.  In the off season, Anton Volchenkov was bought out by the team.  The additions that were made, was Mike Cammaleri from Calgary and Martin Havlat from San Jose.  It should be interesting to see what New Jersey can put together this season.