All-Star Game has rich history in Montreal

 

National Hockey League all-star games in Montreal have featured a Red Kelly bodycheck that laid out Bernie Geoffrion for 10 minutes, and a John Ferguson punch to the beak of Norm Ullman in a contest that produced the only shutout in the event's history.

 
 
 

National Hockey League all-star games in Montreal have featured a Red Kelly bodycheck that laid out Bernie Geoffrion for 10 minutes, and a John Ferguson punch to the beak of Norm Ullman in a contest that produced the only shutout in the event's history.

One showcased Jean Béliveau playing his first of 13 career games with the ink still wet on his first Canadiens contract, while another backdropped Ted Lindsay's secret meeting with players in a bid to form a union.

We can dream, at least, that we'll see something remotely this newsworthy when the all-star game comes to Montreal next year, the first time since 1993, as part of the Canadiens centennial celebration.

The NHL will trumpet this as the league-leading 12th all-star game in this city; Toronto is next with eight, Detroit and Chicago are at five and four.

But the 2009 edition will in fact be the 16th in Montreal featuring all-stars: four "unofficial" benefit games were held from 1908-39.

Two were for tragically lost Canadiens - Howie Morenz to a coronary embolism in 1937 and Albert (Babe) Siebert to drowning in 1939.

Another was staged in 1936 for Nels Crutchfield, a former McGill Redmen captain whose career was cut short in 1936 after a single season with the Canadiens when a car accident fractured his skull.

The first was held to benefit the family of Montreal Wanderers' Hod Stuart, a star in the Eastern Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. Stuart drowned in 1907, 10 years before the founding of the NHL.

The All-Star Game began officially on Oct. 13, 1947 as a charity match between the Stanley Cup-champion Toronto Maple Leafs and a squad of all-stars from the NHL's five other teams, coached by the Canadiens' Dick Irvin.

Four Canadiens were named to the first all-star team as starters: goaler Bill Durnan, defenceman Émile (Butch) Bouchard, and forwards Maurice Richard and Ken Reardon.

While more than $25,000 was raised for the newly formed NHL pension fund and other proceeds were donated to Maple Leaf-designated charities, it was hardly the genteel love-in of modern all-star games:

Reardon responded to a cross-check from Toronto's Bob Goldham by clubbing the Leafs defenceman and cutting him open. This after having earned a minor and fighting major in the first period for battling Vic Lynn, and before swinging sticks at the final whistle with Bill Eznicki and Gus Mortson.

The ornery Richard refused to speak with teammate Ted Lindsay of Detroit, his feud with the Red Wings star too steeped in ill will and bad blood.

"I didn't talk to (Lindsay)," Richard said after the game, quoted in hockey historian Andrew Podnieks's entertaining book The NHL All-Star Game: 50 Years of the Great Tradition.

"We didn't even say hello. He tried talking to me, but I just ignored him. I don't like him, not even for an All-Star Game."

Richard had the all-stars' third goal in their 4-3 victory and added an assist on Chicago Black Hawk Doug Bentley's game-winner. Reardon had two assists, Bouchard earned a third-period minor, and Durnan, playing the game's first 31 minutes, yielded the three Toronto goals.

The NHL's seventh All-Star Game was the first in Montreal, the Canadiens having won their seventh Stanley Cup the previous April.

Played Oct. 3, 1953, the game was virtually lost in the shadow of that afternoon's huge news - Jean Béliveau had just signed his first contract, finally, with the Canadiens.

A record all-star crowd of 14,153 saw their legend-to-be assist on Richard's third-period goal - the Canadiens' only score in a 3-1 loss, stymied by Detroit goaler Terry Sawchuk's 30 saves.

But it wasn't a total loss for the home team. Montreal players were given leather shaving kits, gold stick-pins from manager Frank Selke celebrating their league title and silver rose bowls from the league.

Players from both teams were showered with shoes, lighters, blazers, sweater coats, hats and fishing rods.

The game returned to the Forum from 1956-60 as the Canadiens rolled through their record five consecutive Stanley Cups. The teams tied 1-1 in '56 then split the next four.

Montreal played host twice more in the 1960s during the Cup champion vs. all-stars format, losing 5-2 in '65 then winning 3-0 in '67, before staging an East vs. West 3-3 tie in 1969.

Goaltending made headlines in the first two:

In '65, coach Toe Blake rotated Gump Worsley and Charlie Hodge a dozen times, roughly every five minutes.

And in '67, Hodge and Gary Bauman were flawless in their respective 40 and 20 minutes of work, Hodge making 25 saves and Bauman 10 to record the historic shutout.

It was a sleep-inducing affair - apart from John Ferguson's two goals and his second-period one-punch knockdown of Detroit's Norm Ullman.

"(Ullman) slashed me behind the goal then broke my stick," Fergy protested, having earned a minor penalty for his well-aimed duke. "Then I hit him with a good shoulder check and he cross-checked me under the chin. So I just zinged him one, right on the nose."

The game returned here in 1975 and most recently in 1993, purely as show-biz. Less than titanic defensive struggles saw the Wales Conference whip the Campbells 7-1 then humiliate them 16-6.

The production of 22 goals on 90 shots on Feb. 6, 1993, still wasn't what many were talking about the next morning, the Canadiens having been represented by goalie Patrick Roy (no goals allowed), current assistant coach Kirk Muller (one assist) and honourary captain Henri Richard, a 10-time all-star.

More noteworthy was the pre-game ceremony with Montreal legends Maurice Richard, Béliveau and Guy Lafleur carrying the Stanley Cup onto Forum ice - and the Rocket fumbling it like a giant sterling football, denting the trophy.

In Montreal four months and three days later, on the strength of a stunning 10 consecutive overtime playoff victories, the Canadiens defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 to win their 24th and most recent Stanley Cup on the trophy's 100th birthday.

Which means one of two things:

Having dropped hockey's holy grail on Forum ice awakened and has angered forever the spirit of Lord Stanley of Preston;

Or in June 2009, in the 100th year since their birth, having won the Cup in seven of the 11 seasons they've played host to the All-Star Game, the Canadiens will capture No. 25.

Assuming, of course, they don't win it this year and ruin a perfectly good script.

dstubbs@thegazette.canwest.com

NHL All-Star Games played in Montreal

All games were at the Forum

except 1908.

Pre-NHL Game:

Jan. 2, 1908, Montreal Arena:

Hod Stuart Memorial Game

Mtl. Wanderers 10, All-Stars 7

Attendance: 3,800

Unofficial NHL Games:

Nov. 3, 1937: Howie Morenz Memorial Game

All-Stars 6, Montreal All-Stars 5

Attendance: 8,683

Oct. 29, 1939: Babe Siebert Memorial Game

All-Stars 5, Canadiens 2

Attendance: 6,000

Official NHL Games:

Oct. 3, 1953: 7th All-Star Game

All-Stars 3, Canadiens 1

Attendance: 14,153

Oct. 9, 1956: 10th All-Star Game

All-Stars 1, Canadiens 1

Attendance: 13,095

Oct. 5, 1957: 11th All-Star Game

All-Stars 5, Canadiens 3

Attendance: 13,095

Oct. 4, 1958: 12th All-Star Game

Canadiens 6, All-Stars 3

Attendance: 13,989

Oct. 3, 1959: 13th All-Star Game

Canadiens 6, All-Stars 1

Attendance: 13,818

Oct. 1, 1960: 14th All-Star Game

All-Stars 2, Canadiens 1

Attendance: 13,949

Oct. 20, 1965: 19th All-Star Game

All-Stars 5, Canadiens 2

Attendance: 14,284

MVP: Gordie Howe, Detroit

Jan. 18, 1967: 20th All-Star Game

Canadiens 3, All-Stars 0

Attendance: 14,284

MVP: Henri Richard, Canadiens

Jan. 21, 1969: 22nd All-Star Game

East 3, West 3

Attendance: 16,260

MVP: Frank Mahovlich, Detroit

Jan. 21, 1975: 28th All-Star Game

Wales 7, Campbell 1

Attendance: 16,080

MVP: Syl Apps Jr., Pittsburgh

Feb. 6, 1993: 44th All- Star Game

Wales 16, Campbell 6

Attendance: 17,137

MVP: Mike Gartner, N.Y. Rangers

 
 
 
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