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mcphee 02-21-2004 08:57 AM

Habs-Leafs Remembered
 
Before we inevitably get to telling each other how much they suck, I thought I'd post a few [ or more than a few] words about this rivalry from the perspective of a long-time Habs fan.

To a Habs fan,when the 50's dynasty ended in 1961, it was expected that it would simply resume in 62 and all would be right with the world. Well, Punch Imlach and his supposedly over the hill gang had something to say about that. In fact they had a lot to say about that, in 62,63,and 64. They mixed some in their prime stars like Mahovlich, with solid players like Horton and Baun, up and comers like Keon and Brewer, along with veterans like Kelly and Stanley. Their goaltending, with Bower was also as good as it got. Plante,Sawchuck and Glenn Hall got the respect but I don't think any GM in the 60's would have a problem going into a series with Bower. I remember it as being great hockey, the Habs were still the Flying Frenchmen, with intimidating speed, while the Leafs were more of a counter attack team relying on a tough defense. Imlach had this arrogant way about him that would garner headlines and infuriate Toe Blake, as I'm sure he intended. Try as they did, the early 60's Habs simply couldn't handle those teams. During the season was one thing but they couldn't handle them in the playoffs. The toughness of those Leaf teams directly,imo, led to the Habs acquiring John Ferguson,Terry Harper and Ted Harris. For a few years it became Wednesday night at the fights as Ferguson would seek out Eddie Shack, Harris and Kurtenbach would have battles that were all timers while poor Harper took on all comers but seldom won. The newer tougher Mtl. team dominated the next 5 years losing only to Toronto in 67 which is still the series that left the worst taste in my mouth. The early 60's, sure, the Leafs were the better team, but 67, I'm still mad. Between Sawchuck and Bower, they just refused to lose. Looking back, it was a lot like some Hab/Bruin, 1980's playoffs stolen by Steve Penney or Patrick that we had no business winning.
After 67, expansion killed the Leafs, they were just too old and had dealt away youth for a few last cup runs and just didn't have the farm system. Throw the WHA into the mix and the spiral began. What a rivalry though. what a pleasure to watch Jean Beliveau/Red Kelly matchups, or Keon/Richard [ mirror image players ]. I remember Tim Horton, being strong but not a fighter and everyone being glad of that. i remember Harper and Pulford fighting in the penalty box with cops pulling them apart and neither being suspended. [Times change ehhh]

The 70's obviously were well documented as the Ballard years remain in a sad note in the team's history, when coupled with the success Lafleur,big 3, Dryden, led teams probably killed off most of the natural rivalry. The Bruins from 68 on were the team to beat and of course the Nordique rivalry took on a life of its own. Still, if anyone had the energy to check the Leaf winning percentage in the bad years against their recird against Mtl., I'm sure the latter would be the larger number. It's a shame that the Sittler teams never quite got to where they should have, thru no fault of the players, because it was fun.

Writing this, it's not lost on me how similar the current Leaf team is to those of the early 60's. Veteran team that many seem set to write off, coach who tends to annoy fans and rivals alike, it makes me wonder.

From the Hab point of view, we went thru our own "Ballard" years when the team in the last 10 years or so of Molson ownership seemed more caught up in political correctness and beer sales than winning hockey. I believe that has and will change under Gainey's watch and the rivalry will prosper. As fans I hope we can appreciate it as what it is, a great hockey rivalry. The insults and shots back and forth, I hope will be good natured in intention. My father in law, a Detroit fan had an old friend [Hab fan], who had the custom of mailing each other a black tie each time their team beat the other. Seems a lot more civilized than getting in someone's face and yelling 'you suck', but that's just me.

I'd love to hear a Leaf fan's perspective of the Habs during those years.

PrairieHabber 02-21-2004 09:17 AM

Well done mcphee. Thanks for helping to put things in perspective. I have followed the team since the late 70's-early 80's so your memories go back farther than mine. I think the connection between the Leafs Ballard years and the Habs last 10 years is quite accurate. Although they had a different tone to them, the end result was bringing down a once-proud franchise. I think the Gainey years will at the very least bring a return to respectibility.

Joe Malone 02-21-2004 10:27 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mcphee
After 67, expansion killed the Leafs, they were just too old and had dealt away youth for a few last cup runs and just didn't have the farm system. Throw the WHA into the mix and the spiral began.

How old were they? Well, here is something I read a long time ago, and never forgot. Here are the six Leaf players, and their ages, who were on the ice when the buzzer went to end the final playoff game, and crown the Leafs as 1967 Stanley Cup Champions.

Goal: Johnny Bower 42
Defense: Allan Stanley 41
Defense: Tim Horton 37
Forward: Red Kelly 39
Forward: George Armstrong 36
Forward: Bob Pulford 32

Kelly and Armstrong were only a couple of months away from turning 40 and 37, respectively. Pulford was a young buck at age 32, with those veterans. :)

Good stuff mcphee, I don't go back as far as you. I remember seeing NHL hockey on TV in 1965, but my memories are not all that clear until the later 60's, when the Leafs were on the decline, and the Bruins were on the rise. (Remember the Leafs/Bruins '69 playoff series, when the Bruins won the first two games by scores of 10-0 and 7-0?) But the Leafs, even through the worst of the Ballard years, would always be up for Habs games. My father-in-law is 71, and has always said no matter how bad the Leafs were, even in the mid/late '50's, they always gave the Habs trouble.

I don't think we can really compare the Habs of the last 10 years to the Ballard years. Maybe the level of play, and missing the playoffs, but not the circus atmosphere Ballard provided. But yes, this year's Leaf team is a tough group of veterans. If Belfour is healthy come playoff time, they could be dangerous.

Dutchy 02-21-2004 10:53 AM

My thanks to all of you for a nice recap of those years who were, sadly, before my birth. It was a really nice read.

mcphee 02-21-2004 11:57 AM

Joe, I remember a Habs/Leafs playoff series in the 70's where the Habs clinched in overtime, and before the handshakes Tiger Williams went berserk trying to get at an official while Larry Robinson was holding him back. I can remember the incident but not what caused it. Anybody remember this ?

Habsfannova 02-21-2004 12:23 PM

Imagine if we get a Leafs-Habs series this year? Woooooo, that would be sweet.

Joe Malone 02-21-2004 01:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mcphee
Joe, I remember a Habs/Leafs playoff series in the 70's where the Habs clinched in overtime, and before the handshakes Tiger Williams went berserk trying to get at an official while Larry Robinson was holding him back. I can remember the incident but not what caused it. Anybody remember this ?

Yes, I do remember that, now that you mention it. But I don't recall why Tiger was so upset.

skidboot 02-21-2004 01:56 PM

I remember those days also McPhee.


Time flies.






Totally different game nowadays.

Habsaku 02-21-2004 02:07 PM

This is why I'm sad to be this young, I missed all the leafs/Habs, Boston/Montreal and the best Nordiques/Montreal games. I'm really hoping to see the Leafs in the playoffs this year and I have a feeling we will. It just seems so right.

Habsfannova 02-21-2004 02:13 PM

It would be very fun to watch from a historical standpoint, but going through Toronto is not an easy way to advance. As we all know, it can get real ugly there...

Anyway, Leafs-Habs is the best rivalry in sports, and very few come close.

mcphee 02-21-2004 02:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Habsaku
This is why I'm sad to be this young, I missed all the leafs/Habs, Boston/Montreal and the best Nordiques/Montreal games. I'm really hoping to see the Leafs in the playoffs this year and I have a feeling we will. It just seems so right.

It's funny to me, because I was always sorry that I missed the Richard era and had to settle for my father's descriptions. I remember reading of the players and teams of the 40's and 50's and thinking that I got cheated.

Habsaku 02-21-2004 03:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Habsfannova
It would be very fun to watch from a historical standpoint, but going through Toronto is not an easy way to advance. As we all know, it can get real ugly there...

Anyway, Leafs-Habs is the best rivalry in sports, and very few come close.


Boston/Montreal is much more entertaining.

tritone 02-21-2004 04:32 PM

Nice
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by mcphee
It's funny to me, because I was always sorry that I missed the Richard era and had to settle for my father's descriptions. I remember reading of the players and teams of the 40's and 50's and thinking that I got cheated.

That was a good read Mcphee , thanks for sharing a perspective . A good ol stroll down memory lane is always good to hear .

BlueBlood17 02-21-2004 05:53 PM

As a Leafs fan, thanks for that Mcphee.

It was a very good read and quite interesting.

Good work.

Hopefully we see another great page in the storied rivalry tonight.......Go Leafs Go.

:yo:


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