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02-16-2008, 11:39 AM
  #78
Wrigley
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The Falcons are proud to select RW Rejean Houle.

The duo of Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif had made national headlines as the two best junior hockey players in Canada in 1969. The only question was who would be the first pick overall in the draft. And, even that turned out to be rather anti-climactic because as it happened the Montreal Canadiens were the automatic beneficiaries of both picks, thanks to a bizarre clause in the NHL rule books at the time which stated the Canadiens had the option of first right of claim with respect to two players whose fathers are French-Canadians and domiciled in the province of Quebec, at the time of the draft.

The Canadiens selected Houle first and Tardif second. Needless to say, this strange form of favouritism did not sit well with the other teams around the league, who felt the draft should be based entirely on league standings. Houle had completed two strong offensive seasons with the Juniors. In 1968-69, he averaged exactly two points per game, scoring 53 goals and 55 assists fn 54 games for 108 points. Tardif, by comparison, had 72 points in 51 games.

With the honour of being a number-one draft pick also comes a tremendous amount of pressure, especially in hockey-crazy Montreal. Houle certainly felt that pressure and was held to just nine games with the Canadiens, scoring a single point. The rest of the season he played in the AHL with the Montreal Voyageurs, where he had 25 points in 27 games.

Houle played three more seasons with the Canadiens, and although he played on two Stanley Cup winning teams, in 1971 and 1973, and showed improvement in his game every year, it never seemed fast enough for Habs' fans or the local media, who had expected much greater things from their first overall pick of four years earlier.

The arrival of the WHA looked tempting to Houle, and he opted to leave the Montreal microscope and join the new league with the Quebec Nordiques. That seemed to anger the Canadiens' fans even more, but Houle felt he really had no option but to play elsewhere. During his three years in the WHA, Houle enjoyed a great deal of success, improving upon his offensive stats each year. In 1975-76, he scored 51 goals and 52 assists for 103 points in 81 games.

Houle had a new-found confidence in his game, and at the age of 27, felt he was ready to re-enter the Montreal powderkeg to stand up to his critics. He rejoined the Canadiens in 1976-77 and scored 52 points in 65 games. Houle and the Habs had a successful run through the playoffs, defending their Cup championship from a year earlier by beating the Boston Bruins in the finals. The two clubs met again in the 1978 finals, with the same result. In 1979, Montreal won their fourth Cup in a row, beating the New York Rangers in the final four-games-to-one. Houle played another four years with the Canadiens, retiring after 16 games into the 1982-83 season at the age of 33. In eleven years with the Montreal Canadiens, Houle had won five Stanley Cup rings.

After retiring, Houle became an executive with a national brewing company before being offered the job as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens. Just six weeks into the job, Houle was faced with a monumental crisis. Montreal's star goaltender Patrick Roy, who had been feuding with head coach Mario Tremblay, and soon after being yanked from a game, told team president Ronald Corey that he had just played his final game for Montreal. The television cameras caught the entire episode, with a stunned looking Corey sitting in the front row in disbelief and Tremblay staring off into space. The situation was unfixable, so Houle traded Roy and captain Mike Keane to the Colorado Avalanche for goalie Jocelyn Thibault, Andrei Kovalenko, and Martin Rucinsky in what was the biggest trade in Montreal Canadiens' history.

Houle served as general manager until being replaced by Andre Savard in 2000.

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