Wednesday, March 4, 2009

the Messanger about Scotty Bowman

Here's the Scotty Remembers story from the Messanger that Guy mentioned on the main site,(VCM)   Thought I kep it on here for quick reference:


par Bob Dubois
Voir tous les articles de Bob Dubois
Article mis en ligne le 4 mars 2009 à 10:42
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It’s12 noon on a recent Thursday and the phone rings, long distance style, and it’s not one of my relatives from New England , but it’s the voice of a familiar, I dare say, household name in the world of professional sports and hockey in particular. After all, it’s not everyday you get a call from the winningest NHL coach of all time with most Stanley cups won, who’s the epitome of hockey excellence, and has more Stanley Cup rings than Ringo Starr could dream of..

“Hi, it’s Scotty here,” the voice says on the other end from his Florida residence, typical for a Quebecer at this time of the year, and on this day it’s a cool 44 F. I tell him that we’re delighted to have him to be our first subject of our new series on current and former Verdunites who are out there in their fields of endeavors.

We got down to a half-hour conversation, in this exclusive interview, about his younger days around here and talk a bit of those glory days of the 70’s and in our conversation, I found out why some former players used to call him Rain Man, for his grasp and memory of numbers and names. He rattles off addresses of where his family lived around here like a card counter in Vegas who’s memorized the cards dealt.

He remembers some of the streets like Foch, Valiquette, 2nd Ave, Manning with addresses thrown in for good measure and the place where Scotty lived the longest on 5th Avenue in a ‘six-plex’ and clearly hasn’t forgotten his roots and has happy memories.

“It was a lot of sports; I grew up most of the time on 5th Avenue, spent a lot of time at Willibrord Park in the winter, and in the summer too, because we played ball in the summer and hockey in the winter, at the corner of Bannantyne and 1st Ave. We would put our skates on at the house and skate through the back lanes and get on the ice, they had two ice surfaces there from December to mid-February and March if you were lucky.

We would play mostly on the weekends, stay there all day Saturday, play shinny, and get on teams later and just play,” says Scotty.

As a youngster, Scotty had a work ethic like his father, John who worked as a blacksmith at the old Federated Metal in the Pointe never missed a day in 32 years and this was mirrored in his school days in Verdun, where he never missed a day of elementary and he remembers his school days well.

Scotty continues, “The first year I went to Bannantyne, then I went to Woodland, and then Verdun High.” We asked about special memories and/or teachers of those days, and his memory was vivid for that era.

“We were talking about it yesterday, a friend and I, the hockey coach was a guy named Andy Watson and was the math teacher in Grade 11, and there was another coach named Frank Owen, he was also the assistant principal, most of the time we (the high school) practiced at the Verdun Auditorium. We had a good school midget team, in 46-47 we won the provincial midget championship, the team was called the Spartans and it was sponsored by a fellow named Norman Bracegirdle, who owned an appliance shop on Verdun Avenue,” recalls Scotty.

While talking, a friend of Scotty’s was in the background trying to horn in on the reminiscing and when I mentioned that my father taught at the old St. Willibrord, we had a chuckle, Scotty interjected with a reminder, “Well, I didn’t go to Willibrord’s, I was a good Protestant, my friend, he was a dual citizen, he was both Catholic and Protestant, he would go to both schools, Willibrord’s and Verdun High, trying to figure out what was the best education.” They still switch schools today, seems some things never change!

After the school years, hockey really took hold. Scotty was a pro prospect in 1951 for the Junior Canadiens and a head injury at the hands of Jean Guy Talbot at the Forum and his playing days were over. So he turned to coaching, which as Scotty said was a way to stay in hockey. He started coaching 12 and 13 year-olds and at 22, was coaching at the junior B level, which paid him $250 a year, and at the same time was working at the old Sherwin-Williams paint company on Centre Street, which allowed to him walk to the Forum to watch Dick Irvin’s Canadians practice. In 1956, he won the Memorial Cup with the Ottawa Junior Canadiens, which was managed by someone by the name of Sam Pollock and then after moved to the Peterborough Petes.

Scotty’s first pro job then came at 34 in 1967 with the expansion St. Louis Blues and the team reached the final the first three years, losing twice to the Canadiens.

In 1971, after Al MacNeil was let go, Sam Pollock came calling and hired the 38 year-old to take over the reins and the Bowman mystique that we have come to know was born. With that familiar thrusting chin and a firewagon brand of hockey with a truckload of draft choices, he coached the team to 5 Stanley Cups in 8 years and it was a time when you knew spring had arrived with a Stanley Cup Parade at lunch hour down St. Catherine Street one day in late in May and the Habs brought class back to hockey.

Steve Shutt, was once quoted as saying that the team was scared to lose, and the pressure was on to win, “You know the team was good, it made the team play better, the fan interest was real high and it brings out the best in the players, you know we didn’t lose a lot, we had defense and offence and in three years we lost only 29 games and only 8 in 1976-77, said Scotty.

After a falling out with Habs’brass in 1979, Scotty left the team after passing him over in favor of a bowling lane executive, Irving Grundman as the new General Manager and which was probably the worst front-office decision ever in hockey. The Habs have won only two Cups since then. Scotty Bowman continued his illustrious career with stays in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. He would win 9 Stanley cups as a coach and is the winningest coach of all time with 1244 wins and 223 in the playoffs.

The next time you’re in town Mr. Bowman, do give me a call, dinner’s on me. It’s the least we can do after giving us all those exciting moments through the years. Thanks for the memories, Scotty B.

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