The Canadiens must do justice to Toe Blake


The media launched the campaign for the appointment of the next captain of the Canadiens. But what is the the team management intends to wear bib number 6 by Shea Weber during his five seasons in Montreal? No, it does it could not be a question of hoisting an immortal banner Weber on the heights of the Bell Center. If such an honor had to be returned to him, it is in Nashville that he deserves it.

The Predators withdrew his number from circulation after exchanging it with the Habs for PK Subban.

An explosive trio

However, the Canadian must add a banner stamped with the number 6 to the other 18 suspended in his amphitheater. In whose honor? young people will ask.

In homage to Toe Blake, the only member of the famous punchline not having been decorated with this distinction.

The elders who have witnessed the exploits of this trio and the next two or three generations know everything there is to know about punchline.

Great missed opportunity

Maurice Richard’s number 9 was brought to posterity in the weeks following the announcement of his retirement in the fall of 1960.

Four decades later, the Canadian took advantage of the centennial celebrations to pay the same tribute to Elmer Lach, as well as to former defender Butch Bouchard, who also played a major role in the Stanley Cup tricolor conquests in 1944 and 1946.

The occasion would have been good to honor the memory of the former teammate Toe Blake at the same time.

What’s wrong?

I have always wondered what are the reasons that push the Canadiens leadership not to include Mr. Blake, as I called him when I saw him on the press deck of the Forum, in his prestigious retired jersey club. His son Bruce asks himself the same question.

“He received assists on every Rocket goal!” laughs.

“I don’t know why the number 6 hasn’t been removed from your memory.”

Bruce says it calmly and without bitterness. He doesn’t criticize anyone. He relies on the people who have the power of decision in this type of file at the Canadian.

In the Pantheon as a player

I am also always surprised when people tell me that Blake is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder.

It is true that the man has had great success behind the bench. He led the Canadiens to eight Stanley Cup titles in 13 seasons. But it was his performances on ice that got him into the Hall of Fame.

During the 1938-39 season – a campaign in which the Canadiens finished next to bottom in a seven-team league, earning a farewell to the playoffs – Blake won the National League scoring championship. He was also named the winner of the Hart Trophy awarded to the most valuable player on his team.

In 1943, coach Dick Irvin formed what reporters would call the punchline.

In 1944-45, Lach, Richard, and Blake took the top three NHL scores in that order.

In 1946 Blake became the first Canadian player to win the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to the player with the best sportsmanship.

He has three left-wing nominations to the First All-Star Team and another selection to the Second.

And he was captain of the Canadiens from 1940 to 1948.

In the top 100

In 2017, he was posthumously selected in the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players Club.

His playing career is worth more than a photo in the honor ring of the Canadiens players and builders who are part of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In Buffalo, banners honoring the late Richard Martin and Rene Robert, who are not in the Hall of Fame, are found alongside that of Gilbert Perreault, who is recognized as the greatest player in Sabers history.

Above the three banners, we can see the writing “ The French connection “flanked on one side by the Fleur de lys and on the other by the Sabers logo.

most of the time

Toe Blake died in 1994, overwhelmed by the effects of the terrible Alzheimer’s disease.

His son, who is the last survivor of his family, would no doubt be happy to hoist a banner from the ceiling of the Bell Center in homage to his father for the 13 great seasons he gave the Canadiens on ice.

The time has come to reunite forever Toethe rocket and Elmer. Serge Savard says this in the preface to the book Hector “Toe” Blake, L’Ours au cœur tender, a work signed by Léandre Normand, on the market since April.

It is more than due.

Second NHL scorer retired

A stat that shows how Toe Blake was a great player.

He was the second highest scorer in National League history when a double fracture in his right leg ended his career with the Canadiens in January 1948. He had 529 points, as did Syd Howe, who was unrelated to Gordie.

Blake had, however, played 123 fewer games than Howe, or 577 to 700 for Howe who had had a career with the Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Quakers, Toronto Maple Leafs, St. Louis Eagles and Detroit Red Wings, from 1929 to 1946.

The point guard was Bill Cowley who, in his rookie season, played with the St. Louis Eagles – descendants of the first version of the Ottawa Senators – before playing with the Boston Bruins for 12 seasons.

Originally from Bristol, a Quebec municipality in Pontiac County (Outaouais), Cowley scored 549 points in as many games on the time trial.

First in the playoffs

In the playoffs, Blake held the lead with 62 points in 58 games, nine more than Syl Apps who had played another 11 games.

Maurice Richard finished third with 47 points, including 31 goals, in just 34 games. According to reports at the time, the Rocket was deprived of several assists during matches on the opposing tracks.

Because seeing a French-Canadian rewrite the record book upset the Anglophone leaders of the league.

When Lach hung up his skates in 1954, Richard was the top scorer in NHL history with 652 points.

Lach followed the Rocket with 623 points while Blake, who had played his last NHL game six years earlier, was eighth.

A few months after his accident, Blake, who had learned the basics of training from Dick Irvin, under whom he had played since 1940, led the Houston Huskies to the USHL championship.

He stepped on skates again in 1948-49 as the Buffalo Bisons player-manager, which resulted in a Calder Cup title.

He held both roles over the next two seasons with the Valleyfield Braves of the mighty Quebec Senior League.

And, in 1955, he succeeded Irvin behind the Canadian bench. He was starting a great coaching career.


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