Mixed feelings for Habs fans on Richard Riot anniversary

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It could be a day of mixed feelings for older Montreal Canadiens fans. On one hand, the 2009-10 edition of the team is on a hot streak right now, winning six in a row to land them comfortably ahead of the playoff bubble. Still, those probably gray-haired fans may also think back 55 years, to a time when one hockey player ended up becoming a lot more than “just a hockey player.”

That’s because on March 17, 1955, a riot erupted due to then-NHL president Clarence Campbell’s decision to suspend French-Canadian icon and hockey legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard throughout the remainder of the league’s regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs. Habs Eyes on the Prize shares an article that captured the politically charged fervor.

The people of the city of Montreal and the province of Quebec itself were thunderstruck. The Canadiens and Detroit were tied for first place in the league and were to meet that night in the Montreal Forum. The fan reaction was so immediate and furious in the city that the police commissioner warned Campbell, whose office and that of the league were located in Montreal, that it would be inadvisable for him to attend the game as was his usual custom. Public attitudes were so poisonous that his staff begged him not to even think about entering the Forum.

Hours before the opening face-off, crowds, most of whom did not have tickets, gathered on St. Catharines St. and adjoining streets around the Forum, and they were in a surly mood. At the Montreal Gazette, the editor, sensing that the usual number of reporters staffing a Canadiens game would not be sufficient to cover what might happen, assigned a young sports writer named Red Fisher (Fisher worked for the Montreal Star in 1955, not the Gazette.) to rush to the Forum, not to cover any aspect of the game, but to handle whatever other newsworthy event might occur.

Fisher, who was to become a journalistic legend in Montreal, had never before covered anything at the Forum, but as soon as he arrived he sensed that what was growing among the crowds, both inside and outside the building, was a possible riot. He was correct.


Considering the near-fatal missteps of the elder Clarence, modern NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell doesn’t seem quite as clueless, does he? (Though it is funny that, once again, a man named Campbell suspended a fiery and unforgettable goal scorer. Heck, Ovechkin’s number is 8 and Richard’s was 9.)

Hockey has a rich and fascinating history, with equipment, stick and rules changes sometimes camouflaging profound cultural and political events. Few sports teams – let alone hockey teams – can match the history of the Montreal Canadiens (you should absolutely read Ken Dryden’s excellent book “The Game” for instance).

The Habs Eyes on the Prize article is huge, but it’s well worth a read. The blog also has more great suggestions for extended reading, including a collection of newspaper clips on the riots as well as archived articles from the New York Times and Detroit News.

(H/T to the Montreal Gazette blog Habs Inside/Out.)

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    The Buzzer: Malkin paces Penguins, Vegas keeps on winning

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    Player of the night: Evgeni Malkin

    Evgeni Malkin helped get things started for the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, and then he finished the game off with the overtime winner to send the New York Rangers to a fourth consecutive loss.

    Malkin scored once, added three assists and even dropped the gloves in a 5-4 overtime victory, as the Penguins came back with a late — and crafty — third period goal from Sidney Crosby.

    Talk about the Penguins being opportunistic on the winner. Off a defensive zone faceoff win for the Rangers, Ryan McDonagh made a terrible giveaway right beside his own net, giving the puck to Phil Kessel, who slipped it over to Malkin for the quick one-timer.

    Highlight of the night:

    There were a few candidates for this tonight. Phil Kessel once again showed off that tremendous wrist shot. Thomas Vanek decided to blast a slap shot on a breakaway, going post and in against the Senators. Nikita Kucherov had a perfect shot against Cory Schneider after previously setting up teammate Vladislav Namestnikov for a pretty goal versus the Devils. Yes, there were a few options.

    But, we’ll go back to Winnipeg for this one. Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson not only protects the puck from Jacob Trouba on the breakaway, but then dekes out Steve Mason with the move to the forehand.

    Factoid of the night:

    The Vegas Golden Knights won again, giving them a 5-1 record to begin their inaugural season. That puts them in elite company.

    Scores:

    New Jersey 5, Tampa Bay 4 (SO)

    San Jose 5, Montreal 2

    Pittsburgh 5, New York 4 (OT)

    Philadelphia 5, Florida 1

    Toronto 2, Washington 0

    Vancouver 3, Ottawa 0

    Nashville 4, Colorado 1

    Columbus 5, Winnipeg 2

    Dallas 3, Arizona 1

    Vegas 5, Buffalo 4 (OT)

    Carolina 5, Edmonton 3

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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    Sharks send Habs to their fifth straight loss

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    Make that five straight losses for the Montreal Canadiens.

    Jonathan Drouin had a goal and an assist on Shea Weber‘s power play blast, giving the Habs center a two-point night. That’s one of the few bright spots, as Montreal lost by a score of 5-2 to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

    This was a battle of two teams struggling to start the new season, with each sitting on only one victory. For the Habs, that victory was back on Oct. 5 in their season opener against Buffalo.

    Since then, however . . .

    And it isn’t about to get any easier for the Habs. This was the start of a stretch that includes three games in four nights against the bruising California teams — the Sharks tonight, the Kings tomorrow, and the Ducks on Friday. It could still get worse before it gets better.

    For the Sharks, who were led Tuesday by Logan Couture‘s four-point performance and Joe Pavelski‘s first goal of the season, they end their five-game home stand on a positive note after losing three of the previous four games.

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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    Wayne Simmonds leaves Flyers game for ‘precautionary reasons’ with lower-body issue

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    The Philadelphia Flyers earned a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, thanks to a four-goal outburst in the second period.

    And Philly forward Wayne Simmonds earned a decision over Micheal Haley in a quick fight during that middle frame, too.

    While the Flyers got the win, the news wasn’t all good with respect to Simmonds, however, as he was removed from the game for precautionary reasons because of a lower-body issue, the team announced.

    Beyond that, the Flyers said they will know more about his status by either tomorrow or Thursday. That puts a bit of a damper on the win.

    Not only is the 29-year-old Simmonds one of the toughest players in the league, unafraid to drop the gloves or throw big hits from time to time, but he’s an important part of Philadelphia’s offensive attack, as well. A productive member of the power play, he’s flirted with the 30-goal mark on three occasions while in Philly and reached that mark in each of the past two seasons.

    And he’s done that on a contract that includes an annual cap hit of just under $4 million.

    Simmonds was also off to a strong start in 2017-18 with five goals and seven points in six games.

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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    Rangers’ losing streak continues with OT defeat vs. Penguins

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    The New York Rangers needed a win.

    Their slow start is among the surprises early this season, as the Rangers have now lost four in a row with only one win to their record through seven games so far. They’ve had trouble scoring. Mistakes at inopportune moments have been costly.

    Facing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, the Rangers had a brutal start and a brutal finish in a 5-4 overtime loss to their Metropolitan Division foes.

    Phil Kessel scored just 43 seconds into the game, utilizing that dangerous wrist shot off the rush to beat Henrik Lundqvist top corner. By the end of one period, it was 2-0 Pittsburgh.

    Despite a second-period comeback, with three goals in under three minutes, and taking the lead in the third period, the Rangers couldn’t hang on and the Penguins won in overtime.

    Sidney Crosby scored a crafty tying goal with only 56 seconds remaining in regulation, waiting for the Rangers defender to touch the puck negating what would’ve likely been called a hand pass on Pittsburgh before firing a no-look backhander toward the net from behind the red line. The puck deflected in off Lundqvist, helping send this one to overtime.

    Evgeni Malkin capped off a four-point night with the overtime winner.

    “Right now it’s a little bit challenging as far as putting a whole game together for us,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault following the game. “But this group is very accountable … and I’m very confident that if we keep doing a lot of the things we’re doing right now, we’re going to be on the right track.”

    A trio of Rangers recorded their first goals of the season. That included David Desharnais, Michael Grabner and Pavel Buchnevich, although the latter played less than 10 minutes on Tuesday, despite nearly four minutes in power play time, and of course the goal.

    The Rangers host the New York Islanders on Thursday. Another loss, and one has to wonder how hot the seat may be getting under Vigneault.

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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