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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    PHT Morning Skate: Melnyk denies Senators sale; Kopitar has Hart

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    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

    • Eugene Melnyk denied rumors that he was selling the Ottawa Senators. “Let me set the record straight. I have no idea how a reporter fabricated a fiction about my selling the team. These stories pop up out of nowhere probably from someone ‘hearing something’.” [Ottawa Sun]

    • A fascinating oral history of the inaugural season of these Senators. [Sportsnet]

    • The KHL initially announced they would be allowing its players to participate in the PyeongChang Olympics, then retracted it. So for now, we still wait to see what will happen. [NBC Olympics]

    • Will the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” hockey team wear new jerseys? That’s still a question that lingers. “There’s a discussion around the [Russia] uniform,” said Roman Rotenberg, the Russian federation’s senior vice president. “It’s been produced already and there are certain technical questions.” [NBC Olympics]

    Anze Kopitar, now healthy, is playing his way into the Hart Trophy discussion. [FanRag Sports]

    Marc-Andre Fleury on facing his old team tonight: “The Cup champs, it’s a good challenge for our team. I’d like to do my part to beat them.” [Post-Gazette]

    • The board game that NHL players love to play on the road? Risk, just like Kramer and Newman. Ukraine not weak! [Sports Illustrated]

    • Read this important story on former NHLer Matt Johnson, who is now homeless and missing. [TSN]

    • How a young girl from Barbados became a huge Florida Panthers fan. [Miami Herald]

    • A really cool graphical look at the history of Indianapolis hockey jerseys. [The Sin Bin]

    • How the PyeongChang Olympics will affect NCAA hockey. [College Hockey News]

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    The Buzzer: Senators win, Subban from center, Lehtonen notches 300th win

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    Players of the Night: 

    Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators: It’s been a struggle for Ryan this season. He came into the game with just as single goal in 21 games but left with two in 22 while also adding an assist to help the Senators avoid a six-game losing streak.

    Tyler Pitlick, Dallas Stars: Pitlick scored twice, bookending Dallas’s five goals in a 5-2 win against the New York Islanders.

    P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators: If you continue reading (and you should) you will see Subban’s goal that came from quite a distance. The defenseman notched two in a ___ win against the Vancouver Canucks, powering the Preds to their ninth win in their past 12 games.

    Highlights of the Night: 

    Brad Marchand fought off Mike Green, and then did this to win in overtime:

    Dylan Larkin. Breakway. Shorthanded. Backhand.

    Blunder of the Night: 

    Yikes, Anders Nilsson. Bravo, P.K.

    Factoids of the Night: 

    Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen killed two birds with one stone on Wednesday:

    Filip Forsberg accomplished an impressive feat for the second time in his career.

    MISC: 

    Scores: 

    Senators 3, Rangers 2

    Stars 5, Islanders 2

    Bruins 3, Red Wings 2 (OT)

    Predators 7, Canucks 1


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Stone-cold man wins car, reacts appropriately

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    Has anyone ever remained so calm after winning a car?

    This Vancouver Canucks fan, introduced as Aaron, won a brand new Toyota tonight, hitting a shot from center ice through a hole barely wider enough to fit the puck.

    We should have seen this coming.

    Aaron’s stone-cold demeanour reared its head long before he took his first shot.

    “Do you like to drive?” Canucks in-game and TV host Hannah Bernard asked.

    “Of course,” Aaron said.

    “Could you use a new car?” Bernard followed.

    “Always,” he replied, stoically.

    “Are you nervous?” Bernard asked.

    “Yeah,” Aaron said, presumably lying.

    Aaron, again presumably, began to troll those at Rogers Arena. He missed wide left on his first attempt, then wide right on his second.

    Then he calmly sent the third arrow-straight down the middle.

    “I said I’d win it,” Aaron said. “It’ll be a long drive home, but it will be worth it.”

    He certainly showed P.K. Subban the way. The Predators defenseman scored his own goal from center ice in the same game.

    Bravo, Aaron. Simply incredible.

    Marchand, Pastrnak come through in Bruins’ 3-2 overtime win against Red Wings

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    The Boston Bruins mounted two successful comebacks in the third period on their way to a 3-2 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.

    The Bruins, who have been surging as of late, won for the 10th time in their past 12.

    The Red Wings, in quite the opposite scenario, lost their third straight and for the 11th time in their past 12 contests.

    By all accounts, the Red Wings deserved a better fate, at least until the third period.

    They limited the high-flying Bruins to just two shots in the first period and clawed out a 1-0 lead midway through the second frame, with Tomas Tatar‘s wrist shot finding twine after a perfect screen from Justin Abdelkader.

    Boston found the equalizer they needed early in the third frame, and from an unlikely source.

    Noel Acciari tied the game 1-1 with his second of the season after getting a couple whacks at a loose puck in front of Jimmy Howard, capping off a solid shift from the Bruins fourth line at 3:02.

    Detroit took the lead for a second time, this time short-handed after David Pastrnak got caught pinching, allowing Dylan Larkin to get behind the Bruins rearguard, scoring a beauty on a breakaway to make it 2-1.

    Scoring for Boston had been a strength coming into the game.

    David Pastrnak, Boston’s top point-getter, came into the game sporting an eight-game point streak. Brad Marchand, sitting just behind Pastrnak in terms of points, have a five-game heater of his own going.

    The dynamic duo wouldn’t be denied; the streaks would continue.

    Marchand picked out Pastrnak with a perfect back-door feed to tie the game 2-2 with 1:26 remaining in regulation, forcing overtime.

    Marchand, now running with good karma, took a backhand pass from Torey Krug and turned it into a partial breakaway, fending off Mike Green, and putting his backhand in the top shelf behind Howard.

    Tuukka Rask extended his win streak to five games. Rask, who struggled out the gate to start the season, stopped 31 shots and continues to look like the goalie of years past.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck