The Canadiens must do justice to Toe Blake
The media launched the campaign for the nomination of the next captain of the Canadiens. But what is the team management intends to wear bib number 6 by Shea Weber during his five seasons in Montreal? No he does there could be no question of hoisting a banner immortalizing Weber in the heights of the Bell Center. If such an honor had to be returned to him, it is in Nashville that he would deserve it.
The Predators took his number out of circulation after trading him to the Habs for PK Subban.
An explosive trio
The Canadian must nevertheless add a banner stamped with the number 6 to the 18 others suspended in its amphitheater. In honor of whom? young people will ask.
In tribute to Toe Blake, the only member of the famous punch line not to have been decorated with this distinction.
The older ones who witnessed the exploits of this trio and the next two or three generations know all there is to know about the punch line.
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 its centenary celebrations to pay the same tribute to Elmer Lach, as well as to former defender Butch Bouchard, who also played a big role in the Stanley Cup conquests of the Tricolor in 1944 and 1946.
The occasion would have been good to honor the memory of their former teammate Toe Blake at the same time.
I’ve always wondered about the reasons that motivate the management of the Canadiens not to include Mr. Blake, as I called him when I saw him on the Forum’s press bridge, in his prestigious club of retired jerseys. His son Bruce asks himself the same question.
“He got assists on all the Rocket goals!” he laughs.
« I don’t know why number 6 isn’t removed from his memory. »
Bruce says it calmly and without bitterness. He doesn’t criticize anyone. He relies on the people who have the decision-making power in this type of file at the Canadian.
In the Pantheon as a player
I’m 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 the ice that landed him in the Hall of Fame.
During the 1938-39 season – a campaign in which the Canadiens finished second to last in a seven-team league, while earning a playoff bye – Blake won the National League scoring championship. He was also elected winner of the Hart Trophy awarded to the most valuable player to his team.
In 1943, coach Dick Irvin formed what journalists would call the punch line.
In 1944-45, Lach, Richard and Blake captured the top three NHL scoring ranks in that order.
In 1946, Blake became the first Canadiens 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.
Among the top 100
In 2017, he was posthumously selected to the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players Club.
His playing career is worth more than a photo in the ring of honor of the players and builders of the Canadiens 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, sit alongside that of Gilbert Perreault, who is recognized as the greatest player in Sabers history.
Above the three banners, we can see the inscription « The French Connection »flanked by the Fleur de lys on one side and the Sabers logo on the other.
more than time
Toe Blake passed away in 1994, swept away by the effects of the terrible disease Alzheimer’s.
His son, who is the last survivor of his immediate family, would undoubtedly be happy to hoist a banner from the ceiling of the Bell Center paying tribute to his father for the 13 great seasons he gave to the Canadiens on the ice.
The time has come to reunite forever Toethe rocket and Elmer. Serge Savard says so in the preface to the book entitled Hector « Toe » Blake, L’Ours au cœur tender, a work by Léandre Normand, which has been on the market since April.
It is more than due.
Second retired NHL scorer
A statistic that shows how Toe Blake was a great player.
He was the second-highest scorer in National League history when a double fracture to his right leg ended his career with the Canadiens in January 1948. He had 529 points, as did Syd Howe, who was not related to Gordie.
Blake had, however, played 123 fewer games than Howe, or 577 against 700 for Howe who 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 the county of Pontiac (Outaouais), Cowley had 549 points in as many games on the clock.
First in playoffs
In the playoffs, Blake held the lead with 62 points in 58 games, nine more than Syl Apps who had played 11 more games.
Maurice Richard was third with 47 points, including 31 goals, in just 34 games. According to accounts at the time, the Rocket was deprived of several assists during games on opposing rinks.
Because the fact of seeing a French Canadian rewrite the book of records disturbed the English-speaking leaders of the league.
When Lach hung up his skates in 1954, Richard was the No. 1 scorer in NHL history with 652 points.
Lach trailed the Rocket with 623 points while Blake, who had played his last NHL game six years earlier, was eighth.
Within months of his accident, Blake, who had learned the basics of coaching from Dick Irvin, under whom he played from 1940, led the Houston Huskies to the USHL championship.
He stepped on the skates again in 1948-49 as player-coach of the Buffalo Bisons, which he led to a Calder Cup title.
He filled both roles the next two seasons with the Valleyfield Braves of the mighty Quebec Senior League.
And, in 1955, he succeeded Irvin behind the Canadian bench. A great coaching career was beginning.