Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The "Original" Six

I found The Original Six on a side trip from my bagel pilgrimage to Montreal's Mile End, though I was really interested in only one of its stories, that about the Montreal Canadiens.

That story, by Wayne Johnston, purports to examine events that led to the infamous Richard Riot of 1955. Johnston's story posits a personal and professional friendship between the great Francophone hockey forward Maurice "Rocket" Richard, whose suspension for rough play triggered the eponymous riot, and the story's Anglophone sportswriter/narrator, who ghostwrites a newspaper column for Richard. This is of interest, since the Richard Riot is often cited as a turning point in arousing Quebecois sensibilities and a precursor to Quebec's Quiet Revolution of the 1960s.

(An outdoor staircase on St. Urbain Street. Such staircases mean more space indoors. They're a typical feature of Montreal homes.)

The NHL's president, Clarence Campbell (a longtime enemy of Richard's, in Johnston's version), had suspended the mighty Richard for the rest of the season — and the Stanley Cup playoffs. Montreal was incensed. Richard, though not in uniform, showed up for the game. So did Campbell, fashionably late, as if to call attention to his presence. And then—

(Don't be misled by the subtitle True Stories from Hockey's Classic Era. Johnston's story features a first-person narrator who tells us that "In 1954, I was writing a satirical hockey column." Johnston was born in 1958.)

***
(Adrian McKinty's old philosophy tutor)

(The "Original Six" is a misnomer for the six teams that constituted the National Hockey League from 1942 through the expansion era beginning in 1967, which put teams in Oakland; Kansas City; Tampa, Fla.; and Disney World, among other non-traditional hockey cities. In fact, the league had been founded twenty-five years before the "Original Six" — and with four teams. Hockey is a subtle game.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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32 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

When I knew Ignatieff he was married to a nice bland English lady, but now he's married to the wonderfully named Zsuzsanna M. Zsohar which is so much cooler.

April 19, 2011  
Blogger Kent Morgan said...

Peter:

The other stories are worth reading in particular one about Eddie Shore. I wrote a book review at the time the book was published, but don't know where it is.

April 19, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I have never heard a more euphonious moniker in all my born days. If he wins, I predict many misspellings of both the first couple's names, especially hers.

April 19, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kent, it will be interesting to see what stories will pack the emotional impact for Rangers, Leafs, Red Wings, Bruins and Blackhawks fans that the Richard Riot has for Montrealers like me.

One review I noticed today called the Eddie Shore the weakest in the collection -- odd, the reviewer remarked, since the collection's editor wrote it.

April 19, 2011  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Is the Eddie Shore story about the time he drove to Montreal in a blizzard? I remembet it as quite a good story.

Charles Foran has a new book out about Maurice Richard. I know that in 1946 Richard did some PR events with Jackie Robinson.

I can imagine how politically charged the whole situation was in Montreal at the time. Richard scored his famous 50 goals in 50 games in the 1944-45 season when a lot of the English players were in the armed forces, so the whole conscription issue would have been in play.

I see the Original Six book is edited by Paul Quarrington, if you haven't read his King Leary it's a very good hockey novel, but his Home Game may be the better book.

April 19, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, I hadn't heard of any of the writers before I found this book. Now, let's see what the Eddie Shore story is. (I'd heard the blizzard story before.)

"But Mr. Shore ... no airplanes are flying tonight."

Yep, I think it's about the blizzard.

The Richard Riot was a a decade after the war ended, but I was going to suggest that Campbell, having been part of the Nuremberg Trials, mighy not have taken kindly to Richard's non-participation in the war. Campbell did serve in the Canadian Forces, but I just read this in a Wikipedia article about him:

"It has been widely reported that Campbell participated in the Nuremberg Trials, but he said that was untrue in a Sports Illustrated article published in the late 1960s."

I met Campbell at the Forum when I was a kid, by the way. I recognized him between periods, and I asked for his autograph on the only piece of paper I could find: a torn scrap from a pack of Du Maurier cigarettes. He smiled, said "You shouldn't be getting autographs on that," and signed on a piece of NHL stationery. I still have it.

April 19, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

All interesting information, but my concern is about the staircase.

There is a rather wicked winter in Montreal, I'd assume. How do people navigate those outdoor stairs in snow, ice, sleet, slippery, wet conditions?

April 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy: I've wondered the same thing. That's not my part of town, and I don't know. People who live on those upper floors must wear good, well-treaded boots in the winter and exercise caution when climbing to their apartments, because broken bones and twisted ankles are no special part of Montreal's winter folklore, as far as I know.

April 20, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I like that blue or shall we say teal staircase. I hadn't thought about the snow aspect, but that's because I'm a Californian.

April 20, 2011  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Another thing about those staircases: you'd better be young when you live in the upper reaches of those buildings. Once the vicissitudes of age (I'm practicing being pompous, can you tell?) hit, you'll desperately want an elevator.

For that matter, even if you're 25, what if you need to move your household goods and what little furniture you have?

April 20, 2011  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Linkmeister, it's funny you mention moving. Moving day is a big deal in Montreal, there's even a Wikipedia entry explaining it, complete with a picture of the curved staircase in action, so to speak.

When I was a kid my mother worked part-time for the phone company from February through May for what was then called, "May Move," when May 1st was the day. It's since been changed to July 1st and my Mom is long since retired.

It's funny, though, I can't think of any Montreal literature that includes anything about Moving Day.

There's a political angle, too (as always in Quebec :), as Montreal had one of the highest rates of renting in North America and a big part of the Quiet Revolution was moving to the idea of home ownership. That did have an effect on Moving Day, but it's still a big deal.

And those staircases certainly don't help. Who'd build iron staircases on the outside of buildings in a city that's covered in ice and snow six months of the year?

April 20, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

That was fascinating, John. I don't think there's anything like it in the U.S., although of course the end of the school year in a university town like ours has something of the same effect. I have a few friends who actually go dumper diving up on campus at around that time as people throw out tons of perfectly fine stuff as they leave.

That article did mention Gabrielle Roy writing a novel about it, but you should write a short story about it. ie a

April 20, 2011  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Ha, I was just coming back here to say I should have read the Wikipedia entry more closely myself. The Tin Flute is one of the most famous books in Canada and I've never read it. Well, come on, read that description, doesn't it sound depressing?

That movie sounds like it might be more fun...

One year I remember driving an overloaded pick-up truck and getting caught in a Canada Day parade on Sherbrooke Street in NDG - Canada Day parades are not very big in Quebec and the pick-up was not out of place among the 'floats.'

The very first short story I handed in at Concordia was about moving day - my pretentious attempts at something a literary journal might go for, big symbolism with the plant left behind by the previous tenant. Ha ha, yeah, maybe I should revisit that but this time there'll be criminals and crooked cops and that plant will be dope...

April 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, outdoor staircases might make for hot, gritty times, what with the summer heat and the Santa Ana winds on California's July 1 Moving Day.

April 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John, I'd assumed that the outdoor staircases were space-sacing devices. But I read while preparing this post that they reduced the size of buildings for tax purposes.

The core of Montreal is pretty built up, but if any two- or three-story residential construction does happen, I wonder if it includes outdoor staircases.

I guess Moving Day would be a pretty big headache for the phone company, too, with a big proportion of the population changing its phone numbers at the same time every year.

It would be interesting to compare Quiet Revolution efforts to encourage homeownership with the American efforts to do the same that have worked so well in recent years.

April 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, Linkmesiter, that's what La fete de la vieillese et de la jeunesse (English: The Day of the Spiral Staircase) is for. Every January 1, tenants turning 60, 70, 80, 90 or 100 lug their refrigerators and stoves down the outdoor metal staircases to apartments one floor lower to be met on the way by younger tenants moving one floor up. Tradition says Quebec chose January 1 for this jolly festival because the new year symbolizes renewal.

April 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I did a bit of informal trash harvesting in Massachusetts years before the termo dumpster diving came into use.

Philadelphia is a pretty big town for that also. A group of artists calling itself the Dumpster Divers makes art out of what it finds.

April 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John, I think I was aupposed to have read The Tin Flute for school, but I don't remember if I ever did. A revisit of your old Moving Day story could work as a story of big-timecross-border dope smuggling. The tag line for the movie version's advertising campaign:

Moving Day: Who'd Pay Attention to One MOre Truck?

April 20, 2011  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

I love that line, "Who'd pay attention to one more truck." I can see a great poster with a street lined with moving trucks.

Like the first day of Levittown.

But maybe not a smuggling story, maybe it should be a hiest movie...

April 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or maybe I've just been reading too much Richard Stark.

That's a great picture. I wonder if there were any fistfights involving frustrated truck drivers.

April 20, 2011  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

I like that picture, too, but I seem to remembering reading somewhere it was staged by LIFE magazine. Maybe I just believe anything cynical too easily.

There was a hiest movie set in Montreal with Robert de Niro, Marlon Brando and Edward Norton. They robbed the customs building at the bottom of McGill street where I used to deliver paperwork for a customs broker almost everyday in the 80's. They didn't use moving day as a distraction, though.

And, of course, there was the real hiest of the Brinks truck in the 70's in Old Montreal. This article says it was "downtown," but it was in an alley in Old Montreal. The hiest was later credited to the West End Gang, Irish guys from Pointe Ste. Charles, who used the money to finance herion smuggling through the port of Montreal into New York. And the anti-aircraft gun was stolen from the front lawn of a Canadian military base and, of course, didn't work.

That kind of sounds like Richard Stark, doesn't it?

April 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I rode a bicycle down around the old customs house and Old Montreal the other day. Of course, that was before the Bixi system decided that I couldn't rent bicycles anymore.

I have since discovered that the WiFi network at Second Cup appears to be run with competence and ease of use equal to Bixi's. But I'll keep trying. I may yet succeed in posting another comment on your fine analysis at Do Some Damage of cop shows.

And yep, that picture looks staged to me, too, like a clunky suburban version of the June Taylor Dancers.

April 20, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Well, I hope this is all percolating John, because it's obvious you've got some great material here.

I don't know if the Levitttown photo was staged or not. It was a different time. Now, though, product placement would make a fake inevitable.

April 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, what makes me skeptical of the photo's bona fides is the placement of the trucks more than the brand names. The picture is too neat a depiction of chaos.

April 20, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I'm sure you're right. But on the other hand, they all had to arrive sometime, didn't they?

April 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The foreground trucks fall too neatly into a pattern. But maybe that's just an illusion imposed by time and skepticism, as you suggest. The photo looks like a big sound stage, is what it looks like.

April 21, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

It does. I agree with you on the staged feel. I do still wonder if it was.

April 21, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Levittown itself was staged, arguably, which may be why the picture looks real and unreal at the same time.

April 21, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I was just thinking "Three cheers to the Irish guys in the West End gang," for pulling off a bank heist; that's always a great plot in a movie.

However, my enthusiasm came to a screeching halt when I saw the "used money for heroin smuggling from Montreal to New York." Not good.

April 21, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Not good. Say no to drugs. Say yes to bagels.

April 21, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes, could be a slogan: "Bagels, Yes; Drugs, No!"

"Bagels, not Bombs!" The mind reels at the possibilities.

April 21, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, the middle of the last century did give us both "Ban the Bomb!" and "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's bagels."

April 21, 2011  

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