Just because you have an illness like Parkinson’s doesn’t mean that that’s all you focus upon. Not even close. Like everyone else, I watch tv/movies, listen to lots of music, watch sports…you know…all the normal things most people like to do. So this story has nothing to do with Parkinson’s, except for the fact that I’m typing it!!!
I just mentioned sports and it’s hard to be anywhere in Chicago without being overwhelmed with talk about the Hockey game tonight, between the Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings. That’s fine with me. I’ve loved Hockey and the Hawks since I was nine years old.
The first game I can remember was in 1961, when the Hawks won the Stanley Cup against the Red Wings. After that, WGN started showing all the Blackhawk road games and it almost became appointment television. There were only six teams then, so you saw a lot of all of them and became familiar with all the players. You could see a Maple Leaf wearing 27 and know it was the Big M, Frank Mahovlich, and it was the same with all the teams. I was hooked early!!
This story really starts in 1971. It’s time for the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s the semi-final round and the Blackhawks are playing the New York Rangers. The series went back and forth. It was tied at two games apiece. Chicago won Game 5, in ovetime, when Bobby Hull scored off a faceoff. Game 6 went to double overtime, with the Rangers winning to set up a Game 7. With about five minutes remaining Bobby Hull scored on a similar play that won Game 5. They added an empty net goal to close it out. At the time, this series was considered one of the greatest playoff series in NHL history. You can still find highlights from it on YouTube. But really all it did waas set up forty years of heartbreak.
The Stanley Cup Final was the Hawks and the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal had eliminated the favored Boston Bruins behind goalie Ken Dryden, who had only played a couple of NHL games before the playoffs. They also had a bunch of hall of fame players, including the man pictured above, Yvon Cournyer. But he’ll come into the picture a little later. Even with all these star players and team history, Chicago was the favorite to win the Cup.
The series was pretty even. Chicago wins the first two game. Montreal counters by winning the next two. The Hawks won the pivotal Game 5 and had a chance to win the Cup in Game 6. They had the lead most of the way but Montreal comes back late behind the Big M, Frank Mahovlich to tie up the series and set up a Game 7 for the championship.
The Blackhawks score the first two goal of the game. Towards the middle of the second period, Bobby Hull takes a hard shot that beat Dryden, but hit the crossbar and bounced away. That would have made it 3-0 and maybe put the game away. Instead Montreal gets a fluke goal, adds another and we’re tied going into the final period. The only goal is scored by Henri Richard of Montreal. Dryden makes one big save after another and the game ends with Montreal winning 3-2 and winning the Stanley Cup.
It was the most devastating loss that I can remember. As you can see, I still can describe it in detail 42 years later.
Let’s move forward to 1992. I’m living in southern California and I’m working for a company that was a big sponsor of the Los Angeles Kings hockey team. One night, the Kings arranged for a group of our employees to attend a game. I went with about fifteen other people. Not only did we have tickets but before the game, the put us in a private room and fed us along with drinks.
The team the Kings were playing that night was the Montreal Canadiens. While we were eating, a couple of former Canadien players joined us. They worked for the team and were on the road trip. One player was Jean Beliveau. Beliveau is one of the all time greatest NHL players. He also was my favorite non-Blackhawk player ever. I never said a word to him. Along with Beliveau was the man you saw in the picture at the top (finally, right!!), Yvon Cournyer. He sat at our table. He fit right in with our group. Very personable. Told us stories about his time in hockey. He had a great career. More than 400 lifetime goals and he won 10 Stanley Cup championships.
As the group started to break up, I was chatting with him and I started to talk about the 1971 Finals series. I basically told him the same thing you’ve been reading here. He’s listening closely, nodding his head and starts laughing. He puts his hand on my shoulder and says “It’s been 20 years. Move on. Get over it”.
I told him that I didn’t think that was going to happen and obviously, I’m right. I never really got over that game. Even when the Hawks won the Cup in 2010, I just thought that they should have had two Cups instead of one.
So tonight is another Game 7. It’s the biggest Game 7 since that night in 1971. I have my Blackhawk tshirt and hat ready for the game. But no matter what happens, I won’t take it as bad as that night 42 years ago.