The Canadiens must do justice to Toe Blake

The Canadian must do justice to Toe Blake

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The media have launched the campaign for the appointment of the Canadians' next captain. But what does team management intend to do with the number 6 bib worn by Shea Weber during his five seasons in Montreal? No, there isn't a matter of hoisting a banner immortalizing Weber in the heights of the Bell Centre. If such an honor should be returned to him, Nashville is where he deserves it.

The Predators retired his number from circulation after trading him to the Habs for P.K. Subban.&nbsp ;

An explosive trio

The Canadian must nevertheless add a banner bearing the number 6 to the 18 others suspended in its amphitheater. In whose honor? young people will ask.

As a tribute to Toe Blake, the only member of the famous Punch Linenot to have been decorated with this distinction.

The older ones who witnessed the exploits of this trio and the two or three other generations that followed know all there is to know about thePunch 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 Habs in 1944 and 1946.

The occasion would have been good to honor the memory of their former teammate Toe Blake at the same time.

What's wrong?

I have always wondered about the reasons motivating the management of the Canadiens not to include Mr. Blake, as I called him when I saw him on the Forum press catwalk, 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 decision-making power in this type of case with the Canadiens.

In the Hall of Fame as a player

I'm always surprised also when people tell me that Blake is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder.

It's true that the man had great success behind the bench. He led the Canadiens to eight Stanley Cup titles in 13 seasons. But it was his performance 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 bye to the playoffs – Blake won the National League scoring championship. . He was also voted the winner of the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player to his team.

In 1943, coach Dick Irvin formed what journalists would call the Punch Line.

In 1944-1945, Lach, Richard and Blake won the top three scoring ranks in the NHL in that order.

In 1946, Blake became the first Canadiens player to win the Lady Byng Trophy awarded to the player showing the best sportsmanship.

He has three nominations to the left wing position in the first all-star team and another selection in the second.

And he was captain of the Canadiens from 1940 to 1948.

Among the 100 greatest

In 2017, he was posthumously selected to the NHL's 100 Greatest Players Club.  

His playing career is worth more than a shot in the ring of honor Canadiens players and builders in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In Buffalo, banners honoring the late Richard Martin and René Robert, who were not in the Hall of Fame, stand 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.

Over Time

Toe Blake passed away in 1994, swept away by the effects of the terrible Alzheimer's disease. 

< p>His son, who is the last survivor of his immediate family, would no doubt 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.

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The time has come to unite Toe, the Rocket and Elmer forever. Serge Savard says so in the preface to the book titled Hector “ Toe ” Blake, The Bear with a tender heart, a book signed by Léandre Normand, which has been on the market since April.

It's more than due. 

Second marker of the NHL on his retirement

A statistic that shows how great a player Toe Blake was. 

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 leader 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.

A native of Bristol, a Quebec municipality in the county of Pontiac (Outaouais), Cowley had 549 points in as many games on the clock.

< strong>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 matches. According to accounts at the time, the Rocket was deprived of several assists during games on opposing rinks.

Because seeing a French Canadian rewrite the record books bothered English-speaking leaders of the league.

When Lach hung up his skates in 1954, Richard was the NHL's all-time leading scorer with 652 points.

Lach trailed the Rocket with 623 points while Blake, who had played his final game in the NHL six years earlier, came in eighth position.

In the months following 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 skated again in 1948-49 as player-coach of the Buffalo Bisons, which he led to the conquest of the Calder Cup.

He fulfilled both roles for the next two seasons with the Valleyfield Braves of the powerful Quebec Senior League.

And, in 1955, he succeeded Irvin behind the Canadian bench. A great coaching career was beginning.

The Canadian must do justice to; Toe Blake