This week is my anniversary. Okay, it’s one of them and, while it’s a passion one it doesn’t include my wife…at least not directly. My first Stanley Cup was 49 years ago this week although I hasten to report that my name was not engraved on hockey’s Holy Grail.
It was the first time I was on a team that covered the Stanley Cup Final and I learned a lot about what being a team player was all about, but without sticks and skates. The Montreal Canadiens were in Chicago for Game Six, up 3-2, and they returned home with the second of what would be five championships in the ’70s. It launched the Scotty Bowman-coached teams that became legendary when they won four more Cups to end the decade.
I was on a team of two. Red Fisher was the captain. He was also legendary, as sports writers go. By that time, he’d seen the Canadiens win the Cup 10 times and I was fortunate enough to be his sidekick for No. 11. Seven months earlier, as the Montreal Star’s sports editor, he’d hired me, while dangling no such carrot as covering the Stanley Cup. No carrots…no promises. Four months earlier, in need of a vacation after starting his season the previous August with the Canada-Russia Series, he’d anointed me to replace him as the Habs’ beat writer for three weeks.
The Canadiens won their 19th Cup on the night of May 10 — on this May 10 almost all 16 playoff teams were still in contention. But on that Thursday night in 1973, shortly after Yvan Cournoyer scored his lone Cup-winning goal, only one team stood as our team-of-two sat down to decide who would write what stories by the 3 a.m. deadline. Red designated me to write a game story which began like this:
“Yvan Cournoyer, who’s five-seven, and Jerry Korab, who’s six-three, were having a nose-to-navel discussion in the face-off circle, just before 10 o’clock last night.
“‘You little so-and-so,’ growled Korab. ‘What are you gonna do when you grow up.’ Little Yvan smiled…‘I’m gonna score goals.’
“Fifteen seconds later, Little Yvan grew up and Big Jerry was wishing he’d never asked. Because Little Yvan hit a puck that Big Jerry missed and drove it eight feet, into the mesh behind [goalie] Tony Esposito, who also missed.
“That was it. The Stanley Cup!”
Red Fisher’s stamp of excellence consumed one of the five front-page stories “our team” wrote that night, eulogizing the retiring hero who Red convinced NOT to retire, Henri Richard. He also informed me there was a Stanley Cup party the next night in Montreal and that we were expected to be there, with our wives.
Mine was pregnant and had “nothing to wear” so — rather than wear nothing — after my call home she sat up all night at the sewing machine and made a dress! So, in a way, this week is her anniversary, too: the first time she made a dress for a Stanley Cup party.