The six surviving players who played on all five straight championship teams were guests of the league at this year’s Stanley Cup final and only too happy to relive those times at a dinner Friday night.
“It got hard at the end because we didn’t get a party the last year – the owner got tired of giving us parties,” former scoring great Dickie Moore recalled with a laugh.
“But it hurt when we got beat by Chicago in 1961. I got out of town fast.”
Moore, star centre Jean Beliveau, centre Henri Richard, winger Don Marshall and defencemen Jean-Guy Talbot and Tom Johnson were all part of the 1950s dynasty built by general manager Frank Selke and coached by the legendary Toe Blake.
“I’ll never forget the first day (Blake) came into the room to talk to us,” added Moore. “He said, ‘I can’t coach you guys, you’re too good.’
“And we also had (former captain) Butch Bouchard to keep us together.”
The team included scoring wonder Maurice (Rocket) Richard, defence great Doug Harvey and innovative goaltender Jacques Plante, who have all passed away, although Harvey’s son Glen attended the dinner.
The group will be honoured in an on-ice ceremony Saturday night before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final between the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators.
“After winning it the fifth time, we thought we were going to win it the sixth – that was the attitude at the time,” said Johnson, the 1959 Norris Trophy winner who later became a coach and an executive with the Boston Bruins. “No one overreacted.”
“It’s such a great feeling to be part of five consecutive Cups,” added Moore. “And it could have been six.
“I got the penalty that cost the winning goal against us in Chicago, in overtime.”
Moore is on the mend from a near-fatal car accident last August in which he suffered multiple broken bones and internal injuries.
But the man who won one of his two NHL scoring titles, while playing with a broken wrist has battled back. He still does daily rehab, but he returned to his successful construction equipment rental business a few months ago.
All feel their record of five straight Cups will never be broken, but two teams came close by winning four in the row – the 1976-79 Canadiens and the 1980-83 New York Islanders. The Edmonton won five Cups in seven years from 1984 to 1990.
The Islanders came close in 1984, but were beaten in the final by the Oilers.
“I went to Edmonton – I jinxed them,” Moore said with a smile. “Seriously. It was so nice sitting in the stands watching the Islanders get beat. (Isles G.M.) Bill Torrey hated me from there on in.”
The 1950s Canadiens were the team responsible for the rule that allows a penalized player to return to the ice if the opposing team scores on the power play.
Mostly, that stems from the Beliveau, Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, Bert Oldmstead combination (with Harvey on the point) that once scored four times on one man advantage.
“It’s unreal how many good hockey players we had on that team,” said Marshall, who mostly skated on the checking line with Claude Provost and Phil Goyette.
“I was pretty young at that time and I thought it was tremendous. How can you not like it when you win all the time? It’s a great feeling and you think it’s going to go on forever, but then all of a sudden it stops.”
Beliveau said the first Stanley Cup rings were handed to the players in 1959, and Johnson was wearing a ring later given to them commemorating all five Cups.
The five in a row was the beginning of a remarkable dominance by the Canadiens that lasted until the end of the 1979s. Beliveau and Richard, who ended up with 10 and 11 Cups respectively, were also a part of a Montreal team that won four in five years from 1964 to 1969.
“We lost to Toronto in 1967 and I was disappointed because I thought we had the better team,” said Beliveau. “We had a good team in the 1960s, but not as many top players as in the 1950s.”
Talbot, who was Johnson’s defence partner all five years, said “you know it’s never going to get beat.
“The way it is now, with players changing teams so often, I don’t think it’s possible to win five in a row.”