‘Savour Every Moment’: Cournoyer recalls first NHL goal with Canadiens


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For as lengthy as he can bear in mind, Yvan Cournoyer dreamed of participating in for the Montreal Canadiens. Approximately 60 several years right after the truth, he recalls the very best information of his initial activity for them.

As a boy in Drummondville, Quebec, about 65 miles east of Montreal, Cournoyer would take a typical Saturday night time wander down a short hill from the spouse and children house to a Tv store in city, the Canadiens match enjoying in black and white in the shop window. It really is below that he’d be entranced, his loved ones not still possessing its have established.

Cournoyer would view one time period ahead of returning residence, Saturday game titles at the Montreal Forum in the early 1950s starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.

A single of the NHL’s greatest champions savors the reminiscences of those people cold nights, his initially actions towards a Hall of Fame Canadiens career that would see him acquire the Stanley Cup 10 instances, be the Montreal captain his final 4 seasons, and lead to his No. 12 becoming retired to the Bell Centre rafters in 2005.

“If you’d instructed me when I arrived in Detroit in 1963 for my initial NHL sport that I would reach all of that, I would likely have stop proper then and there. I’d in no way have thought you,” Cournoyer stated. 

But this potent locomotive on skates, a male so explosively quick that a New York sports activities author would nickname him Roadrunner, would realize so a great deal additional, his path set in Drummondville.

His adore of hockey was born when he gained his initial pair of skates, a present from his uncle Jean, for his seventh birthday in November 1950. Cournoyer was the next oldest of Paul and Simone Cournoyer’s 5 children — three daughters and two sons. His father, a machinist, constructed a rink on the assets, and Yvan practically lived on it.

To get additional ice time, as a preteen he took a task at the area arena.

“The rink’s walls were being steel. It was colder inside than it was outside the house,” the 78-calendar year-outdated joked. “I’ve favored to get the job done all my everyday living. I worked at a flower store, did odd employment. I by no means asked my mother and father for income. Doing work at the rink, I had much more probability to skate. Probably shoveling the ice helped me to get much better legs.”

Paul Cournoyer purchased a machine shop in Montreal when Yvan was 13 and moved his loved ones to the major town. Before long his hockey-mad son was flying up and down the still left wing for the junior Lachine Maroons, not nevertheless owning taken his still left-hand shot to the appropriate facet.

And he was establishing his famous wrist toughness by practising for limitless several hours in the basement with hefty steel pucks his father created for him. It is a trade that Cournoyer viewed as in the function hockey didn’t pan out he took a machinist course through extended hours on the bus with the significant-junior Montreal Junior Canadiens, enjoying a few seasons for them from 1961-64. 

Yvan Cournoyer, in his second total period with the Canadiens, featured on the deal with of the Montreal Discussion board system Feb. 6, 1965, and as an alternate captain in the mid-1970s.

He scored 111 details (63 ambitions, 48 helps) in 1963-64, his final season with the Junior Canadiens, finding his initial taste of the NHL that period when he was summoned by the Canadiens for what would provide as a 5-match tryout.

Middle Henri Richard was out with a groin damage. In Montreal, 5 days earlier his 20th birthday and making ready for the Nov. 28, 1963, Discussion board activity with the Junior Canadiens, Cournoyer was instructed by the dad or mum team that he’d instead fly with veteran ahead Gilles Tremblay for that night’s video game at the Detroit Purple Wings.

“I often like Gilles, the way he skated,” Cournoyer claimed. “When I met him the initial time, I asked him if skating was an effort for him for the reason that he built it feel so all-natural.”

As anxious as he was, there was a little bit of familiarity, Cournoyer often viewing the Canadiens apply at the Forum just after the juniors had skated and mingling when he could.

“I observed Henri Richard on the lodge measures when I arrived in Detroit and I instructed him, ‘I’m in this article to support you,'” he claimed with a giggle. “Henri just looked at me and reported, ‘I really don’t know about that.’ My 1st NHL video game and I am actively playing from (future Hall of Famers) Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Monthly bill Gadsby and Terry Sawchuk.”

Cournoyer played a normal change with Tremblay on the other wing and Bobby Rousseau at heart, using four photographs and scoring his maiden NHL intention, the Canadiens’ seventh in a 7-3 gain. It arrived towards goalie Harrison Grey, who relieved the hurt Sawchuk for the start of the next interval.

Cournoyer jokes to this working day that his objective, the initially of 428 he would score through his NHL job, was the recreation-winner.

“When (mentor) Toe Blake touched me on the back again to go on the ice for my to start with change, I was not sure,” he explained. “I turned all-around and claimed to Toe, ‘Are you Alright?'”

Cournoyer kept his 1st-goal puck, a precious Red Wings-crested memento.

“I slept with it beside me that night,” he said. “I considered, ‘Well, if I do not make it, I’ve at the very least scored a aim for the Canadiens.'”

Cournoyer played 4 extra online games for Montreal that year, scoring the moment at the Chicago Black Hawks on Jan. 26 and two times towards the Crimson Wings at the Forum on Feb. 1. 

He was back again with the Canadiens the subsequent season, detoured for 7 games to Quebec of the American Hockey League.

“I took a slap shot off my ankle in practice but failed to want to notify any individual that I was harm,” he explained. “I sat in a recliner all night time with my leg up but I could hardly skate the subsequent day. Toe asked me what was improper and I confessed.”

The Canadiens despatched him to Quebec for conditioning, the last he’d at any time see of the minors. Cournoyer was back again for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and his first of 10 championships, his very first of four he would gain for the duration of his initial five total seasons.

His 10 equal all those of late Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau, one less than the NHL-record 11 of the late Richard.

“Talk to me if I try to remember all the decades I won the Stanley Cup and I will say no,” Cournoyer says. “But I keep in mind the 12 months we missing in 1967 (upset by the Toronto Maple Leafs in six game titles of the seven-sport Stanley Cup Remaining). That probably helped me to gain more Cups just after that due to the fact it taught me to better respect the other workforce in the playoffs.”

Cournoyer would have a entrance-row seat to the biggest intention in his country’s hockey historical past, assisting on Paul Henderson’s past-gasp winner for Canada in Activity 8 of the landmark 1972 Summit Series pitting a staff of NHL stars towards a decide on squad from the Soviet Union.

Yvan Cournoyer in a portray collage by Michel Lapensée on his 2005 Canadiens jersey retirement, and symbolizing Canada in the 1972 Summit Sequence.

Following taking part in five NHL video games in 1963-64, Cournoyer was deemed ineligible to signify Canada in the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics.

“But I glimpse at the Summit Collection as my Olympics, my very first time as a professional symbolizing any staff other than the Canadiens,” he claims. “For me, I hardly ever experienced a prospect to go to the Olympics, but I think 1972 gave me a probability to know what they sense like, symbolizing all of Canada. I look at the Olympics now and say, ‘I was practically there.'”

Cournoyer was elected Canadiens captain for the 1975-76 period, succeeding Richard, who experienced retired. He assisted the superb 1970s dynasty to 4 consecut
ive Stanley Cup titles (1976 via 1979), Nos. 19-22 of the Canadiens’ 24, his job eventually ended by back again surgeries to repair harm brought about by his rugged style of play.

Cournoyer continues to be a vastly well known ambassador for the Canadiens, greeting many lovers who flock to his side. He shares numerous tales, from time to time recollections of his to start with NHL activity for the staff he worshipped as a boy, and seeing their video games on the established in a Drummondville Television shop window.

“The way we dressed in wool sweaters and socks, the players in the area,” Cournoyer reported. “It really is astounding when I believe about it. I dreamed of actively playing for the Montreal Canadiens and profitable possibly one particular Stanley Cup. That was it.”

Photos: Yvan Cournoyer selection Montreal Canadiens Hockey Hall of Fame Getty Pictures Montreal Typical Hospital Foundation

By Harriet