- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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This is the same Gump—this tiger in the nets—who fears plane travel and on any trip sits stone upright at the first tiny bump, his head rigid, eyes transfixed and knuckles white, as if that big slap-shooter in the sky were coming in on a breakaway. This is the Gump who, some nights after games, walks until sunrise. This is the loner who will sometimes sit by himself in a bistro even if he runs into his teammates.
This, too, is the Gump who got stick-whipped so rudely by Toronto's Tim Horton in one of his first games with Montreal that he was described by a Canadien official as "a pig in a slaughterhouse." The same man said, "He'll never play for the Canadiens again."
And this is the man who nevertheless is so admired now by his Canadien teammates that they kid him with more reverence than rudeness.
In the lingo of the English-speaking Canadien players, their French-speaking mates are "Pep-zees" or "Gorfs." Pep-zee stems from a soft drink strike during which Montreal storekeepers would say, "We 'ave no Coke, but we 'ave Pep-zee." Gorf is merely Frog spelled backward. Chief gloom-chaser of the Pep-zee generation is Winger Claude Provost, who one day last summer conducted a question-and-answer session for his teammates. Charles de Gaulle was coming to visit Expo 67, and the papers were full of the security precautions being taken to protect him.
"Now, mes fr�res," he said in his best Pep-zee accent, "who guard De Gaulle?"
Gump may not be the best goalie and these Canadiens the best team Blake has coached, but they come close, and it is to the credit of the Blues—mostly to the credit of 34-year-old Head Coach Scotty Bowman—that the series did not turn into a rout.
Outmanned and outgunned, the Blues chose to play tight-checking hockey. They had no other way to go. If they kept the scores down and got lucky, maybe....
They kept the scores down all right, and their luck was all one might have expected. When it was over, Hall, who took more rounds than an FBI target, dressed quietly and with dignity. He headed back to his Canadian farm to plant his 500 acres and await another season.