The fans in the
ancient and rickety Montreal Forum took up the chant when the clock said eight
seconds to go. "Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two... ," they
shouted to a rhythmic handclapping. "One." A St. Louis Blues
defenseman, Barclay Plager, snatched the hockey puck at the blue line and
flicked it half fast at stumpy Lorne (Gump) Worsley.
The Gumper caught
it in his ample midsection and smothered it tenderly, and in a moment he was
besieged by cheering teammates, each eager to bestow congratulations on the man
who had carried them to a record 13th Stanley Cup title in a near-perfect 13
playoff games—one over the minimum figures for the expanded National Hockey
League—with a final 3-2 victory Saturday afternoon.
won, as expected, in four straight games over the spunky Blues, but it wasn't a
pipe. Two of the games went into overtime and all four of the Canadiens'
victories were decided by the slimmest possible margin, a mere one goal.
Glenn Hall, the
Blues' 36-year-old goalie, was the tragic hero of the series, for of course he
lost each of the games by that same single goal. But it was Worsley who was the
hero, for he had picked up the Canadiens at their low point, when big Jean
Beliveau, the NHL's premier center, suffered a bone chip in his ankle and was
sidelined for almost all of the final series. A veteran of 18 years in hockey,
the 39-year-old Worsley had won all 11 playoff games in which he was still
awake at the finish. In Montreal's only cup loss, Bobby Hull of the Black Hawks
put him to sleep for 15 minutes with an errant knee.
As soon as he
could clear a way through the mob on the ice, Montreal Coach Hector (Toe)
Blake, 55, cradled Worsley under one arm and walked him to center ice, where a
red carpet had been rolled out to make a path to the cup. " Blake kept
trying to tell me something," Worsley said later in the dressing room as he
clutched a bubbly bottle of Mumm's, "but he was crying so hard he couldn't
get the words out."
Blake was crying
for a number of reasons. One, he said later, was that he is retiring as coach
of the Canadiens after 13 seasons, nine NHL titles and eight Stanley Cup
championships. "I've already told the Senator [J. David Molson, the
Canadiens' president] that I'm through," said Blake, who retires each
spring only to change his mind in the fall. "This time I mean it."
J. C. Tremblay,
who had set up a tying goal and scored the winning goal in the final game, also
was applauded at center ice. Then the predominantly French-speaking fans in the
overheated crowd of 15,505 took up another chant.
Beliveau.... On veut Beliveau," they shouted over and over. "We want
Big John, the toast of La Belle Province, struggled to center ice on his
crutches. Not even Worsley was more roundly cheered.
In the dressing
room later Worsley tipped up the cold, green champagne bottle with �lan. He
wore Blake's stained gray hat pulled down over his floppy ears and the
photographers snapped pictures. "They said we couldn't have a bottle
apiece," said Worsley. "It would be too expensive. Well, I said the
Gumper could have a bottle to himself, all right." And he did.