Saturday, December 12, 2009

Don we now our GAY apparel (not that there's anything wrong with that)

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me Three Frenchmen, Two sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky.

Our neighbourhood in Sudbury had a couple of French schools. Sudbury is pretty bilingual, Timmins too. Lots of French in Northern Ontario. Not so much in the Soo, which has a large Italian population, but Sudbury definitely has a fair size French community, both in the city and in the outlying towns. Quite a few Italians and a good number of Finns as well, descendants of the loggers and miners who built the North.

So playing hockey growing up there were always plenty of French kids on our clubs. On my atom team the two best players were cousins, Bouthillier and Roy. Our neighbourhood club team all the way through included a big defenceman by the name of Pelletier and a left wing with a nice touch around the net, Pilon. He was also a pussy. Got hurt every single game. Both of these guys were on our bantam team that won the city championship (not as exciting as it should have been for me, more on that another time) along with kids named Legace and Lajeunnesse, our captain. They were all fine players. Legace was a winger who could put the puck in the net, a pure finisher who could do the dirty work in the corners as well. Rick Lajeunnesse was a kid from the government housing, a tough kid who was smoking cigarettes in grade six. He was a hard as nails player, not a huge guy but all muscle and hard sinew, even at fourteen, a guy who charged up and down the wing with abandon, the fiercest player on a team loaded with hard cases and goons. He was also a terrific guy.

My own team now has two French Canadians, Bernard and Lefevbre. Every once in a while they'll start talking to each other in French in the room. It adds a little, hard to explain how. It just seems right to have French guys on your team.

In their short rich history the Edmonton Oilers have employed few French Canadians. The dynasty included some Alberta boys, a few Finnlanders, some kid from Brantford, a couple of guys from the left coast and Kevin Lowe, from Lachute, a guy who played his junior in the Q, but not pur laine by any measure. Indeed the two greatest draft picks from the Q for the Oilers are an Irishman and a Czech.

The little teams that could again employed a lot of Western Canadians, some Americans, a few Ontario boys and a Finn here and there (never enough though ;) ) but French Canadians, like Russians, were few and far between. After Vince Damphousse and Martin Gelinas you'd be hard pressed to name any player of note from Quebec who has played for Edmonton.

The Oilers have had as many impact players named Smith as they have had Quebecois. Count Smyth as a Smith and the Smiths have it.

Bruce McCurdy might correct me but I would bet that the present club, with those three Frenchmen referred to in the song, Deslauriers, Jacques and Pouliot, has more French guys than any other Oiler club in history.


Dennis said...

What happened to the Lajeunnesse kid? I always root for those guys who don't grow up with a lot going for them.

Also, I was very disappointed that you didn't mention how the french influence added to the dating pool.

VERY disappointed.

Anonymous said...

The title of this post has made my MORNING! Where would we be without those stellar 1990's sitcoms?

Black Dog said...

Dennis - lol, well there was the girl from the Valley, amongst others, quite a few actually, loved those French girls growing up

As for Rick I really couldn't tell you what happened to him. We were in school together through grade eight and then went to different high schools. We had a reprise of the year mentioned above two years later but I don't think he was on that club.

Its funny but growing up we didn't really think in terms of people being poor. Looking back it was pretty obvious - there was Ontario housing a couple streets from the school and a lot of the kids went to St. Andrews and there were plenty who played hockey too. Lot cheaper to play then.

He was a tough tough kid and looking back I remember he seemed to never have the big parka you really needed for those Sudbury winters, a lot fo jean jackets and a worn leather jacket as well.

But he was a really good guy and it was fitting that he was named captain of our hockey club. He was a leader. We would have been thirteen or fourteen and he was talking to the coach about naming the captain and basically said that he (the coach) should do it. The coach looked at him and said 'ok, well you're it then'. It was absolutely the right choice, one of the few things that coach did right that season, imo.

I'll have to post about that club as well as our grade school city championship handball club. As a coach I tasted a lot of championship moments, as a player I need less than five fingers to count them. Rick Lajeunnesse was a key part of two (that would be half) of them.

Cory Klein said...

Honourable mention to the frenchman with fists bigger than a pre-war Bugatti, Le GG.

Santa Merda said...

Isn't Brule a Frenchman?

Black Dog said...

Cory - Forgot about LeGG, I wonder if he would be considered prominent - he's famous that's for sure

Santa - French name but born and raised in Edmonton, no? I think he's Anglo

Could be wrong.

spOILer said...

That Damphousse-Gelinas team also had Scott Mellanby (I know, not exactly a Pepe' le Pew) and a brief appearance by Francois Leroux.

Garon was another Pepe.

I really enjoy watching the JFJ bull in a china shop routine, broken plates and all, and have been cheering for this guy for a few years.

Anonymous said...

... there was also MA Bergeron ... the MAB / Ladd / Roloson debacle from SCF G1 cost us the 6th Cup ??? ... sigh ...

Black Dog said...

Anon - I'd prefer to forget about poor Bergeron.

Actually that's not fair, I've seen a few Habs games this year, the little guy is chaos but he sure can shoot the puck. And if Ladd had never turned Greene then Bergeron never would have had to come over.

Olivier said...

Late to the party (as always) but still...

"Chaos' is a fairly gentle way of putting it.

Looks like the habs will send Bergeron the Streit way, which is 4th liner/ PP Specialist / 7th D on the roster.

He could actually be useful in that role. But as D? He falls down so many times, it's like he bnever learned how to pivot...

But what can I say? Dude can score points in his freaking sleep. Markov (our own, slightly younger and, I'd argue, slightly better version of Visnovsky) may turn him into a 60 points man.

Black Dog said...

Olivier - Bergeron is fairly successful in that role, he took a beating in Edmonton because his mistakes were always so over the top but playing the other team's dregs he was usually better than ok, throw in the PP and he's a nice addition on the cheap.

Love Markov. Not as dynamic as Lubo but a better defenceman imo